Soul Sermon Illustrations

Soul Sermon Illustrations

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A man out hunting in the Valley of Virginia, following the game into a depression, or cave, in the fields, heard the sound of flowing water. He followed the stream for a little and listened in wonder as the mysterious river ran off into the subterranean darkness. Coming back with a companion and with a torch, he entered the cave again and followed the sound of the water till they came to a vast cavern through which darkly flowed the river. The flame of the uncertain torch revealed splendors and glories which for generations, for aeons of time, had been hidden from the eye and mind of man. Vaulted domes fretted with gold and brown and silver bands; massive pillars where stalactite and stalagmite met in an eternal embrace, constituting a column such as Karnak could not boast; spiral stairways of transparent limestone; thrones, high and lifted up, which looked as if they had been the judgment seat of departed gods; vast chambers, swept and garnished, whose solitude had never before been disturbed by the fall of man's foot or the sound of his voice. How rich is nature, who can afford to hoard and hide away so much beauty and grandeur! Outside, on the surface, an unattractive, rolling, and barren land. But just beneath the surface a majesty and a loveliness which enthrall the eye and mind of man.

So beneath the dull exterior of man's life, never far away, lies this hidden chamber, this buried life of the soul, with all its wonders and glories.


In his biography of Thomas Gray, Edmund Gosse wrote: "Gray never spoke out. He lived even more than most of us in an involuntary solitude, a pathetic type of the isolation of the soul."

Each man's life is a shrine where none but himself may enter. Stop for a moment to recall the multitude of thoughts, impulses, desires, both good and bad, which have flashed through your mind; and you realize how large a territory there is within you that is absolutely unknown and unexplored, save by yourself. We speak of those whose hearts are as one, and yet in another and deeper sense what seems a very close nearness may be an unmeasurable distance.


In a well-known picture the devil is represented as gambling with a man, and the stake is the man's soul. It is clear that the devil is winning and the man is losing. Several of the faculties of the soul, several of the man's pawns, such as innocence, purity, and faith, have already been taken. Now hope is going, too, and when it goes, the man has lost and the devil has won. But no poet, no painter, no orator, no thinker, will ever be able to tell us, so that we can take it all in, what that means—the loss of a human soul!


One of Hawthorne's most impressive tales is that of the Intelligence Office. Presiding over this lost-and-found office in the midst of a great city sat a grave figure poring over his volume and looking like the spirit of record. One by one the people came in searching for what they had lost—a faded beauty who sought a lost bloom, another who had lost his shadow of his influence for good, another who searched for a vanished reputation.

At length there came a man looking for a precious, priceless jewel, a prince's treasure, which had fallen from his bosom, where he had worn it in his careless wanderings about the city. The man at the desk opened a cabinet in which was a strange collection of lost articles—wedding rings which had been riveted upon the finger with holy vows and all the mystic potency which the most solemn rites could attain, and yet had proved too slippery for the wearers' vigilance; and others the gold of which was worn thin after the attrition of years of wedlock; and others glittering from the jeweler's shop as if they had been lost during the honeymoon. Here were ivory tablets, too, on the leaves of which were written sentiments and truths of the writer's early years, but to which now he was a complete stranger. White roses, too, withered now, but once emblems of a virgin purity, lost and flung away and trampled in the mire of the streets, and locks of hair faded and lost by faithless lovers.

In the corner of the cabinet, after much search, was found a great pearl, looking like the soul of celestial purity congealed and polished. When the man saw it he exclaimed with joy, "There is my jewel! Give it to me this moment or I perish!" But the intelligence officer reminded the former owner that the pearl was held upon a peculiar tenure, and since he had once let it escape from his keeping he had no greater claim upon it than any other person. No entreaties or pleas could soften the heart of the intelligence man, who was devoid of human sympathy, and the man who had lost his jewel went out disconsolate and empty handed.

How true a picture of life! The best and sacred things are lost, and man of himself has no power to get them back. That was what Christ said about the greatest jewel of all, a man's own soul. "What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:37.) That is, when he has lost it, how is he going to get it back? The solemn declaration of Christ is that the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.


Thomas Moore somewhere has a line about dissolving the pearl of the soul in the wine of desire. It is a powerful and true figure. It would take a long time to dissolve a pearl in any liquid. It takes a long time to dissolve the soul; indeed, utterly to dissolve it and destroy it is impossible. But it is possible to dissolve the element of righteousness and of happiness in it.


About one hundred years ago a man in some way fell overboard from his vessel and was swept down Niagara River toward the falls. Just above the falls, on the American side, there juts out of the water a black rock. The man managed to secure a foothold on that rock. Soon his terrible plight was observed by people on the shore. Hundreds gathered together, watching in horror the man on the rock and planning to do what they could to deliver him. They did manage to float food down the river to him. But as the hours and the days went by his strength began to ebb; and at length, in sight of the horror-stricken multitude, he was swept over the thunderous cataract to his death in the cruel waters.

A man's body was in danger of being swept over the falls, and thousands were concerned over him and gathered together to do what they could to deliver him. But if it had been announced that at Niagara Falls a man's soul was in peril, very few of that same crowd would have gathered together. And yet the soul is the immortal part of man, and the disaster which befalls man's body is as nothing compared with that which can overtake his soul.


The psalmist said, "No man cared for my soul." (Ps. 142:4.) If a man's body is in imminent danger and peril, there are plenty who will be interested in his welfare. Suppose a man is working on top of one of the great towers of this church. He loses his footing and, falling, manages to get hold of one of those fierce-looking gargoyles which project from the lower part of the tower. There he clings for dear life. People passing up the avenue hear his cries and see the peril he is in. Soon the street is blocked with anxious, horror-stricken people who shout words of encouragement to him. Soon there is the siren of the fire department, and the firemen get out one of their extension ladders and begin to raise it toward the tower. Then the police come and with a long rope in their hands dash into the church and inquire the way up to the tower. A man's body is in dire peril, and everyone who sees it is concerned over it and ready to do what he can to help the man, to save him from death. But the soul, of infinite value, can be in peril and men will not be moved in the least.

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