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will certainly be fulfilled in you. If you hate the light, as Elymas did, you will become blind and lose it: if you rejoice in it, and use it, it will increase more and more unto the perfect day; that is, till the light of truth shall lead to the light of life eternal; for which end God sent it from heaven, and spread it over the world.
AND when AHITHo PHEL s Aw THAT HIs cou NSEL WAS NOT FOLLOWED, HE SADD LED HIS ASS, AND ARoSE, AND GAT HIM HOME TO HIS HOUSE, To His c1ty, AND PUT IIIs Hous EHoLD IN oftDER, AND HANGED HIM SELF, AND DIED. 2 SAM. xvii. 23.
SELF-MURDER is a subject, the consideration of which can never be impertinent or unseasonable in a Christian congregation: because in setting forth the causes of that dreadful crime, and in recommending preservatives, we may secure people from many of those lesser evils which lead to it; evils, which every wise man will be glad to avoid. The same rules which are sufficient to save a man from death, may save him also from a burning fever; for which he will have great reason to be thankful. One of the best methods I can think of for the understanding of this crime is, to examine the nature of it, as it appears to us upon the record of historical truth. Example shews more than reasoning or precept will teach without it: I shall therefore proceed to explain the subject from the example which the bible hath set before us in the remarkable case of Ahithophel. o
When we see ruin and destruction brought upon the soul of any man, much good may certainly be done by dissecting his character. Dissection is a disagreeable operation: to learn from the actual inspection of a dead human subject is a hard trial to a tender mind. But if the corpse is that of a malefactor, justly put to death, for some hateful treason, or some inhuman practice, the mind is more easily reconciled to it. The wretch, who, when alive had defaced in himself the image of God, is no longer to be considered as a man. The person now under our consideration was a malefactor of the basest kind in his life time : we may therefore very properly dissect him, and learn what we can from him.
All the circumstances prove that this man was no lunatic; that he acted with as much deliberation against his own life, as if he had been lying in wait for the life of any other man. He committed his own murder with the same foresight as he would have committed any other wickedness. He “set his house in order;” that is, he settled his affairs, he made his will as a person of sound mind and memory; as he would have done, if death had been coming upon him in a natural way. The case is therefore unexceptionable of the kind; such as we may safely make use of for discovering that internal state of a wickcd mind, which terminates in the fatal crime of self-murder.
We discover in the first place, that he was a man of bad principles; by which I mean such principles as do not restrain, but give encouragement to the bad passions of pride, covetousness, and ambition; which is the nature of those principles which are not of God, but are of man, and of the world. When a man of these principles gains the world, in its wealth, its fame, its honour, or its power, he gets all he wants; when
he loses it, he loses all he seeks for; there is nothing left for hirn. A worldly-minded man commonly grows up under worldly parents; who set an unprofitable example in their own conduct, and place before the minds of their children no great and worthy objects: for it must be a very bad mind indeed that gives the preference to this world, when it has been taught the value of the other. And we have in this Ahithophel a man who was in no want of a capacity to learn; he ivas not ignorant for want of an understanding; on the contrary, he had obtained the repute of great •wisdom: The counsel of Ahithophel, which he counselled in those days, was as if a man had inquired at the oracle of God. It is often found too true by experience, that persons of superior penetration and wisdom are of bad intentions: they see further than other men, and are under a temptation to turn their minds to the overreaching of others^ and effecting mischief: their ability in accomplishing wickedness is a snare and a temptation to them: they find they can do it, and therefore are ready and xvilling to do it. The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light: they study causes and effects as to things of this life, and can conjecture vhat will be, and what will not be, with more precision than persons whose minds are employed upon highec things. If any man was at a loss in a difficult case, here was the man who could tell him how to act for the best; he was like an oracle; his judgment was never under a mistake: but he made a great mistake in one respect, as we may learn from his own case. We may suppose he would be as exact for himself, as for any other person : but when he calculated for himself, it appears, that he left God out of the question. Providence made no part of his plan. He Vol. iv. C c
considered with great sagacity how he was to act; but he never considered how God would act : and therefore all his wise designs must have been very defective. “I will act so and so,” says the man of the world: but he never asks himself, “how will God act?” The rich man said, “I shall want room for my stores; I will pull down my barns, and build greater, and then I can do as I please.” But the Gospel calls him a fool, for not considering that God might call him out of the world that night, and that then all his schemes of happiness and prosperity would die with him. Such is he who is wise without God ; and such was this Ahithophel. He had no regard either to the ways of God or the laws of God; for he advised Absalom to commit such horrible wickedness against his father's house as could never be forgiven, that the people might be sure there could never be a reconciliation between them, and thereby might be confirmed in their rebellion. All this he did without scruple, as a wise politician; and his advice, though very wicked in itself, was good advice for promoting the ends he had in view. A politician may be a good man : but then, I am afraid, he will be a bad politician; because there are cases, in these evil days, in which a man of nice virtue will be apt to miscarry. So practically and experimentally true is it, as we said before, that the children of this world are in their ge. neration wiser than the children of light. But now we proceed to consider, that this wise man was soon after under great mortification and disappointment. His pride, his vanity, his ambition, were all disappointed. He knew he had given the best advice for the destruction of the king and his party; but he found that the worse advice was preferred, and foresaw that it would be the ruin of Absalom and of