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and indiscretion," though they were extricated, would soon invoke them in their former difficulties.
Extravagance hath in many cases a worse effect than I have yet mentioned: it tempts, men of good hearts to actions which cannot be justified. The best of prodigals are in a dangerous situation; necessity drives them upon mean and base expedients, for the satisfying of present wants; such as they would never have thought of, if their circumstances had been unembarrassed, and their judgment free. This/ is reported to have been the case with that renowned and otherwise great and good man, the Lord Chancellor Bacon. In such a. situation, men who are no profligates are tempted to make encroachments upon their conscience; which, tiavidg yielded to one dishonourable action, grows more insensible to those that follow: and when the case becomes desperate, their actions are desperate. When a man is sinking he catches at a twig; and if it has thorns upon it, he must lay hold of it in the moment of distress; though his hand is pierced through by the shift he is making to uphoid himself and save his life.
As for the worst of prodigals, who die by the hand of justice, they are not properly holden within our consideration. Many of them can waste nothing of their own, for they have nothing; and the profusion, of which thieves are so universally guilt)-, arises, as their theft doth, from the prevailing of ruinous vices; such as idleness, intemperance, the love of ill company; all under the influence of ignorance and ill principle. And it is incredible, how much persons of this character will run through in a short time. One of them, who was executed of late, declared, that between the months of October and April, he had seen the end of eight hundred pounds. But there are prodigals of an higher class, who do not lose their lives by the hand of justice, but, what is worse, by the hand of despair. The history of all past times informs us, how common it hath been, and many miserable examples, of the present day, shew how common it is, for a spendthrift to throw away his life, when he has nothing else left. The disappointed avarice of the gamester rages with impatience; and pride, brought to beggary, sinks with dejection: and neither of these having any support from the sources of religion, there is neither comfort in the present, nor hope of the future; so, to their distracted imagination there seems to be no refuge for them, but in that black and dark gulf, to the brink of which their steps have been carrying them through the mazes of a mistaken life.
This leads me to observe, farther, that prodigality, while it throws away that property which is temporal, js also forfeiting the grace of God and the better riches of eternity. This, being the worst, is the only ill effect of wastefulness insisted upon by our blessed Saviour in his parable of the Unjust Steward: If ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? that is, if ye have wasted the riches of this world which were committed to you, how can you expect to be trusted with the gifts of faith, and the talents of divine grace ? concerning which, we learn farther, that man has no other possession properly so called: for our Lord hath added, as equivalent to what he had said before, but differently expressed for our better instruction, if ye have not been faithful in that which is another's, who shall give you that which is your own? As the managers of this world's wealth, we are not proprietors but stewards, holding in trust for the great proprietor pf all, to whoin we are accountable: therefore, the unrighteous mammon is not our own but another's; and we must leave all such possessions behind us at our death: but the grace of God, the true riches, when given, will abide-with us in life, and pass with us through death into the land of righteousness from whence they came. These, therefore, when we have them, may be called our own; for they never leave us, and no man can take them away: but he who is found unfit to be trusted with what is of less value, shall not have these committed to him, to be abused and wasted. And it is surely to be apprehended, that much of the grace of God is seldom committed to a man who is loose and wasteful in the conduct of his life. He is without that consideration, that seriousness, that purity, that justice, which are necessary to the character of a religious man who is a candidate for -heaven, and keeps up an acquaintance with God.
W111.N. the case of the prodigal is considered, we
The provident man, according to the sense of his name, looks forward: he lives to-day, as one who considers that he is to live to-morrow: whereas the fool, looking to the present day only, saith, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die. When he undertaketh any work, he first revolves in his mind, how it is to be conducted, and when it will be finished. It may be such, perhaps, as any body can begin. Any man can leap into the stream; but he who does this, without considering how he shall swim across, is very much to be blamed; especially if he hath been first admonished of the depth. A person, who miscarries for want of timely consideration, makes himself the talk of his neighbours. Want of foresight is want of wisdom; and want of wisdom, when it affects any thing great, is always in danger of being ridiculous. This case is strongly represented by our Lord in the Gospel: which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first and counteth the cost, whether he hath sufficient to finish it? lest haply after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all that behold it begin to mock him. No man can be allowed to have sense, who hath sense of the present, with no sense of the future. The laughter, which is not restrained by thought, is mad; and the mirth, not tempered by a consideration of what is to come, is frantic. Improvidence is against nature; at least, it is against what we call nature in brutes; because it is against the principle of self-preservation; of which principle he seems to be destitute, who considered! not what is to become of him, when the day of present gratification is over. Therefore every man, who would live in the world, must consider what his station and circumstances will admit of; leaving as little as possible to probabilities and contingences, which are very apt