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ABOUT one person, probably, in ten thousand, dies a natural death. All the rest commit suicide. There is but one mode of coming into the world; but, as Montaigne said, there are a hundred ways of getting out of it. In fact, we have almost reduced the art of selfdestruction to a science. We murder ourselves methodically; keeping the windy side of the law all the while. Our weapons are various; alcohol in all its forms; tobacco; too much or too little food; aliments that are unwholesome, adulterated, or innutritious; the breathing of impure air; the erection of our dwelling-houses in unhealthy situations; the pursuit of noxious employments; licentiousness, laziness, and luxury; over-work, over-anxiety, and overindulgence; with other contrivances for shortening life, which it would be tiring the reader's patience to enumerate.
What is the natural term of human life? Two answers are supplied to the question; the one by Scripture, and the other by science, both concurring. We find in the Book of Genesis these words:“His days”—the days of man—"shall be a hundred and twenty years." And although the posterity of Adam had so far degenerated in the course of five-and-twenty centuries, that this term had dwindled down to seventy or eighty years, as referred to in the prayer of Moses, yet the very words in which the fact is announced, cannot be taken as implying that “threescore years and ten" are the natural limit of life. Indeed, Moses himself is stated to have lived to be a hundred and twenty.
Let us next inquire what science has to say upon the subject. I believe Buffon was the first to ascertain the existence of that physiological law which determines the life of an animal to be five or six times the period of its growth. Now this ceases, in human beings, at twenty; and its cessation is marked by an important histological change, namely the junction of the bones with their epiphyses. The researches of Flourens, the eminent French physiologist, enabled him to verify the conclusions of Buffon, and warranted
him in declaring one hundred years to be—at the very lowest—the normal duration of man's life.*
Pliny has preserved for us some interesting particulars of longevity, extracted from a census taken in the time of the Emperor Vespasian. In a single district of Italy, comprising what were recently known as the Duchies of Parma and Modena, and the territory of Romagna, there were found to be 124 men who had attained the age of 100 years and upwards; namely, 54 of 100, 57 of 110, 2 of 125, 4 of 130, 4 of from 135 to 137, and 3 of 140.
Albert von Haller, one of the most distinguished physicians that Germany has produced, collected all the well authenticated instances of longevity which he could arrive at; and he found them to be as follows:Of men who lived from 100 to 110 years there were 1000 110 to 120
60 120 to 130
29 130 to 140
15 140 to 150
169 In the year 1855, some vital statistics published by the Russian Government, showed that there were, at that time, no less than 1063 persons in the empire who were upwards of 100 years old; ten of them being more than 110, while one had reached the age of 130. At the commencement of the present century, there died in the district of Polosk, on the frontiers of Livonia, an old soldier who had lived to be 168; and who had fought at the battle of Pultowa, in the
He left four“ boys” behind him, the eldest of whom was 96, and the youngest 82. Nor does it by any means follow that if we refrained from committing suicide by any one, or by several of the methods I have indicated, and if we reached the normal term of our existence, that life would be a burden to us. Many readers are no doubt familiar with the naine of Luigi Cornaro, the Venetian engineer, who, at the age of eighty-three, wrote bis “Discourses on a Temperate Life,” and died in the full possession of his faculties at ninety-nine. When he was only thirty-five, his health was so much impaired, that the medical men who attended him, only gave him two years to live. He took his own case in hand, adapted his diet
* Lorsque l'homme est parvenu à quarante ou cinquante ans, il doit savoir qu'il est à la moitié de sa vie. .. J'ai la certitude de vivre plus de cent ans.—CORNARO.
La durée de la vie peut se mesurer en quelque façon par celle du temps de l'accroissement. .. L'homme que ne meurt point de maladies vit partout quatre vingt-dix ou cent ans.- BUFFON.
Tant que les os ne sont pas réunis à leurs épiphyses, le corps grandit. Une fois les os et les épiphyses réunis, le corps ne grandit plus; et c'est vers l'époque de vingt ans que cette réunion s'opère. -FLOURENS.
and habits to the laws of nature, and became a conspicuous example of health and happiness. His own experience justified him in asserting that his mental powers became stronger and clearer in proportion as his body grew older. At pinety-one, he tells us, the whole of his senses were active, his teeth were sound, his memory unimpaired, he had no need of spectacles, his voice in singing was fresh and resonant, he worked at his desk between seven and eight hours every day, and the rest of his time was devoted to walking and recreation. Four years afterwards he wrote, “I have reached my ninety-fifth year, and I find myself healthy, jolly, and as happy as if I were only five-and-twenty.” And he thus concluded his fourth and last “ Discourse:”—“I end by declaring that as extreme old age may become so useful and agreeable to men, I should regard myself as wanting in charity if I refrained from instructing them how to prolong their days, as well as from declaring the value of that happiness, in the midst of which I will not cease to exclaim, ' Live, live long!”
A hundred or a hundred and twenty years, then, being the natural term of human life, it follows that every abbreviation of that term is our own act, is an offence against nature, or in other words against God, and is just as criminal as if we sliced our own throats with a razor, or put an end to ourselves by a pan of live charcoal, poison, a pistol, or a rope. The mind of each of us, acting in obedience to a Divine law, fashions for its dwelling-place and its instrument--"the things which are seen not being made of things which do appear”—a body, which is qualified to last for at least a century. Those who, in the plenitude of their conceit, or the profundity of their ignorance, discard the Scriptural declaration, cannot dispute the plain teachings of science in this respect. Animal life is the multiple of the period of animal growth, the factor being the figure five:-20 5 = 100. Those who die from any other cause than natural decay either commit suicide, or are murdered by their fellow-creatures. The word is not too strong. If I allow filth to stagnate in my premises, so that poisonous gases are evolved, and these are wafted away to a distance, and are inhaled by some one who is smitten down by, and succumbs to, a deadly fever, I am that person's murderer. If I sell adulterated articles of food or drink, so that I undermine the health of those who purchase and consume them, I am equally guilty of murder. If I, as the employer of a number of young people, cause them to work in a building which is too hot or too cold, and where the atmosphere is vitiated for want
of proper ventilation, so that the blood of many of them becomes contaminated, and their lungs are diseased, resulting in the early death of the sufferers, I am still a murderer-an unmerciful murderer, because the process by which I destroy life in such a case is slow; and the survivors of those who thus wither away by my act, are subjected to the protracted mental agony of witnessing the gradual fading out of existence of children, or of brothers and sisters in whom, perhaps, they had “ garnered up their hearts.” Thus it will be seen upon reflection, I think, that the law takes cognisance of an infinitesimally small number of the immense variety of murders that are being daily perpetrated all around us; and that the question, “Am I my brother's keeper,” possesses a significance for every one of us, which we are apt altogether to overlook.
Perhaps I shall be reminded, with respect to various epidemics that passages occur like these in the Holy Scriptures—"I will send the pestilence among you,” “I will smite them with the pestilence,” and others of a similar character. But, rightly considered, these are simply the enunciation of the stern, yet merciful, truth, that every infraction of a natural law entails upon the transgressor its just and appropriate penalty. There was a time when “plague, pestilence, and famine” were ignorantly regarded as supernatural visitations, and as evidences of the wrath of God. Well, in one sense, they may still be looked upon as the latter. To infinite wisdom and eternal love our perverse folly and mutual hatred cannot be otherwise than utterly abhorrent. God being perfection, His laws—which may be described as the Supreme Mind in visible operation-are necessarily perfect also. If we conform to them—as we see all the lower animals do, in a state of nature—the result is health and happi
If we transgress them, the result is disease and misery; not merely to the individual, but to the race. Not only do we introduce disorder into our own minds and bodies, but into the economy of the entire globe. Look, for example, at what our abominable selfishness has accomplished in regard to the sylvan garment of the earth. For between twenty and thirty centuries the civilised races have been engaged in demolishing the magnificent forests which formerly abounded in Europe, Asia, and America. Observation might have taught these ruthless destroyers that the timber on the mountain ranges should be replanted as fast as it is cleared, because Alpine forests are evidently the rain-gatherers, and, as such, the sources of the streams and rivers that fertilise the valleys below. But no thought for posterity arrested the work of destruction; and what is
the appalling result? Look at the Roman Empire alone. “More than one-half of its whole extent—not excluding the provinces most celebrated for the profusion and variety of their spontaneous and their cultivated products, and for the wealth and social advancement of their inhabitants-is either deserted by civilised man, and surrendered to hopeless desolation, or at least greatly reduced in both productiveness and population.” Nor is this all. Forests in high regions are the media by which the electrical conditions of the earth and the atmosphere are equalised. Hailstorms and waterspouts are of extremely rare occurrence in wooded districts, while it has been found in North America that thunderstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes are becoming increasingly frequent, and increasingly calamitous, in proportion as the forests disappear before the axe of the lumberer.
If, by the use of some depilatory, each of us were to destroy a considerable portion of the fine down which covers our bodies, and which discharges such important physical functions, the effect upon our health would be most injurious. Now, as is that down to our systems, such are the forests to the vital economy of our mother earth; and by their indiscriminate destruction we have brought upon ourselves droughts and floods, sterility and famines, tornadoes on land, and tempests on sea. To the same cause we owe the multiplication of what we call “ insect-pests.” The more devastating of these breed only in hot and arid regions. Moisture is fatal to them; and their ravages have been greatest in countries bordering upon deserts, which were formerly covered with verdure, and embossed with leafy woods. Then again, the forest is the natural home and the shelter of the small birds which feed upon such insects, and when you destroy the timber you pronounce sentence of perpetual banishment upon the husbandman's best allies, “the wingéd wardens of our farms."
Thus, then, if I have succeeded in making my meaning plain, I have shown that when we violate natural laws, those laws judge, condemn, and punish us. And so it is with the laws of health. If we transgress them, they are their own avengers. They were instituted for our happiness and welfare, and if we ignore or defy them, we pay the righteous penalty. Nature abhors disease, just as she abhors discord, disorder, disunion, dissension, disproportion, disquietude, disorganisation, and a great many other “dis”-es. They are altogether opposed to the harmony, order, continuity, symmetry, and beauty of her operations; so that when we set up disease in ourselves she immediately takes steps to destroy and remove what