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Gamblers and Gambling by Henry Ward Beecher

[Illustration: HENRY WARD BEECHER.]

Gamblers and Gambling

By Rev. Henry Ward Beecher

Philadelphia Henry Altemus

Copyrighted, 1896, by HENRY ALTEMUS.



Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments and made four parts, to every soldier a part, and also his coat. Now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots far it, whose it shall be. These things therefore the soldiers did.

I have condensed into one account the separate parts of this gambling transaction as narrated by each evangelist. How marked in every age is a Gambler's character! The enraged priesthood of ferocious sects taunted Christ's dying agonies; the bewildered multitude, accustomed to cruelty, could shout; but no earthly creature, but a Gambler, could be so lost to _all_ feeling as to sit down coolly under a dying man to wrangle for his garments, and arbitrate their avaricious differences by casting dice for his tunic, with hands spotted with his spattered blood, warm and yet undried upon them. The descendants of these patriarchs of gambling, however, have taught us that there is nothing possible to hell, uncongenial to these, its elect saints. In this lecture it is my disagreeable task to lead your steps down the dark path to their cruel haunts, there to exhibit their infernal passions, their awful ruin, and their ghastly memorials. In this house of darkness, amid fierce faces gleaming with the fire of fiercer hearts, amid oaths and groans and fiendish orgies, ending in murders and strewn with sweltering corpses,--do not mistake, and suppose yourself in Hell,--you are only in its precincts and vestibule.

* * * * *

Gambling is the staking or winning of property upon mere hazard. The husbandman renders produce for his gains; the mechanic renders the product of labor and skill for his gains; the gambler renders for his gain the sleights of useless skill, or more often, downright cheating. Betting is gambling; there is no honest equivalent to its gains. Dealings in fancy-stocks are oftentimes sheer gambling, with all its worst evils. Profits so earned are no better than the profits of dice, cards, or hazard. When skill returns for its earnings a useful service, as knowledge, beneficial amusements, or profitable labor, it is honest commerce. The skill of a pilot in threading a narrow channel, the skill of a lawyer in threading a still more intricate one, are as substantial equivalents for a price received, as if they were merchant goods or agricultural products. But all gains of _mere_ skill which result in no real benefit, are gambling gains.

Gaming, as it springs from a principle of our nature, has, in some form, probably existed in every age. We trace it in remote periods and among the most barbarous people. It loses none of its fascinations among a civilized people. On the contrary, the habit of fierce stimulants, the jaded appetite of luxury, and the satiety of wealth, seem to invite

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