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that which the self-murderer brings down on those of his own household, and his own blood. But though no duty were deserted, no claim defrauded, no friend or family afflicted by our death, no orphans abandoned, and no widows to make lamentation ; yet, if it be once admitted, that whoever is weary of life, and has rendered, or can suppose, himself useless to others, is for that reason at liberty to quit it,—what have we not to fear, where the accumulating of riches in the few produces the want of a sufficiency in many; where early habits of luxury and refinement have multiplied desires and disappointments; where voluptuousness and sensuality have drained the sources, and worn away all sense of natural pleasures; where the permanent satisfactions of the heart and understanding are unknown, or extinguished by more gross pursuits; where the spirits, convulsed by passion, by turbulent and impetuous exertions, have lost their natural tension and composure; where religion, the appointed medicine of human woes, is converted by our vices and mistakes into an object of terror and aversion. In circumstances like these (connected perhaps with other more physical causes), if ever a time should come when public opinion and numerous examples shall authorize this crime, what havoc may we not expect; what desolation of the species, from spleen, impatience, melancholy, and despair ?
These are the arguments, which reason holds forth against the lawfulness of suicide ; and combined together (as in every probable question the arguments on each side ought to be), amount to such a presumption of God Almighty's will, as should stagger the most determined purpose of destruction.
We next inquire, what may be added to this presumption from the light of revelation.
And here I meet an objection which asks why, if suicide be indeed unlawful, we do not find it more expressly forbidden in the Christian Scriptures ?
In the first place, our Saviour's own precepts, if we except that set discourse, which is chiefly taken up in rectifying the perversions, and improving the purity of the Jewish law, are, for the most part, occasional, arising out of some present occurrence, or alluding to some special instance-a method of instruction, for conciseness, perspicuity, and impression, of all others perhaps the most convenient. As no example, therefore, of self-murder is recorded to have fallen within his notice, we are not to wonder that he has left us no observation upon the guilt of it. The morality of the Apostolic writings is contained either in summary catalogues of virtues and vices under their most general denominations, or in certain series of brief independent maxims, pointed, perhaps, sometimes at the particular exigencies or corruption of those to whom they were addressed. Amongst these, it is no more extraordinary that a particular species of murder should be omitted, than that the duties of friendship, the rights of selfdefence, the extent of gratitude, the limits of civil or parental authority, are nowhere ascertained. A
systematic detail of morality, pursued through all the subdivisions of our duty, is not given. The most beautiful and perfect general rules were laid down, and men are left for the application of them to the deductions of reason, and the dictates of humanity. What goes a great way towards accounting for the silence of Scripture upon this crime, is, that it does not appear to have prevailed in any great degree amongst those with whom the Scriptures had to do. But four instances are recorded in the Old, and one in the New Testament, of any thing like self-murder; and these, surely, of a kind which can do no credit to the cause-of a rejected favourite, a fallen tyrant, and a perfidious traitor. The Jews are known to have held this vice in the utmost abhorrence, and to have prosecuted the remains of a self-murderer with all the indignities which their law assigned to the worst of malefactors—a circumstance sufficient to show, that the public opinion in this instance was right, and therefore needed no new lesson from the Christian teacher. Admitting, therefore, that the Scriptures had not condemned this crime in so many terms, let us see what can be gathered from them concerning it, by fair implication and construction.
First, then, occurs to our observation the commandment itself, “ Thou shalt do no murder.” Who
what the Scriptures have not said, that a prohibition, delivered in terms so absolute and comprehensive, is not meant to include the murder of
ourselves; especially, when reasons of public utility, the best interpreter of moral precepts, require that it should? All other exceptions to this rule, the rights, namely, of the magistrate and the soldier, are expressly recognized or clearly allowed; whereas we are repeatedly commanded to abstain from the life of man, without one saving clause in favour of this assumed dominion over our own.
When God commits to mankind a right over the lives of brutes, he expressly reserves out of the grant any authority over the life of man—“For in the image of God,” says the Almighty, “made he man;" an expression which, whatever it imports, stamps a superior dignity and estimation on the human species, and contains a reason for the prohibition, which, whatever it be, prevails alike against the killing of ourselves and others.
Secondly; human life, throughout the Scriptures, is every where spoken of as a stated period, as a race that is set before us as a course to be finished, -as a fight that must be fought-descriptions, which could hardly have dropped from the pen
of those who considered life, and the duration of it, as in our power, and at our disposal. It is absurd to command us to “persevere unto the end,” if the end be determinable by our own choice,--to bid us “ not be weary of well doing," if we may cease from it at pleasure.
Thirdly; the passions, temper, and motives, which give birth to suicide, contradict the spirit and prin
ciples of our religion. Affliction and calamity, considered in the view under which Christianity hibits them, are either subservient to the exercise and improvement of our virtue, or swallowed up the expectation of immortality and heaven. Complain to the disciple of Jesus of the sufferings of life, he tells us, that they are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed. Are we overwhelmed with tribulation and distress, he teacheth us that tribulation worketh patience, and patience virtue; that the severities of Providence are the corrections of a parent,-pledges of his care, -and tokens of his love. Now it seems impossible, that a mind possessed in any sort of this persuasion should so far sink under, or repine at the misery of its condition, as to be driven to this last act of discontentment and distrust. If suicide be lawful, what is the exceeding great use or excellence of patience, that it should obtain a place amongst the foremost duties of the Christian profession? In vain are we exhorted to take up the example and the cross of Christ, to look forward unto Jesus, the finisher of our faith,--to rejoice, inasmuch as we are made partakers of his sufferings,--to endure the chastisement of the Lord, and not to faint, when we are rebuked of him,—to struggle, in a word, through all the dangers and difficulties of life, if we may take refuge at once in a voluntary death. The accidental temper in which a man dies does not determine his fate, any further than as it is the effect or