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· particular strongly combats all impatience of distress, of which the greatest is that which prompts to acts of suicide :-“ Consider Him " that endured such contradiction of sinners “ against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint “ in your minds.” I would offer my com, ment upon this passage, in these two queries : first, Whether a Christian convert, who had been impelled by the continuance and urgency of his sufferings to destroy his own life, would not have been thought by the author of this text “ to have been weary,” to have “ fainted in his mind,” to have fallen off from that example which is here proposed to the meditation of Christians in distress? And yet secondly, Whether such an act would not have been attended with all the circumstances of mitigation which can excuse or extenuate suicide at this day?
3. The conduct of the apostles, and of the Christians of the apostolic age, affords no obscure indication of their sentiments upon this point. They lived, we are sure, in a confirm ed persuasion of the existence, as well as of the happiness, of a future state. They experienced in this world every extremity of external injury and distress. To die, was gain. The change which death brought with it was,
in their expectation, infinitely beneficial, Yet it never, that we can find, entered into the intention of one of them to hasten this change by an act of suicide; from which it is difficult to say what motive could have so universally withheld them, except an apprehension of some unlawfulness in the expedient.
Having stated what we have been able to collect in opposition to the lawfulness of suicide, by way of direct proof, it seems unnecessary to open a separate controversy with all the arguments which are made use of to defend it; which would only lead us into a repetition of what has been offered already. The following argument, however, being somewhat more artificial and imposing than the rest, as well as distinct from the general consideration of the subject, cannot so properly be passed over. If we deny to the individual a right over his own life, it seems impossible, it is said, to reconcile with the law of nature that right which the state claims and exercises over the lives of its subjects, when it ordains or inflicts capital punishments. For this right, like all other just authority in the state, can only be derived from the compact and virtual consent of the citizens which compose the state; and it seems self-evident, if any principle in mos. rality be so, that no one, by his consent, can 'transfer to another a right which he does not possess himself. It will be equally difficult to account for the power of the state to commit its subjects to the dangers of war, and to expose their lives without scruple in the field of battle; especially in offensive hostilities, in which the privileges of self-defence cannot be pleaded with any appearance of truth : and still more difficult to explain, how in such, or in any circumstances, prodigality of life can be a virtue, if the preservation of it be a duty of our nature.
This whole reasoning sets out from one error, namely, that the state acquires its right over the life of the subject from the subject's own consent, as a part of what originally and personally belonged to himself, and which he has made over to his governors. The truth is, the state derives this right neither from the consent of the subject, nor through the medium of that consent; but, as I may say, immediately from the donation of the Deity. Finding that such a power in the sovereign of the community is expedient, if not necessary, for the community itself, it is justly presumed to be the will of God, that the sovereign should possess and exercise it. It is this pre
sumption which constitutes the right; it is the same indeed which constitutes every other : and if there were the like reasons to authorise the presumption in the case of private persons, suicide would be as justifiable as war, or capital executions. But until it can be shown that the power over human life may be converted to the same advantage in the hands of individuals over their own, as in those of the state over the lives of its subjects, and that it may be intrusted with equal safety to both, there is no room for arguing, from the existence of such a right in the latter, to the toleration of it in the former.
DUTIES TOWARDS GOD.
DIVISION OF THESE DUTIES.
In one sense, every duty is a duty towards God, since it is his will which makes it a duty: but there are some duties of which God is the object, as well as the author; and these are peculiarly, and in a more appro: priated sense, called duties towards God.
That silent piety, which consists in a habit of tracing out the Creator's wisdom and goodness in the objects around us, or in the history of his dispensations ; of referring the blessings we enjoy to his bounty, and of resorting in our distresses to his succour; may possibly be more acceptable to the Deity than any visible expressions of devotion