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History 136-Standard Oil and Foreign Missions

History 136-Standard Oil and Foreign Missions - Standard...

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Standard Oil and Foreign Missions It seems important to those who feel that a mistake has been made in soliciting and accepting a large gift from Mr. Rockefeller to the American Board that the grounds of their opposition should be more fully set forth than has been possible hitherto. As the discussion has been going on some things have grown more clear. At first the acceptance of the gift was approved by many on the ground that it was unsolicited. It was admitted that it would have been a mistake to ask for it, but the voluntary proffer could not be rejected. It now transpires that it was not a voluntary proffer, that it was diligently sought for the space of three years. Those who approved the erroneous statements first given out, may be ready now to reconsider. It is also needful to make it entirely clear that those who disapprove of this alliance are not acting upon mere gossip or rumour, but that they rest their judgment on well-accredited evidence. To bring these facts succinctly before the people of our churches is one purpose of the present paper. Certain elementary moral principles appear to be repudiated in the explicit statement of the prudential committee: “Our responsibility begins with the receipt of a gift.” The contention is that, no matter what may be the character of the giver, his gifts should be welcomed with thanks. It can hardly be possible that the committee means to stand on this rule. At any rate, it is very important that a clear statement be made respecting the principles which should govern the receipt of gifts from doubtful sources. Our benevolent societies cannot knowingly accept gifts which are the proceeds of lawlessness, nor must they knowingly be the partners of those who are winning gains by methods which, though not yet punished by the law, are yet notoriously and indubitably extortionate and dishonourable. In the complexities of modern commerce it is often possible to take advantage of the necessities of men or of their weakness, and extort from them their property without incurring the penalty of any law. But property thus acquired is held by no better moral title than the booty of the highwayman, and the principle which forbids complicity in unjust gains applies to this no less rigorously. It may be agreed that gifts coming from sources unassailed may be accepted without questioning. It is not necessary that a missionary society should undertake the duties of a moral inquisitor; it ought to assume, unless there is evidence to the contrary, that gifts laid on its altars have been honestly acquired. But when the question is raised, and there is reasonable ground for believing that the money has been iniquitously obtained and does not rightfully belong to the one who offers it, the society must refuse to receive it until the doubt is resolved. There is a moral obligation here which cannot be shirked. It may sometimes be a difficult and disagreeable duty; that is no reason why it should not be faithfully performed.
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