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Articles XI. XII. Part II. The Resurrection
of the Body, and the Life Everlasting.
UNDER the two last Articles of the Creed, as I have already observed to you, are comprehended four points of doctrine:
I. That the souls of all men continue after death.
II. That their bodies shall, at the last day, be raised up, and re-united to them.
III. That both souls and bodies of good persons shall enjoy everlasting happiness.
IV. That those of the wicked shall undergo everlasting punishment.
The first of these, being the foundation of the rest; I chose to enlarge on the proof and explanation of it. Now I proceed to show,
II. That the bodies of all men shall be raised up again, and re-united to their souls. This, reason alone cannot prove; and, accordingly, the Heathens were ignorant of it; but it carries with it no contradiction to reason in the least. For God is infinite both in power and knowledge; and it is unquestionably as possible to bring together and enliven the scattered parts of our body again, as it was to make them out of nothing, and give them life at first. And, therefore, since we must acknowledge the original formation of our bodies to have been of God, we have abundant cause to be assured that he can, after death, form them anew, whenever he pleases. And that this will be done, was probably implied in that general promise, made to our first parents, that “ the seed of the woman,
“ (our blessed Lord) should bruise the serpent's “ head ;5 destroy his power; and, consequently, take away the curse under which he had brought mankind. For as part of that curse consists in the death of the body, it cannot be completely taken away, but by the resurrection of the body. In aftertimes, Abraham, we find, had so strong a belief of the possibility of this Article, that he was willing, on the divine command, to sacrifice his
reasoning, (as the Epistle to the Hebrews “ teaches us) that God was able to raise him up
even from the dead."6 And, indeed, he could not be induced to do this by any other reasoning. God had promised him, that by his son Isaac, he should have a numerous posterity: and this promise he firmly believed. Now he must know, it could never be fulfilled, if Isaac was to be sacrificed, but by his rising again ; and, therefore, he must be persuaded, that he would rise again for that purpose. On proceeding somewhat further in the sacred history, we find Job expressing himself on this head, if we at all understand his words, in
very strong terms: “I know that my Redeemer “ liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day
upon the earth. And though, after my skin, “this body be destroyed, yet in my flesh shall I “ see God." Again, when Elijah was taken up alive into heaven, this must, surely, give an expectation, that the body, as well as the soul, was to partake of future happiness. And when the several persons, mentioned in the Old Testament, were raised up to life in this world, it could not but increase the probability of a general resurrection in the next. Then, in the book of Daniel, we have an express declaration, that a time should come, when they who slept in the dust of the
(5) Gen. iii. 15.
(6) Heb. xi. 19. (7) So, I think the original should be translated. (8) Job zix. 26.
“ earth should awake: some to everlasting life, " and some to shame, and everlasting contempt."9 And, indeed, when those, whom we commonly call the three children, in the former part of the book, tell the king, that even though it were not the pleasure of God to deliver them from the fiery furnace, " yet would they not serve his God;"1 on what other principle could they so rationally, or did they so probably say this, as on that which the brethren in the book of Maccabees explicitly profess? There, one of them, stretching forth his hands to the torment, saith, “ These i had from “heaven : and for his laws I despise them; and “ from him I hope to receive them again.” Another, “it is good, being put to death by men, to “ look for hope from God, to be raised up again “ by him.” And lastly, the mother declares to her children: “I neither gave you birth, nor life;
nor was it I that formed your members: but, “ doubtless, the Creator of the world, who formed “ the generation of man, and found out the be“ginning of all things, will also, of his mercy, give you
breath and life again ; as you now regard " not yourselves for his laws' sake."2 In the latter times, indeed, of the Jewish Church, not a few denied this doctrine: but much the greater num. ber held it; “ allowing (as St. Paul acquainted
Felix) that there should be a resurrection, both “ of thé just and unjust.^3
Yet still, the full confirmation of it was reserved for our Saviour to give : who, having in his-lifetime, raised
three several persons, as you may read at large in the Evangelists, raised up himself from the dead, in the last place, to afford us the strongest demonstration possible, that he both can and will raise us all at the day of judgment. (9) Dani. xii. 2. (1) Dan. iii. 17, 18. (2) 2 Mac. vii. 10.23.
(3) Acts xxiv. 15.
This great event will, doubtless, when it comes to pass, exhibit to the whole universe, an astonishing evidence of the power and truth of God: who may easily have many reasons for restoring our bodies, which we apprehend not; besides those, which, in some measure, we do apprehend, that the soul of man being originally, and in the state of innocence, united to a body, is, probably, capable of completer perception and action, and, consequently, of higher degrees of reward or punishment, in that state, than a separate one; or at least will be so, with such a body, as in the next life shall be allotted to it; and likewise, that our belief of enjoying happiness, or suffering misery, in both parts of our frame hereafter, must naturally incline us to preserve the purity of both here; abstaining, or "cleansing ourselves from all filthi
ness of flesh and spirit, and perfecting holiness “ in the fear of God."8
The truth and reasonableness of the doctrine being thus established, it ought to be no objection, that several particulars relating to it, exceed our comprehension. How the dead are raised, it is sufficient that God knows; and by no means wonderful that we do not: for we scarce know how any one part of the course of nature is carried on. And as to the inquiry that follows this in St. Paul, “With what bodies do they come ?" taught, they shall be so far the same bodies, that every one shall have properly his own, and be truly the same person he was before: but so far different, that those of good persons will be subject to none of the sufferings--none of the infirmities-none of the necessities of this life. For to use the same Apostle's words, “What is sown in
corruption, shall be raised in incorruption : what “is sown in dishonour, shall be raised in glory:
(8) 2 Cor, vii. 1.
(9) 1 Cor. xv. 35
“ what is sown a natural body, shall be raised a
spiritual body." But the particular nature of spiritual bodies, or the distinction that shall be made in them, between the more eminent in goodness, and their inferiors, as one star differeth “ from another star in glory;"? these things we are not qualified, in our present state, to unders stand. And it is some degree of weakness, even to ask questions about them ; but would be much greater to attempt giving answers. I shall, therefore, only add, that such of the good as "are
(found) alive at the coming of the Lord,3 shall “ not sleep,” or die, and, therefore, cannot rise again ; but “shall be changed"4 into the same likeness with those who do; as the Scripture hath plainly taught us. But what the appearance and condition of the bodies of wicked persons will be at the resurrection, it hath not, I think, afforded us the least knowledge, further than is implied in the description of their punishment, of which I shall treat before I conclude: and let us be so wise as to dread the terrors that are thus concealed from us.
Concerning the general judgment, which is to come immediately after the resurrection, I have spoken under the Article of the Creed which relates to it; and, therefore, proceed now to the consequences of that judgment, by showing you,
III. That both the souls and bodies of the pious and virtuous will enjoy “everlasting life ; that is, in their case, happiness. For a happy life being the only one that is a blessing; life, in Scripture, very commonly signifies felicity; and death, misery
Now, that good persons will, sooner or later, be recompensed by a good God, is an undoubted
(1) 1 Cor. xv. 42, 43, 44. (2) Ibid 41.
(4) 1 Cor. xv. 51.
(3) 1 Thess, iv. 15.