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THE GAIN OF THE WHOLE WORLD AN INADEQUATE COMPENSATION FOR THE LOSS
OF A MAN'S SOUL.
MARK VIII. 36, 37.
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole
world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Our blessed Lord, well knowing what is in man, foresaw the terrible opposition which his religion would encounter from the fierce
passions, the stubborn prejudices, and the everwatchful interests of the world. He was, therefore, desirous of preparing his Apostles for the arduous conflict in which they were shortly to be engaged. In the chapter from which our text is taken, the Evangelist in
that Jesus “began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer
many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief
priests and scribes, and be killed1." It was not to be expected that those who persecuted the Master, would be disposed to respect or spare his disciples. He, therefore, frankly and explicitly declares to them the nature of the service into which they had enlisted themselves. "Whosoever," said he, "will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." What was meant by taking up the cross, and following him, might easily be understood, not only from his sufferings, but from the many descriptions he of the formidable consequences upon gave which his followers were to calculate. Thus, in St. Matthew's Gospel, we have recorded the following appalling caution: "Think not that I am come to send peace upon earth; I come not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her motherin-law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household." He tells them, also, that they shall be put out of the synagogues, that they shall be persecuted from place to place; and that the time shall come, when whosoever killeth them shall think that he doeth God
service. This was part of the cross which they were to take up, in following Christ.
, How accurately these declarations of Jesus accorded with the event, the history of the first
ages of Christianity abundantly testifies. All the sufferings which the power and malice of wicked and misguided men could inflict, were accumulated with unremitting zeal and diligence, upon the first propagators and followers of the Gospel. But of all this our Saviour, as we have observed, fairly cautions his disciples. He tells them distinctly, that whosoever will come after him, must not do it in the expectation of affluence, of ease, of honour, or of enjoyment; but must “ deny himself,” and “ take up his cross, and follow'
. him. Now to induce men to embrace, and to
persevere in a religion, leading, and professing to lead, to such results, it is natural to presume, that some very powerful argument was offered ---some important and weighty consideration must have been presented them. Such an argument, and such a consideration, were presented ; and appear to be contained in the simple question of the text. 66 What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?"
The soul is immortal; it never perishes". But it may be lost. It may deviate from the
. “ narrow way” and the “strait gate,” which lead to endless bliss in heaven, and may wander into the broad and beaten
which leadeth to those regions of agony and woe, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth This was the argument, this the consideration, offered to the Apostles. What ease, what honours, what wealth could compensate them for the loss of their souls ? This upheld them in all their tribulations and toils. No dangers, no threats, could intimidate them, because no dangers, no threats, could be placed in competition with the perils which menaced their souls, if they should relinquish their only hope of salvation. No pleasures could allure them, no wealth bribe them, no temptations
* “The Greek word is (nuwon, which properly signifies, to receive a mulct, or to suffer damage ; and therefore it is here opposed to repohon—if he shall gain. So that the word doth not denote the absolute loss, or extinction of the soul, but its undergoing some dreadful mulct, or suffering some irreparable damage. For as Hierocles hath observed, Immortal substances cannot so die as to lose their being, but so as to lose their well-being they may. And accordingly our Saviour himself calls the punishment of the wicked in hell-fire, destroying them, Matt. X. 28. Fear not them which kill the body but fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Where, by destroying, he doth not mean putting a final end to their being, but putting them into an irrecoverable state of illbeing."-Scott's Christian Life, vol. v. p. 28.
could seduce them, no sacrifice divert them, because the pleasures, which the soul of the faithful Christian may enjoy at God's right hand, are eternal, and the riches and rewards, which are promised in the kingdom of heaven, are beyond all price, and beyond all, conception.
What, then, shall a man profit, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?”
This, my brethren, is the plain question with which Christ forearmed his disciples, when he sent them 66 forth, as sheep among wolves,” to “ wrestle with powers, and principalities, and spiritual wickedness in high places.” And this is a question with which we should be always armed, and which we should have present to our mind, in all the trials and temptations incidental to us, in this our probationary state.
The storm of persecution, by the blessing of God, has long since been hushed, and, it is to be presumed that, at least in the present day, neither bigotry nor fanaticism will have power to rouse it into action. What we have to sustain, arises from our corruption and weakness, operated upon by the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. As a security against these, by