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What more cheering announcement could possibly be made to ruined man, than that which the Son of God, who came to make known his Father's love, and to bring to us his salvation, declared to Nicodemus, with so much majesty, and yet in such thrilling accents of loving-kindness,“God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” John iii. 16. And how touchingly St. Paul describes the harmonious co-operation of our Redeemer, in this manifestation of grace to us,
our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich," 2 Cor. viii. 9. “ Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father,” Gal. i. 4. Man's salvation is, therefore, of free, unmerited grace. The greatest sinner, who forsakes his sin, mourns over it with penitential sorrow, casts himself at the foot of the cross, exclaiming, “ Lord, save a perishing and undone sinner !” resolving henceforth to dedicate himself- body, soul, and spirit,” to His service, may say (on the warrant of Him who declared, “ Him that cometh to me, I will no wise cast out "), Christ died for me!
" And what is this? Survey the wondrous cure :
J. F. SHAW, BOOKSELLER, SOUTHAMPTON ROW, W.C., AND
PATERNOSTER ROW, E.C., LONDON,
London: J. & W. RIDER, Printers, 14, Bartholomew Close, E.C.
Many views might be taken of the inordinate love of the world. One might speak in general of its evil-of its injurious effects on the body, the wear and tear to which it subjects the outward system; of its adverse influence on intellect, often upsetting reason, and driving into asylums for the insane ; of its pernicious bearing, also, on the heart and conscience, blunting their moral sensibilities : one might speak, also, of its deleterious operation on piety—how fatal it is to christian character, the right use of means, and the cherishing of spiritual life and hope ; but at present the reader's attention is called for a few moments to one aspect of the passion, and that a social one, viz., the influence of the predominant love of the world upon commercial morality—common honesty between man and man.
I am aware, -as well as the reader,—that the usual object of the publications of this society is the directly religious, and that social honesty is not synonymous with salvation. But the topic, especially at the present time, is so important, as to warrant a call to public attention ; and though mere honesty cannot save the soul, yet it removes an obstacle to that salvation which, if unremoved, will prove fatal. Social honestymay not save, but social dishonesty will not only not save, it willinfallibly destroy.
Think, then, of social sin in the form of commercial dishonesty. How great the evil ! The subject is deeply painful, but the consideration of it is loudly called for. How melancholy the exhibition of the last few years, and especially of the last few months! Good men are confounded and appalled by the sight. No sooner is the impression of one gigantic fraud partially over, than tidings arrive of a second, or a third, or a fourth, if possible still more gigantic. Some six or seven outstanding cases could be enumerated as occurring in a brief space of time.
The dishonesty appears in quarters where nothing but uprightness and truth of the highest order might have been expected. It is not confined to one class in the social scale. It seerns to reach to all. Illustrations are to be found in all departments of business, from the highest to the humblest. The grand peculiarities appear to be, the magnitude of the crime, and the unlikelihood of the parties who are guilty. The cases are so flagrant, that the ancient renown of the British merchant for integrity is in danger of being compromised in the estimation of foreigners. Once the name of Briton was synonymous with honourable dealing to the ends of the earth. Immense transactions hung upon his plighted word; there was
no security but his known probity. And so, blessed be God ! it is still with multitudes. At the same time, there have of late been serious stains fitted to bring discredit on the national fame.
And all this breach of trust, and fraud, and forgery take place-not in a barbarous period, but in the midst of political security and freedom—in the midst of knowledge and refinement, the progress of science and art; they appear amid the wonderful achievements of commercial enterprise and skill— amid vast and growing accumulation and diffusion of national wealth—in an age distinguished for the art of losing nothing, and turning all into gold ; they appear, too, in the midst of an organized system of police, and novel and boasted facilities for the detection of crime. What is, perhaps, more marvellous still, the delinquency appears in an age of widely diffused religious knowledge and its means—when schools, and churches, and missions are rising on every side—when there is a corresponding religious profession. And the most conspicuous manifestations appear in the heart of the British metropolis—the city of cities, and therefore under the gaze of the entire world.
No wonder that calm on-lookers are astounded, and ask, “ Where is this to end? What may next be expected ?" If this is to be the result of all our knowledge, and freedom, and progress, may not the friends of ignorance, the supporters of Antichrist, the patrons of despotism, ask, “What is their real value ? Where lies our superiority over them with their coarser virtues ?”
It has been usual to explain the prevalency of crime by the prevalency of ignorance; and the high proportion of criminals whe cannot read or write has often been appealed to (and justly, if rightly understood): but it is a delusion to fancy that ignorance is the main cause of crime, or that any amount of general knowledge will prevent it. It is a cause, but depravity is a greater ; and the present sad experience of London bankers and railway companies is a proof of this. The defaulters who distress them are not poor, ignorant men ; they are intelligent, clever men, capable of holding places of high responsibility. Nor are they starved men, tempted by the penury of their position to steal. They hold comfortable--some of them richappointments ; and yet they rob their employers without scruple, and rob them enormously: they are chargeable with frauds which many poor
uneducated men would spurn with ab horrence. Indeed, one of the reasons why such delinquencies may have been permitted in the providence of God to appear, may be to show the deep depravity of man in the midst of the most favourable outward circumstances, and the vanity of all appliances for the reformation of society, short of the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit.
Such is a general sketch of the evil which is so appalling. It is unnecessary to be more particular. Every reader is more or less acquainted with the details, and now let men think of the misery involved in such a state of things. There is great sin ; and under the government of a holy and righteous God, where there is sin, there must be suffering.
So long as the offender is undetected and successful, he may seem to be a happy man. He is raised above the social position which he would otherwise have occupied. He gets into higher circles. If he do not indulge low and sensual tastes, he has the more refined at command — houses, servants, equipages, entertainments, the fine arts, the theatre, the opera, even the praise of the poor for liberality, &c. &c. But with all this, he is not happy. If he be undisturbed, it is only because he is a self-deceiver, not believing in the existence or government of God. It would be far better for him were he troubled and distressed. Conscience, however, is liable to awakemat least, the sleep cannot be perpetual.
When suspicion arises in regard to others, how poignant must be his misery! He sees men, perhaps acquaintances, unexpectedly discovered, and sent to a felon's punishment. How soon may their case be his own ! How must he tremble to open every letter of unknown handwriting ! How must unlooked-for knocks at the door alarm! When he summons a gay party, how does he know that he shall not be borne off by the officers of justice from the scene of grandeur to an ignominious trial and a wretched transportation for life? From the detections recently made, and the investigations everywhere in progress, how must many, conscious of fraud, be trembling at this moment in their very hearts! How must they be feeling like Achan, the thief of the wedge of gold and the goodly Babylonish garment, when he saw the sword of justice passing by tribe and family, and singling him out with unerring precision.
On the discovery, what misery must there be among relatives and friends! What burning shame must consume aged parents, wives, and children, all unsuspicious, when they see one they warmly esteemed in a moment turned into a public criminal of universal notoriety! What misery to employers, wretchedly disappointed in one whom they had unhesitatingly trusted for years! What misery to the pecuniary sufferers by the fraud, many of them, it may be, widows and orphans, or parties who cannot recover themselves from the effects of the depredation-entire families hopelessly sunk in poverty for generations by the deed of one man, and all for what ? Not by any dire necessity of events, any calamity of nature, but in mere gratification of selfish ambition and personal indulgence. What special misery to the friends of true religion, where the offending party has been a professor of evangelical Christianity, has been numbered with the saints, has presided, it may be, at public religious meetings, or borne a part in public religious exercises ! What an aggravation where religious societies, the friends of the poor, and ignorant, and suffering, are among the victims of the aggressor-are robbed of their scanty resources of usefulness ! How must Christians in such circumstances hang their heads in shame, and bitterly mourn the triumph thus given to the world and infidelity!
Above all, how solemn the reflection that all these miseries are, after all, only the miseries of this world, and only the beginnings of sorrows, not the end. How appalling to think that there lies beyond, the woe of the eternal world—the misery of meeting with an angry God, justly angry--a woe whose intensity all the reverses of fortune and all the shame of earth can feebly image forth: yea, compared with which all present misery is but a shadow and a dream.
How marvellous that men, surrounded with such elements of danger and misery, should imagine that they can go on undetected for ever, and should contrive to keep up the appearance of self-possession for years, even when hearing of the discovery which, from time to time, overtakes other spoilers! How infidel must they become in regard to the government of God! How blinding and hardening must be the power of persistent sin to their own minds !
Do any ask, What is the cause of this deplorable state of things, the reproach of our day and nation ? I have already said, it cannot be traced to ignorance. The parties know well that what they do is wrong: they cannot but know it; they do not plead ignorance. When detected, they say, “they are very sorry for their conduct, and that the aggrieved may take in compensation all the property they possess."
Nor can the sin be traced to poverty. High authority has said, that men do not despise a thief, they have some measure of compassion for him, if he steal to satisfy his hunger, though he is required to make ample restoration. But nothing of this kind can be pleaded in the present instance. Indeed, there can be no justification for theft in any circumstances. The offenders, however, are in receipt of respectable incomes, far larger than many of those whom they plunder. With what they purloin they do not eke out a scanty living; they live in
THB ENGLISH MONTHLY TRACT SOCIETY, 37, RED LION SQUARE, LONDON.