rage samples of the religious world. Now as the disposition of multitudes to misrepresent and degrade the Christian character is so clearly evident, how watchful and circumspect ought they to be, who profess themselves the zealous followers of our Lord Jesus Christ! How amiable and engaging in their manners, how fair and equitable in their dealings, how cautious and considerate in their benevolent exertions! It is not enough that their motives be right; they must shun the very appearance of evil. The end does not, according to an old exploded maxim, justify the means. А good object, pursued in a bad temper, or in a violent and indiscreet manner, cannot really advance the interests of religion. It should therefore be the constant study, the ardent and unwearied endeavour, of pious men, to hold forth the word of truth in their conduct, and to exhibit to the eyes of all, those fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.


It was on one of those gloomy days, so frequent at the latter end of the year, in this variable climate, that I was sitting alone in my apartment, indulging in thoughts almost as sombre as the weather, and letting one melancholy fancy succeed another. I reflected on the weakness of human reason. “ How difficult,” I said to myself, “is the discovery of truth! How plausible is error! Religion is divided into innumerable sects; and Philosophy, while pretending to be wiser and superior to the slavery of superstition, is bewildered by a multitude of theories. There is no cause so good, that it has not been villified; no argument so bad, that it has not been defended; and even crimes have been exalted into virtues by the sophistry of genius. It is this uncertainty necessarily attending the decisions of unassisted reasonthis difficulty of reaching truth through a near and obvious path, that tempts men to hazard the most startling theories. Intuitive conviction is deemed the prejudice of education; and to think differently from the mass of nyankind, a mark of superior intellect! Into what excesses will not the uncurbed imagination rush under such circumstances ? What absurdity is there that it will not justify? Who, for instance, does not feel that the animating principle within him cannot be extinguished ? that consciousness, though suspended, cannot be destroyed? that we are formed for an eternal existence, and yet the blind pride of erring reason has urged men to stifle this powerful and innate conviction, and deny the immortality of the soul! And, no less strange, even suicide has had its defenders !"

At this instant the door suddenly opened, and my friend Clifford entered the room. Observing the serious air that overspread my countenance, he paused for a moment, and said: “ You have heard, I see, the melancholy news.” “ What mean you?” I asked, surprised at this question. " The death of poor Nugent,” he replied; " and alas ! by his own hand !"

I was for some moments deprived of utterance. The awfulness of the circumstance, and its singular coincidence with the thoughts I had just been indulging, gave it the momentary appearance of a dream, And what,” said I, after I had some

what recovered myself, “ was the cause of this fearful deed ?"

66 The world and he," he replied, “ had long been enemies. It spurned him: he disdained to fawn upon his persecutor, and nobly rushed into the arms of death."

Nobly!said 1, “ Clifford. You surely mean not what you say.

“ Indeed I do,” he replied. .“ Who, as Shakspeare says, would sweat and groan under an oppressed life, when the remedy is at all times in his power? Why should a man be compelled to live, when all that makes life desirable has fled for ever?"

“I'll answer your question by another. How does he know that it has fled for ever, when he has not the patience to wait the trial ?"

“ Why should he wait an uncertain issue ? His suffering is positive; the remedy obvious. Why drag on an existence of misery, that may last, perbaps, for years, in the precarious hope of a perous change, when this misery may be ended in a moment ?"

May be ended! Ay, there's the rub, as Shakspeare also says; for who can assure us that the end of life is the end of sorrow ?" 66 No matter.

Our very nature teaches us to shun pain and seek happiness, however vain the pursuit; we act but in obedience to the laws of our being, in quitting life when it has no longer any charms for us. Suicide is therefore justifiable. It is the privilege of a great mind, that when it can no longer stoop to the indignities by which it is oppressed, it may bid defiance to its tyrant ; and thus suicide becomes an act of heroism."

6 'Tis an act of cowardice." • Prove it."

“No man ever took away his own life, that did not deem death the lesser evil; for of two ills we instinctively choose that which we imagine to be the lesser. The act was therefore cowardly; for courage consists in preferring that course which appears the most pregnant with danger.”

(Granted. But see the dilemma in which you have involved yourself. If, on account of our natural tendency to prefer what you term the lesser evil, it be cowardly to die, by the same rule, it must be cowardly to live.”

“I have not," I replied, “ contended that to live is an act of heroism. You, on the contrary, would invest suicide with that quality. A man may prefer battling with the ills of life, to putting an end to his own existence, and be influenced in this decision by motives just as praiseworthy as courage ; a mere animal quality, after all, and chiefly depending, perhaps, on the vigour of the

But supposing that to live be cowardly, it by no means follows that to die is brave."

6 I will neither admit nor deny your conclusion ; because it is not material to the argument; but I will confine myself to my assertion that it is justifiable."

6 Then it is justifiable to violate the first com. mandment of the Deity."

“ You have no right to cite scripture on the subject.”

“ You deny it, perhaps ?”

“I shall make no profession of my creed either way; but, if I admitted it, the argument would be ended at once: that is provided your interpretation of the sixth commandment be correct, which I much doubt. - Thou shalt do no murder,' may only include the killing of others."


6 Well, I will waive the authority of scripture, because I am convinced, that, on this subject at least, plain common sense will be sufficient to prove the fallacy of your position.” 6 Be not too sure,

Some of the wisest of men have held my opinion. You remember what Seneca says: Agamus Diis gratias, quod neno in vita teneri potest.?»*

“ I think you mistake Seneca's meaning. His gratitude that he cannot be made to live against his will, does not imply an approbation of self-destruction. He is grateful, because it is a remedy, though a desperate one, against the cruelty and tyranny of


66 What

say you then to Pliny ? "Deus non sibi potest mortem consciscere si velit, quod homini dedit optimum in tantis vitæ pænis. 554

6. I shudder at the boldness of the thought. But I will admit that the ancient philosophers, by their writing and their practice, showed that they attached no idea of criminality to suicide; and will allow you all the vantage ground that this admission will give you."

“ It is the beauty of philosophy, that it frees us from the slavery of superstition. No longer the dupes of our fears, we can judge correctly because boldly.”

“ If philosophy, which I apprehend it does, mean right reasoning, it certainly has the effect you ascribe to it; for right reasoning must efface super

*“Let us give thanks to the gods, that no one can compel us to live.”

t" The Deity cannot, if he would, put himself to death ; that best of boons, which he has given to man amid the numberless ills of life.”

« VorigeDoorgaan »