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As our Saviour's interpretations of scripture are infallible, and as he here refers to a passage in the writing of Moses, in proof of the resurrection, it may be objected, that one passage, at least, in these writings, teaches this doctrine.
The assertion which we have made, you will observe, is only, that this doctrine was not by Moses expressly taught. That it was taught by implication, I neither affirm nor deny. Let any one revolve in his mind these words, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob," and he will, I apprehend, hardly profess himself able to discern, how they directly prove, that the dead will be raised. At the time, when the words were uttered, the bodies of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were dead; no language, therefore, could be designed to prove them alive.
The Sadducees, it has been observed, denied the future existence of the soul; and this was probably their principal reason for denying the resurrection. Our Lord, it seems, aimed to prove the former of these, in order, that he might remove their objections against the latter. God called himself, says he, in the time of Moses, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. But he would not call himself the God of any not living. Therefore, these patriarchs were then living. Now, though this conclusion, could be applied only to the soul; yet, as the Sadduces denied the future existence of the soul, to prove such existence was much to his purpose. If there had been any other passage in the books of Moses, more directly proving the resurrection of the body, this, it may fairly be presumed, would not have been cited: and, if there be none, it will hardly be pretended, I think, that the doctrine is expressly taught in these books. In our Saviour's time, however, the resurrection of the body was believed by many among the Jews. This opinion was held, it appears, by the sect of the Pharisees. For, when it is said, of the Sadducees, that they deny the resurrection, and the existence of angels and spirits, it is added, "But the Pharisees confess both." And when Jesus said to Martha,
"Thy brother shall rise again," she replied, "I know, that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
This opinion was probably collected from a number of passages in the prophetical writings, "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 the dead." If this passage is designed to be taken literally, it distinctly proves a resurrection of the body. But if it is figurative, intended to foreshow the restoration of the Jews, still without supposing some knowledge of the doctrine, we should harldly expect, that such a figure would be used. A similar remark will apply to the well known passage in Ezekiel, in which is mentioned the valley of dry hones. After the vision, the prophet was directed to say, "Behold, O my people, I will open your graves and cause you to come out of your graves." Another more striking passage is found in Daniel. “And many who shall sleep in the dust of the earth, shall awake: some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." In Job the 19th chapter, we have language, the apparent import of which strongly favors the doctrine in question.
In the septuagent version, which was commonly used by the Jewish nation, in our Saviour's time, we find a remarkable addition to the last verse of the book of Job., "So Job died, being old and full of days; but 'tis written, that he shall rise again, with those, whom the Lord raises up." This last clause, whether it be part of the original book, proves only, that whenever the passage was written, some ideas were entertained as to a resurrection.
It is not my present purpose to inquire, whether in all, or any of the passages, cited from our English version, the literal and obvious meaning is the true one. I only remark, that it must have been from such passages, as these, whether rightly or wrongly explained, that the doctrine of a
resurrection had, among the Jews, even before the introduc tion of christianity, obtained so considerable a currency.
In the apocryphal writings, there is a remarkable passage, showing, that on the minds of some, this doctrine had the most powerful practical influence. When the seven brethren were tormented by the impious Antiochus, for not violating their law, one of them is represented as saying, “The king of the world shall raise us up, who have died for laws, unto everlasting life." Speaking of the members of his body, "These saith he, I have received from heaven, and for his laws despise them; and from him I hope to receive them again."
But whatever be our opinion as to the degree of evidence, afforded by the ancient dispensation in support of the doctrine, the divine author of christianity has, in the largest sense, brought life and immortality to light." He has shown not only, that the grave cannot confine the soul, but even, that the body shall be set free from its bondage.
This expectation, it appears was observed by the pagan enemies of the Gospel as the cause, why christians so willingly and courageously encountered death. And it was with design to frustrate this hope, that their persecutors consumed their bodies, and scattered their ashes in the rivers.
The importance, which christianity attaches to this doctrine, is asserted by St. Paul, in very strong terms. "If the dead rise not, then is not Christ risen: and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." This reasoning the apostle repeats in a following verse.
We now proceed to notice those texts in the New Testament, by which the doctrine in discussion is directly proved. "This is the will of him, that sent me, that every one, that seeth the Son and believeth on him, should have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.-The hour cometh, when they, who are in their graves, shall hear the voice of God and come forth.-If the spirit of him, that raised up Jesus from the dead, dwell in you, he, that raised up Jesus from the
dead, shall also quicken," that is, make alive, "your mortal bodies. As in Adam all die; so in Christ shall all be made alive." The former part of this sentence expresses the death of the body; the latter part, its revival. There shall be saith the same apostle, a "resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust." St. John, as appears from the revelation, had a vision of "the dead both small and great, standing before God.-Even we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the spirit, groan within ourselves, wait- ing for the adoption, to wit the redemption of the body."
That this doctrine implies no impossibitity, is apparent, both from the nature of the case and from particular facts.
I. From the nature of the case. He, who creates, must be able to renew. He, who first collected and united the various parts of the human body, and organized them according to his pleasure, can never want power to recompose and revive the same body. The substance of the human frame is collected from the air and water, from vegetables and from other animals. Vegetables, produced in one quarter of the globe,unite with those,which are reared in another, to increase its vigor, and advance its growth. Particles of the se bodies, which we now possess, once belonged, it may be, to distant islands and continents: they once passed into the canes of India, or were suspended from the figtrees of Turkey. Were the mass, thus composed once dissolved, would either more power or more wisdom be required for the reunion of its parts, than was employed in its original formation or its subsequent support? St. Paul's appeal to Aggrippa was therefore unanswerable, "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?"
II. The possibility of the resurrection has been proved from particular facts. Three persons were raised from the dead by our Saviour; Dorcás, the widow's son of Nain, and Lazarus. Jesus himself rose from the grave. At his death many bodies of saints, that slept, arose, and went into the holy city and appeared to many.
There can be no more difficulty in restoring to life one body, than another; and it is absurd to speak of the impossibility of an event which has already happened.
Our next inquiry is, concerning those bodies, to which the soul shall be united.
1. The language of scripture leads us to consider them, as the same with those, which the soul inhabited previously to death. "If the spirit of him, that raised up Jesus from the dead, dwell in you, he, that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies." Here the revived body is declared to be that mortal body, which was the original tenement of the soul. To the same purpose is the passage, already cited. "They, who are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and come forth." As nothing but the body is left in the grave, nothing else can come forth out of it. That body which was raised, is the same, therefore, which was deposited in the grave.
Further, we are told by St. Paul, in the fifteenth chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians, that at the resurrection, "this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and that this mortal shall put on immortality." The word body is doubtless to be here supplied. The meaning must therefore be, This corruptible body shall be incorruptible, and this mortal body shall become immortal. Hence you perceive, that the body which existed before death, is represented, as existing afterwards, notwithstanding the great change, which it must undergo. It is the same body, though in one case mortal, and in the other immortal.
A similar mode of expression is continued through the chapter. It is sown a mortal body: it is raised a spiritual body." As the pronoun it must have the same reference in both these clauses, identity is predicated of the body at both these periods.
But though we are justified by these scriptures, in saying, that the body raised, shall be the same with that deposited, we are not under the necessity of concluding that it will