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An honest man is the noblest work of God. --Pope. The standard of honesty, here raised by the poet, would not answer for the mass of the present generation. He included purpose, word, and action; in all things, under all circumstances, and at all times. The purity of his honest man must raise him above every temptation, and enable him to obey strictly, to the letter, the laws of integrity, that come from the clean hands of the great Jehovah—a man, whose every motive and action will pass the scrutiny of Omniscience, unscathed and approved. Such a man would not convert the newspaper, or umbrella of another, to his own
Where is the man who dares claim this standard as one of his adoption, reasonable and just as it is? If any, let him throw the first stone, but let him see well that it does not rebound, and break his own head. See him dodge.
The adage, Honesty is the best policy, is the essential oil of dishonesty in disguise. The man who is honest only from policy, and not for the sake of the virtue of honesty, is so only from selfish interest, the essence of meanness. He is more dangerous than the open knave—for the moment he thinks his interest can be enhanced by dishonesty, he will Swartwout. We have too much policy in morals and religion. It is cunning without wisdom, cowardice with hypocrisy, fear of man, not of God. The devil preaches religion from policy, and the man who is honest only from policy, is like him. I admire the story of the crazy woman.
Confucius, the great Chinese philosopher, met an insane woman, with a pitcher of water and faggot of fire, and asked how she intended to use them. She replied, “With the fire I will burn up heaven-with the water put out hell. We shall then know who are good for the sake of goodness.'
The possession of the principle of honesty, is a matter known most intimately, to the man and his God, and fully, only to the latter. No man knows the extent and strength of his own honesty, until he has passed the fiery ordeal of temptation. Men who shudder at the dishonesty of others, at one time in life, then sailing before the favorable wind of prosperity, when adversity overtakes them, their honesty too often lies away, on the same wings with their riches; and, what they once viewed with holy horror, they now practise with shameless impunity. Others, at the commencement of a prosperous career, are quite above any tricks in trade, but their love of money increases with their wealth, their honesty relaxes, they become hard honest men, then hardly honest, and are, finally, confirmed in dishonesty.
On the great day of account, it will be found, that men have erred more in judging of the honesty of others, than in any one thing else; not even religion excepted. Many who have been condemned, and had the stigma of dishonesty fixed upon them, because misfortune disabled them from paying their just debts; will stand acquitted by the Judge of quick and dead, whilst others cover dishonest hearts and actions, undetected by man.
Self interest blinds charity, circumstances are viewed with the eyes of prejudice, and not by them closely
scanned—the cry of mad dog is raised, and in this way, many an honest man has been victimized, who might and should have been saved for future useful
The confirmed knave is soon well known, and no man should be unconditionally condemned, until he proves himself to be clearly dishonest, and shows a disposition to remain so. To err is one thing—to be dishonest at the core, is a very different thing. Charity, kindness, and forbearance; would have saved many a man, who has been driven to desperation and ruin, by a contrary course. With a blush, I write it, this course is sometimes most inhumanly pursued in churches, against a member who becomes unable to pay another member in the same church. I have known instances of this kind, that would disgrace a savage, and forfeit his casie. Charity and forgiveness are paralyzed by cold-hearted selfishness, and the victim is sacrificed in the house of his professed friends.
An attempt to define this term, to meet the views of all, would place the writer in the same dilemma with the man who set out to please every body, and succeeded in gaining his own displeasure, and that of every one he met ; or he would fare like the man, who alternately drove, led, rode, and carried his ass; at the suggestion of different persons, and was upbraided by some one, as often as he made a change. The honor awarded to a good man, by the great Jehovah, is pure and unalloyed. The different kinds, so called by men of the world, like the coin in circulation, range from the legal alloy, down to the basest counterfeit ; current only among the ignorant, and bogus men. Each caste has its code of honor. A member of congress may shoot a fellow member—be lauded by his constituents for the act, and be reëlected as a mark of honor and continued confidence—the man in humble life might be hung for a similar act. The one may indulge in all the dissipation that contaminates the seat of government, and still be called, The Hon. Mr.—, whilst the man in low life, decoyed from the path of duty and rectitude, by some rum-selling shark, a man killer and soul destroyer, would be arraigned before an alderman, and fined for getting drunk, for profane swearing, and imprisoned, if he was unable to pay the penalty. A public functionary may rob the treasury of thousands, and be treated as an honorable man by multitudes, whilst the man who unlawfully takes a loaf of bread to prevent starvation, or an old garment to keep him from freezing; is hunted by the officers of police, like a sheep-killing dog ; and, at an expense of fifty or a hundred dollars to the city or county, is punished for this offence, and disgraced in view of every one.
Thieves, pickpockets, blacklegs, pirates, and such like kindred spirits; all have their code of honor, and most punctiliously observe it.
The aristocracy may violate all the rules of morality, not inscribed on the calendar of crime, and receive the adulation of those of their own kidney, and all those who bow obsequiously to a man who has, or appears to have wealth, measuring honor and reputation by dollars and cents—a standard adopted by large numbers in this republican land, and by more in the European world. The honor connected with fame, in the ranks
of the upper ten thousand, is that most talked about, sought after, coveted, and envied—the fame of the hero, the statesman, the jurist, the politician, the philosopher, and the literati. This kind of honor, like our gold coin, made under the law, is nearest the Simon Pure, and, like that, is small in quantity, compared with the manufactured, soulless paper of our country, and as hard to be obtained.
Fame, like an undertaker, pays more attention to the dead, than the living. The purest earthly honor, in its brightest aspect, is precarious, effervescent, fleeting. It builds its superstructure on public opinion, the quick sand of human nature, and as changeable as the wind. It often erects a splendid mansion for the aspirant, then pulls it down, and, from the same materials, builds his tomb. It cannot withstand the storms of life, it is a mere feather before the wind. Earthly Hope is its banker, but seldom has any funds with which to meet the draughts of honor. Brutus mistook it for virtue, and adored it, but when the storm came, found it to be a deceptive shadow. Let us cease, then, to depend on sublunary fame and honor for happiness, but seek the enduring joys, that flow, without alloy, from that fountain, that is opened in the house of King David-a fountain that will wash out every stain, purify all our enjoyments, and make us happy as angels are..