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annihilation ; but how inconceivably is its worth enhanced when we know that it will exist for ever!
Our estimate of the value of anything is materially affected by the manner in which others regard it
, on whose judgment we rely. Many people prize that of which they themselves feel scarcely competent to form an opinion, because others, who are qualified to do so, pronounce it valuable. cious diamond is prized because some skilful lapidary has declared it to be a gem of the first water. It is no uncommon thing to hear of the man of wealth filling his gallery with paintings, on which he has expended a princely fortune, almost entirely on the recommendation of some friend whom he knows to be a man of correct taste. Now the worth of the soul is a subject on which we are all competent to form an opinion; but still it may be instructive, and may be the means of confirming right determinations, to know what has been thought of its value by the highest authorities that have ever pronounced upon it. What is it which has been the great object of personal solicitude to the best of men ? and what is it which they have sought with the greatest anxiety on behalf of those in whom they were most deeply interested ?—The salvation of the soul! There are beings of a higher order than man, endowed with nobler faculties, and commanding a far wider sphere of observation-beings who know what a blessed thing it is to be holy-and they are deeply interested in what concerns the welfare of frail, sinful men, and rejoice in the promotion of their true happiness. And what is it which causes them joy ? They see a man rising from poverty to affluence; but they do not rejoice over that, for they know that the tendency of worldly prosperity is too often to withdraw the heart from the only source of true peace, and to “ drown” the soul “in destruction and perdition.” They see the victor returning from the field of fight, crowned with the fairest laurels; but they know too well the fickleness of the popular breath, and the sufferings and the blood by which his victories have been purchased, to rejoice over that. But when they see a poor prodigal, seeking, in the spirit of heart-broken penitence, some place of repentance, to weep there, forsaking his sins, and returning to God, it is then that they rejoice. “ There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth ;” and over such a repentant sinner they watch, as ministering spirits, till his salvation is complete in heaven. What a proof of the estimate they have formed of the value of the soul ! There is one higher than they, who himself not only taught men the preciousness of the soul, but laid aside
his glory, assumed the form of a servant, endured such suffer-
There is a sense in which it may be lost now; but what our Lord had in view, when he uttered that momentous question of which we have been speaking, was its final and irreparable ruin. Let us try, then, calmly and seriously to ascertain what is involved in that loss.
A lost soul is excluded from heaven. Who is there that does not hope to arrive at last heaven ? But only the “nations of the saved” are to “ walk in the light of the city ;" and they only are saved who have believed with all their hearts on the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing is to enter there “that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, nor maketh a lie; but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.” We should deem the case of the child most forlorn and desolate who was driven away from his paternal home, and sent forth as a wanderer into the wide world ; but how much more forlorn and desolate is the case of that man who is shut out of heaven !
That is by no means all. The alternative is not between heaven and a world like this, nor between heaven and annihilation ; it is between heaven and hell. The Bible says so; Jesus Christ, who is infinite love, said so. He spake of a “ wrath to come,” of a “worm that dieth not,” of a “fire that is not quenched,” of “everlasting fire;” and we read elsewhere in the New Testament of the blackness of darkness for ever and ever,” and of “the lake of fire,” which “is the second death." Granting that most of these expressions are figurative, they indicate a reality indescribably appalling and terrible. Of many of the sources of that wretchedness we can form little conception, but there are some which are obvious. We might speak of the very tendency of sin to misery. The soul once lost will be beyond the reach of any influences likely to restrain its sinfulness. There will instead be everything to foster and increase it. Imagine the spirit further and further removed from God, its evil passions quickened to their utmost intensity, finding nothing to love, but everything to reproach and hate. Would not that be enough to render it a lost soul ?
THE ENGLISH MONTHLY TRACT SOCIETY, 27, RED LION SQUARE, LONDON.
Think of your being shut up in the same house with a large company of the worst men in existence for a week, or a month, or a year. Would not such a scene be a hell upon earth? There are all the bad who have ever' lived, and who died impenitent, and there are fallen spirits besides, for it was “prepared for the devil and his angels.” Then there is remorse, the bitter corroding of the spirit, the worm that dieth notremorse, whose keenest fang will be the remembrance of a neglected gospel. What else there may be we cannot tell, save this, that Jesus Christ himself has said of that man who refuses his salvation, “ The wrath of God abideth on him."
And that suggests another thought. It abideth. The soul once lost is lost for ever. There does not break on that gloom which fills the prison house of the lost a single ray of hope. No punishment, however severe, can either renew the soul or expiate its guilt. And “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin.” No preacher of the cross ever visits those abodes of despair ; and there is no other refuge. The ruin is irreparable, and it is for ever. Such is the loss of the soul.
Suppose you stood on some point which commanded an extensive ocean prospect. Suppose that just beneath you there was a fair and verdant isle, breathing the sweetest odours, and radiant with the brightest beauty-a very paradise of delight. Suppose, yet further, that just as you were admiring its loveliness, it was suddenly engulphed in the mighty waters, and
you contemplate such a calamity with indifference? Suppose you saw a world start from its orbit, and speed its flight through the vast regions of space, and knew that its destruction was inevitable, would you not be most deeply concerned ? And yet the destruction of these were nothing compared with the destruction of a soul. A word from God, and in a moment there would spring into existence a thousand fairer isles, and a thousand nobler worlds. But, we speak it with all reverence, God has placed beyond possibility the repair of the soul's ruin, for he has declared most solemnly, again and again, that it shall be for ever. Beloved reader, it is possible that ruin may
be And bear in mind, that if the soul be lost, nothing earthly can compensate its loss. Our Lord saw that the great obstacle to the pursuit of salvation was the love of the world, of its money, its pleasures, its honours; and seeing the worthlessness of all it could give in comparison with the soul, he uttered and left on record the serious and unanswerable inquiry, “ What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ?” It is a large supposition, the whole world !
seen no more.
There have been men who have acquired vast stores of wealth, which have excited at once the wonder and envy of their contemporaries; and there have been men who have made themselves masters of kingdoms and continents ; but no one ever acquired anything like the whole world. Yet, admitting that all its wealth and all its resources of happiness were gathered up in the hands of one man, and he were undisputed master of the globe, he would be truly poor,-poor for eternity,—if his soul were lost. It would all profit him nothing.
It is worth while inquiring how far the whole world would profit a man destitute of salvation, even on earth. Of course such a man would have at his command innumerable comforts and conveniences, which would do much to render life desirable; but all his possessions would fail to minister true happiness. The vastness of his wealth would only bring with it increase of care, and the very consciousness that he had attained the summit of human ambition, would of itself be a source of dissatisfaction and weariness. It is said of Alexander the Great, that when on the eve of one of his expeditions, a friend asked him what he would do when the conquest which he anticipated was won ? He would turn his arms in such a direction, and make fresh conquests there. And what then ? He would turn his arms in another direction, and conquer there. And then what ?
He would go on conquering, till all the world was subdued. And then what? He would sit down and weep that there were no more worlds to conquer. There was also one who had every earthly good that heart could wish ; and as we read the enumeration of his varied resources of enjoyment, we cannot but feel, if the world can afford solid satisfaction, surely this man must be at rest. And yet it is his own sad acknowledgment that all was “vanity and vexation of spirit.” The Christian who is reconciled to God; whom God acknowledges as his adopted child; and in whose mind the Spirit of God maintains a "peace which passeth all understanding,”—that Christian is richer, though he be clad in rags, and his habitation be a hovel, and he be perishing from want, than would be the unsaved possessor of the whole world.
But yet, supposing it all “ profit” for a season, how long would it last ? At the very utmost only till death. The owner of the most splendid possessions can take them with him only to the verge of the grave, and there he must leave them all behind him. “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
The utmost a man's wealth can do for him beyond the hour of death, is to
procure him a splendid funeral, a gorgeous tomb, and a flattering epitaph ; but of that the man himself has no consciousness. There was one who, when his grounds brought forth plentifully, said, “What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits ? And he said, This will I do : I will pull down my barns, and build greater ; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years ; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee : then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided ? So," adds the great Teacher, in application of the parable,"is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God.”
Conceive of the soul lost. The remembrance of the largest worldly possessions could afford no alleviation to its wretched
On the contrary, how bitter its self-reproaches that, for acquisitions which, however splendid, could be retained only till death, there had been risked and lost the happiness of a whole eternity!
“I have sometimes thought,” said a great preacher, “that if it were possible for a man to have presented to him such a prize as the whole world, all its wealth, all its honours, all its enjoyments,—there would be something like an excuse, if, for a prize like that, he were tempted to barter his immortal soul. But when I think for how little men do this,—for only a few grains of its sand, for only a few rags and shreds of its trappings,—I am beyond measure astonished !” It is a truth as sad as it is undeniable, that for the veriest trifles men will imperil their everlasting interests. And yet, if the matter were presented barely and directly,—if some compact were proposed, like those of which we sometimes read in the tales of a bygone time, and it were seriously asked, “Will you, for so much power, for so much pleasure, for so much money, sell your soul to destruction ?” it would be difficult to find any one who would not recoil from such a proposal, and give to it a most indignant refusal. But then, that is not the form in which the temptation comes. It is rather thus. Here is the gospel, demanding attention, implicit faith, and the aḥandonment of all sin. On the other hand, the world urges its claims, and, absorbed in its pursuits, the man says to the message
mercy, “Go thy way for this time.” There may be some gain which conscience tells him is not right, or some course of sinful pleasure which he knows to be forbidden by God's law; and, feeling that he cannot give up that gain, or