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THE FOOLISH BARGAIN.
MATTHEW, xvi. 26.
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?
No person can hear these questions without understanding them. Their meaning is plain. They speak for themselves, and carry with them their own answer. Our blessed LORD, in asking them, clearly intended to lay down this awful and interesting truth: That the man, who for the sake of wordly happiness, however great, shall lose his soul, will make a most foolish bargain, and in the end will biterly repent what he has done.'
This Truth I shall endeavour to explain and prove.
In judging of a bargain, whether it be good or bad, two particulars must be taken into account, the thing bought, and the price given for it. These must be compared to
gether, for it is the proportion which they bear in value to each other, that shows what the bargain is. If the thing bought be clearly worth far less than what is given for it, we pronounce the bargain to be bad. Now in the bargain of which we speak, the thing bought is Worldly Happiness: the price given for it is the Soul. What proportion do these things bear in value to each other? To answer this question, we must enquire into their separate value, so as to see what each of them is really worth.
I. Worldly happiness is that happiness, which is to be found in the pursuit, or the enjoyment of worldly things; that happiness, which springs from the gratification of our sensual, our ambitious, or our covetous desires. And certainly we must allow, that taken by itself, this happiness is considerable. A man doubtless feels no small satisfaction and delight, in gaining honours and riches, in exercising power, in indulging his lusts and appetites. It is not by under-rating worldly happiness, and by representing it as less valuable than it really is, that we shall endeavour to prove our point. We will give to it all the advantage which its warmest friends can desire. We will allow their enjoyments to be as great as they are said to be. We will go even farther. We will take no notice
of all those interruptions and disappointments, to which, from a thousand causes, worldly happiness is liable. We will suppose, that it is entirely free from these things; that the body is never tortured with pain; that the mind is never wrung with grief; that every thing goes on smoothly; that every wish is gratified, every desire accomplished, every hope fulfilled. This indeed is admitting a great deal but no more than our Savour himself seems to have admitted for the time; when he speaks of a man's gaining the whole world; which we may fairly interpret to mean, his gaining as much happiness as the world can possibly bestow.
But after all these allowances in favour of worldly happiness, there is one thing to be mentioned on the opposite side. There is one weight to be thrown into the opposite scale, which takes not a little from its worth, and which, therefore, in enquiring into its real value, must not be passed over. It is this all worldly happiness must come to an end. "The things which are seen, are temporal." Worldly things are but for a time, for a season. They are in their nature perishable, and cannot last for ever. "The fashion of this world passeth away." Let a man's enjoyments then in the world
be as great and lasting, as on the largest supposition they can possibly be, still a time must come, when they will cease. There is a day, beyond which they cannot last. When that day comes, either he will be taken from his enjoyments, or they will be taken from him. Either he will be stript of them altogether, or he will lose the power of using them, or he will be removed to a place, whither he cannot carry them; and where the having formerly had them will be of no advantage, nor the recollection of it yield any satisfaction. From this view we may form some judgment of the real value of Worldly Happiness.
II. As to the worth of the soul.
The worth of the soul will, in some degree appear, from this consideration, that it is the most excellent part of man. It is that part of him, which thinks and wills; that part of him, which governs and directs the body. The body can do nothing without the soul. It is the soul which moves the body, and tells it where to go and what to do. It is the soul, which hopes and fears; which grieves and rejoices; which desires, and hates, and loves. If the soul be taken away, the body becomes a lifeless mass, without sense or mo
tion. But the soul can live without being joined to the body. We are expressly told that " they which kill the body, are not able to kill the soul."* The soul is a spirit, and when parted from the body, it still thinks and wills as it did before: it still feels and remembers, and is conscious of what it is, of what it has done, and of what it is doing. So that in fact a man's soul is a man's self. It is that part, which is really the man: and thus we find St. Luke saying in the passage, which in his gospel answers to the text, "What is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself?"+
But there is another consideration, which shows, in a far higher degree, the worth of the soul. It is this. The soul not only lives, and thinks, and feels, even when parted from the body; but it will live, and think, and feel, for ever. It is immortal. It will never die. It came forth from GOD, and like God himself, will never, cease to be. It will live to all eternity.My brethren,) did you ever seriously try to consider what eternity is, or, what is meant by living to all eternity? We may form some notion about time: for we reckon and compare it, and so may understand *Matthew, x. 28. + Luke, ix. 25.