Page images
PDF
EPUB

resurrection, as only suitable to the resurrection of the body, and this was a doctrine which he was not altogether willing to give up. Is there any word, expressive of resurrection in this sense, to be found in the Scriptures ? Yes, says Dr. Dwight : the proper word for resurrection is egersis. We should have no objection if this could be proved; for it would then be proved also, that no one ever experienced a resurrection , that is, a resurrection of the body, - but the Lord Jesus Christ. For this word occurs but once in all the New Testament; and that is in Matt. xxvii. 53, where the resurrection spoken of is that of the Lord ; and most true it is that none ever experienced, or will experience, a resurrection to eternal life of the body, but he alone. However, this word literally means no more than rising, - not resurrection, or rising again. It is the noun corresponding to, and formed from, the verb egeiro, the meaning of which as denoting simply to rise, has been already shown. Dr. Dwight's endeavor to attach the notion of rising again to the noun egersis, is a singular example of the inconsistencies into which learned men may be led by attachment to a pre-conceive ed system.

Egersis, he says, means rising again, or that of the body. But this word, being merely the verb egeiro formed as a noun, cannot mean any more than that does. Now egeiro, as noticed above, is the only verb used by the Apostle, when treating so_largely of the resurrection, in the fifteenth of 1st Cor. But Dr. Dwight, as already noticed, had just before been showing that the subject of that chapter is not the resurrection or rising again of the body, but the anastasis or the future existence of man !

“ The truth is, that it has fared with the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, as with that of the destruction of the world at the Lord's second coming, and many other long-cherished tenets. Learned men are continually discovering, first that one, and then that another, of the passages on which those doctrines have been built, have nothing to do with the subject : and yet, from habit and prejudice, men continue to cleave to the notions, long after their supports have all been found rotten."

I may now, I humbly hope, appeal to all the Reflecting, and ask, Whether the doctrine which they who humbly trust that they belong to the New Church of the Lord, signified, in the Revelation, by the New Jerusalem, hold upon the subject of the Resurrection, is not that of the whole Bible? We have found, upon an extensive review of the passages commonly relied on for the proof of the resurrection of the body, that not one of them affords any real countenance to such a notion, but that many of them prove decidedly the reverse: we have found that

the

passages which assert man's immediate resurrection, and which assign to him, in the resurrection, a spiritual body, in which he exists as a real substantial man, and becomes a subject either of final happiness or misery, are numerous, unequivocal, and perfectly conclusive : and, finally, we have ascertained, that the phrase, the resurrection of the dead, means such a resurrection as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, experienced immediately after death. Thus the doctrine of the Scriptures upon this momentous subject is clearly that which we have embraced, as the doctrine of the New Jerusalem : if then the Scriptures are to decide the question, it appears to us, that our doctrine upon this subject is impregnably established.

Let us now ask by way of conclusion, which doctrine has . most moral advantages, — which is most likely to have a beneficial effect on the life and practice ; – that which defers man's final happiness or misery to an indefinite distance, and represents him as without capacities for the complete sense of either, till he again becomes a man by the resumption of his dust after a lapse of still, probably, many, many ages, whilst, during the intermediate period, he is a mere breath or vapor, or something still less substantial, differing but little from a non-entity ; - or that which regards him as rising again, a perfect man, as soon as he quits his clay, possessing far keener powers of perceiving either happiness or misery than he had while shrouded over with flesh, and going to meet his final doom at once ? I should think, can hesitate a moment about the answer : but lest I, in giving it, should be suspected of being under the inAuence of prejudice, the amiable Watts shall be the respondent.

“So corrupt and perverse," says this esteemed theologian, “are the inclinations of men in this fallen and degenerate world, and their passions are so much impressed and moved by things that are present, or just at hand, that the joys of heaven, and the sorrows of hell, when set far beyond death and the grave, at some vast and unknown distance of time, would have but too little influence on their hearts and lives. And although these solemn and important events are never so certain in themselves, yet being looked on as things a great way off, they make too feeble an impression on the conscience, and their distance is much abused to give an indulgence to present sensualities. For this we have the testimony of our blessed Saviour himself (Matt. xxiv. 48): The evil servant says, My Lord delayeth his coming; then he begins to smite his fellow-serrants, and to eat and drink with the drunken.' And Solomon teaches the same (Eccl. viii. 11): Because sentence against an eril work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men, is fully set in them to do evil.' And even the good servan's, in this im

No one,

perfect state, the sons of virtue and piety, may be too much allured to indulge sinful negligence, and yield to temptations too easily, when the terrors of another world are set so far off, and their hope of happiness is delayed so long. Whereas, if it can be made to appear from the Word of God, that, AT THE MOMENT OF DEATH, the soul enters into AN UNCHANGEABLE STATE, according to its character and conduct here on earth, and that the recompenses of vice and virtue are to begin immediately upon the end of our state of trial ;*—then all those little subterfuges are precluded, which mankind would form to themselves from the unknown distance of the day of recompence. Virtue will have a nearer and stronger guard placed about it, and piety will be attended with superior motives, if its rewards are near at hand, and shall commence as soon as this life expires; and the vicious and profane will be more effectually affrighted, if the hour of death must immediately consign them to a state of perpetual sorrows and 'bitter anguish.” He then notices the argument, that the dead will awake out of their graves utterly ignorant of the long time that has passed since their death, wherefore men should be as careful to prepare for judgment as if they were immediately to undergo it: to which he replies, " I grant, men should be so in all reason and justice. But such is the weakness and folly of our natures, that men will not be so much influenced, and alarmed, by distant prospects, nor so solicitous to prepare for an event which they suppose to be so very far off, as they would FOR THE SAME EVENT, if it commences as soon as ever this mortal life expires.. The vicious man will indulge his sensualities, and lie down to sleep in death, with this comfort : • I shall take my rest here for a hundred or a thousand years (or no one knows how much longer]; and, perhaps, in all that space, my offences may be forgotten; or something may happen that I may escape ; or, let the worst come that can come, I shall have a long sweet nap before my sorrows begin.' Thus the force of divine terrors is greatly enervated by this delay of punishment.+

Who can be insensible to the power of these weighty considerations ? And if they could be so strongly felt by a writer, who believed, nevertheless, that the body is at last to be raised again, and that all that is to be enjoyed or suffered in the meantime is but a faint foretaste of what is to be experienced afterwards ; how truly cogent do the arguments become when

* Dr. Watts, to adapt his doctrine to the common notion, here very awkwardly introduces a few words respecting what may further follow at the resurrection of the body, as a consideration to be added to the above, but which in reality greatly subtracts from its weight. To make his argument either consiste ent or efficacious must he kept in its simple form, as here.

+ Works, Ed. Leeds, Vol. vii. pp. 5, 6, 7,

relieved from this neutralizing drawback, - when it is seen that the spirit of man is truly the man himself, possessing sensations immensely more acute than any that can be imparted to flesh and blood, and when it thus is known that all the fulness, either of joy or sorrow, which is commonly supposed to follow only upon the resurrection of the body, awaits the man as soon as he enters the eternal world by death! Then the arguments of the heavenly-minded Watts become powerful indeed. It is only in connection with our view of the resurrection that they possess their proper weight. May we not then say, that whó. ever wishes to see the practice of virtue enforced and that of vice discouraged, by the strongest of all possible sanctions, must wish to see the truth of the New Jerusalem-doctrine of the Resurrection cordially acknowledged by all mankind ?

SECTION IV.

THE LAST JUDGMENT.

PART 1.

The Last Judgment of the Scriptures was not to be accomplished

in the Natural World.

I now have to appeal to you, my Reflecting Readers, upon the subject of the Last Judgment. The views which we believe to be those of the New Jerusalem of the Apocalypse in regard to this great consummation, differ considerably, it is true, from those commonly entertained : and they also are such as, when first propounded, universally.excite no small degree of surprise : yet their truth appears to be by no means difficult of proof; and I trust that it has already, in some degree, become apparent.

Respecting the General Judgment our distinguishing opinions are these two : First, That, according to the Scriptures, the scene of the last Judgment was to be, not in the natural world, as commonly believed, but in the spiritual : and, SECONDLY, That it has there been accomplished accordingly. Of these two propositions, the first may already have been sufficiently proved : for if it has been proved, as attempted in the last Section, that man rises from the dead, in a spiritual body, immediately on the death of the material body, and that no resurrection of the material body will ever take place, it necessarily follows, that the

[ocr errors]

spiritual world, into which death introduces him, can alone be the scene of the judgment he is to experience. But, as what passes in the spiritual world cannot be known to the inhabitants of the natural world in general; if the judgment is performed there, the inhabitants of the natural worid would not have any consciousness of what was passing. Hence our second proposition, that it has there been accomplished accordingly, - affirms nothing that is at all improbable in itself, and nothing which can, by any possibility, be proved to be false. In this and two subsequent Parts of this SECTION we will give further evidence in proof of our first proposition; after which we shall see, in PART IV., that, independently of the assertions of Swedenborg, there are various considerations tending to evince that our second, also, is certainly true.

But as great misrepresentations of our sentiments on the last Judgment have been diligently circulated, some notice of these must be premised.

Among the arts too often resorted to by polemic writers, it has been observed that this is one. The controvertist selects some doctrine of great importance which no one ever thought of denying: he proves with great display of authorities the certainty of such doctrine ; he insinuates that its truth is denied by those whose sentiments it is wished to render odious ; and then, because he has clearly proved what nobody doubts, he triumphs as if he had completely defeated the object of his attack. This is the course frequently adopted by the assailants of the New Church. As if we denied the last judgment altogether a writer introduces the subject with these remarks: “ The doctrine of the Last Judgment is of high import, and is most clearly revealed in the Word of God. Nor has there ever been much controversy in the Christian world on this subject; which is a clear proof, if more than Scripture proof were wanting, that the doctrine has met with the acquiesence of all men throughout the Christian world, with the exception, now of late, of the Swedenborgians, who, I suppose wish to be called Christians.' Accordingly, to put down these wicked “ Swedenborgians," a great display of texts is made in which a judgment is asserted : including some from the “ Mahometan's Creed.” The ancient heathens, also, are brought in to condemn us.

Many,” it is gravely observed, "of the wiser heathens believed in a general judgment in some form ; though their form might differ from that recorded in the Scripture, yet the thing they believed. For they could in no wise reconcile themselves to the prosperity of the vicious, and the adversity of the virtuous, which was every day before their eyes, but on the supposition of a future reckoning day, and an hereafter of rewards and'

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »