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The Genius of the Gospel.
ABLE expositions of the Gospel, describing the manners, customs, and localities alluded to by the inspired writers; also interpreting their words, and harmonizing their formal discrepancies, are, happily, not wanting amongst us. But the eduction of its WIDEST truths and highest suggestions is still a felt desideratum. To some attempt at the work we devote these pages. We gratefully avail ourselves of all exegetical helps within our reach; but to occupy our limited space with any lengthened archæological, geographic, or philological remarks, would be to miss our aim ;which is not to make bare the mechanical process of scriptural study, but to reveal its spiritual results.
SECTION FIFTY-SIXTH :-Matt. xvi. 24–27.
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 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, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For 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.
SUBJECT :-The Three Great Valuables—the World, the
Soul, and Christ-like Love.
AMONGST the many great things, which Cbrist refers to in this passage, there are three to which I would especially invite your attention :- The World—the Soul--and Christ-like Love. The first is great, the second is greater, and the last, for many reasons which will hereafter appear, is greater than either.
The World is great. All men, though for very different reasons, are impressed with its greatness. It is great to the Poet, whose imagination glows in the presence of its scenes of enchanting beauty and aspects of stirring grandeur. It is great to the Philosopher, who in every step of his research
is amazed with the subtlety of its elements, the regularity of its operations, the fitness of its means to its ends, and the boundless variety of its combinations and its life. It is great to the Christian, who feels its moral significance, regards it as vocal with the thoughts, overflowing with the goodness, filled with the presence, and radiant with the majesty, of the Great Father of all. It is great even to the miserable worldling. He navigates its oceans, traverses its shores, cultivates its soils, and works its mines, in order to appropriate to himself as much of its treasures as is possible. In the language of Christ, he seeks to “ gain the world.” The world is great.
The Soul is greater. Christ distinctly teaches this in the passage before us. “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?" The word which is translated “soul,” in one of the verses under notice, is translated “life” in others. It would seem that our translators regarded the terms as convertible; and so they are. The soul is man’s life. Take that essence from us which we call soul, that which thinks, feels, recalls the past, and anticipates the future, which reproves of sin, makes us tremble sometimes at death, and turn pale when we think of the crimes we have committed and the retributive judgment that is coming on; take, I say, this soul from us, and we cease to be men;—we are brutes, nothing else. In Luke the idea that the soul is the man is fully expressed, and instead of the phrase “ lose his soul” we have “lose himself.” To lose the soul then, is to all intents and purposes to lose oneself. Now this soul is greater than the world. The world cannot think of its Creator, the soul can ; the world cannot act contrary to the will of its Creator, the soul can ; the world will not exist for ever, the soul will. Ancient philosophy and modern science encourage the belief in Peter's declaration concerning the destruction of the world : “ The Heavens shall pass away with a great noise, &c." As a leaf this planet shall fall from the great forest of existence; as a passing cloud in the sky it shall melt into thin air. But the soul has an imperishable existence.
“ This spirit shall return to him
That gave its heavenly spark;
And took the sting from death!”—CAMPBELL. O Brother ! however feeble thy talent or humble thy world's position, thou art greater than the globe beneath thy feet, or the great stars that roll above thee.
Christ-like Love is greater than either. “If any man will come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Here is a material representation of a spiritual principle. It does not mean, of course, that we are literally to “take up the cross ;” but that we are to be swayed by the same principle of action as that which led Christ to take up the Cross. There must be an identity of moral disposition. The question is, What was the principle that induced Christ to endure such ignominy and suffering? He could have avoided all this ; He could have appeared in more than Royal affluence and splendor. What influenced Him otherwise ? Here is the philosophy :-“Ye know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,” &c. The principle of self-denial is often enforced from pulpits, but seldom rationally and scripturally explained. It is popularly supposed that, it is the principle that prompts us to give up one good in order to obtain another, and a higher : to give up the world in order to get heaven. This is selfishness in its most iniquitous form. What is it then? It is that sympathy with the claims of God and His universe which make us delightfully oblivious of all mere personal considerations. Christian self-denial is not painful but pleasant; it is not slavery but freedom. Christ's " yoke is easy.” The greatest happiness of moral
beings is in loving. And the greatest happiness of loving · is giving. The sweetest thrill of pleasure springs from the
greatest sacrifice of love. How happy is the affectionate mother, when ministering to her sweet suffering infant the produce of her hard earnings. Her nights of refreshing sleep, all her personal comforts, she sacrifices with a hearty pleasure, in order to soothe the anguish of her afflicted babe. The martyr throws his life upon the flame in song.
Now this Christ-like love, which sacrifices the material to the spiritual, the personal to the universal, from an overflowing love to God and His creation, is true religion, and nothing else is. It was “the love of Christ,” the Christ-like affection that constrained Paul, that was in truth His inspiration; and this Christ teaches, by inference, is greater than either the world or the soul.
The passage leads us to make four remarks in relation to the greatness of this principle :
I. THAT OUR SAFE RELATION TO CHRIST DEPENDS UPON THE POSSESSION OF THIS CHRIST-LIKE LOVE. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross ;"'-Let him have the principle, that will qualify him to do that which I am doing. Two remarks will illustrate this proposition :
First: That our everlasting well-being depends upon following Christ. Unless we follow Him, act as He acted in relation to God and man, we must inevitably fail of a happy destiny. He is the only perfect example, the only safe guide ;—there is no other way to blessedness but that which He trod. “No man can come unto the Father," &c.
Secondly : That without the love that influenced Him we cannot follow Him. Indeed we cannot understand Him without it. Love alone understands love. Where there is no love in the heart, there is no eye to see the forms and manifestations of love without. For the want of this, the world understood not Christ and His apostles. Moreover, without this, we cannot be attracted by Him ; for those who have not this love, He has no charms. "He is to them a root out of a dry ground.” The magnetic force of His character can only
act upon kindred souls. Indeed, without this love, you have not a foundation on which a Christian character can be built; not a soil on which a Christian character can grow. Human virtues since the fall, have never grown elsewhere.
II. THAT THE WORTH OF OUR EXISTENCE ITSELF DEPENDS UPON THE POSSESSION OF THIS CHRIST-LIKE LOVE. “ Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake, shall find it. To lose this life or soul, does not mean, of course, to lose its existence-consciousness or moral obligations. All this would seem impossible—but to lose its well-being—to lose all that makes its existence worth having. The idea does not seem, to me, to be, that he who sacrifices his bodily life shall secure his spiritual life, and vice versa ; but that he that seeks his own happiness from selfish considerations in life, will lose it; whilst he who from love to God and man-Christ-like love, forgets himself in the great cause of piety and benevolence, will secure the blessedness of his being. This is an undeniable truth. The laws of our nature render it impossible for a selfish man to be happy. Happiness can never come by seeking it as an end. (1) Moral approbation is necessary to happiness. Where conscience does not approve, Can there be any blessedness ? Impossible. But conscience never has said, never can say,
“ Well done” to a selfish purpose, a selfish act, still less to
a selfish life. (2) The approbation of others is essential to happiness. The consciousness of being loved is an element of gladness. But whilst society may flatter a selfish man, it can never love him. (3) The approbation of God is essential to a happy life. His “well done" is indispensable. “In thy presence," &c. But He never has approved, and never will approve, of a selfish life. (4) The harmonious development of our spiritual powers is essential to a happy life. But this can never take place under the government of selfishness.
It is an eternal law, therefore, that Christ here propounds. The soul that seeketh happiness as its end, is like a man seeking to
grasp his shadow; the swifter he runs the swifter