There is scarcely an idea more infectious or potent than the love of money. It is a yellow fever, decimating its votaries and ruining more families in the land, than all the plagues or diseases put together. Instances of its malevolent power occur to every reader. Almost every square foot of land of our continent during the early buccaneer period (some call it the march of civilization), has been ensanguined through the madness for treasure. Read the pages of our historian Prescott, and you will see that the whole anti-Puritan history of America resolves itself into an awful slaughter for gold. Discoveries were only side issues.
Speak, history, who are life’s victors? Unroll thy long scroll and say, have they won who first reached the goal, heedless of a brother’s rights? And has he lost in life’s great race who stopped “to raise a fallen child, and place him on his feet again,” or to give a fainting comrade care; or to guide or assist a feeble woman? Has he lost who halts before the throne when duty calls, or sorrow, or distress? Is there no one to sing the pæan of the conquered who fell in the battle of life? of the wounded, the beaten, who died overwhelmed in the strife? of the low and humble, the weary and broken-hearted, who strove and who failed, in the eyes of men, but who did their duty as God gave them to see it?
“We have yet no man who has leaned _entirely_ on his character, and eaten angel’s food,” said Emerson; “who, trusting to his sentiments, found life made of miracles; who, working for _universal aims_, found himself fed, he knew not how; clothed, sheltered, and weaponed, he knew not how, and yet it was done by his own hands.”
At a time when it was considered dangerous to society in Europe for the common people to read books and listen to lectures on any but religious subjects, Charles Knight determined to enlighten the masses by cheap literature. He believed that a paper might be instructive and not be dull, cheap without being wicked. He started the “Penny Magazine,” which acquired a circulation of two hundred thousand the first year. Knight projected the “Penny Cyclopedia,” the “Library of Entertaining Knowledge,” “Half-Hours with the Best Authors,” and other useful works at a low price. His whole adult life was spent in the work of elevating the common people by cheap, yet wholesome publications. He died in poverty, but grateful people have erected a noble monument over his ashes.
How many rich dwellings there are, crowded with every appointment of luxury, that are only glittering caverns of selfishness and discontent! “Better a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.”
“No man can tell whether he is rich or poor by turning to his ledger,” says Beecher. “It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich or poor according to what he _is_, not according to what he _has_.”
If our thoughts are great and noble, no mean surroundings can make us miserable. It is the mind that makes the body rich.
Howe’er it be, it seems to me,
‘Tis only noble to be good.
Kind hearts are more than coronets,
And simple faith than Norman blood.
Be noble! and the nobleness that lies
In other men, sleeping, but never dead,
Will rise in majesty to meet thine own.