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« aid and comfort" from even the silence of the church, in the face of the plainest demands of God's word and providence, in this most wicked and causeless attempt to overthrow good government which has ever been made since the rebellion of “the angels which kept not their first estate.”
ART. V.-Credibility of the Resurrection of the Dead.
THE Bible affirms—does reason corroborate ? — that “the dead shall be raised incorruptible," - that "there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust," — that “the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God and shall come forth." "No," says an objector, “Reason does not corroborate, but controverts it, and challenges it as incredible.” And, from the age of the apostles till now, sceptics have not failed to reiterate this Saduceean charge of incredibility against this fundamental doctrine of the Christian system; and even amoug those who profess to recognize the Bible as God's Word, in a general sense, are found some of the most zealous antagonists to the truth of this doctrine. The plain asseverations of the Bible are not sufficient to convince; and hence they are either explained away, or directly contradicted.
Reason here is supreme; God s Word is constrained to sucumb-for it is assumed that the one stands opposed to the other. But is it so? Is our faith in the destined resurrection of the dead founded exclusively in the arbitrary declarations of the Bible ? Must we cease to be rational while we exercise credence in this article of our religious faith? We accept the appeal to the designated tribunal of reason. And we are bappy to feel assured that no true doctrine of Divine Revela'tion can suffer by being carried up to this tribunal. God has endowed us, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, with certain rational faculties, by which we are capacitated to entertain the momentous problem, “What is truth. ?” and to acquire such solutions of it as suffice for all important practical uses, if they do not put us in actual possession of absolute science. And that God who has thus benevolently endowed us is the Author of all truth, whether natural or supernatural—whether in the Bible, or in creation : and truth is ever consistent with the character of its Author, and hence, necessarily also, always consistent with itself, wherever it may be found, or by whatever means it may be made manifest. Therefore, truth in God's Word will be truth in God's works, and before the eyes of universal reason, whether of God, angels, or men.
Let reason, then—not ignorant, benighted, prejudiced, blind reason—but enlightened, candid, honest, thoughtful, pious reason, for the time being, sit in judgment upon the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and award its final decision according to the principles of evidence and its own divine constitution. But let it be distinctly understood, in the outset, that the question which reason is now to consider and dispose of by its rational investigation, is not whether the light of nature, independently of revelation, would suffice to make known to us, and prove this wonderful and mysterious doctrine of the Christian's creed; or whether, after it has been communicated through the medium of God's Word, we can dispense with all aid derived from this source, and upon mere principles of philosophy, in the interpretation of facts and phenomena observable in nature, assure ourselves that this doctrine is not a doctrine of revealed religion only, but of natural religion also. But the question is this—the same which the Apostle Paul addressed to the rational consideration of the skeptics of his day : “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead ?” It is simply a question of the credibility or incredibility of a doctrine, for the knowledge of which we are exclusively indebted to divine teaching. The Word of God affirms this doctrine, clearly, unequivocally; the Christian Church has incorporated it in the cardinal articles of her faith, and millions of Christians rejoice in the full persuasion of its truth; but notwithstanding all this, is the doctrine false, and the faith exercised in it a delusion? What are the grounds upon which infidel reason assumes to predicate of the Resurrection of the Dead that it is incredible-beyond the sphere of legitimate
human belief? Let us endeavor to ascertain these grounds, and at the same time test their merits.
I. Is this doctrine incredible because of God's want of power to accomplish the event concerned ?
Is not God omnipotent? Is there any limit to his power, save that which his own perfections establish, which render him incapable of doing anything that may conflict with his wisdom, justice, holiness, goodness, and truth? Has he not equal power to raise the body from its dead, decaying, and even long-dissolved condition, as he had to produce it originally from nonentity? Is it any more inconsistent with reason to affirm that “the dead shall be raised incorruptible,” than it is to affirm that in the beginning God made man, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul? that at a certain period in the evolutions of eternity the human race, which had no antecedent existence whatever, were ushered into being, and endowed with immortality? Does not the fact of man's present existence, as consisting of body and soul intimately united, and mutually dependent and co-operating, furnish a fact as incredible in its intrinsic, essential nature-a fact as wonderful, and mysterious, and incomprehensible to human intellect, and as far removed from the reach of its adequate conception as the fact that God shall raise the dead ? Shall we, for a moment, harbor the suspicion that he, by whom all worlds consist—by whom the earth on which we tread, and whose atmosphere we breathe; from whose gurgling fountains we allay our thirst, and by whose bountevus fruits, furnished us in such varied forms, and in such luxuriant harvests, we are nourished; whose every mountain, hill, and valley; whose every ocean, lake, and river; whose every bird, beast, fish, and insect; whose every tree, shrub, and blade of grass ; whose every pebble upon the seashore, and radiant flower upon the plain ; all attest Divine omnipotence;— shall we, for a moment, harbor the suspicion that the power of God is insufficient to achieve the resurrection of the dead? We can not; we dare not.
Therefore, the charge of incredibility against this doctrine is invalid, upon the ground of the want of Divine power.
II. Is this doctrine incredible, because of the difficulty or impracticability of the mind's comprehending the manner in which the event taught by it shall be accomplished ?
We hear an objector say, “How are the dead raised up, and with what body do they come?” And as the how precisely is not fully revealed or made intelligible to him, he chooses to reject the whole as essentially chimerical. How does Paul respond to such an objector? “ Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die; and that which thou sowest, thou sowest pot that body that shall be, but bare (or mere) grain; it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain; but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed its own body.” As much as to say, here is a fact you can not deny, and a mystery you can not comprehend, analogous to the resurrection of the dead; will you-can you, in the face of your familiar observation to the contrary, pronounce it-in the advance of the result-incredible that the seed which is planted in the earth, shall, after a species of death and corruption, put forth and produce a body which God will give it, its own body; that it shall issue from its place of burial to a new and higher life than that which it sustained before, and so as that the body produced from it can be traced back to the body from which it sprung in such a way as to constitute a vegetable identity between them? Can you solve this familiar mystery in the vegetable kingdom ? Can you comprehend it, and denude it of its inherent mystery? You can not. Divine power is here, and nothing less. Man may sow the seed, but man can not give it growth. It is God that accomplishes this result, and certainly the accomplished fact is proof of the accomplishing ability, although no formula of science may enable us to penetrate the arcana of the fact, or grasp of intellect sufficient to seize all its inexplicable phenomena.
But what event in nature would not be incredible-absolutely incredible—if the only condition upon which it could be believed were that it should first be reduced to the level of the comprehension of the human understanding? On such terms we could not credit our own existence. Therefore, to affirm that, on this account, the resurrection of the dead is incredible, is to affirm that in our disposal of this doctrine we should contravene all the laws of ordinary human belief, and belie the constitution of our mental and moral nature; and
hence, the mere incomprehensibility of the event concerned does not justify the charge of incredibility against it. .
III. Is this doctrine incredible, because of the essential antagonism between matter and spirit; matter being essentially and eternally evil, and spirit being a divine emanation, whose destiny is to be delivered from all alliance with matter, and restored to the Divine Essence to be reabsorbed in the great ocean of his infinite Self-existence forever ?
To develop and explain this ground of the assumed incredibility would require us to enter into what would be rather an uninteresting and unprofitable, though curious detail of the cosmogony of the ancient Oriental and Grecian philosophers, who maintained that there were “universally two eternal, original principles, God and self-existent matter, neither of which is the foundation of the other. The former they supposed to be a rational and thinking principle, and the author of all good; the other, irrational and unintelligent, and the author of all evil.” This theory, in its application to the origin of the world and of man's compound being, invaded the church at a very early day, and is still believed, in the name of Christ, by some of those who profess to be his disciples, and who, by a forced and ingenious exegesis of God's Word, reject its literal and common sense import, and accommodate its teachings to their preconceived and peculiar opinions.
The palpable absurdity of this theory of Oriental schools is a sufficient rejoinder to the charge of incredibility against the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead on this account. · IV. Is this doctrine incredible, because of contradictory events which it involves, like that of causing to be and not to be at the same time?
This, we presume, is the special and main ground upon which it is predicated that no evidence can suffice to make it reasonable to credit the rising of the dead. It is said that the future resurrection of the same bodies is “intrinsically inconceivable and incredible.” Mark the expression, “the same bodies.” The author of this declaration (Bush) inculcates the doctrine of a resurrection from the dead—not of the dead-by the elimination of a spiritual body from the material body in the event of death; and this, he maintains, by a