Imágenes de páginas


liberties, when they presume to act as they SERM. will by their lives and their health, endangering both unnecessarily, actually throwing them away, if not violently destroying them ?

Life must depend on health, and who knows not that health is essentially injured by many acts of immorality? There is one deliberate act common among the higher classes of society, in which life itself is made the stake, and wantonly and wilfully exposed to a chance the most precarious. It is offered, we are told, as the price of honor! as that which, from its high value, can only be put in competition with it. Perhaps, men so proud of their honor, might be brought to their senses, if they could once be persuaded of a very simple fact, that they have no such price to offer; it is none of their own; they pretend to riches which do not belong to them. Life is a trust; it is not property; it never was given; it is only lent; in the other world it will be a gift, when we shall be no longer liable to abuse it. Now, why will not these men, so jealous of their honor, consider a little



SERM. of the consistency of their doings? To

Το shew that they are above all deceit and dishonesty, they first claim a power over what they have no right to, a property in what never was given to them; they betray a trust, insult a Benefactor, besides, perhaps, a hundred collateral injuries, which they do, in the ruin of families and distress of friends. The duellist


think he is a man of honor, but no man is intrinsically less so. Perhaps great good might arise, in this particular instance, from our learning to have just notions of the tenure by which we hold our lives'; for if once life is put out of our power, as the price of honor, honor will be no longer redeemable when once lost, and therefore will never be exposed upon such frivolous occasions, as it now too often is; it may also well deserve some consideration, how far those may be held to have any real regard to honor, who can look upon any thing as competent to redeem the forfeiture of it. It is a contradiction to pretend to prefer honor before life, while we make a parade of offering our lives as an adequate price


for the redemption of our honor; for it SERM. must be remembered, that in such cases life is not surrendered to save our honor, but the latter being under suspicion, the mere exposure of our lives to a very uncertain chance, is thought sufficient to remove all stain and imputation. This is, in reality, rating honor very low; and he might reasonably be looked upon as the most honorable man who should so act, as if no price could redeem its loss, who, as long as his own conscience acquitted him, should hold himself above all suspicion ; for, disgrace can never affect the man, who is conscious that he does not deserve it. There may be some heroism in despising an undeserved reproach, but to submit one's honor to a decision which can have no real effect in determining the merits of the case, is a fallacy and deception, which a truly honorable man should feel himself superior to. I have said this act of madness is generally confined to the higher classes of society, but in a different shape we have seen it, I am sorry to say, revived




[ocr errors]

SERM. among the lower classes also; and notXI., withstanding the vigilance of the magis

tracy, we hear continually of contests taking place, similar in profligacy, and yet perhaps worse in their more immediate causes, and even less excusable. In the one case, it is a wounded honor, that is beld to need vindication, and some allowance must be made, for irritated passions, and offended innocence, but in the other case, honor (a most base honor indeed) is the prize to be contended for, nay not all the prize, sordid gain of money has its share ; for these is life exposed. Life, which is not our own, is deliberately endangered to purchase the applause of the very lowest of mankind, to say nothing of other objects, too trivial to be spoken of in a place like this. Thus rashly do men deal with what is not their own, in the wilful and unnecessary exposure of their lives; and these things happen almost every day. But, though it may seem more remote, the liþerties we take with our lives, through a



wanton abuse of health, is not less irra- SERM. tional, or more to be defended. There are many excesses men run into, the certain effects of which are well known to be, the positive destruction of health, and a premature bringing on of decay and decrepitude. Because it does not happen that life is apparently brought into immediate danger by every single act of intemperance, we are heedless of remote consequences. But since life is now known to be a state of trial, it should be considered as a post of duty we have to maintain, and which we have no right to abandon till we have a regular dismissal from him who placed us in it. If the fabric of our mortal bodies is so constructed as that by care and management they may reasonably be expected to last threescore years and ten, so

," much we may conceive to be the common term assigned for our trial and probation, and what right can we have to abridge it? But, if by intemperance and excesses we hasten the termination of life, undoubtedly we in effect do withdraw from our post, contrary to the original will and design of


« AnteriorContinuar »