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Protector of the world, who proportions the internal restraints of conscience, to the iniquity that needs to be restrained, and to the amount of evil that would flow from it, if unrestrained-and who, seeming to leave the life of every individual at the mercy of every arm, has secured for it a defence, in the very bosom of him whose hand was already almost raised to give the blow*.”
The actions in which this crime is involved doubtless participate of its guilt. Of this description are all those actions in which there is shewn a criminal disregard to human life, even though the direct object should not be to take it away. To form or to connive at plans for the death of others, or even to wish it, renders us liable to the charge of this most heinous crime. The indulgence of the evil passions that lead to it, as the divine law teaches us, such as unreasonable anger, envy and hatred, are evils of the same nature. “ Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment : But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council ; but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” He that hateth his brother is a murderer. By unkindness, ingratitude, faithlessness, improper restraints and severity, and by oppression, may we participate in the guilt of that greatest of crimes, the shortening of the lives of others.
* Brown s Lectures, vol, iv. p. 191.
Duellers, unquestionably, are chargeable with this guilt. Their design is to gratify mortified pride by unwarrantably, and in express contradiction to the divine command, taking away life. It has the additional aggravation of being committed deliberately, under the influence of revengeful and implacable feelings, and without those excuses which the murderer in many cases can offer in extenuation. He perpetrates the deed, perhaps, under the agitation of extreme passion ; but the duellist coolly aims at the life of a fellow-creature, and exposes his own. To avoid the imputation of cowardice, does he thus shew himself to be a very coward, by not daring to bear, what many christian martyrs have borne before him, the scorn and reproach of the world, and by deserting the post, the friends, the duties, which God has assigned him. In general, too, the persons who are chargeable with this crime are educated, have the means of being acquainted with the atrocious enormity of murder in every case, and of knowing that in them it is most deeply aggravated, inasmuch as they aim at taking away life contrary to the feelings of humanity, to the unbiassed voice of reason and of conscience, to the requirements of law, and to the command of the Eternal God.
In short, in whatever light the crime of duelling is viewed, whether as a deliberate violation of the law of God, an offence against our fellow-creature, and as most pernicious in its tendency and consequences, it must b pronounced a foul and atrocious murder. And what is the express injunction of God regarding the person chargeable with this iniquity? “Ye shall
take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall surely be put to death. Ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are; for blood, it defileth the land; and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it."
THE DUTY OF AVOIDING WHATEVER HAS A DIRECT TENDENCY
TO ABRIDGE HUMAN LIFE-DRUNKENNESS.
The duty of abstaining from injuring the person or life of our fellow-creatures extends to all the means that have a direct tendency to abridge human existence. One of these is drunkenness,--a crime, the guilt of which may be estimated by the evils immediate and remote which it produces. This habit, like all other habits, is formed gradually, and advances from occasional acts of inebriety to frequent and regular intoxication. The circumstances which lead to its formation, or rather which present ever-recurring inducements to its formation, are obvious,—such as example, unrestrained access to strong drink, evil company, and, in some cases, depression of spirits, from which relief is sought in a stimulant, the frequent use of which aggravates the malady. When the mind loses its usual tone and energy by unexpected calamities, by the loss of reputation, of friends, or of property ; by disappointment in favourite pursuits, how often is there recourse to strong drink, as affording a temporary remedy!
The evil and odiousness of this sin appear by the thorough degradation of the man who is subject to it. For the time, the faculties which distinguish him from the inferior animals are merged beneath the nature of the brute; and divested of reason and conscience, he is unfitted for the discharge of any one of the functions of an intellectual, a moral, and an immortal being. In this debased condition, without understanding, with excited passions, what deeds of atrocity is he not capable of committing! What may he not suffer self in his person, exposed to the most extreme danger, in which life is often lost! What loss may he not sustain in his property, from those who are ever ready to seize upon their fellow-creatures as their prey! How wasteful to his property is the indulgence of that habit which he has formed? How ruinous and disgraceful to himself, his connexions, and dependants! Is he a parent? How melancholy is the spectacle which his children are doomed to witness in the person of that being whom nature teaches them to venerate! Is he a son, the object of parental fondness, the person who was looked to as the stay and the hope of his family? What disappointment and suffering does he inflict on those whom he should feel anxious to preserve from pain, and whom he is bound to cherish and to honour! Deserted by friends, ejected from situations of trust, with the loss of reputation, the waste of property, he is rapidly advancing to poverty, disease, and death.
How great is the guilt with which the drunkard is chargeable in the misimprovement of his talents, the loss of his usefulness, and the wide and lasting misery which in many cases he brings on himself and his family. Though he should not succeed in making the
other members of it drunkards like himself, he squanders the property which would furnish them with comfort and respectability,—and the tendency of his example is to make his children irreligious and immoral. He withholds from them instruction, and government, and encouragement; and he himself leads the way to the chambers of hell. His career is usually terminated by self-destruction, or violent death ; while his soul, has long been hardened in sin, and its condition rendered hopeless. Of all the melancholy examples of the woful consequences of evil habits long indulged, to be found in the history of mankind, I know not one more truly deplorable, more burdened with guilt, more hardened beyond the efficacy of means, and more apparently given up to reprobation, than the confirmed drunkard.
What are the means of avoiding, or of being delivered from this awful vice! We must be on our guard against the causes that naturally lead to it. It has been remarked that when the habit of drunkenness is formed it is of all evil habits the most difficult to be broken. In this case, entire abstinence, or entire and eternal ruin is the only alternative. The companions, the example that lead to it, and if possible, the very place on which the habit has been formed, should be forsaken.
The evil that drunkenness is producing over the world, and in our own land, is incalculable. It is impairing the health, wasting the property, and excluding from education and knowledge thousands of mankind. It is rendering idle and profligate those on whose industry and economy families are depend.