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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 annihilation.'
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."
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; there
fore 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 crime, but the
only way in which we can be useful to society, by setting an example, which, if imitated, would pre
serve 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”. u 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 Hand 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
view and design. Much less can a Christian, while he continues in his senses, imagine himself left at this liberty by the Gospel ; since above all things it enjoins and exhorts him, after the example of his Saviour, to suffer in patience that he may reign in glory. Every precept of this sort is a virtual prohibition of suicide, which argues the last degree of impatience.
“Resignation to Providence is, indeed, recom“ mended in Scripture; but that implies only sub“ mission to ills that are unavoidable, not to “ such as may be remedied by prudence or courage.
“ Prudence - and courage" are both excellent things: they are two of the cardinal virtues. But that suicide is a display of them, is a proposition hitherto unknown to Reason, Law, and Gospel. There could be no occasion to preach patience under sufferings if it were so, because then no man could be under a necessity of suffering. He might avoid it, at a moment's warning, by the knife or the bálter. There could be no such things as “ unavoidable
ills;" and the Gospel precepts would be almost as absurd as Mr. Hume's Note.
“ Thou shalt not kill, is evidently meant to exclude “only the killing of others, over whose life we have
no authority.-Magistrates punish criminals capitally, notwithstanding the letter of the law.”
Magistrates have authority over the lives of others; but have we authority over our own, to put an end to them when we please? Surely not; and therefore suicide is justly accounted and treated by
our laws as one species of murder forbidden by the commandment.
“ But were this commandment ever so express
against suicide, it would now have no authority; “ for all the law of Moses is abolished, except so far “ as it is established by the law of nature. “ have already endeavoured to prove, that suicide is “not prohibited by that law.”
This is modest - " We have endeavoured to
prove." But the endeavour, it is humbly apprehended, has been in vain, and ever will be so while there shall be piety enough left on earth to acknowledge God as the Lord of life and death; for so long men will judge it their duty to adore his power, and wait his pleasure. A trilling alteration in our religious services might perhaps answer Mr. Hume's purpose, without the abolition of any part. Let that little particle not be expunged from the Commandments, and inserted in the Creed.
“ In all cases Christians and Heathens are upon “ the same footing”
They very soon will be so, when Mr. Hume's philosophy shall once become the established religion.
“ Cato and Brutus, Arria and Portia, acted he* roically; those who now imitate their example, ought to receive the same praises from posterity.”
Christianity inculcates a far nobler heroism. It teaches us, when we are engaged in a good cause, to die for it like men, but not by our own hands; tó" en