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has, he pines incessantly with a sickly taste for some new gratification; for objects, in which he supposes happiness to lie, and in which he expects to satisfy a relish, too restless, craving, and capricious, ever to be satisfied. His appetite is canine; not merely cating and drinking, but devouring; and, although daily crammed, is still hungry.
Vanity and pride are also perpetual prompters to the Prodigal; vanity, which cries with an unceasing voice, “ Give, give;"> pride, which never saith, “ It is enough.” Goaded by these passions, he struggles with unceasing anxiety to outrun those around him in the splendour of dress, equipage, houses, gardens, and other objects of expense. The contest of one with many is almost necessarily unequal. It is scarcely possible, that some of his competitors should not excel him in one thing, and some in another; or that, whenever he is excelled, he should not be unhappy. In its nature, the strife is unwise, and fruitless; because neither the spirit, nor the efforts, of rivalry ever made any man happy. In its progress it necessarily disappoints all his eager wishes, and fond hopes. When he succeeds, the expected enjoyment expires in the very moment of success : when he fails, the disappointment makes him miserable. With all this, he is preparing himself insensibly for more accumulated misery. No Prodigal ever looks into his affairs ; nor conjectures the extent of his expenses. Of course, no Prodigal ever perceives the rapidity with which his property declines. To men of this sort ruin is always nearer, than they mistrust; and hastens with a celerity, of which they never dreamed. While the means of expense are supposed to last, the whole host of sharpers fasten on him as their prey. The jockey cheats him in a bargain. The swindler borrows, and runs away with, his money. The usurer furnishes him with loans, at an enormous interest. Heedless of expense, and greedy of the enjoyments which it procures, every manufacturer of frippery, every owner of a toy-shop, selects him as his own best customer; and exchanges the merchandize of Vanity-fair for his money and his lands.
Such a career Providence never suffers to last long. Unsuspected by himself, but foreseen by all around him, Ruin, hastening with rapid steps, knocks at his voor in an evil hour. The host of wretches, who pamper themselves on his extravagance while they secretly laugh at his folly, startled at the sound, are out of sight in a moment. They have, indeed, rioted at his expense; and might be expected to be grateful for what he has given. But gratitude is rarely created by profusion ; and the hearts of such men were never susceptible of gratitude. They have feasted on enjoyments, which he furnished: but they came only to feast; not to sympathize. They have encouraged his expense; praised his generosity; admired his taste; and professed a deep interest in his happiness. But their whole business terminated in enjoying, praising, admiring, and professing. They are harpies, who gathered around him, to revel on his profusion; and sycophants, who flattered him, that they might be admitted to the revel. For him, for any other human being, they never exercised a generous thought; a sympathizing feeling; an honest Good-will. The house of suffering has no charms for them. They came only to get; and, when they can get no longer, they come no more.
When they have taken their flight; instead of being grateful to him for the enjoyments, on which they have so long, and so riotously feasted at his expense, they are among the first, most incessant, and most clamorous, of thosc, who load him with cen
Instead of pitying his calamities; calamities, into which they have persuaded, urged, and flattered him; they make both him, and them, the butt of ridicule; a mark, for scorn to shoot at; and persuade the world to forget, that they have been eminently the causes of his destruction by vociferating their contempt of his folly.
In the mean time, his door is thronged by a mob of duns, and a host of bailiffs. His houses and lands pass away to the sharpers, who have been long fattening upon his spoils. His equipage, his furniture, even the very bed on which he has slept, is struck off to the highest bidder. The sprightly sound of the viol, and the harpsichord, is succeeded by the rude hammer of the Auctioneer. Broken in fortune, and broken in heart, the miserable squanderer, and his miserable family, quit their luxurious mansion, and shelter themselves in a solitary hovel.
This wretched career is rendered more sinful, and mare unhap
py, by the avarice, which regularly haunts the prodigal. Addison, in a beautiful allegory, informs us, that Luxury and Avarice were formerly at war; that, after various vicissitudes of fortune, they agreed, at length, to a permanent peace; on the condition, that Luxury should dismiss Plenty from his service, and Avarice, Poverty ; their respective Ministers of State; and that Avarice should become the Minister of Luxury, and Luxury of Avarice, by turns. Since that period, he informs us, Luxury ministers to Avarice, and Avarice to Luxury. Every prodigal is, in intention at least, a luxurious man. Every prodigal, almost, is avaricious. He grasps at money eagerly, that he may find the means of continuing his darling profusion; and covets with as craving an appetite, that he may spend, as the miser, that he may hoard. Like the miserable sufferers, described by Isaiah, he will not spare even his own brother; but will snatch on the right hand, and still be hungry; and devour on the left, and will not be satisfied.
Equally exposed is he to the sin of Fraud ; as perpetrated upon his fellow-men. Peculiarly is he of the number of those wicked, who borrow and never pay. No man is more lavish of promises, notes, and bonds; and no man more stinted in discharging his honest debts. The farmer, mechanic, and manufacturer, are peculiarly the objects of his fraud. The debts, which he pays at all, are those, which he is pleased to style debts of honour; the debts of luxury; debts, contracted to furnish the means of splendour and voluptuousness. The necessaries of life are objects, too humble to be ranked in the list of his enjoyments. Insignificant in themselves, that is, as he estimates them, they are not felt to be deserving of his attention. Those, who furnish them, also, are too modest, and too quiet, to compel his regard. Those, who gratify the demands of show and pleasure, are, in his view, persons of higher consequence; and are usually too clamorous, and too persevering, in their demands, to suffer them to be turned away by a mere succession of empty promises. Their claims are of course first satisfied. Not the rich, but the poor, and the hungry, are here sent away empty.
The same necessity, which drives him to promise-breaking, urges him also into its twin vice of lying. He wants money daily; and as the ordinary means of obtaining it fail, he resorts to every art, and fetch, and falsehood, to supply his pressing necessities. A true account of his circumstances, and designs, would prevent every supply. To falsehood therefore, and to trick, he betakes himself, as the most obvious means of relieving his immediate wants. In this manner he becomes, within a moderate period, a common cheat, and a common liar.
Nor is the prodigal much less in danger from drunkenness. The peculiar distress, which attends the consciousness of embarrassed affairs, made up of the strong pressure of wants, without the means of relieving them, a continual apprehension of approaching ruin, united with an insurmountable reluctance to make any efforts 10wards preventing it, edged, and pointed, by a succession of duns, mortified pride, vanishing pleasures, and clamorous appetites; this peculiar distress is a powerful and frequent cause of habitual intoxication. The unhappy being, who is the subject of such distress, instinctively hunts, but hunts in vain, for relief, and even for consolation. Despair meets him at every corner. Often, the only alleviation, which presents itself to his afflicted eye, is the terrible resort to the transient stupefaction of strong drink. Thus the forlorn wretch, with a varied indeed, but always downward, course, makes his situation worse, and worse; and hurries himself to final ruin by the very means, on which he fastens for relief.
Nor is the prodigal in small danger of becoming a Suicide. He has lived, for a length of time, in the gratification of Pride, the enjoyment of conscious superiority, and an uninterrupted course of voluptuous indulgence. When the dreams of greatness are over ; and the riot of pleasure has ceased; the change to want and degradation is often too sudden, and almost always too great, to be borne with equanimity. In the earlier moments of desperation, it is not uncommon to see the prodigal betake himself
, for refuge from the load of humiliation and despair, lo poison, the pistol, or the halter. Among those, who become suicides in the possession of their reason, a more numerous list is no where found, than that, which is composed of ruined prodigals. Few men, have sufficient fortitude to sustain, without shrinking, the excruciating evils, to which persons of this description regularly hurry them
selves : excruciating, I mean, to such mer.
We do indeed meet, at times, beings, who, like disturbed ghosts, haunt places of public resort; and labour to keep in the remembrance of mankind the shadows, shreds, and tatters, of their former gaiety and splendour; and serve, as way-marks, to warn the traveller of his approach to a quagmire, or a precipice. But far more commonly they shrink from the public eye, and from the neglect, and contempt, which they are conscious of having merited; and, not unfrequently, hide themselves for ever from the sight by hurrying into the future world.
The prodigal is, also, dreadfully exposed to hardness of heart. Should he continue to live; should he become neither a suicide, nor a drunkard; still the love of expense and pleasure, grown by indulgence into an obstinate habit, the long-continued forgetfulness of God, the total negligence of religion and all its duties, the entire absorption in the present, and the absolute disregard of the future, universally attendant on this mode of life, naturally \ render the heart callous to every divine impression. A man, who thus cagerly forgets God, ought certainly to expect, that God will forget him. For, no man says to the Almighty more frequently, or more uniformly, Depart from me, for I desire not the knowledge of thy ways. From the house of God, from the Scriptures, nay, even from prayer, the last hope of miserable man, he voluntarily cuts himself off. What prospects must he then form concerning his future being !
The Family of the Prodigal share necessarily in most of his calamities, and almost necessarily in many of his sins. A great part of the same temptations arrest them, of course. part of the sins are provided for them, and regularly served up. Should they escape from moral ruin, the event would be little short of a miracle, unless it should be accomplished by an early, and timely, failure of the means of sin. The sufferings, to which they are exposed, arc numberless. The prodigal, fascinated by show and pleasure, cannot attend to the education of his children. He cannot spare from his own enjoyments, in his view indispensable, the means of education abroad; particularly an education, at all suited to their original circumstances, the expectations which he has forced them to form, and the wishes