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lay him under a rude heap of stones, a monument more suitable to his character and actions.
3. A third cause, by which many fortunes are dissipated, and the owners brought to beggary, is a passion for gaming. The employment, as an employment, is below a rational creature, and not well consistent with honesty, under the best acceptation of it. For, whence cloth the gamester seek his happiness? From the hope of depriving others of their property, without giving them any thing in lieu, but chance; which is but a shadow, and to the loser is departed as such. Unless gaming is for a large stake, the passions of the avaricious are not sufficiently interested to make it an entertainment: and if it is, then gaming is equivalent to duelling, and is to be condemned on the same principle. The gamester does that for covetousness, which the duellist doth for revenge. The one stakes that life wantonly, which is the property of God, and due to his country: the other stakes that property which should maintain his family and pay his debts; and this, being a wicked act, is generally attended with ruinous consequences. Who are the persons that profess gaming? the profligate, who are either too proud or too idle to work. In low life, they arc sharpers and cheats; the hawks and vultures of civil society, who are upon the watch to tear and scatter the plumage of the simple. And, it is to be feared, they are often not much better in higher life. Woe be to those who love their company, and fall under their rapacity; for this vice is not like some others which consume by slow degrees: it is not like blighting winds, overflowing rains, or burning droughts, bringing scarcity in their rear: but like an earthquake, which swallows up houses and lands with instantaneous ruin. The love of play generally takes place, where bodily labour, or thoughtfulness of mind, is wanting: it is the business of those who have no business,; it is a spirit which rushes like wind into a vacuum:
4. A fourth cause, which drains many of their wealth, is that vain curiosity which is always wanting something, always seeking after novelty or rarity. It is weary of the last toy, and must buy a new one; not considering that this must soon be succeeded by another, and that by another; because none of them are sought for their real, but for their fancied, worth; and when fancy tires (which, being weak, it is very apt to do) they lose their value. Vain curiosity is an insatiable principle, because its objects are such as give no real satisfaction. It is analogous to that infirmity of the stomach, which covets and swallows every thing and digests nothing (recomuntur cibi) but is still empty, with all its feeding. It is the curse of some people that they are tormented with imaginary wants, till there is no supply left for such as are natural: the lean and hungry kine, never to be fattened or satisfied, eat up all those of better condition. This humour of wanting every thing for its novelty, and the ruin it brings with it, was censured by one of the Latins, with an equivocation, in which the wit is very just and severe—You buy every thing, says he, therefore you will sell every thing: and the world has frequent opportunities of seeing how often, and how soon, this taste for buying is followed by the necessity of selling. Sales are daily published, in which the superfluous articles, heaped together by ruined people, are dispersed abroad, and pass into the hands of others, who attend with a curiosity, which either knows nothing, or feels nothing, of the unhappy state of those who are thug stripped of their effects.
The case would not be nearly so bad, if the spirit of profuseness preyed only upon itself: but so many industrious families are hurt, many relations and dependents injured in their just expectations, who happen to lie within the vortex of an extravagant man, that there ought surely to be some legal restraint on those who are apparently (as privileged swindlers) undermining and plundering others, while they are ruining themselves. There is a kingdom of Europe, where, if it can be shewn by the relations or parlies concerned, that a man has sunk one-third of his capital or his estate, complaint may be made, and the attorney-general, after dueinquest, appoints guardians, as if he were a minor, for the management of what remains: arid thus his ruin, with the consequence* of it to others, is prevented by the timely interposition of authority. Under such an establishment, I apprehend, there can be no such thing as gaming.
5. The two remaining causes of extravagance are, the love of fame, and the love of pleasure. Pride works more or less in all mankind: but as it shews itself in a desire of popularity, it was very prevalent among the heathens of Greece and Rome; who were lavish of their gifts to the populace, to obtain their interest or their applause. Pride is never so mean, as when it looks beneath itself, and pays its court to those over whom it wants to rule. It appeals, for its own merit, to those who have no judgment; and yet blinds their eyes with a gift, before it ventures to take their opinion. Popular interest is become a public commodity, for which there are so many candidates and competitors, that it is frequently purchased at an exorbitant rate, and brings the possessor to poverty. I do not mean to extend my observations to particulars; but shall only observe, that it is a sign the times are degenerate, and that Christians are become too much like heathens, when opinions are bought and sold like provisions in a market, and the minds of the people, which, should be pure and uncorrupt, are given up to prostitution.
As to pleasure, little need be said to prove the ill effects it hath upon a man's circumstances. With wise men, it hath always had the character of an harlot, as well for its extravagance and expensiveness, as for its deceit and wickedness. When pleasure is become the grand object, the mind grows so weak and effeminate, that all resolution is lost, and it must have what it demands. If, in its pride and wantonness, it requires pearls of inestimable value, to dissolve and swallow them at a draught, as Cleopatra did, they must not be refused. Here the prodigal of the text returns upon us, whose substance was wasted with riotous living; that is, in the enjoyment of expensive revellings in the worst of company; and there is none worse than harlots, who are next in order to the gaming table, for bringing the unwary into speedy ruin. They are therefore stigmatized in the parable as devourers: this thy son, said the elder brother, hath devoured thy living with harlots.
Having thus far enquired into the causes of prodigality, which I believe are in general such as have been here described; we are now to consider its effects. These are, loss of comfort, loss of honour, of liberty, of honesty, perhaps of life itself, and (which is worst of all) of the grace of God.
And first, the extravagant man forfeits the comfort of his life; while his substance is wasting, he may for a time be insensible of his danger; like a patient in a consumption, who flatters himself he may do well, though others see and lament that he is daily dropping into his grave: but when he has spent all, which he who spends without consideration will soon do, then poverty, which had concealed itself under his table, rises up as an armed man, to assault and terrify him: and it is impossible for him to enjoy any comfort with such a companion at his side. The burthen of debt is so much like the burthen of sin, that the one is often put for the other. It is as unpleasant to a man of sensibility to walk with this load upon his mind, as to travel barefooted through bad ways with a load upon his shoulders, which he cannot shake off; and remorse gnaweth upon him, when he reflects that he ,hath made it for himself.
In the next place, he loses the repute and honour of his character in the eyes of the world: for what can be more contemptible than a man who was great, but has made himself little; who was rich, but has made himself poor; not in assisting others, but in abusing and undermining himself!
The loss of liberty is another unhappy effect of extravagance. It brings on debt; and hopeless debt leads to hopeless confinement. Misfortunes, jmputaJble to the secret influence of Providence, or which arise from want of judgment, in respect of which some men differ much from others, have a claim upon the benevolent for their favour, and will always find it: but if we were to review the company in some prisons, and enquire into their past conduct, we should find amongst them the vain and inconsiderate, who flourished away in a character which did not belong to them, and, like the flies of a day, which dance about in the air, took their pleasure in a little false sunshine of their own making, to bring a cloud of misery ana infamy upon the rest of their lives; and whose priw