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countable composition in the entire creation. This great point involves the justice, and benevolent nature, of the Supreme Being. Was man made for so mean a purpose, as only to vegetate, and to transmit his species? Can God delight in the production of such immature intelligences?
These reasonings, together with the analogy of all nature dying, and reviving, in every part; the inequality of human allotments in this world; and the apparent discomfiture of virtue, and triumph of vice, oftentimes; with many other arguments of an abstruser, and more metaphysical form; offer, even to the infidel philosopher, a well grounded hope of the soul's immortality. But though Nature can thus partially evince this sublime, and comfortable truth; yet Revelation alone has rendered it more certain than the hope of any temporal blessing, and impressed it with a full conviction upon our minds, as Reason is now fortified by Faith. No, Christian! Though all the physicians, and all the prayers, in the world, cannot make a soul immortal on earth; yet neither can all the physicians, nor all the prayers, hinder a soul from being immortal in another world. Yes, Christian! Wished-for assurance is now rendered doubly sure. The stars shall fade away, the sun himself grow dim with age, and nature sink in years; but after the final war of elements, the wreck of matter, and the crush of worlds; thy soul shall flourish in immortal youth.
II. THE INFINITE VALUE OF THE SOUL.
1. The soul is of great absolute value; not only from its indestructible nature, but from its fabric, and its powers.
The astronomical, animal, vegetable, and mineral wonders, are all perfect in their kinds; but what are they but only admirable modifications of senseless matter? while the superior fabric of the soul is of a spiritual, intellectual essence; a more immediate emanation from the Uncreated Spirit.
Its powers also are of the most dignified order. The Creator hath endowed the soul with understanding; a faculty of contemplating things seen and unseen; and of investigating and concluding concerning their attributes.
The soul is able to trace results, dependancies, and alliances, present and ultimate, to their causes; and can thence ascend to the great First Cause, and Last End, of all things. It has the power of calling back what is past, and of anticipating what is to come. It can discern the profitable, and the prejudicial; the secure, and the perilous, in natural affairs; and, what is of higher import, in affairs moral, and spiritual. It possesses a judgment of duty, and a capability of rendering it, both in inclination and in action. It can recognize the impressions of moral eminence; and is able to join with it, and to pay submission to it, with an approbation of heart far transcending any other kind of gratification. Do not such capacities of the human soul bespeak its intrinsic worth; especially when we reflect on those exceeding improvements, of which it is susceptible? The value of the soul may be estimated further, by the exalted purposes for which it was designed, and which it is fitted to serve. As all things were formed for the glory of God, so were human souls made to behold, and to admire the supreme Creator in all his works, and to render unto Him the praise. But to have an adequate conception of the soul's importance, and of what enlargements it is capable, we must view the spirits of those made perfect in heaven; and there see them engaged in the sublimest offices, and their faculties and affections expanding and rising and glowing, more and more, forever and ever.
Although it is a lamentable truth, and one over which we all have but too deep reason to deplore, that the faculties of the soul may be depressed, and its taste so debased, that it cannot be affected, nor act, as its immortal destination, and its rational nature demand; and that it may acquire a disrelish for those objects in which its proper felicity is placed; yet the soul may be restored. Therefore, justice requires us to estimate the soul by its capability of such a restoration.
2. The soul is of great relative value. As each person's soul is of worth to himself; we may calculate its value, in a relative estimate, from the variety, number, importance, and elevation of the pleasures, which the right exercise of its moral and intellectual faculties may produce.
How do the enjoyments suitable for the soul transcend and obscure all sensual gratifications. The virtuous, and cultivated soul can enjoy, among other pleasures, the complacency of Knowledge, wherein our curiosity, and investigating faculties, can indulge in the feast of reason; the complacency of conscious Uprightness, of exercising that temper and equity towards others, which we would desire to have exercised towards ourselves; the complacency of Industry, wherein every ability is exerted to its most beneficent end; the complacency of Meditation, whereby the heart and the mind unite in emotions of awe, and of gratitude; and the complacency of estimating Moral Preeminence with suitable veneration, which highly dignifies and refines the mind. Besides these, the soul can enjoy the delights of Adoration and Love, directed towards a worthy object; the delights of Obedience, rendered from a principle of perfect attachment and obligation; the consolation of Hope, whereby the renewed soul believes that it is pardoned of its sins, and has an interest in the Redeemer's unfailing regard; also the joy of Communion, wherein the heart can hold sweet converse with its Maker; and the anticipated fellowship of Spirits, the meeting with dear departed friends, and being introduced to the church of the first-born, in unspeakable cordiality and confidence; in a world, where there shall be no more pain, nor sorrow, nor parting.
But to estimate the sum total of blessings in being furnished with a rational soul, we must add together the countless sources of gratification, and the unlimited variety of objects, which are offered to its diverse faculties and affections; and to these elevated enjoyments, of which the soul is capable, we must superadd the stupendous idea of infinite, and eternal.
Finally, if any now doubt concerning the value of the human soul, there remains one more consideration, which, although obvious, and already anticipated by the Christian, ought to overwhelm his best feelings with awe, and humility, and gratitude. It was to redeem this soul from the dominion and doom of sin, that the sacred Son of God, and sympathizing friend of man, condescended to leave a heaven of holiness for an earth of pollution; to live a life
of suffering, and to die a death of ignominy. Who can now help exclaiming, in the amazement of admiring concern, O the unutterable worth of an immortal soul!
When we take such a view of a virtuous human soul, even while on earth, What a piece of work is man; how noble in reason; how infinite in faculties; in form and moving, how express and admirable! But when we contemplate the immortal soul in heaven, In action, how like an angel; in apprehension, how like a god!
III. IF THE SOUL BE LOST, WHAT WILL AVAIL ALL THE ACQUISITIONS OF THIS WORLD?
When we look around on this assembly, of different ages, and of various characters, how is the mind solemnized at the reflection, that each individual has a never-dying soul, which is to be saved, or lost. For the words of our Lord, in our text, imply, that the soul, although immortal, and inestimable, may be lost. Let then our meditations be sobered, while we recount some of the ways, whereby we may lose our own souls.
The soul may be lost, not only by open violation and rejection of the pure Saviour, and his doctrine; not only by indulging in dissolute habits, and keeping irreligious company; but by remaining satisfied with a mere historical knowledge of religion, without its being allowed to affect the heart. By a corrupt faith, resulting from partial views, and only leading to the form of godliness without the power. Or by an accommodating faith, which excludes self-denial, and has a reservation for easily besetting sins. Also the soul may be hazarded, by sluggishness in things spiritual, more than in things temporal; and keeping this world and its vanities uppermost in our hearts. By presuming upon a long life, and therefore procrastinating repentance. By neglecting self-scrutiny, and relying upon the flattering opinions of others. And by blunting pungent convictions, before they produce proper transformation of hearts, and purity of actions.
Man has a nature destined to two separate lives. The one limited, and fleeting; the other unlimited, and permanent. Now the important inquiry arises, in which of these two lives would a reasonable soul wish to be
happy? However ready every person may be to answer this question; however wise they are in theory, yet how many in practice contradict their own judgments. How many are laying up stores for this life, as though there were no danger of losing it; and neglecting to insure an interest in the other, as if they doubted whether it were worth possessing. How many are selling their holy birthright, for a small mess of that same red pottage. How many, who have once gone forward, are looking back after the Egyptian flesh-pots. How many are coveting secretly the wedge of gold, and the beautiful Babylonish garment. How many are even wishing for their poor neighbour's one little pet lamb. But what are pleasure, power, honour, fame, or wealth, or all combined, when put in competition with the sublime anticipation of an existence without end, and a felicity proportionate to that existence? What more obvious disgrace to man's boasted reason, than that those, who fully believe in these two different modes of being, should yet be unceasingly coveting, and scheming, and toiling, after the perishable treasures of this world; especially when they experience, that oftentimes their best endeavours defeat their hopes ? These riches, which all so much applaud, the owner feels the weight of. Every wise man values this life, only as it is a preparation for another; and is ready cheerfully to sacrifice the gratifications of a few wasting years, for the promise of an eternity. Suppose a man, by a mode of unprincipled worldly wisdom, to pamper his craving heart to the full, and thereby to forfeit his soul; or suppose him, by a life not legally vicious, to gain vast possessions, and thereby to neglect his soul; what profit hath he? Doth not the Day approach, when he shall find his foolish plans defeated, and be made to confess the truth of what he now despises? The Day, when self-deceiving mortals shall be persuaded of the futility of their schemes; and when those few wiser persons who, scorning the enticements of lust, and the paltry vanities of the world, took the word of truth for their guide, and aspired to an abode in the heavens; when they shall enjoy their utmost desires, without any risk or possibility of disappointment? What though one might possess the whole world, all its wealth, its domina