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BISHOP HORNE'S LETTERS ON INFIDELITY.
Letter VII. . 1 ET us consider, in the last place, whether suicide be not a breach of
that duty we owe to ourselves. On this head Mr. H. is short, and therefore we need not be long.
The argument lies in a narrow compass. Man is subject to misery, and suicide is the way to escape it. .
P. 20. “ That suicide may often be consistent with interest, and with our duty to ourselves, no one can question, who allows, that age, fickness, or misfortune, may render life a burthen, and make it worse even than annihilation."
That they “ make it worse than annihilation," is not the general opinion, because, however afflicted, few seemed disposed to chuse annihilation, (if they thought they could obtain it) in preference. That the calamities of human life are many and great, there is neither room nor occafion to dispute. They have employed the pens of poets, orators, and historians, from age to age. They are frequently, without doubt, "a burthen.” But the burthen has often been borne ; and what has been done, may be done again. It is laid upon us by our fins, and is no more than we deserve; therefore it ought to be borne patiently. It will last but for a little while; therefore it should be borne cheerfully. Through the mercies of a Saviour, it will terminate in everlasting felicity; and therefore it ihould be borne joyfully. This is the ground upon which we stand. These are the principles by which we abide. Admit them, they solve every difficulty, and disperse every cloud. Through the valley of the shadow of death they open a fair and lovely prospect, extending far and wide beyond it. ' At their presence, forrow brightens into joy, light arises in darkness, and the mass of human wretchedness melts away before it, like the morning mist upon the mountains. If the philosophers possess any principles that are better, and better founded, let them be communican €; if not, let them embrace there with us, and not be faithless, but .
eving.–Whoever they may be of them that read this, Almost, I think, cy are, at the moment, persuaded to be Christians :-would to God that
to one who reads it, might become not only almost, but altogether fuch!
on the other hand, unhappily seduced by the subtlety and sophistry
H. men determine to adopt what he calls his philosophy, that is, luqoubt concerning the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the %, and a future state of rewards and punishments; whether there be
ovidence, concerning itself with human affairs ; and whether the
if imitated, would preserve to every one his chance for happiness
dilpensation as it was to the heathens.” If this be the case, we above 3 his pardon for having supposed that Christianity was glanced at
The Superfiition which kept men in bondage, and prevented thena 111. Churchm. Mag. Sept. 1802.
in life, and would
But according to. letter in the Pojtfcrip H. afferts, and end Christian dispeníay must beg his pard above, as the supersta
from taking this short method to escape the evils of life. The Gospel, it seems, allows of suicide. It must be the Gospel, not according to St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, or St. John, but according to Mr. H. I know of no single text that will prove the point, though I once heard of a gentleman who did effectually prove it by two texts judiciously laid together-" “ Judas departed, and went, and hanged himself"_' Go, and do thou likewise.”
But though there be no text which enjoins it (as, considering the importance of the subject, might have been expected) Mr. H. is clear is there is not a single text which prohibits it." " That great and infallible rule of faith and practice," continues he very gravely, “ which must controul all philosophy and human reasoning, has left us in this particular to our natural liberty.”.
• The “ liberty” of destroying himself cannot be thought very natural” by any one believing in a God who placed him here, and placed him here with some view and defign. Much less can a Christian, while he continues in his senses, imagine himself left at this liberty by the Gospel ; since above all things it enjoins and exhorts him, after the example of his Saviour, to suffer in patience, that he may reign in glory. Every precept of this sort is a virtual prohibition of suicide, which argues the last degree
of impatience. . “ Resignation to Providence is indeed recommended in Scripture ; but
that implies only submission to ills that are unavoidable, not to such as may be reniedied by prudence or courage."
“ Prudence and courage” are both excellent things : they are two of the cardinal virtues. But that suicide is a display of them, is a proposition hitherto unknown to Reason, Law, and Golpel. There could be nu occafion to preach patience under sufferings if it were fo, because then no man could be under a necessity of suffering. He might avoid it, at a moment's warning, by the knife or the halter. There could be no such things as “ unavoidable ills ;' and the Gospel precepts would be almost as absurd as Mr. H-'s Note.
“ Thou shalt not kill, is evidently meant to exclude only the killing of others, over whose life we have no authority-Magistrates punish criminals capitally, notwithstanding the letter of the law.”
Magistrates have authority over the lives of others; but have we authority over our own, to put an end to them when we please ? Surely not, and therefore suicide is justly accounted and treated by our laws as one fpecies of murder, forbidden by the commandment.
“ But were this commandment ever so express against suicide, it would now have no authority; for all the law of Moses is abolished except so far as it is established by the law of pature. And we have already endeavoured to prove, that suicide is not prohibited by that law.”
This is modeli-" We have endeavoured to prove." But the endeavour, it is humbly apprehended, has been in vain, and ever will be so while there shall be piety enough left on earth to acknowledge God as the lord of life and death; for so long men will judge it their duty to adore his power, and wait his pleasure. A trifling alteration in our religious fervices might perhaps answer Mr. H-'s purpose, without the abolition of
apy part. Let that little particle not be expunged from the Command, ments, and inserted in the Creed.
" In all cases Christians and Heathens are upon the fame footing"'
They very soon will be so, when Mr. H-'s philosophy shall once become the established religion.
“ Cato and Brutus, Arria and Portia acted heroically; those who now imitate their example ought to receive the same praises from posterity.”
Christianity inculcates a far nobler heroism. It teaches us, when we are engaged in a good cause, to die for it like men, but not by our own hands; to “ endure the cross, despising the shame." Cato had not patience to do the one, and Brutus was too proud to do the other. That fortitude is not compleat, which cannot do both. But surely, Cato might have lived, though Cæfar conquered ; and Brutus have left the world with a quiet conscience, though he had forborn to stab the Dictator, or himself. Of the Roman ladies nil nis bonum-But there have been martyrs of that sex among us Christians, who could have thewn to them likewise, “ a more excellent way." There cannot be a finer or more just representation of this matter than that given by Mrs. Chapone in the story of FIDELIA, first published in the Adventurer, No. 77, &c. and afterwards reprinted in a little volume, entitled, Miscellanies in prose and verse. Every female, who, on account of her crimos, her miseries, or both, may be tempted to put a period to her life, should read that story. She may read it again and again, with increasing pleasure and improvement. Nor let me omit this opportunity of recommending to general perufal a charming Ode, publithed among the Poems of Mr. Warton, styled The SUICIDE, in which the best of poetry is applied to the best of purposes.
“ The power of committing suicide is regarded by Pliny as an advantage which men possess even above the Deity himself."
Shame upon Pliny for uttering such a sentiment! But more shame upon Mr. H. for retailing it in a Christian country! The thought is equally blafphemous and absurd. Blafphemous, in exalting man above the Deity, on so wretched an account; absurd, because as God is liable to no calamities, he cannot need the means to escape theme
TO THE EDITORS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCHMAN'S MAGAZINE.
GENTLEMEN, VOU indulged me with inserting a letter some time ago on the subject
1 of a Sunday School for the Chimney Sweepers, which I was in hopes would have been noticed by some of your worthy clerical correspondents ; and I yet flatter myself it will be taken up at fome future period. :
Will you permit me now to express a wish that the excellent Bishop of London's Lectures might be printed in a cheaper manner, on inferior paper, and somewhat abridged, that they might be purchased by the mechanic, or those in the lower class, as well as the fuperior orders. They would be an excellent antidote to the poisonous publications set on foot by the enemies of religion. They contain the substance of many voluminous commentaries, which it is not pofsible for them to procure or peruse. When a former worthy prelate filled the fee of London, (Bishop Sherlock) his admirable Pastoral Letter after the earthquake was printed on coarser paper, that it might be circulated among the poor. Two respectable ftationers, Messrs. Vertue and Goadby, petitioned the Bishop for permiflion to print it in an inferior manner. I think there was a subscription set on foot to defray the charges over what the purchase money arose to : in this case I thould suppose the very extensive fale would repay it, as numbers
would be eager to possess a copy at a moderate rate; no Diocesan being more generally beloved by his flock, or more generally known, having laboured all his life for the good of those fouls under his care. I would not with him any additional or unnecessary trouble, only a little of his judicious advice to the editor, (in case such a plan was to be carried into execution,) what might be retrenched to bring it into a smaller compass : for the unlearned reader, several of the notes might be wholly omitted without any material loss to those who cannot be supposed to understand them.
And now I am on the subject of books, give me leave to point out to the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, that their bibles are incorrectly printed, to the disgrace of all who have any hand in their publication, when purchased for charity children, (which I believe they generally are,) or indeed for any other poor children, there arises a serious mischief from the frequent mistakes : such children are too much in the habit of reading carelessly; and I fear their masters and mistrefies do not always attend so diligently as could be wished to hearing them read corre@ly, leaving that important branch to the bigger ones, or hearing several at one time, so that when it is said they are able to read a chapter, they can scarcely make sense of it. I know this to be the case in several schools which I have had an opportunity of obterving. This evil might be obviated in a great measure by the subscribers, or those, who in a more especial manner manage the affairs of such schools, examining what proficiency each child makes, which I believe is better looked into by our Diffenting Brethren in their seminaries, though I know it is practised in some of our own. Indeed I heartily concur with your Correspondent, Theodofius, in withing catechizing would become general : the benefits may be incalculable,--the instru&ion of the children is obvious; it will make all masters and mistrefies of 1chools, as well as probably the parents, attend to their children, and give them the habit of learning by heart, and reciting correctly, which would be an advantage exclusive of the religious instruction : the Clergy would have an opportunity of instilling much advice, which children could not attend to, or understand in a fermon.Milk (St. Paul says) is for babes, meat for those of full age.” It would beget a reverential love in the children to their pastor ; and he would know what parents took most pains with their young ones, and kept them decent and clean. I have with pleasure heard the London Curate make observations of this fort. What I wish for is a grineral catechiziog, not confined to the charity children alone, though that is good. Where there are little rewards, such as a handtome bible for the best, a common one, or a prayer book, for the next in degree, as at St. Bride's and Whitechapel, is an excellent plan, inciting the parents, as well as the children, to emulation. I believe catechizing the charity children in Lent is universal in all our London Churches : at Illington and Stoke Newington, I understand a section of Lewis's Exposition of the Catechism is gone through every Sunday afternoon : at Stepney a general catechizing is held every first Wedneiday in the month; and I am told the highest people in the parish send their sons and daughters, a truly laudable example; and the communion table from whence it is aiked, is encircled five rows deep.
Your's, Sept. 1, 1802.
TO THE EDITORS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCHMAN'S MAGAZINE.
Gentlemen, J ONCE supposed that there was a law obliging Clergymen to marry at no 1 time except between the hours of eight and ten ; but seeing it not an unfrequent practice in this county to marry at every hour in the day, and even by candle-light, I took the trouble of looking into the act, and certainly there is no time fixed for the performance of the ceremony. As, however, the circumstance I allude to, has excited much surprize among the Orthodox; and the supporters of our church have expreised much alarm, left this appearance of indifference should affect its real interest, I have written to you, to request an answer from some of your correspondents on a subject, which I conceive to be a momentous one.
I am most faithfully your's, Cambridge, Aug. 24, 1802.
TO THE EDITORS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCHMAN'S MAGAZINE,
GentLEMEN, THE sentence in the Memoir of Dr. Mayo, that the proper Presbyte
rian, who differs from our Church only in matters of discipline, Dr. Mayo knew how to value justly, I called obnoxious, because to me it appeared to imply, that a proper Presbyterian differs from the Church of England only in matters of discipline ; and that Episcopacy, as a matter of discipline, is of inferior consideration and importance.
On the last of these points, it seems, I had mistaken the meaning of the writer of the Memoir ; for he says in your Number for June now before me, that he deems Episcopacy a fine quá non, that is, a thing absolutely necessary, in any Church, and what gives validity to the administration of the sacrament in the Church of England. These are fcriptural and primitive sentiments; as such I avow them to be my sentiments: the writer of the Mernoir, at the same time, agrees with me, that the Kirk is Calvinistic in her form of government. Indeed, she not only wants Episcopacy, which is absolutely necessary in any Church, and what gives validity to the administration of the sacrament: but, in the solemn league and covenant, she has pronounced it, under the contemptuous name of Prelacy, contrary to found do&rine and the power of godliness ; and has declared, that she will endeavour the extirpation of it, left the partake of other men's fins, and thereby be in danger to receive their plagues ! Considering this false assertion and wicked purpose, well indeed might a London Curate say, that he cannot communicate with the Kirk.
With regard to the other point, that a proper Presbyterian differs from the Church of England only in matters of discipline, the writer of the Memoir asserts, that the question about Episcopacy and Presbyterianism is the only material difference between the Church of England and the Kirk of Scotland ; and, consequently, that I have imputed to a proper Presbyterian what he does not believe, and can, therefore, make no part of his character. To this I reply as follows:
The original Presbyterians, both in England and in Scotland, were certainly what is called Calvinistic in their doctrines. That the Confession of Faith contains these doctrines of theirs, has, as far as I know, been generally supposed from the moment it was published. That it does contain them, is the common opinion in Scotland at present—the Ministers