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III. and lastly, That supposing a sufficiency of reason for this belief, all difficulties, and seeming repugnancies allegeable against it, do exceedingly advance the worth, value, and excellency of it.
Now under these three propositions shall be taken in all that we shall or can say concerning the general resurrection at the last day. And accordingly, as to the first of the three propositions, importing the great difficulty, strangeness, and repugnancy of the article of the resurrection to the belief of natural reason, we find, moreover, in the text here pitched upon by us, that the main objection insisted upon by the principal of Saint Paul's opposers, the Sadducees, against the doctrine preached by him, was drawn from this controverted point of the resurrection, and of the incredibility of the same, founded upon the supposed impossibility thereof; which, as it was a point of incomparably the greatest moment in the practice of religion, and consequently with the firmest steadiness to be assented to, and with equal zeal to be contended for, by our apostle; so was it with no less heat and fierceness opposed and exploded by those his forementioned antagonists. In treating of which, I shall endeavour these two things,
1. To shew that there is such an extraordinary averseness in natural reason to the belief of a resurrection, as in the said proposition we have affirmed that there is.
2. To assign the causes from which this averseness proceeds.
And first, for the first of these. The surest and readiest way, I should think, to learn the verdict of reason in this matter, would be to proceed by the rule and standard of their judgment, who were the most acknowledged and renowned masters of reason and learning in the several ages of the world, the philosophers persons who discoursed upon the bare principles of natural reason, and upon no higher-who pretended not to revelations, but acquiesced in such discoveries, as nature, assisted with industry, and improved with hard study, could furnish them with. And this certainly was the best and likeliest way to state the ne plus ultra of reason, and to shew how far it could and could not go, by shewing how far it had actually gone already.
And the world has had experience in more sorts of learning than one, how much those, who have gone before, have surpassed in perfection, as well as time, those who have come after them.
Now, in the first rank of these great and celebrated persons, Pythagoras (the earliest whom history reports to us to have been dignified with the title of philosopher) asserted and taught a metempsychosis, or transmigration of the same soul into several bodies; which is utterly inconsistent with a resurrection; the number of bodies, upon these terins, in so great a proportion exceeding the number of souls; one soul wearing out many bodies, as one body does many garments. So that the Pythagoric principle can admit of no resurrection, unless there could be as many souls as bodies to rejoin one another; which, upon this hypothesis, cannot be.
Plato, indeed, speaks much of the immortality of the soul; but by not so much as mentioning the rising of the body again after its dissolution, (when yet he treated of so cognate a subject,) we may rationally presuine, that he knew nothing of it; and that amongst all his ideas, (as I may so express it,) he had none of such a resurrection.
Aristotle held an eternity of the world, namely, as to the heavens and the earth, the principal parts of it. But as to things mutable, he placed that eternity in the endless succession of individuals; which clearly shews, that he meant not, that those individuals should revive, and return to an endless duration. For since he asserted this succession only to immortalize the kind or species, the immortality of particulars would have rendered that succession wholly needless.
As for the Stoics and Epicureans, who, I am sure, were reputed the subtilest and most acute of all the sects of philosophers, we have them, in Acts, xvii. 32, scoffing at the very mention of rising from the dead. They thought it ridiculous for animated dust once dead to revive, or for man to be made or raised out of it, any more than once. For if that might be, they reckoned that men could not properly be said to die, but rather only to hold their breath for some time, than totally to lose it; and that death might be called a sleep without a metaphor, if we might so soon shake it off, and rise from it again. In short, if Zeno or Chrysippus were alive, they would explode, and if Epicurus himself should rise from the dead, he would scarce believe a resurrection.
But to pass from heathens to those who had their reason farther improved by revelation, we have in the Jewish church a great, a learned, and considerable sect, called the Sadducees, wholly discarding this article from their creed; as Saint Matthew tells us, in Matth. xxii. 23; and Saint Luke, in Acts,
Which instances, amongst several others assignable to the same purpose, may suffice to shew, how hardly this article finds credit with those who are led by principles of mere natural reason; and indeed, so strange and incredible does it appear to such, (and some others also, though professing higher principles,) that the same power which God exerted in raising Christ from the dead, seems necessary to raise such sons of infidelity to a firm and thorough belief of it. And so I come to the
Second thing proposed, namely, to assign the causes, why natural reason thus starts from the belief of a resurrection: and these may be reckoned of two sorts,
1. Such as are taken from the manifold improbabilities, rendering the matter so exceeding unlikely to the judgment of human reason, that it cannot frame itself to a belief, that there is really any such thing. And,
2. Such as are drawn from the downright impossibility charged upon it. Both which are to be considered. And
between the present and the future-and only a passage to convey us from one life to another. These things, we must confess, are both difficult in the notion, and hard to our belief. For though, indeed, the word of truth has declared, that "all flesh is grass,” and man but as "the flower of the field," yet the apprehensions of sense will hardly be brought to acknowledge, that he therefore grows upon his own grave, or springs afresh out of the ground. For can the jaws of death relent? or the grave, of all things, make restitution? Can filth and rottenness be the preparatives to glory? and dust and ashes the seedplots of immortality? Is the sepulchre a place to dress ourselves in for heaven, the attiring room for corruption to put on incorruption, and to fit us for the beatific vision? These are paradoxes which nature cannot well digest; mysteries which it cannot fathom; being all of them such, as the common universal observation of the world is wholly a stranger to.
And thus much for the first cause, which generally keeps men from a belief of the resurrection, namely, the great improbabilities and unlikelihoods attending it; but this is not all, there being yet another and a greater argument alleged against it, and that is, in the
1st, Those many great improbabilities and unlikelihoods alleged against the resurrection of the same numerical body, are apt to give a mighty check to the mind of a man in yielding its belief to it. For who would imagine, or could conceive, that when a body, by continual fraction and dissipation, is crumbled into millions of little atoms, some portions of it rarified into air, others sublimated into fire, and the rest changed into earth and water, the elements should, after all this, surrender back their spoils, and the several parts, after such a dispersion, should travel from all the four quarters of the world to meet together, and come to a mutual interview of one another, in one and the same individual body again? That God should summon a part out of this fish, that fowl, that beast, that tree, and remand it to its former place, to unite into a new combination for the rebuilding of a fallen edifice, and restoring an old, broken, demolished carcass to itself once more? So that, by such a continual circulation of life and death following upon one another, the grave should become, not so much a conclusion, as the interruption- not the period, but the parenthesis of our lives--a short interval
Second and next place, the downright impossibilities charged upon it. And this from the seemingly unanswerable contradictions and absurdities implied in it, and, as some think, unavoidably consequent upon it. Of which, the chief, and most hardly reconcileable to the discourses of human reason, is founded in, and derivable from, the continual transmutation of one thing into another. For how extravagant soever the forementioned Pythagorean hypothesis, of the transmigration or metempsychosis of one soul into several bodies, may be justly accounted to be, yet the transmutation of one body into another ought not to be accounted so. For the parts of a body, we know, are in a continual flux, and the decays of nature are repaired by the daily substitution of new matter derived from our nutriment; and when, at length, this body comes to be dissolved by death, it soon after returns to earth, and that earth is animated into grass, and that grass turned into the substance of the beast which eats it, and that beast becomes food to man, and so, by a long percolation, is converted into his flesh and substance. So that such matter or substance, which was once an integral part of this man's body, perhaps twenty years after his death, by this round or circle of perpetual transmutation, comes to be an integral part of another man's. Now, if there be a resurrection, and every man be restored with his own numerical body, perfect and complete, we may propose our doubt in those
words of the Sadducees to our Saviour, in Matt. xxii. 28, concerning the woman who had been married to several husbands successively, "To which of them shall she belong at the last day? for all of them had her.' So may it be said of such a portion of matter or substance, which, by continual change, has been an integral part of several bodies, To which of these bodies shall it be restored at the resurrection? For having successively belonged to each of them, either our bodies must not rise entire, or the same portion of substance or matter must be a part of several distinct bodies, and consequently be in several distinct places at the same time, which is manifestly impossible.
Now the foundation of this argument, taken from the vicissitude and mutual change of things into one another, is clear, from obvious and universally uncontested experience; and being so, the restitution of every soul to its own respective body, and to every integral part of it, is a thing to which all principles of natural reason seem a contradiction; and, by consequence, if so, not within the power of omnipotence to effect. I say, it seems so, and I will not presume to say more.
The consideration of which drove the Socinians, those known enemies to natural as well as revealed religion, (whatsoever they pretend in contradiction to what they assert in behalf of both,) together with some others, peremptorily to deny that men shall be raised with the same numerical bodies which they had in this world, but with another, which, for its ethereal, refined substance, they say, is by Saint Paul termed " a spiritual body," (1 Cor. xv. 14.) And being here pressed with the very literal signification of the word resurrection, which implies, a repeated existence of the same thing, they will have it here used only by a kind of metaphor, namely, that because in death a man seems, to the perception and view of sense, utterly to perish and cease to be, therefore his restitution seems to be a sort of resurrection. And as for those Greek words avaσтvar and iyigs, they endeavour to shew, by other like places of Scripture, that they signify no more than the bare suscitation, raising, or giving being to a thing, without its having fallen or perished before. As, for instance, in Matt. xxii. 24, dvorno σTÉqua Tadεnow," he shall raise up seed to his brother." And, in Rom. ix. 17, God says of Pharaoh, διὰ τοῦτο ἐξήγειρά σε "for this cause have I raised thee up." Whereas, neither of these can be supposed to have perished before that raising. From whence, and some other such like places, they conclude, that these words, applied to the present case, import at most the bare restoration of the man, and that, not necessarily by restoring his soul to its old body, but by joining it to a new; accounted, indeed, the same to all
real intents and purposes of use, though not by formal identity; they still affirming, nevertheless, the man thus raised, and with his new body, to be the same person; forasmuch as, they say, it is the soul or spirit which makes the man, and is the proper principle which gives the individuation. This was their opinion.
And thus I have done with the first of the three propositions drawn from the words, namely, the exceeding great difficulty of men's believing a resurrection: And that, both by proving that actually it is so, from the most authentic examples allegeable in the case, and by assigning withal the reasons and causes why it comes to be so. I proceed now to the second proposition, namely, to shew that, notwithstanding this difficulty, there is yet sufficient reason and solid ground for the belief of it.
And this I shall endeavour to do, both by answering the foregoing objections brought against the resurrection, and withal, offering something by way of argument, for the positive proof of it.
Now for the first of these. I shew that the resurrection was argued against upon two distinct heads, namely, The improbabilities attending it, and the impossibilities charged upon it. And,
1. Briefly, as to the objection from the improbabilities said to attend it, and to keep men off from the belief of it; besides that the said objection runs in a very loose and popular, rather than in a close and argumentative way, and looks more like harangue than reasoning, (though yet the best that the thing will bear,) we are to observe yet farther, that not every strange and unusual event ought always, and under all circumstances, to be accounted improbable. For where a sufficient cause of any thing or event may be assigned, though above and beyond the common course of natural causes, I cannot reckon that event or thing properly and strictly improbable. Forasmuch as it is no ways improbable, that the supreme agent and governor of all things should, for some great end or purpose, sometimes step out of the ordinary road of his providence, (as undoubtedly he often does,) and of which there are several instances upon record, both in sacred and profane story, relating what strange things have happened in the world, which could not rationally be ascribed to any other, but the supernatural workings of a divine power. Nevertheless, admitting, but not granting the fore-alleged improbabilities of a resurrection, yet this does not at all affect the point now in dispute before us, which turns not properly upon the probability, but the possibility of the thing here discoursed of. And where there is a possibility on the one side, answered by an omnipotence on the other, there can be no
ground to question an effect commensurate to both. For a resurrection being allowed possible, though never so improbable, still it is in the number of those things which an infinite power can do, and, upon this account, we find, that there is a much higher pitch of infidelity, which stops not here, but goes so far on, as to deny the very possibility of it too, and this brings me to the examination
Second objection produced against this article of the resurrection, from the utter impossibility thereof, (as the objectors pretend,) and that impossibility (as we have shewn) founded upon the continual transmutation of one body into another. This, I say, was the argument; and it seems to me to press the hardest upon the resurrection of the same numerical body, and to be the most difficult to be solved and answered of any other whatsoever. For as for those commonly drawn from the seeming impossibility of bringing together such an innumerable multitude of minute particles, as from a body once dissolved, must needs be scattered all the world over into the several elements of fire, air, water, and earth, and reuniting them all together at the last day, I cannot, I say, find any thing in all this either hard or puzzling, and much less contrary to natural reason to believe, if we do but acknowledge an omniscience in the agent, who is to do this great thing, joined with an omnipotence in the same. For, by the first of these two perfections, he cannot but know where all and every one of the said particles of the body are lodged and disposed of, and, by the latter, he must be no less able to bring them from all parts and places of the universe, though never so vastly distant from one another, and join them again together in the restitution of the said body. Nothing being difficult, either for omniscience to know, or for omnipotence to do, but when the thing to be done is, in the nature of it, impossible, as the fore-alleged argument would infer the resurrection to be.
To which, therefore, I answer, that the proposition or assertion, upon which the said argument is grounded, is neither evident nor certain; and that we have no assurance that the transmutation of a human body into other animated bodies, after its dissolution, is total, and extends to all the parts thereof; but that there may be a considerable portion of matter in every man's body (for of such only we now dispute) which never passes by transmutation into any other animated body, but sinks into and rests in the common mass of matter, contained in the four elements, (according to the respective nature of each particular element wherein it is lodged,) and there continues unchanged by any new animation, till the last day. But what these particular parts are, which admit of no such
farther change, and what quantity of corporeal substance or matter they make or amount to, I suppose, is known only to God himself, the great disposer and governor, as well as maker and governor of the world.
And whereas it is said in the objection, that such a continual transmutation, as is here supposed, is evident from a general, constant, incontestable experience; I deny that the just measures, bounds, and compass of this transmutation can be exactly known by, or evident to, common experience, forasmuch as it falls not under the cognizance of the outward senses; and yet it is only that, and the repeated observations made thereby, which experience is or can be founded upon. For who can assure himself, or any one else, upon his own personal sight, hearing, or the report of any other of his senses, that the whole matter of a dissolved body passes successively into other living bodies? (though a great portion of it may, and without question does ;) and if, on the other side, he cannot, upon his own personal observation, give a full and exact account of this, can he pretend to tell how and where the providence of God has disposed of the remaining part of the said dissolved body, which has not undergone any such change? This, I say, is not to be known by us, either by any observation of sense, or discourse of reason founded thereupon, and I know of no revelation to adjust the matter. So that, although it should be supposed true, (which we do by no means grant to be so,) that in the dissolution of every human body the whole mass, and every part of the said body, underwent such an entire transmutation as we have been speaking of; yet, since this cannot certainly be known, it cannot come into argumentation, as a proof of that which it is alleged for; unless we would prove an ignotum per æque ignotum; which being grossly illogical, and a mere petitio principii, can conclude nothing, nor at all affect the subject in dispute, one way or other: forasmuch as in every demonstration of the highest sort, the principles thereof ought to be evident, as well as certain.
The sum of all, therefore, is this, that every human body, upon its dissolution, sinks by degrees into the elementary mass of matter; whereof a great part passes by several animations into other bodies, and a great part likewise remains in the same elementary mass, without undergoing any farther change. To which reserved portion, at the last day, the soul, as the prime, individuating principle, and the said reserved portion of matter, as an essential and radical part of the individuation, together with a sufficient supply of more matter (if requisite) from the general mass, shall, by the almighty power of God joining all those together, make up and restore the same individual person: and this cuts off all neces
sity of holding, that what was once an integral part of one body, should, at the same time, become an integral of another, which it is confessed, for the reason before given, would make the restitution of the same numerical portion of matter to both bodies utterly impossible.
But if it be here replied, that our assertion of a reserved portion of matter never passing into other animated bodies by any farther transmutation, (albeit a considerable portion of the same dissolved body be allowed so to do) is a thing merely gratis dictum, and that we have not yet positively proved the same; my answer is, that in the present case, there is no necessity of proving that it is actually so; but it is sufficient to our purpose, that the contrary cannot be proved, and that nothing hinders but that it may be so, the thing being in itself possible: and if that be granted, then the argument founded upon the supposed impossibility of it, comes to nothing. Forasmuch as being possible, it falls within the compass of God's omnipotence, which is the great attribute to be employed in this case. And this effectually overthrows the whole force of the objection.
But if it be farther argued, that the great addition of matter to be made at the last day out of the common mass, to those remainders of matter which (having belonged to the same man's body formerly) are then to be completed into a perfect body again, seems inconsistent with the numerical identity of the body which was before, and that which shall be afterwards at the resurrection; I answer, that this is no more inconsistent with the numerical identity thereof, than the addition of so great a quantity of new matter, as comes to be made to a man's body, by a continual augmentation of all the parts of it, from his birth to his full stature, makes his body numerically another at his grown age, from that which the same person had while he was yet an infant. In both which ages, nevertheless, the body is still reckoned but one and the same in number, though in disparity of bulk and substance, twenty to one greater in the latter than in the former. Accordingly, suppose we farther, that only so much matter as has still continued in our bodies, from our coming into the world to our going out of it, shall be reunited to our soul at the resurrection, even that may and will be sufficient to constitute our glorified body in a real numerical identity with that body which the soul was in before, so as upon all accounts to be still the same body, though in those so very different states and conditions.
mated matter,) moved thereto by the forementioned objections, and the like, ought not to be admitted: it being contrary to reason and all sound philosophy, that the soul successively united to two entirely distinct bodies, should make but one and the same numerical person since, though the soul be indeed the prime and chief principle of the individuation of the person, yet it is not the sole and adequate principle thereof; but the soul, joined with the body, makes the adequate individuating principle of the person. Nor will any true philosophy allow, that the body was ever intended for the mere garment of the soul, but for an essential, constituent part of the man, as really as the soul itself: and the difference of an essential half in any composition will be sure to make an essential difference in the whole compound. Nor is this Socinian assertion more contrary to the principles of philosophy, than to the express words of Scripture, which are not more positive in affirming a resurrection, than in declaring a resurrection of the same numerical person. And whereas they say, that they grant that the same numerical person shall rise again, though not the same body, (the soul, as they contend, still individuating any body which it shall be clothed with,) we have already shewn, on the contrary, that the person cannot be numerically the same, when the body is not so too; since the soul is not the sole principle of personal individuation, though the chief; besides that it seems very odd, and no ways agreeable to the common sentiments of reason, to say, that any thing rises again, which had never perished uor fallen before, as it is certain that the body, which these men suppose shall be united to the soul at the last day, never did. But to elude the force of this argument, the Socinians pretend, that the words whereby we would infer a resurrection of the same body, to wit, ἀναστῆναι, ἐγείρειν, and tysipeobar, &c. infer no such thing in the several texts from whence they are alleged; but only import a bare suscitation, or raising up of a thing, without any necessity of supposing it to have perished before, as being often applied to things entirely produced de novo. But the answer to this is not difficult, namely, that the point now before us is not wholly determinable from the bare grammatical use of these words, (according to which we deny not, but that they sometimes import a mere suscitation or production of a thing, without supposing any precedent destruction of the same;) but the sense of these words must be sometimes also determined by the particular state and circumstance of the objects to which they are applied; as when they are applied to and used about things bercaved of their former existence, (as persons dead, and departed this life, manifestly are,) and in such a case, whensoever the words ἀναστῆναι,
And therefore, the opinion of the Socinians, namely, That the soul, at the resurrection, shall be clothed with another and quite different body, from what it had in this life, (whether of ether or some such like subli