« PreviousContinue »
judgment of the ancient fathers; but it must be confessed, that though their authority be great in matters of tradition, yet the reasons and arguments which they produce to confirm their doctrines are not always convincing. If we seriously and impartially consider this assertion, [that God is obliged in justice to reward or punish the body together with the soul,] we shall find it not to be true. My reasons briefly are these. First: To speak properly, the body is not capable either of sinning or doing well. It is only the instrument of the soul; and the arm that stabs, sins no more than the sword; 'tis the soul only that is the murderer. Neither, secondly, is the body capable of any reward or punishment. 'Tis the soul only that is sensible; and nothing but what is sensible can be capable of rewards and punishments. Thirdly: If it be injustice in God to punish the soul alone without the body in conjunction with which she committed the sin, then all the matter which constituted the body when the several sins were committed, must be raised again, and be re-united to the soul. For if some, why not all? but what monsters of men should we be in the resurrection, if all the substance of which our bodies consisted, from our childhood to our death, should be gathered together and formed into a body!"-To these three reasons of this honest writer's can anything bearing the semblance of a reason be opposed?
Dr. Gregory, however, considers it to be so necessary, to vindicate the Divine Justice, that the body should be rewarded or punished as well as the soul, that he affirms, "that the conclusion cannot be fairly resisted, unless it can be shown, that the resurrection of the body is impossible." Though we have already seen that his reasoning is destitute of all validity, independently of such impossibility, yet probably it may not be difficult to comply even with this unreasonable demand.
But perhaps it may be nécessary first to state in what sense I affirm the resurrection of the material body to be impossible : I mean, that it is as impossible as anything whatever that can be conceived. If we were to pronounce it to be absolutely impossible, its advocates, I know, would eagerly exclaim, that we deny the omnipotence of God. Little honor, to be sure, is done to God, when his omnipotence is supposed to be employed in effecting things trifling, unnecessary, or ridiculous: but without saying, absolutely, that God cannot do it; from what we see of the nature of his divine works, and of the manner in which he produces them, we may with certainty conclude that he will not: and what God will not do, or wills not to do, is to all practical purposes, impossible.
It is utterly foreign to the argument to appeal, as is done by Dr. G., to the cases of the restoration of life to the bodies of
certain dead persons recorded in the Scriptures; for in those instances the bodies had not undergone even the commencement of decomposition, nor had the spirit been entirely extricated from them: even in the case of Lazarus, who had been dead four days, there can be no doubt, notwithstanding the conclusion of his sister, that the natural tendency to corruption had been miraculously suspended by that Divine Hand, whose purpose from the beginning had been to restore him to life. Besides, all these were restored, not to an immortal, but only to a lengthened period of mortal life, and, after a while, they all died again.
Not at all more to the purpose are the examples which Dr. G. relates of the transformations undergone by insects, and the growth from seed of the vegetable creation. Many of these illustrate, by beautiful analogies, the emerging at death of man's spiritual form from the shell of clay; but in no respect whatever do they answer to the fancied revival of the material body. For instance: respecting the Libellula, or dragon-fly, he relates this pretty history. "Naturalists tell us, that the worm repairs to the margin of its pond in quest of a convenient place of abode during its insensible state. It attaches itself to a plant or piece of dry wood; and the skin, which gradually becomes parched and brittle, at last splits opposite to the upper part of the thorax. Through this aperture the insect, now become winged, quickly pushes its way, and being thus extricated from confinement, begins to expand its wings, to flutter, and finally to launch into the air with that gracefulness and ease which are peculiar to this majestic tribe. Now who, that saw for the first time the little pendant coffin in which the inanimate insect lay entombed, and was ignorant of the transformations of which we are speaking, would ever predict that in a few weeks, perhaps in a few hours, it would become one of the most elegant and active of winged insects?" To this he adds: "And who that contemplates with the mind of a philosopher this curious transformation, and who knows that two years before the insect mounts into the air, even while it is living in the water, it has the rudiments of wings, can deny that the body of a dead man may at some future period be again invested with vigor and activity, and soar to regions for which some latent organization may peculiarly fit it?" Is this indeed the conclusion which he "that contemplates" the phenomenon "with the mind of a philosopher" should draw? Should not such a mind perceive, that "the body of a dead man" answers in reality to the little pendant coffin" of the insect, not to the winged creature that springs from it? Liken the body itself to the winged creature, and where do you find "the little pen
dant coffin?" The "coffin" of the insect does not answer to the coffin in which man's earthly remains are deposited in the dust, since this never formed, as in the case of the insect, any part of him. But admit that there is indeed a spiritual organization." a spiritual body, "latent" within the body of matter, and which is "extricated from confinement" in it at death, when it "soars to the regions for which a spiritual organization peculiarly fits it;" and you have, in all its parts, the analogy complete. Such analogies then in no degree tend to prove that the resurrection of the body is not impossible: they only tend to prove that man may have, within his material body, a "latent organization," which, if "latent," that is, undiscoverable to the senses, must be a spiritual one, which may emerge from the "coffin" it once animated, and live when this lies mouldering in the dust.
But the argument most relied on for proving the possibility of the resurrection of the body, is, that it could not require a greater exertion of Omnipotence to restore life to the dead bodies of all mankind, than it required to create them at first; wherefore, it is asked, As God did the one, why should not he do the other? To this it may be answered, That whether, or not, the raising again of all dead bodies to life require a greater exertion of Omnipotence than their original creation, of this we are certain, that the one work is within, and according to, the laws of nature, or the laws of order, which every thing demonstrates that God has laid down for the conduct of his own operations; whereas the other is without, and entirely contrary to, those laws. We know that all the divine works proceed from an imperceptible beginning to their fulness and maturity, by successive steps, through the most beautiful progression, regulated by a most certain and most admirable order; and that this progression and order are particularly conspicuous in the formation of the human body. We know that, for the formation of a human body, a crude mass of the materials furnished by the lower parts of nature is not at once brought together and then suddenly informed with the human soul, as Prometheus is feigned to have modelled into human shape a mass of clay, and then to have quickened it with fire brought down from heaven; but that the soul, or the rudiments of the soul or spiritual form, being from the beginning present, and being, doubtless, the immediate agent in procuring for itself a body, the latter commences from the most delicate and hightv refined materials which nature can furnish, which are arranged in an organized form from the beginning. We know that the rudiments of the brain are produced first, that being the primary organ in and by which the soul descends into the body;
then the rudiments of the heart; and that from these two then proceeds the whole system of the nerves and of the arteries and veins, by the medium of which the other viscera of the body are successively formed, and afterwards are enclosed within the muscular and bony frame constituting the cavities of the cranium, the thorax, and the abdomen; whilst the limbs and exterior members are also gradually formed, and finally the whole is enclosed in the integument of the skin. We know, also, what wonderful care is exercised by the Creator for the safety of the embryo-man; all these wonderful works taking place, not in a cold sepulchre of uncongenial earth, but within the living body of its parent: and, what perhaps is still more striking, and makes a more impassable difference between the mode of the formation of the human body at first and that of its expected resurrection from the grave, we know that not a single atom of the materials from which the soul forms to itself a body, is taken in its crude state from inanimate nature, or is transferred into the human body in the same state as when it previously existed in the inanimate parts of nature, but that every particle is first elaborated into a proper state for the purpose, by the most wonderful of all chemical agents, a previously living human body, and is not presented to the infant soul to be by it adopted into the composition of its body, till it has been refined to the proper degree by that living alembic, the body of its parent. And when, by these truly wonderful means, throughout the whole of which shines so conspicuous the infinite Wisdom of the Creator as well as his infinite Power, the incipient human body is brought to such a degree of maturity as to be able to exist in a state of separation from its mother, its further growth, and the continued preservation of its existence, are still provided for in a similar manner. No addition is ever made to its substance by the accession of matter taken immediately and crudely from outward nature; but the substances of nature capable of contributing to this purpose, are elaborated into the proper state by the wonderful chemistry exercised upon them by the digestive organs and minute absorbents: thus, in no instance whatever, is a single particle of dead matter united to a living body, without having its intractability and incapacity for the reception of animal life first. overcome by the action upon it of a living digester, by that amazing chemistry which no art can imitate, and which nature herself cannot exercise in any other laboratory than that of a living body. It is thus that the bodies of the whole mass of mankind, except the first created pair, have been formed and nourished; and who can suppose, that, in regard even to these, the order was essentially different? Can any seriously be
lieve that Adam was, in fact, a mere Promethean image, mass of potter's clay, afterwards endued, with a soul? can doubt that the creative energy, when, having completed the world through all its lower kingdoms, it bade nature teem with man, produced, either by the medium of the vegetable kingdom or otherwise, some tender envelope, some artificial matrix, — within which the human form might first begin to expand, and which might perform for it the functions of the maternal parent? Who can doubt, that however the first rudimental form of the first man was produced, he was nourished to his full stature, as his descendants have been ever since,by aliments incorporated, by the same process, into his frame?
Now is it any derogation from the Omnipotence of the Adorable Creator to say, that matter cannot be compacted into a human body by any other process, than that which we see the Creator himself has provided, and always employs, for the purpose? Are not the laws by which all the changes of matter are governed, the laws of the Creator himself? When he created matter, did he not also assign to it its proper nature? May we not then be certain, that in all his operations upon matter, — in all the use which he makes of it in taking from it the materials for the higher species of his omnipotent works, he will regard the nature which he himself has given to matter, and follow the laws which he himself has appointed for the transmutation of dead matter into living and human substance? Is it possible to change that nature and to reverse those laws, without abolishing matter, as actually existing, altogether, and producing a new species of matter, possessing a quite different nature, and subject to quite different laws? May we not then affirm decidedly, that the resurrection of the body, composed as the body is of the matter actually now existing, and with the general laws for the transmutation of which into living substance we are in some measure acquainted, is an absolute impossibility? Really, it appears, that there is no conclusion within the powers of reason to arrive at more certain than this. And thus, to affirm that the resurrection of the body is impossible, no more includes a negation of the Divine Omnipotence, than to affirm that it is impossible for the same thing to be and not to be at the same time. On the other hand, they who maintain such resurrection to be possible, in reality affirm it to be possible for the same thing to be and not to be at the same time for we see that matter must both continue to be matter, and cease to be matter, to admit of the resurrection of. the material body. God is omnipotent, because, whatever he sees fit to be done, he can, by his Infinite Wisdom, contrive the means proper for doing it. In creation, we are enabled to