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ill ufage of an infulting and uncharitable world, with perplex-
A practice to be abhorred and condemned with all ourzeal, to be guarded against with all our care, reason, and religion; walking in the ways of God, and pouring out our prayers for his preventing and affifting grace, that his fear may ever be before us, and that temptations to fuch impiety may never overcome us. And, confidering the love of ourselves, the inhumanity of the crime, and the dangers run by these who are guilty of felf-murder, it is furprizing how any perfon can refolve upon fuch a desperate self-condemning action: But yet obfervation proves, that when men engage in wicked practices, and find they are brought to fhame or danger, their minds, are not equal to their burthen; fo that they can bear the guilt, though not the fhame: this confounds and oppreffes. It may be an useful caution, to have our minds prepared and affections fubdued; that we may not be deftitute of fuccour from reason, or give ourfelves up to the guidance of present paffion. This is the lot of those, who fall into the defperate refolutions we are treating of: their paffions are highly indulged and yielded to; fo
that when grievous accidents befal them, they know not where they are, nor whither to turn, they can bear no loss nor fall from the condition, in which they were, but abandon themfelves to defpair of God's help and mercy. They place their whole happiness in poffeffing of riches, enjoying honours, and in the praise of men; and when riches make to themselves wings and fly away; when they fall from their honours and dignities; they know not how to breathe in any other air, nor to want the courtship and respects that were wont to be paid, not to their perfons, but to their power and intereft. So when they fink in their reputation, they are dejected to the lowest ebb; are afraid that every eye views them with contempt, and every tongue is reproaching them.
The miseries men endure will end, in death at least, which
may come quickly; the fins that brought them to It's danger. that mifery, will be forgiven upon repentance, be they never fo great and many: but the course they pitch upon to relieve themselves, is a fin that admits of no repentance, and configns them to eternal pains and forrows.
Again, confider the special reasons of the guilt and danger of those persons who destroy their ownselves. It would be needless to shew they are involved in the guilt, and obnoxious to the punishment of murther in general; for they expofe themselves in a particular manner, to the greater condemnation, by fome particular fentiments and difpofitions, which are commonly the root and foundation of this unnatural fin. Do not men who deftroy themselves to avoid prefent fufferings, refolve that God fhall not difpofe of them, as he pleaseth; that they will break through that state of things, which he hath established; that they will not be tied to fuch circumstances as he hath allotted them; but that they will wreft their lives out of his hands, and not fuffer him to prolong or continue them beyond the limits of their own will? If this be their language, as by their actions it must be, what can be expected, but that God fhould execute the fierceft of his vengeance upon their disobedience? If pride, and envy, and ambition, have fo much power over their minds, that they will not bear the thoughts of that diftance, which is betwixt them and those, who are placed in a higher fphere, and they will in the abun
dance of their arrogance and refentment, violently remove themselves out of the world; because they are not advanced to a more advantageous fituation in it; what can they reasonably expect or imagine, but that they should feel Solomon's obfervation, in the most extensive sense of it, that pride goeth before deftruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall? A fall by fo much the more dreadful as the crimes which occafion it, do more nearly resemble those of that murderer from the beginning, the devil, whose infolence and ambition threw him headlong out of heaven, into that fire which shall never be quenched. What foundation can there be of hope, that God will forgive a flagrant fin without the finner's repentance for the fame? Or, is it to be conceived, that a man should repent of a fin in whose commiffion he ends his life? These are fome of the many reafons against self-murder. And,
Though any reafon is strong enough to baffle all that can be faid for these attempts against ourselves, when we are in no danger of these temptations: yet when men come into those perillous hours, they are generally deaf to all reason, and listen only to the fuggeftions of their paffions; and if they be not prepared beforehand to withstand fuch affaults, they seldom do it when the danger approaches. Wherefore, it is more in mens power to be innocent, and out of difficulties and ftraits, than, being involved, to deliver themselves from the distracted counfels and fuggeftions of their defpairing minds; altho' they be fuch as all men would have startled at and abhorred, when free of fuch distractions; and I must add, a man overwhelmed with mifery, is not inclined to afk, nor capable of taking counsel when offered. Therefore,
The cafe of those who kill themfelves thro'
In cafes where religious melancholy drives people to these extremities, how much fafer is it to fecure them from fuch principles as occafion these melancholy. perplexing thoughts, than retrieve them from the power and influence of them; can any perfuafion be more reasonable, than that God is the best of beings? Concerning whom, one of the first observations we make is, that a being abfolutely and neceffarily good, can never intend any thing unmerciful or cruel; therefore, no man ever was defigned by God to be miferable in the next world; and with
out religion, reafon and virtue will be found deficient under temptations: if reafon and virtue can be found without religion, without the belief of God, and the state of the foul, and of rewards and punishments in the other world, the miseries of human life, may be fo preffing, that all the confiderations this world can afford, will hardly make it tolerable; and unlefs the mind be fortified with arguments of religion, our natural fortitude will yield to many temptations in this vale of misery: wherefore, it is obfervable, that few attempts of this kind are made, till religion is mastered, and it's impreffions effaced, or men are so misguided, as to think these mischiefs may be done and religion be fafe: notwithstanding, 'tis more consistent with reason to lay afide all religion, and disbelieve the whole, than, allowing the juftice of God, and the life of the world to come, to think these self-murtherers are not to account feverely, for the violences they have offered to themfelves, if they are not indeed loft to reafon and distracted; of which God is the best and only judge. Those unhappy people, who lying under the dreadful apprehenfion of God's anger, accounting themselves veffels of wrath, and fitted for destruction; and not being able to live under the torment of that thought, put an end to their miserable lives; are most to be pitied whilft alive, and spared when dead, fince nothing can look fo like distraction as that distemperature of brain which makes them act so strangely; if they are veffels of wrath, is this the way to ease them? If they believe themselves configned to misery in the other world, what do they get by throwing themselves into that place of torment before the time appointed? This is to die for fear of death, and indeed a great deal more difafterous.
Condemned criminals that fometimes attempt to prevent their legal punishment by dispatching themselves, think they fave themselves the shame of dying publickly: vain imagination! what can these wretches propofe by falling into the hands of the living God fooner than they need to do, if they lived as long as God would let them live? What can more resemble madness?
The fenfe of guilt lies fo heavy on fome, they would give all the world to be forgiven; but is it not allied to madness,
to believe that Chrift died for fuch as repent, and believe the gofpel, and yet to diftruft he died for me, who am fo forry for my fins, that I would give the world (if it were mine) I never had offended God? willing rather to lose all the world than commit the like any more? and to purchase the favour of God with my blood, rather than that his displeasure fhould rife against me? Let them who can fay this is not repenting and believing, fay what is fo'; and yet this is the case of many unhappy fouls. What can be liker to distraction, than to believe and repent, to forrow and amend; and yet conclude themselves veffels of wrath under God's vengeance? What can be fo contrary to reafon and the whole tenor of the gospel, than to believe that God is not reconciled to all penitent believers in Chrift Jefus ? Such people fhut their eyes to all the light that can be opened on them, by making fuch conclufions as must be false, if there be any truth in christianity.
X. Duels are open breaches of this commandment, because disallowed by divine authority; and therefore the guilt of murther is chargeable upon the perfons engaging in them. For the plea of self-prefervation is utterly foreign to the conditions and circumstances of him, who formally gives or accepts a challenge. And he adds to the fin of making an outragious attempt upon his neighbour's life, by throwing himself unneceffarily into the utmost danger of lofing his own, not only life, but foul alfo.
For the guilt and danger of duels, being manifest instances of wilful murther, expose the perfon engaging in them to the feverities of God's indignation denounced against it. Those who die in such engagements, go into the other world, not only void of charity, but glowing hot with wrath and fury, and when thefe qualities have the laft poffeffion of their fouls, what fociety of fpirits can that be, which their fouls are qualified for in the next world. And, provided they do not perish in the conflict, is it worth a man's while to run into the hazard of fuffering eternal mifery for the fake of redreffing an injury or refenting an affront? Or, is it a rational conduct for the avoiding a groundless imputation of cowardice, for a man to run all this hazard, and teftify his falfe courage, by infulting the Lord of heaven and earth, and spending the laft efforts of