صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

Never omit an opportunity of doing good, and be in society a general resource, an universal refuge.

From the truths which you have heard, derive motives of zeal and fervour. It is mortifying, I own, in some respects, when one feels certain emotions of dignity and elevation, to sink in society. It is mortifying to beg bread of one who is a man like our selves. It is mortifying to be trodden under foot by our equals, and, to say all in a word, to be in stations very unequal among our equals. But this economy will quickly vanish. The fashion of this world will presently pass away, and we shall soon enter that blessed state, in which all distinctions will be abolished, and in which all that is noble in immortal souls, will shine in all its splendour. Let us, my brethren, sigh after this period, let us make it the object of our most constant and ardent prayers. God grant we may all have a right to pray for it! God grant our text may be one day verified in a new sense. May all who compose this assembly, masters and servants, rich and poor, may we all, my dear hearers, having acknowledged ourselves equal in essence, in privileges, in destination, in the last end, may we all alike participate the same glory. God grant it for his mercy-sake. Amen.

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The Worth of the Soul.

MATTHEW Xvi. 26.

What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

My brethren, before we enforce the truths which Jesus Christ included in the words of the text, we will endeavour to fix the meaning of it. This depends on the term soul, which is used in this passage, and which is one of the most equivocal words in scripture; for it is taken in different, and even in contrary senses, so that sometimes it signifies a dead body, Lev. xxi. 1. We will not divert your attention now by reciting the long list of explications that may be given to the term: but we will content ourselves with remarking, that it can be taken only in two senses in the text.

Soul may be taken for life; and in this sense the term is used by St. Matthew, who says, They are dead who sought the young child's soul, chap. ii. 20. Soul may be taken for that spiritual part of us, which we call the soul by excellence; and in this sense it is used by our Lord, who says, fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but ra ther fear him, which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell, chap. x. 28.

If we take the word in the first sense, for life, we put into the mouth of Jesus Christ a proposition verified by experience; that is, that men consider life as the greatest of all temporal blessings, and that they part with every thing to preserve it. This rule hath its exceptions: but the exceptions confirm the rule. Sometimes, indeed, a disgust with the world, a principle of religion, a point of honour, will incline men to sacrifice their lives: but these particular cases cannot prevent our saying in the general, "What shall a man give in exchange for his life?"

If we take the word for that part of man, which we call the soul by excellence, Jesus Christ intended to point out to us, not what men usually do; (for alas! it happens too often, that men sacrifice their souls to the meanest and most sordid interest,) but what they always ought to do. He meant to teach us, that the soul is the noblest part of us, and that nothing is too great to be given for its ransom.

Both these interpretations are probable, and each hath its partisans, and its proofs. But, although we would not condemn the first, we prefer the last, not only because it is the most noble meaning, and opens the most extensive field of meditation: but because it seems to us the most conformable to our Saviour's design in speaking the words.

Judge by what precedes our text. "What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Jesus Christ spoke thus to fortify his disciples against the temptations, to which their profession of the gospel was about to expose them.

If by the word soul we understand the life, we shall be obliged to go a great way about to give any reasonable sense to the words. On the contrary, if we take the word for the spirit, the meaning of the whole is clear and easy. Now it seems to me beyond a doubt, that Jesus Christ, by the manner in which he hath connected the text with the preceding verse, used the term soul in the latter sense.

Judge of our comment also by what follows. "What shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For," adds, our Lord immediately after, "the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works." What connection have these words with our text, if we take the word soul for life? What connection is there between this proposition, Man hath nothing more valuable than life, and this, "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his angels?" Whereas if we adopt our sense of the term, the connection instantly appears.

We will then retain this explication. By the soul we understand here the spirit of man; and, this word being thus explained, the meaning of Jesus Christ. in the whole passage is understood in part, and one remark will be sufficient to explain it wholly. We must attend to the true meaning of the phrase, lose his soul, which immediately precedes the text, and which we shall often use to explain the text itself. To lose the soul does not signify to be deprived of this part of one's self; for, however great this punishment might be, it is the chief object of a wicked man's wishes: but to lose the soul is to lose those real

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