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THE RESURRECTION OF THE HUMAN BODY, A WONDERFULLY
1 Corinthians xv. 53.
This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal
must put on immortality. The grand theme of this chapter, is the general resurrection of the dead. And the subject is so discussed as to exhibit one of the first specimens of that expansion and sublimity of intellect, for which St. Paul is peculiarly distinguished. Nothing in heathen antiquity can be found among poets, orators, or philosophers, which in loftiness of conception, or extensiveness of views, deserves to be named in comparison with this discourse. From its commencement, and throughout all its progress, the writer gradually ascends higher and higher in his descriptions, until he elevates the mind of his reader to the heavens.
In the beginning of the chapter, the resurrection of the body is asserted and proved. The proof alledged, is the resurrection of Christ. The argument may be advantageously exhibited in the following manner: Christ predicted his own resurrection, and actually rose in the manner predicted. He has thus proved both his power to do every thing, and his veracity in all his declarations. But he has de clared that he will raise up at the last day, all that are in their graves. Thus his own resurrection is a complete proof of the general resurrection of mankind. The Apostle pursues the examination of the subject, by putting an objection against a future state, into the mouth of an opponent, derived from apprehended difficulties concerning the future existence of the body. The objection is indeed without weight; as it is merely an expression of the objector's ignorance concerning the subject, and his inability to imagine what kind of body, or by what means any body can be united to the soul, in the future world. But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? The source of perplexity with regard to the question, appears to be, whether the same body will be raised. If the query be, whether the same atoms which have composed our bodies in the present world, will constitute the body raised at the final day, both reason and revelation evince the contrary. The whole number of particles, which have at different times constituted the body of a man during his progress through life, will undoubtedly be sufficient to constitute many such bodies. The answer to the objector in relation to this question, is the following: 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 some other grain. But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. So also is the
. resurrection of the dead. Thus we are taught, that even the ordinary productions of the earth, exhibited a process which might illustrate the subject : for the seed sown in the ground does not vegetate, except it corrupt and die. This is true: for whatever change transfers a body into a new class of beings, may be justly called the death of the original substance. And in fact, the seed as such, dieth: for it ceases to remain an original grain of corn or of wheat; though a part of it springs, as it were, into new life, by a process which we can no more fully conceive, than we can the manner of the resurrection. Thus the bodies of believers, after corrupting and turning to
dust, will be raised into a new and more glorious form; not in every respect the same that they were, but far superiour and more excellent. Still, the identity of the same particles of matter, as necessary to the resurrection of the same body, is no where mentioned in the sacred volume. Moreover, the instruction contained in the present chapter, seems to militate against such an opinion. The Lord hath many other ways of preserving personal identity. Besides, exactly the same particles do not constitute our bodies, for two hours together, in any part of our lives; yet we are the same persons, both in body and soul, from childhood till old age.
Again : If the same constitution, arrangement, and qualities of the body be intended by the question, it is equally evident that the same body will not be raised. This is decisively taught in the following declaration: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Thus the human body in its present form of subsistence, and with its present animal wants, propensities, and infirmities, cannot partake of the pure and refined enjoyments of the kingdom of glory: Nor can the body, as mortal and corruptible, inherit the incorruptible and unchangeable felicity of heaven. Moreover, reason would decide to a certainty, that a constitution which involves in its nature, decay and termination, cannot belong to a
body destined for the residence of an immortal and · ever vigorous mind.
The Apostle, to illustrate the present subject, refers to the variety as well as the wonderful nature of the works of God, in the flesh of different animals as well as the form of vegetables, differently constituted, produced, and supported. Yet we cannot comprehend the manner in which the Lord hath made and preserves this difference; though it is evidently intended to fit them for their several kinds of life, their diverse elements, and yarious destinations.
Cannot he then raise our bodies, suited to the state intended for them, consistently with our personal identity, though in a manner inexplicable to us? The great diversity of animal natures should serve to teach us, that there will be, in various respects, a vast difference in the human body in the resurrection.
We are also taught that the same wisdom and power of God hath formed celestial, as well as terrestrial bodies; but the celestial appear far more splendid than the terrestrial : Yet, even among the former, there are different degrees of glory, as they are in themselves, and as they appear to us. The sun is far more glorious than the moon; yet the reflected light of the moon, far exceeds that of the remote stars; and even some of them shine more brightly than others. Thus also will it be in the resurrection of the dead: The bodies of the righteous will appear as much more glorious than they now do, as the glory of the heavenly luninaries excels that of an opaque clod of the earth; yet they will shine with different degrees of splendour, as do the sun, moon, and stars.
After this illustration, the Apostle dwells extensively on the nature of the body with which those who are dead, will be invested at the final day. He also declares the change which those who are living at that time will experience, and concludes with a song of triumph over death and the grave.
Now it may be remarked, against the resurrection itself there is no presumption; and in favour of it, a presumptive argument may be derived from analogy. Many things pertaining to this world, naturally and strongly dispose the mind to admit the doctrine. In this climate, almost the whole vegetable world dies annually under the chilling influence of winter. At the return of spring the face of nature is' renewed : and all the plants, shrubs, and trees, with which it was adorned, are again clothed with verdure, life,
and beauty. From the appearance of winter, when nature is clad with the babiliments of death, who could expect that she would ever revive and live again, unless taught to believe it from what has so often taken place ?
In the insect creation, we find a direct and striking example of the manner of the resurrection itself. Many of the animals of this class, begin their existence in the form of worms. After continuing some time in the humble state of being to wbich they are necessarily confined by their structure, they die and are gone. In the moment of death, they construct for themselves a species of shell, in which they may with the strictest propriety, be said to be entombed. Here they are dissolved into a mass of semi transparent water: the whole, which remains of the previously existing animal, exhibiting to the eye no trace of life, and no promise of a future revival. After remaining in a dead or torpid state, until the term of its burial approaches to its proper period, the tomb discloses, and a winged animal comes forth with a nobler form, often exquisitely beautiful; brilliant with the gayest splendour, possessed of new and superiour powers, and destined to a more refined and more exalted life. Its food is now the honey of flowers; its field of being, the atmosphere. Here it expatiates at large in the delightful exercise of its newly discovered faculties, and in the high enjoyment of those sun-beams, which were the immediate means of its newly acquired existence.
Now let us bear in mind, that in the various changes of existence of forms and faculties, the insect is considered the same; though it has assumed to itself life and death, and even different natures. Hence we may discern, in the essentially different state of existence, by reason of a wonderful change and transformation, a type of the resurrection of the human body. Through life the human frame is constantly changing; and at the sound of the last trump