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These souls must have been very precious in the sight of God, since he redeemed them at a price so immense. The misery into which they were liable to be plunged, must have been extremely terrible, since God thought proper to make such great efforts to save them from it. The felicity, of which they are capable, and to which the Lord intends to elevate them, must be infinitely valuable, since it cost him so much to bring them to it. For what in the universe is of equal value with the blood of the Son of God? Disappear, all ye other miracles, wrought in favor of our souls! ye astonishing prodigies, that confirmed the gospel! thou, delay of the consummation of all things ! ye great and terrible signs of the second coming of the Son of God ! Vanish before the miracle of the cross; for the cross shines you all into darkness and shade. This glorious light makes your glimmering vanish, and after my imagination is filled with the tremendous dignity of this sacrifice, I can see nothing great beside. But, if God, if this just appraiser of things, hath estimated our souls at such a rate, shall we set a low price on them? If he hath given so much for them, do we imagine, we can give too much for them? If, for their redemption, he hath sacrificed the most valuable person in heaven, do we imagine there is any thing upon earth too great to give up for them?
No, no, my brethren! after what we have heard, we ought to believe, that there is no shadow of exaggeration in this exclamation of Jesus Christ, What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? I do not certainly know what our Saviourmeant to say, whether he intended to speak of a man, who should gain the whole world, and instantly lose his soul ; or of one, who should not lose his soul till long after he had obtained the whole world, and had reigned over it through
the course of a long life. But I do know that the words are true, even in the most extensive sense. Suppose a man, who should not only enjoy universal empire for one whole age; but for a period equal to the duration of the world itself; the proposition, that is implied in the words of Jesus Christ, is applicable to him. Such a soul as we have described, a soul so excellent in its nature, so extensive in its duration, so precious through its redemption ; a soul capable of acquiring so much knowledge, of conceiving so many desires, of experiencing so much remorse, of feeling so many pleasures and pains; a sout, that must subsist beyond all time, and perpetuate itself to eternity ; a soul redeemed by the blood of the Son of God; a soul so valuable ought to be preferred before all things, and nothing is too precious to be given for its exchange. 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?
However, my brethren, we are willing to acknowledge, were we in the case supposed by Je-sus Christ; were it in our power to gain the whole world by losing our own souls; or, being actually universal monarchs, were we obliged to sacrifice this vast empire to recover our souls already lost; were we, being smitten with the splendid offer, or being alarmed at the immense price of our purchase, to prefer the whole world before our own souls, we might then, if not exculpate our conduct, yet at Jeast give a little color to it; if we could not gain our cause, we might however plead it with some shew of reason. A reason of state, a political motive, as that of governing a whole universe, would naturally have some influence over us. The titles of Sovereign, Monarch, Emperor, would naturally charm little souls, like ours. Sumptuous palaces, superb equipages, a croud of devoted courtiers, bowing and cringing before us, and all that exterior grandeur, which environs the princes of the earth, would naturally fascinate such feeble eyes, and infatuate such puerile imaginations as ours.
I repeat it again, could we obtain the government of the universe by the sale of our souls, if we could not justify our conduct, we might extenuate the guilt of it; and although we could not gain our cause, we might at least plead it with some shew of reason.
But is this our case? Is it in our power to gain the whole world ? Is this the price, at which we sell our souls ? O shame of human nature! O meanness of soul, more proper to confound us, than any thing else, with which we can be reproached ! This intelligent soul, this immortal soul, this soul, which has been thought worthy of redemption by the blood of the Saviour of the world, this soul we often part with for nothing, and for less than nothing! In our condition, placed as most of us are, in a state of mediocrity; when by dissipation and indolence, by injustice and iniquity, by malice and obstinacy, we shall have procured from vice all the rewards, that we can expect, what shall we have gained? Cities? Provinces ? Kingdoms ? a long and prosperous reign? God hath not left these to our choice. His love would not suffer him to expose us to a temptation so violent. Accordingly we put up our souls at a lower price. See this old man, rather dead than alive, bowing under his
age, stooping down, and stepping into the grave, at what price does he exchange his soul ? at the price of a few days of a dying life; a few pleasures, smothered under a pile of years, if I may speak so, or buried under the ice of old age. That offi
cer in the army, who thinks, he alone understands real grandeur, at what rate does he value his soul? He loses it for the sake of the false glory of swearing expertly, and of uniting blasphemy and polite
What does yon mechanic get for his soul? One acre of land, a cottage bigger and less inconvenient than that of his neighbor.
Unmanly wretches ! If we be bent on renouncing our dignity, let us, however, keep up some appearance of greatness. Sordid souls ! if we will resign our noblest pretensions, let us do it, however, in favor of some other pretensions, that are real. Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this ! and be ye horribly afraid; for my people have committed trvo evils: they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and have hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water, Jer. ii. 12. Do you perceive, my brethren, the force of this complaint, which God anciently uttered over his people the Jews, and which he now utters over us? Neither genius, nor eradition, can explain it. Could they, you might perhaps understand it. A certain elevation, a certain dignity of soul, singular sentiments of heart, are the only expositors of these affecting words. Therefore, I fear, they are unintelligible to most of you.
Be astonished, 0 ye heavens, at this ! and be ribly afraid ; for my people have committed two evils : they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. God loves us, he desires we should love him. He has done every thing to conciliate our esteem. For us he sent his Son into the world. For us he disarmed death. For us he opened an easy path to a glorious eternity. And all this, to render himself master of our hearts, and to engage us to return him love for love, life for life. We resist all these attractives, we prefer other objects before him. No matter, he would pass this ingratitude, if the objects, which we prefer before him, were capable of making us happy? if, at least, they bore any apparent proportion to those, which he offereth to our hopes. But what arouseth his displeasure, what provokes his just indignation, what excites reproaches, that would cleave our hearts asunder, were they capable of feeling, is the vanity of the objects, which we prefer before him. The soul, in exchange for which the whole world would not be a sufficient consideration, this soul we often give for the most mean, the most vile, the most contemptible part of the world. O ye heavens ! be astonished at this, at this be ye horribly afraid; for my people have committed two evils : they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
But do we know, ungrateful that we are, do we know, that if the hardness of our hearts prevent our feeling in particular the energy of this reproof, and in general the evidence of the reflections, that make the substance of this discourse; do we know that a day will come, when we shall feel them in all their force ? Do we know, that there is now a place, where the truth of our text appears in a clear, but a terrible light? Yes, my brethren, this reflection is perhaps essential to our discourse, this perhaps approaches nearest to the meaning of Jesus Christ; perhaps Jesus Christ, in these words, What shall a man give in exchange for his soul ? meant to inform us of the disposition of a man in despair, who, immersed in all the miseries, that can excruciate a soul, surprized at having parted with such a soul at a price so small, stricken with the enormous crime