Dear Sir, Will you please favour us with your answer to the following very important inquiries through the “Standard,” and you will oblige a few of the Lord’s staggering children?
If a follower of Christ and a preacher of the gospel commit suicide, is there hope of eternal life for him?
Does that passage, “Ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him,” have any reference to his case?
And how can we reconcile it with, “He that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not”?
Is insanity permitted as an effect of infirmities and affliction, or is it a curse, as in Deuteronomy 28:28-29: “And the Lord shall smite thee with madness”?
The writer of the above truly calls the questions which he asks “very important inquiries.” We feel them to be such, for they seem to place us in a position as if we were called upon to decide upon the eternal state of a poor fellow-sinner a state in which, but for sovereign grace, we ourselves might now have been.
We know, too, how hard the flesh pleads for a favourable answer, and how unwilling it is to submit to that decision from the word of truth in which alone the spirit finds rest and repose.
“Let God be true, but every man a liar,” is, however, the acquiescence of faith amidst the whisperings of unbelief and the murmurings of nature.
But let us seek an answer to some of these inquiries from the law and the testimony that is, from what is either plainly revealed in the word of truth upon the point, or maybe fairly gathered from the sacred page by the analogy of faith.
1. Take first, then, the cases of suicide recorded in the word of truth. Three black cases meet us in the Scriptures, all of whom, were professors, and the two last preachers, Ahithophel, Saul, and Judas. Do not these stand forth as so many memorials of the power of Satan, the strength of despair, and the indignation of the Almighty?
2. But have we any scriptural instance of a saint of God committing the fatal act? When we are told that a child of God may lay suicidal hands on himself, we should wish to have some scriptural instance. The two nearest to it were Samson and Jonah; but the first did not lay violent hands on himself,* though he died as a warrior might die, say Col. Gardiner or Hedley Vicars, in defence of his country, amidst and with the enemies of God; and the other did not throw himself into the sea, but was thrown in by others; besides which, he was miraculously preserved.
* Dr. Gill’s remarks on this point are so much to the purpose that we cannot forbear to give them:
“As for his own death, he did not simply desire that, only as he could not be avenged on his enemies withoiit it, he was willing to submit to it; nor did he lay hands on himself, and cannot be charged with being guilty of suicide, and did no other than what a man of valour and public spirit will do; who for the good of his country will not only expose his life to danger in common, but for the sake of that, will engage in a desperate enterprise, when he knows most certainly that he must perish in it. Besides, Samson said this and did what he did under the direction and influence of the Spirit of God; and herein was a type of Christ, who freely laid down his life for his people that he might destroy his and their enemies.”
3. But consider the direct promises made to the saints of God, and the declarations of the preserving hand of the Almighty over them.
“He will keep the feet of his saints.”
(1 Samuel 2:9)
“Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.”
(1 Peter 1:5)
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to men; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
(1 Corinthians 10:13)
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. He keepeth all his bones; not one of them is broken.”
These are strong testimonies to show that the Lord will not suffer Satan to prevail over any one of his saints. If he can prevail over one he might prevail over all; and then where would be the power of Christ and the strength of his grace, or the security of the elect?
In the passage quoted by our correspondent, it is expressly declared that “he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (1 John 5:18;) but that wicked one toucheth him indeed, and that to awful purpose, if he can prevail over him to lay murderous hands on himself.
4. When, for wise purposes, the Lord left Job for a while in the hand of Satan, he said to the tempter, “Behold, he is in thy hand; but save his life.” (Job 2:6). Does not this express prohibition show that Satan cannot touch the life of a child of God?
5. Again, 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 top and summit of these sins. Can a man who commits it be said to die in faith, or hope, or love? Where is receiving the end of faith, even the salvation of the soul, if a man die in unbelief, as a suicide must? How can his hope be “an anchor of the soul sure and stedfast,” if it break 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? Evidently he dies in sin, and in a sin for which he can have no repentance, for he cuts himself off from repentance by the same act by which he cuts himself off from life.
And now to answer another part of the inquiry. That insanity may afflict a child of God, is, we think, undeniable; but that it may so far prevail as to issue in suicide is another matter. Insanity will often take the form of religious melancholy we use the word “religious” in the common sense of the term, for there is often much religion where there is no grace. A person so affected, or we may say, so afflicted, often much resembles a child of God when under strong convictions. It is therefore considered by some a real work of grace; and should such a one lay violent hands on himself, false charity at once steps in to think well of his state, and calls him a believer – thence drawing the conclusion that such a one may commit suicide. That a professor and preacher of the doctrines of the gospel should be so left in the hands of Satan as after a long life of profession to lay suicidal hands on himself is enough to chill our hearts with horror. Still, we must not for this or any other similar event abandon the testimony of God for the opinions of men, but rather cry the more earnestly, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.”
By J.C. Philpot (Gospel Standard 1862)