Imatges de pàgina
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" that a man's life consisteth not in the abundance “ of the things which he possesses ;” and again, xxi. 34. 6 Take heed to yourselves lest at any 66 time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting 66 and drunkenness,” and “ cares of this life," and he advises us to lay up “ treasure in heaven, " rather than upon earth,” Matt. vi. 19. The apostle Paul has many earnest exhortations upon this subject. Heb. xiii. 5. " Let your conversation “ be without covetousness, and be content with « such things as ye have.” 1 Timn. vi. 6. " God" liness with contentment is great gain : For we « brought nothing into this world, and it is cer" tain we can carry nothing out. And having “ food and raiment, let us be therewith content. 6. But they that will be rich fall into temptation, " and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful “ lusts, which drown men in destruction and per. “ dition. For the love of money is the root of all «6 evil, &c.” Lastly, he gives a beautiful description of the temper of his own mind in this respect, Phil. iv. 11. " I have learned in whatsoever state “ I am, therewith to be content. I know both « how to be abased, and I know how to abound : “ every where, and in all things I am instructed, « both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound «s and to suffer need.”

It may seem extraordinary to some persons, that nothing should be said in the scriptures about the

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criminality of what we usually call felf-murder ; but since all those wrong dispositions of mind, which lead to it, are sufficiently censured, there was no great reason for noticing this particular ac.. „ tion, which takes its rise and its character from them.

The voluntary death of Achitophel, and indeed of Sampson, in the Old Testament, and that of Judas Iscariot, in the New, are mentioned in the course of the history, together with the circumstances which led to them, but without any particular censure; and Sampson was even affifted supernaturally to put an end to his own life, together with that of his enemies.

Josephus, in the speech which he made, to dissuade. his countrymen from laying violent hands upon themselves (which great numbers of the Jews about that time did) De Bello Judaico, lib. iii. cap. 7. makes not use of one argument drawn from the scriptures, but only from reason, or the principles of the heathen philosophy ; speaking of the separate state of the soul, of transmigration, and of Tartarus.

It seems to be sufficient to say, that there is no example in the scriptures of any person of distinguished virtue putting an end to his own life, and that a voluntary death is never mentioned with ap. probation; and the most eminent personages, espe

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cially Jesus Christ, are recorded to have borne pain and torture to the last; without ever thinking of relieving themselves by a voluntary death. We also know that none of the apostles, or primitive christians, ever took this method to avoid torture, even when they could have no hope of life; and we cannot but feel that we should have thought meanly of them if they had done so; thinking such a degree of impatience and cowardice, as that conduct would have argued, a considerable faw in their characters.

I do not see much force in the argument against a voluntary death, from the consideration of life being the gift of God, and a trust, which we ought not to resign without his orders, because every blessing of life comes under the same description, and yet many of these we think ourselves sufficiently authorised to relinquish, according to our own prudence and discretion. But to throw away life is, in another view, a very different thing from relinquishing wealth, rank, or ease, &c. for it is putting an end to the whole period of trial and dircipline, and throwing away the opportunity which adversity, as a part of it, might afford, to improve us, and fit us for something greater hereafter ; and, with respect to other persons, there certainly is not a nobler, or more improving spectacle in the world, than that of a good man strug

gling with undeserved sufferings, without a come plaint.

But though, on these accounts, I should, in all cases, condemn a man for withdrawing himself from the public theatre of life, I would not bring this action under the denomination of murder, because they are by no means things of the fame nature; for, certainly, the temper of mind with which a man destroys himself, and that with which he kills another, are very different; and the latter is much more malignant, and deserving of punishment, than the former. Despair, or fear, are reprehensible; but malice is certainly of a much more atrocious nature.

Neither can there be any thing peculiarly hazardous in suicide, considered as the last crime of which a man is guilty, and of which he has no opportunity of repenting, because it is not a single action, the first, the middle, or the last of a man's life, that ought, in equity, to determine his character in a future state, but the whole of his charace ter and conduct, taken together.

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SECTION IV.

Of the means of virtue.

THE sacred writings not only contain the most

1 powerful dissuasives from all kinds of vice, and the most effectual exhortations to a life of universal virtue, but likewise a variety of observations and advices relating to the manner in which vici. ous, or virtuous habits, are formed, and the methods by which inordinate affections may be repressed, and proper ones promoted.

For this purpose, they propose constant watchfulness, frequent meditation on the works and word of God, a careful choice of good company, and great resolution and self-denial, whenever bad habits are become predominant. They, moreover, advise all persons to watch over one another, and to do every thing to mutual edification:

David says, Pl. cxli. 3. “ Set a watch, O « Lord, before my mouth, keep the door of my “ lips.” Our Lord advises his disciples, Matt. xxvi. 41. “ To watch and pray, that they enter « not into temptation ;” and Mark iv. 18. " To " take heed, left when they hear the word, the « cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of “ riches, and the luft of other things, entering ! in, choke the word, and make it become un

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