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distressing kind, with which the scripture account of the extreme misery it must suffer if it perishes furnishes us. If it is not counted worthy to be admitted, through the Saviour's mediation, into glory; O sad alternative! its doom, like the sentence pronounced on some offender of great dignity, whose distinction serves only to inflame his guilt, is full of horror. It is cut off from all communion with God; removed to an inconceivable distance; separated by an unpassable gulph. It must have him for the avenger of its crimes, in comparison of whose strength all created might is weaker than a new-born babe. That arm is to be stretched forth against it, which shoots the planets in their rounds, and taketh up the isles as a very little thing. The soul that perishes, is to suffer the punishment prepared for the devil and his angels; to suffer punishment, the very same in kind with that of the avowed enemy of the blessed God; whose business, whose only joy ever since his fall from heaven, hath been to defeat, if it were possible, all God's designs of grace; to undermine his kingdom, and tread his honour in the dust; who has already seduced souls without number, and who will go on in his course of treason and enmity against God, till the day of executing full vengeance on him is come. Though not in equal torment, yet in the same hell with this execrable being, is the soul that perishes to endure the wrath of God.
Whether you regard therefore the felicity or the ruin, which the soul of man in a few fleeting years must expe
will find it hard to determine which of the two most forcibly bespeaks its grandeur.
These evidences, obvious to every eye which reads the scripture page, prove, in a manner not to be questioned, that the poorest beggar carries greater wealth in his own bosom, and possesses a higher dignity in his own person, than all the world can give him. The soul, that enables him to think and choose, surpasses in worth all that the eye ever saw, or the fancy ever imagined. Before one such immortal being, all the magnificence of the natural world appears diminutive, because transitory. All these things wax old, as doth a garment, and all the works of nature shall be burnt up; but the vears of the soul, its
happiness or its woe, like the unchangeable God its creator, endure for ever.
From these evidences you will perceive, that the schemes which engage the attention of eminent statesmen and mighty kings, nay even the delivery of a nation from ruin or slavery, are trifles when set in competition with the salvation of a single soul. You will see the propriety of that astonishing assertion, that in Heaven, the seat of glory, and among angels, whose thoughts can never stoop to any thing little, “ There is joy over one sinner that repenteth.” You will see why the Lord God Almighty is at so much pains (if the expression may be used) to awaken the children of men into a just concern for the salvation of their souls: Why the warnings he gives them are so solemn, his calls so repeated and pressing, and his intreaties so affectionate. All these things follow as the just and natural conclusions from the matchless excellency of the soul. *
THE ADVANTAGES OF A JUST CONVICTION OF THE SOUL's
The incomparable excellency of the soul has been attempted to be shown by various proofs. A clear, strong, and abiding conviction of this excellency is the foundation of all real Religion, and on many accounts is indispensably necessary.
For want of a just perception of the worth of the soul, the amusements of folly and the pleasures of sin are looked upon by the young as the chief sources of delight. They are shy of religion, notwithstanding its promises of peace, of joy, of eternal life, and they regard it as a malevolent enemy to their happiness. But no sooner do they once truly apprehend the excellency of the soul, than acquaintance with spiritual objects is sought after and highly valued. Thus informed, the language even of youthful hearts is this : “ The bloom of my days and the vigour of my
* For the prayer suited to this subject, see Prayer the first.
life shall be devoted to my best, my everlasting interest. A sight of the worth of my soul has delivered me from the fascinating power of polluting lusts, and has broken all the magic force of their cruel enchantments.”
The same knowledge of the worth of the soul is absolutely necessary to preserve men inviolably honest amidst the temptations which abound in trade, and in every profession. For on the Exchange, in the University, the Coffee-house, in almost every circle of private company, infectious discourse in praise of riches and honour is poured forth, and contaminates the principles of those who hear it. From the worldly lusts natural to man thus inflamed spring all the diseases of trade. Hence the extortion, the falsehood, the imposition, the spirit of extravagant speculation by which the character and the peace of thousands are ruined. They are engendered by a rage
money, and a boundless desire of filthy lucre. Nothing can control this wide-spreading evil, but a perception of the soul's inestimable worth. Let this take place, and immediately the deformity of the former false, defiling ideas of worldly advancement and gain, is discovered. Trade will then be carried on with temperance of affection. An enlightened conscience, like a vigilant centinel, will sound an alarm in every hour of danger; it will keep the man of trade and merchandise punctually true to his best, his greatest interest, and enable him with ease to conquer those temptations which before led him away captive; What,” he will
say, “what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
The necessity of a strong and abiding perception of the worth of the soul, appears also from this consideration, that it is the only ground of real prayer, and the cause of its success. In addresses from man to man hypocrisy is detestable; how much more in addresses from man to God! But how is it possible prayer can be any thing more than hypocrisy, when the supplicant is not impressed with a due sense of the worth of his soul? Who can deprecate the wrath revealed against sin, implore deliverance from its defilement, or earnestly entreat a supply of his spiritual wants, who does not perceive the worth of the soul? In the nature of things we can have no deep concern, where we apprehend no great misery if we fail of success, or advantage, if we are crowned with it. We may indeed personate in our closets or at church a man in earnest pursuit of spiritual blessings; and be constant in the use of those very prayers which such an one, with the noblest sensibility, would pour out before his God. But unless we feel the same spirit, through the same knowledge of the excellency of the soul, we only act a part in the closet or in the church, as a player does on the stage: We appear in a character which is no more our own, than that of the king or hero on the stage is his. Hence multitudes constantly engaged in acts of devotion, remain grossly ignorant, and utterly unaffected by every thing which they profess to believe, and day by day seem to implore: Their confessions are deceitful, their prayers void of fervour, and their thanksgiving without gratitude. But such devotion must be as unsuccessful as it is insin
God is a God of truth. He must receive services just as they are; and where nothing but outward homage and fine words are offered to him, nothing is obtained. Sin is not pardoned, nor evil tempers subdued. All the fruit of such feigned intercourse with the God of Heaven, is to flatter self-love, and to harden men in presumption, till their hypocrisy is at once fully discovered and punished.
On the contrary, are you conscious of the worth of your soul? This will dispose you for every devout exercise. Godly sorrow for sin will accompany the confession of it, when lamented as an enemy to your best, your immortal interest. Ardent and urgent will be the pleadings for grace and pardon, when their importance, as connected with a soul of inestimable worth, is seen and felt. Most hearty and affectionate will be the thanksgiving for mercies already vouchsafed, when every instance of favour from above is considered as a pledge of the eternal felicity of the soul.
It follows therefore, that in the same degree in which it is necessary to resist temptations to evil, or profitably to engage in the solemn acts of religion, it is necessary
also to be impressed with the worth of the soul.
The natural result of such an impression will be a diligent care for the salvation of the soul.
Now the supreme wisdom of such carefulness is most evident from comparing beauty, honour, knowledge, riches, or whatever else is usually valued amongst men, with the soul.
The elegant lovely form, which captivates the eye of almost every
beholder, and fills the mind that possesses it with perpetual vanity, ill rewards the anxious carefulness used to preserve it. No cautious attention, no human power or skill is able to protect it from the waste of time, the blast of sickness, or the untimely stroke of death.
The place of honour, and the name of applause, for which thousands are glad to sacrifice their ease and sell their liberty, is of little value, since it is subject to all the caprice of fickle-minded man. How many, once the favourites of a court, the idols of a kingdom, have lived to see all their blooming honours wither, and their names sink into oblivion, if not contempt.
Are you ambitious to climb the envied summit of literary fame; and shine without a rival in the acquisition of knowledge? In one fatal hour, a paralytic stroke, a violent fever, may disorder the structure of your brain, rifle all the cells of knowledge, and wipe away from your memory very traces of all that has been committed to its keeping. Thus you may be left the sad survivor of yourself. A mortifying spectacle to human pride; a melancholy, but irresistible proof, how much men may rate the attainment of human knowledge higher than its precarious tenure justifies.
If your great aim is to become rich, of chief eminence in your trade, able to command all outward things which can minister to your vanity or pleasure, still how unworthy of your supreme desire and care is such a condition, because absolutely insecure! Life itself, the foundation of all temporary enjoyments, is but as a beauteous vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanishes away. Each day, we know, is translating some of the opulent sons of industry, into a world where not a mite of all their gain can follow them.
Nay, if you are engrossed by the care of providing for