“Does the soul out-live the body, and abide for ever? Then it is a great evil and folly to be excessively careful: for the mortal body, and neglective of the mortal inhabitant. In a too much indulged body, there ever dwells a too much neglected soul.
The body is but a vile thing, Phil iii. 21. the soul more valuable than the whole world, Matth. xvi. 26. To spend time, care, and pains for a vile body, while little or no regard is had to the precious mortal soul, is an unwarrantable folly and madness. To have a clear and washed body, and a soul all filth, (as one speaks) a body neatly clothed and dressed, with a soul all naked and unready: a body fed, and a soul starved; a body full of the creature, and a soul empty of Christ, these are poor souls indeed. We smile at little children, who in a kind of laborious idleness take a great deal of pains to make and trim their babies, or build their little houses of sticks and straws: And what are they but children of a bigger size, that keep such ado about the body, a house of clay, a weak pile, that must perish in a few days. It is admirable, and very convictive of most Christians, what we read in a Heathen. “I confess (saith Seneca) there is a love to the body implanted in us all; we have the tutelage and charge of it; we may be kind and indulgent to it, but must not serve it; but he that serves it, is a servant to many cares, fears, and passions. Let us have a diligent care of it, yet so as when reason requires, when our dignity or faith require it, we commit it to the fire.”
It is true, the body is beloved of the soul, and God requires that it moderately care for the necessities and conveniences of it; but to be fond, indulgent, and constantly solicitous about it, is both the sin and snare of the soul. One of the fathers being invited to dine with a lady, and waiting some hours till she was dressed, and fit to come down; when he saw her, he fell a weeping; and being demanded why he wept, Oh! said he, I am troubled that you should spend so many hours this morning in pinning and trimming your body when I have not spent half the time in praying, repenting and caring for my own soul. Two things a master commits to his servant’s care, (says one) the child, and the child’s clothes: It will be but a poor excuse for the servant to say, at his master’s return, Sir, here are all the child’s clothes neat and clean, but the child is lost. Much so will be the account that many will give to God of their souls and bodies, at the great day, Lord, here is my body, I was very careful for it, I neglected nothing that belonged to its content and welfare: But for my soul, that is lost and cast away for ever, I took little care and thought about it. It is remarkable what the apostle says, Rom. viii. 12. We owe nothing to the flesh, we are not in its debt, we have given it all, more than all that belongs to it: But we owe many an hour, many a care, many a deep thought to our souls, which we have defrauded it of for the vile body’s sake. You have robbed your souls to pay your flesh. This is madness.”
1. Flavel, John. “The Works of John Flavel,” Volume 2. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1968, pages 583-584.