For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?…
One summer afternoon, a steamer crowded with passengers, many of them miners from California, was speeding along the Mississippi. Striking suddenly and strongly against the wreck of another vessel which, unknown to the captain, lay near the surface of the water, her bow was stove in, and she began to fill rapidly. Her deck was a scene of wild confusion. Her boats were launched, but did not suffice to carry off one-fourth of the terrified passengers. The rest, divesting themselves of their garments, cast themselves into the river, "some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship and so it came to pass that they escaped all safe to land." Some minutes after the last of them had quitted the vessel, another man appeared on her deck. Seizing a spar, he also leaped into the river, but instead of floating as the others had done, he sank instantly as if he had been a stone. His body was afterwards recovered, and it was found that he had employed the quarter of an hour, in which his fellow passengers had been striving to save their lives, in rifling the trunks of the miners. All around his waist their bags of gold were fastened. In one short quarter of an hour he had gained more gold than most men earn in their lifetime; but was he advantaged thereby, seeing that he lost himself? And though you should gain power, or rank, or fame, or learning, or great wealth; though your life should be one prolonged triumphal procession, all men applauding you; though all your days you should drink unrestrained of the cup of the world's pleasures, and never reach its bitter dregs; yet what shall you be advantaged if, nevertheless, you lose yourself, and, at last, instead of being received into heaven, are cast away?
(R. A. Bertram.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?