My Reasons For Discussing The Subject
First. Because the Lottery is one of the monster evils of the day. If asked to name the great agencies of immorality in the land, after mentioning Mormonism and Impurity and Intemperance, we would not have declared the giant evil until we had named the Louisiana State Lottery. Nor has it attained its full dimensions; every glance directed toward it shows it to be steadily growing.
Next. Because it is the duty of the pulpit to call attention to great existing evils, and, in the name and spirit of God, warn the people, as well as rebuke the iniquity. This obligation to warn upon the part of the ministry is seen in the peculiar arrangement of divine providence in their behalf. Separated from the distractions and engrossing cares of a secular life in which the people are necessarily engulfed, they are to watch for them, and sound the thrilling cry of an approaching moral danger which they are thus happily and better prepared to see. The obligation to warn is also realized in the call to the ministry. The Bible also insists upon the duty, while the Holy Spirit, with steady pressure upon the preacher’s heart and conscience, urges him to cry aloud and spare not. The fact that the warning may accomplish no good and effect no change is not allowed to enter the mind as a factor in the decision. Several such messages were sent to me in the last few days. The Bible provides for just such a mental emergency or crisis by saying, in substance, “Thou shalt give them warning from me whether they will hear, or whether they will not hear.”
A third reason: Because of the growing unconcern or indifference of the people to the matter. One of the peculiar and lamentable things about human nature is, that it grows accustomed to evil. At first it is much shocked; then it is not so much shocked; then it ceases to be shocked at all. As someone has said, we “first endure, then pity, then embrace.” In looking back over the past you have wondered how men endured certain moral abominations; history often showing them patiently, silently wearing an intolerably yoke of spiritual servitude. But the fact is, that at first they did not endure, but resisted. They fretted and chafed under the iniquity; then gradually the struggle ceased; a spirit of hopelessness crept in, or the mind grew accustomed by constant vision of the ghastly spectacle. The hideousness of the moral, or, rather, immoral, features of the custom was worn away by the attrition of a thousand glances and ten thousand thoughts. Spiritual apathy now dominated, or, worse still, there was a positive acceptance of the evil — if not still worse, a loud and open defense. This state of things is felt to exist today in regard to the Louisiana State Lottery. There is a silence in regard to it that is oppressive. Silent pulpits, silent newspapers, and a silent community. What is the cause of this silence? Is it hopelessness, or apathy, or indifference, or acceptance and belief in the evil? One of the unmistakable signs of being poisoned is the speechless tongue. And one of the indubitable evidences of moral poisoning is the silent lip and tongue in the presence of great immoralities and iniquities. We have an overshadowing wickedness in our midst in the shape of the Lottery; but whose pen or voice is being steadily moved and uplifted against it?
Fourth. Because of the intention of the Louisiana State Lottery Company to apply very soon to the people and Legislature for a new charter. The matter is to be submitted to the voters of this State, who shall by the ballot-box decide whether we are to have this colossal gambling institution fastened upon us for another twenty-five years.
The Lottery Company will make some remarkable offers. It is determined to carry the election. An institution whose shares originally cost one hundred dollars, but which can not now be purchased for nine hundred, is not willing to give up such a Golconda. So it will offer to pave the streets of New Orleans and pay the State debt, and other wonderful things in a financial way for us, if we will only grant it the privilege of fastening its octopian suckers upon us once more and financially squeezing us for twenty-five years. It can afford to be more than liberal — in fact, extravagantly munificent — upon the purses of the State for a quarter of a century. It can afford to give that historic and long-expected mule and forty acres to the Negro voter, millions of dollars to the State, and another quarter of a million to the Legislature. For it is well known that for every dollar it gives it receives a thousand back. If millions go out, tens and scores of millions will return. Don’t, then, be overcome when the offer of this Company shall be made known. Don’t get in a spasm of fear lest the institution shall cripple or impoverish itself. When I was a boy, more than once I saw a poor young man courting a rich girl. One I recall was especially devoted to a young lady owning a Mississippi plantation. He sent her several packages of candy, a couple of bouquets and gave her a buggy ride. We children though he was not only liberal, but recklessly extravagant; but, as we grew older, the occurrence was beheld under new lights, and we saw he was simply investing ten dollars in order to get an hundred thousand.
Look out for the bouquets and bundles of candy and buggy rides that the Louisiana State Lottery will offer us, as a city and State, in the next two years. Don’t be tickled to death and lose your common sense and moral judgment when the presents and attentions begin to pour upon you. It is the young man after the rich Mississippi girl; it is a greedy institution whose eye is upon the stores and plantations and pocket-books of Louisiana, not to speak of the Nation itself.
Fifth. In order to arouse conscience, create public opinion, and awaken moral sentiment. One remarkable thing about conscience is that it responds only to truth. It would sleep on forever if truth was not lived or spoken in its hearing. The proof is in history and in your own experience. As for public opinion or sentiment, it has to be made, and invariably comes from the agitation by pen and tongue of great moral questions. The Revolution of 1776 was preceded by writings and speeches innumerable, in which the issues between England and this country were presented and discussed before the people. The manumission of the slave in this century was antedated by a great leavening of the public mind by songs, books, addresses, and sermons all over Christendom. The victories of prohibition have been achieved in the same way. All movements of reformation are begun, carried on and ended triumphantly by this method, and this alone. There is such a thing as inertia of spirit; it takes much to overcome it, and put the mass in motion. There are many millions of people who never think, especially in regard to moral questions. You who do think, must lift up your voices and wield your pens and make them think. Then will the fire begin to burn, the electric current of intelligent sympathy flash from heart to heart, the gigantic body politic begin to stir, the Nation will at last stand upon its feet, and speak and act as one man, and nothing will be able to stand before it.