The Worth of a Soul
We’ll use a very familiar text tonight: “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”—Mark 8:36
Now Jesus was manifested to destroy the works of the devil. And the big work of the devil was to cause men to undervalue their souls; worse still, to place no value upon them, and far worse still to be absolutely indifferent to the fact that their souls would live somewhere forever.
Spoke in Plain Manner
So Jesus, like a good lawyer at court, used everything that people understood to explain to them the thing they did not understand. They valued many things, but it was His work to show that far above all values of earth, God valued a human soul. When Jesus met men He knew the class in which they moved and spoke to them with the language of their own class, and with such illustrations from their own life as could be perfectly understood.
Soil and Soul
Did they handle oxen, he talked of the yoke. Did they carry water from the wells, He talked of water, of wells. Did they come from the farm, He said: “Behold, a sower went forth to sow.” And the farmer listened. Never before did he realize that within him was soil, valuable rich soil, more valuable than gold or silver or land and houses, that in this soil God could put the truth and it could bear fruit forever.
“What profit then,” the farmer could say also, “if I lose this soil—this soul—and gain the whole world?”
Jesus by simple questions and parables could teach eternal truth. Jesus knew exactly who He was, what He came to do, and the people to whom He came. He was as direct as rain, as unswerving as light, as simple as air moving in the breeze. He tried to show Himself to men as rain for the soil of their dry, parched beings; as light to the darkened chambers of their souls, where God should dwell; as air to their lungs that gasped in the throes of death. He spake as never man spake.
Man can call things by their names, and talk of their beauties. He can describe the mountain and the brook singing its early morning matin at its broadening base, sing of the “murmuring pine and the hemlock, bearded in moss and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight.” He may put words to the beauty of a trailing cloud resting on the snowcapped mountain peak, or fling his sentences into rhythm to match the beating of the ubiquitous waves against a granite coast. The flowers, the birds, the leaves, the stars, may all come into the picture—but a feeling, a sweet sensation, and all is forgotten.
The Handler of Life
But Jesus did not talk about things. He talked things. He talked acts. He said, “I can do this. I can do that.” He said, “I can speak a few words and if your soul hears them new life will spring up that will never die, just as seed can spring from the soil.”
So He spake as the handler of life. Edison speaks as a handler of electricity. Other men speak as handlers of steam, others as handlers of gas, others as handlers of elements: chemists. But never before came one upon the earth, and never since, saying: “I can handle life,” and showing the great value of the soul. He proved the value of a soul because it could be handled by Him and made to live in joy forever.
Find Life First
Why tinker then with electricity, gas, steam, chemicals, etc., etc., when this most valuable possession can be lost? You can afford to go to your grave penniless and ignorant, but, oh, you cannot afford to go with a soul untouched by this Life-giver. You may never paint a picture, write a book, travel over seas, or be praised of men; but what matter if your soul has had the magic life-giving touch of that wounded hand? One touch and you are immortal; one touch and life, eternal life is yours, and in that life will be made up all that you could have gotten on your earthly quest, and, oh, infinitely more.
Pile all that this life could give and crown it at the top of the heap with death, and what value is it? Nothing! Nothing!
Rich from His Touch
But take a soul and rob it of all life’s gifts, let it go blind in body, deaf of ear, mum of voice, poor—so poor—here, and yet be touched by that handler of life and it is rich beyond our wildest, dizziest dreams; “above all we are able to ask or think.”
Oh, tell me, friend, why you will not come to Jesus and let Him touch your soul? Has the glitter and the glare of a little earthly possession or joy turned you stark mad? Can it be made any plainer than Jesus makes it? Really now, what will it profit you if you gain the whole world and lose your soul?
How Do You Figure?
Can you figure a job of work and figure yourself a profit? Well, have you ever figured this proposition? If you have, can you figure a profit unless that soul of yours is saved? You know you can’t. There’s nothing to do but to drop the figures and let things slide. But, oh, man, wake up. You are forgetting how long eternity will last, and you forget that your soul must live in hell forever, unless He touches you.
We haven’t begun to know the value of a soul. If the demons of the devil can get up a club of seven members and use Mary Magdalene for their club-house, with parlor and dining-room, kitchen and billiard room, bowling alley and bar and besides that sleeping apartments for the whole seven, the human soul must be a wonderful palace and be made out of gorgeous material the like of which no poor human eye has ever seen. We have seen some curtains, but the lovely fabric that swings in its doors must rival the spider’s web for weave, the silk worm’s covering for quality, and the golden pheasant’s feathers for coloring.
If the other crowd of demons—a legion, a regular army with captains, and lieutenants, corporals, color-bearers—can march into a human soul with unbroken rank and find shelter and parade-ground and canteen for the whole legion, as they did into the main whom Jesus found among the tombs; if they could frolic and fight until they shook him as a dog shakes a rat, and twist him until his muscles could pop chains, and no man could bind him, surely, oh, surely, we’ve never measured a human soul.
If—if, I say, and yet there is no if about it—do you hear me: there’s no chance of an if about it. Jesus found this poor human soul so possessed and commanded the legion to leave and out they marched. There, there it is again. Isn’t He the life-handler? A little later we find that soul filled with the love of this fountain of life, sitting at Jesus’ feet, clothed and in his right mind.
Look at Your Soul
Oh, get a line on that soul of yours tonight. Get the right kind of a look at it and say, you wouldn’t any more trade it for all the earth than you would take up a proposition to promise never to drink another drop of water in any form and get a million dollars for doing it. To turn Jesus down is far more foolish than that proposition and more sure to end in awful agony.
Oh, wake up there. You’ve got millions in your breast: a soul more valuable than all the world.
Now let’s dream a minute and see if I can throw some more light on the value of a soul. We’ll say I have the dream and it goes like this. I walk down a broad avenue lined with palaces. At the most beautiful one I see a man at the gate in livery. He says, “Come in, Mr. Rader.” “But,” I say, “I do not live here. I know no one who does live here.”
“That’s all right, step in anyhow, and you will be made perfectly comfortable and feel at home, I am sure.”
I follow him into the hall, where a maid takes my hat and coat. I am ushered by another man in livery into the parlor. I am shown to a lovely resting chair. At the piano sits a musician making the piano speak of meadowlarks and bobolinks and spring, then changes the theme to a storm. He finishes and is gone before I compliment him.
“This way,” says the gent in the livery, and I follow into a conservatory. That’s the high-brow word for greenhouse, isn’t it? Well, I wander about the little avenues in amazement at the beauty of the tropics into which I have so suddenly been taken. There’s a little bench under a palm tree and sitting there I gave through the labyrinth of palms, ferns and hanging vines. Then I wander into a room packed with chrysanthemums, great heads of snowy white banked together, bed after bed, and other colors in like number. Then through another room we make our way, where hang a hundred different varieties of air plants, and at the far side a place where only orchids bloom.
“These white blossoms with the scarlet throats,” says my guide, “are worth a dollar apiece in the market.”
From orchids we pass to potted plants, through the tropics again, and past the rubber trees under an arbor, where comes the smell of honeysuckle, and then the guide opens a door into a large lounging room.
“One moment,” he says, “and you will be asked to dine.”
The maid, true to his word, bashfully takes hold of the portiere and tells me dinner is served. Remember, this is a dream—don’t get the idea that I am really in this place. It sounds crazy, but I want to lead you this way around to an eye-opener about your soul.
There before me on the table, decorated as if for a king, lies the wonderful menu.
“Anything you like, sire,” says the voice at my elbow.
“Anything?” I yell back.
“Surely,” comes the voice reassuringly, and I order with a feeling that it will never be brought in. But while I am finishing an article in the evening paper the first things are set before me, and many other things follow in rapid succession.
As Mel Trotter says, you could sit down to a meal like that six inches from a table and eat ‘til you touch. A regular banquet from soup to lemonade in the finger bowls.
“Step right this way,” I am told when I finish. The portieres are pushed aside, and, oh, a library, a real library, and an attendant. What a place to spend an evening, with someone to look up all you want to know and lay it on the table before you.
Later I am shown to my room for the night. No hotel could ever rival the luxuries of this bedroom in this palace. I am called the next morning from my slumbers by music outside my door and a voice announces that a new day has come and my breakfast is ready. Ready indeed, and trimmed to tempt a dyspeptic. At the end of the breakfast the liveried person steps to my side and asks me if I am to go down to the city at once.
“At once,” I reply, “and I suppose I get a limousine with this layout, and a wonder of a machine at that. Hey?”
“You can if you wish, sir,” he says, saluting with a gloved hand. “But you needn’t leave the house, sir. No, sir. You see that large gold button in the wall beside you?”
“Sure,” I reply. “I see it, and I was wondering what would happen if I pushed it.”
“Well, sire,” he answers earnestly, “just you push that gold button, sir, and the whole house will move right down town with you.”
“Stop!” I yell. “Not the whole house get up and move down the avenue?”
“Yes, sir, the whole house, sir, at your service, sir, will move right away, sir.”
“Oh, now I know I am dreaming.” But listen! Hear me! That seems like the dream of a fool, but it perfectly describes the way human souls are treating the devil. This palace called a soul was made for God to live in, and we have turned it over to the devil and all he has to do is to push the button and this body moves about with him in it to do his bidding. Whoever is pushing the buttons of your life is running your soul.
Just think what an easy berth men give to the devil. Oh, leave him out tonight, and let Jesus walk into His own. Let Him in. He is knocking at the door.
Think It Over Well
What will it profit you if all the world is yours and eternity is spent with the devil you are allowing now to push the buttons? There won’t be anywhere to go in hell. The button-pushing won’t work. He can’t ride around in your soul to the old world joy places any more. The gay white way will turn to Hell-hot Avenue, dark on both sides of the street. Oh, let Jesus in now, and He will handle the buttons, and joy now and forever will be yours.
Think of the value of a place that can not only feel God but can be the abiding place of His spirit. Jesus can regenerate this soul and make it clean and fit for such an indwelling of His spirit.
Vine and Branch
Hear Him describe how close the union is. “I am the vine, ye are the branches.” Can any knife cut between branch and vine, and say, “Just here branch commences and vine ends”? No, a perfect union, yet He is vine and we are branch.
But it is when I see Christ in Gethsemane that I begin to get a glimpse of my soul’s value. Why is He sweating those drops of blood, why has He this awful agony? Listen: The ordeal is on; the great task of going into death to break the power of death over this soul, because it has been in sin, has commenced. There stands death before this deathless Christ. It is no enemy of His, for He has known no sin, and death—the wages of sin—cannot be collected from Him. He is facing it for you, for me.
Suffering and Soul Value
But why? Oh, He loves these souls of ours; these wonderful souls made up so mysteriously of life, intellect, emotion, will. His great heart hungers for the souls of men, but our enemy death stands there stark and strong and cold. He must go into it and there break its power and come forth its master, or humanity is past all hope. Would God allow His Son to do this—why? Oh, think why: Because He loves a soul. Then what great value it must have, if God will allow His only begotten Son to die in the dark and conquer the power of sin, which is the result of sin. Then how could He die, being sinless? He became my sin, your sin, for me, for you, that He might taste death for every man and spoil its hold and power.
Value at Calvary
Oh, at Calvary, as He bows His head and dies and pays the awful price, I see the value of a soul. I cry: I take the work of Your death, Lord Jesus, precious Jesus, for my poor soul’s washing and pardon from death. I take Your blood so freely spilt to pay for all my guilt. I take Your spotless life as the life for my soul. I become a branch; You are my vine, and the sap of Your holy life, Your life that conquered death and rose again, I take into this soul of mine.
It is, then, not I, but Christ in me.
Oh, soul, how great thy value, for the Son of God has died to loose the hand-cuffs of death and take thee as His own to live in Thee.
Christ in me: that is the fundamental. Everything else, my face, my form, my ears, my eyes, my houses, my lands, my business, my city, have value, but, oh, nothing can be compared to the value of the soul within me, where can proceed the operations of the spirit of God.
Now Christ in me is the fundamental. All else, while perhaps usable, is instrumental. Now let us look at it through a modern contrivance called an automobile. What is the fundamental of an automobile? What one principle was first discovered, around which the instrumentals were one by one attached? Did they start with a windshield, a horn, a tire, a wheel, a seat, a top, an engine? No! All of these things are good, but they are not the fundamental. You can have all kinds of differing windshields, horns, tops, wheels, tires and engines. Here is the fundamental. It was found that gasoline, dropped into a cylinder, would explode when ignited by an electric spark. It was easy then to find a way for a piston to catch the force of the explosion or the kick. It was an easy step to call for more than one cylinder, and watching them kick one after the other as the sparker sparked and the gasoline dropped to adjust some other piece of machinery to take the results of these kicks to make a wheel go around.
You might have the finest automobile sitting near the curb with all the parts perfect, but unless the explosions worked it would just sit there. The fundamental of a Ford is just the same as the fundamental of the most expensive car ever built. So here we have it! The fundamental must be: that gasoline and the sparker must get together in the cylinder.
Oh, hear me now: Unless Jesus gets into that soul of yours—I don’t care if you have the brains of a Webster, the tongue of a Bryan, the voice of a Caruso, the body of a Willard—you’re up against it. Don’t come around to me and say, “Oh, I’m not such a bad fellow. I pay my debts, I support my family, I’m honest.” That’s not the question. That soul of yours can touch Jesus Christ, can know God. This is the question. Is the heavenly gasoline and the sparking of the Spirit exploding in your soul? Have you let Him in? All the rest may be good, but it’s death marked and slated for Hell. Jesus had lots to say against rich folks, just because He knew they’d be so taken up with their finery (the instrumentals) that they’d feel that was all there is to it.
A Joy Ride
Go ahead, sit in the finest machine that was ever made, and if the explosions are not working, you’ll never hit the boulevard for a joy ride, and unless some of you fine-feathered folks, you high-brows, painted outside and in with five coats of earth’s best culture, polish, get Jesus into your heart you never take the joy-ride out of death into the glory world. Did you hear me?
And you low-brows, you think your lack of polish is virtue. You cuss and swagger, you think you’re goin’ some because you’re tough and don’t give a care. You say, “A little old one-horse life will do me,” or you pride yourself on your poverty and say, “I never had much of a chance, I ain’t got no money and can’t make any, and I can’t get alone here and I think God will square things and let me in there because other folks grabbed all the best things down here.” Not on your life, my friend. A poor cheap Ford, with no horn, no windshield, no good tires, no paint, no cushion seats, will stand just as long on the curb as that expensive car, unless its explosions are working also. The only difference is that if you haven’t all the pretty trimmings you may pay more attention to the engine and its explosions, and get it to going.
Christ for All Alike
God offers Jesus on the cross, risen from the dead, and alive in the soul to any who will take Him rich and poor alike; it is Christ and Christ alone who can save. Oh, see the value of that soul of yours that can have Him living, throbbing within you, and by His power take you up the heavenly highway to glory. Your soul is the only living cylinder where God can work. He can bring forth the tress, but there’s no emotion in their life. They cannot love. He can have the animals in trees and on the hills, but He cannot work the cylinder of their life. You have the only cylinder, my friend, where Jesus can operate, and the world knows whether you have Him by the joy explosions and the kick the devil gets.
Devil Eats Dust
He could come and push the buttons of my life once, but now, thank God, Jesus kicks the devil out, and the world out, and is Himself pushing the buttons, running the gasoline, handling the sparker, and we’ve been goin’ some for, lo, these many glad days.
Once you’ve had a joy ride with Jesus, and made the devil eat your dust, you wouldn’t sell your soul where He lives for a million worlds like this.
Leave the Curb
Come on, open up. Let Him in. Put your will on the knob of this soul of yours; open it and say, “Yes, I will let Him in.” Come on, start something. You’ve been sitting on the curb a long time. Give Him a chance to do His work in your heart. They are kicking on the price of gasoline, I understand, today. But the life flow that Jesus uses is without money and without price, refined on Calvary, strained through the veil of death, and now in unlimited quantity at the throne of grace. Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find.
“For He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” Psalm 107:9