As one speaks of suicide, it is not only the man who suddenly falls by his own hand at a pistol shot that comes to mind; one sees, my friends, a long, melancholy procession of men who are drinking themselves into their graves by slow suicide pass before us—men who deserve at once the stigma and the pity with which we regard the self-murderer, and one feels the time has come to cry aloud in the name of Christ, “None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.” For consider what has happened: a young man, a carpet-designer by trade, who nine months ago wrote to a friend these words, “Worship veracity, cultivate the aesthetic perception, love work and workers, and your life will be joyous,” with no heavy trouble upon him, with gladness in his heart of the love of a young girl one day to be his wife, comes to the deliberate conclusion that life is a sham and the fear of death foolishness. And after writing a long and rational letter to the daily press, stating his views as to the fallaciousness of life, and the absurdity of being detained in that state of life into which, without his leave, he had come, he shoots himself. He is found to be at once famous among men, and is spoken of by the champions of his deed as a kind of hero and prophet who has done and written brave and manly things. (p. 213)
One could have let this poor selfish, self-willed, self-indulgent youth pass with sorrow to oblivion were it not for the fact that his death has been the means of deluging the press with the doctrines of the morals of suicide, which are unblushingly pagan in view, cynically flippant in tone, and a scandal to our common Christianity. (p. 213)….
All this sentimental talk about making it easy for us to “fall into the arms of easeful death,” or of “the quiet, restful, dreamless, fathomless night,” and at our own sweet will to make a well-behaved bow to our brothers, and pass without paining their susceptibilities out of this world into the next, is sheer un-Christlike cowardice. (p. 214)….
All this prating about “the disappointment of life,” “the being tired of it,” “the putting under our feet hunger and pain and fear of death and all that causes us discomfort,” and, failing this, the advice to go out of life by a pistol bullet or a razor edge, is sheer ignorance of the fact that all that makes us mortals fit for heaven is through the strain and stress and weary wild-beast wrestling, the “grappling with our evil star,” that draws out the best that is in us and nerves us to endure, even as Christ endured, unto the end. “Perfect through suffering” is the Christian’s motto. (p. 214)….
But there are other things than cowardice in the desertion of our posts here in this life before our time, other things than the cruelty of selfishness and egotism that is involved in the suicide’s act, which need baring to the naked light of day, and making plain before our face. First, we know not when our souls are strong enough to pass beyond the bourne and be fit for higher work beyond; and, secondly, these bodies are not ours to do as we choose with. “What! know ye not that your bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost?” so the Gospel seems to cry aloud above the self-murderer’s bullet-rifled body. These bodies are not our building, they are not made with hands. They are God’s; He gives them, He repairs them. (p. 214)….
Nor can it escape us that the act of the suicide is absolute betrayal of all Christ taught as to our brotherhood and the claims of the community upon us; that we bear each other’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ. No man can possibly assert that his living or his dying makes no difference to the community. Take this last signal instance of selfishness of death by the self-murderer’s own hand. What shall we say of the broken-hearted father who was left behind, or of the young girl’s heart and hope which by the suicide has been undone? (p. 214)….
He is our Imperator; we will not leave our station till He gives consent. For we are set each in our appointed place to do just the work that no one else can do so well: to work out—God helping us—our own salvation and the salvation of our time with fear and trembling, in that state of life to which God has been pleased to call us. He who in the hard life’s battle leaves the field before his time is a coward, false to the high trust that God has given. (p. 214)
(Christian World Pulpit, 44 (4 October 1893), 212-15)