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PHILADELPHIA, Pa., 1925 - The Rev. Dr. Russell H. Conwell, who died this year at the age of 82, left a legacy considered to be without parallel. It is the educational opportunity, that he gave to an estimated 10,000 young men with financial help from the proceeds of a single lecture, " Acres of Diamonds." Dr. Conwell delivered this lecture to more than 6,000 audiences.
As a Baptist minister, Dr. Conwell was noted for a somewhat unorthodox interpretation of the Bible but only to the extent that he pictured it as a living guide, using its texts to teach his auditors that religion, the good life, and opportunity are present things - not matters of a future time or a distant place.
His views and his scholarship long ago won him the distinction of being named the first president of Temple University, which he opened here in 1884. In 1891, it was he who dedicated the Baptist Temple here. By - 1875 he already had become a noted lecturer as well as preacher in a day when the art of lecturing was reaching its fullest power and was a field of intense competition.
The theme of the lecture, "Acres of Diamonds," begins with a description of an Indian who spent his fortune and life hunting for diamonds in other continents, and who began his search by selling the family farm, on which the Kimberly mines later were discovered. He includes countless other examples. Then, turning to the misconception that wealth itself is evil - as preached by so many persons - he draws the line between wealth and "love of wealth" and launches, in the Philadelphia version of this lecture, into the following eloquent words.
The lecture Acres of Diamonds is too long for publication here in full, but may be read complete in other current works including The Compact Treasury of Inspiration, first published in 1955.
I say that you ought to get rich, and it is your duty to get rich. How many of my pious brethren say to me, "Do you, a Christian minister, spend your time going up and down the country advising young people to get rich, to get money?" "Yes, of course I do." They say, "Isn't that awful! Why don't you preach the gospel instead of preaching about man's making money?" "Because to make money honestly is to preach the gospel:' That is the reason. The men who get rich may be the most honest men you can find in the community.
"Oh", but says some young man here tonight, "I have been told all my life that if a person has money he is very dishonest and dishonorable and mean and contemptible:' My friend, that is the reason why you have none, because you have that idea of people. The foundation of your faith is altogether false. Let me say here clearly, and say it briefly, though subject to discussion which I have not time for here, ninety-eight out of one hundred of the rich men of America are honest. That is why they are rich. That is why they are trusted with money. That is why they carryon great enterprises and find plenty of people to work with them. It is because they are honest men.
Says another young man, "I hear sometimes of men that get millions of dollars dishonestly" Yes, of course you do, and so do I. But they are so rare a thing in fact that the newspapers talk about them all the time as a matter of news until you get the idea that all the other rich men got rich dishonestly.
My friend, you take and drive me - if you furnish the auto - out into the suburbs of Philadelphia, and introduce me to the people who own their homes around this great city, those beautiful homes with gardens and flowers, those magnificent homes so lovely in their art, and I will introduce you to the very best people in character as well as in enterprise in our city, and you know I will. A man is not really a true man until he owns his own home, and they that own their homes are made more honorable and honest and pure, and true and economical, by owning the home.
For a man to have money, even in large sums, is not an inconsistent thing. We preach against covetousness, and you know we do, in the pulpit, and oftentimes preach against it so long and use the terms about "filthy lucre" so extremely that Christians get the idea that when we stand in the pulpit we believe it is wicked for any man to have money-until the collection basket goes around, and then we almost swear at the people because they don't give more money. Oh, the inconsistency of such doctrines as that!.
Money is power, and you ought to be reasonably ambitious to have it. You ought because you can do more good with it than you could do without it. Money printed your Bible, money builds your churches, money sends your missionaries, and money pays your preachers, and you would not have many of them, either, if you did not pay them. I am always willing that my church should raise my salary, because the church that pays the largest salary always raises it the easiest. You never knew an exception to it in your life. The man who gets the largest salary can do the most good with the power that is furnished to him. Of course he can, if his spirit be right to use it for what it is given to him.
I say, then, you ought to have money. If you can honestly attain unto riches in Philadelphia, it is your Christian and godly duty to do so. It is an awful mistake of those pious people to think you must be awfully poor in order to be pious.
Some men say, "Don't you sympathize with the poor people?" Of course I do, or else I would not have been lecturing these years. I won't give in but what I sympathize with the poor, but the number of poor who are to be sympathized with is very small. To sympathize with a man whom God has punished for his sins, thus to help him when God would still continue a just punishment, is to do wrong, no doubt about it, and we do that more than we help those who are deserving.
While we should sympathize with God's poor-that is, those who cannot help themselves - let us remember there is not a poor person in the United States who was not made poor by his own shortcomings, or by the short-comings of someone else. It is all wrong to be poor, anyhow. Let us give in to that argument and pass that to one side.
A gentleman gets up back there, and says, "Don't you think there are some things in this world that are better than money?" Of course I do, but I am talking about money now. Oh yes, I know by the grave that has left me standing alone that there are some things in the world that are higher and sweeter and purer than money. Well do I know there are some things higher and grander than gold. Love is the grandest thing on God's earth, but fortunate the lover who has plenty of money. Money is power, money is force, money will do good, as well as harm. In the hands of good men and women it could accomplish, and it has accomplished, good.