This section of the book is from the "A Man and His Money" book, by Harvey Reeves Calkins , published in 1915.
The late J. Pierpont Morgan did not espouse the political faith of Woodrow Wilson and the Democratic party. It seemed to him that the financial program, to which Mr. Wilson and his party had pledged the government, was not friendly to the vast interests which he represented. Concerning the intricate and far-reaching issues involved we have here nothing to remark. We offer but a single observation. On the occasion of Mr. Wilson's inauguration as President of the United States the great financier requested Colonel Harvey, then editor of Harper's Weekly, to convey to the President his assurance that, if at any time the financial resources controlled by Mr. Morgan were needed for the strengthening of the national credit, those resources were absolutely at the disposal of the government. There is no least reason to question Mr. Morgan's sincerity. It was the Obligation of Loyalty.
After seven years of fruitless waiting Christopher Columbus turned from King Ferdinand and the Spanish court, determined to take his daring project to the court of France. His vision of a continent west of the Atlantic had found but one distinguished friend. But, for the honor of Spain, that friend, Isabella the queen, espoused the cause of the intrepid Genoese sailor. "I pledge my jewels to raise the money," were words which changed the course of history. The hour was ready, and the man was there; the movement of civilization waited for a woman who understood the obligation of loyalty.
But the obligation of loyalty, of which we now are writing, needs neither vast wealth nor crown jewels to make it splendid. H------ B------ was a widow, living with her married daughter. One Sunday she listened to a missionary preach, and caught a vision of the kingdoms of this world becoming the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ. At the close of the service she approached the missionary. "My years are nearly finished," she said, "and my kind children are supplying all my wants. I have three hundred dollars in the bank drawing interest. I had intended to leave this to my children, but they do not need it. Will you take it and send it to the Board of Foreign Missions?"
"Wait a few days," the missionary answered; "talk it over with your children, and, if you continue of the same mind, I shall receive the money with gladness and forward it to the Board."
The following week the missionary inquired his way to the humble home of this good woman. She was expecting him, and met him at the door with radiant eyes. Her daughter and son-in-law were there, a contented Christian household. Scarcely had the missionary taken his seat when H------ B------, fumbling at the bosom of her dress, came toward him. A knotted handkerchief was in her hand.
"There is no need to talk it over," she said, laughing. "My children are as happy about this as I am," and into his hands she poured three hundred dollars in shining gold, while her daughter and her daughter's husband looked on with smiling faces. "I told the cashier I did not want it in bank notes," she continued, "but in God's own gold; it is for him," and the bright tears in this good woman's eyes were brighter than the golden coins that glistened in the missionary's hands.
As he walked to the train that day, to continue his journey, the missionary was beholding days of the Son of man that shall yet be upon the earth. This he thought, and thinks now, and writes it down with solemnity: To receive this widow's mite, even all her living, was an unpardonable affront against sound ethics, or else there is an obligation of loyalty that rests with absolute compulsion upon our generation. Had H------B------ been a young mother with growing children, she would not have been justified in thus alienating her patrimony; to receive it would have been a reprehensible act on the part of the missionary and of the Board which he represented. But such was not the case. Here was a godly woman near the close of her life; her simple wants were all supplied by those who loved her; her grown children were not dependent upon the few hundred dollars that lay in the bank; their satisfaction was in the happiness of their mother, and the mother's joy was in loyalty to her Lord.
The foregoing paragraphs have named and defined the Obligation of Loyalty. Ownership will repudiate it as the payment of an obligation, and regard it only, if at all, as the gift of generosity. But stewardship uses no such confused vocabulary. "It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful"; honor needs no other word. A steward does not "give away" the estate which he is bound to administer; he has in mind at all times the interests of the owner. It was a token of the generally low level of property ethics that in past years the gift of a few thousand dollars, or a million, by some rich man, was heralded far and near as a "generous benefaction." Such euphonious phrases, it will be noted, are not frequent to-day. The reason of it is a heartening sign of progress. With increasing wealth there is an increasing sense of stewardship. It is not yet a "common" sense! Stewardship is indeed but a little child. But it is a sturdy child, and the years are before it.
The obligation of loyalty rests upon a common quality in all men. The average man is not a stranger to this noblest of human attributes. But the working of it in different men is by no means identical. To the man in affluence it means one thing, to the man with a competency another; but it means another thing altogether when a man is found in hard circumstances. Loyalty has but one possible definition for all of them—it is faithfulness; yet the test required of these three men is wholly different.
Take a man in hard circumstances. The compassionate God requires nothing from him, nevertheless his acknowledgment of God is first. Failure here is a prophecy that hard circumstances will degenerate into hopeless poverty. His tithe is first. This is not a "demand" issued by the great and gentle God; it is the man's own refusal to sell his glorious birthright because he has been overtaken by temporary distress. A peculiar blindness rests upon some good people. How can a man expect financial enlargement when, in the very hour of his need, he severs his financial connection with the Source of every economic value! "Hard circumstances" are a challenge which God delights to acknowledge. After the tithe comes a man's stewardship of the home —wife and children, hearth and board. And now it is that a man in hard circumstances will thank his God that the holy tithe was never forgotten; that, in the face of adversity, he held fast his integrity. The words of David the king mean much to this man: "If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul." He has accomplished two results, both of which seemed impossible to perform: he has rendered his tithe and he has provided for his household. But where shall this man stand when the call is made for "something more"? Verily, his obligation of loyalty has been discharged to the very full. If, at the end of the month, he finds it possible to save a dollar, loyalty to God, his family, and society requires that he lay that dollar by in store. As a faithful steward, he may need to harden his heart against appeals which come to him. Nevertheless, if such a man, out of his self-denial, and as a special acknowledgment of divine help, lays down a voluntary gift to be devoted to other men in need, it is "an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God." It is a human service of the finest texture.
In naming the man in adversity we have surely located the man with a competency. If, instead of financial anxiety, there is comfort and confidence, by so much the more does honor hold him to acknowledge God. The rendering of the tithe, and the stewardship of it, are now an exhilaration. In his stewardship of the home he has need of watchfulness, for it is easy to drop into the sloth of luxury. There is a stewardship of life as well as money; therefore he is called to simplicity and not to display. A man with a competency may know the full joy of living; he may understand the delights of culture and the meaning of the humanities. To fail, therefore, in the noble art of self-denial is to mark oneself unworthy of the financial comfort which has fallen to one's lot. If it be a new picture for the parlor, or a belated lad lifted into the light, the obligation of loyalty makes culture broader by making life holier. The lad will be lifted.
The steward of a competency must himself judge between a virile and a vicious standard of expenditure. If he cannot discern the strength of life and the swagger of it, his stewardship may have a name to live but is dead. It is related of a certain multimillionaire of New York that, learning of a successful deal in Wall Street, in which a certain "plunger" had cleared five millions in money, he remarked, "He ought to quit now; why, a man can be comfortable on an income of two hundred and fifty thousand a year, just as comfortable as though he were rich!"
The last word of the last paragraph is the text of our final remark. What is the obligation of loyalty when a man is rich? If he shall be able to avoid the first pitfall before him, he is likely to achieve partial if not complete success in the royal road of stewardship. Let him pay his tithe! Strange as it may seem—for the testimony is conclusive—the payment of the tithe grows more difficult as wealth increases. This is the deceit-fulness of riches. This is why "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Is it, then, a question of money? Not at all; it is a matter of acknowledgment. The poor man acknowledges God the owner and himself dependent, and is helped to understand the true perspective of life. It is the very point at which the rich man is most likely to fail, and his failure is fundamental to life and character. He is sufficient in himself; he has need of nothing. He might often be saved from this peculiar pest of riches if he could remember that self-sufficiency is the essence of vulgarity. The hall-mark of royalty is not there; it is not "to the manner bora." The kingly man is humble before his King.
With the acknowledgment of the divine ownership, both recognized and declared, the stewardship of wealth becomes the most remarkable administration of power that is now known upon the earth. Kings and Presidents are the servants of the people, but the rich man has sovereign authority. That there should be metes and bounds to this sovereignty is right. Predatory wealth has no place in human society. As a criminal against the social order its sentence of banishment has already been pronounced; it will pass away. But rich men there always shall be, and their number will increase, and ought to increase. The subjugation of the earth is only begun. Riches unmeasured are yet awaiting "the men who can." The taint of unrighteous acquisition need not rest upon a single dollar of it.
Nevertheless, that they may know the things which pertain to their own peace, let rich men understand the only tenure of wealth that will be tolerated under the heavens. The people have spoken it, and it shall stand! Rich men shall be stewards or they shall be stoned.
After the tithe is rendered, and after the family portion is named (there is no carping purpose to judge another man's liberty, for stewardship is the offspring of honor), then comes the obligation of loyalty. It is this: The full balance of income and wealth which may remain, or which may be acquired, is to be released under a broad program of stewardship for the conservation and extension of the Kingdom of righteousness and truth. No man can compass it alone, but many men working together, under the illumination of God's free Spirit, shall establish the kingdom of heaven upon the earth. One cannot even name the bright avenues of stewardship, as they sweep outward to the whole circle of the earth and inward to the whole nature of man. Missionary enlargement, church extension, educational foundations, medical research, social betterment, scientific advance, civil and political amelioration—these and a hundred other radiant lines of service await the unloosed forces of economic value, whenever men shall be ready to open wide their hands, and let it return to God who gave it.
Two gentlemen were sitting together at the Union League Club in a certain American city.
One was a prosperous merchant, the other was counted among the millionaires of our day. They were conversing of the new standards of property —which are the old standards come again—for stewardship is not an exclusive "church doctrine"; it marks an ethical revival wider than most men dream. The rich man was making reply, for the prosperous merchant had been pressing home the truth which was gripping his own thought.
"Possibly you are right," he said; "possibly a man does not own what he has accumulated. But it will come to this: If a man is not to keep what he has gotten together, nor do with it what he pleases, you hare taken away the motive for concentrated attention to business, and there will be a smaller development of material resources; a man simply will not work hard and long if he is not to be the owner of his own wealth."
But he was wrong. The prosperous merchant had spoken fundamental truth, and the gloomy forebodings of the millionaire at the Union League will not be realized, for a new life-motive is reaching the fine fiber of our manhood. It is called by different names, and it is not always recognized. Grover Cleveland named it when he said, "Public office is a public trust." Theodore Roosevelt preached it for a strenuous decade, and ten thousand lesser voices are repeating it over the land. The churches are pressing it, and it will win. At bottom it is this: Life is a stewardship; to have is to owe, not own. The best blood and the best brain of our generation have openly espoused it. Slowly, very slowly, the City of God is being builded upon the earth, "and they shall bring the glory and honor of the nations into it."