« FöregåendeFortsätt »
the actual Accomplishment of God's Covenant with Christ, and the actual Redemption of Human Nature in the Person of Christ; we see all done, which God requir'd should be done for the Redemption of Sinners ; and we see our Saviour invested with Power and Authority to raise the Dead, and to bestow Immortal Life upon us.
A Comparison between the Gain of the World
and the Loss of the Soul.
Cannot conclude this Discourse without fome
serious Application to our selves; and I know not how to do that so effectually, as in our Saviour's Words; What is a Man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own Soul ? Or what hall a Man give in exchange for his Soul ? Mat. xvi. 26. Which Words are applied by our Saviour to the Case of Suffering for Religion, to convince his Disciples, how reasonable it is to facrifice even their Lives for his Sake, to save their Souls, and to obtain the great Rewards of Eternal Life: For whosoever will save his Life, shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his Life for my Sake, shall find it. For what is a Man profited, &c. But they are applicable to all other Cases, where there is any Competition between this world and the Salvation of our Souls.
To gain the whole Word, signifies to gain all the Advantages of Happiness, which this World can afford; the most Universal Empire, the most absolute Command of Riches and Pleasures, whatever the World can give, whatever Human Nature can enjoy. This makes our Saviour's Argument unanswerable ; for no Man can ever gain more in Exchange for his Soul, than the whole world ; and, if this be so losing a Bargain, the saving of a short, miserable, uncertain Life, some faint Images of Honour, some short and empty Scenes of Mirth and Pleasure, can never come in Competition with the Salvation of our Souls.
By the Loss of the Soul, our Saviour means the Loss of Eternal Life, and the Miseries of an Eternal Death: For he speaks of Men's losing their Souls at the Day of Judgment; When the Son of Man shall come in the Glory of his Father, with bis Angels, and Mall reward every Man according to his Works; V. 27. Our Saviour does not here philosophize about the Nature of the Soul, and how much an Immortal Spirit excels the whole Material World; and therefore that he who loses his Soul, loses that which is of more intrinsick Value than the whole World: But he uses a more fenfible Argument to make Men good; It is the fame Soul which must feel the Happiness or the Miseries of this World, and of the next, which is the only Principle of Life and Sensation in both Worlds. And therefore, when he compares the Gain of the World with the Loss of the Soul, he sets the Happiness of this World against the Miseries of the next; all that sensible Happiness, which the Soul feels in the Enjoyment of this World against those unknown Miseries, which are the Rewards of Sin in the next World. To save or to lose the Soul in this World, is to save or to lose this Mortal Life, and all the Pleasures and Enjoyments of it; as it is in the Verse before, He that will save his Life, shu fugiw durš, bis Scul, all lose it; and to lose the Soul in the next World, is to lose Immortal Life; not as Life sig.
nifies Being, for no Man can lose his Soul, neither in this World, nor in the next; but he loses his Soul, so as an Immortal Soul can be lost; that is, though he cannot cease to be, he becomes miserable, which is infinitely worse than not being, and therefore a much more terrible loss of the Soul than to fall into Nothing: For it is to have a Soul, only to feel Eternal Miseries: Tlu fugle aurð Inpuwon, he shall suffer loss, or damage in his Soul: His Soul fubfifts still, but loses its Happiness, and sinks into an irrecoverable state of Misery.
And when our Saviour proposes this by way of Question, What is a man profited, though he gain the whole World, to lose his own Soul? he appeals to every Man, who will think seriously of these Matters, to judge for himself, whether all the Happiness of this World can make any Recompence for the loss of the Soul. For every Man has a natural Sense of this, that it is better to be Happy than Miserable ; that it is better to forfeit a Temporal, than an Eternal Happiness; that it is better to lose this Life, and all the Advantages of it, than to be Miserable for ever.
This indeed is not well considered by most Men ; they are fond of this world, and think they can never have their fill of it: While Heaven and Hell are out of sight, and Death and Judgment at a distance, their
Souls are thought very little worth ; every Trifle will purchase them, every present mo. mentary Satisfaction is a valuable Price for them
; and therefore our Saviour adds, and what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? That is, if you would judge truly of this matter, you must make the Cafe present and sensible. Suppose then (which God grant may never be the Case of any of us) that you had lost your Souls ; that after a Voluptuous and Luxurious Life, you shall find your felves with Dives in Hell, tormented in those uns
quenchable Flames, what would you give for the Redemption of your Souls? Would you then think the whole Word too dear a Purchase for them? Could
you be sent into this World again to act over a new part, would either the Charms and Flatteries, or the Terrors of this World, prove new Temptations to you? Would you venture the loss of your Souls any more, to gain the Pleasures, or to avoid the Sufferings of this Life? I doubt not but you all believe, that these are the Thoughts, thefe are the vain Wishes of those miserable Wretches, who have lost their Souis: For if skin for skin, and all that a man bath will be give for his Life, to which our Saviour here alludes, certainly Eternal Life is worth more than all we have ; and were it possible, we would give more than all for the Redemption of our Souls. And if we believe that thus we shall think if ever we should lose our Souls, we ought in all Reason to think so now, to prevent the loss of them. Since then all Mankind are of this Persuafion, that the Gain of the whole World can make no Recompence for the loss of the Soul, I shall not go about to prove it ; for the Sense of Nature is stronger and more powerful than any other Arguments : And did Men feriously consider, that the purchase and enjoyment of this world would cost them their Souls, there would need no other Arguments to make them despise the World in all its Glory. And therefore my Business shall only be to awaken and quicken this Sense in our Minds, by such lively Representation both of the Gain and of the Loss, that you may see and feel the difference between them.
1. The gain is the whole world, a little part of which is thought a considerable Purchase by most Men, and a Temptation too big to be resisted. The Devil knew so well the Force of it, that he ven. sured to try it upon Christ himself: All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me, Match. iv.
Now I do not intend to disparage the World, which is God's Workmanship, nor to disparage the Enjoyments of it, which are so excellently fitted by our wise and bountiful Creator, to answer and entertain all the Appetites of human Nature. I always thought it a vain thing to persuade a Man, who is easy and prosperous, that this World is not a pleasant Place; that there is no difference between a Prince and a Slave, between Riches and Poverty, between Pain and Pleasure ; which is to persuade Men out of their Senses; for they feel a difference. Our Saviour's Argument in its utmoft Latitude will allow us to say as many good things of the World as we please ; for it consists only in a Comparison between the World and our Souls; which does not necessarily suppose, that the Gain of the World is in it self very little and contemptible, but only that the Loss of the Soul is irreparably great.
The usual Topicks Men chuse to declaim on, when they fall out with the World, may be left out of this Argument; such as the Inconstancy and Instability of all earthly Things; that Riches and Honours are uncertain; that our Pleasures are not fincere, but intermix'd with Pain, with Cares, with Fears, with Disappointments. For though we Tould suppose a Man to have the Empire of the whole World, to have all the Delights of Nature at his Command, and to have his Fortune in his own keeping, all this would profit him nothing, should he lose his Soul after a long, uninterrupted, undisturbed poffeffion of the whole World. And I appeal to any Man, whether he would be contented to be this happy Man, upon condition to be miferable for ever. Value the World then as highly as you please, admire its Splendor and Glory, and B b 2