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“ damnation of one man is an infinitely greater evil “ than the subversion of a thousand millions of king“ doms." Let the man therefore continue in his integrity, and trust God for the event.
3dly. He who is invited to take a part in a dangerous and desperate enterprise, should consider consequences possible and probable, and weigh well his own strength beforehand; and if he suspects himself likely to fail in the day of trial, let him by no means engage.
A case of this kind inay doubtless be imagined, which will seem extremely hard; and mankind will be disposed not only to excuse, but even to honour him who thus falls by his own hand, to save his companions and his country. The behaviour of some Christian virgins in the early ages, who chose rather to inflict death upon themselves, than suffer the violation of their purity by their ruffian persecutors, has obtained in its favour the suffrage of the Fathers, as a case excepted from the general rule; and we cannot readily blame those who, to preserve their honour, despised their life. They committed one sin, to escape another which they deemed greater (though, as their will would not have been concern. ed, they were perhaps mistaken); and destroyed the temple, to avoid its profanation. But these extraordinary instances, whatever may be thought of them, cannot prove that to be lawful, which is in itself unlawful".
8 Essay on the Immortality of the Soul, p. 33.
See Bp. Taylor, ubi supra.
As to the other case stated by Mr. Hume in the same page 20, that of “a malefactor justly con" demned to a shameful death,” there can be no difficulty. It is the duty of him who has transgressed the laws of his country to make the satisfaction they require. The virtues called forth upon the sad occasion, of repentance, and faith in the divine mercy consequent thereupon, are of the highest benefit to himself in his most important concerns; while his example at his death undoes, as far as in him lies, the evil perpetrated in his life, and, by warning others not to offend, is of eminent service to the community. I am astonished that Mr. Hume should ask, “ Can any reason be ima“ gined why he may not anticipate his punishment?" and assert, that “he invades the business of Provi. “dence no more than the magistrate did who or“dered his exécution;" and that “ his voluntary " death is equally advantageous to society.” It is an unparalleled outrage at once upon common sense, the laws, and the religion of his country.
We may now, I believe, venture to conclude, notwithstanding all which Mr. Hume has said to the contrary, that suicide is a breach of our duty to our neighbour.
Let us consider, in the last place, whether suicide be not a breach of that duty we owe to ourselves. On this head Mr. Hume is short, and therefore we need not be long.
The argument lies in a narrow compass. - Man is subject to misery, and suicide is the way to escape it.
Page 20. “ That suicide may often be consistent “ with interest, and with our duty to ourselves, no
one can question, who allows, that age, sickness, “ or misfortune, may render life a burden, and make “ it worse even than anoibilation."
That they “make it worse than annihilation" is not the general opinion; because, however afflicted, few seem disposed to choose annihilation (if they thought they could obtain it) in preference. That the calamities of human life are many and great, there is neither room nor occasion to disputé. They have employed the pens of poets, orators, and historians, from age to age. They are frequently, without doubt, "a burden." But the burden has often been borne ; and what has been done, may be done again. It is laid upon us by our sins, and is no more than we deserve; therefore it ought to be borne patiently. It will last but for a little while; therefore it should be borne cheerfully. Through the mercies of a Saviour, it will terminate in everlasting felicity; and therefore it should be borne joyfully. This is the ground upon which we stand. These are the principles by which we abide. Admit them, they solve every difficulty, and disperse every cloud. Through the valley of the shadow of death they open a fair and lovely prospect, extending far and wide beyond it. At their presence sorrow brightens into joy, light arises in darkness, and the mass of human wretchedness melts away before it, like the morning mist upon the mountains. If the philosophers possess any principles that are better, and better founded, let them be communicative; if not, let them embrace these with us, and not be faithless, but believing. Whoever they may be of them that read this, almost, I think, they are, at the moment, persuaded to be Christians. Would to God that every one who reads it, might become not only almost, but altogether such!
If, on the other hand, unhappily seduced by the subtlety and sophistry of Mr. Hume, men determine to adopt what he calls his philosophy, that is, to doubt concerning the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and a future state of rewards and punishments; whether there be any providence concerning itself with human affairs; and whether the world be governed by a good or an evil being, or by any being at all-then may they, with Mr. Hume, esteem suicide " to be no criine, but the “only way in which we can be useful to society, by
setting an example, which, if imitated, would preserve to every one his chance for happiness in life, “and would effectually free him from all danger of “misery."
But, according to a common saying, we are to look for the business of a letter in the Postscript. Subjoined to the Essay is a Note, in which Mr. Hume asserts, and endeavours to prove," that suicide is as “ lawful under the Christian dispensation as it was “ to the Heathens." If this be the case, we must beg his pardon for having supposed that Christianity was glanced at above, as the superstition which kept men in bondage, and prevented them from taking this short method to escape the evils of life. The Gospel, it seems, allows of suicide. It must be the Gospel, not according to St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, or St. John, but according to Mr. Hume. I know of no single text that will prove the point; though I once heard of a gentleman who did effectually prove it by two texts judiciously laid together : " Judas departed, and went, and hanged himself"
Go, and do thou likewise.'
But though there be no text which enjoins it (as, considering the importance of the subject, might have been expected), Mr. Hume is clear " there is “not a single text which prohibits it."-" That great " and infallible rule of faith and practice, "continues he very gravely," which must control all philoso“phy and human reasoning, has left us in this parti“cular to our natural liberty.”
biberty” of destroying himself cannot be thought very "natural" by any one believing in a God who placed him here, and placed him here with some
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