25.He who loveth his soul shall destroy it. To doctrine Christ joins exhortation; for if we must die in order that we may bring forth fruit, we ought patiently to permit God to mortify us. But as he draws a contrast between the love of life and the hatred of lit, we ought to understand what it is to love and hate life. He who, under the influence of immoderate desire of the present life, cannot leave the world but by constraint, is said to love life; but he who, despising life, advances courageously to death, is said to hate life. Not that we ought absolutely to hate life, which is justly reckoned to be one of the highest of God’ blessings; but because believers ought cheerfully to lay it down, when it retards them from approaching to Christ; just as a man, when he wishes to make haste in any matter, would shake off from his shoulders a heavy and disagreeable burden. In short, to love this life is not in itself wrong, provided that we only pass through it as pilgrims, keeping our eyes always fixed on our object. For the true limit of loving life, is, when we continue in it as long as it pleases God, and when we are prepared to leave it as soon as he shall order us, or — to express it in a single word — when we carry it, as it were, in our hands, and offer it to God as a sacrifice. Whoever carries his attachment to the present life beyond this limit, destroys his life; that is, he consigns it to everlasting ruin. For the word destroy (
ἀπολέσει) does not signifyto lose, or to sustain the loss of something valuable, but to devote it to destruction.
His soul. It frequently happens that the word
ψυχή, soul, is put for life. Some consider it as denoting, in this passage, the seat of the affections; as if Christ had said, “ who too much indulges the (desires of his flesh destroys his soul.” But that is a forced interpretation, and the other is more natural, that he who disregards his own life takes the best method of enjoying it eternally.
In this world. To make the meaning still more clear, the phrase in this world, which is but once expressed, ought to be twice repeated, so that the meaning may be, “ do not take the proper method of preserving their life who love it in this world, but, on the other hand, they truly know how to preserve their life who despise it in this world. ” And, indeed, whoever is attached to the world does, of his own accord, deprive himself of the heavenly life, of which we cannot be heirs in any other way than by being strangers and foreigners in the world. The consequence is, that the more anxious any person is about his own safety, the farther does he remove himself from the kingdom of God, that is, from the true life.
He who hateth his soul (22) I have already suggested that this expression is used comparatively; because we ought to despise life, so far as it hinders us from living to God; for if meditation on the heavenly life were the prevailing sentiment in our hearts:. the world would have no influence in detaining us. Hence, too, we obtain a reply to an objection that might be urged. “ persons, through despair, or for other reasons, and chiefly from weariness of life, kill themselves; and yet we will not say that such persons provide for their own safety, while others are hurried to death by ambition, who also rush down to ruin.” (23) But here Christ speaks expressly of that hatred or contempt of this fading life, which believers derive: from the contemplation of a better life. Consequently, whoever does not look to heaven, has not yet learned in what way life must be preserved. Besides, this latter clause was added by Christ, in order to strike terror into those who are too desirous of the earthly life; for if we are overwhelmed by the love of the world, so that we cannot easily forget it, it is impossible for us to go to heaven. But since the Son of God (24) arouses us so violently, it would be the height of folly to sleep a mortal sleep.
(22) “Qui odit animam suam.” — “Qui hait sa vie;” — “ who hateth his life.”
(23) “Lesquels se precipitent bas a une ruine eternelle par leur ambition;” — “ throw themselves down to eternal ruin by their ambition.”