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The Price of a Soul   By: (1860-1925)

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"The Price of a Soul" is an address delivered by Mr. Bryan, first at the Northwestern Law School Banquet in Chicago, then as a Commencement Oration at the Peirce School in Philadelphia and, in 1909, extended into a lecture.


The fact that Christ dealt with this subject is proof conclusive that it is important, for He never dealt with trivial things. When Christ focused attention upon a theme it was because it was worthy of consideration and Christ weighed the soul. He presented the subject, too, with surpassing force; no one will ever add emphasis to what He said. He understood the value of the question in argument. If you will examine the great orations delivered at crises in the world's history, you will find that in nearly every case the speaker condensed the whole subject into a question, and in that question embodied what he regarded as an unanswerable argument. Christ used the question to give force to the thought which he presented in regard to the soul's value.

On one side He put the world and all that the world can contain all the wealth that one can accumulate, all the fame to which one can aspire, and all the happiness that one can covet; and on the other side he put the soul, and asked the question that has come ringing down the centuries: "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"

There is no compromise here no partial statement of the matter. He leaves us to write one term of the equation ourselves. He gives us all the time we desire, and allows the imagination to work to the limit, and when we have gathered together into one sum all things but the soul, He asks What if you gain it all all ALL, and lose the soul? What is the profit?

Some have thought the soul question a question of the next world only, but it is a question of this world also; some have thought the soul question a Sabbath day question only, but it is a week day question as well; some have thought the soul question a question for the ministers alone, but it is a question which we all must meet. Every day and every week, every month and every year, from the time we reach the period of accountability until we die, we each of us all of us, weigh the soul.

And exactly in proportion as we put the soul above all things else we build character; the moment we allow the soul to become a matter of merchandise, we start on the downward way.

Tolstoy says that if you would investigate the career of a criminal it is not sufficient to begin with the commission of a crime; that you must go back to that day in his life when he deliberately trampled upon his conscience and did that which he knew to be wrong. And so with all of us, the turning point in the life is the day when we surrender the soul for something that for the time being seems more desirable.

Most of the temptations that come to us to sell the soul come in connection with the getting of money. The Bible says, "The love of money is the root of all evil." If I had been making the statement, I think I would have said that the love of money is the root of nearly all evil. But that is probably due to the fact that I am so conservative in thought and in method of statement, that, in stating a proposition, I prefer to leave a margin, so that if anybody disputes it I can bring proof of more than I said. But the Bible says, "The love of money is the root of all evil" and I shall not attempt to weaken the statement. If it is a mistake at all it is so slight a mistake that we need not spend time in correcting it.

And because so many of our temptations come through the love of money and the desire to obtain it, it is worth while to consider the laws of accumulation. We must all have money; we need food and clothing and shelter, and money is necessary for the purchase of these things... Continue reading book >>

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