The Weekly Pulpit
Only take heed to yourself, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen…
I. WHAT SOUL KEEPING IS. It is the keeping of a living being, and not of a mere inanimate thing. To have the charge of a priceless jewel is only the matter of wrapping it carefully up, putting it away in a safe place, and giving it an occasional look. But it is an altogether different matter to have the charge of a child. That means constant attention, perpetual claim on wisdom and self-denial. And soul keeping is the charge of a living being. Keeping a living creature, so as to help it to maintain vigour and grow into its very best, means —
1. That we must get to know and understand it; and such a knowledge includes the peculiarities of the individual as well as the general characteristics of the class or species to which it belongs. It means —
2. That we must adapt our ways to it, putting ourselves upon all efforts and upon all restraints that may be necessary in order to do our very best in its behalf. But it also means —
3. That in some things we make it take our ways, for it is the most serious responsibility of our trust that we have to put the impress of our own will and our own example on the living being we have in charge. We must, in some things, adapt ourselves to it, and in some other things make it shape its conduct to our wish. If we can take the deeper view, we may apprehend that the soul is the self. But just now another view will be more suggestive to us. We are to think of the "soul" as a trust from God — a "self" given to ourselves to keep for God, a living being put into our charge, as men put an animal from foreign climes, or a plant, into our care. And this becomes our chief life concern — to keep, in health, in vigour, in all due activity, that living thing, our soul. A figure may be taken from the ways of our doctors. It is true that they are concerned with the forms and features and expressions of positive disease; but they have a trust which is of far more importance. Our vitality is committed to their care. And mothers follow along the same lines. They are watchful, indeed, of every spot on the body or weakness in the limb of their children; but wise mothers are most anxious about keeping up the vitality, nourishing the very springs of life. There are the possibilities of throwing off the germs of disease, and unfolding into ideal completeness of beauty, in manhood or womanhood, if only the life can be kept in health and vigour. And so the Christian should be supremely concerned about the trust he has from God, and keep "his soul with all diligence."
II. WHAT KINDS OF CARE IT INVOLVES.
1. We must be watchful of what goes into it. We put injurious things out of the way of children; but we too often fail in the equally important duty of putting evil things that seek entrance out of the way of our souls. But our Lord reminded us —
2. That we should be equally watchful of what comes out. He said, "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts,...and these defile the man." This is the complication of our "keeping." We have to check the soul from giving expression to the bad things that are in it, because they grow strong by expression. But the kind of care involved in soul keeping may be put in another way.It includes —
1. Taking care of the soul's atmosphere. We say of plants and of persons, "The climate does not agree with them: they never will be healthy while they remain in it!" Our scientific teachers tell us that there is one element in the air we breathe which is absolutely and partly intellectual. The proper food for the emotional is all that goes under the name of prayer. The proper food for the intellectual is all that goes under the name of truth. Add this, that there is a practical side to the soul life, the food of which is duty, and we know that which it is fitting we should provide — prayer, truth, duty.
2. Taking care of the soul's neighbours. "Evil communications corrupt good manners. They who would keep their souls should not even "stand in the way of sinners": much less can they venture to sit in the seat of the scornful."
III. WHAT DIFFICULTIES HAVE SOUL KEEPERS TO OVERCOME? Their name is "Legion." But we may profitably fix our attention on two.
1. The outwardness of men's interests nowadays. We live in the street, and the hall, and the drawing room, rather than in the prayer chamber, and the "tower of vision"; and this makes soul keeping so hard
2. The pressure of bodily, and business, and family claims. Like Dr. Chalmers we are "bustled out of our spirituality." Our time is seized upon by the "world," and when he has done his daily will with us we are weary, too weary for the things of God. He who would keep his soul must meet and master these difficulties, and persistently set first, in his seekings, "the kingdom of God and His righteousness."
(The Weekly Pulpit.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons;
WEB: Only take heed to yourself, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes saw, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your children and your children's children;