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object, unless the person, who is cut off in the unrepented guilt of murdering another, is regarded with more painful emotions, than a beloved friend, who has voluntarily terminated his own life. The minds of those, whom he leaves behind him, sink under the remembrance of what he has done in this world, and tremble to follow him to another. Keen indeed must be the edge of that distress, which finds its only consolation, and its only hope, in the doubting belief, perhaps in the faint conjecture, that the friend, whom it deplores, was hurried out of life by the impulse of delirium. _ If the Suicide had a family, he has robbed them of all that advice, consolation, sympathy, and those kind offices universally, which he owed to then in a peculiar manner. All these he has vowed to his Wife. God has made it his duty to render them to his Children. To both, also, he is bound by the same obligations to furnish support. This, perhaps, he may have provided. If he has ; he has still robbed his children of that parental instruction, government, habituation, and example, which, together, constitute, in most cases, far the most arduous, the most important, and the most useful, labour of man; and the chief duty, which, ordinarily, he has it in his power ever to perform. Society at large he robs of one of its members; and of all the duties, which that member owed to society. At the same time, he has presented to all these an Example, which if followed by them, would destroy, at once, the family, the community, and the world. Yet, if he has acted right, it would by equally right for them to follow him. No rule can be formed concerning this subject, but an universal one. Mr. Hume has made it such. If his rule be right, then; by merely adhering to rectitude, the present inhabitants of the world may exterminate the race of man in a moment. But, 7. Mr. Hume, supposing that men would not make use of this right, unless in circumstances of distress, considers This, at least, as a justifying cause for Suicide. “Most people,” he says, “who lie under any temptation to abandon existence, are in some such situation; that is, in age, or under infirmities; incapable of promoting the interest of Society; a burden to it; or afflicted in some manner or other.”
On this subject I observe, First. That this situation, whatever it may be, is one, in which God by His Providence has placed the man. It is, therefore, a situation, of which we cannot reasonably, or lawfully, complain; unless we can lawfully, and reasonably, complain of the Dispensations of God. Secondly. It is a situation, in which, if we perform our duty, we may glorify our Maker, by voluntarily fulfilling such designs, as Infinite Wisdom and Goodness has thought proper to accomplish by our instrumentality, and has put it into our power to accomplish. It may be said, that, should we put an end to our lives, God will still be glorified. I grant it. But we shall not be voluntary instruments of his Glory. This is our duty, and our only duty. If this, then, be not done; our whole duty is left undone. If we refuse to do this duty; we refuse to obey the will of our Maker, rebel against His government, and voluntarily oppose his designs. This is sin; and the only sin. What the duties are, to which we are called in cases of affliction, common sense, even without the aid of Revelation, might, one would think, determine with no great difficulty. They are obviously the duties of submission, dependence, patience, and fortitude; prayer for our support, and deliverance; and such efforts for this end, as are consistent with the spirit here specified. By this character God is as really, and certainly, glorified, as by any other, which man can exhibit. It scarcely needs the aid of Revelation to discern, that submission to God must be an acceptable offering to Him. But if we put an end to our lives, because we are afflicted; we declare, in the decisive language of action, that we will not, or cannot, bear what God has been pleased to lay upon us. In the former case, we declare, that we will not submit to his dispensations: in the latter, we moreover declare, that the burdens, which he lays upon us, are such, as we cannot, and therefore such as we ought not to endure: of course, that they are oppressive, and unjust. Thirdly. The Case is falsely stated by Mr. Hume. There is no situation, which is intolerable, except those, by which life is brought to an end without our intervention: and these are incapable of being referred to the case in hand. In
every other case, we can sustain our afflictions, if we please. That it is our duty to sustain them, and to sustain them willingly, cannot be denied, unless by him, who also denies, that it is our duty to obey God in any case. Fourthly. The position of Mr. Hume, that we are useless to Society, in any situation, in which we can become guilty of Suicide, is also false. It will be remembered, that I all along except cases of Melancholy and Delirium. It is however true, that even in these cases no man can know, that he will not, at some future time, be useful to his fellow-men. In every other case, a man, possessed of the power of contriving and executing his own destruction, may be, and can know that he may be, useful to the world. I can think of no case, more favourable to the position of Mr. Hume, than that of a person, confined for a long period to his bed; or, as it is commonly termed, bed-rid. A man, even in this situation, may, if he pleases, be extensively useful. The patience, fortitude, and piety, with which he may sustain this trying affliction, may be among the most edifying, and persuasive, proofs of the reality, power, and excellence, of the religion which he professes, and the efficacious means of conversion, and salvation, to multitudes. JMr. Hume himself says, that “the damnation of one man is an infinitely greater evil, than the subversion of a thousand millions of kingdoms.” This evil, the man, who is bed-rid, may prevent with regard to himself, and with regard to others; and may also be the means of accomplishing the contrary inestimable good. It cannot be said, that such a man is useless. At the same time, it is a false supposition, that a man can be useless, who acts as he ought, or, in other words, does his duty in any situation, in which God is pleased to place him. God does nothing in vain. Still less can it be supposed, that he places an Intelligent being in any situation, in which his obedience to the Divine Will must be useless. Fifthly. Neither is it true, that any man is necessarily a Burden to Society. A vicious man is, I acknowledge, often such a burden. But he is not necessarily vicious. His sloth, prodigality, insincerity, profaneness, falsehood, fraud, cruelty, or whatever vice he may be guilty of, is wholly the result of his own choice. The moment, he renounces these evils, he will become not a burden, but a blessing. A virtuous man may become unable to support himself; may be incurably sick, or hopelessly berest of his most useful faculties; and in either of these situations may be esteemed a burden to Society by the lazy, the covetous, and the unseeling. But he will be esteemed such by no virtuous man. He, who remembers, that ministrations of kindness to the least of Christ's brethren will be accepted as offerings to Himself, will never, unless in some unhappy moment of sloth, or worldliness, think the performance of it burdensome. Christ has informed His disciples, that the poor they will always have with them. On His part the legacy was not unkind: to us, it is obviously a blessing. Nothing more enlarges the heart, refines the affections, or improves the character, than kindness, freely rendered to the afflicted. Nothing more excites a spirit of dependence on God; or awakens gratitude for his blessings to us; or expands the feelings of benevolent sympathy; or endears to us our fellow-men, particularly our fellow-christians; or assimilates our disposition to that of the Redeemer. He, to whom, without any fault of his own, mankind are indebted for these benefits, can not be a burden to Society. I have now reviewed every argument of Mr. Hume, which, in my opinion, merits an answer: and his arguments, so far as I know, are all, of any importance, which have been hitherto alleged in favour of Suicide. I shall only add one observation to those, which I have already made under this head. It is this: All the distresses, almost, which give birth to this wanton destruction of human life, are the mere effects of predominant wickedness in the mind of the Suicide. Losses at the gaming-table, disappointments of ambition, mortified a varice, wounded pride, and frustrated hopes of sensuality, are usually the immediate sources of this crime. Instead of killing himself for such reasons as these, the true interest of the unhappy man demands of him, with Infinite force, that he should live, repent, and reform. II. I shall now allege several Proofs of the Criminality of Vol. IV. 26
Suicide, in addition to those, which have been unavoidably specified in answering the arguments of JMr. Hume. Of these, the 1. Which I shall mention, is the Text. In the first discourse from this passage it was observed, that the command, which it contains, is expressed in the most absolute manner, Thou shalt not kill; that to kill is the thing forbidden, and by the words is forbidden in all cases whatever; that the words were chosen by God Himself, and bind us, therefore, with Infinite Authority; and that man cannot lawfully originate an exception, nor in any other manner limit their import. These observations, it is presumed, cannot be denied to be true. But if they are true, the text forbids Suicide in the most absolute in annel". JMr. Hume indeed observes, that the law of Moses is abolished, except so far as it is established by the Law of Nature. A Christian will probably be satisfied of the Authority of the Decalogue, without this condition; when he finds it expressly established by Christ. 2. In addition to this decisive proof; a proof so decisive, as to need no addition; I observe, that the Suicide hurries himself to the judgment in the commission of a gross crime, of which he cannot repent. If we should even allow, that the criminality of this act was not capable of being proved, so far as the act itself only is concerned; it cannot be denied, that he, who commits it, is, in some degree at least, uncertain whether it be lawful, or not. To abstain from it, he, at the same time, knows to be lawful. In this case, to commit Suicide is a gross sin; because the perpetrator refuses to do that, which he knows to be right; and does that, of whose rectitude he has no assurance. Further. No person, who thus puts an end to his life, is assured, that his salvation, independently of this act, is secured. Of course, even on the most favourable supposition, he puts his eternity at hazard; and ventures, in an inexcusable and dreadful manner, upon perdition. Finally. There are, to say the least, strong, and hitherto unanswered, reasons to prove Suicide a crime; and that, of enormous magnitude.