Can a True Christian Commit Suicide?
George Hunt, 1848
(A lesson on the Preserving Grace of God to His redeemed people)
Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.
When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. And he cried out with a loud voice and said, "What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me."
For He said to him, "Come out of the man, unclean spirit!"
Then He asked him, "What is your name?"
And he answered, saying, "My name is Legion; for we are many." Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country.
Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. So all the demons begged Him, saying, "Send us to the swine, that we may enter them."
And at once Jesus gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea. So those who fed the swine fled, and they told it in the city and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that had happened.
Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine.
Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region. And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, "Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you."
And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.
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 verse 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 cognizable 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 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? "Don't you know (says the Apostle to the Church at Corinth) that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells 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 wild as a lion; a man isolated from his fellow-men—mad, forsaken, desolate; a miserable and terrifying 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.
Look at the state of his mind—"crying continually"; driven about with a tempest, sometimes furiously rushing upon the mountains; at other times, prowling and weeping among the tombs.
Poor man! And had you no friend to pity you, none to speak peace to your bleeding soul? Alas, who dared approach? for he was full of devils (it is worth 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 had you no eye to pity you? Blessed be God! The eternal Jehovah was your refuge; His everlasting arms were underneath; and therefore the gates of Hell could not prevail against him. "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be your plagues; O grave, I will be your destruction" (Hosea 13:14). 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 a one may be persecuted of devils, but he shall not be forsaken, or cast down into Hell, or 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 not; for I am with you: be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness" (Isaiah 41:10).
O, my Christian brethren, could we have stood upon an eminence and beheld the ravings of this poor Maniac, how affecting would have been the sight, how afflictive would have been 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) embraces 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 defenseless head; and yet, he still survives!—a spark of heavenly, inextinguishable flame, tossed upon the crude ocean of turbulent and tormenting devils.
Poor and afflicted Child of Mercy! And why thus grievously afflicted and tormented? That in the inscrutable decrees of Jehovah, he might become a Barnabas, a son of CONSOLATION! This demoniac became a pastor after God's own heart, a feeder of the flock of Christ, 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! Why were you 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! have you a Legion of Devils in your soul? You shall never commit suicide.
Are you driven as with a tempest night and day—with no house, no home? You shall never commit suicide.
Are you deprived of reason, and is your body naked, bleeding wounded? You shall never commit suicide; for the Spirit of the Lord shall go forth with healing in His wings, and shall pluck you out of many waters. He shall bear you as an olive branch through the windows of Heaven, and place you, as the trophy of Mercy, in the bosom of your God. "And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and 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 saving 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 heavens; for the LORD has done it: shout, O lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, O mountains; O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and glorified Himself in Israel" (Isaiah 44:23).
Poor afflicted child of God! do you sometimes fear the violence of temptation will lead you 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 you shall come, Satan, but no further, and here (touch not his life) shall your proud waves be stayed.
Let us now turn to Job, that eminent example of suffering patience and affliction. Now, my friends, in looking over the sacred records of this good man, we find him pouring out his complaint in this impassioned strain: "My soul chooses strangling and death rather than life!" (Job 7: 15). But did Job's great afflictions lead him to the commission of Suicide? On the contrary, his language is most triumphant: "When He has tried me (says Job) I shall come forth as gold"—as gold glittering from the furnace, shining and sparkling for the Master's use, a vessel of honor for the temple of my God.
Now Job's trials were not ordinary, but altogether extraordinary; for he was greatly exercised both in his property, his family, his mind, and his faith; and yet, so far was he from committing suicide, that he even triumphs in the furnace and glories in the flame. "And He shall purify the sons of Levi (the elect of God) and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness."
My Christian friends, did Job long for death, plead for death, pray for death, seek for death more than a man seeks for hidden treasure? Then why did he not rush into Suicide? The arms of omnipotent Jehovah were thrown around him; ("I am your Shield") and when Satan came in as a flood, the Spirit of the Lord lifted up a standard against him. "Fear not, O worm Jacob, and you men of Israel (the Church of God); I will help you, says the LORD, and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel."
To the point in question: how consolatory to the Church is Jehovah's charge to Satan when delivering up Job to be sifted as wheat: "Behold he is in your hand, but save his life!" Touch not his life! As though the Lord had said, Satan, this is a prerogative I will yield to none, and will never yield to you. This is a prerogative I will inviolately maintain with all my blood-bought children, lest, through the power of temptation, they fall into Suicide. And what did our Lord say to Peter when under similar circumstances? "I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not." Now the language of our Lord to Peter is the language of Christ to His redeemed people in all ages of the world; and if the faith of His redeemed people cannot fail, then how can they fall into Suicide.
But again, the Lord has promised that "He will keep the feet of His saints." Now the promise is both absolute and universal, and will therefore apply itself to the saint under all states and circumstances; but how can the Lord keep the feet of His saint, if He allows them, desperately, to rush into Suicide? Is not God faithfulness and truth? Has He promised, and shall He not perform? Did He keep the feet of Job, and this poor Maniac? Just so, poor, tried, and tempted soul, will He also keep you, for the Lord is not a man that He should lie, nor the Son of Man that He should repent. "My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of My lips."
Again, Paul testifies in the Spirit, "God will not allow you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape". But if through the power of temptation I fall into Suicide, I am not escaped, but ensnared. "Let God be true, and every man a liar."
Again, the Lord has promised His Church, that "when the enemy (Satan) shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him." Now this standard is God Himself. Shall God oppose Satan in vain?
Again, it is said, "Blessed is the man who endures temptation, for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life". But do I endure temptation if I become a Suicide? Now the children of God are the "blessed of God"; and the promise is of grace that it might "be sure to all the seed." It follows, therefore, that the saints will endure temptation, and not fall into Suicide.
Again, the Apostle propounds this question to all His redeemed people, "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 my 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 murderous 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.
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." 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 it were possible for a true child of God to commit suicide, then we ought to have an example in Scripture, 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 genuine 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 by 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 Spirit. Like his blessed Lord and Master (of whom he was a glorious type) he overcame most in his death. Samson died as 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? In the same way, 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 who hates his life in this world," said our blessed Lord to His disciples, "shall keep it unto life eternal."
But it will be asked: Have not the saints of God ever attempted Suicide? Most certainly they have; both before and after being saved. Like the poor Demoniac recorded by Matthew (17:15) they have oftentimes sought their own destruction; but, through Mercy, have, as oftentimes, been wonderfully delivered. "You shall not die, but live, and declare the works of God." "Sin shall not have dominion over you: for you 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 Spirit of God arrests her. In an instant, Satan flees, the soul set free, and Christ has resumed His throne.
O Satan, "you have thrust sore at me that I might fall, but the Lord helped me!" "The Lord is my strength and song, and has 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 noose 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 has 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 have You devised to prove the unchangeableness of Your sovereign mercy, the immutability of Your Covenant love! "My Covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of My lips."
But, it may be asked, are there not instances of men celebrated for knowledge of Divine truth, 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 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 has a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument"; but if Christ is not formed in my soul as "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 his very son! I say, therefore, though men are 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 are not TEMPLES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (truly "born of God")—in time of temptation they fall away.
Of the truly saved Christian, the Lord has declared, "No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper". But of unsanctified professors, however eloquent and commanding their gifts and attainments, "in time of temptation they fall away." And hence the propriety of the apostolic injunction; "Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall". And again, "If a man thinks himself to be something (a Christian) when he is nothing (not so), he deceives himself."
As, therefore, in the apostolic days, so in the present, men may be found so highly gifted, that for a season they deceive the very elect: "But they went out from us," says the Apostle, "because THEY WERE NOT OF US." The question, therefore, may be thus scripturally solved: such men have received gifts, but they have not received saving grace or God—the GIVER: now, what are the gifts of the Bridegroom, to the Bridegroom himself?
Let no man, therefore, and especially a teacher in Israel, presume to judge his brethren in this matter; nor consider the flock contumacious, because they cannot, dare not receive unauthorized, the unscriptural affirmation: that truly saved men may, unwittingly play the part of Judas, and fall into the crime of Suicide. "To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."
Let the ministers of Christ remember they are not to set themselves up as judges of doctrine for the Church, but the Church are to judge the doctrine of their minister; and if it is of God, to receive it; and if not, to condemn it. "Let the prophets speak," says Paul, "and let the others (the Church) judge." Nay, farther, If the Church has authority to try the doctrine of the Apostles—then how much more, ministers of the present day? "But though we," says Paul, "or an Angel from Heaven preach any other Gospel unto you, than that which is preached, let him be accursed."
Let no man, therefore, contend against the Word; nor presume to affirm, without the shadow of Divine proof, that the elect of God, may under any circumstances, fall into the commission of Suicide. It is surely impossible; seeing that God, who cannot lie, has declared by the mouth of His faithful Apostle, "He will not allow you to be tempted above that you are able, but will with the temptation MAKE A WAY TO ESCAPE." "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all." Of unsanctified professors, the Lord has said, "in time of temptation THEY FALL AWAY"; but of the sanctified professor, "mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace."