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miseries which arise From wayward accidents and hot. tile elements? Why, therefore, open a door for our escape from those evils of which others have their (hare; to whom, however, it must remain forever (hut?
In truth, the existence of all animals depends entirely on their inviolable attachment to self-preservation. Their attention to all possible means of self-defence and suste~ nance, is accordingly the obvious and common condition of all their natures. By this great and operative principle nature has chiefly consulted her own safety. Our philosophers notions are so extremely hostile to her most essential institutions, that she could not possibly survive a general conviction of them. And, in spite of all the sophistry he is master of, the question here will eternally recur, whether wisdom of nature, or the philosophy of our author, deserves the preference.
(4) This apology for the commission, arising from man's insignificance in the moral world, from the reciprocation of social duty being dissolved, or from the benefit resulting from the voluntary dismission of being, is contrary to the soundest principles of jurisprudence, to the condition of human nature, and to the general establishment of things.
That a man who retires from life ad libitum, does no harm to society, is a proposition peculiarly absurd and erroneous. What is lawful for one, may be lawful for all, and no society can subsist in the conviction of a principle thus hostile to its being.
It seems to be a maxim in human existence, that no creature has a right to decide peremptorily on the importance, utility or necessity of his own being. There are an infinite variety of secret connexions and associations in the vast system of things, which the eye of created wisdom cannot explore.
Man is hot, perhaps, for, ignorant of any thing, or. any creature, as of himself. His own system, after all the art and inquisition of human ingenuity, is still to him the profoundest mystery in nature. His knowledge and faculties are adequate to the sphere of his duty. Beyond this, his researches are impertinent, and all his acquisitions useless. He has no adequate notions what the laws of the universe are with respect to any species of existence whatever. A cloud rests on the complicated movements of this great machine, which baffles all the penetration of mortals: and it will for ever remain im-> possible for man, from the most complete analysis of his present situation, to judge, with any degree of precision, of his own consequence, either as a citizen of the world at large, or as a member of any particular society.
Final causes form a system of knowledge too wonderful for man. It is the prerogative of nature alone to decide upon them. In the fulness of time, her creative hand brought him into existence; and it belongs to her alone, in consequence of an arrangement equally wonderful and mysterious, to dismiss him from his present mode of being. This'is an authority with which she alone is invested, and which, according to our apprehensions, it is impossible for her to delegate. Dissolution, as well as creation, is hers, and he who would attempt to infringe her sovereignty in this instance, would usurp a prero. gative which does not belong to him, and become % traitor to the laws of his being. Nay, on this extravagant and licentious hypothesis, the right of assuming and relinquishing existence is made reciprocal. For he who arrogates the liberty of destroying .himself, were he possessed of the power, might also be his own creator; his imaginary insignificance to society being as inconclusivs in the one case, as any chimerical advantage that may accidentally strike him can be in the other. It is a strange doctrine, which cannot be established but at the obvious expense of what seem the plainest dictates of common sense.
Indeed, the absurdities of this daring and paradoxical doctrine are endless and infinite. — When we come to pronounce on the Condition of human infancy, and to separate childhood, or non-age, from a state of maturity , we can scarce trace one useful or salutary consequence it is calculated to produce in society. In this view children seem less adapted to serve any special or important end, than even beetles, gnats, or flies. Experience, however, has long convinced the world of their present inestimable value from their future destination. . And were a legislator, from the plausible pretext of their being a burden to the state, to exterminate the race of mankind in the insignificant stage of infancy, his decree, like that of a certain monster recorded in the gospel, would shock the sentiments of every nation under heaven, in whom there remained only the dregs of humanity.
It is not only impossible for a man to decide, in any given period, of the progress of his existence, or what utility or consequence he may be to society ; but without the faculty of prescience, it is still more impracticable for him to divine What purposes he may be intended to serve in the many mysterious revelations of futurity. How far his mortal may be connected with his immortal life , must rest with him who has the sole disposal of it. But who told him that his load of misery was too much to bear, that he was not able to sustain it? or that his merciful Father would not proportionate his sufferings to his abilities? How does he know how short-lived the pressure of incumbent sorrow may prove? It becomes not him to prescribe to his Maker, or because his evils are enormous, to conclude they must be permanent. Rash man thy heart is in the hand or heaven, and he who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb, may either lighten the burden that oppresses thee, or blunt the edge of that sensibility, from which it derives the greatest poignancy. What medicine is to the wounds of the body, that resignation is to those of the soul. Be not deficient in this virtue, and life will never prescribe a duty you cannot perform, or inflict a pang which you cannot bear. Resignation changes the grizzly aspect of affliction , turns sickness into health, and converts the gloomy forebodings of despair into the grateful presentiments of hope. Besides, the most insignificant instruments are, sometimes, in the hands of eternal Providence, employed in bringing about the most general and beneficent revolutions. It is by making weakness thus subservient to power, evil to good, and pain to pleasure, that he who governs the world illustrates his sovereignty and omnipotence. Till, then, thou art able to comprehend the whole mysterious system of every possible existence, till thou art certain that thy life is totally insignificant, till thou art convinced it is notinthe might of infinite Power to render thee serviceable either to myself or others, counteract not the benignity of providence by suicide; nor, in this manner, by the blackest of all treasons, betray thy trust, and wage at fearful odds, hostility against the very means and author of thy being.
One very obvious consequence arising from suicide, which none of its advocates appear to have foreseen , and which places it in a light exceedingly gross and shocking, is, that it supposes every man capable, not only of destroying himself, but of delegating the power of com' mitting murder to another. That which he may do himself, he may commission any one to do for him. On this supposition, no law human or divine , could impeach the shedding of innocent blood. And on what principle, of right or expediency, admit that which produces fuck
a train of the most horrid and detestable consequences?
( s) The preceding note is, perhaps, the most audacious part in the whole of this very extraordinary performance. In our holy religion it is expressly declared, that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him ; that murderers shall in no wise inherit the kingdom of God , and that it is the prerogative of heaven alone to kill and make alive. It is a fundamental doctrine in the gospel, that, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. And how are they to perform their duty, who, in the instant of dying, contract a guilt, which renders it indispensable. But this horrid supposition is repugnant to the whole genius of revelation, which inculcates every virtue that can possibly administer to our present and future welfare. It inforces obedience and resignation to the righteous government of God. It inspires and produces those very dispositions which it recommends. All its doctrines, exhortations, and duties, are formed to elevate the mind, to raise the affections, to regulate the passions, and to purge the heart of whatever is hostile to happiness in this or another life. This impious slander on the christian faith is the obvious consequence of the grossest inattention to its nature and tendency. It is calculated chiefly to make us happy. And what happy man was ever yet chargeable with suicide? In short, we may as well fay, that, because the physician does not expressly prohibit certain diseases in his prescriptions, the very diseases are authenticated by the remedies devised, on purpose to counteract them.