Adapted from a Sermon by J.C. Ryle
“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)
The saying of our Lord Jesus Christ in our text this morning ought to ring in our ears like a trumpet-blast. It concerns our highest and best interests. It concerns our souls.
What a solemn question these words of Scripture contain! What a mighty sum of profit and loss they put before us for assessment! Where is the accountant who could deal with this? Where is the clever mathematician who would not be baffled by that sum?—“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”
Let us hear a few plain remarks, to enforce and illustrate the question which the Lord Jesus asks in the passage before us. May, we, each of us, when we leave this place feel more deeply than ever yet the value of an immortal soul! It is the first step toward heaven to find out the true worth of our souls.
I. The first remark is this: Every one of us has an undying soul.
These words may sound strange and foolish to some. Some may want to exclaim, “Who does not know such things as these? Who ever thinks of doubting that we have souls?” But one cannot but see that the world is just now fixing its attention on material things to a most extravagant extent. We live in an age of technology,—the age of the internet and cell-phones, space exploration and nano-technology. We live in an age when the multitudes are increasingly absorbed in earthly things,—in stocks, and commerce, and trade, and banks, and shops, and cars, and houses, and silver, and gold. We live in an age when there is a false glare on the things of time, and a great mist over the things of eternity. In an age like this it is crucial to focus on first principles. To press home on our minds our Lord’s question about the soul! To remember that this world is not all. The life that we now live in the flesh is not the only life. There is a life to come. We have souls.
Let us establish it in our minds as a great fact, that we all carry within ourselves something that will never die. This body of ours, which takes up so much of our thoughts and time, to warm it, dress it, feed it, and make it comfortable,—this body alone is not all we are. It is only but the lodging of a noble tenant, and that tenant is the immortal soul! The death which each of us has one day to die does not make an end of us. All is not over when the last breath is drawn, and the doctor’s last visit has been paid,—when the coffin is screwed down, and the funeral preparations are made,—when “ashes to ashes and dust to dust” has been pronounced over the grave,—when our place in the world is filled up, and the gap made by our absence from society is no longer noticed. No: all is not over then! The spirit of man still lives on. Every one has within him an undying soul.
There is no need to prove this. It would be a mere waste of time. There is a conscience in all mankind which is worth a thousand philosophical arguments. There is a voice within, which speaks out loudly at times, and will be heard,—a voice which tells us, whether we like it or not, that we have, every one of us, an undying soul. What if we cannot see our souls? Are there not millions of things in existence which we cannot see with the naked eye? Who that has looked through the telescope or microscope can doubt that this is the case? And though we cannot see our souls, we can feel them. When we are alone, on as sick bed, and the world is shut out,—when we watch by the death-bed of a friend,—when we see those whom we love lowered into the grave,—at times like these, who does not know the feelings which come across men’s minds? Who does not know that in hours like these something rises in the heart, telling us that there is a life to come, and that all, from the highest to the lowest, have undying souls?
And so I urge you to keep it ever before your mind. Our lot is cast in the midst of a busy interconnected world. You see around you an endless struggle about temporal things. Hurry, bustle, and business hem you in on every side. I can well believe you are sometimes tempted to think that this world is everything, and the body all that is worth caring for. But resist the temptation, and cast it behind you. Say to yourself every morning when you rise, and every night when you lie down, “The fashion of this world is passing away. The life that I now live is not everything. There is something beside business, and money, and pleasure, and commerce, and trade. There is a life to come. We all have immortal souls.”
Stop and realize the dignity and responsibility of having a soul. Realize the fact, that in your soul you have the greatest thing which God has committed to your charge. Know that in your soul you have a pearl above all price, compared to which all earthly possessions are trifles light as air.
The works at our great museums are visited by admiring crowds: people gaze on them with wonder, and talk with enthusiasm of the “immortal works” of Rubens, Renoir, and other great masters. But there is no immortality about these things. The earth, and all its works will be burned up. The little baby that cries in a crib, and knows nothing of fine art, will outlive all those works, for it has a soul which will never die.—There will be a time when the Pyramids and the Parthenon will alike crumble to nothing,—when the Parliament building and all our great museums will be cast down and pass away,—when the sun will cease to shine, and the moon no more give her light. But the soul of the humblest worker is of far more enduring stuff. It will survive the crash of an expiring universe, and live on to all eternity.
Realize, I say once more, the responsibility and dignity of having a never-dying soul. You may be poor in this world; but you have a soul. You may be sickly and weak in body; but you have a soul. You may not be a king, or a queen, or a prime minister or president; yet you have a soul. The soul is the part of us which God chiefly looks upon. The soul is “the person.”
The soul which is in man is the most important thing about him. And I urge you to live as if you believed it. Live as if you really believed that we were not sent into the world merely to sit behind a desk, and build things, and hoard up gold, but to “glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever.” Read your Bible, and become familiar with its contents. Seek the Lord in prayer, and pour out your heart before Him. Resolve to always go to a place of worship regularly, and hear the Gospel preached. And do all you can in the service of God. And if anyone asks you the reason why: if wife, or child, or companion says, “Why do you do this?”—answer them boldly and say, “I do these things because I have a soul”
II. The second remark is this: Anyone may lose his own soul.
This is a sad portion of our subject. But it is one which cannot be passed over. There are those who prophesy nothing but peace, and keep back from men the awful fact that they may lose their souls. But anyone who believes the whole Bible, and everything that it contains, will find no Scriptural foundation for that smooth-spoken theology, which pleases so many in these days, and according to which everybody will get to heaven in the end.
I believe that there is a real devil. I believe that there is a real hell. I believe that it is not kindness to keep back from men that they may be lost. Kindness? If you saw a brother drinking poison, would you remain silent? If you saw a blind man tottering towards a precipice, would you not cry out “Stop”? Let us put away such false notions of kindness! Rather, it is the highest kindness and love to bring the whole truth before men. It is real kindness to warn them plainly when they are in danger. It is kindness to impress upon them, that they may lose their own souls forever in hell.
Man has within him a remarkable power for evil. Weak as we are in all that is good, we have a mighty power to do ourselves harm. You cannot save that soul of yours; remember that! You cannot make your own peace with God. You cannot wipe away a single sin. You cannot blot out one of the black records which stand in the book of God against you. You cannot change your own heart. But there is one thing you can do,—you can lose your own soul.
But this is not all. Not only can we all lose our own souls, but we are all in imminent danger of doing it. Born in sin, and children of wrath, we have no natural desire to have our souls saved. Weak, corrupt, inclined to sin, we “call good evil, and evil good.” (Is 5:20) Dark and blind, and dead in trespasses, we have no eyes to see the pit which yawns beneath our feet, and no sense of our guilt and danger. And yet our souls are all this time in awful danger!
If any one were to sail for Europe in a leaky ship, without compass, without water, without provisions, who does not see that there would be little chance of his crossing the Atlantic in safety? If you were to place a priceless vase in the hands of a little child, and tell him carry it across the city, who does not see the doubtfulness of that vase arriving safely at the end of the journey? Yet these are but faint images of the immense danger in which we stand of losing our souls.
But some one may ask, How can a man lose his soul? There are many answers to that question. Just as there are many diseases which assault and hurt the body, so there are many evils which assault and injure the soul. Yet however many the ways in which a man may lose his own soul, they may be classed in three general categories. Let me show you briefly what they are.
i) For one thing, you may murder your soul by running into open sin, and serving lusts and pleasures.
Adultery and immorality, drunkenness and revelling, blasphemy and dishonesty and lying, are all so many short-cuts to perdition. “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” (Ephes. 5:6.)
ii) For another thing, you may poison your own soul by taking up some false religion.
You may drug it with traditions of man’s invention, and a round of ceremonies and observances which never came down from heaven. You may lull it to sleep with drugs which stupefy the conscience, but do not heal the heart. Strychnine and arsenic will do their work quite as effectually as the rifle or sword, though with less noise. Let no man deceive you. “Beware of false prophets.” (Matt 7:15) When men commit their souls to blind leaders, both must fall into the ditch. A false religion is quite as harmful as no religion at all.
iii) For another thing, you may starve your soul to death by hesitation and indecision.
You may idle through life having been baptised, but not inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life,—with a form of godliness, but without the power. You may trifle on year after year, taking no interest in that which is good, content to sneer at the inconsistencies of professors, and flattering yourself because you are better than them: it will be “all right” with your soul in the end. “Let no one deceive you with empty words” (Eph 5:6) Indecision is just as harmful to the soul as a false religion or no religion at all. The stream of life can never stand still. Whether you are sleeping or waking, you are floating down that stream. You are coming nearer and nearer to the rapids. You will soon pass over the falls, and, if you die without a decided faith, be cast away to all eternity.
Such then are the three main ways in which you can lose your soul. Does anyone here know which of these ways he is taking? Search and look whether one of these is your own case. Find out whether or not you are losing your soul.
But does it take much trouble to ruin a soul? No not at all! It is a down-hill journey. There is nothing required from you. There is no need of exertion. You have only to sit still, and do as others do in the circle in which God’s providence has placed you,—to swim with the tide, to float down the stream, to go with the crowd,—and before long, the time of mercy will be past for evermore! “The gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction.” (Matt 7:13)
But are there many, you will ask, who are losing their souls? Yes, indeed there are! Do not look at the inscriptions and epitaphs on tombstones if you want to find the true answer to that question! As Isaac Watts says, those inscriptions are “Taught to flatter and to lie.”
All men are thought respectable and a “good sort of people” as soon as they are dead. But look at the Word of God, and mark well what it says. The Lord Jesus Christ declares, “The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few—the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.” (Matt. 7:14, 13.)
But who is responsible for the loss of our souls? No one but ourselves. Our blood will be on our own heads. The blame will lie at our own door. We will have nothing to plead at the last day, when we stand before the great white throne and the books are opened. When the King comes in to see His guests, and says, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” (Matt 22:12) we will be speechless. We will have no excuse to plead for the loss of our souls.
But where does the soul go to when lost? There is only one solemn answer to that question. There is but one place to which it can go, and that is hell. There is no such thing as annihilation. The lost soul goes to that place where the worm does not die, and the fire never goes out,—where there is blackness and darkness, wretchedness and despair forever. It goes to hell,—the only place for which it is fit to go,—since it is not fit for heaven. “The wicked shall return to Sheol, all the nations that forget God.” (Ps 9:17) “The end of those things is death! “(Rom. 6:21.)
Those who care about the souls of others are full of fears about many who profess and call themselves Christians. They fear lest they should lose at last their precious souls; lest that great-impostor, Satan, should cheat them out of salvation, and lead them captive at his will; that they should wake up in eternity, and find themselves lost for evermore!
If I thought there was no such place as hell I would not think of speaking of these things. If I thought that as a matter of course all people would go to heaven at last, I would hold my peace and leave them alone. But I dare not do so. I see danger ahead, and I would warn every one to flee from the wrath to come. Do not despise my warning. Examine your own heart: find out whether you are in a way to be lost or saved. Search and see how matters stand between yourself and God: do not commit the enormous folly of losing your own soul. We live in an age of great temptation. The devil is going about and is very busy. The night is far spent. The time is short. Do not lose your own soul.
III. The third remark which I want to make is this: The loss of any man’s soul is the heaviest loss which he can suffer.
No living man can show the full extent of the loss of the soul. No one can paint that loss in its true colours. In truth, we will never understand it until we have passed through the valley of the shadow of death, and wake up in another world! Never until then will we know the true value of an immortal soul.
i) I might say that nothing can make up for the loss of the soul in the life which now is.
You may have all the riches of the world,—all the gold in the world, all the honours which your country can bestow upon you. You may be the owner of half a county. You may be one whom the powerful delight to honour, and nations gaze upon with admiration. But all this time, if you are losing your soul, you are a poor man in the sight of God. Your honours are but for a few years. Your riches must be left at last. Naked we came into the world, and naked must we go out. (Job 1:21) No light heart, no cheerful conscience, will you have in life, unless your soul is saved. Of all your money or great possessions, you will carry nothing with you when you die. A few feet of earth will suffice to cover that body of yours when life is over. And then, if your soul be lost, you will find yourself a pauper to all eternity. Truly it will profit a man nothing to gain the whole world if he loses his own soul.
ii) Again, I might say that when the soul is lost it is a loss that cannot be retrieved.
Once lost, it is lost forever. Lost property may be recovered in this world. The loss of health and character are not always beyond repair. But no man who has once drawn his last breath can ever retrieve his lost soul. Scripture reveals to us no purgatory beyond the grave. Scripture teaches us that, once lost, we are lost forever. Truly a man will find that there is nothing he can give to buy back and redeem his soul.
But arguments like these in fact fall far short and do not do justice to this subject. The time is not yet come when we will fully realize what a soul is worth. We must look far forward. We must imagine ourselves in a different position from that which we now occupy before we will form a right estimate of the thing we are considering. The blind man cannot understand beautiful scenery. The deaf man cannot appreciate fine music. The living man cannot fully realize the amazing importance of a world to come.
iii) Does anyone here want to have some faint idea of the value of a soul? Then go and measure it by the opinions of dying people.
The solemnity of the closing scene strips off the tinsel and pretence of things, and makes men see them as they really are. What would men do then for their souls? As a Christian minister, Ryle writes that seldom had he found people careless, thoughtless, and indifferent about the world to come in the hour of death. The man, he writes, who can tell good stories, and sing good songs to merry companions, turns very serious when he begins to feel that life is leaving his body. The boasting infidel at such a time has often cast aside his infidelity.
What matters is not what a man thinks about the soul when he is in the fulness of health; rather it is what he thinks when the world is sinking beneath him, and death, judgment, and eternity loom in sight. The great realities of our being will then demand attention, and must be considered. The value of the soul in the light of time is one thing, but seen in the light of eternity, it is quite another. Never does living man know the value of the soul so well as when he is dying, and can keep the world no longer.
(iv) Does any one wish to have the clearest idea that can be given of the soul’s value? Then go and measure it by the price which was paid for it 2000 years ago.
What an enormous and countless price it was which was paid! No amount of gold, or silver was found sufficient to provide redemption: no angel in heaven was able to provide a ransom. Nothing but the blood of Christ,—nothing but the death of the eternal Son of God on the cross, was found sufficient to buy deliverance from hell for the soul. Go to the cross in spirit, and consider what took place there, when the Lord Jesus died. See the blessed Saviour suffering there. Mark what happens there when He dies. See how there was darkness for three hours over the face of the earth. The earth quakes. The rocks are split. The graves are opened. Listen to His dying words: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Then see in all that marvellous transaction something which may give you an idea of the value of the soul. In that awful scene we witness payment of the only price which was found sufficient to redeem men’s souls.
We will all understand the value of the soul one day, if we do not understand it now. God grant that no one here present may understand it too late. A shipwreck is a pitiable sight. It makes one sad to see some great vessel, which once “walked the water like a thing of life,” Laying silently beneath the waves, with a drowned crew and scattered effects lying round her on the sea floor. But of all sights that can affect the eye and grieve the heart, there is none so pitiable as the sight of a man ruining his own soul. No wonder that Jesus wept when He drew close to Jerusalem for the last time. It is written, that when He “saw the city, he wept over it!” (Luke 19:41.) He knew the value of souls, if the Scribes and Pharisees did not. We may learn from those tears of His,—if from nothing else,—the value of man’s soul, and the amount of loss which he will sustain if that soul is cast away.
I urge everyone here present, while it is called today, to open your eyes to the worth of your soul. Rise to a sense of the awfulness of losing a soul. Strive to know the real preciousness of that mighty treasure committed to your charge. The value of all things will completely change one day. The hour is coming when dollars will be worthless, and gold and diamonds will be as the dust of the streets,—when the mansion of the rich and the cottage of the peasant will both alike fall to the ground,—when stocks and bonds will be all un-saleable, and grace and faith and good hope no longer underrated and despised.
In that hour you will find out, in a way you never found out before, the value of the immortal soul. Soul-loss will then be seen to be the greatest of losses, and soul-gain the greatest of gains. Seek to know the value of the soul now. Do no cast away this precious thing which God has committed to your charge. Once lost, no loss can compare with the loss of the soul.
IV. The fourth and last remark I have to make is this: Any man’s soul may be saved.
It is an amazing mercy that the Gospel of Christ proclaims this good news, and proclaims it freely and unconditionally to everyone. I am thankful, that after all the solemn things I have been saying, I can wind up with a message of peace. It would be an awful thing to be saying that every one has a soul,—that any one may lose his soul,—that the loss of the soul is a loss for which nothing can make up,—if I could not also proclaim that any man’s soul may be saved.
It is possible that this proclamation may sound startling to some. But it is neither more nor less than what the Scriptures proclaim. It may boldly be said, that there is salvation in the Gospel for the greatest of sinners. It may be said with confidence, that any one and every one may have his soul saved.
It is true that we are all sinners by nature,—fallen, guilty, corrupt, covered with sin. It is true that the God with whom we have to do is a most holy Being, of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and One who cannot look upon that which is evil. It is also true that the world in which our lot is cast, is a hard world for religion. It is a world full of cares and troubles, of unbelief and impurity, of opposition and hatred to God. It is a world in which religion is like an exotic plant,—a world which has an atmosphere that makes religion wither away. But, notwithstanding all this, hard as this world is, holy as God is, sinful as we are by nature,—I say, that any one and every one may be saved. Any man or woman or child may be saved from the guilt, the power, the consequences of sin, and be found in the end at the right hand of God in everlasting glory.
Some may wonder, “How can these things be?” No wonder that you ask that question. This is the great knot which heathen philosophers could never untie. This is the problem which all the sages of Greece and of Rome could not solve. This is the question which nothing can answer but the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. But the Scripture’s answer is clear:
(1) I proclaim then first, with all confidence, that any one’s soul may be saved, because Christ has once died.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has died on the cross to make atonement for men’s sins. “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Pet.3:18.) Christ has borne our sins in His own body on the tree, and allowed the curse we all deserved to fall on His head. Christ by His death has made satisfaction to the holy law of God which we have broken.
That death was no common death: it was no mere example of self-denial. The death of Christ was a sacrifice and propitiation for the sin of the whole world. It was the vicarious death of an Almighty Substitute, Surety, and Representative of the sons of men. It paid our enormous debt to God. It opened up the way to heaven to all believers. It provided a cleansing fountain for all sin and uncleanness. It enabled God to be just, and yet to be the justifier of the ungodly. It purchased reconciliation with Him. It procured perfect peace with God for all who come to Him by Jesus. The prison-doors were set open when Jesus died. Liberty was proclaimed to all who feel the bondage of sin, and want to be free.
For whom, do you suppose, was all that suffering undergone, which Jesus endured at the cross? Why was the holy Son of God dealt with as a wrongdoer, counted as a transgressor, and condemned to so cruel a death? For whom were those hands and feet nailed to the cross? For whom was that side pierced with the spear? For whom did that precious blood flow so freely down? Why was all this done? It was done for you! It was done for the sinful,—for the ungodly! It was done freely, voluntarily,—not under pressure,—out of love to sinners, and to make atonement for sin. Surely, then, as Christ died for the ungodly, I have a right to proclaim that any one may be saved.
(2) Furthermore, I proclaim with all confidence, that any one may be saved, because Christ still lives.
That same Jesus who once died for sinners, still lives at the right hand of God, to carry on the work of salvation which He came down from heaven to perform. He lives to receive all who come to God by Him, and to give them power to become the sons of God. He lives to hear the confession of every burdened conscience, and to grant, as an almighty High Priest, complete pardon. He lives to pour down the Spirit of adoption on all who believe in Him, and to enable them to cry, Abba, Father. He lives to be the one Mediator between God and man, the unwearied Intercessor, the kind Shepherd, the elder Brother, the prevailing Advocate, the never-failing Priest and Friend of all who come to God by Him. He lives to be wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption to all His people,—to keep them in life, to support them in death, and to bring them finally to eternal glory.
For whom, do you suppose, is Jesus sitting at God’s right hand? It is for the sons of men. High in heaven, and surrounded by unspeakable glory, He still cares for that mighty work which He undertook when He was born in the manger of Bethlehem. He has not changed at all. He is the same that He was when He walked the shores of the sea of Galilee. He is the same that He was when He pardoned Saul the Pharisee, and sent him out to preach the faith he had once destroyed. He is the same that He was when He received Mary Magdalene,—called Matthew the tax collector, —brought Zacchæus down from the tree, and made them examples of what His grace could do. And He is not changed. He is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Surely I have a right to say that any one may be saved, since Jesus lives.
(3) Once more I proclaim, with all confidence, that any one may be saved, because the promises of Christ’s gospel are full, free, and unconditional.
“Come to me,” says the Saviour, “all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”—“whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”—“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” “Let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” (Matt. 11:28; John 6:37; 7:37; Rev.22:17.)
For whom, do you suppose, were these words spoken? Were they meant for people in old times only? No: for people in every age!—Were they meant for Palestine and Syria only? No: for the whole world,—for every name and nation and people and tongue! —Were they meant for the very moral and correct only? No: they were meant for all,—for the chief of sinners,—for the vilest of offenders,—for all who will receive them! Surely when these promises are considered, it may rightly be said that anyone and everyone may be saved. Anyone who hears these words, and is not saved, can never blame the Gospel. If you are lost, it is not because you could not be saved. If you are lost, it is not because there was no pardon for sinners, no Mediator, no High Priest, no fountain open for sin and for uncleanness, no open door. It is because you would have your own way, because you would cling to your sins, because you would not come to Christ, that in Christ you might have life.
And now I will close with three words of application, which I hope may be a spiritual help for your souls.
(1) The first word of application is a word of warning. That word of warning is short and simple,—Do not neglect your own soul.
Perhaps you are often tried with anxiety about the things of this life. You are “careful and troubled about many things.” You seem to live in a constant whirl of business, amusement, hurry, and trouble. You see around you thousands who care for nothing but what they will eat, and what they will drink, and what they will put on. You are often sorely tempted to think it is no use to try to have any religion. I say to you, in all earnestness: Resist the temptation. It comes from the devil. I say to you, Never forget the one thing needful! Never forget your immortal soul!
You may tell me, perhaps, that the times are hard. They may be hard; but it is my duty to remind you that time is short, and will be soon changed for eternity. You may tell me that you must live; but it is my duty to remind you that you must also die, and be ready to meet your God. What should we think of a man who in time of famine fed his dog and starved his child? Should we not say that he was a heartless and unnatural father? Well: take heed that you do not do something like this yourself. Do not forget your soul in your anxiety for your body. Do not, in your concern about the life that now is, forget that which is to come. Do not neglect your soul!
Whatever you may have been in time past, I urge you from now on to live as one who feels that he has an immortal soul! Leave this meeting place with a holy determination, by God’s help, to “cease to do evil, and learn to do well.” Do not be ashamed, from this time forward, to care about your soul’s wellbeing. Do not be ashamed to read your Bible, to pray and to hear the Gospel preached. Of sin and ungodliness you may well be ashamed; You never need be ashamed of caring for your soul. Let others laugh if they will: they will not laugh at you one day. Take it patiently. Bear it quietly. Tell them you have made up your mind and do not mean to change it. Tell them that you have learned one thing, if nothing else, and that is, that you have a precious soul. And tell them you have resolved that, come what will, you will no longer neglect that soul.
(2) The second word of application is an invitation to all who desire their souls to be saved.
I invite anyone who feels the value of his soul, and desires salvation, to come to Christ without delay, and be saved. I invite him to come to Christ by faith, and commit his soul to Him, that he may be delivered from the guilt, the power, and the consequences of sin.
It is impossible to describe the whole extent of God’s love towards sinners, and of Christ’s willingness to receive and save souls. You are not restricted by Christ, but by your own self. You are greatly mistaken if you doubt Christ’s readiness to save. There are no obstacles between that soul of yours and eternal life, except your own will. “There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents..” (Luke 15:10.) Come!, come and add to that joy this very day!
If you love life, I urge you to lay hold on Christ at once, that your soul may be saved. Why not do it today? Why not this day join yourself to the Lord Jesus in an everlasting covenant which cannot be broken? Why not resolve, before tomorrow’s sun rises, to turn from the service of sin, and turn to Christ? Why not go to Christ this very day, and cast your soul on Him, with all its sins and all its unbelief, with all its doubts and all its fears?—Are you poor? Seek treasure in heaven and be rich.—Are you old? Hurry, hurry to be ready for your end, and prepare to meet your God.—Are you young? Begin well, and seek in Christ a never-failing friend, who will never forsake you.—Are you in trouble, worried about this life? Seek Him who alone can help you and bear your burdens: seek Him who will never disappoint you. When others turn their backs on you, then Jesus Christ the Lord will take you up.—Are you a sinner, a great sinner, a sinner of the worst kind? It will all be remembered no more if you only come to Christ: His blood will cleanse all sin away. Though your sins be as scarlet, they will be made white as snow.
Go then, and appeal to the Lord Jesus Christ. Think of the value of your soul, and think of the one way of salvation. Call on the Lord in earnest prayer. Do as the penitent thief did: pour out your heart before Him and cry, “Lord remember me, even me.” Tell him you come to Him because you have heard that He “receives sinners,” and because you are a sinner and want to be saved. Tell Him the whole story of your past life. Tell Him, if you will, that you have been an unbeliever, a godless, reckless, ill-tempered person. He will not despise you. He will not cast you out. He will not turn His back on you. He never breaks the bruised reed, or quenches the smoldering wick. No man ever came to Him and was cast out. Come to Christ, and your soul will live!
(3) The last word of application is an exhortation to all who have found out the value of their soul, and believed in Jesus Christ.
That exhortation shall be short and simple. I urge you to hold on to the Lord with all your heart, and to press towards the mark for the prize of your high calling.
I can well imagine that you find your way very narrow. There are few with you and many against you. Your lot in life may seem hard, and your position may be difficult. But still hold on to the Lord, and He will never forsake you. Hold on to the Lord in the midst of persecution. Hold on to the Lord, though men laugh at you and mock you, and try to make you ashamed. Hold on to the Lord, though the cross is heavy and the fight is hard. He was not ashamed of you on the Cross: then do not be ashamed of Him on earth, lest He should be ashamed of you before His Father who is in heaven. Hold on to the Lord, and He will never forsake you. In this world there are plenty of disappointments,—disappointments in properties, and families, and houses, and lands, and situations. But no man ever yet was disappointed in Christ. No man ever failed to find Christ all that the Bible says He is, and a thousand times better than he had been told before.
Look onward and forward to the end! Your best things are yet to come. Time is short. The end is drawing near. The world is in its last days. Fight the good fight. Labour on. Work on. Strive on. Pray on. Read on. Labour hard for your own soul’s prosperity. Labour hard for the prosperity of the souls of others. Strive to bring a few more with you to heaven, and by all means to save some.
Do something, by God’s help, to make heaven more full and hell more empty. As opportunities present themselves, entreat those you meet to think about their souls. Beg them to go and hear something on Sundays which will be for their good to everlasting life. Try to persuade them to live, not like the beasts which perish, but like men who desire to be saved.
Great is your reward in heaven, if you try to do good to souls. Great is the reward of all who confess Christ before men. The honours of this world will soon be at an end forever. But the crown which Christ gives never fades. Seek that crown. Labour for that crown. It will make amends for all that you have to pass through in this troubled world. The rewards of Christ’s soldiers are for evermore. Their home is eternal. Their glory never comes to an end.