It is possible that dishonesty may be successful for a time, but honesty is sure to succeed better in the long run. This may be seen by considering the career of students in schools and colleges, and of men engaged in the business of life.
The student who cheats in an examination may, if he escapes detection, gain a few marks more than he would otherwise have got. But what is the probable result? He learns thereby to trust to dishonest means of passing his future examinations, and neglects honest work, the only sure means of success.
The consequence is that, when the next examination comes, he finds that he is so far below the standard required, that even by cheating he is quite unable to pass.
Thus, even if his dishonesty remains undetected, he is likely to be outstripped by his more honest rival, and in addition he exposes himself to the risk of an ignominious conviction, which will ruin his reputation and cruelly wound the hearts of his parents and friends.
The effects of dishonesty are much the same in the case of clerks, merchants, government servants, and others, who, after leaving school or college, are trying to make their own way in the world.
They may suddenly make themselves rich by dishonest means. But wealth so obtained is as a rule rapidly squandered, and to regain it recourse is likely to be had again to new acts of dishonesty. Thus the dishonest man lives all through his life in continual dread that his misdeeds may at any moment be revealed in the light of day.
Success in the beginning of his career only tempts him to more reckless fraud on a larger scale, and the end is generally disgrace and punishment.
The longer detection is delayed, the worse it is for the culprit. A school-boy detected in cheating receives some boyish punishment, which may have the good effect of curing him of his evil propensities and preventing him from growing up into a dishonest man.
But the detection of dishonesty in after-life involves lifelong disgrace, ruin, and in many cases, imprisonment, and the higher the height to which the dishonest man has attained by his dishonesty, the greater and the more painful is his eventual fall.
So far we have been considering the question merely from the point of view of material success, and have seen that the dishonest man is very unlikely to succeed in life.
But even if by some rare chance he should manage to escape detection to the end and die famous and wealthy, he must nevertheless all through his life suffer pain through fear of detection and consciousness of his own baseness.
Had he been an honest man, he would probably have won still more wealth and honour in the eyes of the world, and would have been spared the reproaches of a guilty conscience.
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