[ocr errors]

the passage:

tous are his assumptions. To admit all this, we must imagine him to be possessed of fore-knowledge. How knows he that he is a buriben to socie. ty? How is he sure that his successor would be more useful ? How knows he even that he would not be less so? But I am tired of combating shadows. Your justification of suicide must be founded on stronger reasonings than he has produced."?

“I own you have staggered what I deemed my best-grounded opinions. But there are one or two points on which a doubt still hangs. Let us read a little further, and you will find he alludes to the case of a malefactor who saves himself from a painful death by anticipating the executioner. Here is

A man is engaged in a conspiracy for the public interest; is seized upon suspicion; is threatened with the rack, and knows from his own weakness that the secret will be extorted from him : could such a one consult the public interest better than by putting a quick period to a miserable life? This was the case of the brave Strozzi, of Florence. Again, suppose a malefactor is condemned to a shameful death; can any reason be imagined, why he may not anticipate his punishment, and save himself the anguish of thinking on its dreadful approach ? He invades the business of Providence no more than the magistrate did, who ordered his execution; and his voluntary death is equally advantageous to society by ridding it of a pernicious member.' These are certainly strong cases."

6 Let us examine them. You see that here, too, he presupposes

each of these individuals to possess a certain fore-knowledge of the fate that actually awaits him. But this is impossible. He may know what may probably, but not what will inevitably happen. Many instances might be quoted,

where circumstances have interposed to save the victim. But admitting this to be, what in the majority of instances it must prove-a hopeless chance, still I would ask, whether, seeing that death is but the door to another and eternal state of existence, it be wise to hazard the Divine displeasure by becoming one's own murderer, for the sake of saving even many pangs? His latter case of the vicious malefactor, instead of being a stronger argument, is a weaker one; for it is in exact proportion to the moral guilt already incurred, that the hesitation should be greater. He who has sinned much can less afford to sin more.But in this instance, as, indeed, in all the others, the main spring of the argument is founded on a disbelief of the immortality of the soul. Present advantage and security from present evil, are all he aims at. He thinks nothing of the awful unknown world into which the unhappy being plunges himself. And this sort of reasoning is in exact keeping with that daring as. sertion of his, that all events are the actions of the Deity,' thus levelling the distinctions between vice and virtue, and imputing our very crimes to the Author of our being. Believe me, my friend, the man who would divest suicide of its criminality, is no benefactor to his species ;—the dissemination of such opinions inflicts an injury on society; for remember, it is one of those deeds which cannot be recalled. We cannot recede; we cannot, after having discovered our error, repair it :—there is no retreating ;the deed is done, and the consequences must be abided by. The very mystery as to the nature of these consequences should make us * tremble. We may speculate as long as we please as to the moral fitness of the action, but it is beyond the precincts of the grave alone that we shall know whether our judgment has been correct. And be assured, too, that placed as we are under the eye of a merciful Providence, there is no circumstance, however apparently hopeless, that his mercy has not provided for, without the necessity of our flying to this, at least doubtful, and certainly desperate, remedy. Sickness may be succeeded by health, or ended by death in a natural way; friends lost today may be supplied by new ones to-morrow; poverty may be succeeded by prosperity; the hope of pardon and the resolution of amendment should banish even the despair of the guilty ;-in brief, there is no case, however desperate, that our merciful Creator was not provided with a remedy.-Have I convinced you now ?”

“You have, indeed,” replied Clifford, and be rose to depart.

“ Farewell then," I exclaimed, “till we meet again ; and may our wretched friend, whose mournful fate has given rise to this discussion, experience that mercy for his rash deed, of which we all have need. May we be guarded from so awful a temptation, and cheerfully meet the vicissitudes of our existence by a firm reliance on the boundless goodness of our all-wise and beneficent Creator!"



In Judea, that land of palms and vines, where Nature wore her richest dress, where the ful lily, and the rose were the weeds of the fields, lived Zabad and Rebekah; they were vinekeepers, and over their cottage the purple grape clustered, half excluding the light from their latLiced windows; a lovely lane, sheltered by the broad-leaved palm, led to it, and their vineyard covered one side of a sunny hill.

Here they had spent years of union and of mutual labour, where each contributed to the toil, and together shared the abundant blessing of their gushing harvest. Themselves, with one gay laughing child, formed the whole of their family-a boy of three years old, beautiful was his rosy

cheek and his large dark eye, filled with soft fire, and the black hair, which in his meriment he shook over his forehead-and dearly was he loved by both his parents; they were themselves worshippers of Jehovah, and they trained their child to worship him too; and when he knelt to offer his simple morning and evening prayer, with his little hands folded and his eyes cast down, he appeared scarcely like a being tainted with the sin of this world.

It was at that period when the policy of Jeroboam interfered to draw the people of Israel from the worship at Jerusalem, fearing that they would return to their allegiance to the house of David, and when in consequence, he introduced the idle gods of the surrounding nations with all their folly, and impunity, and cruelty.

In the course of his traffic, Zabad had met with some of those who had most readily left the worship of Jehovah for that of the idols which the king had introduced; they never forgot to banter him upon his retaining the old religion; they laughed at the Sabbath he kept, while they worked or traded and made a profitable gain; they pointed out what they called the gloomy moroseness of his' religion, while theirs was all merriment and sport, till, in an evil hour, he agreed to attend a midnight festival, which was held beneath the soft full light of a summer moon, in honour of one of their impure deities; here all seemed enchantment to Zabad—the intoxicating draught, the midnight dance, the festive rites, conspired to bewilder and to drown his reason; and he attended the repetition on the second and on the third nights. When the festival had ended he returned to his home; but how tasteless did it seem, and how changed was he: no longer that sweet serenity and complacency which was reflected from him in the faces of his wife and of his child; he felt and seemed dissatisfied and unhappy, and a settled gloom was upon him. Often did Rebekah endeavour to discover the reason; but he always cut short her inquiry by a reply which forbad her to prosecute it. His absence was not extraordinary in his business, and she little knew where it had been spent. When the Sabbath returned he was about to proceed to his labour, but he looked at his wife and his affection de. terred him. “Well,” said he, within himself, “whatever I may think, it will give her pain, and I have been already too unkind.” He sat down beneath the spreading Kikayon, he took his child

upon his knee, and his wife seated herself beside him-light seemed poured into her heart as he conversed with her cheerfully as he used to do, and she turned aside her eyes to wipe from them the tears of joy and thanksgiving.

He could not but compare his feelings then with those at the most joyous time of his impious delirium, and he thought, this is happiness although that may be pleasure-this has no

« VorigeDoorgaan »