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followeth after me, is not worthy of me ?.” “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple ?."
And what a choice are we compelled to make ? between things temporal and things eternal. For, suppose, as our Saviour does in the text, that the worldly man could succeed to the utmost extravagance of his desires. Suppose that he could gain the whole world, (that which is the whole world to him,) and have nothing more to wish for, how long could he retain it? Naked must he return to the earth from whence he was taken, and leave behind him the lands, and treasures, and honours, and amusements, and applause, and pride, and luxury, or whatever else it be, for which he dared to put the truth and power of the Almighty to the test. Who will be the fool then? He who forsook all for Christ and for His
eternal kingdom; or he, who has grasped a shadow and lost the substance, and in one hour is obliged to bid an eternal farewell to the momentary enjoyments of this world, and the everlasting glory, and riches, and immortality of the next? What would it profit you to gain every thing in this world, and lose your life at the same instant? What madness, then, for such wretched transitory possessions, to hazard the everlasting happiness of your glorious, your inestimable soul; to save which, not merely the whole world, but your life itself, would be a trifling sacrifice. Surely it is too much to lose this world and the next also. It is too much to awake up in the everlasting shame, and contempt, and remorse of a lost soul; and to discover, at the same moment, that you are irrecoverably deprived of that world for which you had destroyed your soul for ever. Well might God say to the rich man, who thought that his life and happiness consisted in the abundance of the things which he possessed, “ Thou fool! this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?"
In fine, my brethren, consider who it is that requires us to make this decision. Who is it that asks you the question in the text? Jesus Christ, the creator of heaven and earth. He has made this world. He knows the utmost happiness which the possession of all it contains, is capable of imparting. Nay, my brethren, it is He alone who can bestow that contented cheerfulness and peace, without which the whole is but an accumulation of wretchedness. It is He too, who alone can tell what are the glory and felicity to which our souls are capable of being exalted. He best can tell (for His hands have made and fashioned us) what an eternity of greatness, and blessedness, and wisdom, and power, is laid up for those that love Him; and, therefore, what it is to forfeit such an inheritance, and be cut off from the kingdom which He has prepared for the children of God. “For the joy that was set before him,"—the joy
Luke xii. 20.
of bringing us to partake of that glory and happiness—He was contented to pass a life of poverty and contempt, and to die in torments as a malefactor : “He endured the cross, despising the shame!.” In a word, my brethren, it is. our Redeemer who asks us this question. He knows what is the value of a human soul, for He has shed His precious blood to redeem us. He best can tell what it is to be lost for ever, and to drink for ever the cup of the wrath of God; what it is to have our portion and our society with the wicked and the abominable, with the devil and his angels, for ever and for ever; to feel the worm that never dieth, and the fire that never shall be quenched. I say, my brethren, that Jesus Christ can best know and tell, what will be the consequence of rejecting His glorious Gospel, and disobeying His Holy Spirit, and what the awful meaning of that sentence, which He will certainly be compelled to pronounce against those who have loved the world better than
1 Heb. xii. 2.
they have loved their God. Do you think that it will be a light thing for Him to say to the works of His own hands, to those for whom He left His Father's bosom, and died upon the cross, “ Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire ?” And, therefore, can the minister of Christ, sent by Him, and speaking in His name, ask you with too much earnestness, this all-important question : “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ?” May God give you and me grace to ask ourselves this question, now and habitually, with that seriousness and honesty with which we shall wish we had considered it, in the last moments of our life! May our decision this day be such as we shall most surely wish it to have been, when we stand at the judgment-seat of Christ, in the dreadful and inevitable day of Christ's appearing!