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approbation of conscience, which should accompany every important step of a good man's conduct. For he who can overrule the scruples of his conscience will soon learn to reject its decisions. I am the more confirmed in this position, as I take the case of a hesitating conscience to have been thus, and in an instance of much less importance, adjudged by St Paul; • He that doubteth,' saith the apostle, is damned if he eat; because he eateth not of faith; for whatsoever is not of faith, that is, not done with a full persuasion of the lawfulness of it,
is sin.' This caution applies with especial force to the case of suicide; a sin, if it be one, which cuts off all place of reparation and repentance.
We now proceed to the inquiry itself, whether a man possesses such a right over his own life and person, that he may lawfully destroy them at his pleasure.
To ask then, what is our duty in any instance, is to ask what the will of God is in that instance. Now the will of God, as of every other intelligent being, must be learnt upon any point, from his express declarations where they can be bad; or, where these are silent, from his general character and disposition ; from the aim and analogy of his laws and conduct in other instances. We will begin with this latter inquiry, and see how the question stands, upon the foot of reason and natural religion.
First, then, the Divine will is intimated by that eager and instinctive love of life, which prevails without exception through the whole animal creation. There are who think this love of life to be nothing more than what results from a sense and experience of the pleasures it affords; and to those who think so, this argument has no weight. Many, on the other hand, observe a violence and intensity in this passion, beyond what they deem either the value of life or the pains of death could on their own account create. To such there will appear a separate and original principle superadded for this special purpose, to retain men in existence, when disgust or despair would drive them out of it. And considered in this light, it becomes a proof of God's intention, that we should preserve our lives; and consequently of his displeasure against those who wilfully and wantonly destroy them.
Secondly; he, who puts it out of his power to do his duty, refuses to do it; and who is there so disengaged and unconnected, as to have no duty or demand upon him? Who is there that owes not to some relation or other, industry or obedience, piety or gratitude, justice or restitution, instruction, counsel, protection, or support ? all which obligations are at once violated and forsaken by this single act of suicide. Or, if a situation so singular can be supposed, that all private claims upon our service are satisfied or ceased, I would then ask, what condition can be so abject or so useless, but thatby a patient continuance in well doing,' by the exercise of those virtues which fall within our reach, we may not hope to improve our merit here, and, of consequence, our proportion of happiness hereafter ?
Thirdly; another way of determining whether an action be virtuous, innocent, or criminal, is to see whether the effects of it are beneficial, indifferent, or pernicious to the happiness of human society; which happiness, from the manifold provision he has made for it, appears to be the purpose of God Almighty's will, the end, therefore, and aim of all his laws, and; by consequence, the measure and standard of our duty. Now in this way of reasoning, it is material to remember, that it is not the particular consequence of any individual action which alone determines its moral quality ; but the tendency and operation of that general rule, by which actions of the same sort are permitted or forbidden. I will explain myself by an example. Murder in certain instances may produce no immediate or particular mischief to the community ; it may deliver a nation from tyranny, or a neighbourhood from oppression ; it may transfer power and property to better hands and better uses. But when we reflect that we cannot permit one action and forbid another, without assigning some distinction between them; that the same rule, therefore, which permits this, must permit every assassin to fall upon each man he meets, whom he thinks useless or noxious; that the allowance of such a rule would overthrow the best end of society, the security of its citizens ; commit each man to the spleen, fury, or fanaticism of his neighbour, and fill all things with terror and confusion ; when we reflect upon this, we see, that the present benefit of the action is outweighed by that more important ruin which the admission or impunity of so fatal an example would at length produce. Whatever, therefore, we may think of its particular consequences, we condemn it, to sustain a general rule which will not endure an arbitrary exception, and which cannot be laid aside without a general injury.
Whatever is expedient is right; whatever is indifferent is innocent. But then it must be expedient or indifferent upon the whole, in all its collateral and remote effects. The same attention to equal and general rules; the same study of uniformity, which prevails in every code of human jurisprudence, takes place for the same reason in the moral system also, and government of the universe. To apply this reasoning upon the twofold consequences of our actions, to the question before us; suicide has much to answer for of both ; nor can any case be put, which is not concluded under sin, either by the peculiar injury, or the general mischief. The tears and cries of our unpitied relatives, the confusion and agony of those we leave behind, the loss which may never be forgotten or repaired, the ignominy of our fate, which stings to the heart, and which is derived to all our connexions, are consequences of selfmurder, which cannot be mentioned or thought upon with patience. What must be the stubborn cruelty of his mind who can despise, and in his last hour disregard, the affliction and disgrace of all he loves, whom no compassion, friendship or affection, whom neither the tender ties of family and kindred, nor the dearer names of wife and child, can withhold from the fierce and sullen purpose of his soul ? The thief, the plunderer, and the rebel, inflict not any calamity on a stranger or an enemy, which can be compared with that which the selfmurderer brings down on those of his own household, and his own blood. But though no duty were deserted, no claim defrauded, no friend or family afflicted by our death, no orphans abandoned, and no widows to make lamentation; yet, if it be once adınitted, that whoever is weary of life, and has rendered, or can suppose, himself useless to others, is for that reason at liberty to quit it, what have we not to fear, where the accumulating of riches in the few produces the want of a sufficiency in many; where early habits of luxury and refinement have multiplied desires and disappointments; where voluptuousness and sensuality have drained the sources, and worn away all sense of natural pleasures ; where the permanent satisfactions of the heart and understanding are unknown, or extinguished by more gross pursuits ; where the spirits, convulsed by passion, by turbulent and impetuous exertions, have lost their natural tension and composure; where religion, the appointed medicine of human woes, is converted by our vices and mistakes into an object of terror and aversion? In circumstances like these, connected perhaps with other more physical causes, if ever a time should come when public opinion and numerous examples shall authorize this crime, what havoc may we not expect ; what desolation of the species, from spleen, impatience, melancholy, and despair.
These are the arguments, which reason holds forth against the lawfulness of suicide ; and combined together, as in every probable question the arguments on each side ought to be, amount to such a presumption of God Almighty's will, as should stagger the most determined purpose of destruction.
We next inquire, what may be added to this presumption from the light of revelation.
And here I meet an objection which asks why, if suicide be indeed unlawful, we do not find it more expressly forbidden in the christian scriptures ?
In the first place, our Saviour's own precepts, if we except that set discourse, which is chiefly taken up in rectifying the perversions, and improving the purity of the Jewish law, are, for the most part, occasional, arising out of some present occurrence, or alluding to some special instance; a method of instruction, for conciseness, perspicuity, and impression, of all others perhaps the most convenient. As no example, therefore, of selfmurder is recorded to have fallen within his notice, we are not to wonder that he has left us no observation upon the guilt of it. The inorality of the apostolic writings is contained either in summary catalogues of virtues and vices under their most general denominations, or in certain series of brief independent maxims, pointed, perhaps, sometimes at the particular exigencies or corruption of those to whom they were addressed. Amongst these, it is no more extraordinary that a particular species of murder should be omitted, than that the duties of friendship, the rights of selfdefence, the extent of gratitude, the limits of civil or parental authority, are nowhere ascertained. A systematic detail of morality, pursued through all the subdivisions of our duty, is not given. The most beautiful and perfect general rules were laid down, and men are left for the application of them to the deductions of reason, and the dictates of humanity. What goes a great way towards accounting for the silence of scripture upon this crime, is, that it does not appear to have prevailed in any great degree amongst those with whom the scriptures had to do. But four instances are recorded in the Old, and one in the New Testament, of any thing like selfmurder, and these, surely, of a kind which can do no.credit to the cause; of a rejected favourite, a fallen tyrant, and a perfidious traitor. The Jews are known to have held this vice in the utmost abhorrence, and to have prosecuted the remains of a selfmurderer with all the indignities which their law assigned to the worst of malefactors; a circumstance sufficient to show, that the public opinion in this instance was right, and therefore needed no new lesson from the christian teacher. Admitting therefore, that the scriptures had not condemned this crime in so many terms, let us see what can be gathered from them concerning it, by fair implication and construction.
First, then, occurs to our observation the commandment itself, • Thou shalt do no murder. Who shall say, what the scriptures have not said, that a prohibition, delivered in terms so absolute and comprehensive, is not meant to include the murder of ourselves; especially, when reasons of public utility, the best interpreter of moral precepts, require that it should ? All other exceptions to this rule, the rights, namely, of the magistrate and the soldier, are expressly recognized or clearly allowed; whereas we are repeatedly commanded to abstain from the life of man, without one saving clause in favor of this assumed dominion over our own. When God commits to mankind a right over the lives of brutes, he expresly reserves out of the grant any authority over the life of man. •For in the image of God,' says the Almighty, 'made he man;' an expression which, whatever it imports, stamps a superior dignity and estimation on the human species, and contains a reason for the prohibition, which, whatever it be, prevails alike against the killing of ourselves and others.
Secondly; human life, throughout the scriptures, is every where spoken of as a stated period, as a race that is set before us, as a course to be finished, as a fight that must be fought; descriptions, which could hardly have dropped from the pen of those who considered life, and the duration of it, as in our power, and at our disposal. It is absurd to command us to 'persevere unto the end, if the end be determinable by our own choice; to bid us ónot be weary of well doing,' if we may cease from it at pleasure.
Thirdly; the passions, temper, and motives, which give birth to suicide, contradict the spirit and principles of our religion. Affliction and calamity, considered in the view under which Christianity exhibits them, are either subservient to the exercise and improvement of our virtue, or swallowed up in the expectation of immortality and heaven. Complain to the disciple of Jesus of the sufferings of life; he tells us, that they are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed. Are we overwhelmed with tribulation and distress? he teacheth us that tribulation worketh patience, and patience virtue ; that the severities of Providence are the corrections of a parent, pledges of his care, and tokens of his love. Now it