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gins in an honest and good heart, disposed to render alway, and exactly, to our neighbour the things that are our neighbour's, and to God the things that are God's. It knows not, it disdains, it abominates, the tricks, the fetches, the disguises, the concealments, the enhancements, the delays of payment, the depreciated payments, the base gains, and the double-minded character, always found in the coarse-spun morality of this world. Worldly Morality aims supremely, and only, at being rich; Evangelical Morality at doing that, which is right. Every person satisfied with worldly morality, who hears this sermon, will probably go away from it, displeased with what he will call its rigidness; and discontented to find, that what he has been accustomed to think his own stronghold, furnishes him with so little either of safety or comfort. But let him remember, that, whether he is pleased or displeased, no Morality, short of this, will answer the demands of the Law of God.
EXODUS XX. 15.—Thou shalt not steal.
THE Frauds practised by men upon themselves, and their fam ilies; and a variety of Frauds, perpetrated by mankind upon each other, have occupied the two preceding discourses.
I shall now proceed to the consideration of another Fraud of this latter class; viz. Gaming.
Multitudes of persons professedly believe Gaming to be innocent; and accordingly labour not a little to justify it to others. As they aim to clear it from all imputations of criminality; it will be both proper, and necessary, to consider the subject generally; that its advocates may perceive, that it is not only fraudulent, but sinful in many other respects.
The Observations, which I shall make on this subject, will be arranged under the following Heads.
I. The Evils of Gaming, which immediately respect Others; and, II. Those, which immediately respect Ourselves.
Among the evils, which respect others, I observe, 1. That Gaming is, in all instances, Fraud.
By Gaming, here, I intend that only, by which property is won or lost; and this property, by which party soever acquired, 1 assert to be acquired, invariably by fraud.
There are but two possible methods, by which we can acquire property from others honestly; viz. either by free gift; or by rendering an equivalent for what we receive. I need not say, that property, won by Gaming, is not obtained in either of these ways. That, which is acquired, neither is, nor is intended to be, given: and instead of an equivalent, the Gamester renders nothing for what he has received.
God in the Decalogue, has absolutely bound us not to covet any thing, which is our neighbour's. This sin of coveting, every Gamester is guilty of, when he sits down to win the property of his neighbour. Of this truth he gives unanswerable evidence in many ways. To win the property in question, is the only motive, for which he spends his hours at the card-table, and the dice-box. At the same time, he sees his companion afflicted, suffering, and even ruined, by the loss of his property, without restoring, or thinking of restoring, to him any part of what he has lost. Did he not covet this property, the most vulgar humanity would induce
him to relieve distresses, the relief of which would demand only the sacrifice of what he did not wish to retain. Instead of this, however, we always find him speak of his winnings, when valuable, with self-gratulation and triumph; and plainly considering them as acquisitions of no small importance to his own happiness. The Gamester, therefore, sinfully covets the property of his neighbour. The design to obtain it without rendering an equivalent, is in its nature fraudulent; and will be admitted into his mind by no honest man. But this design every Gamester cherishes; and the indulgence, and execution of it, spends the principal part of his life. His life is, therefore, an almost uninterrupted course of fraud. To render this career complete, the Gamester spends a great part of his time in contrivances, and labours, to get, and in actually getting, the property of others for nothing. This is the very crime of the cheat, the swindler, and the thief. If the thief, when he stole; the cheat, when he bargained; and the swindler, when he borrowed his neighbour's property, voluntarily left an equivalent; how obvious is it, that his crime, though I acknowledge he might even then be in some degree criminal, would hardly be mentioned, and scarcely regarded as an immorality. The main turpitude in every one of these cases is plainly the desiring, and the taking, of our neighbour's property without an equivalent. But this turpitude is entirely chargeable to the Gamester.
It may, however, be said, that all the other persons, mentioned, take the property in question, covertly; while the Gamester takes it openly, and therefore fairly. So, I answer, does the
It will be further said, that these persons take the property without the consent of the owner: whereas the Gamester wins it, only with his consent. As I suppose this to be the strong-hold of all, who advocate the lawfulness of Gaming, it will be proper to consider it with some attention.
In the first place, then, this consent is never given in the manner, professedly alleged by those who defend the practice.
No man ever sat down to a game, with an entire consent, that his antagonist should win his property. I speak of those cases only, in which the property staked is considered as of some serious importance. Every person, who is a party in a game of this nature, intends to win the property of his antagonist, and not to lose his own. His own he stakes, only because the stake is absolutely necessary to enable him to win that of his antagonist. Thus, instead of consenting to lose his own property, each of the parties intends merely to obtain that of his neighbour for nothing. This is the only real design of both: and this design is as unjust, and as fraudulent, as any, which respects property, can be. That such is the only real design, the loser proves, in the clearest manner, by deeply lamenting his loss; and the winner, in a manner little less clear, by exulting in his gain.
Secondly. Each of the parties expects only to win; either by su perior skill, or superior good-fortune.
No man ever heard of a Gamester, who sat down to play with a decided expectation of losing.
Thirdly. No man has a right to yield his property to another on
The property of every man is given to him by his Creator, as to a steward; to be employed only in useful purposes. In such purposes he is indispensably bound to employ it. Every other mode of employing it is inexcusable. This doctrine I presume the Gamester himself will not seriously question. The man must be lost to decency, and to common sense, who can for a moment believe, that his Creator has given any blessing to mankind for any purposes, except those which are useful; or that himself, and every one of his fellow-men, are not unconditionally required by God to promote useful purposes with all the means in their power; and with their property, equally with other means at all times. But it will not be pretended, that staking property on the issue of a game, is an employment of that property to any purpose, which God will pronounce to be useful. In his sight, therefore, no man can lawfully employ his property in this manner. Of course both parties, in thus staking their money, are guilty of sin: while each also invites, and seduces, the other to sin.
Fourthly. Every man is plainly bound to devote his property to that purpose, which, all things considered, appears to be the best of those, which are within his reach.
By this I do not mean that, which is best in the abstract; but best for him, in the sphere of action, allotted to him by his Maker. In other words, every man is bound to do with his property, as well as his other talents, the most good in his power. I am well aware, that this subject cannot be mathematically estimated; that, in many cases, the mind of a wise and good man may be at a loss to determine; and that the determination must be left to personal discretion. But, in the present case, there can be neither difficulty, nor doubt. No man will pretend, that losing his money to a Gamester, is disposing of it in such a manner, as to promote the best purpose in his power. If he needs it himself; it will be more useful to him to keep it still in his possession. If he does not need it; it will be incomparably better to give it to those who do. To impart it, thus, to a Gamester, always a vicious man, often a profligate, and always a squanderer; a man known to employ his money for sinful purposes only; can never be useful, nor even vindicable, in any sense. The proof of this is complete. No man ever thought of making a Gamester, as such, an object of alms-giving. To other prodigals, to idlers, and even to drunkards, alms, at times, are given. But the most enlarged charity never dreamed of finding a proper object of its bounty in a gamester. To stake money in this manner, therefore, is so far from
employing it in the best manner which is in the owner's power, that it is employing it in a manner, indefensible, and in every respect sinful.
From these considerations it is plain, that this argument in favour of Gaming cannot avail to the purpose, for which it is adduced. On the contrary, it only contributes to exhibit the sinfulness of Gaming in a new light.
It often happens, and almost always in the beginning of this practice, that the Gamesters are youths; and that the property, which they stake, belongs to their parents. This property is never entrusted to children for the purpose of Gaming. They receive, and their parents communicate, it for some valuable end; in which the promotion of their comfort and welfare was concerned. In receiving it, the children engaged, either expressly, or implicitly, to use it for this end. In staking it, therefore, at the Gaming-table, the child is guilty of a gross breach of good faith; and literally robs his parents of their property. And he, says Solomon, who robbeth his father, or his mother, and saith it is no sin, is the fit companion of a murderer.*
2. The Gamester ruins multitudes of his fellow-men, and injures deeply multitudes more.
By this I intend, that he plunders them of their property, and reduces them to beggary. The whole history of Gaming is a mere record of this ruin. It is also completely evinced by daily observation. The bankruptcies, continually brought upon mankind in this manner, are innumerable; particularly upon the young, the ignorant, the thoughtless, and the giddy. He, who can coolly sit down to the ruin, or even to the serious injury, of one of his fellow-men, is an arrant villain; equally destitute of common good-will, and common honesty.
3. The Gamester corrupts others by his Example; and thus entails upon them moral ruin.
One sinner, saith the Wise man, destroyeth much good. In no manner, is this terrible mischief accomplished so extensively, and so effectually, as by an evil example. Gamesters are always wicked men, totally destitute of principle, and sunk far below the common level of corruption. To this degree of turpitude every Gamester reduces all those, who become his companions. The ruin, here accomplished, is infinitely more dreadful than that, mentioned under the preceding head. It is the endless ruin of the soul; the destruction of every enjoyment, and every hope. All other injuries, compared with it, are nothing, and less than nothing. With the guilt of accomplishing this stupendous evil, the Gamester is wholly chargeable; and for this guilt he will be compelled to answer at the final day. What sober man, nay, what profligate, would not tremble at the thought of assuming this responsibility?