Baptist History Homepage

On Lotteries
The American Baptist Magazine, 1830
     Lottery establishments are great evils, concerning which, christian editors should not be silent. As guardians of the public morals, they should to the best of their ability unveil the hidden iniquities of the system. They should show the snares which are laid for the ignorant and unwary, and point to the gulf of poverty and wretchedness into which many of the unsuspecting victims of lotteries have fallen. These warnings are necessary : for it is to be lamented, that even members of Christian churches have patronized these establishments. It is charitably hoped that they have done so without consideration, that they have been influenced by the persuasions and example of others, and that when they seriously reflect on the nature and tendency of all such speculations in property, they will at once withdraw from them. We shall, therefore, offer a few reasons, which we trust will convince such persons that lotteries are extremely objectionable.

     The expectation of becoming rich by such adventures of property, is foolish. From the very nature of schemes of hazard, while a

[p. 296]
few obtain prizes, multitudes must be disappointed. Thousands are in the predicament of a man who dreams that his hands are full of gold and silver, but he awakes and finds himself to be pennyless. Disappointed, they apply to the goddess of chance again; and again they hope for a prize, but obtain a blank. Thus they spend their money for that which is not bread, and their strength for that which profiteth not. What they ought to have appropriated in paying their just debts, or in relieving a poor relative, or what they might have laid up for the season of old age, is gone, never to return. This species of gambling has made many persons poor all their days. They have for a succession of years calculated that the next wheel of fortune would bring them wealth, until at last poverty has come upon them as an armed man.

     There is also something peculiarly ungenerous and selfish in seeking to be profited by the losses of others. It is certainly contrary to the principles of Christianity thus to acquire riches, or to gratify our own hopes at the expense of the hopes of thousands. That falsely styled favorite of fortune, is not to be envied, who has obtained wealth, not by his own laudable efforts, but by the disappointed cupidity of his fellow men.

     He who by the blessing of God on his own labors has greatly increased his property, may feel a degree of satisfaction that while he has performed his part in society, he has not labored in vain. But surely he can feel no such satisfaction, who has come into the possession of wealth by the revolution of a lottery wheel. There is nothing just, or dignified, or kind, in the means by which it has been acquired. He lives on the spoils of others, without having rendered an equivalent. He is enriched by means which have made his neighbors poorer.

     The effects produced on those who traffic in these schemes of hazard, are bad. He who becomes an adventurer in a lottery, does so at the risk of his own peace, and of his future good conduct. No sooner has he selected his number, and purchased his ticket, than he begins to indulge in golden hopes. Already he fancies himself in affluence, and begins to budd his castles, and is perplexed to know how he shall expend his vast anticipated treasures. Were this all it might provoke a momentary smile, while we thought of his folly. But the mischief does not end here. He who is thus rich in expectation, begins to be dissatisfied with the ordinary occupations of life. His labor becomes a task. He loiters away his time. He feels discontented with his humble lot. He increases his expenses beyond his income. He borrows in anticipation of future wealth; and when the blank arrives, he experiences that disappointment which maketh the heart sick. He now feels desperate. Like the gamester, he again stakes all the money he can procure, in hope of a better fortune. He has the same hopes and fears, and the same feeling of impatience with his present lot, and the same unfortunate issue.

     But we will suppose that the hopes of the lottery adventurer are realized; that his stars are propitious; that his friends congratulate him as the favored child of fortune, and that his success is blazon

[p. 297]
through the country. Does it follow that he will be more happy, more virtuous, or more useful? By no means. In most instances, such sudden acquisition of property is more injurious to the morals, happiness and respectability of the individual, than disappointment. Where is the man who has been raised from poverty to wealth by a lottery, that has wisely used it? For one such instance, we could name a hundred who having lived in extravagance for a year or two, have sunk into insignificance and baseness; and their last end has been far worse than their first.

     Few persons, if any, have ever arisen from obscurity to respectability by Lotteries. We are so constituted that we cannot bear a sudden reverse from poverty to wealth, without being injured by it. We become vain, and proud, and sensual. We fall into the snare of the devil, and into many hurtful lusts and passions, and pierce ourselves through with many sorrows. Hence some, who were temperate, industrious, and correct in their habits, while in moderate circumstances, have, on being suddenly elevated to wealth, become the slaves of appetite, and at last have found their appropriate receptacle in a jail or an alms-house. He who gradually acquires wealth, who knows its value by the sacrifices and toils he has endured for it; and who by a gradual change in his tastes, and habits, and feelings, becomes in a good degree modified to his condition, is almost the only one who uses wealth to advantage.

     There is nothing then in lotteries, even under the most auspicious circumstances, which render them advantageous. Supposing that there is no fraud, nor swindling, nor deception of any kind practised - and these are surely charitable suppositions - they are still public nuisances. By holding out delusive hopes of riches, they drain from thousands of the poor an important part of their means of a comfortable subsistence. Their moral effects are beyond all doubt pernicious. They excite hopes which from the nature of things cannot be realized; they are the hotbeds of idleness and . discontent, and frequently lead to gaming and intemperance. Where fortune seems to favor, evils most generally follow in her train. Property thus gained, is either squandered away in the purchase of new tickets in hope of gaining more; or the individuals become so intoxicated by it, that they lavishly expend it, and then die poor, wretched, and despised.

     In closing our remarks, we would caution our readers against covetousness. Your happiness does not consist in the abundance of the things which you possess. If riches increase, your cares will proportionably increase. If God by his blessing on your lawful endeavors give you riches, be thankful for them. But never seek them by means which are of a doubtful character. If God does not succeed you in your lawful avocations; you certainly have no reason to expect his blessing on those which are unlawful. It is proper that we should do our duty. We should provide things honestly in the sight of all men. But let us be careful that we do not make sinful haste to be rich. Better is a little that a righteous man hath, than great revenues in the house of the wicked.

[p. 298]
A small portion of this world's goods, with a clear conscience, is infinitely to be preferred to improper gains. It is not to games of chance or hazard that we should look for wealth, but to the blessing of God on our own diligent and honest efforts. If in this way wealth does not come, we may conclude that he who knows all things, knows it would not be best for us. If we seek it by un justifiable means, we may obtain it, but our success will be our bane. They that will be rich fall into many temptations and hurtful lusts, which drown men in perdition.

     Let all be contented with their lot. It is an ambitious desire to be in the condition of others, which leads many to resort to unjustifiable means for the acquisition of wealth. Those who cultivate christian contentment, will not seek gain by the inevitable loss of others. They will pursue a course which will enable them to say, "receive us, we have wronged no man, we have defrauded no man." Contentment will not paralyse our exertions, but it will preserve us from envying the rich, or oppressing the poor. It will help us to moderate our desires in relation to this world. It will sweeten the plainest food, lighten the heaviest burdens, and diffuse a bright and holy calm through the most lowly habitations.

     In view of what has been remarked, let us wash our hands from all concern with lottery establishments. They are consecrated to a blind goddess, whose authority, as Christians, we disown. They hold out false lights which lead the inexperienced astray, and promise a golden harvest to a multitude of deluded expectants who reap nothing. Those who manage them may be honorable men; but the institutions are bad, and their moral influence on the community is indescribably injurious. Let us, therefore, as Christians and as good citizens, do nothing that shall sanction or perpetuate their continuance.


[From The American Baptist Magazine, October, 1830, pp. 295-298. Document from Google Books. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

More on Baptists: Various Subjects
Baptist History Homepage