Produced by Charles Aldarondo. HTML version by Al Haines.
WORDS FOR THE WISE.
T. S. ARTHUR.
THE title of this book - "WORDS FOR THE WISE" - is too comprehensive to
need explanation. May the lessons it teaches be "sufficient" as
warnings, incentives and examples, to hundreds and thousands who read
THE POOR DEBTOR
THE SUNDAY CHRISTIAN
I KNEW HOW IT WOULD BE
JACOB JONES; OR, THE MAN WHO COULDN'T GET ALONG IN THE WORLD
STARTING A NEWSPAPER. AN EXPERIENCE OF MR. JONES
THE WAY OF TRANSGRESSORS
JUST GOING TO DO IT
MAKING HASTE TO BE RICH
LET HER POUT IT OUT
A FINE, GENEROUS FELLOW
TAKING IT FOR GRANTED
LOVE AND LAW
WORDS FOR THE WISE.
THE POOR DEBTOR.
"THERE is one honest man in the world, I am happy to say," remarked a
rich merchant, named Petron, to a friend who happened to call in upon
"Is there, indeed! I am glad to find you have made a discovery of the
fact. Who is the individual entitled to the honourable distinction?"
"You know Moale, the tailor?"
"Yes. Poor fellow! he's been under the weather for a long time."
"I know. But he's an honest man for all that."
"I never doubted his being honest, Mr. Petron."
"I have reason to know that he is. But I once thought differently. When
he was broken up in business some years ago, he owed me a little bill,
which I tried to get out of him as hard as any one ever did try for his
own. But I dunned and dunned him until weary, and then, giving him up
as a bad case, passed the trifle that he owed me to account of profit
and loss. He has crossed my path a few times since; but, as I didn't
feel toward him as I could wish to feel toward all men, I treated him
with marked coldness. I am sorry for having done so, for it now appears
that I judged him too severely. This morning he called in of his own
free will, and paid me down the old account. He didn't say any thing
about interest, nor did I, though I am entitled to, and ought to have
received it. But, as long as he came forward of his own accord and
settled his bill, after I had given up all hope of ever receiving it, I
thought I might afford to be a little generous and not say any thing
about the interest; and so I gave him a receipt in full. Didn't I do
"In what respect?" asked the friend.
"In forgiving him the interest, which I might have claimed as well as
not, and which he would, no doubt, have paid down, or brought me at
some future time."
"Oh, yes. You were right to forgive the interest," returned the friend,
but in a tone and with a manner that struck the merchant as rather
singular. "No man should ever take interest on money due from an
"Indeed! Why not?" Mr. Petron looked surprised. "Is not money always
worth its interest?"
"So it is said. But the poor debtor has no money upon which to make an
interest. He begins the world again with nothing but his ability to
work; and, if saddled with an old debt - principal and interest - his
case is hopeless. Suppose he owes ten thousand dollars, and, after
struggling hard for three or four years, gets into a position that will
enable him to pay off a thousand dollars a year. There is some chance
for him to get out of debt in ten years. But suppose interest has been
accumulating at the rate of some six hundred dollars a year. His debt,
instead of being ten thousand, will have increased to over twelve
thousand dollars by the time he is in a condition to begin to pay off
any thing; and then, instead of being able to reduce the amount a
thousand dollars a year, he will have to let six hundred go for the
annual interest on the original debt. Four years would have to elapse
before, under this system, he would get his debt down to where it was
when he was broken up in business. Thus, at the end of eight years'
hard struggling, he would not, really, have advanced a step out of his
difficulties. A debt of ten thousand dollars would still be hanging
over him. And if, persevering to the end, he should go on paying the
interest regularly and reducing the principal, some twenty-five years
of his life would be spent in getting free from debt, when little over
half that time would have been required, if his creditors had, acting
from the commonest dictates of humanity, voluntarily released the
"That is a new view of the case, I must confess - at least new to me,"
said Mr. Petron.
"It is the humane view of the case. But, looking to interest alone, it
is the best view for every creditor to take. Many a man who, with a
little effort, might have cancelled, in time, the principal of a debt
unfortunately standing against him, becomes disheartened at seeing it
daily growing larger through the accumulation of interest, and gives up
in despair. The desire to be free from debt spurs many a man into
effort. But make the difficulties in his way so large as to appear
insurmountable, and he will fold his hands in helpless inactivity.
Thousands of dollars are lost every year in consequence of creditors
grasping after too much, and breaking down the hope and energy of the
"Perhaps you are right," said Mr. Petron; - "that view of the case never
presented itself to my mind. I don't suppose, however, the interest on
fifty dollars would have broken down Moale."
"There is no telling. It is the last pound, you know, that breaks the
camel's back. Five years have passed since his day of misfortune.
Fifteen dollars for interest are therefore due. I have my doubts if he
could have paid you sixty-five dollars now. Indeed, I am sure he could
not. And the thought of that as a new debt, for which he had received
no benefit whatever, would, it is more than probable, have produced a
discouraged state of mind, and made him resolve not to pay you any
thing at all."
"But that wouldn't have been honest," said the merchant.
"Perhaps not, strictly speaking. To be dishonest is from a set purpose
to defraud; to take from another what belongs to him; or to withhold
from another, when ability exists to pay, what is justly his due. You
would hardly have placed Moale in either of these positions, if, from
the pressure of the circumstances surrounding him as a poor man and in
debt, he had failed to be as active, industrious, and prudent as he
would otherwise have been. We are all apt to require too much of the
poor debtor, and to have too little sympathy with him. Let the hope of
improving your own condition - which is the mainspring of all your
business operations - be taken away, and instead, let there be only the
desire to pay off old debts through great labour and self-denial, that
must continue for years, and imagine how differently you would think
and feel from what you do now. Nay, more; let the debt be owed to those
who are worth their thousands and tens of a thousands, and who are in
the enjoyment of every luxury and comfort they could desire, while you
go on paying them what you owe, by over-exertion and the denial to
yourself and family of all those little luxuries and recreations which
both so much need, and then say how deeply dyed would be that
dishonesty which would cause you, in a moment of darker and deeper
discouragement than usual, to throw the crushing weight from your
shoulders, and resolve to bear it no longer? You must leave a man some
hope in life if you would keep him active and industrious in his
Mr. Petron said nothing in reply to this; but he looked sober. His
friend soon after left.
The merchant, as the reader may infer from his own acknowledgment, was
one of those men whose tendency to regard only their own interests has
become so confirmed a habit, that they can see nothing beyond the
narrow circle of self. Upon debtors he had never looked with a particle
of sympathy; and had, in all cases, exacted his own as rigidly as if
his debtor had not been a creature of human wants and feelings. What
had just been said, however, awakened a new thought in his mind; and,
as he reflected upon the subject, he saw that there was some reason in
what had been said, and felt half ashamed of his allusion to the
interest of the tailor's fifty-dollar debt.
Not long after, a person came into his store, and from some cause
mentioned the name of Moale.
"He's an honest man - that I am ready to say of him," remarked Mr.
"Honest, but very poor," was replied.
"He's doing well now, I believe," said the merchant.
"He's managing to keep soul and body together, and hardly that."
"He's paying off his old debts."
"I know he is; but I blame him for injuring his health and wronging his
family, in order to pay a few hundred dollars to men a thousand times
better off in the world than he is. He brought me twenty dollars on an
old debt yesterday, but I wouldn't touch it. His misfortunes had long
ago cancelled the obligation in my eyes. God forbid! that with enough
to spare, I should take the bread out of the mouths of a poor man's
"Is he so very poor?" asked Mr. Petron, surprised and rebuked at what
"He has a family of six children to feed, clothe, and educate; and he
has it to do by his unassisted labour. Since he was broken up in
business some years ago, he has had great difficulties to contend with,
and only by pinching himself and family, and depriving both of nearly
every comfort, has he been able to reduce the old claims that have been
standing against him. But he has shortened his own life ten years
thereby, and has deprived his children of the benefits of education,
except in an extremely limited degree - wrongs that are irreparable. I
honour his stern integrity of character, but think that he has carried
his ideas of honesty too far. God gave him these children, and they
have claims upon him for earthly comforts and blessings to the extent
of his ability to provide. His misfortunes he could not prevent, and
they were sent as much for the chastisement of those who lost by him as
they were for his own. If, subsequently, his greatest exertion was not
sufficient to provide more than ordinary comforts for the family still
dependent upon him, his first duty was to see that they did not want.
If he could not pay his old debts without injury to his health or wrong
to his family, he was under no obligation to pay them; for it is clear,
that no claims upon us are so imperative as to require us to wrong
others in order to satisfy them."
Here was another new doctrine for the ears of the merchant - doctrine
strange, as well as new. He did not feel quite so comfortable as before
about the recovered debt of fifty dollars. The money still lay upon his
desk. He had not yet entered it upon his cash-book, and he felt now
less inclined to do so than ever. The claims of humanity, in the
abstract, pressed themselves upon him for consideration, and he saw
that they were not to be lightly thrust aside.
In order to pay the fifty dollars, which had been long due to the
merchant, Mr. Moale had, as alleged, denied himself and family at every
point, and overworked himself to a degree seriously injurious to his
health; but his heart felt lighter after the sense of obligation was
There was little at home, however, to make him feel cheerful. His wife,
not feeling able to hire a domestic, was worn down with the care and
labour of her large family; the children were, as a necessary
consequence, neglected both in minds and bodies. Alas! there was no
sunshine in the poor man's dwelling.
"Well, Alice," said Mr. Moale, as his wife came and stood by the board
upon which he sat at work, holding her babe in her arms, "I have paid
off another debt, thank heaven?"
"Petron's. He believed me a rogue and treated me as such. I hope he
thinks differently now."
"I wish all men were as honest in their intentions as you are."
"So do I, Alice. The world would be a much better one than it is, I am
"And yet, William," said his wife, "I sometimes think we do wrong to
sacrifice so much to get out of debt. Our children" -
"Alice," spoke up the tailor, quickly, "I would almost sell my body
into slavery to get free from debt. When I think of what I still owe, I
feel as if I would suffocate."
"I know how badly you feel about it, William; but your heart is honest,
and should not that reflection bear you up?"
"What is an honest heart without an honest hand, Alice?" replied the
tailor, bending still to his work.
"The honest heart is the main thing, William; God looks at that. Man
judges only of the action, but God sees the heart and its purposes."
"But what is the purpose without the act?"
"It is all that is required, where no ability to act is given. William,
God does not demand of any one impossibilities."
"Though man often does," said the tailor, bitterly.
There was a pause, broken, at length, by the wife, who said - "And have
you really determined to put John and Henry out to trades? They are so
"I know they are, Alice; too young to leave home. But" -
The tailor's voice became unsteady; he broke off in the middle of the
"Necessity requires it to be done," he said, recovering himself; "and
it is of no avail to give way to unmanly weakness. But for this old
debt, we might have been comfortable enough, and able to keep our
children around us until they were of a more fitting age to go from
under their parents' roof. Oh, what a curse is debt!"
"There is more yet to pay?"
"Yes, several hundreds of dollars; but if I fail as I have for a year
past, I will break down before I get through."
"Let us think of our family, William; they have the first claim upon
us. Those to whom money is owed are better off than we are; they stand
in no need of it."
"But is it not justly due, Alice?" inquired the tailor, in a rebuking
"No more justly due than is food, and raiment, and a _home_ to our
children," replied the tailor's wife, with more than her usual decision
of tone. "God has given us these children, and he will require an
account of the souls committed to our charge. Is not a human soul of
more importance than dollars? A few years, and it will be out of our
power to do our children good; they will grow up, and bear for ever the
marks of neglect and wrong."
"Alice! Alice! for heaven's sake, do not talk in this way!" exclaimed
the tailor, much disturbed.
"William," said the wife, "I am a mother, and a mother's heart can feel
right; nature tells me that it is wrong for us to thrust out our
children before they are old enough to go into the world. Let us keep
them home longer."
"We cannot, and pay off this debt."
"Then let the debt go unpaid for the present. Those to whom it is owed
can receive no harm from waiting; but our children will" -
Just then a man brought in a letter, and, handing it to the tailor,
withdrew. On breaking the seal, Mr. Moale found that it contained fifty
dollars, and read as follows: -
"SIR - Upon reflection, I feel that I ought not to receive from you the
money that was due to me when you became unfortunate some years ago. I
understand that you have a large family, that your health is not very
good, and that you are depriving the one of comforts, and injuring the
other, in endeavouring to pay off your old debts. To cancel these
obligations would be all right - nay, your duty - if you could do so
without neglecting higher and plainer duties. But you cannot do this,
and I cannot receive the money you paid me this morning. Take it back,
and let it be expended in making your family more comfortable. I have
enough, and more than enough for all my wants, and I will not deprive
you of a sum that must be important, while to me it is of little
consequence either as gained or lost.
The letter dropped from the tailor's hand; he was overcome with
emotion. His wife, when she understood its purport, burst into tears.
The merchant's sleep was sweeter that night than it had been for some
time, and so was the sleep of the poor debtor.
The next day Mr. Moale called to see Mr. Petron, to whom, at the
instance of the latter, he gave a full detail of his actual
circumstances. The merchant was touched by his story, and prompted by
true benevolence to aid him in his struggles. He saw most of the
tailor's old creditors, and induced those who had not been paid in full
to voluntarily relinquish their claims, and some of those who had
received money since the poor man's misfortunes, to restore it as
belonging of right to his family. There was not one of these creditors
who did not feel happier by their act of generosity; and no one can
doubt that both the tailor and his family were also happier. John and
Henry were not compelled to leave their home until they were older and
better prepared to endure the privations that usually attend the boy's
first entrance into the world; and help for the mother in her arduous
duties could now be afforded.
No one doubts that the creditor, whose money is not paid to him, has
rights. But too few think of the rights of the poor debtor, who sinks
into obscurity, and often privations, while his heart is oppressed with
a sense of obligations utterly beyond his power to cancel.
THE SUNDAY CHRISTIAN.
TWO things are required to make a Christian - piety and charity. The
first has relation to worship, and in the last all social duties are
involved. Of the great importance of charity in the Christian
character, some idea may be gained by the pointed question asked by an
apostle - "If you love not your brother whom you have seen, how can you
love God whom you have not seen?" There is no mistaking the meaning of
this. It says, in the plainest language - "Piety without charity is
nothing;" and yet how many thousands and hundreds of thousands around
us expect to get to heaven by Sunday religion alone! Through the week
they reach out their hands for money on the right and on the left, so
eager for its attainment, that little or no regard is paid to the
interests of others; and on Sunday, with a pious face, they attend
church and enter into the most holy acts of worship, fondly imagining
that they can be saved by mere acts of piety, while no regard for their
fellow-man is in their hearts.
Such a man was Brian Rowley. His religion was of so pure a stamp that
it would not bear the world's rough contact, and, therefore, it was
never brought into the world. He left the world to take care of itself
when the Sabbath morning broke; and when the Sabbath morning closed, he
went back into the world to look after his own interests. Every Sunday
he progressed a certain way towards heaven, and then stood still for a
week, in order that he might take proper care of the dollars and cents.
Business men who had transactions with Mr. Rowley generally kept their
eyes open. If they did not do it at the first operation, they rarely
omitted it afterwards, and for sufficient reason; he was sharp at
making a bargain, and never felt satisfied unless he obtained some
advantage. Men engaged in mercantile pursuits were looked upon, as a
general thing, as ungodly in their lives, and therefore, in a certain
sense, "out-siders." To make good bargains out of these was only to
fight them with their own weapons; and he was certainly good at such
work. In dealing with his brethren of the same faith he was rather more
guarded, and affected a contempt for carnal things that he did not feel.
We said that the religion of Mr. Rowley did not go beyond the pious
duties of the Sabbath. This must be amended. His piety flowed into
certain benevolent operations of the day; he contributed to the support
of Indian and Foreign Missions, and was one of the managers on a Tract
Board. In the affairs of the Ceylonese and South-Sea Islanders he took
a warm interest, and could talk eloquently about the heathen.
Not far from Mr. Brian Rowley's place of business was the store of a
man named Lane, whose character had been cast originally in a different
mould. He was not a church-going man, because, as he said, he didn't
want to be "thought a hypocrite." In this he displayed a weakness. At
one time he owned a pew in the same church to which Rowley was
attached, and attended church regularly, although he did not attach
himself to the church, nor receive its ordinances. His pew was near
that of Mr. Rowley, and he had a good opportunity for observing the
peculiar manner in which the latter performed his devotions.
Unfortunately for his good opinion of the pious Sunday worshipper, they
were brought into rather close contact during the week in matters of
business, when Mr. Lane had opportunities of contrasting his piety and
charity. The want of agreement in these two pre-requisites of a genuine
Christian disgusted Lane, and caused him so much annoyance on Sunday
that he finally determined to give up his pew and remain at home. A
disposition to carp at professors of religion was manifested from this
time; the whole were judged by Rowley as a sample.
One dull day a man named Gregory, a sort of busybody in the
neighbourhood, came into the store of Mr. Lane and said to him - "What
do you think of our friend Rowley? Is he a good Christian?"
"He's a pretty fair Sunday Christian," replied Lane.
"What is that?" asked the man.
"A hypocrite, to use plain language."
"That's pretty hard talk," said Gregory.
"Do you think so?"
"Yes. When you call a man a hypocrite, you make him out, in my opinion,
about as bad as he can well be."
"Call him a Sunday Christian, then."
"A Sunday Christian?"
"Yes; that is, a man who puts his religion on every Sabbath, as he does
his Sunday coat; and lays it away again carefully on Monday morning, so
that it will receive no injury in every-day contact with the world."
"I believe with you that Rowley doesn't bring much of his religion into
"No, nor as much common honesty as would save him from perdition."
"He doesn't expect to be saved by keeping the moral law."
"There'll be a poor chance for him, in my opinion, if he's judged
finally by that code."
"You don't seem to have a very high opinion of our friend Rowley?"
"I own that. I used to go to church; but his pious face was ever before
me, and his psalm-singing ever in my ears. Was it possible to look at
him and not think of his grasping, selfish, overreaching conduct in all
his business transactions through the week? No, it was not possible for
me. And so, in disgust, I gave up my pew, and haven't been to church
The next man whom Gregory met he made the repository of what Lane had
said about Rowley. This person happened to be a member of the church,
and felt scandalized by the remarks. After a little reflection he
concluded to inform Mr. Rowley of the free manner in which Mr. Lane had
spoken of him.
"Called me a hypocrite!" exclaimed the indignant Mr. Rowley, as soon as
he was advised of the free manner in which Mr. Lane had talked about
"So I understand. Gregory was my informant."
Mr. Gregory was called upon, and confirmed the statement. Rowley was
highly indignant, and while the heat of his anger was upon him, called
at the store of Mr. Lane, in company with two members of his church,
who were not at all familiar with his business character, and,
therefore, held him in pretty high estimation as a man of piety and
The moment Mr. Lane saw these three men enter his place of business, he
had a suspicion of their errand.
"Can I have some private conversation with you?" asked Mr. Rowley, with
a countenance as solemn as the grave.
"Certainly," replied Mr. Lane, not the least discomposed. "Walk back
into my counting-room. We shall be entirely alone there. Do you wish
your friends present?"
"I do," was gravely replied; "I brought them for that purpose."
"Walk back, gentlemen," said Lane, as he turned to lead the way.
The four men retired to the little office of the merchant in the back
part of the store. After they were seated, Lane said:
"Well, Mr. Rowley, I am ready to hear what you have to say."
Mr. Rowley cleared his throat two or three times, and then said, in a
voice that indicated a good deal of inward disturbance:
"I understand that you have been making rather free use of my name of
"Indeed! in what way?" Lane was perfectly self-possessed.
"I am told that you went so far as to call me a hypocrite." The voice
of Rowley trembled.
"I said you were a Sunday Christian," replied Lane.
"What do you mean by that?" was peremptorily demanded.
"A man whose religion is a Sunday affair altogether. One who expects to