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  • THE GREATNESS OF THE SOUL, AND UNSPEAKABLENESS OF THE LOSS THEREOF
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    ‘or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’ — Mark 8:37.

    IHAVE CHOSEN at this time to handle these words among you, and that for several reasons: — 1. Because the soul, and the salvation of it, are such great, such wonderful great things; nothing is a matter of that concern as is, and should be, the soul of each one of you. House and land, trades and honors, places and preferments, what are they to salvation? to the salvation of the soul? 2. Because I perceive that this so great a thing, and about which persons should be so much concerned, is neglected to amazement, and that by the most of men; yea, who is there of the many thousands that sit daily under the sound of the gospel that are concerned, heartily concerned, about the salvation of their souls? — that is, concerned, I say, as the nature of the thing requireth. If ever a lamentation was fit to be taken up in this age about, for, or concerning anything, it is about, for, and concerning the horrid neglect that everywhere puts forth itself with reference to salvation.

    Where is one man in a thousand — yea, where is there two of ten thousand that do show by their conversation, public and private, that the soul, their own souls, are considered by them, and that they are taking that care for the salvation of them as becomes them — to wit, as the weight of the work, and the nature of salvation requireth? 3. I have therefore pitched upon this text at this time; to see, if peradventure the discourse which God shall help me to make upon it, will awaken you, rouse you off your beds of ease, security, and pleasure, and fetch you down upon your knees before Him, to beg of Him grace to be concerned about the salvation of your souls. And then, in the last place, I have taken upon me to do this, that I may deliver, if not you, yet myself, and that I may be clear of your blood, and stand quit, as to you, before God, when you shall, for neglect, be damned, and wail to consider that you have lost your souls. ‘When I say,’ saith God, ‘unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou,’ the prophet or preacher, ‘givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not front his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul’ ( Ezekiel 3:18,19). ‘OR WHAT SHALL A MAN GIVE IN EXCHANGE FOR HIS SOUL?’

    In my handling of these words, I shall first speak to the occasion of them, and then to the words themselves.

    The occasion of the words was, for that the people that now were auditors to the Lord Jesus, and that followed him, did it without that consideration as becomes so great a work — that is, the generality of them that followed Him were not for considering first with themselves, what it was to profess Christ, and what that profession might cost them. ‘And when he had called the people unto him ,’ the great multitude that went with him ( Luke 14:25) ‘with his disciples also, he said unto them, ‘Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me ( Mark 8:34). Let him first sit down and count up the cost, and the charge he is like to be at, if he follows me. For following of me is not like following of some other masters. The wind sits always on my face, and the foaming rage of the sea of this world, and the proud and lofty waves thereof, do continually beat upon the sides of the bark of the ship that myself, my cause, and my followers are in; he therefore that will not run hazards, and that is afraid to venture a drowning, let him not set foot into this vessel.

    So whosever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, he cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it ( Luke 14:27-29).

    True, to reason, this kind of language tends to cast water upon weak and beginning desires, but to faith, it makes the things set before us, and the greatness, and the glory of them, more apparently excellent and desirable.

    Reason will say, Then who will profess Christ that hath such coarse entertainment at the beginning? but faith will say, Then surely the things that are at the end of a Christian’s race in this world must needs be unspeakably glorious; since whoever hath had but the knowledge and due consideration of them, have not stuck to run hazards, hazards of every kind, that they might embrace and enjoy them. Yea, saith faith, it must needs be so, since the Son himself, that best knew what they were, even, ‘for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God’ ( Hebrews 12:2).

    But, I say, there is not in every man this knowledge of things and so by consequence not such consideration as can make the cross and self-denial acceptable to them for the sake of Christ, and of the things that are where He now sitteth at the right hand of God ( Colossians 3:2-4). Therefore our Lord Jesus doth even at the beginning give to His followers this instruction. And lest any of them should take distaste at His saying, He presenteth them with the consideration of three things together — namely, the cross, the loss of life, and the soul; and then reasoneth with them from the same, saying, Here is the cross, the life, and the soul. 1. The cross, and that you must take up, if you will follow Me. 2. The life, and that you may save for a time, if you cast Me off. 3. And the soul, which will everlastingly perish if you come not to Me, and abide not with Me.

    Now consider what is best to be done. Will you take up the cross, come after Me, and so preserve your souls from perishing? or will you shun the cross to save your lives, and so run the danger of eternal damnation? Or, as you have it in John, will you love your life till you lose it? or will you hate your life, and save it? ‘He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal’ ( John 12:15).

    As who should say, He that loveth a temporal life, he that so loveth it, as to shun the profession of Christ to save it, shall lose it upon a worse account, than if he had lost it for Christ and the gospel; but he that will set light by it, for the love that he hath to Christ, shall keep it unto life eternal.

    Christ having thus discoursed with His followers about their denying of themselves, their taking up their cross and following of Him, doth, in the next place, put the question to them, and so leaveth it upon them for ever, saying, ‘For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’ ( Mark 8:36).

    As who should say, I have bid you take heed that you do not lightly, and without due consideration, enter into a profession of Me and of My gospel; for he that without due consideration shall begin to profess Christ, will also without it forsake Him, turn from Him, and cast Him behind his back; and since I have even at the beginning, laid the consideration of the cross before you, it is because you should not be surprised and overtaken by it unawares, and because you should know that to draw back from Me after you have laid your hand to My plough, will make you unfit for the kingdom of heaven ( Luke 9:62). Now, since this is so, there is no less lies at stake than salvation, and salvation is worth all the world, yea, worth ten thousand worlds, if there should be so many. And since this is so also, it will be your wisdom to begin to profess the gospel with expectation of the cross and tribulation, for to that are my gospellers in this world appointed ( James 1:12; 1 Thessalonians 3:3). And if you begin thus, and hold it, the kingdom and crown shall be yours; for as God counteth it a righteous thing to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you, so to you who are troubled and endure it (for ‘we count them happy,’ says James, ‘that endure,’ ( James 5:11), rest with saints, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, to take vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey the gospel, etc. ( 2 Thessalonians 1:7,8). And if no less lies at stake than salvation, then is a man’s soul and his all at the stake; and if it be so, what will it profit a man if, by forsaking of Me, he should get the whole world? ‘For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’

    Having thus laid the soul in one balance, and the world in the other, and affirmed that the soul out-bids the whole world, and is incomparably for value and worth beyond it; in the next place, he descends to a second question, which is that I have chosen at this time for my text, saying, ‘Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’

    In these words, we have first a supposition, and such an one as standeth upon a double bottom. The supposition is this — That the soul is capable of being lost; or thus — ’Tis possible for a man to lose his soul. The double bottom that this supposition is grounded upon is, first, a man’s ignorance of the worth of his soul, and of the danger that it is in; and the second is, for that men commonly do set a higher price upon present ease and enjoyments than they do upon eternal salvation. The last of these doth naturally follow upon the first; for if men be ignorant of the value and worth of their souls, as by Christ in the verse before is implied, what should hinder but that men should set a higher esteem upon that with which their carnal desires are taken, than upon that about which they are not concerned, and of which they know not the worth.

    But again, as this by the text is clearly supposed, so to here is also something implied; namely, that it is impossible to possess some men with the worth of their souls until they are utterly and everlastingly lost. ‘What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’ That is, men when their souls are lost, and shut down under the hatches in the pits and hells in endless perdition and destruction, then they will see the worth of their souls, then they will consider what they have lost, and truly not till then. This is plain, not only to sense, but by the natural scope of the words, ‘What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’ Or what would not those that are now for sin made to see themselves lost, by the light of hell fire — for some will never be convinced that they are lost till, with rich Dives, they see it in the light of hell flames ( Luke 16:22,23). I say, what would not such, if they had it, give in exchange for their immortal souls, or to recover them again from that place and torment? f2 I shall observe two truths in the words.

    The first is, That the loss of the soul is the highest, the greatest loss — a loss that can never be repaired or made up. ‘What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’ — that is, to recover or redeem his lost soul to liberty?

    The second truth is this, That how unconcerned and careless soever some now be, about the loss or salvation of their souls, yet the day is coming; but it will then be too late, when men will be willing, had they never so much, to give it all in exchange for their souls. For so the question implies — ’What will a man give in exchange for his soul?’ What would he not give? What would he not part with at that day, the day in which he will see himself damned, if he had it, in exchange for his soul?

    The first observation, or truth, drawn from the words is cleared by the text, ‘What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’ — that is, there is not anything, nor all the things under heaven, were they all in one man’s hand, and all at his disposal, that would go in exchange for the soul, that would be of value to fetch back one lost soul, or that would certainly recover it from the confines of hell. ‘The redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever’ ( Psalm 49:3). And what saith the words before the text but the same — ’For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’ What shall profit a man that has lost his soul? Nothing at all, though he hath by that loss gained the whole world; for all the world is not worth a sou1, not worth a soul in the eye of God and judgment of the law. And it is from this consideration that good Elihu cautioneth Job to take heed, ‘Because there is wrath,’ saith he, ‘ beware lest He take thee away with His stroke: then a great ransom cannot deliver thee. Will He esteem thy riches? no, not gold, nor all the forces of strength’ ( Job 36:18,19).

    Riches and power, what is there more in the world? for answereth all things — that is, all but soul concerns. It can neither be a price for souls while here, nor can that, with all the forces of strength, recover one out of hell fire.

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