The Value Of The Soul
(Delivered at Mulvane, Kansas, March 17, 1957. The following introduction was given by Judson Woodbridge, who preaches for the church at Mulvane):
"The privilege we have this morning is rare indeed. Seldom do we have the opportunity to hear a man preach after he has passed his ninetieth birthday. But some three or four years ago Brother Otey asked for an appointment to preach here on the first Sunday after he was ninety. The time has now come for that sermon. Judging from his appearance, he could make an appointment now to come back after he has passed the 100 mark, and still meet it! He stands erect, and is as 'spry as a kitten,' needing neither cane nor crutch to help him get around.
"Brother Otey's defense of the truth in the past years has been appreciated by all who love the truth. His debate with J. B. Briney on instrumental music in the worship and the Missionary Societies, held in Louisville, Kentucky, nearly fifty years ago, stand as a monument to the defense he has made for the truth through the years. The arguments that were made then by those who were engaged in these innovations are the same arguments that are being made today by brethren who are interested in these 'brotherhood projects'. The answer given then will answer the same arguments today; for it is truth meeting error. Brother Otey has written a number of hooks which will be read by generations yet to come, and which will help them to the right way of life. The latest book to come from his pen, written within the last year, is now ready for the printers, and will come from the press in the near future. This is quite an accomplishment for a man who has come to the age of ninety years in this world. I heard Brother Otey preach when I was just a boy, and little did I realize then that it would ever be my privilege to introduce him on such an occasion as this.
"Brother Otey, the congregation at Mulvane, Kansas, rejoices that you have reached your ninety years in such fine health, and that you can now stand in this pulpit on this 17th day of March, 1957, to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. We are now ready to listen as you speak.")
About three and one-half years ago I was here, and the thought occurred to me that it would be nice to come back and preach a sermon, if I could, following my ninetieth birthday. I asked for the appointment; the brethren consented; and I thank you for keeping the appointment this day. I have no apology to offer you this morning at all. For about seventy years I have been trying to preach the word of the Lord, and it has always been my rule to get up and say what I had to say to the best of my ability, and sit down. That is what I shall do this morning.
The scripture to which I invite your attention is found in both Mark and Matthew, where the Lord asks a two-fold question: "What shall it profit a man though he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" or "what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" No subject that I have ever discussed before an audience has over-powered me and overwhelmed me with such a sense of responsibility as this subject. This first question has to [do] with the value of a man's soul; nothing on this earth can compare with that.
Evidence For The Soul's Value
Where do we find any evidence, any proof of the value of a soul? We live in a commercial age. Everything about us has a dollar mark upon it. Many things are marked far above their real value. A man may overestimate his worth as an employee; he may overestimate his worth as a businessman. He may firmly believe that his business is worth much more than it actually is. But when we come to try to measure or evaluate the worth of the soul, such a thing is far, far beyond our power even to comprehend, except in a very small measure.
The first evidence of the value of your soul and mine, is to notice man's place in the work of creation. God, who hath created the heavens above us and the earth beneath our feet, and all things therein, when he had finished all other creation, then made man in his own image and in his own likeness. God himself has placed a value on man's soul far above all the created material universe. He did not place his image and his likeness upon material things; but he did place that likeness upon man's soul. Within every one of us, weak and sinful though we be, there is the image of God in our moral and spiritual nature. Those high and noble qualities and attributes of moral and spiritual worth which are in God in a infinite degree, can be found in every human soul in a limited measure and finite degree.
We can begin then dimly to perceive why it was that Jesus gave no answer to the question he asked, "what shall it profit a man though he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul." He did not answer the two-fold question because there is no answer. There is nothing of equal or comparable value. Let us suppose in our imagination that Jesus should ask these questions of this very audience this day. Let us watch as he takes up God's scales, the balances upon which things spiritual and moral, things temporal and things eternal, are weighed. On one side of the balance we see placed one man's soul, and immediately that side of the balance goes down as far as it can go. Then on the other side of the balance we could place all the billions of dollars of gold in Fort Knox — and the scales would not move. We could then add to that the hundreds of billions of dollars of material wealth that the world affords — and the scales remain unmoved. In one great sweep of the imagination let us take this earth itself, with all its wealth and glory, precious stones and precious metals, farms and cities, factories and dwellings, and every item of value that this globe contains, and put all that in the balance! And still the scale remain unmoved.
Why is it? Why can not all this wealth bring up the balances and make the scales stand even? The soul is spiritual; the "things" of earth are material. That is the answer! These things are for time, on earth, but the soul is for eternity. The day will come in which this earth and all its works will be burned up; but your soul and mine will go on and on into eternity. Forever!
The Meaning Of Eternity
There are two words that I have never been able to let my thoughts dwell on for very long at a time. One is "God": his power, his glory, his might — having no beginning and no ending, upholding all things by the word of his power. This simply overwhelms me. The other word is "Eternity." Eternity, like God, has no beginning and no ending. We may talk about a hundred years, and have a pretty fair idea of what it means. We may even have some conception of a thousand years, or perhaps dimly of a million years. But who can conceive of eternity? And, oh! how awesome the thought that only a few heart-beats stand between you and me and — eternity!
Let us suppose we try to illustrate that in some way that might give some glimmering light as to its immensity. Let us picture this earth on which we live as a great globe of sand, made up entirely of countless billions of billions of grains of sand. And we will think of a tiny swallow living on some distant planet, to whom God has given the task of moving this entire globe of sand from its present location in the heavens to some far distant star. This bird can carry only one grain of sand in its beak on each trip, and it can make a round trip only once in a thousand years. Ten thousand years would see only ten grains of sand removed; a million years would see less than a teaspoonful transported. And so the flights continue, billions after billions of years roll on. And when the last grain of sand has been removed, and the entire planet has been transported to that distant star, eternity would be no nearer to an end than it is this very hour! A poet has spoken like this:
And time and seasons o'er,
When all is gone
And I shall be dead;
Oh, where then shall my portion be,
Where shall I spend eternity?
The Lord said, "and these shall go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." And so, one day in the future, we know not when, you and I shall stand before the Lord in that great separation. Will it be our portion to be upon the right hand, or on the left? Just to consider the terrible words, "and these shall go away into eternal punishment," overwhelms me with a feeling of responsibility and even righteous fear. Punishment, even for a few years, is an awful thing. To deny a man of his freedom and liberty for a lifetime is terrible to contemplate; but to banish a man for ETERNITY is a punishment beyond the ability of the mind to conceive or human language to express.
In contrast to that awful sentence stand the words, "and these shall go away into life eternal" There is nothing in all of God's book, nor in all universal knowledge, so desirable and so filled with bright hope and glory. Nothing can be so sweet to contemplate, or fill the soul with such unspeakable joy as the thought that "these shall go away into life eternal."
The Artist And His Picture
Let us view the soul from another angle by way of illustration. We will suppose that there lives a great artist, the greatest of his age. He invites me to his studio, and I feel honored greatly by the invitation. He respectfully ushers me into a beautiful room, and there unveils a picture — a picture of the artist himself, lifelike and beautiful. He speaks, "I have painted many great and noble pictures during my life. I value them all highly. But here before you is the greatest picture I have ever painted. I shall never paint another like it. I value it above everything my brush has ever created. I want you to keep this picture for a time, while I go away to prepare a magnificent art gallery in which to display it. I shall return one day, and ask that the picture be given back to me so that I may have it forever."
Then the artist takes his leave. I am overjoyed with the great honor he has done me in leaving with me his most priceless masterpiece. But then scarcely is the great painter out of sight until I take up a crude brush and begin to paint huge black lines across the picture — lines crooked and jagged, having no design, no purpose, but only blots and stains and huge ugly daubs of paint! Can you imagine me or any other living creature treating a great artist with such disrespect?
But the artist himself is not moved by my terrible deed. On the contrary, he says to me, "I anticipated that you might do this and soil my picture. So I am prepared with a plan which will remove every stain, and will restore the picture like it was at first, and make it fit for the great gallery. Shall I apply the remedy I have prepared? Shall I remove the ugly stains you have placed upon my greatest work ?" Can you picture any individual saying "NO"?
My friends, God is that artist; the human soul is that picture; and heaven is the gallery which is to receive the picture. When we sin against God, we are staining our souls, souls created in the likeness and image of God. The soul that is blackened by sin can never be placed in the great gallery of heaven. God has prepared the remedy which will restore that soul to its pristine purity and beauty. And he says to the sinner, "I know you have been thoughtless; but you have ruined my picture. You have crimsoned and blackened- your soul, so that in that condition you can never enter heaven. But I have prepared a remedy, the blood of my Son. If you will surrender yourself in obedience to Him, his blood will take away every stain; and once again that soul, that picture, the image of God, shall be suited to adorn the gallery of heaven."
Sinner friend, what are you going to say about it? Are you going to say to God, "I know I have crimsoned my soul; I know I have destroyed your likeness and the image you gave — but I refuse to allow you now to cleanse my soul and fit it for heaven above!" Why do so many go on, refusing to be cleansed? It is not many times because of thoughtlessness? Sometimes even those who are children of God, who have been once cleansed by the blood of Christ, by their thoughtlessness return to evil, and put still further stains and blots upon the soul. But even in that case, the blood of Christ will cleanse. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive.
What was the price paid for our redemption, for the cleansing of our souls? The cost to God was the dearest object in heaven or on earth — his only Son. The blood of Christ was shed in order to make possible the cleansing of every soul which has been stained by sin. Let us remember always that this is the price that was paid. But so great is the value of the soul that God was willing to give his Son; and the Son was willing to give his life. We are worth more to God than the earth and the heavens above us — much more. We may become famous upon this earth, but when we come to the grave, our fame stays here. We may become wealthy, but we take not a penny with us. Let us, then, view our souls in the true light. There is no measure to determine their worth, either to us or to God. We may lose health; we may lose our properties, and it will matter little. But if we lose our souls, we have lost all!
I stop the lesson here to make an earnest plea to the sinner who has never obeyed his Lord. God has done all he can for you; he gave his Son, and has offered pardon, cleansing, and salvation. Jesus, likewise, has done all he could. He gave himself a ransom for your soul, and has said, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." The only one in all this universe who can settle the question of where you will stand in that last great day is — yourself. Will you hear him say, "Come ye blessed of my father"; or will it be "depart from me ye cursed"? The question is yours to decide. If there is a believing penitent here today, will you not come now, humbly submitting yourself to the Lord, and allow him to pardon you, cleanse you, and adopt you into the family, writing your name into the Lamb's book of life?