SUICIDE AND THE SAINT
Scanned and edited from the writings of A.W. Pink by Michael Jeshurun
“And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped Him, And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, Thou Son of the most high God? I adjure Thee by God, that Thou torment me not. For He said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.” [Mark 5:2-8]
That the man, above recorded, was not only a demoniac, or man possessed with demons, but also a maniac, or mad-man, is evident from the text of v. 15, in which it is said, the people saw him “sitting, and clothed and in his RIGHT MIND.” And it is very evident that the expression in his right mind” can have no reference to the work of the Holy Spirit in him as a sanctified soul, although it may be so spiritualized; for of this secret and Divine work, the common people or unconverted Gadarenes could be no judges, nor could it be cognizible to their senses; but the plain and obvious meaning of the text is this: that the man was restored to the use of his natural faculties, that his mind was both sound and intelligent.
In the passage above cited, the Church of Christ is presented with one of the most remarkable cases in the Book of God, of the preservation of a soul under great tribulation, from the act of self-destruction; of the miraculous deliverance of a child of God, under derangement of mind, from the dreadful crime of SUICIDE. In this affecting narrative, the Christian world is presented with an extraordinary display of the preservation of one of God’s elect (a lunatic) from the commission of suicide, though continually incited to the same, by a host or legion of devils! Of a man in whom the words of the apostle were most truly exemplified, PRESERVED IN CHRIST JESUS, and (then) called ” (Jude 1). And, my brethren, if the soul of the “elect” be thus wondrously preserved in Christ Jesus BEFORE calling, or before the spiritual and saving manifestation of Christ to the soul, how much rather when that soul is sensibly and savingly sanctified by the Presence and Indwelling of God? “Know ye not (says the apostle to the Church at Corinth) that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.
Think for a moment, my Christian friends, of the deplorable state and condition of this poor Maniac, and yet (O amazing truth) a vessel of God’s boundless and eternal mercy. Behold a man, whom no man could tame; fierce and ramping as a lion; a man isolated from his fellow-men, mad, forsaken, desolate; a miserable and terrific outcast; a man, literally full of Devils! Look to his habitation, among the corpses of the dead; and mark, this was not an occasional retreat, but his very dwelling-place; “who had his dwelling among the tombs.” Look too at the state of his body; naked, bleeding, and wounded: to the state of his mind- “crying continually”; driven about with a tempest, sometimes furiously rushing upon the mountains; at others, prowling and weeping among the tombs.
Poor man! And hadst thou no friend to pity thee, none to speak peace to thy bleeding soul? Alas, who dared approach? For he was full of devils (it is worthy to note that no sooner were these spirits permitted to enter the swine, than they led them to instant destruction!) spirits of the damned bent on destruction, and were urging their victim continually to the commission of SUICIDE, “by cutting himself with stones.”
Poor man! And hadst thou no eye to pity thee? Blessed be God! The eternal Jehovah was thy refuge; His everlasting arms were underneath; and therefore the gates of hell could not prevail. “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plague: O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from Mine eyes.” O the safety of the soul that is wrapped up in the “bundle of life,” and embosomed in the heart of God! Many waters cannot quench the flame of heavenly love, nor can the floods of hell extinguish it. Such an one may be persecuted of devils, but he shall not be forsaken; cast down of hell, but not destroyed. Sooner or later the sweet music of this precious promise shall ring in his ears, and bring peace and consolation to his afflicted soul: “Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.”
O, my Christian brethren, could we have stood upon an elevation and beheld the ravings of this poor Maniac, how affecting had been the sight, how afflictive the contemplation! Now, prowling like a wolf among the dwellings of the dead; then, furiously rushing up and down the mountains, crying, weeping, bleeding. Why does he not plunge from off the mountain’s brow and end his wild career? The arm of Omnipotence restrains him. Why not bleed to death of his wounds? An unseen hand binds them up. But how can mortality sustain such a conflict? The arms of God are underneath; and “Mercy (in Christ) embraceth him on every side.” Nature exhausted, he sinks upon the ground and falls insensibly to sleep. The rains drench his skin, the winds blow, (he hears them not), the tempest rages, and now the rays of the sun dart upon his defenceless head; and yet, he still survives! A spark of heavenly, unextinguishable flame, tossed upon the rude ocean of turbulent and tormenting devils!
Poor and afflicted Child of Mercy! And wherefore thus grievously afflicted and tormented? That in the inscrutable decrees of Jehovah, he might become a Barnabas, a son of CONSOLATION! A pastor after God’s own heart, a feeder of the flock of Christ: “and he departed and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.” A Preacher, not like many of the day who thrust themselves into the Ministry, the leprosy of whose presumption is stamped of God upon their foreheads, but a Minister of the Sanctuary, chosen of the Father, ordained of the Spirit, and sent forth of the Son, to testify of the remorseless tyranny of Satan, the helplessness and wretchedness of man, and the abundant and exceeding riches of the sovereign grace of God; a man of deep and heartfelt experience; a guide to the blind, and a champion for the truth; a preacher inspired of the Spirit, entrusted and empowered of God. But, poor afflicted Child of Mercy! wherefore wast thou thus grievously tried and tormented ? That the power, grace, and glory of God may be transcendently manifest: that in the ages to come, the Church might behold (in this poor Maniac) a bright and living Epistle of the preservation of ALL God’s blood-bought Family FROM THE APPALLING CRIME OF SUICIDE.
O, my Brethren, how full of sweet and heavenly consolation is the deliverance of this Demoniac to all the distressed and persecuted people of God! Behold a man without human control, without the restraint of human reason, and carried away by Devils as a flood, and yet PRESERVED FROM SUICIDE. Can a stronger case be possibly conceived, or can its parallel be found ?
Poor and afflicted child of God, hast THOU a Legion of Devils in thy soul? THOU SHALT NEVER COMMIT SUICIDE!
Art thou driven as with a tempest night and day; Thou no house, no home? Thou shalt never commit suicide. Art thou deprived of reason, and is thy body naked, bleeding, wounded? Thou shalt never commit suicide; for the Spirit of the Lord shall go forth with healing in His wings, and shall pluck thee out of many waters: He shall bear thee as an olive branch through the windows of heaven, and place thee, as the trophy of Mercy, in the bosom of thy God. “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” [Isaiah 35:10]
Tossed as a wreck, (with helm of reason lost) little did this Maniac dream of the mercies that awaited him on high: but no sooner has the appointed moment of deliverance arrived, than the Sun of righteousness dispels the gloom: and in His glorious beams the holy Dove descends, broods over her adopted child, and plucks Her darling from the lions. “Sing O ye heavens; for the Lord hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified Himself in Israel.” [Isaiah 44:23] Poor afflicted child of God, dost thou sometimes fear the violence of temptation will lead thee to the commission of Suicide?! Behold a man in whom a legion of Devils appeared to have full sway, a fierce and ramping Maniac; in a word, a man who seemed forsaken of God, and given up to hell, and yet preserved from Suicide. Hitherto thou shalt come, Satan, but no further, and here (TOUCH NOT HIS LIFE) shall thy proud waves be stayed.
Again, the apostle propounds this question to the Church; “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” and then replies, “In ALL these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us:” but do I TRIUMPH in tribulation, if tribulation drives me to SUICIDE?
And lastly, it is the office of the Holy Spirit to work repentance (The dying thief repented, and made a confession to the glory of God!) for sin in the souls of ALL His saints. But how can there be repentance of that sin which carries me as a criminal before the Judge, and presents me reeking with the blood of life? Is there repentance in the grave? The Word says, No! Where then stands my unrepentant soul? Thus the CRIME OF SUICIDE CARRIES THE OFFENDER BEYOND THE PALE OF MERCY (it carries him before God in the very commission of his sin), seals his awful doom, and apportions him eternally with all the sons of perdition. Like Judas and Ahithophel, that man perishes in his iniquity.
SUICIDE IS SELF-MURDER, and is one of the most desperate crimes which can be committed. Inasmuch as this sin precludes repentance on the part of its perpetrator, it is beyond forgiveness. Such creatures are so abandoned by God as to have no concern for their eternal salvation, seeing they pass into the immediate presence of their Judge with their hands imbrued in their own blood. Such are self-murderers, for they destroy not only their bodies but their souls, too.
Now the Spirit testifies, that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” [2Tim 3:16] My Christian Brethren, have you a single case in the Divine Record of a saint’s falling into Suicide? I say, have you a single case in the whole Bible of a saint’s having fallen into the commission of that dreadful sin? YOU HAVE NONE! You may search from Genesis to Revelation, but you will find none. Now, if the thing were possible, we ought to have an example, seeing the Word of God is given for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be “thoroughly furnished,” but behold, we have NOT ONE!
What, then, is the common inference or conclusion to be drawn from this memorable fact? The conclusion, I apprehend, will be thus: THAT THE CHILD OF GOD, OR SPIRITUAL BELIEVER IN CHRIST, IS NEVER PERMITTED TO FALL INTO SUICIDE.
But some say, Did not Samson commit Suicide? By no means. He died as a martyr, fighting in the cause of God. He fell contending with the world, and went triumphantly to glory. O there is a mighty difference in dying to the confusion of God’s enemies, and falling as a Suicide to the confusion of friends! When Samson contended with a thousand of his foes, his life was prolonged; but in this, his last conflict, he fought, fell, and conquered as in a moment. Grasping the pillars upon which the house stood, Samson cried unto his God; and having received power from on high (the sanction of the HOLY ONE!) he bowed his head and yielded up the ghost. Like his blessed Lord and Master (of whom he was a glorious type) he overcame most in his death. Samson died a blessed martyr in the cause of God; he fell not into Suicide. Did Stephen shrink to declare the truth in the very teeth of his enemies? So neither did Samson shrink from the pillars of the house, though like Stephen, he were to be stoned to death. Thus fell these champions of the faith, scorning bodily deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. “He that hateth his life in this world,” said our blessed Lord to His disciples, “shall keep it unto life eternal.”
As Mr. Hunt so plainly pointed out, Samson certainly was not guilty of this enormous sin; instead, he died as a godly hero for the good of Israel. It is to be carefully noted that the life of Samson ended by his calling upon the Lord! His last act is one of PRAYER, and it was in direct answer thereto that supernatural strength was granted unto him, so that “the dead which he slew at his death, were more than they which he slew in his life” (Judges 16:28, 30).
But it will be asked, Have not the saints of God ever attempted Suicide ? Most certainly they have; both before and after calling. Like the poor Demoniac recorded by Matthew (chap. 17: 15) they have oftentimes sought their own destruction; but, through Mercy, have, as oftentimes, been wonderfully delivered. “Thou shalt not die, but live, and declare the works of God.” [Psalm 118:17]
“Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law but under grace.” “Destitute, afflicted, tormented.” One of the dear children of God determines upon self-destruction: carried as by a flood, she steals along the river’s brink, selects the fatal spot, and is just about to plunge into the stream, when suddenly the voice of God is heard; in an instant, Satan flees, the soul is set free, and Christ resumes His throne. O Satan, “thou hast thrust sore at me that I might fall, but the Lord helped me!” “The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.” Another child of God draws the knife, but the weapon fails. Another grasps the cup of poison, but his hand so trembles that he cannot hold it to his lips. Another takes a halter and looks for a beam, but is prevented he knows not how. Another suspends his body from a door, but soon the fastening fails, and he drops to the floor.
Carnal professors, whose hearts have been “swept and garnished” by themselves, never dream of such temptations as these, and are ready to reproach and accuse the children of God when thus exercised; but let such professors remember God hath not spoken in vain, “when the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” Carried by this flood, David fell into adultery and murder; and poor boasting Peter cursed and swore, and declared he knew not his Lord and Master. Merciful God! What ways and means hast Thou devised to prove the unchangeableness of Thy sovereign mercy, the immutability of Thy Covenant love! My Covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of My lips.” [Psalm 89:34]
PROFESSORS ARE NOT ALWAYS REGENERATED POSSESSORS
But, it may be asked, are there not instances of men celebrated for knowledge of Divine mysteries, and of most exemplary conduct, falling into the crime of Suicide? The fact is notorious, and cannot be denied: but that we may reply to the question effectually, let us turn to the Word of truth, the unerring testimony of God. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity (Christ dwelling in my soul) I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” In other words, though I be ever so gifted, and have not grace, I am nothing.
As a preacher I may be greatly attractive to my hearers; as “one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument;” but if Christ be not formed in my soul “the hope of glory” I am nothing. Even David, that eminent man of God, was deceived in this matter. He took a man of gifts, for a man of grace; but as he advanced in the Divine life, God showed him greater things. He went to the house of God with Ahithophel and took sweet counsel together, and thought him a dear brother in the Lord; but in time of temptation this high-sounding professor (this cymbal of the Sanctuary) fell away. He sided with Absalom in the rebellion, pleaded against the sweet singer of Israel, and sought to compass the death of the king, by the very son of his bowels! I say, therefore, though men be gifted to speak as with the tongues of men and of angels, and draw the eyes of the Church upon them as the beloved of God, if they be not TEMPLES OF THE HOLY GHOST (truly “born of God”), in time of temptation they fall away.
There is more than one instance of suicide recorded in the Bible, and most solemn and instructive is their testimony. There are three cases in all, and each of them was that of a PROFESSOR, who belonged EXTERNALLY to the people of God; but in none of them can it be fairly shown that he was a REGENERATED soul.
The first was Saul, the apostate king. It is true that for a brief season he seemed to run well—but the evil spirit which troubled him, his rank disobedience to the Lord, his murderous designs upon David, and his consulting with the witch of Endor—all clearly marked him out as a son of Belial, before he took his own life (1 Chron. 10:4).
The second was Ahithophel, who basely deserted David and befriended Absalom in his insurrection (2 Sam. 17:23).
The third was Judas, the traitorous Apostle, who, though he deceived his fellows, was denominated by Christ as “a devil” (John 6:70).
Rightly has it been said “These stand forth as so many monuments of the power of Satan, the strength of despair, and the indignation of the Almighty.” This, in itself, is quite sufficient in our judgment to settle the matter – that the only ones mentioned in Scripture who directly took their own lives, were not believers – but UNBELIEVERS! Let the reader carefully ponder that fact. But that is negative evidence; the positive, as we shall see, is equally conclusive.
But before weighing that, perhaps a word or two should be said upon what the Spirit has chronicled about Jonah, for the nearest approach to a saint actually committing suicide is his, for he distinctly bade the sailors in the ship “take me up and cast me forth into the sea” (Jonah 1:12). But observe, first, that was designed for THEIR good, “So shall the sea be calm UNTO YOU!” Second, Jonah did not himself jump overboard. Third, as in the case of Samson, the providence of God had designed that he should be a remarkable type of Christ. Finally, remember that God MIRACULOUSLY DELIVERED HIM, as though to show us that He will not, under any circumstances, allow one of His own to destroy himself.
The same feature appears most conspicuously in the case of Job. It should be pointed out first, that the situation of that patriarch was a most desperate one and his sufferings almost unprecedented. Second, he was tempted, yes urged by his wicked wife, to resort unto extreme measures, “curse God, and die” (2:9). Third, poor Job ardently longed for death, as that which would put a happy end to his miseries. This is clear from his own words, “O that I might have my request, and that God would grant me the thing that I long for! Even that it would please God to destroy me; that He would let loose His hand and cut me off” (6:8, 9). This is recorded, we need hardly say, for OUR ADMONITION, and not for OUR IMITATION. Fourth, yet though he was peeved at death’s delay, and fretful because life still remained in him, nevertheless the fact remains that HE DID NOT destroy himself. The Lord’s qualification to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; but save his life” (2:6)—makes it clear that while He allows the Devil to sorely BUFFET a saint, he cannot take his LIFE.
“Is suicide A SIN, or not? Is rebellion a sin, unbelief a sin, despair a sin? Then suicide must be a SIN OF SINS; for it is the last fruit, the highest summit of those sins. Can a man who commits it be said to die in faith, or hope, or love? Where is receiving the end of faith, the salvation of the soul, (1 Peter 1:9), if a man dies in unbelief, as a suicide must do? How can his hope be “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Heb. 6:19) if it breaks in the storm? And where is love, when he bids defiance to the Almighty by breaking through the bounds of life and death which He has set up? Evidently he dies in sin, and in a sin for which he can have no repentance, for he cuts himself off from repentance by that same act by which he cuts himself off from life” (J. C. Philpot, Gospel Standard, 1861).
How each of us, then, needs to earnestly pray, “Hold Thou me up and I shall be safe!” [Psalm 119:117]. It is nothing but Sovereign Grace which makes any of us to differ. Probably there are very few Christians but at one time or other seriously pondered suicide, yet the Lord in His covenant-faithfulness either renewed their graces, changed their intentions, or thwarted their efforts – as He did more than once with the hymn-writer of blessed memory, William Cowper. And to those Christians who are fearful lest such a terrible ending as suicide should be their lot, we close by reminding them of the sure promises of the preserving hand of the Most High over His saints. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous—but the Lord DELIVERETH HIM out of them ALL” (Psalm 34:19). “Who are KEPT by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (1 Peter 1:5).
“We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God KEEPETH HIMSELF, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (1 John 5:18). These are strong testimonies to show that Jehovah will not allow Satan to prevail over any of His chosen ones.