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perhaps, than the most prostrate devotion ; afford an edifying example to all who observe them, and may hope for a recompense among. the most arduous of human virtues. These qualities are always in the power of the miserable ; indeed of none but the miserable. . The two considerations above stated, belong. to all cases of suicide whatever. Beside which general reasons, each case will be aggravated by. its own proper and particular consequences ; by the duties that are deserted; by the claims that are defrauded; by the lofs, affliction, or disgrace, which our death, or the manner of it, causes to our family, kindred, or friends ; by the occasion we give to many to suspect the sincerity of our moral and religious professions, and, together with ours, those of all others ; by the reproach we draw upon our order, calling, or fect; in a. word, by a great variety of evil consequences, attending upon peculiar situations, with some or · other of which every actual case of suicide is chargeable.
I refrain from the common topics of “ de“ serting our post,” “ throwing up our trust,” “ rushing uncalled into the presence of our maker,” with some others of the same fort, not C 3
because they are common (for that rather affords a presumption in their favour), but because I do not perceive in them much argument, to which an answer may not eafily be given.
Hitherto we have pursued upon the subject the light of nature alone, taking into the account, however, the expectation of a future existence, withoạt which our reasoning upon this, as indeed all reasoning upon moral questions, is vain. We proceed to inquire, whether any thing is to be met with in Scripture, which may add to the probability of the conclusions we have been endeavouring to support. And here, I acknowledge, that there is to be found neither any express determination of the question, nor fufficient evidence to prove, that the case of suicide was in the contemplation of the law which prohibited murder. Any inference, therefore, which we deduce from Scripture, can be susa tained only by construction and implication; that is to say, although they, who were authorized to instruct mankind, have not decided a question, which never, so far as appears to us, came before them ; yet, I think, they have left enough to constitute a presumption, how they would have decided it, had it been proposed or thought of
: What occurs to this purpose is contained in the following observations:
1. Human life is spoken of as a term assigned or prescribed to us. “ Let us run with patience “the race that is set before us.”-“ I have “ finished my courfe.”-“That I may finish my “ course with joy.”_“You have need of pa“ tience, that after ye have done the will of “ God, ye might receive the promise.” These expressions appear to me inconsistent with the opinion, that we are at liberty to determine the duration of our lives for ourselves. If this were the case, with what propriety could life be called a race, that is set before us, or which is the same thing, “ our course;" that is, the course set out, or appointed to us? The remaining quotation is equally strong: “ that after ye have done the “ will of God, ye might receive the promises." The most natural meaning that can be given to the words, “ after ye have done the will of « God,” is, after ye have discharged the duties of life so long as God is pleased to continue you in it. According to this interpretation, the text militates strongly against suicide ; and they who reject this paraphrase, will please to propose a better, C4
2. There is not one quality, which Christ and his Apostles inculcate upon their followers so often, or so earnestly, as that of patience under affliction. Now this virtue would have been in a great measure superseded, and the exhortations to it might have been spared, if the disciples of his religion had been at liberty to quit the world, as soon as they grew weary of the ill usage which they received in it. When the evils of life pressed sore, they were to look forward to a “ far more exceeding and eternal “ weight of glory;" they were to receive them, " as the chastening of the Lord,” as intimations of his care and love: by these and the like reflections, they were to support and improve themselves under their sufferings, but not a hint has any where escaped of seeking relief in a voluntary death. The following text, in particular, strongly combats all impatience of distress, of which the greatest is that which prompts to acts of suicide : “ Consider him that endured such “ contradiction of finners against himself, lest, “ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” I would offer my comment upon this passage in these two queries ; first, whether a Christian convert, who had been impelled by the continuance and urgency of his sufferings, to destroy his own
life, would not have been thought by the author cf this text, “ to have been weary,” “ to have “ fainted in his mind,” to have fallen off from that example, which is here proposed to the meditation of Christians in distress? And yet, secondly, whether such an act would not have been attended with all the circumstances of mitigation, which can excuse or extenuate suicide at this day?
3. The conduct of the Apostles, and of the Christians of the apostolic age, affords no obscure indication of their sentiments upon this point. They lived, we are sure, in a confirmed persuafion of the existence, as well as of the happiness, of a future state. They experienced in this world every extremity of external injury and distress. To die was gain. The change which death brought with it was, in their expectation, infinitely beneficial. Yet it never, that we can find, entered into the intention of one of them, to hasten this change by an act of suicide: from which it is difficult to say, what motive could have so universally withheld them, except an apprehension of some unlawfulness in the expedient,