Page images

What ingratitude is this to do mischief and dishonour to those


love? These considerations have hitherto had their weight with heathens; and shall christians break through all considerations of their own honour, interest, and duty, and not be content to live, till they can die without doing wrong or mischief to their friends? A true christian be lieves, that the wrath of God is revealed against all unrighteousness; that, without repentance, sins cannot be forgiven; and that after death there is no repentance. That such a man as this, professing the faith of Christ crucified, and covenanting with God in baptism to take up the cross, and bear it, if need be, to death, should in the impatience of his soul, pressed by some calamity, deliberately choose to throw his burden off, by committing a sin of which he knows he never can repent, and venture the dreadful consequence to everlasting ages; is what nobody could ever reason themselves into the belief of, if the frequent practice of unhappy people did not convince us it may


perpetrated. Therefore it may be a useful caution to have our minds prepared, and affections subdued; that we may not be destitute of succour from reason, or give ourselves up to the guidance of present passion.

This is the lot of those who fall into the desperate resolutions we are treating of: their passions are highly indulged and yielded to; so that, when grievous accidents befall 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 themselves to despair of God's help and mercy. They place their whole happiness in possessing riches, enjoying honours, and in the praise of men; and when riches take 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 courtships and respects that were wont to be paid, not to their persons, but to their

and interest. So when they sink in their reputation, they are dejected to the lowest ebb; are afraid that every eye views them with contempt, and that every tongue is reproaching them. But


Can this be a sufficient plea for self-murder? No; the miseries men endure will end in death at last, which may come quickly; and the sins that brought them to that misery will be forgiven upon repentance, be they ever so great and many: but the course they pitch upon to relieve themselves is a sin that admits of no repentance, and consigns them to eternal pains and sorrows, the punishment of murder in general; for they expose themselves in a particular manner to the greater condemnation, by some particular sentiments and dispositions, which are commonly the root and foundation of this unnatural sin. And it is the same thing whether we consume ourselves by a slow lingering poison, or dispatch ourselves by an immediate death: we are equally guilty of self-murder

, whether we knowingly wear away the springs of life gradually, which is the case, when we abandon ourselves to wasting grief; or we cut at once the thread of it violently asunder. Do not those men, who destroy themselves to avoid present sufferings, resolve that God should not dispose of them as he pleaseth; but that they will wrest their lives out of his hands, and not suffer 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 should execute the fiercest of his vengeance upon their disobedience? If pride, and envy, and ambition have so much power over their minds, that they will violently remove themselves out of the world, because they are not advanced to a more advantageous situation in it; what can they reasonably expect or imagine, but that they should feel Šolomon's observation in the most extensive sense of it, that pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall? And what foundation can there be of hope, that God will forgive a flagrant sin, without the sinner's repentance for the same? Or is it to be conceived that a man should repent of a sin in the commission of which he ends his life? These are some of the many reasons against self-murder. Yet,

When men come into these perilous hours, they are generally deaf to all reason, and listen only to the suggestions

of their passions; and if they be not prepared beforehand to withstand such assault, they seldom do it when the danger approaches. Wherefore, it is more in men's

power to be innocent, and out of difficulties and straits, than, being involved, to deliver themselves from the distracted counsels and suggestions of their despairing minds; although they be such as all men would have startled at and abhorred, when free of such distractions; and I must add, a man overwhelmed with misery is not inclined to ask, or capable of taking counsel when offered. Therefore, how much safer is it to secure men from such principles as occasion these perplexing thoughts, than retrieve them from the power and influence of them? Let them consider that God is the best of beings; and that a being absolutely and necessarily good can never intend any thing unmerciful or cruel: for it is observable, that few attempts of this kind are made, till religion is mastered, and its impressions effaced; or men are so misguided as to think these mischiefs

may be done, and religion be safe. But Those unhappy people, who lie under the dreadful apprehension of God's anger, accounting themselves vessels of wrath, and fitted for destruction, and not being able to live under the torment of that thought, to put an end to their miserable lives, are most to be pitied while alive, and when dead; since nothing can look so like distraction, as that distemperature of brain which makes them act so strangely. With such I would thus expostulate: If they are vessels of wrath, is this the way to ease them? If they believe themselves consigned to misery in the other world, what do they get by throwing themselves into a place of torment before the time appointed? This is to die for fear of death; and indeed a great deal more disasterous. And


let me conclude with a word of advice to condemned criminals, who sometimes attempt to prevent

their legal punishment by dispatching themselves.

Do they think that they save themselves the shame of dying publicly? Vain imagination! What can these wretches propose by falling into the hands of the living God sooner than they need to do, if they lived as long as God would


let them live? but what can more resemble madness, than to believe that Christ died for such as repent and believe the gospel; and yet to distrust he died for me, who am so sorry

for my sins, 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 should rise against me? Let them who can say this is not repenting and believing, say what is so; and yet this is the case of many unhappy souls. And what can be liker to distraction, than to believe and repent, to sorrow and amend; and yet conclude ourselves vessels of wrath under God's vengeance?

VI. I have already shown how far, and by what means, any one injures his neighbour in his soul and body: now, in the next place, I shall declare in what manner a man may be wronged in his possessions; of which his wife may properly be said to be the chief: and therefore I shall proceed to show the heinousness of a breach of the seventh COMMANDMENT, where it is said, Thou shalt not commit adultery. Because

This act of injustice of enticing a man's wife from her husband's bed is doing wrong not only to the man, but to his wife also; forasmuch as she is thereby robbed of her innocency, and deluded into the high road of eternal perdition, by bringing her into the guilt of both lust and perjury; and, not to mention the discredit which such a blemish throws upon her character, it most certainly chills her proper

affections toward her own husband, and that seldom fails to end in loathings, disgusts, and a multitude of other evils, which of all others make the marriage state the most miserable. And,

What greater injustice can be done to the husband, than to rob him of the love and faithfulness which is due to him from the wife of his bosom, and overw belming him (if it be found out) with the most anxious pains of jealousy? Besides, the world is so unjust, as even to add to his sorrow, by reproaching the injured man with scorn and contempt, only because he is injured. And it cannot be called

less than theft and robbery, should the injured husband be burdened with the providing for a spurious offspring of his wife's adulterous practices; for such a child would take from the legitimate: and therefore it cannot ever be satisfied without a restoration to the defrauded family of as much as such a provision has taken from it. And here it would be proper to remark, that, under the Jewish law, the adulterers were to be stoned to death; because it is presumed, that no man can ever make a sufficient satisfaction for so great an injury to the soul and body of his neighbour. Other ill consequences of this vice are, that it propagates sickness and infirmities, both upon men themselves and their posterities; that it is destructive of human society, and of the public welfare; that it separates the nearest relations; lays the ground of inextricable confusions, and implacable dissensions in families; and oftentimes occasions public contentions, murders, and seditions; so that hardly from any other cause have issued greater and more tragical events. And this should warn those, who continue now in this crime, that they repent: for though the Jewish law is abrogated, yet God's justice is still the same; his knowledge penetrates the most secret parts, and he will call men into judgment, and punish them with death eternal for unrepented adulteries, which must be lamented with a whole life of penitential exercises.

Secondly, we must not injure our neighbour in his goods ; that is to say, in none of his possessions, whether houses, land, money, cattle, or any thing that is his


and right; by endeavouring to hurt or damage, or to defraud, or in any wise get any of them for our own use; which includes both malice and covetousness.

The malice of this injustice appears, where no interest or profit. can follow to the person who takes pleasure to hurt, damage, or destroy the goods of a neighbour whom he hates: an action, which most nearly resembles the continual practice of the devil, to undo others without doing himself any good; but much exceeding him in wickedness, forasmuch as he only envies creatures of another na

« PreviousContinue »