THOSE who do not obtain full justice from man in this world will obtain

it in the next from God. If we do not meet our obligations this side of

the tribunal of the just Judge, He will see to it that our accounts are

equitably balanced when the time for the final reckoning comes. This

supposes, naturally, that non-fulfilment of obligations is due on our

part to unwillingness--a positive refusal, or its equivalent, wilful

neglect, to undo the wrongs committed. For right reason and God's mercy

must recognize the existence of a state of unfeigned and hopeless

disability, when it is impossible for the delinquent to furnish the

wherewithal to repair the evils of which he has been guilty. When this

condition is permanent, and is beyond all remedy, all claims are

extinguished against the culprit, and all losses incurred must be

ascribed to "an act of God," as the coroner says. For no mart can be

held to what is impossible.

Chief among these moral, as well as legal, bankrupts is the

good-for-nothing fellow who is sorry too late, who has nothing, has no

hopes of ever having anything, and who therefore can give nothing. You

cannot extract blood from a beet, nor shekels from an empty purse. Then

a man may lose all his belongings in a catastrophe, and after striving

by labor and economy to pay off his debts, may see himself obliged to

give up the task through sickness, misfortune or other good causes. He

has given all he has, he cannot give more. Even though liabilities

were stacked up mountain-high against him, he cannot be held morally

responsible, and his creditors must attribute their losses to the

misfortune of life--a rather unsubstantial consolation, but as good a

one as the poor debtor has.

There are other cases where the obligations of restitution are not

annulled, but only cancelled for the time being, until such a time as

circumstances permit their being met without grave disaster to the

debtor. The latter may be in such a position that extreme, or great,

want would stare him in the face, if he parted with what he possesses

to make restitution. The difficulty here is out of all proportion with

the injustice committed for, after all, one must live, and charity

begins at home, our first duty is toward ourselves. The creditors of

this man have no just claim against him until he improves his

circumstances; in the meantime, the burden of responsibility is lifted

from his shoulders.

The same must be said when the paying off of a debt at any particular

time, be it long or short, would cripple a man's finances, wipe out his

earnings to such an extent as to make him fall considerably below his

present position in life. We might take a case during the late coal

famine, of a man who, in order to fill his contracts of coal at six

dollars a ton, would be obliged to buy it at fifteen and twenty dollars

a ton; and thereby sacrifice his fortune. The thing could not be

expected, it is preposterous. His obligee must wait and hope for better


A man's family is a part of himself. Therefore the payment of a just

debt may be deferred In order to shield from want parents, wife,

children, brothers or sisters. Life, limb and reputation are greater

possessions than riches; consequently, rather than jeopardize these,

one may, for the time, put aside his obligations to make restitution.

All this supposes, of course, that during the interval of delay the

creditor does not suffer inconveniences greater than, or as great as,

those the debtor seeks to avoid. The latter's right to defer payment

ceases to exist the moment it comes into conflict with an equal right

of the former to said payment. It is against reason to expect that,

after suffering a first injustice, the victim should suffer a second in

order to spare the guilty party a lesser or an equal injury. Preference

therefore must be given to the creditor over the debtor when the

necessity for sacrifice is equal, and leniency must be refused when it

becomes cruelty to the former.

Outside these circumstances, which are rare indeed, it will be seen at

once that the creditor may act an unjust part in pressing claims that

accidentally and temporarily become invalid. He has a right to his own,

but he is not justified in vindicating that right, if in so doing, he

inflicts more damage than equity calls for. The culprit has a right not

to suffer more than he deserves, and it is mock justice that does not

respect that right. If the creditor does suffer some loss by the delay,

this might be a circumstance to remember at the final settlement but

for the present, there is an impediment to the working of justice,

placed by the fatal order of things and it is beyond power to remove