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The first argument of the Quakers, on this subject, is of a complexion, similar to that of the observation just mentioned. For when they consider man, as a reasonable being, they are of opinion, that his occupations should be rational. And when they consider him as making a profession of the Christian religion, they expect that his conduct should be manly, serious, and dignified. But all such amusements, as those in question, if resorted to for the filling up of his vacant hours, they conceive to be unworthy of his intellect, and to be below the dignity of his Christian character.
They believe also, when they consider man as a moral being, that it is his duty, as it is unquestionably his interest, to aim at the improvement of his moral character. Now one of the foundations, on which this improvement must be raised, is knowledge. But knowledge is only slowly acquired. And human life, or the time for the acquisition of it, is but short. It does not appear, therefore, in the judgment of the Quakers, that a person can have much time for amusements of this sort, if he be bent upon obtaining that object, which will be most conducive to his true happiness, or to the end of his existence here.
Upon this first argument of the Quakers I shall only observe, lest it should be thought singular, that sentiments of a similar import are to be found in au
thors, of a different religious denomination, and of acknowledged judgment and merit. Addison, in one of his excellent chapters on the proper employment of life, has the following observation: "The next method, says he, that I would propose to fill up our time should be innocent and useful diversions. I must confess I think it is below reasonable creatures, to be altogether conversant in such diversions, as are merely innocent, and have nothing else to recommend them, but that there is no hurt in them. Whether any kind of gaming has even thus much to say for itself I shall not determine but I think it is very wonderful to see persons of the best sense passing a dozen hours together in shuffling and dividing a pack of cards, with no other conversation, but what is made up of a few game-phrases, and no other ideas, but those of red or black spots ranged together in different figures, Would not a man laugh to hear any one of this species complaining that life is short?"
Cards on account of the manner in which they are generally used, produce an excitement of the passions-historical anecdotes of this excitement-this excitement another cause of their prohibition by the Quakers, because it unfits the mind, according to their notions, for the reception of religious impres
THE Quakers are not so superstitious as to imagine
that there can be any evil in cards, considered abstractedly as cards, or in some of the other amusements, that have been mentioned. The red or the black images on their surfaces can neither pollute the fingers, nor the minds, of those who handle them. They may be moved about, and dealt in various ways, and no objectionable consequences may follow. They may be used, and this innocently, to construct the similitudes of things. They may be arranged, so as to exhibit devices, which may be productive of harmless mirth. The evil, connected with them, will depend solely upon the manner of their use. If they are used for a trial of skill, and for this purpose only,
they will be less dangerous, than where they are used for a similar trial, with a monied stake. In the former case, however, they may be made to ruffle the temper, for, in the very midst of victory, the combatant may experience defeat. In the latter case, the loss of victory will be accompanied by a pecuniary loss, and two causes, instead of one, of the excitement of the passions, will operate at once upon the mind.
It seldom happens, and it is much to be lamented, either that children, or that more mature persons, are satisfied with amusements of this kind, so as to use them simply as trials of skill. A monied stake is usually proposed, as the object to be obtained. This general attachment of a monied victory to cards is productive frequently of evil. It generates often improper feelings. It gives birth to uneasiness and impatience, while the contest is in doubt, and not unfrequently to anger and resentment, when it is over.
But the passions, which are thus excited among youth, are excited also, but worked up to greater mischief, where grown up persons follow these amusements imprudently, than where children are concerned. For though avarice, and impatience, and anger, are called forth among children, they subside sooner. A boy, though he loses his all when he loses his stake, suffers nothing from the idea of having impaired
the means of his future comfort, and independence, His next week's allowance, or the next little gift, will set him right again. But when a grown up person; who is settled in the world, is led on by these fascinating amusements, so as to lose that which would be of importance to his present comfort, but more parti. cularly to the happiness of his future life, the case is materially altered. The same passions, which harrass the one, will harrass the other, but the effects will be widely different. I have been told that persons have been so agitated before the playing of the card, that was to decide their destiny, that large drops of sweat have fallen from their faces, though they were under no bodily exertions. Now, what must have been the state of their minds, when the card in question proved decisive of their loss? Reason must unquestionably have fled. And it must have been succeeded instantly either by fury or despair. It would not have been at all wonderful, if persons in such a state were to have lost their senses, or, if unable to contain themselves, they were immediately to have vented their enraged feelings either upon themselves, or upon others, who were the authors, or the spectators, of their loss.
It is not necessary to have recourse to the theory of the human mind, to anticipate the consequences, that would be likely to result to grown up persons from such an extreme excitement of the passions.