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Delivered at Hinde Street Chapel, London, on Sunday evening, July 1,
BY REV. ROBERT NEWTON
For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ? or
what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ? Matt. xvi. 26.
Tars is, indeed, my friends, one of the most grave, and at the same time one of the most interesting questions that ever was proposed. Well and truly has an eminent divine designated this question, by way of eminence, in a discourse which he has published on the text — The important question. The question relates, not to frofit and loss in any ordinary or trivial concerns, which will not and cannot materially affect us, which ever way the scale may happen to turn ; the inquiry regards the loss or the gain, the perdition or the salvation, of a man's own' soul. And can any thing in the universe of God be of equal importance to man with the salvation of his own soul? Nor is this question, my friends, of partial interest. It is not addressed particularly or exclusively to any given number of our species; it concerns each and all, learned and unlettered, male and female ; for, as every human being has a soul, it must either be saved or lost.
The Great Teacher, who spake as never man spake, and knew how forcible are right words, proposes the sentiment of true wisdom which the text contains, by way of inquiry ; as though, by this circumstance, he would indirectly teach us, that no man, with a rightly constituted mind, can for a moment question or doubt a statement so self-evident. He employs the interrogatory form of speech, doubtless, that the appeal, which is made to every man's reason and conscience, as in the sight of God, might be the more forcible and conclusive.
* This Sermon was reported by a stenographer, and originally published in the Wesleyan Preacher.
Surely, if the sons of ambition would but seriously reflect on this question, they would find themselves very powerfully arrested in their pursuit of this world's honor ; and if the giddy and the gay would but allow themselves to ponder this great question, they would find themselves checked in their eager attempts after this world's pleasure ; and were the man of business, who has set his heart on the acquisition of substance and wealth, or could the miser, whose name is by interpretation miserable, but allow himself to consider this question, they would pause and ask themselves, Am I then, after all, making a good bargain ? "For what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul??
It is, however, true, that persons may professedly admit the truth and wisdom and propriety of any given maxim or sentiment, and yet it is a thing widely different from this to act labitually under its influence-in other words, a proposition may be theoretically admitted when it is practically denied; and, if we do not most egregiously mistake, this is precisely the case with multitudes around us from day to day, who admit the wisdom and the truth of the maxim of the text--who know the subject carries conviction on the very face of it, but yet, how are they acting? Why, they are living from day to day either as if they thought, after all, that they had no souls to be saved or lost, or as though there were some sort of impression that it would turn out in the sequel that the world would be more valuable than their soul, and, therefore, they are bartering their souls for the world.
Some who hear me know very well, that at the time the text was proposed, commerce was not carried on or conducted, as in these days, through any circulating medium like money, but in the way of bartering-simply exchanging one thing for another—disposing of one thing for another. Now, if this be the reference, then, what our Saviour would teach us is this--that the soul of man is of a nature so excellent, and of a value so great, that there is nothing in this world that can be proposed and accepted as an equivalent—that the world itself, the whole of it, is not an equivalent, and that the man who would exchange his soul even for a world would be a loser-that every item in the account would ultimately be put down on the side of loss-loss, all loss--a loss ruinous and fatal.
The maxim of the text may be illustrated by the following propositions : Man is a being of worth—he has a soul—that soul is of unspeakable value ; invaluable as is the soul of man, there is an awful possibility that it may be lost ; for such a loss the acquisition of a world is no compensation. We
say, then, that man is a being of worth. And, indeed, the superiority, the dignity of man is very strikingly indicated by the
forin and structure of his body. The different orders of animals with which he is surrounded on the face of this earth, are grovelling; they are prone to the earth, from which they derived their existence, and to which they tend ; but bow differently formed is man! Man is distinguished with an erect form—man is ennobled with a majestic countenance, which our poet has, not without reason, beautifully designated
"The human face divine !!* A countenance to look above this world and all it contains. Moreover, man is gifted with the power of articulate speech. Yet it is not to the body, though, in regard to that, every man may say, 'I ar fearfully and wonderfully made,'-it is not, I say, to the body that man is indebted for his dignity, importance, and worth; for the body, after all, has appetites in common with animal nature, and tends to the dust out of which it was formed and to which it must
e say, then, that the soul is the man ; the body is but the clay tenement, the soul is the deathless inhabitant—the body is but the material casket, the soul is the precious sparkling jewel that is contained within-the body is intimately allied to the earth, the soul claims kindred with heaven !. I
argue the excellence, and consequently the worth, of the human soul, from the spirituality of its nature. To attempt a definition of the soul, of its essence, is not the province of the Christian preach
This he most willingly leaves to the mere metaphysician, who may amuse hiinself and others as long as he pleases with definitions of that sort. Certainly, whatever the soul be, it is not materialit does not consist of any modification, form, or arrangement of air, earth, fire, or water ; for, although the soul can act through the bodily material organs, yet it is, in its own nature, quite distinct and independent, for this plain, obvious reason-the soul is essentially a thinking, being-it has the power of rational thought. Rational thought is not the property of matter : make as many experiments as you pleaseand try into how many forins and arrangements matter inay be put, and into how many is it capable of being thrown,and yet, after all these modifications and transformations, you will find that mere matter is senseless, thoughtless matter still : whereas the soul thinks, and must therefore be something distinct from matter, as thought is not a property of matter.
The same thing is very strongly implied in the rapidity of the movements of mind. Matter is sluggish and inert. Light travels very rapidly compared with other things : but at what a very tardy rate does light travel compared with thought! Does not this shew that there is an essential difference between matter and mind ? The same thing may justly be inferred from the power of abstraction of which the soul is capable ; for, though the soul acts through the me
dium of bodily organs, yet, when it chooses, it can abstract itself and act independently of these organs. Moreover, some tell us, and we give them credit, thạt the soul performs operations while all the external senses are dormant ; and, in some cases, there are such distinct characters and traces left, if I may so speak, on the leaves of memory, that persons can actually read all these operations in their waking moments. And what do the phenomena of dreaming prove, but that the soul can and does act independently of the organs of the body? Then certainly, the same thing is proved by the Mosaic account of the creation of the soul. The body was formed out of the dust of the ground, and the Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became '-what? what he was not before
a living soul. The soul is a spark, not of earthly or material flame —the soul sprang forth from God, and God is, therefore designated in this book, "The Father of spirits ;' then, in this book it is also written, and that is authority to which we reverently bow, ' There is a spirit in man, and the Spirit of the Almighty gave him understanding.'
Is the soul of man of a nature so excellent ? Is the soul of man spiritual, immaterial ? Why, then, how does such an exalted nature rise in excellence, dignity and worth, above all the modifications of this world's gross and senseless materials ?
I argue, secondly, the excellence, and consequently the worth, of the human soul, from its lofty capacities, from its vast powers and unrivalled attributes. What a wondrous creature is the soul of man? It possesses powers of large discourse, capable of looking before and after-powers intellectual and sentient-powers instinctive and excogitative-powers of understanding to know, of will to determine, of sensibility to feel, of memory to retain, and of conscience, too, to decide on its own operations. To the soul of man seems to belong the principle of interminable progression. Who shall say to what an extent it may travel ? who shall say
its high capabilities of knowledge and enjoyment ? Its wondrous powers may be seen in the invention and progress of the arts and sciences ; and yet I am one of those who are disposed to think that both are yet in their infancy; and, notwithstanding all that has been done by men of genius and acquirement, there may rise up others of powers more extensive and stupendous, and genius more bright, to make fresh discoveries, and to improve upon the discoveries of those that have preceded them, beyond any thing that we can conceive. Of what is not the soul of man capable? It can extend its survey over the whole circuit of creation-it can ransack all nature and analyze its properties and ascertain its powers! What cannot the soul of man do? It can travel through illimitable space-it can circumnavigate the globe. It can do more. The soul of man can mount up to other worlds, and then it can employ its operations and