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crime of suicide, in a much larger plorable sin, were once as ready as sense than is commonly assigned to any of my present hearers can now it, and in such a sense as will greatly be, to think and to say, What, is extend the application and utility of thy servant a dog that he should do the lessons which these discourses this thing? In truth, it becomes convey.
depraved creatures, with regard to “ By suicide is meant,” says Dr. every sin, to be humble and watch. Miller, “ not merely self-murder by ful; for there is no sin into which immediate violence, but also the they may not fall, if forsaken by redestruction of our own life by wan- straining grace." ton exposure to violence from others, In the first of these discourses, or by any indirect means. The the orator dwells upon the guilt and duellist is guilty of this crime. He folly of suicide; in the second, he who commits a felony with the ex- enumerates and explains the causes press view of being put to death by from which this crime usually prothe hand of public justice, is also ceeds. In proving the guilt of suiguilty of it; and, in general, every cide, he advances the customary one who, voluntarily and without arguments, drawn from the subnecessity, places himself in the way mission due from man to the will of of danger. There are occasions, his creator ; from the force and auindeed, on which it is the duty of thority of the principle of self-premen to put their lives in jeopardy, servation; and from the duty of and even resolutely to sacrifice them. the individual to society. On all The case of martyrdom is one in- these topics the author reasons in a stance of such duty, and the case of manner plain, serious, and remarkjust and necessary war is another. ably cogent. Most of these reasonBut it is possible, in either of these ings are chiefly adapted to influence cases, to court death foolishly and our judgments of the suicide, and wickedly. We are bound to use all thus indirectly and remotely to retawful means to preserve our own gulate our own conduct, by previlives; and, therefore, he who, in ously persuading us of the guilt and any case whatever, destroys his life, folly of self-murder : but we cannot or who permits it to be destroyed, forbear quoting the following paswhen he is able, without denying sages, because they most eloquently the truth, or abandoning duty, to and persuasively address the reason save it, is chargeable with the whole and feelings of desperate men, and guilt belonging to the crime which are calculated eminently to influ." we are about to consider.”
ence the victim in the critical hour. To those who may imagine that “Say, miserable inan! who art the rarity of suicide makes it an un- contemplating the crime of selfsuitable theme for public and pulpit murder, hast thou no parent, the admonition, he addresses himself in evening of whose days, by this the following earnest and cogent crime, would be embittered, or manner :
whose gray hairs would be brought "Brethren, be not deceived !- down with sorrow to the grave ? Every individual who hears me has Hast thou no amiable partner of an interest in this subject. Who thy life, who would be precipitated can foresee the situations in which by this step into the deepest affliche may hereafter be placed, or tion? Hast thou no tender babes, the temptations by which he may who by thy desertion would be left hereafter be assailed? Or who fatherless, and exposed to all the can tell how soon the conduct dangers of an unpitying world? of a near relative, or of a valued Hast thou no brethren or sisters to friend, may bring the subject home, share in the grief and the disgrace with the deepest interest, to his bo- of thine unworthy conduct ? Are som? It is probable, that the most there no friends who love thee, who of those who have fallen into this de would weep over thy folly and sin, and feel themselves wounded by thy not great and extensive, at least fall? In short, would the execution important in a moderate sphere? li of thy wicked purpose disturb the these things be duly considered, it peace of no family ? defraud no cre will be manifest that there is not an ditor ? plunge no friend into diffi. individual breathing who can, with culty ? rob no fellow creature of ad- propriety, plead in defence of des vantage or enjoyment? Ah! if the pair and suicide, that he is useless ; evil terminated in thine own person, as there is certainly no individaal, though still a crime, it would be on this side the grave, whose life comparatively small. But the con- either is not, or might not be, of sequences of such a step would pro- some value to mankind.” bably extend beyond thy conception, In the same forcible and persua. and last longer than thy memory. sive strain he afterwards proceeds: Stay then, guilty man! stay thy “Let us go to yonder victim of murderous hand! Extinguish not impatience and despair, who wanthe happiness and the hopes of a ders silent, melancholy, and alone, family, it may be, of many families! meditating the termination of his Forbear, O forbear to inflict wounds sorrows by the pistol, or the poisonwhich no time can heal, and which ous draught ; let us approach, and may tempt survivors to wish that inquire why he is disgusted with thou hadst never been born! life? You are embarrassed in your * “ Let no one say, that he is usele88 circumstances; you have been robe in the world ; that his life is of no bed of your property by fraud, or by value, either to his relatives, or to other disastrous occurrences ; you mankind; and, therefore, that he have been precipitated from the does no injury by taking it away. height of affluence to the most abIf any man be really useless, it is his ject poverty; you cannot diy, to disgrace and his sin ; and to think beg you are ashamed, and therefore of justifying one crime by pleading resolve to fly from life. But, before that he has committed a previous you take this dreadful and irrevoone, is as wretched logic as it is cable step, pause a moment, and detestable morality. But the degree answer me the following questions: of our usefulness in society is a ques. Is a large portion of property indistion concerning which, as we are pensably necessary to happiness? not competent to judge, so we are Have not thousands been contented pot at liberty to decide for ourselves. and happy with as small a pittance The victim of depression and me- as that which you yet possess? lancholy may sometimes think him- Nay, have not some found more self an unprofitable member of the real enjoyment after being thus community, a mere cumberer of the reduced, than they found in the days ground, when his services are real. of their affluence and prosperity? ly substantial and important. And Was not the Saviour of the world, even admitting that he is, at pre- when he sojourned upon the earth, sent, so afflicted, so infirm, so vici- without a place where to lay his ous, so degraded, or so unfavourably head? And has he not, by his exsituated in any respect, as to be ample, made poverty and sufferings entirely useless, has he lost every honourable ? Besides, though you capacity of being otherwise in time are now in straitened circumstances, to come? Or, if this capacity be may not a kind Providence hereaf. now lost, is every possiblility of re- ter smile upon you, and reward covering it certainly precluded? your industry with comfort and May not his infirmities be hereaf- plenty? Who can tell but that, ter removed the clouds which like Job, your latter end, in this hang over him be dissipated ? his respect, may be more blessed than vices be repented of and abandon- your beginning? But even sup. ed ? his reputation be restored ? and posing the worst; will you destroy his means of usefulness become, if a life on which so much depends, for the sake of treasures which are rational being, and especially in a transient and unsatisfying ; for a christian, to bear suffering with little glittering dust which perishes firmness, or to fly from it by illicit in the using; “ for so much trash and cowardly means? What is it as may be grasped thus ?” Misera. that raises to such an elevation the ble estimate! ignoble alternative! character of the martyrs and other Live! and exhibit the sublime, the primitive sufferers for the Gospel ? edifying spectacle of one struggling What is it in their conduct which with want, and yet holding fast his men of all habits and modes of think. integrity.
ing admire, and which sometimes « If we inquire of another, we even “extorts a trembling homage" shall find that he is hurried on to from the blaspheming infidel? It is despair by the prospect of disgrace. that divine magnanimity which deHe has, perhaps, been betrayed into liberately chose to suffer the most infamous crimes, or led, less crimi. excruciating tortures rather than to nally, into circumstances which, he escape from them by the sacrifice of fears, have destroyed his reputation, principle, or by yielding to forbidand he cannot think of surviving his den demands. character. But, alas! deluded man! “A fourth, it may be, will plead, are you so thoughtless as not to per- that he has the certain prospect of ceive that your calculation is as false an ignominious death, by the hand as the design which you harbour is of public justice ; or of a still more criminal? If you are now in dis- dreadful execution, by the lingering grace, what advantage will you gain torments of savage foes ; and that by hiding yourself in the grave ? he is, therefore, justifiable in disCertainly none. On the contrary, patching himself in a more private you will aggravate instead of dimi. and easy manner. Such have been nishing the evil, because you will the reasonings and conduct of some seal yourself up under eternal infa. renowned personages, whose conmy, and cut off all hope of regaining duct on other occasions was more public esteem. Rather live, and, by heroic, and more worthy of the ra. by a course of worthy actions, en tional character. But the same deavour to retrieve your character. reasoning which was employed in Live! and testify, by your future the case of painful and incurable conduct, that you are neither irre. disease applies equally to this case. claimable nor unprincipled.
No man can be absolutely certain 6 A third is, perhaps, afflicted that the death which he considers as with a tormenting, or, apparently, inevitable will be realized. Divine an incurable disease. He prefers Providence has frequently interferdeath to a life of torture, and there- ed, in a most extraordinary manner, fore determines not to wait for his for the deliverance of those from regular dismission from suffering. whom all prospect of relief, from To such a one I would say, No man human sources, was cut off. But, can certainly tell whether a disease setting this argument aside, who which he thinks incurable may not can tell what important ends the afterwards be found to admit of death which he fears is intended, some remedy, or, at least, of some by Infinite Wisdom, to answer both alleviation. Dark and dismal as to himself and society? Unreserved your prospect now is, you may, like submission to the will of God is al. Job, be again restored to health and ways safe ; while the smallest atenjoyment; or, if not perfectly res. tempt to counteract this will is al. tored, your burden may be rendered ways both criminal and dangerous. comparatively light and tolerable. Had those celebrated heroes of old, But supposing that your case is who embraced a voluntary death, hopeless, and that your whole life rather than fall into the hands of is destined to be a scene of suffer- enemies, or die by public execution, ing, which is most becoming in a consented to live, and meet the dis
pensations of Providence with un- objects that can any longer interest shaken fortitude, they would have or gratify him. This is not unfre. displayed a more sublime heroism; quently the case with those wretchand none can tell how much they ed mortals, who have sought no enmight have promoted the welfare joyments but those of the sensual and glory of their country.
kind; who have cultivated no taste « Another has been disappointed but for scenes of dissipation and in love; and, in the first emotions licentiousness. But how degraded of despondency, considers life as in- is that mind that can find no intesupportable. That tender passion resting employment, no gratifying which binds the sexes together, pursuit in such a world as this! and lays the foundation of domestic Where are those elevated pleasures happiness, is despised by none but which arise from the cultivation of those who never felt it; is condemn- our minds, from the acquisition of ed by none but those who renounce knowledge, from walking, with chothe authority of God, and are ene sen companions, in the delightful mies of human happiness. But fields of literature and science ? while this passion is allowed to be Where are the sublime gratificamost important, and, when properly tions which now from feeding the regulated, most laudable, yet let us hungry, clothing the naked, instructnot imagine, like those who borrow ing the ignorant, and directing the their principles of morality from the miserable wanderer " in the homestage, or from novels, that love is ward way?" Where are the heathe main business of life, and the venly pleasures which arise from attainment of its wishes all that is the exercise of grace and the disworth living for. There are consi. charge of holy duties? Can a derations which should be regarded world in which these are to be enas paramount to every thing of this joyed be said to afford nothing that kind. There may be, and there is worth living for? Blind and doubtless frequently is, in this res. mistaken mortal! make trial of pect, an idolatry as criminal as it is some of these pleasures ; explore unworthy the rational character. some of these paths to happiness, But allowing to each case of disap- which you have hitherto neglected, pointed attachment all that impor- and see if they be not worthy of tance which the subject of it may your regard. Above all, open the require, how many considerations volume of God, unfold the precious immediately present themselves record of Redeeming Love, and which should induce the sufferer to there learn, by delightful experilay aside despondency, and deter- ence, that the Gospel provides em. mine to live ! A little time may ployment and pleasure for the restore peace to a mind which is mind, as much superior to the low now perturbed and melancholy.- gratifications of the sensualist as the The object fondly sought may here- heavens are higher than the earth.” after be attained, and abundantly In the second discourse the au. reward a long pursuit; or, if this thor attempts to explain the causes be not the case, a kind Providence of suicide. The principal of these may have in store, for the discou. causes he deems to be false princiraged and despairing, a more suita- ples in religion and morals. In disble and a more happy connection. cussing this topic, he introduces the
" A sixth, perhaps young in following remarks on the influence years, but cld in dissipation and of plays and novels: vice, has run the round of what he « I cannot help remarking that calls pleasures; and having found the mischievous influence on popu. little happiness in this course, and lar opinions produced by many dra. supposing that life can afford no. matic representations, and by licenthing better, he resolves to escape tious novels, may probably be consi. from a scene in which he finds no dered as leading to many cases of the crime before us. Perhaps some name appear to be so little impres. will pronounce this a far-fetched sed with a sense of this danger, and and illiberal supposition. But let that some even doubt its reality.” me ask such objectors, whether Many readers will probably be many of these compositions do not greatly displeased at the harshness make virtue and religion appear of the sentence thus passed upon contemptible, and vice honourable, dramatic and fictitious compositions. attractive, and triumphant ? Do To the author's questions,“ Whethey not frequently put corrupt opi. ther many of these,” &c. “ Do they nions into the mouth of some favou. not frequently put corrupt opirite hero, the splendour of whose nions," &c. “ Do they not often character, in other respects, is made represent," &c. “ Are not many to embellish the most detestable of them constructed,” &c., many sentiments, and the force of whose readers will promptly reply in the eloquence is employed to recome negative. Plays and tales are demend the most criminal maxims ? signed to be pictures of human life, Do they not often represent the and these pictures are generally semost odious crimes that mortals lected and coloured, in the present can commit, and suicide among the times, in such a manner as to correst, as venial faults, and sometimes rect the principles and mend the as no faults at all? In a word, are heart of the readers. It was not not many of them constructed pre- always thus ; but, during the precisely as if their leading object were sent age of English literature, this to frame an apology for every pas. fact is particularly evident, and a sion, and to plead for the indulgence very long list of popular works, of every corrupt propensity ?* Is it both dramatic and narrative, might far-fetched or illiberal to say that be formed, not at all deserving the such compositions have a tendency censure which these passages confavourable to suicide, and that those vey. who habitually delight in and peruse Suicide, in truth, is very rarely them are in the high road of dan- to be found at all in the popular ger? No, brethren, it is rather a performances of either kind. subject of astonishment and regret Wherever it occurs, so far as we that so many who bear the christian remember, it is placed in such a
light as to discourage rather than 11. It would be easy to give many ex- provoke imitation. Dr. Miller menamples in support of these remarks. tions particularly the tragedy of Even the tragedy of Cato, though the Cato and the romance of Heloise. production of a decided friend to virtue His acknowledged virtue and reli. and religion, has been pronounced, by gion vindicates the author of Cato the best judges, to have a tendency far from any intention of recommendvourable to suicide. Indeed, some accu- ing suicide, and as to the tendency rate observers have asserted, that the of that play, the assertion of observ. exhibition of this celebrated tragedy on ers must be supported by very the stage has seldom failed to be follow.
strong testimony before we can beed by instances of self-murder, which
lieve it favourable to self-murder.
lievi there was good reason to believe were
The faults of Rousseau's famous noconnected with these exhibitions. The
vel are not few, but it really does moral of that detestable novel, the Nouvelle Heloise, by Rousseau, is, on this
not appear to us chargeable with subject, extremely questionable. For,
promoting suicide. Some readers though the author argues eloquently on
may suppose the preponderance of both sides of the question, concerning
argument in the epistolary controthe lawfulness of suicide, yet some have versy contained in the work to be in supposed that his arguments in favour favour of suicide, but readers of of that crime are calculated, and were good sense can hardly fail, we intended by him, to make a deeper im- think, of forming a different conpression than those offered against it, clusion; and as to the intention of VOL. 111. NO. XIX.