Among many other largesses and rich endowments, bestowed by the Creator’s bounty upon the soul of man, the sentiments and impressions of the world to come, and the ability of reflection and self-intuition, are peculiar, invaluable, and heavenly gifts. By the former, we have a very great evidence of our own immortality, and designation for nobler employments and enjoyments than this embodied state admits. And by the latter we may discern the agreeableness of our hearts, and therein the validity of our title to that expected blessedness.
But these heavenly gifts are neglected and abused all the world over. Degenerate souls are every where fallen into so deep an oblivion of their excellent original, spiritual and immortal nature, and alliance to the Father of spirits; that (to use the upbraiding expression of a great philosopher) “they seem to be buried in their bodies, as so many silly worms that lurk in their holes, are loth to peep forth, and look abroad.
So powerfully do the cares and pleasures of this world charm all, (except a small remnant of regenerate souls) that nothing but some smart stroke of calamity, or terrible messengers of death can startle them; (and even those are not always able to do it,) and when they do, all the effect is but a transient glance at another, and an unwilling shrug to leave this world, and so to sleep again. And thus the impressions and sentiments of the world to come (which are the natural growth and offspring of the soul) are either stifled and suppressed, as in Atheists; or borne down by impetuous masterly lusts, as in Sensualists.
And for its self reflecting and considering power, it seems in many to be a power received in vain. It is with most souls as it is with the eye, which sees not itself, though it sees all other objects. There be those that have almost finished the course of a long life, (wherein a great part of their time has lain upon their hands, as cheap and useless commodity, which they knew not what to do with) who never yet spent one solemn entire hour in discourse with their own souls. What serious heart doth not melt into compassion over the deluded multitude, who are mocked with dreams, and perpetually busied about trifles? Who are, (after so many frustrated attempts both of their own, and all past ages) eagerly pursuing the fleeting shadows, who torture and rack their brains to find out the natures and qualities of birds, beasts, and plants; indeed any thing rather than their own souls, which are certainly the most excellent creatures that inhabit this world. They know the true value and worth of other things? but are not able to estimate the dignity of that high born spirit that is within them. A spirit which (without the addition of any more natural faculties or powers, if those it has be but sanctified and devoted to God) is capable of the highest perfections and fruitions, even complete conformity to God, and the satisfying visions of God throughout eternity. They herd themselves with beasts, who are capable of an equality with angels. O what compassionate tears must such a consideration as this draw from the eyes of all that understand the worth of souls!
As for me it has been my sin, and is now the matter of my sorrow, that while myriads of souls, (of no higher original than mine) are some of them beholding the highest Majesty in heaven, and others giving all diligence to make sure their salvation on earth, I was carried away so many years in the course of this world, (like a drop with the current of the tide) wholly forgetting my best self, my invaluable soul; while I prodigally wasted the stores of my time and thoughts upon vanities, that long since passed away as the waters which are remembered no more. It shall be no shame to me to confess this folly, since the matter of my confession shall go to the glory of my God. I studied to know many other things, but I knew not myself. It was with me as with a servant to whom the master committed two things, viz. the child, and the child’s clothes; the servant is very careful of the clothes’ brushes and washes, starches and irons them, and keeps them safe and clean, but the child is forgotten and lost. My body which is but the garment of my soul, I kept and nourished with excessive care, but my soul was long forgotten, and had been lost for ever, as others daily are, had not God roused it, by the convictions of his Spirit, out of that deep oblivion and deadly slumber.