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siderate and injudicious in the management of his affairs; when he parts with his property without a fair equivalent; and when he so profusely squanders what is his own that he soon will have recourse to what belongs to others. The feelings and habits in which this vice takes its rise, though different in dif. ferent individuals, are such as ought not to be indulged. They are chiefly vanity and pride under various modifications, awakening the love of display, and the desire for expensive gratifications. The prodigal having entered on his career of folly, is stimulated in the pursuit by competitors alike foolish as himself, who are are all eager to outstrip each other in show, in extravagance, in the idle and criminal consumption of property.
What are the consequences to which this vice leads, and in which it usually terminates ? There is of course a rapid decline of property—a recourse to all the shifts and artifices which ingenuity can devise to elude creditors, and to keep up appearances; till at length, when the evil cannot be any longer postponed, ruin spreads itself around. This ruin is not confined to the prodigal himself; his family and immediate dependants share it with him. They are by his means precipitated from a station of comfort and respectability to a state of indigence and obscurity. After having defrauded tradesmen of their property, by withholding from them payment of their labour, or their goods,-after having borrowed without possessing the power, or perhaps the intention to pay,--after having injured, if not involved in deep calamity, all whom by deceit he had induced to support his extra
vagance,-he is deserted by those who had profited by his criminality, excluded from the confidence of society, deprived of influence and usefulness, and doomed to suffer the bitter reflection, that he has been faithless to his stewardship, and has brought accumulated distresses on himself and on others.
In this situation, and even before he had reached it, how numerous are the temptations to which he is exposed! He has been long faithless to his engagements, just because his own conduct rendered it impossible for him to fulfil them. His promises which, at first, were broken with self-crimination have been so often violated, that they are of no value with others, while their breach scarcely gives pain to himself. He now has recourse to direct and deliberate false. hood,- to obtain by deceit and swindling what, but for himself, he might have obtained by the most honourable means. Detected, repulsed, despised, under the influence of painful recollections, of mortified pride, and almost of despair, he has recourse to strong drink for relief from his distresses. The repetition of the stimulus strengthens the habit, till at length the career is completed in frequent drunkenness, and perhaps terminated in self-destruction.
The guilt and misery of such a course are incalculable. If the person who runs it has been born to affluence, to power, and to be the instrument of putting the means of virtue and of happiness within the reach of thousands, how much has he lost in wasting, in prodigality and profligacy, the important talents with which Providence had intrusted him? Enjoying by
inheritance, perhaps, the name of a family that had weight over the land, and the possession of which placed him on vantage ground far above his fellows,-with a fortune adequate to sustain it in stimu
a lating industry, in relieving distress, in patronising merit, and in diffusing blessings,-he has criminally thrown away his superior advantages, has destroyed the respectability with which the honours of many generations had surrounded him, and has subjected himself, in the state into which he has fallen, to many mortifications. In the ordinary ranks of life, the evils occasioned by continued prodigality are far greater than, without a minute examination, we are apt to be aware of. Besides those which terminate in the
prodigal himself, he becomes the source of misery and disgrace to all who are connected with him. As the head of a family, he has brought want and wretchedness on his wife and children. After having long neglected their moral and religious interests, and lived before them without prayer and without God; after having allowed his offspring (if he has not directly encouraged them) to form notions and habits, from their observing his profuse expenditure, which are quite unsuited to their real circumstances ;-they are awakened to the sad survey of calamities for which their previous training had but ill prepared them, and which the vices of a parent have heaped upon them. We could not fail of forming the most vivid impression of the odiousness of these vices, did we personally witness the poverty and distress which follow, a mother whose heart has been already broken, sighing over miseries which she had partly foreseen, but
which she could not prevent,-children about to sepa. rate under circumstances far different from those which they had anticipated; and who, if they meet not with relief in the compassion of friends, are sent very helplessly to encounter the snares and temptations of the world.
HAVING said so much on the indirect means by which property is injured, and the obligations of justice in this respect violated, I shall now proceed to the consideration of the direct methods by which, in this way, we transgress the law of God. These, though nume, rous, are reducible to two heads-Fraud and Gambling.
It is difficult to notice, in a short compass, the various ways in which, by fraudulent practices, we may injure the property of others. The chief of them may be included under the following particulars, trespass,-taking the property of others by deceit and misrepresentation-receiving payment for services which have not been rendered-contracting debts without perceiving any means of paying them.
I. To trespass on the property of others is obviously a violation of the obligations of justice. We are chargeable with this offence when we walk through the enclosures, deface the buildings, abstract from
the property, of others. Delinquencies of this nature are often committed among the crowded population of a large city, sometimes thoughtlessly, but always blameably.
II. The taking the property of others by deceit and misrepresentation is better entitled to the denomination of fraud, and is a much more extensive system of robbery. It is to be regretted that in the transactions of commerce any thing like this should ever be found, -and that one of the most effectual means for advancing the civilization and happiness of man should be so often accompanied with the exercise of the basest passions of human nature.
The price of any thing, whether it be labour or the product of labour, is its marketable value; and in selling it we are entitled to ask an equivalent for it to the amount of this value, whatever it may be. But we cannot without injustice attempt to get more by misrepresentation and concealment. Should we impose, merely because the person we deal with is incapable of detecting and exposing the cheat that is practised on him, we so far forfeit the character of honesty by violating its fundamental principle. We add falsehood to fraud when we attempt to pass for sound what is deteriorated. This is a crime of a nature resembling that of which they are guilty who traffic in base coin. It is aiming by deceit to take property from others for which we give no fair and adequate equivalent. Nor is there a more aggravated species of this crime than that of knowingly using false weights and measures. I say knowingly, for it is possible that in some few cases this injustice