The Guilt, Folly, and Sources of Suicide, by Samuel Miller. Dallas, Texas: Presbyterian Heritage Publications, 1994. 56pp. $3.50 (paper). [Reviewed by the Editor.]
This reprint of two published sermons on the subject of suicide by the, Presbyterian theologian Samuel Miller is timely. Not only is our country presently moving toward societal approval and legal sanction of suicide, but also preachers fail to warn sharply against the sin of suicide. Some exert themselves to find excuses for the suicide and go out of their way to offer false comfort to grieving relatives. The serious effect is that those, particularly the young people in the congregation, who may be struggling with this temptation to kill themselves, do not hear the Word of God forbidding this way of escape from misery. Indeed, they are left with the impression that this way is a possibility as far as the church is concerned. Such preachers may well ask themselves whether the blood of the suicide will not be required at their hands, as God warned the prophet-watchman in Ezekiel 3:16ff.
Miller was of a different stamp. He was of a different stamp because he was determined to speak biblically on the wickedness of self-murder. From Scripture he pointed out that suicide is sin against God and sin against the neighbor. Suicide is “generally prompted by the most sordid and unworthy selfishness“(p. 18).
The despicable motives of suicide are uncovered. Among them are drunkenness and gambling.
Intriguing is Miller’s admonition to the state to discountenance and discourage suicide by appropriate penalties (pp. 52, 53).
Miller’s answer to the question, “Can we entertain no hope of the final salvation of one who destroys his own life?” although reasoned, is not hopeful:
It is possible that a child of God may be so far under the power of mental derangement, as to rush unbidden into the presence of his Father. . . . But it may be questioned, on very solid ground, whether a real Christian, in the exercise of his reason, ever became his own executioner (p. 27).
We are told that it is especially the youth who commit suicide. Miller addressed these published sermons “to the young persons under the author’s pastoral care.” He concluded the publication with, the exhortation, “My young friends! this subject is entitled to your particular regard.”
This is a booklet that parents should put in the hands of their teenage children. Our young people’s societies could profitably, make it their study.
The conclusion is positive:
Take refuge, then, in the grace of the gospel…. Instead of flying to the hateful instruments of death, on the approach of calamity, you will have a covenant God and Father, to whose gracious throne you may repair with boldness and affectionate confidence” (p. 55).
To read this book online: