Noble's 'Appeal': III. The Resurrection:
C. The testimony of Reason, for, and against, the Resurrection of the Material Body.
we have now examined most of the texts of Scripture generally referred to as supporting the notion of the resurrection of the body; and have ascertained that, in reality, they afford that doctrine no countenance whatever. But the evidence of Reason, also, is here peculiarly worthy of being considered: for this subject includes particulars, the decision of which falls within the province of Reason: and we may be certain that the genuine decisions of Reason can never be at variance with the genuine meaning of Scripture. Before, then, we proceed to the testimony of Scripture in behalf of man's immediate Resurrection, and his non-resumption of the material body, I will show, both by original remarks and the testimony of distinguished writers, that the arguments commonly urged, as from Reason, in favour of the Resurrection of the material body, are destitute of all solidity, and that in fact, such a resurrection is nothing short of impossible.
In favour of the doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body, only two general arguments, wearing any air of speciousness, have been urged from Reason. These then we will first briefly consider; after which we will inquire what Reason has to say on the other side of the question.
The two arguments to which I allude have constantly been brought forward from the first beginning of the controversies on this subject: but I have no where seen them stated with more subtilty, by mixing fallacies with acknowledged truths so ingeniously, that an inattentive reader might not see how to disentangle them, and thus might accept the one for the sake of the other, than is done by Dr. O. Gregory, in his elegant and popular "Letters on the Evidences, Doctrines, and Duties, of the Christian Religion." We will consider them, therefore, as they are offered by this writer.
He opens his chapter on the subject in this imposing manner:— "If a being, which was constituted by the union of two substances essentially different, were appointed to continue, it must continue a mixed being, or it would be no longer the same being; so that if man is to exist in a future state, the doctrine of the resurrection of the body is a necessary consequence of his nature: those who admit the immortality of the soul and deny the resurrection of the body, therefore, forget the man, and, in effect, deprive him of existence beyond the grave." The fallacy here lies in the premises,—"If a being which was constituted by the union of two substances essentially different were appointed to continue;"—that is, the author means, were appointed to continue a being constituted of two substances; but this is the very point in dispute, and is gratuitously Assumed by Dr. G., without any proof of it being attempted. Were it true, it would involve the continuance of our existence for ever here: for what sort of continuing is that, which, after having been broken off, as, in the case of our first parents (according to the common supposition), for many thousands of years, is, after the lapse of, probably, many thousands of years more, to begin again ? Its truth then may be unhesitatingly denied; and there is an end of the inference built upon it. Besides, if all the substances with which the man has been at any time united were intended to form part of him for ever, the coverings within which his body advanced to its complete formation in the embryo-state must be raised again also. Not only, in that state, is the infant inclosed in the coats called the amnion and corion, but it is vitally united to the compages of vessels called the placenta; but as, when the infant is born into the world, these extrinsic appendages, in which the embryo had been nurtured to a sufficient degree of maturity, are cast away as refuse, so, when the man is born into eternity, the body, in which his spirit had been nurtured to a sufficient degree of maturity, is also cast away as refuse: the one, then, forms a part of the real man, no more than does the other; and it is no more reasonable to expect the resurrection of the one than of the other. It is a mere play upon a word then to say, that without the continuance of the union of the soul and body, future existence is denied to the man. This may also be illustrated by a still more familiar example. In a walnut, the kernel and the shell begin their existence together; but it evidently is solely for the sake of the kernel,—in order that the kernel may be developed and formed,—that the shell is produced at all: and after the kernel is formed, were it to continue for ever in union with its shell, the end of its creation would be frustrated. Hence, who denies the kernel of the walnut to be the essential walnut ? While it remains in the shell, we indeed apply the term to the whole; that is, we admit the shell to a slight (and but a slight) share of the honour that belongs to its contents: but when they are separated, while we never think of giving the name of a walnut to the empty shell, we never hesitate at applying it to the kernel: the kernel, only, is the walnut now, as it was the essential walnut always. All this answers by a most exact analogy, to the case of man, his body and his soul; and demonstrates how mere a quibble it is to affirm, that if the soul and body do not continue in union, there is an end of the man.
By the other argument alluded to, it is endeavoured to interest the Divine Justice in the resurrection of the body. Dr. Gregory states it, thus: "God is a wise and just governor of the world: such a governor must reward the good and punish the wicked: but in the present state, we often see good men under suffering, bad men following and enjoying pleasure, through the greater part of life: the character of the governor, therefore, requires that there should be a future state, in which this great anomaly shall be adjusted; [so far the argument is solid; and the whole of the conclusion which the premises sanction is already brought out: but here comes the deceptive appendage, built upon the fallacy which we have already exposed] "and of course, a state of existence not for the body alone, nor for the soul alone, but for the man in his mixed nature, constituted of soul and body. It is the man, and not a part of him merely, which, this simple train of reasoning requires us to expect shall be rewarded and punished." The futility of this reasoning, however, even the author himself acknowledges in a note: "I am aware," says he, "it may be said, and indeed it has often been said, that since consciousness and feeling exist in the soul, the future existence of the soul is all that can fairly be inferred from this argument. But," he adds, "we have at least as good reasons for affirming as any can have for denying, that in all probability the capacity of the soul for feeling the highest degree of pleasure or pain depends upon its union with an organised body." So then his grand argument is allowed to be good for nothing, if the soul without the body can be proved to have sensations of pain or pleasure sufficiently acute: to which an ample answer is given in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.
But this argument is allowed to be invalid by many even of the advocates for the resurrection of the body. I might quote the decided opinion to this effect of Dr. Watts: but I will be content with the ingenuous and solid observations of the learned Hody. After citing the statement of this argument by several of the fathers, as they are called, he says, (in his work, "The Resurrection of the Same Body Asserted," &c.) "I desire as much as any man to pay a just deference and regard to the judgment of the ancient fathers: but it must be confessed, that though their authority be great in matters of tradition, yet the reasons and arguments which they produce to confirm their doctrines are not always convincing. If we seriously and impartially consider this assertion, [that God is obliged in justice to reward or punish the body together with the soul,] we shall find it not to be true. My reasons briefly are these. First: to speak properly, the body is not capable either of sinning or doing well. It is only the instrument of the soul: and the arm that stabs, sins no more than the sword; 'tis the soul only that is the murderer. Neither, secondly, is the body capable of any reward or punishment. 'Tis the soul only that is sensible; and nothing but what is sensible can be capable of rewards and punishments. Thirdly: If it be injustice in God to punish the soul alone without the body in conjunction with which she committed the sin, then all the matter which constituted the body when the several sins were committed, must be raised again, and be re-united to the soul. For if some, why not all ? But what monsters of men should we be In the resurrection, if all the substance of which our bodies consisted, from our childhood to our death, should be gathered together and formed into a body!"—To these three reasons of this honest writer's, can anything bearing the semblance to a reason be opposed?
Dr. Gregory, however; considers it to be so necessary, to vindicate the Divine Justice, that the body should be rewarded or punished as well as the soul, that he affirms, "that the conclusion cannot be fairly resisted, unless it can be shown, that the resurrection of the body is impossible." Though we have already seen that his reasoning is destitute of all validity independently of such impossibility, yet probably it may not be difficult to comply even with this unreasonable demand.
But perhaps it may be necessary first to state in what sense I affirm the resurrection of the material body to be impossible: I mean, that it is as impossible as any thing whatever that can be conceived. If we were to pronounce it to be absolutely impossible, its advocates, I know, would eagerly exclaim, that we deny the omnipotence of God. Little honour, to be sure, is done to God, when his omnipotence is supposed to be employed in effecting things trifling, unnecessary, or ridiculous: but without saying, absolutely, that God cannot do it; from what we see of the nature of his divine works, and of the manner in which he produces them, we may with certainty conclude that he will not: and what God will not do, or wills not to do, is, to all practical purposes, impossible.
It is utterly foreign to the argument to appeal, as is done by Dr. G., to the cases of the restoration of life to the bodies of certain dead persons recorded in the Scriptures; for in those instances the bodies had not undergone even the commencement of decomposition, nor had the spirit been entirely extricated from them: even in the case of Lazarus, who had been dead four days, there can be no doubt, notwithstanding the conclusion of his sister, that the natural tendency to corruption had been miraculously suspended by that Divine Hand, whose purpose from the beginning had been to restore him to life. Besides, all these were restored, not to an immortal, but only to a lengthened period of mortal life, and, after a while, they all died again.
Not at all more to the purpose are the examples which Dr. G. relates of the transformations undergone by insects, and the growth from seed of the vegetable creation. Many of these illustrate, by beautiful analogies, the emerging at death of man's spiritual form from the shell of clay; but in no respect whatever do they answer to the fancied revival of the material body. For instance: respecting the Libellula, or dragon-fly, he relates this pretty history: "Naturalists tell us, that the worm repairs to the margin of its pond in quest of a convenient place of abode during its insensible state. It attaches itself to a plant or piece of dry wood; and the skin, which gradually becomes parched and brittle, at last splits opposite to the upper part of the thorax. Through this aperture, the insect, now become winged, quickly pushes its way, and being thus extricated from confinement, begins to expand its wings, to flutter, and finally to launch into the air with that gracefulness and ease which are peculiar to this majestic tribe. Now, who, that saw for the first time the little pendant coffin in which the inanimate insect lay entombed, and was ignorant of the transformations of which we are speaking, would ever predict that in a few weeks, perhaps in a few hours, it would become one of the most elegant and active of winged insects?" To this he adds: "And who that contemplates with the mind of a philosopher this curious transformation, and who knows that two years before the insect mounts into air, even while it is living in the water, it has the rudiments of wings, can deny that the body of a dead man may at some future period be again invested with vigour and activity, and soar to regions for which some latent organisation may peculiarly fit it?" Is this indeed the conclusion which he "that contemplates" the phenomenon "with the mind of a philosopher" should draw ? Should not such a mind perceive, that "the body of a dead man" answers in reality to "the little pendant coffin" of the insect, not to the winged creature that springs from it ? Liken the body itself to the winged creature, and where do you find "the little pendant coffin?" The "coffin" of the insect does not answer to the coffin in which man's earthly remains are deposited in the dust, since this never formed, as in the case of the insect, any part of him. But admit that there is indeed a spiritual "organisation,"— a spiritual body, "latent" within the body of matter, and which is "extricated from confinement" in it at death, when it "soars to the regions for which a spiritual organisation peculiarly fits it;" and you have, in all its parts, the analogy complete. Such analogies then in no degree tend to prove that the resurrection of the body is not impossible: they only tend to prove that man may have, within his material body, a "latent organisation," which, if "latent," that is, undiscoverable to the senses, must be a spiritual one, which may emerge from the "coffin" it once animated, and live when this lies mouldering in the dust.
But the argument most relied on for proving the possibility of the resurrection of the body, is, that it could not require a greater exertion of Omnipotence to restore life to the dead bodies of all mankind, than it required to create them at first; wherefore, it is asked, As God did the one, why should not he do the other ? To this it may he answered, That whether, or not, the raising again of all dead bodies to life require a greater exertion of Omnipotence than their original creation, of this we are certain, that the one work is within, and according to, the laws of nature, or the laws of order, which every thing demonstrates that God has laid down for the conduct of his own operations; whereas the other is without, and entirely contrary to, those laws. We know that all the divine works proceed from an imperceptible beginning to their fulness and maturity, by successive steps, through the most beautiful progression, regulated by a most certain and most admirable order; and that this progression and order are particularly conspicuous in the formation of the human body. We know that, for the formation of a human body, a crude mass of the materials furnished by the lower parts of nature is not at once brought together and then suddenly informed with a human soul, as Prometheus is feigned to have modelled into human shape a mass of clay, and then to have quickened it with fire brought down from heaven; but that the soul, or the rudiments of the soul or spiritual form, being from the beginning present, and being, doubtless, the immediate agent in procuring for itself a body, the latter commences from the most delicate and highly refined materials which nature can furnish, which are arranged in an organised form from the beginning. We know that the rudiments of the brain are produced first, that being the primary organ in and by which the soul descends into the body; then the rudiments of the heart; and that from these two then proceeds the whole system of the nerves and of the arteries and veins, by the medium of which the other viscera of the body are successively formed, and afterwards are inclosed within the muscular and bony frame constituting the cavities of the cranium, the thorax, and the abdomen; whilst the limbs and exterior members are also gradually formed, and finally the whole is inclosed in the integument of the skin. We know, also, what wonderful care is exercised by the Creator for the safety of the embryo-man; all these wonderful works taking place, not in a cold sepulchre of uncongenial earth, but within the living body of its parent: and, what perhaps is still more striking, and makes a more impassable difference between the mode of the formation of the human body at first and that of its expected resurrection from the grave, we know that not a single atom of the materials from which the soul forms to itself a body, is taken in its crude state from inanimate nature, or is transferred into the human body in the same state as when it previously existed in the inanimate parts of nature, but that every particle is first elaborated into a proper state for the purpose, by the most wonderful of all chemical agents, a previously living human body, and is not presented to the infant soul to be by it adopted into the composition of its body, till it has been refined to the proper degree by that living alembic, the body of its parent. And when, by these truly wonderful means, throughout the whole of which shines so conspicuous the infinite Wisdom of the Creator as well as his infinite Power, the incipient human body is brought to such a degree of maturity as to be able to exist in a state of separation from its mother, its further growth, and the continued preservation of its existence, are still provided for in a similar manner. No addition is ever made to its substance by the accession of matter taken immediately and crudely from outward nature, but the substances of nature capable of contributing to this purpose, are elaborated into the proper state by the wonderful chemistry exercised upon them by the digestive organs and minute absorbents: thus, in no instance whatever, is a single particles of dead matter united to a living body, without having its intractibility and incapacity for the reception of animal life first overcome by the action upon it of a living digester,—by that amazing chemistry which no art can imitate, and which nature herself cannot exercise in any other laboratory than that of a living body. It is thus that the bodies of the whole mass of mankind, except the first created pair, have been formed and nourished; and who can suppose, that, in regard even to these, the order was essentially different ? Can any seriously believe that Adam was, in fact, a mere Promethean image, —a mass of potter's clay, afterwards endued with a soul ? Who can doubt that the creative energy, when, having completed the world through all its lower kingdoms, it bade nature teem with man, produced, either by the medium of the vegetable kingdom or otherwise, some tender envelope, some artificial matrix, within which the human form might first begin to expand, and which might perform for it the functions of the maternal parent ? Who can doubt, that however the first rudimental form of the first man was produced, he was nourished to his full stature, as his descendants have been ever since,—by aliments incorporated, by the same process, into his frame ?
Now is it any derogation from the Omnipotence of the Adorable Creator to say, that matter cannot be compacted into a human body by any other process, than that which we see the Creator himself has provided, and always employs for the purpose ? Are not the laws by which all the changes of matter are governed, the laws of the Creator himself ? When he created matter, did not he also assign to it its proper nature ? May we not then be certain, that in all his operations upon matter,—in all the use which he makes of it in taking from it the materials for the higher species of his omnipotent works,—he will regard the nature which he himself has given to matter, and follow the laws which he himself has appointed for the transmutation of dead matter into living and human substance ? Is it possible to change that nature and to reverse those laws, without abolishing matter, as actually existing altogether, and producing a new species of matter, possessing a quite different nature, and subject to quite different laws ? May we not then affirm decidedly, that the resurrection of the body, composed as the body is of the matter actually now existing, and with the general laws for the transmutation of which into living substance we are in some measure acquainted, is an absolute impossibility? Really, it appears, that there is no conclusion within the powers of reason to arrive at more certain than this. And thus, to affirm that the resurrection of the body is impossible, no more includes a negation of the Divine Omnipotence, than to affirm that it is impossible for the same thing to be and not to be at the same time. On the other hand, they why maintain such resurrection to be possible, in reality affirm it to be possible for the same thing to be and not to be at the same time: for we see that matter must both continue to be matter, and cease to be matter, to admit of the resurrection of the material body. God is omnipotent because, whatever he sees fit to be done, he can, by his Infinite Wisdom, contrive the means proper for doing it. In creation, we are enabled to trace, in innumerable instances, some of the means which he employs to arrive at his ends; and we never discover any of them without being filled with admiration at the wondrous wisdom which they display: but how misplaced is this admiration if it be true, that the same ends might be attained in a more summary manner, without the employment of any means whatever! This is supposed by those who affirm, that, though it is by the use of such wonderful means, developed in such gradual progression, that the human body is formed at first, yet, after the particles which composed it have again degenerated into crude matter, and have been undistinguishably mixed with the earth and the other elements of nature, they can again be collected together in a moment, and compaginated into the same body as before: and this without any action upon them of the soul, which was continually present in the formation of the body at first, but which can have no agency in its resurrection, unless we suppose a particle of it to remain attached to every particle of the dust and gases into which the body is resolved, Surely, if this be exalting the Divine Omnipotence, it, is libelling the Divine Wisdom: and there certainly is no presumption in affirming, that a measure which reverses the plans of Infinite Wisdom, cannot be included in the operations of Infinite Power.
If, then, there does appear such solid reason for concluding the resurrection of the body to be impossible, there surely is no impropriety in pointing out the absurdities which it involves, and by which its impossibility becomes more obvious. Accordingly this has been done, not only by Swedenborg, but by many other wise and good men, and cordial believers of the Word of God. In that Author's illustration of the proposition, "That the Coming of the Lord is not a Coming to destroy the visible heaven and the habitable earth, and to create a new heaven and a new earth, according to the opinion which many, from not understanding the spiritual sense of the Word, have hitherto entertained," he has occasion to mention the common opinions respecting the resurrection; in the course of which he makes some striking observations, on which it has been sneeringly said, that they "show that the Baron, with all his faith and charity, could almost copy the language of Infidels." Now the observations thus stigmatised are precisely the same, in substance, as those which are more fully drawn out by the celebrated Dr. T. Burnet, in his work "On the State of the Dead," &c. (De Statu Mortuorum, &c.) part of which, for the clearness with which they exhibit the deductions of genuine reason. on the subject, I will here translate from the Latin original.
Speaking on the question, ""Whether we are to rise with the same bodies we lie down with in the grave," Dr. Burnet says, "It is not of any great consequence to any of us, whether we shall have the same particles, or others of equal dignity and value, or what shall become of our cast-off carcases, when we shall live in light with angels:" and he quotes this passage of Seneca: "But as we neglect the hairs cut off from our beards, so, when the divine spirit goes out from a man, what becomes of its former receptacle,—whether fire shall burn it, or beasts tear it in pieces, or the earth cover it,—is of no more concern to him, than is the fate of the secundines or after-birth to a new-born child."
He afterwards asks, What are the consequences of taking the texts of Scripture, which seem to speak of the resurrection of the body, in the common sense ? which he answers thus: "Let us see what inconsistencies, conveniences, and inconveniences, this opinion of the identity of the terrestrial and celestial body carries with it. We have before observed, that our body in this life is various, under a continual state of renovation and decay, and that, after some years, it passes through an entire change: therefore, in the course of human life, we may have six or seven different bodies, or more. This brings to my mind the question, impertinently enough urged by the Sadducees, concerning the woman who had seven husbands; whom she should have at the resurrection. Let us put the soul for the woman: Having had seven bodies, married partners, in a manner, to that soul, which shall have it at the resurrection ? for it had all. Perhaps you will say, The last. But it was possible the soul was more wicked, or more good, in the first body, than in the last; and therefore the first ought to be taken as a partner in the glory or misery. Moreover; an old and battered body, or a young and infantile one, are no ornaments to a heavenly court; and of these the greatest part of departed human nature consists. But if you would raise infants to adult age, and bring back the body worn out by age to juvenility; here are so many additions and interpolations, that like the ship Argo a hundred times repaired, it has only the name, and none of the particles, of the original vessel. For my part, I had rather have a new house from heaven, than the old patched-up one, mended and botched in this manner.
"We shall consider next," he says again, "In what manner the scattered particles of dust are to be brought together again. The ashes are carried into distant parts over the earth and seas, and from thence into the region of the air, raised by the solar heat, and scattered into a thousand places of the heavens. Moreover, they are not only sowed and dispersed through all the elements, but they are inserted in the bodies of animals, trees, fossils, and other things; and by their transmigrations through different bodies, they assume new natures and qualities, new shapes and figures. These things being granted, we may ask, In what manner this re-collection, from infinite distances, of latent parts and particles, is made ? Nature is too weak to perform all this: and the Divine Power must never be called forth except on Just and necessary occasions: As then it is perfectly unnecessary that we should have the same numerical parts in the immortal body, as we had in the mortal one, we must not call in the Divine Power for its performance. To take great pains to accomplish trifling objects, is folly in man; and in God it is not to be thought of. To re-collect the particles of all the human carcases deceased from the beginning of the world to the end; to separate this mass and parcel it out into little heaps; and then to re-form these and reduce them to their ancient figures; would be an operose miracle indeed: and the performance of this multifarious miracle would be as unnecessary, as anything like it is unexampled. But it is impossible, also. For the same piece of matter cannot be in two places at the same time. They say that some nations are Anthropophagi,—eaters of men: and it is impossible for the same individual flesh to belong to two bodies. But why do I speak of a few nations ? "We are all Allelophagi,—eaters of each other: for, if not immediately, yet after the lapse of some time, we all devour our progenitors. Their flesh having first passed into the substance of herbs and animals, some parts of it must at length pass into ours. If indeed the ashes of the dead, from the beginning of the world, had been preserved in imperishable urns and coffins; or rather, had they all been embalmed like mummies; we might hope to prevent this confounding of bodies: but as most carcases are dissolved and dissipated, some of their substance returns to its mother earth, and the rest is exhaled into the air, and falling down in the dew and rain, is imbibed by the roots of plants, and forms the nourishment of grass, corn, and fruits; and thence it circulates back into the bodies of another generation. According to the poet:
" Jam seges est ubi Troja fait, resecandaque falce, Luxuriat Phrygio sanguine pinguis humus." *
* "Rich harvests wave where mighty Troy once stood, Birth of a soil made fat with Phrygian blood."
By this revolution the same particle of matter may have suffered several metensomatoses, and have gone through more bodies than the soul of Pythagoras. This being the case, how can every body have its own share of the common matter at the resurrection ? If the first possessor has his due, the latter will come short: and if the last keeps his right, what will become of the pretensions of the first? Thus if the first posterity of Adam take their material frames complete, and their successors only as much of them as had not been previously occupied, what imperfect bodies will be left for the last generation!"
At length, this learned writer thus concludes: "From what has been said, it appears that it is unnecessary, troublesome, if not impossible, for us to have the same bodies in this life and in a future state, after we have weighed all the consequences of this identity." And this, I apprehend, will be found to be the conclusion of genuine reason,—of reason illuminated at once by the light of science and by that of revelation.
Now, will they who affirm, that Swedenborg, when proving the groundlessness of the doctrine of the resurrection of the same or material body, "almost copies the language of infidels," say the same of this pious writer, and the many others whose sincere religious feeling and sound judgment were never questioned, who have exposed its absurdities in not less powerful language ? They who defend it often seem conscious, that, upon any principle of true reason the doctrine is wholly indefensible; whence they would fain set a brand upon reason, as something exclusively belonging to unbelievers. The truth is, it is impossible even for scoffers and unbelievers to make the doctrine appear more ridiculous than is often done by those who mean to recommend it. For instance: Is not Dr. Burnet's exposure, just recited, of the inconveniences of the resurrection of the body, which he gives as reasons for regarding it as incredible, more than paralleled in the following intended eulogy upon it, in Dr. Young's celebrated poem of "The Last Day;" in which, in most harmonious numbers, he only and most gravely aims at extolling its wonders ?
" Now monuments prove faithful to their trust, And render back their long committed dust: Now charnels rattle; scattered limbs, and all The various bones, obsequious to the call, Self-moved, advance; the neck, perhaps, to mest The distant head; the distant legs, the feet. Dreadful to view, see through the dusky sky Fragments of bodies in confusion fly, To distant regions journeying, there to claim Deserted members, and complete the frame."
Again, speaking of Pompey, whose head was carried to Caesar, the poet says,
" This sever'd head and trunk shall join once more, Tho' realms now rise between, and oceans roar."
" The trumpet's sound each, fragrant (!) mote shall hear, Or fixt in earth, or if afloat in air, Obey the signal wafted in the wind, And not one sleeping atom lag behind."
" No spot on earth but has supplied a grave, And human skulls the spacious ocean pave. All's full of man; (!) and at this dreadful turn, The swarm shall issue, and the hive shall burn."
If the body is to rise again, all this is sober fact. But how monstrous does the scene appear, when thus faithfully depicted. Had the description been intended for burlesque, how could its ridicule have been made more poignant ?
Indeed so irreconcileable to reason appears the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, that many of the advocates for it in sober prose, have thence been driven to make such concessions to their opponents, as amount to an acknowledgment of the utter untenableness of the notion. Take, for example, the following statements of the truly respectable Dr. Watts: "It is granted," says he, "that it cannot be the very same body, in all the particles or atoms of it which were united to the soul in this world, that shall be raised and united to it in the resurrection. (1.) Because all the atoms that ever belonged to the animal body of Methuselah in nine hundred and sixty-nine years, would make a most bulky and disproportionate figure at the resurrection. And, for the same reason, all the Antediluvians, who lived so many hundred years, would be raised as giants in comparison of us in later days. And on the same account also, every man, at the resurrection, would be so much larger than his contemporaries and neighbours, as he lived longer on earth: which is a vain and groundless conceit. (2.) All the same particles, even, of the body when it died and was buried, can hardly be raised again and united to the soul of any man; because several of the particles that made one man's body at the time of his death are very probably turned to grass or plants, and so become food for cattle, or other men, and are become part of the bodies of other men several times over. And thus there might be great confusion, because the self-same particles would belong to the bodies of different men. Besides, here is one pious man perhaps died of a dropsy, or excessive fat and unwieldy; must he be raised in that unwieldy bulk and those extravagant dimensions ? Another was worn out to a mere skeleton by a consumption; must his body be of this slender and withered shape or size ? Others, it may be, from their very birth, were in some part defective, or redundant; and in these cases must not some particles be left out, or added, in the resurrection, to form a proper body for the glorified soul? All these considerations prove, that all the precise number of atoms that ever made up a man's body here on earth, or even those that belonged to it at the hour of death, are not necessary to be summoned together to form the same man at the resurrection." (Philosophical Essays, Es. viii.)
This is unquestionably true: but do not these considerations prove, further, that there can be no resurrection of the material body at all? How does this estimable writer, who so clearly saw, and so honestly states, these difficulties, endeavour to surmount them ? By resorting to the gratuitous supposition, that there are "some original, essential, and constituent tubes, fibres, or staminal particles, which remain the same and unchanged through all the stages and changes of life, and are of such a nature as not to join and unite with other animal or human bodies;" and that these will be "raised in the formation of the new body, and be united to the same soul." But what mere begging the question, against all evidence and all reason, is this! It is exactly on a par with the fiction of the Rabbins, that there is in the back of every Israelite an indestructible bone called luz, and in whatever part of the world a Jew may be buried, this aforesaid bone makes its way through the bowels of the earth, and will at last emerge, and expand into the perfect Jew again, in the land of Canaan. Which rabbinical doctrine, by the way, extravagant as it is, is yet less inconsistent than the common notion of Christians; for if the Jew is to have a material body again, it is that he may live again in the material world; not, as the Christian expects, to soar in it to heaven.
Archbishop Tillotson, however, evades the difficulty arising from the fact, that the same particles of matter may pass into different bodies, in a quite contrary manner. Instead of supposing that there are certain staminal particles which will not pass into other bodies, he maintains, that if the whole of the matter composing a man's body at any one time were to pass into other bodies, there still would be plenty of materials rightly belonging to him, out of which a good and proper body might be manufactured for him at the resurrection. He reasons thus:
"1. The body of man is not a constant and permanent thing, always continuing in the same state, and consisting of the same matter; but a successive thing, which is continually spending and continually renewing itself, every day losing some of the matter which it had before and gaining new; so that most men have new bodies as they have new clothes; only with this difference, that we change cur clothes commonly at once, but our bodies by degrees. And this is undeniably certain from experience. For, so much as our bodies grow, so much new matter is added to them, over and besides the repairing of what is continually spent; and after a man be come to his full growth, so much of his food as every day turns into nourishment, so much of his yesterday's body is usually wasted, and carried off by insensible perspiration, that is, breathed out at the pores of his body; which, according to the static experiment of Sane-torius, a learned physician, who, for several years together, weighed himself exactly every day, is (as I remember) according to the proportion of five to eight of all that a man eats and drinks. Now, according to this proportion [which is now, however, considered too great,] a man must change his body several times in a year. It is true, indeed, the more solid parts of the body, as the bones, do not change so often as the fluid and fleshy; but that they also do change is certain, because they grow; and whatever grows is nourished and spends, because otherwise it would not need to be repaired.
" 2. The body which a man hath at any time of his life, is as much his own body, as that which he hath at his death; so that if the very matter of his body, which a man had at any time of his life, be raised, it is as much his own and the same body, as that which he had at his death; and commonly much more perfect; because they who die of lingering sickness, or old age, are usually mere skeletons when they die; so that there is no reason to suppose (or, at least, not to insist) that the very matter of which our bodies consist at the time of our death shall be that which shall be raised, that being commonly the worst and most imperfect body of all the rest.
" These two things being premised, the answer to this objection cannot be difficult. For as to the more solid and firm parts of the body, as the skull and bones, it is not, I think, pretended that the cannibals eat them; and if they did, so much of the matter, even of these solid parts, wastes away in a few years, as, being collected together, would supply them many times over. And as for the fleshy and fluid parts, these are so very often changed and renewed, that we can allow the cannibals to eat them all up, and to turn them all into nourishment; and yet no man need contend for want of a body of his own at the resurrection, viz. any of those bodies which he had ten or twenty years before, and which, are every whit as good, and as much his own, as that which was eaten." (Sermon 194).
Really, if the good Archbishop had written this specimen of grave philosophical reasoning in the way of irony, with the intention of throwing ridicule on the doctrine it pretends to defend, I do not see how he could have succeeded better. It seems, according to this statement, that, at the resurrection, all men of moderate age will have at least a hundred bodies a-piece! and as the soul is to wear but one, the difficulty will be, to choose which one, out of the hundred, shall be made immortal. But, in Dr. Hody's very pertinent language, cited above, if one, why not all ? And if, after all, at least ninety-nine parts out of a hundred of the precious matter, about which so much anxiety is displayed, is at last to be thrown away as refuse and if, as is likewise argued, it makes no difference which single part out of the hundred is selected for preservation, each being "every whit as good" as the rest, and not a whit better; thus if, in plain language, in. their intrinsic nature, all the hundred parts are mere refuse alike: why are they not all rejected as mere refuse alike; and why, when ninety-nine of them are discarded, is one to be arbitrarily preserved ? Besides, how does this notable argument provide for the poor infant that dies as soon as born ? As it had never changed its body at all, how is it to get a more proper-sized one at the resurrection ? According to the hypothesis, though it does not signify how much of the matter which once belonged to the body is thrown away, yet no matter can be taken to form it which had not at one time or other belonged to it: is, then, the babe that quits this world as soon as it comes into it, to be still an infant of a span at the resurrection, and to remain such for ever ? To meet this case, I suppose it will be affirmed, that the body of the infant will be miraculously augmented to the stature of the adult. Thus, on the one hand it is insisted, that it is of no consequence if ninety-nine parts out of a hundred of the matter composing the original body be rejected; and on the other hand it is admitted, that it is of no consequence if ninety-nine parts out of a hundred of the matter composing the resurrection-body be a new addition: whence again it is evident, that to contend for the resurrection of the same body, is only to assert in words, what is found, upon every theory, to be false in fact.
But Mr. Locke is the man for pouring upon such notions the genuine light of reason. His opponent, Stillingfleet, Bishop of Worcester, also deemed it essential to justice that the sinner's body should be raised for punishment as well as his soul; indeed, he thought that, of right, the very same body in which every crime was committed should share in its punishment: but as this would make the bulk of the resurrection-body enormous, he had recourse to the same mode of surmounting this difficulty, as, we have just seen, was adopted by lillotson, Archbishop of Canterbury. He affirmed, that "it suffices, to make the same body, to have, not all, but no other, particles of matter, but such as were, some time or other, vitally united to the soul before." On which, among other conclusive remarks, Mr. Locke writes thus:
"Your lordship says, 'That you do not say the same individual particles [shall make up the body at the resurrection] which were united at the point of death; for there must be a great alteration in them in a lingering disease: as if a fat man falls into a consumption.' Because, it is likely, your lordship thinks, these particles of a decrepit, wasted, withered body, would be too few, or unfit, to make such a plump, strong, vigorous, well-sized body, as it has pleased your lordship to proportion out in your thoughts to men at the resurrection; and, therefore, some small portion of the particles formerly united vitally to that man's soul, shall be re-assumed, to make up his body to the bulk your lordship judges convenient; but the greatest part of them shall be left out, to avoid making his body more vast than your lordship thinks will be fit; as appears by these your lordship's words immediately following, viz. 'That you do not say, the same particles the sinner had at the very time of the commission of his sins; for then a long sinner must have a vast body.'
"But then, pray, my lord, what must an embryo do, who, dying within a few hours after his body was vitally united to his soul, has no particles of matter, which were formerly united to it, to make up his body to that size and proportion, which your lordship seems to require in bodies at the resurrection ? Or, must we believe he shall remain content with that small pittance of matter, and that yet imperfect body, to eternity, because it is an article of faith to believe the resurrection of the very same body, i. e. made up of only such particles as have been vitally united to the soul ? For if it be true, as your lordship says, 'That life is the result of the union of soul and body,' it will follow, that the body of an embryo dying in the womb may be very little, not the thousandth part of any ordinary man. For, since from the first conception and beginning of formation it has life, and 'life is the result of the union of the soul with the body,' an embryo that shall die, either by the untimely death of the mother, or by any other accident, presently after it has life, must, according to your lordship's doctrine, remain a man not an inch long to eternity; because there are not particles of matter, formerly united to his soul, to make him bigger, and no other can be made use of for that purpose: though what greater contiguity the soul hath with any particles of matter which were once vitally united to it, but are now so no longer, than it hath with particles of matter which it was never united to, it would be hard to determine, if that should be demanded.
"By these [most justly adds Mr. Locke], and not a few other the like consequences, one may see what service they do to religion and (he Christian doctrine, who raise questions, and make articles of faith, about the resurrection of the same body, where the Scripture says nothing of the same body, or if it does, it is with no small reprimand to those who make such an inquiry. 'But some men will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come ? Thou fool! that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die. And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain. But God giveth it a body, as it hath pleased him.' "
It would scarcely be right to close this branch of the discussion without adverting to the most extensive and laborious work upon this subject which has appeared in modern times. I allude to "An Essay on the Identity and General Resurrection of the Human Body," by the late Rev. S. Drew. This respectable writer first appeared before the public in the character of a metaphysician; and he always regarded metaphysics as his forte. He, therefore, enters but slightly into the Scripture proof of the subject: but assuming that the Scriptures assert the resurrection of the body, he labours, by a long chain of fine-spun metaphysical reasoning, to evince how it must be. I apprehend, however, that none can read his very ingenious work, without feeling that it is more calculated to raise doubts than to allay them. His theory is substantially the same with that of Dr. Watts and the Rabbins: indeed, Dr. A. Clarke supplies him, as corroboratory testimony, with the story about the bone luz. He supposes that no part whatever of the natural body will be raised again, except some very minute invisible particles, which, he conceives, lie somewhere hidden in the interiors of the frame, are incapable either of addition or diminution from the hour of birth to that of death, and remain indestructible to eternity. He finds it utterly impossible that any other part of the present body can be taken to form the resurrection-body, than these invisible particles; and these, it is easy to see, he gratuitously assumes, or creates himself, for the purpose. He shows clearly, that all the particles which had ever been united, through life, to the corporeal mass, cannot be taken to form the body at the resurrection, because these would, in many cases, form bodies so vast as to outrage all probability: beside which, the size of the body would then be in exact proportion to the time that the person had lived on earth; whence, while a child that died as soon as born would still be a diminutive infant at the resurrection, the body of an antediluvian would be as big as a mountain. In addition to which, as he shows further, it is incontestable that many of the particles of some bodies have formed parts of more bodies than one. This difficulty, he demonstrates, is not at all removed by the theory of some theologians, that not all the particles which have ever belonged to our bodies will be raised at the resurrection, but only those which belonged to it at the time of death; for some of the particles belonging, at death, to persons slain and eaten by cannibals, are certainly incorporated with the bodies of their devourers. Every other theory which can be constructed respecting the formation of the resurrection-body out of any number of the particles belonging to the present body, either during life or at the time of death, Mr. Drew also shows to include insurmountable difficulties. As, therefore, none of the common and fluctuating particles which have belonged to the body of clay, will serve for the composition of the resurrection-body, he at last adopts, as the only possible alternative, the gratuitous supposition I have already mentioned, and which he now states in these words: "That some radical particles must be fixed within us, which constitute our sameness through all the mutations of life; and which, remaining in a state of incorruptibility, shall put forth a germinating power beyond the grave, und be the germ of our future bodies."
Now may we not ask, was there ever a more extravagant assumption ? Incorruptible particles fixed within us, and incapable, as he also asserts, of either increase or diminution from birth to death;— so fine and subtle that no microscope can detect them, no chemistry decompose them;—and, while all the other particles of the frame become undistinguishably mixed with the elements, preserved snugly by themselves from the death even of Adam to the end of the world, through all the changes and catastrophes of the world and of nature; then suddenly to rush into union with the returning soul, and to expand into the full dimensions of a proper-sized body! * Is it not surprising, that when a man of abilities saw the resurrection of the body to be untenable upon every hypothesis but this, he did not perceive that this was as untenable as any, and admit it to be impossible to maintain any resurrection of the body at all ? Is it not astonishing that philosophers and divines should go so far out of the way to provide for man a resurrection-body, as to dream of unconscious, incorruptible, corporeal substance,—of fixed, unalterable, yet invisible matter;—when the obvious truth lay so much nearer at hand ? Yes, Mr. Drew! Man has an incorruptible germ within him, which will form the proper body of his soul hereafter. But this is not matter: it is no part of the material body, though contained within it. It is the proper substance of the soul itself, the form in which the soul lives when separated from its material covering: it is the spiritual body, to which, while we remain here, the natural body, in its every fibre, is a case or sheath. This does not lie useless and insensible, as Mr. Drew supposes his particles of incorruptible matter to do, from death till thousands of years afterwards. It comes at once into its full and proper life and activity; and man lives, though a spirit, still a man, and in a really substantial though spiritual body, from the day of his mortal dissolution to all eternity.
* All this is asserted, p. 181, &c,