Imágenes de páginas

state of things, that every one thinks himself dispensed from submitting to the rules which hg prescribes to others; and it is well known, that every man who establishes general principles, deems them obligatory on all the world, himself excepted. Once more let us speak to you in particular.

You believe that you have. a right to put an end to your being. Your proof is of a very singular nature; " because I am disposed to die, say you, "I have a right to destroy myself." This is certainly a very convenient argument for villains of all kinds : They ought to be very thankful to you for the arms with which you have furnished them; there can be no crimes, which, according to your arguments, may not be justified by the temptation to perpetrate them; and as soon as the impetuosity of passion shall prevail over the horror of guilt, their disposition to do evil will be considered as a right to commit it.

Is it lawful for you therefore to quit life? I should be glad to know whether you have yet begun to live? What! was you placed here on earth to do nothing in this world? Did not Heaven when it gave you existence give you some task or employment? If you have accomplished your day's work before evening, rest yourself for the remainder of the day; you have a right to do it; but let us fee your work. What answer are you prepared to make the supreme Judge , when he demands an account of your time? Tell me, what can you say to him? — I have seduced a


s virtuous girl: I have forsaken a friend in distress. Thou unhappy wretch! point out to me that just man who can boast that he has lived long enough; let me learn from him in what manner I ought to have spent my days to be at liberty to quit life. You enumerate the evils of human nature. You are not ashamed to exhaust common-place topics, which have been hackneyed over a hundred times; and you conclude that life is an evil. But search, examine into the order of things, and fee whether you can find any good which is not intermingled with evil. Does it therefore follow that there is no good in the universe, and can you confound what is in its own nature evil, with that which is only an evil accidentally? You have confessed yourself, that the transitory and passive life of man is of no consequence, and only bears respect to matter from which he will soon be disencumbered; but his active and moral life, which ought to have most influence over his nature, con fists in the exercise of free-will. Life is an evil to a wicked man in prosperity, and a blessing to an honest man in distress : for it is not its casual modification, but its relation to some final object which makes it either good or bad. After all, what are these cruel torments which force you to abandon life P Do you imagine, that under your affected impartiality in the enumeration of the evils of this life, I did not discover that you was ashamed to speak of your own? Trust me , and do not at once abandon every virtue. Preserve at least your wonted sincerity, and speak thus

openly to your friend; I have lost all hope of se"during a modest woman, I am obliged there•* fore to be a man of virtue; I had much ra"ther die." You are weary of living ; and you tell me, that life IS an evil. Sooner or later you will receive consolation, and then you will say life is a blessing. You will speak with more truth, though not.with better reason; for nothing will have altered but yourself. Begin the alteration then from this day; and , since all the evisyou lament is in the disposition of your mind, correct your irregular appetites, and do not set your house on fire to avoid the trouble of putting it in order.

I endure misery, say you: Is it in my power to avoid suffering? But this is changing the state of the question : for the subject of inquiry is not whether you suffer, but whether your life is an evil? Let us proceed. You are wretched, you naturally endeavour to extricate yourself from misery. Let us fee whether, for that purpose it is necessary to die. 5

Let us for a moment examine the natural tendency of the afflictions of the mind, as in direct opposition to the evils of the body, the two substances being of contrary nature. The latter become worse and-more inveterate the longer they continue, and at length utterly destroy this mortal machine. The former, on the contrary, being only, external and transitory modifications of an immortal and uncompounded essence, are insensibly effaced, and leave the mind in its original form , which is not susceptible of alteration. Grief, disquietude, regret, and despair, are evils of short duration, which never take rootin the mind; and experience always falsifies that bitter reflection, which makes us imagine our misery will have no end. I will go farther; I cannot imagine that the vices which contaminate us, are more inherent in our nature than the troubles we endure; I not only believe that they perish with the body which gives them birth, but I think beyond all doubt, that a longer life would be sufficient to reform mankind, and that many ages of youth would teach us that nothing is preferable

to virtue.

However this may be, as the greatest part of our physical evils are incessantly increasing, the acute pains of the body, when they are incurable, may justify a man's destroying himself; for all his faculties being distracted with pain, and the evil being without remedy, he has no longer any use either of his will or of his reason; he ceases to be a man before he is dead, and does nothing more in taking away his life, than quit a body which encumbers him, and in which his foul is no longer resident.

But it is otherwise with the afflictions" of the mind, which, let them be ever so acute, always carry their remedy with them. In fact, what is it that makes any evil intolerable? Nothing but its duration. The operations of surgery are generally much more painful than the disorders they cure; but the pain occasioned by the latter is

[ocr errors]

lasting, that of the operation is momentary, and therefore preferable. What occasion is there therefore for any operation to remove troubles which die of course by their duration , the only circumstance which could render them insupportable? Is it reasonable to apply such desperate remedies to evils which expire of themselves? To a man who values himself on his fortitude, and who estimates years at their real value, of two ways by which he may extricate himself from the same troubles, which will appear preferable, death or time? Have patience, and you will be cured. What would you define more?

Oh! you will say, it doubles my affliction to reflect that they will cease at last! This is the vain sophistry of grief! an apophthegm void of reason, of propriety, and perhaps of sincerity. What an absurd motive of despair is the hope of terminating misery *! Even allowing this fantastical reflection , who would not chuse to increase the present pain for a moment, under the assurance of putting an end to it, as we scarify a wound in order to heal it? And admitting any charm in grief, to make us in love with suffering, when we release ourselves from it by putting an end to our being, do we not at that instant incur all that we apprehend hereafter?

* No, my lord, we do not put an end to misery by these means, but, rather fill the measure of affliction, by bursting asunder the last ties which attach us to felicity. When we regret what was dear to us', grief itself still attaches us to the 'object we lament, which is'a state less deplorable than to be attached to nothing.


« AnteriorContinuar »