« AnteriorContinuar »
rantly and at unawares; left the avenger of blood should pursue and say him, before his innocence should be sufficiently cleared up. These are the cases wherein the lives of men may be taken away without sin. And for the sake of distinguishing these cases it is, that the words of the commandment are thus rendered, “Thou shalt do no murder.' Murder therefore is the killing of a man, not by misfortune, but with design; not for our own defence and preservation in neceffity, but out of malice and hatred towards our neighbour; not as destroying a publick enemy, but one with whom we ought to have lived under the natural ties of friendship and humanity, or at least of mutual forgiveness; not as bringing a malefactor to execution for the preservation of the commonwealth, but as cutting of an innocent member to the hurt and loss of the publick.
SUNDAY X. PART II. V. What has hitherto been said concerning the killing of another, must in proportion beunderstood likewise of felf concerning self-murder. For no man has a right murder. to anticipate the call of God, or to bereave the publick of a member, by destroying himself. Every person who knowingly and wilfully destroys his own life, is guilty of murder; for God only, who gave us our life, has a right to take it away ; and by consequence every man, who offers violence to his own life, does manifestly invade the prerogative and usurp the right and authority of God. It is true, there are many examples among the heathens, who fell by their own hands, upon some pressing extremities; yet their rules, laws, and reasonings, forbid such practices. Examples against rules are of no authority. Men of loose principles have always had false notions of liberty, honour, and courage. And though we live in an age, when every extravagant and wicked thing is justified by some wretch or other ; yet we should be loth to have posterity believe that this was the general sense and judgment of our age.
Let us then consult the wife; the laws, the rules and reasonings of the grave and governing part; and from To be abthem we thall learn, that self-murder was an borred.
abhorred vation before their eyes, should consider what for. Its infamy.
abhorred practice ; that whatever pretence is made to honour and courage, it was but cowardice, fear, and a mark of a poor fpirit, that sunk under the common calamities of nature: A practice to be abhorred and condemned with all our zeal, to be guarded against with all our care, reason and religion : walking in the ways of God, and pouring out our prayers for his preventing and assisting grace, that his fear may ever be before us, and the temptations to fuch impiety may never overcome us. And considering the love of ourselves, the inhumanity of the crime, and the dangers run by those who are guilty of self-murder, it is surprising how any person can resolve upon such a desperate self-condemning action; especially as they who murder themselves know and confess they are tied by the sixth commandment not to commit murder; the letter and sense of the command will reach not only his neighbour, but himself also. Tho’a man were weary of life, and sought for death ; as people in pain, for ease; and wearied with labour, for rest; yet would it be unlawful to give him the fatisfaction he desired, by killing him, because it would be murdering that single man; and because of the mischiefs which such a death brings upon his family. Whence we ought to remark, that murder does not barely consist in the violence that is offered to one against his will; but in taking away a life, which he has no right to take away, by laws human or divine: and as a man has no right himself, therefore he can convey no right to another, to take away his own life. But yet observation proves, that when men engage in wicked practices, and find they are brought to shame or danger, their minds are not equal to their burthen; so that they can bear the guilt, though not the shame: this confounds and oppresses. But Those, who have not the fear of God, nor their own falill-usage of an insulting and uncharitable world, with perplexing doubts and fears concerning your condition in the other life? What ingratitude is this to do mischief and dishonour to those you love? These considerations have hitherto had their weight with heathens; and shall christians break through all considerations of their own honour, interest, and duty, and not be content to live, at least, till they can die without doing wrong or mischief to their friends ? A christiền that believes, that the wrath of God is revealed against all unrighteousness; that, without repentance, fins cannot be forgiven; that after death there is no repentance: that such a man as this, professing the faith of Christ crucified, and covenanting with God in baptism to take up the cross, and bear it, if need be, to death, should, in the impatience of his soul, pressed by some calamity, deliberately chuse to throw his burthen off, by committing a sin of which he knows he never can repent, and venture the dreadful confequence to everlasting ages, is what nobody could ever reason themselves into the belief of, if the frequent practice of unhappy people did not convince us it may be perpetrated, Therefore, it may be an useful caution to have our minds prepared, and affections subdued; that we may not be destitute of succour from reason, or give ourfelves up to the guidance of present passion,
9. row and confusion are unavoidably occasioned to the nearest friends thay have in the world, by parting from them in such a manner. Neither poverty, nor bodily afflictions are so hard to bear, as the shame, reproach, or infamy, or even the apprehensions of such a woeful death. And will you intail on your kindred and family the reproaches and
This is the lot of those who fall into the desperate refolutions we are treating of; their paffions are high- aule ly indulged and yielded to; so that, when grievous thereof. accidents befal them, they know not where they are, nor whither to turn; they can bear no loss, nor fall from thecondition in which they were, but abandon themselves to despair of God's help and mercy. They place their whole happiness in possessing of riches, enjoying honours, and in the praise of men; and when riches take to themselves wings. and fly away, when they fall from their honours and dignities, they know not how to breathe in any other air, nor to want the courtships and respects that were wont to be paid, not to their persons, but to their power and interest. So when they link in their reputation, they are dejected to the lowest
ebb; ebb; are afraid that every eye views them with contempt, and that every tongue is reproaching them. But Can this be a fufficient plea for self-murder? No; themi
feries men endure will end in death at last, which Its danger.
"germay come quickly ; and the sins that brought them to that misery will be forgiven upon repentance, be they never so great and many: but the course they pitch upon to relieve themselves is a sin that admits of no repentance, and consigns them to eternal pains and sorrows, the punishment of murder in general; for they expose themselves in a particular manner to the greater condemnation, by some particular sentiments and dispositions, which are commonly the root and foundation of this unnatural fin. And it is the same thing whether we consume ourselves by a llow lingering poison, or dispatch ourselves by an immediate death: we are equally guilty of self-murder, whether we knowingly wear away the springs of life gradually, which is the case, when we abandon ourselves to wasting grief; or we cut at once the thread of it violently arunder. Do not those men, who destroy themselves to avoid present sufferings, resolve that God fhall not dspose of them as he pleaseth; but that they will wrest their lives out of his hands, and not suffer him to prolong or continue them beyond the limits of their own will ? If this be their language, as by their actions it must be, what can be expected, but that God Thould execute the fiercest of his vengeance upon their disobedience? If pride, and envy, and ambition, have so much power over their minds, that they will violently remove themselves out of the world, be. cause they are not advanced to a more advantageous situation in it; what can they reasonably expect or imagine, but that they should feel Solomon's observation, in the most extenfive sense of it, that pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall ? and what foundation can there be of hope, that God will forgive a flagrant sin without the finner's repentance for the same? Or is it to be conceived, that a man should repent of a sin in the commission of which he ends his life? These are some of the many reasons against felf-murder. Yet,
When men come into these perilous hours, they are generally deaf to all reason, and listen only to the sug- Means to gestions of their passions ;, and if they be not pre- prevent it. pared beforehand to withstand such asfaults, they seldom do it when the danger approaches. Wherefore, it is more in men's power to be innocent, and outof difficulties and straits, than, being involved, to deliver themselves from the distracted counsels and suggestions of their despairing minds; although they be such as all men would have startled at and abhorred, when free of such distractions; and I must add, a man overwhelmed with mifery is not inclined to ask, nor capable of taking counsel when offered. Therefore, how much safer is it to secure men from such principles as occafion these perplexing thoughts, than retrieve them from the power and influence of them? Let them consider, that God is the best of beings; and that a being absolutely and necessarily good can never intend any thing unmerciful or cruel ; for it is observable, that few attempts of this kind are made, till religion is mastered, and its impressions effaced; or men are so misguided as to think these mischiefs may be done, and religion be fafe. But
Those unhappy people, who lying under the dreadful apprehension of God's anger, accounting themselves of modern vessels of wrath, and fitted for destruction, and choly pernot being able to live under the torment of that fons. thought, put an end to their miserable lives, are most to be pitied whilft alive, and spared when dead, since nothing can look so like distraction, as that distemperature of brain which makes them act so strangely; with whom I would thus expostulate : If they are vessels of wrath, is this the way to ease them? If they believe themselves consigned to misery in the other world, what do they get by throwing themselves into a place of torment before the time appointed ? This is to die for fear of death; and indeed a great deal more disasterous.
And so, let me conclude with a word of advice to condemned criminals, who sometimes attempt to pre- Of.comvent their legal punishment by dispatching them- dema:d prie selves.. Do they think that they save themselves Joners.