An unbeliever once went to a minister and said to him, "I know that you are a man of common sense and frankness. I have read your sermons and I know that you will give a man a straightforward answer. Do you believe that I have a soul?"
The minister replied, "Yes, I do."
"Well," answered the man, "that is an extraordinary thing for a man of your ability to think. If you go to the museum, you can see exactly what the component parts of man are—so much lime, so much sugar, so much phosphorus, so much carbon, so much starch." He went on to enumerate sixteen ingredients which make up a man. "You can see them all," he said, "in bottles in a museum?" Where, then, does the soul come in?"
The minister looked at him and replied, "Excuse me, but I must decline to continue the argument any further."
The man said, "That was just what I expected. When you cannot meet an argument, you throw up the sponge and will have nothing more to do with it."
"But," said the minister, "I am a reasonable man, and as such I must decline to hold any argument with so many quarts of water, so much phosphorus, so much lime, and so much carbon." Thus the minister answered a fool according to his folly.
In John Masefield's "The Widow in the Bye Street," the mother comes to say farewell to the prodigal son who is to be executed in prison. When they are parting she says to him:
"God dropped a spark down into everyone,
And if we find and fan it to a blaze,
It'll spring up and glow, like—like the sun,
And light the wandering out of stony ways."
Yes, down into every heart God has dropped a divine spark, and when we find it and fan it to a blaze, there is the Kingdom of God.
In one of Maxim Gorky's tales there is a conversation between two boatmen at the oars on the river Volga. Sergie is full of animalism and sensuality and passion; the other, the frail and pallid Mitia, is awake to the beauty and power of the spiritual world. Mitia says to Sergie: "Law is in the soul. Don't do things that are against your soul, and you will do no evil on the earth. The soul is always as clear as dew. Its voice lies deep down within us, and is difficult to hear. But if we listen, we can never be mistaken. God is in the soul."
There is said to be a tribe of Indians on the Amazon River who at certain seasons of the year squat on the ground and refuse to move, saying that they are waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies. That is indeed the great need of the world today. It should sit down for a little and let the soul catch up with the body.
Over the great doorway of the cathedral at Milan are three inscriptions spanning the arches. Upon one arch is carved a wreath of roses, and underneath is the sentence: "All that which pleases is but for a moment." Over the second is carved a cross with the words: "All that which troubles is but for a moment." But on the great central arch is the legend: "That only is important which is eternal."
The soul, therefore, is the one important thing with which we have to do in life and in eternity.
At Carlisle, Pennsylvania, was held the funeral of the son of Dr. Mason, the president of Dickinson College. The crowd was obstructing the funeral procession, and the youth's father exclaimed, "Tread lightly, young men, tread lightly. You bear the temple of the Holy Ghost." A revival was occasioned by those words of the father.
A man in the penitentiary once wrote a letter containing the following:
"1st. As to whether anything can be done for a man like me. I have sinned 'against light,' and in the face of scores of opportunities to be straight. 'All hope gone' is the phrase that most accurately sets forth my feelings.
"2nd. I do not believe that professedly Christian people feel any deep concern for my soul. Many men and women who never go near a church are moved with the ordinary feelings of charity and humanity—even pagans feel that!—but I do not believe that anybody has any real 'burden' for my soul. If I did—well, the evidence of just one such case would be enough to make me completely change my life at any cost!
"Do you personally know any 'Christian' man or woman who has the real thing? If so, I wish you would have that man or woman write me."
A cemetery where the dead are buried is a dark and cold place—yet not altogether so. The hand of Christian faith swings the lantern of hope in the darkness of the grave, and love whispers of a tomorrow where love shall find its own, when the trumpet shall sound and the sea shall give up its dead and the grave hers; but in the moral cemetery, where men's characters and souls are buried, there is no light and no hope, for there are the graves of dead—and forever dead—hopes, ideals, joys, innocence.
On a late summer day in 1658 the Quaker, George Fox, met Oliver Cromwell riding through Hampton Park. "And before I came to him, as he rode at the head of his lifeguards, I saw and felt a waft of death go forth against him." A few days later the great protector lay dying at Whitehall Palace. His interest in the world receded and his soul fell back on itself as it advanced toward the mysteries of eternity. Nothing now to him was the fact that his voice had been the mightiest in Europe, making kings to tremble; nothing now to him was the memory of his protectorate or the glory of his military conquests at Dunbar and Marston Moor. The only thing which engaged his mind was the welfare of his immortal soul. On the second of September he said to his chaplain, "Is it possible to fall from grace?"
"It is not possible," replied the chaplain.
"Then," said Cromwell, "I am safe, for I know that I was once in grace."
The chief interest and anxiety of Cromwell, about to enter the other world, was how he stood with God. Today it is often taken as a sign of weakness or selfishness to show any interest in the salvation of one's soul. But the soul's Creator and Redeemer has declared that that is the chief business and interest of man, and the source and occasion of his highest joy.