154) On Matters of the Soul and Eternity

Selections from The Clergy of America: Anecdotes, (1869)

     I was once called upon, says the Rev. Trefit, some years ago, to visit an individual, a part of whose face had been eaten away by a most loathsome cancer.  Fixing my eyes on this man, in his agony, I said, “Supposing that Almighty God were to give you your choice:  which would you prefer, your cancer, your pain, and your sufferings, with a certainty of death before you, but of immortality after; or, health, prosperity, long life in the world, and the risk of losing your immortal soul?”  “Ah sir,” said the man, “give me the cancer, the pain, the Bible, the hope of heaven; and others may take the world, long life, and prosperity.”  (p. 426)


     Several years ago Rev. James Armstrong preached at Harmony, near the Wabash.  A physician of that place, a professed atheist, went over to Armstrong to ‘attack the Methodists,’ as he said.  At first, he asked Mr. Armstrong if he was a preacher in order to save souls.  He answered in the affirmative.  He then inquired, “Did you ever see a soul?”  “No.”  “Did you ever hear a soul?”  “No.”  “Did you ever taste a soul?”  “No.”  “Did you ever smell a soul?”  “No.”  “Did you ever feel a soul?”  “Yes, thank God,” said Mr. Armstrong.  “Well,” said the doctor, “there are four of the five senses against one, that there is no soul.”

    Mr. Armstrong then asked the gentlemen if he was a doctor of medicine, and he was also answered in the affirmative.  He then asked the doctor, “Did you ever see a pain?”  “No.”  “Did you ever hear a pain?”  “No.”  “Did you ever taste a pain?”  “No.”  “Did you ever smell a pain?”  “No.”  “Did you ever feel a pain?”  “Yes.”  Mr. Armstrong then said. “There are also four senses against one, to prove that there is no such thing as a pain; and yet, sir, you know that there is pain, and I know there is a soul.”  The doctor appeared confounded and walked off. (p. 409)


    A venerable minister preached a sermon on the subject of eternal punishment.  On the next day, it was agreed among some thoughtless young men, that one of them should go to him, and endeavor to draw him into a dispute, with the design of making a jest of him and his doctrine.  The young man accordingly went, was introduced into the minister’s study, and commenced the conversation by saying, “I believe there is a small dispute between you and me, sir, and I thought I would call this morning to try to settle it.”  “What is it?,” said the clergyman.  The young man said, “You say that the wicked will go to everlasting punishment, and I do not think that they will.”  “Oh, if that is all,” said the minister, “there is no dispute between you and me.  If you turn to Matthew 25:46, you will find that the dispute is between you and the Lord Jesus Christ, and I advise you to go immediately and settle it with him.”  (p. 341)


    A skeptic, meeting a clergyman, asked, “If we are to live after death, why have we not some certain knowledge of it?”  The clergyman, feeling it important sometimes to answer a fool according to his folly, asked in return, “Why didn’t you get some knowledge of this world before you came into it?”  (p. 370)


    A Universalist clergyman was once robbed on the road by a man who had formerly lived with him as a servant.  After his arrest, the preacher asked the man how he could be so wicked as to rob his old employer.  The robber’s answer speaks volumes against the soul-destroying heresy of universalism, which says all people will be saved no matter what they believe or do.  The robber said, “You yourself tempted me to commit this offense against the law; for I have often heard you say, both in public and private, that all men will enjoy everlasting bliss after death, and that there is no such things as eternal punishment in the next world.  You thus removed my greatest fear; why should I dread any lesser punishments?”  (p. 375)


Matthew 25:46  —    (Jesus said), “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Acts 16:29-31  —   The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.  He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”    They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved; you and your household.”

John 3:16  —  (Jesus said), “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”


      O, God of all comfort, I give you thanks that you have revealed to me your dear Son, Jesus Christ, in whom I believe.  I know of no one else in heaven or on earth in whom I may have safe refuge except in Him.  Without this hope, I would be lost. I pray Lord Jesus, let my soul be commended unto you.  O heavenly Father, although I must be torn away from this body and must leave it, I know that I shall remain with you forever, and that no one can ever take me out of your hands.  I rely on this assurance, and will gladly leave this life in it.  Amen.     

–Martin Luther, from Luther’s Prayers, tr. by Charles Kistler, 1917,

(adapted from #220, #223, and #224)