It will therefore be necessary, before I endeavour to impress upon your mind the duty and advantages of economy, that I should previously help you to a clear understanding of the real meaning of the word itself.
The difficulty of forming a true and distinct conception of the virtue thus denominated is much increased by its being equally misrepresented by two entirely opposite parties. The avaricious, those to whom the expenditure of a shilling costs a real pang of regret, claim for their mean vice the honour of a virtue that can have no existence, unless the same pain and the same self-control were exercised in withholding, as with them would be exercised in giving. On the other hand, the extravagant, sometimes wilfully, sometimes unconsciously, fall into the same error of applying to the noble self-denial of economy the degrading misnomers of avarice, penuriousness, &c.
It is indeed possible that the avaricious may become economical,—after first becoming generous, which is an absolutely necessary preliminary. That which is impossible with man is possible with God, and who may dare to limit his free grace? This, however, is one of the wonders I have never yet witnessed. It seems indeed that the love of money is so literally the “root of all evil," that there is no room in the heart where it dwells for any other growth, for any thing lovely or excellent. The taint is universal, and while much that is amiable and interesting may originally exist in characters containing the seeds of every other vice, (however in time overshadowed and poisoned by such neighbourhood,) it would seem that “the love of money” always reigns in sovereign desolation, admitting no warm or generous feeling into the heart which it governs. Such, however, you will at once deny to be the case of those from whose penuriousness your early years have suffered; you know that their character is not thus bare of virtues. But do not for this contradict my assertion; theirs was not always innate love of money for its own sake, though at length they may have unfortunately learned to love it thus, which is the true test of avarice. It has, on the contrary, been owing to the faults of others, to their having long experienced the deprivations attendant on a want of money, that they have acquired the habit of thinking the consciousness of its possession quite as enjoyable as the powers and the pleasures its expenditure bestows. They know too well the pain of want of money, but have never learned that the real pleasure of its possession consists in its employment. It is only from habit, only from perverted experience, that they are avaricious, therefore I at once exonerate them from the charges I have brought against those whose very nature it is to love money for its own sake. At the same time the strong expressions I have made use of respecting these latter, may, I hope, serve to obviate the suspicion that I have any indulgence for so despicable a vice, and may induce you to expect an unprejudiced statement of the merits and the duty of economy.