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The soul of man hath many principles, from the infinite attributes of the Lord. Hence also the Holy Scriptures have several senses, in harmonious connection; and a variety of combinations, relations, and duties conspire together, to produce unity and perfection. Therefore, my brethren, there are several views of this declaration, in the text, my soul cleaveth unto the dust. And 1 will endeavour, in distinct order, by divine assistance, to open these views now before you.
In the first place, it may be said, the soul cleaveth to the dust, with respect to the material body, to which it is most intimately joined. For "dust this body is, and to dust it must return, as it was; but the spirit returns to God who gave it." This union of soul and body, which is the closest we can conceive of, is yet, we all well know, for a very short season here below.
It is also a necessary and indispensable union, for the wisest purposes and uses. But it is an union which may be most improperly loved, valued, and perverted.
This fond couple, though far more
heterogeneous in their natures, than iron and miry clay, which," it is said, "shall not cleave one to another:" seem nevertheless, to be linked more closely than a wedded pair. How spontaneously and concordantly do the soul and body, live and act together! not however, by pre-established harmony, but by that order, according to which, what is spiritual, flows into what is natural, as affection into the countenance, and thought into speech. And with respect to the third, and only remaining opinion, on the communication of soul and
body, arising from the apparent influence of matter over spirit, because we seem to derive our ideas from sensible objects around us; this opinion, when confirmed for a reality, is utterly false and dreadfully erroneous, and amounts to rank materialism and and downright atheism. For it is utterly contrary to divine order, holy Scripture, true philosophy, and the very nature of things; placing the effect before the cause, the Creation before the Creator, and the material universe before the spiritual and eternal kingdom of the Lord. Matter and
spirit are totally distinct in their nature, kind, and degree, and have nothing in common with each other. Matter can never be refined, sublimated, or transformed into spirit; neither can spirit ever be debased, or changed into matter. Notwithstanding this, as I said before, the Almighty, wise and good creator, hath been pleased to institute an union, or communication between them. And therefore we find, that what the soul wills and thinks, that the body instantly performs. For the soul guides, superintends, and takes care of the body; and in return, as the divine poet expresses himself, every life-string bleeds at thought of parting." Self-preservation is the first of nature's laws. And well may bodily life be valued, were it only on these accounts, viz. that even apparent dissolution (for death is not a real dissolution, or extinction) is dreadfully repugnant to nature; and the concerns of eternity in this present one and only state of probation, are so infinitely important, that nothing can stand in competition. But an undue attention to these bodies of ours, so as
to neglect the better part, by luxuries of any kind, or by absorbing our spiritual faculties, as if there were no future life beyond the grave, this is superlatively blameable, dangerous and absurd; but alas! too common; for thus the human soul improperly and treacherously cleaveth to the dust. It is proper therefore for the soul to take care of the body, for the sake of present and eternal uses: But altogether improper for the soul to take care of the body, for the sake of the body; or the sensual earthly life only, to the consequent neglect and spiritual destruction of the never dying soul. For, to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded, is life and peace.
But, Secondly, the soul cleaveth to the dust, by cleaving to the natural principle. For this principle, when accurately described, is the natural, ultimate, or lowest principle of the mind of man in this world: for every power, principle and faculty of the soul dwells, terminates, subsists, and rests therein. For here we think and will, in a natural state, mode, and sphere; which in comparison
with the spiritual and eternal state of heaven, is gross, obscure, scattered, and thick, like dust. Now this natural degree of the human will and understanding, is not to be confirmed and rested in, as if there were no other;-but made subservient to our present relations, duties and uses, and to the acquisition, not the denial and exclusion, of spiritual truth, and to an advancement in the divin e eternal life of evangelical morality.
So also THIRDLY, ought this to be the case with worldly, or earthly things. The soul is prone to cleave to these with excessive attachment, fondness and complacency, though shortly, must we bid to them an everlasting adieu. For we brought nothing into this world, and we can carry nothing out. These things, though accounted all and every thing by the young, healthy prosperous sinner, are like the small dust of the ballance, compared with the exceeding weight of eternal treasures. The most beautiful of earthly objects inevitably gather dust, and turn to dust at last. Beauty like a flower soon decays. Riches lose their proprietors. Health and strength,