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"For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" — Mark 8:36,37
The Loss When A Soul Is Lost
By Charles Finney
OURS is an inquisitive world, and the present especially is an inquisitive age. Particularly is this inquisitiveness developed in perpetual inquiries upon matters of loss and gain. Almost universally this class of questions agitates the public mind, often tasking its powers to the utmost. Almost the whole race seem all on fire to know how they can avoid loss and secure gain. Assuredly therefore, this being the great question which men interest themselves to ask, it cannot be out of place for God to propose such a question as the text presents, nor for his servants to take it from his lips and press it upon the attention and the consciences of his hearers.
And let me here say, it must be specially proper to propose it to the young men who are seeking good, and studying questions of profit and gain. Your souls thirst for happiness. How much, then, does it become you to ask whether these questions from the lips of your Redeemer may not give you a priceless clue to the secret of all real and permanent good?
The question concisely expressed is, What is a fair equivalent for the soul? For what consideration could a man afford to lose his soul?
To bring the subject fully before your minds, let me
I. DIRECT YOUR ATTENTION TO THE WORTH OF THE SOUL;
II. TO THE DANGER OF LOSING IT;
III. TO THE CONDITIONS OF SAVING IT.
I. The worth of the soul.
Whenever ministers enter the pulpit to preach, they always take many things for granted. All do this more or less; all must do it if they would preach with any effectiveness to the heart; and it is right that they should. This is true not of the gospel minister only, but of every teacher. Every teacher assumes that his pupils exist, and that they know this truth; also, that he exists himself.
Many other truths are assumed by the preacher. We must always begin somewhere. Generally we begin as the Bible does. The Bible assumes the truths of natural theology, and proceeds in its teachings as if all men knew at least these truths.
This congregation professes to be Christian, and I may therefore assume that at least nominally it is so. I shall not therefore address you as a heathen people, or as atheists, or even Universalists.
There are certain great truths admitted by almost all Christians; for example, that the soul is immortal. This is admitted so generally, I shall assume that you all admit it. You admit it to be true of both the righteous and the wicked. You admit that the Bible teaches this, and I shall not therefore attempt to prove it.
It must also be admitted that, from the very nature of mind, its capacities, both of intellect and sensibility, will be always increasing. This increase is obviously a law of mind in this world, although, from the connection of mind with matter, old age and disease seem to form an exception. This is indeed an exception to the common law, yet one which plainly results from the influence of physical frailty, and can therefore have no existence in a state where no physical frailty is experienced. It must be admitted that the exception does not result from any law of mind, but purely from a present law of matter.
The common law of mental progress is exceedingly apparent. Put your eye on the new-born infant. It knows nothing. It begins with the slightest perception, it may be of some visible object, or of the taste of its food. From a starting-point almost imperceptible it goes on, making its hourly accessions of knowledge and consequent expansion of powers, till, like a Newton, it can fathom the sublime problem of the great law of the physical universe.
It is generally admitted that the capacities of men in the future state for either happiness or misery will be full -- absolutely full. That coming state must be in respect to enjoyment, not mixed like the present, but simple; unalloyed bliss, or unalleviated woe. Hence the soul must actually enjoy or suffer to the uttermost limit of its capacity. You all admit this; or if not all, the exceptions are few and I am not aware of any among you.
Let us not forget to connect with this idea of progression the idea of eternity. It is not only progress, but eternal progress. This is involved in the immortality of the soul. No doctrine is more plainly taught and more universally implied in the Bible; none is more amply confirmed by testimony drawn from the nature of the soul itself. It stands among the truths admitted by almost every one who bears even nominally the Christian name.
Now what follows from these admitted truths?
If men are always to progress in knowledge and capacity, then a period will arrive in which the least intelligence will be able to say, I know more now than all the created universe knew when I was born. This must be true. Its truth follows by necessity from the truths we have admitted.
But even this is not all. For when he has reached this point of acquisition in knowledge, he has only begun. Eternity is yet before him. The time will come when he will know ten thousand times as much as all the universe did when he was born; nay, not merely ten thousand times as much, but myriads of myriads of times as much. The time will arrive in the lapse of eternal ages when, if all the present created universe were tasked to the utmost to conceive or estimate how much this one intelligence can know, they would fall entirely short of reaching the mighty conception.
And even this is only a mere beginning, for this vast intelligence is not a whit nearer the terminus of his progression than when he was one day old. To be sure, all the universe have kept pace with him. They have all moved along together, under a law of progress common to them all. Each one can say the same and as much as he. The attainments of each and of all will for ever fall short of infinite, although they are always indefinitely increasing.