The Preciousness of Souls
Christ, that only went to the price of souls, hath told us that one soul is of more worth than all the world. Christ left His Father’s bosom, and all the glory of heaven, for the good of souls; He assumed the nature of man for the happiness of the soul of man; He trode the wine-press of His Father’s wrath for souls; He wept for souls, He sweat for souls, He paid for souls, and He bled out His heart-blood for souls. The soul is the breath of God, the beauty of man, the wonder of angels, and the envy of devils; it is of an angelical nature, it is a heavenly spark, a celestial plant, and of a divine offspring, it is a spiritual substance, capable of the knowledge of God, and of union with God, and of communion with God, and of an eternal fruition of God. There is nothing that can suit the soul below God, nor nothing that can satisfy the soul without God; the soul is so high and so noble a piece, that it scorns all the world in point of acceptation, justification, satisfaction, and salvation. What are all the riches of the East or West Indies? What are rocks of diamonds, or mountains of gold, or the price of Cleopatra’s draught, to the price that Christ laid down for souls? Christ made Himself an offering for sin, that souls might not be undone by sin; the Lord died that slaves may live, the Son dies that servants may live; the natural Son dies that adopted sons may live, the only-begotten Son dies that bastards may live; yea, the Judge dies that malefactors may live. Ah, friends, as there was never sorrow like Christ’s sorrow, so there was never love like Christ’s love, and of all His love none to that of soul-love. In a word, the spiritual enemies which daily war against the soul, the glorious angels which hourly guard the soul, and the precious ordinances which God hath appointed as means both to convert and to feed the soul, do all speak out the preciousness and excellency of the soul. There was once a great contest among some nations about Homer, an excellent poet—they severally pleaded their interest in him; and truly so it is this day about the soul of man: many lay claim to it,—sin lays claim to it, and the world lays claim to it, and Satan lays claim to it, and Christ and holiness lays claim to it, and oh that Christ and holiness might have it before all others! O sirs, there is no wisdom nor policy to that of securing our precious souls, for they are jewels of more worth than all the world! All the honours, riches, greatness, and glory of this world are but chips and pebbles to these glorious pearls; therefore, before all and above all other things, make sure work for your souls; if they are safe all is safe, but if they are lost all is lost. Other things cannot be made sure; riches cannot, for as they are lying, so they are flying vanities, they make themselves wings, and they fly away; honours cannot: Haman is feasted with the king one day, and made a feast for crows the next; Herod is one hour cried up for a god, and the next hour he is eaten of worms. Princes’ courts are very slippery: a man may quickly get a fall there, that may easily break both back and neck, as many in all ages have experienced; the applause and favour of creatures cannot, for many men’s favours are got with an apple, and lost with a nut. Judas his heart was hardly warmed with the high-priest’s favour, before they shut their doors upon him, with a “What is that to us? Look thou to that” (Matthew 27:4–5). What is the favour of man but a blast, a sunshine-hour, a puff of wind, a magnum nihil, a great nothing? Who then would spend an hour’s time to secure it? Near and dear relations cannot, for the delight of Ezekiel’s eyes is taken away with a stroke (Ezekiel 24:16); and all Job’s children are snatched away in a day (Job 1:10).
O sirs, if the serious consideration of the preciousness and worth of your souls will not draw you out to study holiness, to love holiness, to prize holiness, and to press after holiness, what will? O sirs, it is only holiness that is the happiness of the soul, the safety and security of the soul, the prosperity and felicity of the soul, and the lustre and glory of the soul; and therefore why should you not labour, as for life, after this inestimable jewel, holiness? Oh, let the remembrance of the preciousness of your souls be an effectual means to draw you to hear that you may be holy, and to pray that you may be holy, and to read that you may be holy, and to mourn that you may be holy, and to sigh and groan after holiness, as after that which is the soul’s only happiness. O sirs, there is nothing below heaven so precious and noble as your souls; and therefore do not play the courtier with your souls. Now the courtier does all things late—he rises late, and dines late, and sups late, and repents late. Oh, do not poison your precious souls by gross enormities! Oh, do not starve your souls by the omission of religious duties! Oh, do not murder and damn your souls by turning your backs upon holy ordinances! I have read of a woman, who, when her house was on fire, so minded the saving of her goods, that she forgot her only child, and left it burning in the fire; at last, being minded of it, she cries out, “Oh, my child! oh, my poor child!” but all too late. So there are many men now so mad upon the world, and so bewitched with the world, that they never mind, they never regard their poor souls, till they come to fall under everlasting burnings, and then they cry out, Oh, our souls! oh, our poor souls! Oh that we had been wise for our souls! Oh that we had got holiness for our souls! Oh that we had made sure work for our souls! But all too late, all too late. The Lord make you wise to prevent soul-burnings at last. If he be rather a monster than a man that feasts his slave but starves his wife, what shall we say of those that pamper their bodies but starve their souls, and that have threadbare souls under silk and satin clothes, and that please themselves with deformed souls under beautiful faces? Surely it had been good for these that they had never been born. All unholy persons will at last cry out, We have betrayed our immortal souls, we have lost a precious Father, we have lost a dear Redeemer, we have lost the company of glorious angels, we have lost the society of “the spirits of just men made perfect,” and we have lost all the pleasures and joys and delights that be at the right hand of the Most High! We have lost these, we have lost all these, and we have lost them for ever and ever: surely there is no hell to this hell! For a close of this direction, remember this, that as the soul is the life and excellency of the body, so holiness is the life and excellency of the soul, and as the body without the soul is dead, so the soul without holiness is dead.