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so corrupt a balance as the party's own distempered imagination ?
In like manner, whatever other rule you assign, it will ultimately bring us to an indiscriminate toleration of suicide, in all cases in which there is danger of its being committed. It remains, therefore, to inquire what would be the effect of such a toleration: evidently, the loss of many lives to the community, of which some might be useful or important; the affliction of many families, and the consternation of all : for mankind must live in continual alarm for the fate of their friends and dearest relations, when the restraints of religion and morality are withdrawn; when every disgust which is powerful enough to tempt men to suicide, shall be deemed sufficient to justify it; and when the follies and vices, as well as the inevitable calamities, of human life, so often make existence a burthen.
A second consideration, and perfectly distinct from the former, is this : by continuing in the world, and in the exercise of those virtues which remain within our power, we retain the opportunity of meliorating our condition in a future state. This argument, it is true, does not in strictness prove suicide
to be a crime; but if it supply a motive to dissuade us from committing it, it amounts to much the same thing. Now there is no condition in human life which is not capable of some virtue, active or passive. Even piety and resignation under the sufferings to which we are called, testify a truth and acquiescence in the Divine counsels, more acceptable, perhaps, than the most prostrate devotion ; afford an edifying example to all who observe them; and may hope for å recompense among the most arduous of human virtues. These qualities are always in the power of the miserable ; indeed of none but the miserable.
The two considerations above stated, belong to all cases of suicide whatever. Beside which general reasons, each case will be aggravated by its own proper and particular consequences ; by the duties that are deserted; by the claims that are defrauded; by the loss, affliction, or disgrace, which our death, or the manner of it, causes our family, kindred, or friends ; by the occasion we give to many to suspect the sincerity of our moral and religious professions, and, together with ours, those of all others; by the reproach we draw upon our order, calling, or
sect; in a word, by a great variety of evil consequences attending upon peculiar situations, with some or other of which every actual case of suicide is chargeable.
I refrain from the common topics of “ de“ serting our post,” “ throwing up our trust,” “ rushing uncalled into the presence of our “ Maker,” with some others of the same sort, not because they are common (for that rather affords a presumption in their favour), but because I do not perceive in them much argument to which an answer may not easily be given.
Hitherto we have pursued upon the subject the light of nature alone ; taking however into the account, the expectation of a future existence, without which our reasoning upon this, as indeed all reasoning upon moral questions, is vain. We proceed to inquire, whether any thing is to be met with in Scripture, which
add to the probability of the conclusions we have been endeavouring to support. And here I acknowledge, that there is to be found neither any express determination of the question, nor sufficient evidence to prove that the case of suicide was in the contemplation of the law which prohibited murder. Any inference, therefore, which we deduce from Scripture, can be sustained only by construction and implication ; that is to say, although they who were authorised to instruct mankind, have not decided a question which never, so far as appears to us, came before them; yet, I think, they have left enough to constitute a presumption how they would have decided it, had it been proposed or thought of.
What occurs to this purpose, is contained in the following observations:
1. Human life is spoken of as a term assigned or prescribed to us : “ Let us run “ with patience the race that is set before
us.”-“I have finished my course.”—“That “ I may finish my course with joy.”—“ Ye “ have need of patience, that, after ye
have “ done the will of God, ye might receive the
promise.”—These expressions appear to me inconsistent with the opinion, that we are at liberty to determine the duration of our lives for ourselves. If this were the case, with what propriety could life be called a race that is set before us ; or, which is the same thing, “ our course ;” that is, the course set out or appointed to us? The remaining quotation is equally strong ;-" That, after ye « have done the will of God, ye might re
“ ceive the promise.” The most natural meaning that can be given to the words, after
have done the will of God," is, after ye have discharged the duties of life so long as God is pleased to continue
you According to which interpretation, the text militates strongly against suicide : and they who reject this paraphrase, will please to pro
posé a better.
2. There is not one quality which Christ and his apostles inculcate upon their followers so often, or so earnestly, as that of patience under affliction. Now this virtue would have been in a great measure superseded, and the exhortations to it might have been spared, if the disciples of his religion had been at liberty to quit the world as soon as they grew weary of the ill usage which they received in it. When the evils of life pressed sore, they were to look forward to a “ far more exceeding and eternal weight of
glory;" they were to receive them, “ as “ chastenings of the Lord,” as intimations of his care and love : by these and the like re, flections they were to support and improve themselves under their sufferings; but not a hint has any where escaped of seeking relief in a voluntary death. The following text in