Preserving Grace

Arthur Pink, 1937

The subject of suicide is, admittedly, not a pleasant one, and to a few of our readers, probably most painful. We do not expect to return to it again—but before turning away therefrom, desire to throw further light from Scripture thereon, for there are many in this evil day harboring most God-dishonoring ideas on the matter. Human reasoning in such things is quite worthless; an appeal to carnal sentiment, which is the recourse of the worldling, should not satisfy a child of God. "To the Law and to the Testimony" must ever be the demand of those who desire to see things in the Divine light. The unerring Word of Truth is the final court of appeal to which every problem and question must be submitted. Nor will an appeal thereto be in vain, if we set aside our own preconceptions and prejudices, and approach it in a humble, reverent, and expectant spirit.

Let us put the question in its strongest form—is it possible for a real Christian, under the pressure of sore trial and protracted trouble, for his mind to give way, and in a fit of madness take things into his own hands and make an end of his earthly sufferings? Or, take another case. Insanity sometimes assumes the form of religious melancholy. A person so afflicted often resembles very closely a child of God under deep convictions of sin, which even a minister of Christ may regard as the beginnings of a genuine work of grace in the soul. But the sequel is staggering—instead of that seeming soul-travail being followed by a happy deliverance; tumult and sorrow giving way to peace and joy, the subject of that melancholy lays violent hands upon himself. And then it is that a false charity so often steps in, and with the desire to comfort the bereaved survivors, it is said that such an one was a regenerate soul—but his mind becoming unhinged, and he no longer responsible for his actions, ended his life.

How hard the flesh will appeal for a favorable verdict in such a case! How loath and slow the poor relatives are to submit unto the decision of God's infallible Word. The writer has personally met with those concerning whose spirituality he entertained no doubts, for they appeared to have the hall-mark of the new birth plainly stamped upon them. Even so, we cannot read the heart, and none can say what natural effects a religious training will produce. If the eleven apostles were deceived by Judas, need it be cause for surprise, if the best taught and most deeply experienced ministers should sometimes err in their estimate of others today? "The Lord knows those who are His" (2 Tim. 2:19) implies that often we do not. There is only One who is endowed with omniscience, and He is very jealous of His glory, and therefore does He often stain our pride by making us conscious of our fallibility.

But though it be human to err, the Holy Scriptures make no mistakes, and it is by them that this issue is to be decided, for the more our minds be regulated by their teaching, the more shall we be found "thinking God's thoughts after Him." When, then, some insist that a real child of God may lay suicidal hands upon himself, we ask, Where is Scripture in support of such a horrible affirmation? And the answer is—there is none. Surely this is sufficient to settle the matter for all those who are in subjection to the authority of God.

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).

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. In addition to what was said thereon by Mr. Hunt, it may 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 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, W. 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 delivers 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 anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him" (1 John 5:18). These are strong testimonies to show that Jehovah will not allow Satan to prevail over any of His chosen ones.