Noble's 'Appeal': III. The Resurrection:
B. Other Texts, commonly regarded as adverse to the True Doctrine, considered.
in the First Part of this Section I have considered all the texts,. cited as opposed to the View of the Resurrection which we receive as the truth of Scripture, in the work which I have taken as my guide in the composition of this Appeal. In making this remark, however, I except the famous fifteenth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians; which, regarding it as strongly affirming our view of the subject, I reserve till I enter on the consideration of texts by which that view is established. But first I will request the attention, of the candid and reflecting, while I make the present branch of the subject more complete, by noticing all the remaining texts, both of the Old Testament and the New, which are commonly referred to the. Doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body.
In the preceding Part of this Section, among other texts from the Old Testament, I have examined the passage of Daniel, ch. xii. 2, which says, "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt:" and it has been shown, that "upon no consistent scheme of interpretation whatever, can this verse be made to relate to an actual revival of dead bodies."
This image of a revival from the grave, is also used, by other prophets, to express the restoration of the Jews from a state of depression to a state of prosperity; and as such passages are sometimes improperly cited, by the advocates of the resurrection of the body, in proof of that doctrine, we will here briefly pass them under review.
"We will first notice Ezekiel's vision of dry bones, because, though, inattentive readers are apt to suppose that it relates to a general resurrection of dead bodies, and some who ought to know better frequently apply it to that doctrine, it nevertheless explains itself so clearly, that it may serve as a key to all other passages in which similar images are used. Ezekiel was one of those, who, with Jehoiachin the king and a great body of the people, were carried captives to Babylon at the first capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. So long, however, as Jerusalem remained standing, and under the government of Jehoiachin's successor, Zedekiah, the captives in Babylon entertained hopes of a return, and of the restoration of the Jewish state to its pristine glory; but when Jerusalem was utterly destroyed, and the principal part of the people who remained was likewise carried into captivity, at the second invasion by Nebuchadnezzar, they abandoned themselves to despair, and regarded all prospect of a restoration as utterly hopeless: which they expressed, in the figurative language to which they were accustomed, by saying, "Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost; we are cut off, for our parts." To counteract this despair, Ezekiel is favoured with the vision of dry bones. "The hand of the Lord," says he, "was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones;—and behold there were very many in the open valley; and lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest." The bones accordingly are clothed with flesh and skin, "and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceeding great army." (chap. xxxvii. 1—10.) If the reader goes no further, he may conclude that this vision is intended to teach the doctrine of the resurrection of the body; but the prophet, or rather the Lord by the prophet, immediately declares, that, the bones were symbols, not of actually deceased men, but of the Israelites in their then state of extreme affliction and depression, when they were held captive in the country of their enemies as dead bones in the grave; and that the revivification of the dry bones is a symbol of the certain revival of the Jewish state, by the restoration of the people to their own land; which, as is well known, took place accordingly, after their captivity had lasted seventy years. For thus the prophet continues: "Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost; we are cut off, for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and. bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit within you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord" (ver. 11—14). In no other part of Scripture is so much said respecting the opening of graves, and bringing up out of graves out, most evidently, this language does not here mean that there shall be any resurrection of actually dead bodies: consequently it does not necessarily (perhaps I might say, it necessarily does not) mean such a resurrection, when it is used elsewhere.
Having thus obtained so distinct a clew to the signification of these images, we may easily understand them when they occur in other places.
Isa. xxvi. 19, as it stands in the common translation, appears more in favour of the resurrection of the body than any other text either of the Old or New Testament. "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out her dead." But for the main strength of this passage in reference to this argument,—its seeming mention of the dead body of Jesus Christ, as that together with which the other dead are to arise,— which would destroy its reference to any restoration of the Jews,—it is entirely indebted to the ingenuity of the translators; which they in fact acknowledge, by printing the words together with in Italic characters, to indicate that nothing answering to them is to be found in the original. Indeed, they have herein departed likewise from all the ancient versions. The chapter consists of a song of praise for the delivery of the church and people of God, and the destruction of the enemies which had tyrannised over them: and, as in the preceding examples, to rise from the dead, and awake from the dust, are used as images to express their restoration from the extreme of depression. Of their enemies it is said in ver. 14; "They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise: therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish:" so that if the 19th verse did relate to the resurrection of the body, and could prove that the bodies of the people of God are to rise from the grave, the 14th verse would prove that their enemies are never to rise again at all, but that, when they die, they perish altogether: which alone evinces that the resurrection, either with the body or without it, is not the subject treated of. It is to be observed also, that the word (rephaim) translated deceased, in ver. 14, always refers to such as exercise a tyrannical power, and is the same as that translated the dead at the end of ver. 19: which proves that the dead whom the earth shall cast out, mentioned at the end of that verse, are not the same as the dead who shall live, mentioned in the beginning of it: thus for the earth to cast out her dead, does not mean the resurrection of the dead, but the utter and final dispersion of their dust; so that, if the resurrection were the subject treated of, here also would be mention of some who are never to rise again at all. The true sense of the verse is given by Bishop Lowth, and is as follows:—
" Thy dead shall live; my deceased, they shall arise: Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust! For thy dew is as the dew of the dawn; But the earth shall cast forth, as an abortion, the deceased tyrants."
And the bishop gives this note upon it: "The deliverance of the people of God from a state of the lowest depression, is explained by images plainly taken from the resurrection of the dead. [As an example, he here refers to the passage of Ezekiel considered above. He then adds] And this deliverance is expressed with a manifest opposition to what is said above, ver. 14, of the great lords and tyrants under whom they had groaned:—
' They are dead, they shall not live; They are deceased tyrants, they shall not rise:'
that they should be destroyed utterly, and should never be restored to their former power and glory."
Plain enough, then, I apprehend it is, that this passage does not, cannot, teach the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. Yet Bishop Lowth, after having so candidly and clearly given its true sense, would fain infer the resurrection of the body from it! To put the reader in possession of the whole of his sentiments, and as an extraordinary example of the power of prejudice over even the clearest understandings, I subjoin the remark with which he concludes his note. "It appears from hence, that the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead [meaning, it would seem, of the body] was at that time a popular and common doctrine: for an image which is assumed in order to express or represent any tiling in the way of allegory or metaphor, whether poetical or prophetical, must be an image commonly known and understood; otherwise it will not answer the purpose for which it is assumed." Is not this saying, that nothing must be used as an image in poetical or prophetical language, which is not at the same time a matter of fact in common language ? Might he not as well have said, because the Lord declares to him that overcometh, in the Revelation, "I will give him the morning star,"— "It appears from hence, that the belief that the saints will be presented with stars was at that time a common and popular belief? "— or, because John says that he saw a woman clothed with the sun,— "It appears from hence, that to suppose that a woman might be clothed with the sun was at that time a common and popular supposition?" &c. The cases are exactly parallel, and one inference is as just as the other.
There are two other passages commonly cited from the Old Testament in proof of the resurrection of the body; but they are of precisely the same character as the above, and need not therefore detain us. The first is in Hosea vi. 2: "After two days will he revive us; in the third day he will raise us up; and we shall live in his sight."
But here no mention is made of the body or the grave; and the preceding verse shows that it does not relate in any way to the literally dead: "Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up." Now it would be ridiculous to exhort dead bodies to return unto the Lord. The other passage is in the same prophet, ch. xiii. 14. "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes." This is spoken of Ephraim; and an examination of the context will show that it can have no reference to the return of dead bodies from the tomb. Thus, in the words of Dr. Faber, "to express the political revivification of the house of Israel, Hosea, like Isaiah and Ezekiel, uses the allegory of a resurrection."
I have confined myself, in my remarks on the above passages, to their external or literal sense only; because if they do not refer to the resurrection of the body in that sense, they evidently cannot in any other: but we are satisfied, that unless the prophecies contained a spiritual sense also, treating of matters far more important than the affairs of the Israelites and other nations, they could form no part of the Word of God. As, in their external sense, such passages as the above treat of a political, so, in their spiritual sense, they must treat of a spiritual resurrection.
To pass to another subject. The translation of Enoch and Elijah is often referred to as supporting the notion of the final resurrection of the material body; for they are supposed to have been taken into heaven with their natural bodies, not having passed, in the ordinary manner, through the gate of death.
All that is recorded of Enoch, is this: "And Enoch lived, sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: and Enoch walked with God, after he begat Methuselah, three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. And Enoch walked with God: and he was not, for God took him" (Gen. v. 21—24). This mode of relating the occurrence is so general and indistinct, that it is impossible to determine from it, even supposing that the history is to be literally understood, whether Enoch took his natural body into heaven or not. But the translation of Elijah is more particularly related: if then it shall appear, that from the translation of Elijah no inference can be drawn in favour of the resurrection of the material body, it will hardly be affirmed, that any such inference can be drawn from the less distinctly recorded translation of Enoch.
Quite evident, then, it is, that, whatever became of Elijah's material body, it was not carried up into heaven: for quite evident it is, though the circumstance is generally overlooked, that the translation of Elijah was not seen by Elisha with the eyes of his body, but with those of his spirit: on which mode of vision, customary with the prophets, we shall have to offer some remarks in a subsequent Section. Elisha had asked, that a double portion of his master's spirit might be upon him; to which Elijah answered, "Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so" (2 Kings, ii. 10). Elijah knew that the miraculous event about to take place would be imperceptible to any man in his natural state, and could not be beheld by Elisha, unless, by special divine favour, the sight of his spirit were opened to behold it: the granting then to Elisha of the favour of the opening of his spiritual sight, was to be to him the earnest of the granting to him likewise of the other favour which he had requested. This therefore was done, and is distinctly recorded. "And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven" (ver. 11). Certain it is that this chariot and horses of fire did not belong to the natural world, but that they were a spiritual appearance, and, consequently, not visible to the sight of a man, unless he were put into a spiritual state proper for beholding it. That Elisha then, was put into such a state, is intimated by its being immediately added, "And Elisha saw it;"—that is, saw the whole transaction,—both the fiery chariot and horses and the transit of Elijah;—"and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof." This vision having been granted him, his return into a natural state, in which objects belonging to the spiritual world vanished from his sight, is also marked, by its being further added, "And he saw him no more" (ver. 12). As then it is evident that Elisha beheld the whole transaction, not with the eyes of his body but with the eyes of his spirit, it follows, that it was the spirit only of Elijah, and not his body, which in that state he saw. Had he beheld the ascension of Elijah with his natural sight, as we behold an aeronaut ascend in a balloon, there could have been no room for the intimation, that it was by special divine favour that he was enabled to see the vision: but as there is such an intimation; as, likewise, it is certain that the chariot and horses of fire, could not, like a balloon, be behold with the natural sight, it becomes certain that the person who was thus seen to ascend was a spiritual, not a material aeronaut,—was not the body of Elijah, but his spirit.
But is it asked, What then became of his body ? Suppose we ask in return, If he soared through the air to heaven, considered, as this supposition requires, as a place beyond the region of the stars, what became of the life of his body ? We know, from the experience of those who have climbed lofty mountains or ascended in balloons, that the air becomes so rare at the height of but a very few miles from the earth's surface as to make respiration difficult, and that, on continuing to ascend, an animated body would soon come into the state of an animal in an exhausted receiver, and must inevitably expire; and we know also, that the temperature at the same time becomes so cold, that the fluids of the body would speedily be arrested, and the animal frame become a solid mass of ice. If then it is not immediately evident what became of Elijah's body, it is sufficiently evident what became of the life of it; and if we still suppose that it went to heaven by this route, we must suppose that it accomplished the voyage, not as an animated body, but as a corpse. But does not the Sacred Record itself indicate what became of the body, when it informs us, that the immediate agent in Elijah's removal was a whirlwind, or, according to the more extensive signification of the original expression, a violent storm ? We read in Ps. lxxxiii. 14, 15; "As the fire burneth the wood, and as the flame setteth the mountains on, fire; so persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm;" where the word in the original for storm is the same as is here rendered a whirlwind; and where an action is ascribed to it like that of fire and flame: Are we not then to infer, that it includes the action of lightning as well as of wind,—the extreme of commotion or agitation (which is the radical idea of the word) in all the elements,—all, in short, to which we usually apply the word storm? Place then any man in the very centre of such a commotion of the elements as we sometimes behold; thus expose him to the action of the electric or galvanic fluid in its utmost energy;—and any philosopher will inform us, not only that his body would be instantly deprived of its life, or that it would be torn to atoms,—for this would be the result of a comparatively slight action of that mighty solvent,—but that it would be completely decomposed and resolved into its elements. When therefore the Scripture informs us, (ver. 1), that "the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind or storm;" and afterwards (ver. 11) that he did so; it tells us, by a euphuism, that Elijah died; as Aaron and Moses, also by divine appointment, each went up into a mountain to die (Num. xx. 25, &c.; Deut. xxxii. 49, &e.): and it sufficiently explains why his body could not afterwards be found.
It appears then that the Sacred Record itself, when attended to, answers the question respecting what became of Elijah's body. But were it otherwise: that his body was not transported into heaven would still be certain, not only from what has before been urged,— from in the impossibility of the thing in itself, as being contrary to the order of the universe, which does not admit a grosser thing to enter into a purer,—and from the contrariety of the supposition to the explicit declarations. that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption; but also, from the authentic testimony we have of the state of Elijah in the other world. Moses, we know, certainly, was not translated, with his body, into heaven; for of him we read, that he was "buried in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor" (Deut. xxxiv. 6). But when Jesus was transfigured, (before, as might easily be shown, the spiritual sight of his disciples,) it is said, "And behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias; who appeared in, glory" (Luke ix. 30, 31). Here, both are called men,—Moses, as well as Elias; both, too, appeared in glory,—Elias as well as Moses: then wherein did Moses differ from Elias ? Does not this relation prove, that the spirit is the man; that this spirit has a spiritual body of its own; that Moses had this, notwithstanding his natural body had been buried and had never been resuscitated; and that Elias had no more, notwithstanding the Scripture does not so explicitly relate how he was divested of his natural body ? Here is clear proof that Moses, without his natural body, was a man in glory and exactly in the same state as Elijah: how then can it be supposed that Elijah took into heaven with him, what, it is certain, Moses did not ? Thus, instead of proving the resurrection of the body, the history of Elijah completely disproves it, and demonstrates that man is a perfect man without it.
Having now examined such texts of the Old Testament as are usually cited in proof of the resurrection of the body, I will here also take from Dr. Hody, and briefly notice, those texts of the New Testament, commonly relied on by the advocates of that doctrine, which have not been considered in the preceding Part of this Section.
Matt. v. 29, 30. "And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell." If the body here literally means the body, of necessity the right eye literally means the right eye, and the right hand the right hand. But who ever dreamed that entrance into heaven could be facilitated by plucking out an eye or cutting off a hand ? And do they who gather from it, that all who go to hell go thither with their whole material body entire, gather from it also the inseparable counterpart of such a notion,— that many who go to heaven go thither one-eyed and maimed (for so the parallel passage, Mark ix. 43, 45, 47, gives it: "It is better for thee to enter into life maimed,—halt,—and with one eye, than having two hands,—feet,—and eyes, to be cast into hell-fire")? Every one sees that this part of the statement is not to be literally understood; —how then can they run into such an inconsistency as to abide literally by the other ? Evidently, the offending eye and hand are mentioned to denote certain perverse propensities of the mind or spirit, from which alone all the organs of the body act: and as certain organs of the body are thus put for certain disorderly functions of the mind or spirit, which is the real man, to carry on the figure, and to avoid the incongruity of a mixed metaphor, the whole body is naturally, and according to the strict laws of composition, put for the whole mind or spirit, and thus for the whole man as he exists after death.
Matt. x. 28. "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather feai him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." If there were no text which explained "how the dead are raised, and with what bodies they do come," it might perhaps from this single text, be inferred, though it could not be proved, that the material body would be raised again; but when the nature of the resurrection-body is, as we shall see presently, so explicitly defined; when we are so positively assured "that flesh and blood cannot enter into the kingdom of God," nor, by consequence, into the eternal world at all, but that "that which is raised is a spiritual body;" there cannot be a doubt but that it is the spiritual body which is here intended. If it be objected, that this makes the body last mentioned, as liable to be destroyed in hell, different from the body first mentioned, as liable to be killed here: I answer; that it is a universal rule of the logicians, often resorted to by the commentators on Scripture, that every predicate is so to be understood as to be in agreement with its subject: but to be killed on earth can only be predicated of the natural body; so, to be destroyed in hell can only be predicated of the spiritual body. Thus it was common with the Lord to use the same word in different senses, though both properly belonging to it, in the same sentence; as when he says, "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it:" where, obviously, the life lost and the life saved are not the same life.
If it be still insisted that we must take the term body in the same sense in the last place as in the first, and understand that which is to be destroyed in hell to be the natural body: I answer; that then we must here take the term hell to mean such a place as is fitted for the destroying of natural bodies. And this will compel us to take the original term here translated hell, in its literal, and not in its figurative sense. The original term is Gehenna, which all the lexicographers and commentators tell us is the same in the Syriac language as Gia-Hinnom in the Hebrew, that is, the valley of Hinnom; which, having formerly been the place where the idolatrous Jews made their Children "pass through the fire to Moloch," (See 2 Kings xxiii. 10.) was afterwards used as a receptacle for every thing filthy and abominable, into which the bodies of the worst of malefactors were cast, and consumed by the fires which were kept continually burning, to prevent infection from being generated by the impurities of the place. This idea being presented to every Jew by the use of the word Gehenna, Doddridge introduces-both ideas into his paraphrase of the Lord's words, Matt v. 22— "shall be in danger of hell-fire;" which he amplifies thus: "shall be obnoxious to the fire of hell, or to a future punishment more dreadful even than that of being burnt alive in the valley of Hinnom, from whence you borrow the name of those infernal regions." (See also his note.) If then it be contended that the body to be destroyed in Gehenna is the natural body, the Gehenna in which it is to be destroyed must be taken in its natural sense also; it will then be merely the valley of Hinnom. They who will not acquiesce in this interpretation, must give up the notion, that the passage relates to the material body. To combine the natural sense of body with the spiritual sense of the valley of Hinnom, is inconsistency indeed.
But if there is some difficulty in regard to the literal sense of this passage, there is none respecting its spiritual sense; which, for its simplicity, beauty, and perfect consistency, I will here briefly state. The soul and the body, in the spiritual sense, are the internal and external man. The life of the external man, by birth, is in opposition to heavenly life, and consists in mere lusts or concupiscences; wherefore this life is to be relinquished or extinguished; which is effected by means of temptations. They who kill the body, then, are the temptations, and the tempting powers, by whose agency the life of the external man, or the life of man's lusts, is extinguished: and he who hath power to cast soul and body into hell, is the love of evil, which is opposition to the Lord, pertinaciously cherished, and which causes the Lord himself to appear as in opposition to man; the consequence of which is, the destruction both of the internal and the external man, and immersion in endless misery.
Matt. xxvii. 52, 53. When Jesus died on the cross, we read, "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." It has always appeared to me surprising that any should quote this narration in proof of the common doctrine of the resurrection of the body; when it is attended with such difficulties, if taken literally, as strongly lead to the opinion that the bodies which arose were not natural or material bodies; and by consequence, that there is no reference to the natural or material body in any of the passages which treat of the resurrection.
In the first place, if the bodies of all who have lived from the creation of the world are to be raised together at a certain last day (as the texts on which the doctrine rests, if they teach any such doctrine at all, must be understood to affirm), is it not very extraordinary that "many" of these same bodies actually rose without waiting for this last day? The matter would be not quite so surprising were there to be two general resurrections,—one at the time of the Lord's resurrection, of all who had lived previously, and a final one of all who should live afterwards; but in the case before us, the bodies of all who had previously lived did not rise, but only of many of them.
Is it not then, secondly, very extraordinary, if there was a resurrection of material bodies at all, that it should be merely a partial one ? Upon what principle could the selection be made ? How, with justice to the countless millions who were left slumbering still in their graves, to wait for their resurrection thousands of years afterwards, could a termination be thus put to the long sleep of some ? and who could those be supposed to be who were thus favoured ? Mr. Fleming conjectures, and certainly with great plausibility, taking the premises for granted, that they were some of the most eminent saints of the Old Testament. Certainly, very superior eminence was necessary, to make the distinction not invidious. But, as others observe, no saint of the Old Testament was more eminent than David: it would therefore be very improbable that David should be excluded from such a resurrection: and yet we learn, from Acts ii. 34, that David's body then remained still in its grave. The learned are obliged, therefore, to conclude, that these were not eminent, but merely common saints; and some, to avoid other difficulties, suppose that they were such as had not been long dead, and whose bodies, as yet, were not much the worse for their sojourn in the tomb.
But, thirdly, is it not very extraordinary, that so public a miracle, as well as so stupendous a one, as this must have been, if the circumstances were literally as related, was never appealed to by the Apostles, either in their preaching, as recorded in the Acts, or in their Epistles; and is never anywhere alluded to but in this single place? When speaking of the resurrection of Jesus, how came they never to advert to the multitude who rose with him, and who had appeared to so many ? The graves were opened at the Lord's crucifixion; their tenants came forth after his resurrection; "consequently," in the words of Doddridge, "the tombs stood open all the sabbath, when the law would not allow any attempt to close them, What an astonishing spectacle! especially if their resurrection was not instantaneously accomplished, but by such slow degrees as that represented in Ezekiel's vision." Astonishing, indeed! And how did the Jews evade the force of such a prodigy? The sepulchre of Jesus was certainly found unclosed and empty; wherefore the chief priests bribed the soldiers to say, that his disciples stole the body while they slept. But to what purpose was this fiction, if a multitude of other graves were also thrown open, and the bodies which tenanted them lay disclosed, subject to the inspection of the crowds who would eagerly watch the progress of their revivification, from Friday afternoon till Sunday morning, when they came forth and marched into the holy city ? How could this be concealed ? Was it pretended that the small band of disciples stole all these bodies likewise ? We do not find that any such fiction was in this case resorted to: and, indeed, in this case, no one could have believed it; since these things were not done in a corner, but all that was passing in the graves was visible to every observer for more than thirty-six hours. How then did the Jews evade it ? We do not find that they had any occasion to try to evade it; for we do not find, from any other part of the gospel-records, that either the friends of Christianity, or its enemies, or a single inhabitant of this world, knew anything about the matter.
Fourthly, is it not very extraordinary, that this resurrection of dead bodies should take place, and yet there should be no intimation as to what became of them afterwards ? Did they, after having shown themselves, go and lie down again in their graves, to wait for the final "resurrection at the last day?" This, as the pious Doddridge observes, "one can hardly imagine." Did they, then, like Lazarus and the others raised by the Lord when in the world, continue to live on earth, in due time to die again ? This also, with Doddridge, "one can hardly imagine,—because it is only said, they appeared to them." Most, therefore, conclude, with the same writer, that" they ascended to heaven with, or after our Lord:" for it would be impossible to suppose that they ascended before him. But what was done with them in the meantime ? If they remained on earth for forty days, how could they escape observation ? how is it that all Jerusalem was not in commotion on account of the presence of such extraordinary visitors ? Dr. Doddridge supposes, that "they were directed to retire to some solitude during the intermediate days, and to wait in devout exercises for their change; for surely," as he justly observes, "had they ascended in the view of others, the memory of such a fact could not have been lost." Indeed, the affair of their ascension was conducted with such secrecy that it was not even witnessed by those who were admitted to witness the ascension of the Lord; and, to make it a greater secret, Matthew himself does not inform us that it ever took place.
Now can any one suppose that a transaction which requires such improbable conjectures to make it possible, ever literally occurred at all ? And whither could they ascend ? What region was there in existence suited for the residence of resuscitated material bodies ?
They who contend for a general resurrection of material bodies, find ut necessary to provide a material world for their abode. Thus Dr. Hody says, "Perhaps, after all, our heaven will be nothing but a heaven upon earth, or some glorious solid orb created on purpose for us in those immense regions which we call heaven. It seems more natural to suppose, that since we are to have solid and material bodies, we may be placed as we are in this life, on some solid and material orb.—That, after the resurrection, we are to live for ever in a new earth, was, as Maximus tells us, the opinion of many in his time: and the same was asserted, in the third century, by St. Methodius, bishop of Tyre, in his treatise concerning the resurrection." What then was to become of these resuscitated bodies of saints before this new earth was provided for them? for they who thus believe the Scriptures literally, when they speak of a new heaven [or sky] and a new earth, must believe them literally also when they say, that this new heaven and new earth are not to be produced till the former heaven and the former earth have passed away. Prior to that event then, at least, a resuscitated material body would be in the situation either of a fish in the air, or of a bird under water: it could find no element suited to its state.
Other difficulties, in regard to the literal acceptation of this narrative, present themselves as I write; but I forbear to proceed further. From what has been suggested, and from the circumstance, that of these risen bodies the remarkable expression is used, that they appeared unto many, the natural inference is, that they were not visible to all, as material bodies must have been, but only to those to whom they appeared; in other words, that they were seen in vision, not with the natural sight. Hence it will follow, that the bodies which thus appeared in vision were not natural but spiritual bodies, and that the whole transaction belongs more to the spiritual than to the natural world. I shall have occasion to advert to it again, in the Section on the Last Judgment; when, I trust, its true nature will readily appear.
Phil. iii. 21. "Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself." This text is so similar in substance to 1 Cor. xv. 49 and 53, to be considered in the sequel, that it scarcely needs a separate notice: only this passage, combined with its context, evinces (what might be well worthy of particular investigation,) how much the idea of an inward and spiritual resurrection was associated with the subject in the Apostle's mind. Thus, having said that he had suffered the loss of all things, that he might win Christ, he adds, "That I might know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto Ms death, if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead: not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after," &c. (Ver. 10, 11, 12.) Here what could he mean by the power of the Lord's resurrection, but & power of conforming him into the image of his risen Lord ? What by the fellowship of his sufferings, but a submission to such states of affliction and trial as were necessary as means to this end ? What, by being made conformable to his death, but the complete mortification of the life of his own old or natural man ? And what by attaining to the resurrection of the dead, which he evidently speaks of as something attainable in this life,—otherwise his modest notice, "not as though I had already attained," would be nonsense;—what can he thus mean by attaining unto the resurrection of the dead, but a state of complete regeneration, when all that previously was spiritually dead,—all that is the seat of man's inborn corruptions,—is quickened with spiritual life, and formed anew by the Lord ? Thus-his whole argument is consistent: whereas to make him talk of striving, to attain unto the resurrection of the dead, meaning by the resurrection of the dead the resurrection of dead bodies, which all (if any). are to experience whether they strive for it or not, and which, strive as they will, they cannot bring on any sooner; is to make him talk-in a strange manner indeed. And as, as will be shown in the last Part of this Section, in our remarks on 2 Cor. v. 1—4, he always viewed this spiritual resurrection in connexion with the formation of the heavenly spiritual body within our outward frame, first to come into open manifestation when the latter is put off, which is thus exchanged for it, and, as far as the person's own perceptions are concerned, appears as if it were changed into it; and as, as might easily be shown, he seldom uses the term body or flesh in reference to the body of clay alone, but means by it all that belongs to what is called in theology the external or natural man; (as when he says, "I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing;" "I delight in the law of God, after the inward man, but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind;" "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be the spirit of Christ be in you;" "And if Christ be in you, the body is dead, because of sin;" "He that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies, by his spirit that dwelleth in you," &c.)—having, I say, these ideas in his mind, he at present closes the subject with saying, that "the Lord Jesus Christ shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body; according to the working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself:"—meaning, that we shall have a spiritual body, the image of the Lord's Divine Body; and which is even now being so fashioned within us by the regenerating energy of the Lord.
2 Tim. ii. 17, 18. "Of whom is Hymeneus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred, saying, That the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some." This text has been quoted against us, from "good old John Bunyan," in this form "Have you not heard of them that were made to err, by hearkening to Hymeneus and Philetus, as concerning the faith of the resurrection of the body" It seems to be meant to be insinuated, by this false quotation, that we have adopted the opinion of those primitive heretics. How convenient the advocates of error find it, continually to be speaking, as here, of the resurrection of the body, as if such were the language of Scripture; when, in Scripture, no such language is anywhere to be found. As to the error of Hymeneus and Philetus, the Apostle states that it consisted in saying, "that the resurrection is past already." Whatever idea then they attached to the term resurrection, it evidently was totally different from ours. When the Apostle affirms that they believed the resurrection to be then past, he must mean, that they disbelieved any resurrection which was then future, and consequently denied any future life: whereas, according to our idea of it, the resurrection is never past, but always future, at every instant of time, to all the inhabitants of the globe, all of whom will experience a resurrection to life without end.
Rev. xx. 13. "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them; and they were judged every man according to their works." Nothing is here said about dead bodies: and that the whole transaction is not to be literally understood, is plain from the evidently symbolic language in which it is couched. Why is the sea said to give up the dead which are in it, which comparatively are few, while no notice is taken of the dead which are in the earth! What is meant by death and hell delivering up the dead which are in them ? What kind of dead they are which are in death, does not appear; but certainly they which are already in hell are not dead bodies. And what is meant when it is said in the next verse, "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire?" Are death and hell persons, or places? Or is Death a person, and hell a place ? But the previous verse seems to speak of them both as places, and how death and hell, a& places, could be cast into the lake of fire, it is very difficult to conceive. Certainly, nothing like a plausible interpretation of the passage can be given by those, who quote it as evidence for the resurrection of the body. The whole belongs to the subject of the Last Judgment; wherefore I will reserve our explanation of it till the next Section.
We have now passed under review all the texts which, as far as I am aware, are usually cited by the advocates of the resurrection of the body in proof of that doctrine; and it has, I trust, abundantly appeared, that none of them prove any such thing.
As, however, the Scriptures so totally refuse to afford evidence for the resurrection of the body, an opponent judiciously ekes out their testimony by that of a prophet who pretended to correct them. "The Swedenborgian," says he, "will esteem it no very high compliment to be told, that the Mahometans are in more respects than one more orthodox than themselves. I have this moment a book before me entitled 'Mahometanism fully explained,' and from the sixth article of their faith, which is on the Future Resurrection, I make the following extract:—"We are obliged cordially to believe, and to hold for certain, that the first before all others, whom God shall revive in heaven, shall be the Angel of Death, and that he will at that time recall all the souls in general, and re-unite them to the respective bodies to which each belonged; some of which shall be destined to glory, and others to torment. But upon earth the first whom God shall raise, shall be our blessed prophet Mahomet,' " &c. Here, certainly, the doctrine is advanced explicitly enough, and with some very suitable adjuncts; but our opponents are heartily welcome to all the support they can derive from such authority, which, we trust, will have its due influence on the reader. "The Swedenborgians," we assure them, esteem it no ill compliment, that they are fain to intrench themselves against them in the orthodoxy of Mahometans.
From the terms themselves,—resurrection,—to rise again,—it is sometimes contended, that that which is to rise is something that has lived before, but the life of which has been interrupted, whence it rises or lives again: and this, it is affirmed, is only predicable of the body; whereas the spirit, as it never ceases to live, though it may be said at death to rise, cannot be said to rise again. But this is, in every respect, a very shallow criticism; it affords an argument only for the ignorant, and which no man of information can seriously urge. This will be fully shown in the last Part of this Section. At present I will only observe, that even supposing the proper idea of the original words to be, to rise again: it would not follow that he who rises again enters a second time into his material body, and so rises again, any more than that he who is born again enters a second time into his mother's womb, and so is born again. If to be born again (and, in the original, again is here expressed by a separate adverb,) is to enter into a new state in which the man has never been before, to rise again must also be, to enter into a new state in which the man has never been before. The particle again, then, does not, in this use, imply a returning back to the same state as has been previously experienced, but an advancing forward to a new state, bearing a certain analogy to one which has been previously experienced; and we cannot suppose that the resurrection is a repetition of bodily life, without concluding, with Nicodemus, that regeneration is a repetition of bodily birth. How much is it to be lamented, that Nicodemus should have so many disciples; that many should be so prone, like him, to turn their minds from spirit to matter, and to carnalise the instructions of the Lord Jesus Christ! For certainly, if it may be said without offence, the idea that, in order to our rising again, we are to return again to the body of flesh, is the exact counterpart of the notion, that, in order to our being born again, we are to return again to the mother's womb. The one is just as good. an interpretation of the Lord's instructions as the other. Our existence as embryos in the womb is necessary to prepare us for birth into the world, and birth into the world is necessary to prepare us for birth into eternity: and to suppose that the spirit, after having dwelt for ages in its own world, is to return again to the body which it left in this, is just as consonant with the Lord's instructions, as it would be to suppose, that the man is to be reinvested with the integuments of the foetus, and to, return to his mother's womb, not even for the purpose of being born again, but of living the life of a foetus for ever.
With this general remark, I close the examination of the texts and arguments commonly adduced from Scripture in proof of the resurrection of the body. I have gone into them thus fully, because I have observed, that, on this subject, the most convincing evidence of the truth often fails to make its due impression, while the mind reverts to the texts and arguments which it has been accustomed to regard as establishing the contrary doctrine, and while it is not furnished with a solution of the opposing confirmations which it has thus imbibed. A sufficient solution has now, I trust, been offered; and that, by the blessing of Him who is the resurrection and the life, it will be seen, that there is not a single text of Scripture, or argument that can be drawn from that source, which affords any real countenance to the doctrine of the resurrection of the material body.