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our spirits." It is to this, and to the powers and faculties connected with it, that man holds his peculiar situation in the scale of being; and with the welfare of the soul, his welfare must therefore be inseparably connected. For it is . moreover possessed of large capacities, and is capable of the highest enjoyment. We are no strangers to the sympathies and affections of our own minds, the gratifications of social and domestic life, and to the various relations in which we stand to each other. There is a pleasure in the sensations of mutual kindness and respect which every virtuous mind must be conscious of. And when we contemplate the great masters of intellect who have shed a light on the age in which they lived, and the records of whose wisdom is transmitted to succeeding times, we cannot but recognize in this enlargement of the faculties, the evidence of an exalted and glorious nature.
But we know that the soul will rise to yet purer and more extended discoveries : the Revelation of God has informed us, that it is capable of sacred and unmingled enjoyment; that it can stretch its views to realms unknown, to immortality and endless bliss, and attain a perfection of wisdom, which shall liken it even to the angels of heaven. It tells us that this is the state for which it was originally designed-a state of purity without defilement, of knowledge without error, of felicity without the hazard of disturbance. That Revelation assures us yet further, that intimate as is the union of the soul with the corruptible body, it is itself constructed for immortality, and that it shall live
Now, if we are really conscious that we possess such a treasure in this fleshly tabernacle, so noble in itself, so exalted in its powers, so capable of enjoyment, should we not think it entitled to serious attention? Would not the wise man be cautious how he debased its character, and degraded its faculties, or injured its powers ? Should we not expect every man to set a high value upon it, and to forego the gratification of inclinations and pursuits which are inconsistent with its welfare?
But to estimate all this, we must look at the matter in another point of view, for we learn from Revelation that the soul may be lost.
" What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” What then is the nature of this loss? The term does not imply that we should lose the faculties that we at present possess ; that we should be deprived of thought and reflection, and be reduced to a state of comparative ignorance. Assuredly not; whatever is the condition of the soul in another world, there can be no doubt it will retain all its faculties in full vigour and sleepless activity. It is highly probable—we might, perhaps, pronounce it certain—the thoughts will be more intense, the reflections more vivid, the perception of knowledge wonderfully increased; that as there will be an enlarged capacity for enjoyment, so will there be a fearfully enlarged capacity for suffering; and that where happiness is not, there will be, in the reproaches of conscience, and the workings of a disordered spirit, a constant source of bitterness and of sorrow. As the salvation of the soul is the admission into heaven, so the loss of the soul is the everlasting se clusion from that place of happiness ; the loss of heaven, and the society of the blessed, and the presence of God, and of that fulness of joy which in that presence alone is to be found. It is to be cast into the place of unutterable torment, prepared, not for man, but for the devil and his angels; where
there is no repose day nor night, but misery, without hope or intermission, for ever.
What then is there which can compensate for the loss of the soul ? Our Lord asks, whether “ the whole world" can do it. By the term “world," we are to understand generally those things that are “ in the world," as St. John expresses it ; such thiugs as belong to the world—the riches, and power, and pleasures, and honours of the world : all those objects which are of great ambition amongst such persons as have no right sense of the value of spiritual things. O what can compare with the value of the soul !
But consider these things in their origin. They are all earthly; they are derived from the earth, and have nothing in them which can really satisfy the mind. They promise much gratification ; they are acceptable to men of a worldly spirit; and they are frequently not unaccompanied by a sort of enjoyment to those who possess them. But there is delusion and deception in them all. So treacherous are the promises, even of pleasure itself (the pleasure of the world), that, if we should look through civilized society, it may be fairly doubted whether any persons are, on the whole, less at ease, than those who seem most largely to possess it. And what is true of pleasure, as far as it respects its unsatisfying influence on the mind, applies, in a considerable degree, to honour, and power, and riches, and all the promises and professions of this probationary state. The soul was not made to take its repose in things like these; it has cravings and desires (and we all know the fact) which they cannot satisfy; and if there be no outward circumstances to disturb its comfort, it is made to find a source of discontent and uneasiness within itself. And then there are the various troubles which these things almost necessarily bring with them. There are little jealousies and hostilities with others with which such men are continually oppressed; there are cares and perplexities, even in the greatest stations, which no prudence can avert; and there are demands which no foresight can satisfy. And instances are not wanting, where, from pure disgust, men of high station and commanding influence, have cast off the world and all its concerns, and have sought in absolute retirement and seclusion, that peace which they hitherto never could find.
And if, from the nature of these things, however useful and desirable some of them may be in their proper places, they can afford so little real satisfaction, even to those who are in possession of them, or in full capacity for the enjoyment of them-of how little service must they prove in sorrow, and pain, and affliction? It is then the vanity and emptiness of them begin to be justly appreciated. They promise that they have everything that heart can wish; but in the hour of trial, when the soul is glad to find a refuge, they can do nothing. Instead of imparting comfort to the mind, how often does the recollection of talents abused, and gifts of Providence neglected or vrisapplied, serve rather to exasperate sorrow, and to depress still more deeply the sinking spirit! The season is fast approaching when the great men of the world, as well as those inferior in station, will stand in need of far other comforts than the world can give them; and when, if the faltering tongue can still speak the language of the heart, it will bear witness of the unsatisfying nature of all earthly things.
But there is another circumstance to be noticed relating to the things of the world. They are at best of very limited duration. Unsatisfactory as they are,
yet, if they could continue for ever, men might indulge the hope of finding in them at least mingled gratification, and venture to set upon them considerable value. But in how short a time must they all disappear! “Son," said Abraham to the rich man,“ remember, that thou in thy life-time receivedst thy good things.” How natural must be the reflection to this
man, My life-tiinemy good things! In my life-time I denied myself nothing which my heart desired ; but O how short was that life-how fleeting those pleasures—how momentary those enjoyments! All that my wealth could procure me was, after a short period of sensual gratification, exchanged for the pain, and the sorrow, and the degradation of the grave: in my life-time every good thing, but now tormented for eternity."
But we need searcely to go into the world of spirits to shew us the emptiness, of earthly things, as it respects their brief duration. Is there among us an individual who has reached the prime of life, and still more one whose days are declining, that does not feel for himself the practical force of that argument? No occupation of the mind can altogether banish that from the thoughts ; no determination can render us entirely insensible to the uncertainty of life and all its enjoyments. What is the longest period allotted to man upon earth, when contrasted with eternity? What are the best hopes of this world, when compared with the hopes of the world to come?
Here, then, let us put the question suggested by our Lord, “What is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ?" It is proposed, you observe, in the broadest terms—" the whole world." Ahab and Jezebel would commit murder for the possession of a vineyard. Haman would put to death an innocent man, because he loved not to see him sitting at the king's gate. When the mind is set upon the world, it is wonderful how men will exert themselves for a very small portion of it. But the case is put, “If a man gains the whole world—all its kingdoms, and the glory of them, as once offered by the tempter to our Lord; so that the lover of pleasure should command every possible enjoyment, the lover of power should possess unbounded authority, every eye watching his inclinations, every knee bending in homage: if with all this, still the man would be profited nothing if he should lose his soul; would he not deem these things to be dearly purchased if obtained at the sacrifice of life? Would he not surrender them all for the preservation of his life? “Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?" Is there anything which a rational man can regard as equivalent to it; anything which, in the estimation even of the most ignorant, when the matter is fully brought before him, can be compared to eternal salvation? Is there anything which God will accept as the ransom for the soul, when it is once sentenced to destruction? The question implies but one answer: There can be no ransom; nothing given in exchange; if once lost it never can be restored.
Before I pass on to the application of the subject, I would observe, that the general statement here made concerning the worthlessness of all things, as contrasted with the value of the soul, has been acted on by the best men in all ages of the world. They did not, while assenting to these things with their reason, disavow them by their conduct. They reduced their convictions to practice; they were ready to renounce everything which the world could offer, in order that they might approve themselves to God. Such a man was “the father of the faithful,” who left his kindred and home to domesticate in a foreign land: he was a man of self-denial. Such a man was “the lawgiver of Israel,” who “ chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season ; esteering the reproach of C greater riches than Egypt, for he had respect unto the recompence of reward." With regard to the great Apostle of the Gentiles, those things that were otherwise gain to him he counted loss for Christ; “ Yea, doubtless," he adds, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." He spake thus, not as a mere speculator or theorist; it was after he had suffered the loss of all things; the one object of his solicitude being this, that he might attain to the resurrection of the dead. We read of some who willingly endured every trial that they might attain a better resurrection. And it is the general character of all real Christians, as well as of Christ's immediate followers, that they are not of the world; they are of a different character ; they belong to a different society; they are looking for a different home.
I proceed now, in the second place, to offer some REMARKS BY WAY op APPLICATION OF THE SUBJECT.
Let me, then, put the question, my brethren, What has hitherto been the main object of your solicitude, the world or the soul? Have you attended to the interests of this life, or to those of the life to come? The passage seems plainly to intimate, that, if the soul be lost, it is lost by ourselves; and the neglect of the soul, from whatever cause it may arise, cannot fail to be followed by irremediable destruction. The love of the world—that is of worldly principles, may frequently exist in the mind when we scarcely suspect such a thing: whatever be the weak point of our character, the world can present temptations exactly adapted to it. Perhaps we have not promised to ourselves the objects of immediate ambition, the acquisition either of wealth or power : we are desirous to pass through life, without either exciting much notice, or reaching any great eminence. So far it is well ; and yet how often may a worldly spirit be concealed in this way, even from ourselves. What, let me ask, is the nature of the subject upon which our minds are inost habitually employed? Perhaps you will say, with great truth, that the world has not such a possession of your hearts, as to exclude many thoughts concerning the future state; that you read the Scriptures, and observe the appointed seasons of worship, not without many aspirations for the mercy and grace of God through Jesus Christ. But then, how shall we stand the test mentioned by our Lord in connexion with this passage?
Are we so free from worldly principles that we are prepared to take up our cross and to follow Christ; to bear reproach, if necessary for his Name's sake; and to acquiesce in appointments which are painful to flesh and blood, that we may be numbered with his people? If we have a just scriptural view of the world on the one hand, and of the value of the soul on the other, shall we not be seriously in earnest for salvation? Is it possible we can rightly be impressed with the force of our Lord's statement, or be pursuing that conduct which the Scriptures enjoin, if we are halting between two opinions, if we give ourselves partly to the world which we affect to hold in so little estimation, and partly to the soul, the value of which we acknowledge to be above all price? We admit that there would be no profit, even if we should gain the whole world, and lose our own soul. We adnit that the gain would be as nothing, the loss irreparable. How should we act upon such admission, if we knew that we should not surrive this present day! How shall we wish upon a death-bed that we had acted so; how at the day of judgment! If the worth of the soul is such as is represented, what diligence can be too great to make our calling and election sure? For how can any man be acting according to the dictates of reason who does not regard the care of the soul, in the highest sense, as the one thing needful?
The prosecution of this inquiry into our own character, and the practical estimate which we form of God and of the soul, may probably lead some of us to the painful conviction that we have hitherto neglected salvation; while others have good reason to believe, that their great concern has been attended to. The application of our subject would lead me to address a few words to each of these classes, first, in the way of explanation; secondly, in the way of encouragement.
In speaking to the first of these classes, permit me to inquire, on what pretence it is that any can justify this neglect. Why do you prefer the world, and the things of the world, to everlasting life? In some instances this may arise from a want of reflection ; your attention has not been sufficiently directed to it. But what a sad apology is this to make even to ourselves. 18 there anything more important to which our thoughts can be directed ?. Is there anything in which we admit ourselves to be more deeply concerned ? Are we not aware that if death surprises us in the midst of our sins, it would have been better for us that we had never been born? Are we not aware, that if there be an object worthy to be entertained by an immortal being, it is that which respects the welfare of immortality? But the want of reflection is, in some cases, not without the appearance of
Can that excuse, my brethren, apply to us? Where men have no knowledge of a future state, and are destitute of the Word of God, they might argue, that though this world was little to be regarded, they, at the same time, knew of nothing that was better. Such an excuse it will be in vain for us to plead. We have knowledge where they had none; or wandered in doubt and conjecture. God himself has addressed us in his Word : he has tested the value of the soul, even by the gift of his own Son: and is it possible that we should not think seriously of this subject? What is there that will arrest the attention, if we regard not the interests of a future world?
In some instances there appears to be an assent to the statements which have been made in explanation of the text; and a clear persuasion that it is the part of every wise man to make a right distinction between things temporal and things spiritual, and to think with all his heart for salvation; but then the present time is not the best time for commencing. One man is too poor and has no leisure; another is occupied with his wealth ; another with his family: but each of thein is willing to hope that a more favourable season will arrive, when he shall be able to give attention to the subject in such degree, according to its acknowledged importance. So ingenious is the heart in the work of self-deception; 80 ready are we to acquiesce in reasons for the neglect of the soul. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might:" “ Boast not thyself of to-morrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth."