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ON THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY.
In that very ancient profession of faith which our church has interwoven with her liturgy, and which is commonly called the Apostles' creed, we declare of ourselves that we believe in "the resurrection of the body." This particular item being introduced into a formulary so very brief and condensed as the one in question, shows clearly that the early church laid great stress upon the point. In this circumstance, too, there appears a close conformity with Holy Scripture, for the resurrection from the dead is therein constantly brought forward and alluded to as one of the most peculiar doctrines connected with the Gospel. Many portions of the Bible might be brought forward in evidence of this; but there is one in particular which must suggest itself to the recollections of every reader, that is, the fifteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians; the Apostle therein going largely into the point, meeting objections, explaining away difficulties, illustrating it by analogies, and finally having established it as an unanswerably demonstrated truth, calling upon his fellow-saints to take to themselves the consolations which such a doctrine is so well calculated to administer. 66 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."
The religion of Jesus Christ, when in active operation in the soul of man, may with propriety be termed, the triumph of faith over sense. It brings things unseen, to have such weight and influence, that those visible matters which so much attract the attention of unconverted men, no longer affect their hopes or fears as once they did. But this is no where perhaps more forcibly manifested than in the matter of the resurrection. No victory can possibly to the human eye appear more perfect than that of the grave. When death lays his withering touch upon a child of Adam, the result is not a mere depriving of life, it is not a mere paralyzing of the organic functions, and a changing of the former appearances of activity into a state of repose and quietude. This is but the beginning of his work. An awful one certainly. O how solemn is the silence which hangs around the couch of the recently departed! Even the movements which were excited by the resistance of the earthly frame to the assaults of the disease which has subdued it, even these have ceased, and all has settled into stillness. Breathe now into that ear the words of flattery, you bring no flush upon the cheek; speak the words of reproach and contumely, there is no contraction of the brows with him you have insulted. Bring the children he doated on, the wife he adored, and slay them piecemeal before those eyes, 'tis all one, the dreadful monotony of that repose cannot be broken.
This, however, as we said, is but the beginning. Observe the progress of the work. Not merely the life of the body departs, but even the fashion of it must depart too. Rottenness and corruption supervene, and with their loathsome touch obliterate the semblance of humanity. We place the body in the grave, for we are fain to bury our dead out of our sight-we could not stand and look at the foul process which mars the form we loved. But the grave shelters not from death. There he pursues his work, until the very frame itself has passed as it were out of existence. Earth and air, and fire and water, demand again their temporary loanand amidst this partition of the elements of what was once a body, all vanishes as it were, until we say of the dead in the highest, truest sense of the words-" He is gone."
It is hardly, therefore, to be wondered at, that the heart should find itself distrustful upon this point of the resurrection Circumstances are eminently calculated to foster scepticism here: and could there be a movement of unbelief which allowed a plea in mitigation, it might be that enquiry of frail man looking down into the dust of the sepulchre and saying, "How are the dead raised, or with what body do they come ?" The fact is not a little remarkable here concerning the Egyptians, who were the tutors of the heathen world, that though holding the notion of the soul's immortality, they did not attain to that of the resurrection of the body. The great care exhibited by that people in embalming the bodies of those who died, arose from an idea that the soul would again take up its former residence, but that if the fleshly tenement were allowed to fall in ruin, its restoration then would be impossible, and the naked spirit would continue for ever houseless. And the pains taken by other nations too in the preservation of their dead, originated probably from similar opinions. In short, if the indestructability of the spirit has ever been among the inductions of a sound philosophy, so the creed of nature has as generally inculcated this dogma," the dead rise not."
When, however, a thing becomes part and parcel of revelation, the case is then quite altered. "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." God hath said this, and man may not question it. As for that appeal from scripture to reason, which is so triumphantly made here by infidels, it is at least as silly as it is wicked, and that is saying much. For once grant that God is engaged for the work, and where is the superior difficulty in the resurrection of man to that in the creation of man. Surely to him who first made man out of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, so that man became a living soul, it could be no difficulty to re-unite the particles which constituted our mortal frame, though they were scattered over the face of the earth by all the winds of heaven. In all the beggarly elements of this world's wisdom, surely there is nothing poorer than the philosophy of infidelity. Looking then, we say, at the resurrection of the body as a thing of indubitable certainty, it is, however, profitable to remark
upon the manner of the Omnipotent in setting before us this precious truth, even by bringing up again Christ's body from the grave. "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand in the latter day upon the earth, and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." This confession of Job's faith, as to the resurrection of the body, is full indeed and explicit, but it does not come home to the soul with the same cogency as do the words of St. Paul in the fifteenth chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians-" But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept." The patriarch rejoiced in the holy anticipations of what was yet to be done for the church, we may triumph in holy reminiscences of what has been achieved. "The Lord is risen indeed," we may say one to another, as did the disciples of old; and in that certainty receive a demonstration of our own final ransom from the grave; He is become "the first fruits of them that slept." The first fruits which were offered unto God of the harvest under the Levitical law, might be looked upon in two ways-the handful of ears presented, evidenced, in the first instance, that the corn from which they sprung, and which had been cast into the ground, had not perished. 2dly, it ensured the safety of the entire crop of which it formed a part. So Christ's rising with his body showed at once his own victory over death, and gave assurance that they which should hereafter sleep in him, should, in like manner, rise with him. The clods of the valley covered for a time the seed which the husbandman cast into the ground, but the seed survived; we know this, for we have plucked of the ears of wheat. The same clods may, for a time, shut from our view the bodies of the saints, but they shall rise again too; we know this, for Christ is risen from "the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept." It is not a matter of theory-it is a matter of fact. The resurrection of Jesus is God's argument for our souls' comfort. This, perhaps, among others, might have furnished a reason why the wondrous work of atonement was performed on earth. For aught we can tell, that mysterious enactment might have been perfected in some other scene than this of earth, and have been made, through faith, when announced to us, just as efficacious to the saving of sinners. And we who believe might have gone into our graves as securely indeed, but not so cheerfully. O! there is a world of comfort in the reflection, that poor sinners like ourselves, once in bondage to the fear of death, were enabled to see, and to testify to us that they did see, a risen Christ; that there were apostles who could record that to them (we use the words of scripture,) "He showed himself alive after his passion, by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God."
The subjects just considered afford two special lessons: first, we may take from hence a lesson of humiliation. This world in which we live has, at the first glance to an observer's eye, a fair and wellseeming appearance. 'Tis, however, but a show of beauty, which will not bear examining. Who can be really happy in it? No
one who has a heart. Nay, rather, just in proportion as are the ardency of the feelings, so are the sure coming certainties of suffering. For death is among us. The plants we rear, the animals we domesticate, carry within them the germs of decay; and if we now rejoice in their beauty, we know it is at this expense, that we must sadden over their withering. But for them, that were a thing of nothing; if the ravages of the spoiler were confined to these, we could still rejoice; but it is among our own species, among those who think with us and feel with us, and are of one flesh, yea, and of one heart with us; 'tis here that we read, and sicken as we read it," All flesh is as grass." What avails it that there may be heard in our streets, the triumphant songs of glory and of greatness, that the jubilant shout of the gay rings often in the ear, and the voice of gladness is abroad. We must listen also to the voice of lamentation and of mourning; we must hear the wild cry of the widow and of the orphan, and the thick, stifled sobbings of the desolate and the heart broken, when the light of their eyes is gone. O, when we see the long train of the funeral pomp winding its slow way down from the palaces of our great ones, when the sable hatchment is hung out over the portals of the princes of earth, it is a lesson indeed, but still it shocks not, as do some other sights. We say, as it were, there was pride, perhaps, and so it is meet there should be pain; there was, perhaps, the haughty look and the uplifted head, and the forgetfulness of Him, who giveth richly all things to enjoy; and so if now there be a bringing down into the dust, there is a sort of solemn retribution in the dispensation. But go and stand before the humblest cottage, into which contentment ever retired from the jar of this world, and rest you there awhile, and you shall see death lift the latch and enter in, and make that little nest of quiet joys a house of mourning. Yes, it is when we see the peaceable, and the lowlyminded, and the benevolent, smitten with that common plague stroke; it is when we see those who would not have hurt a worm wantonly, themselves pierced through the very heart's core; it is when we see the simple bier of the quiet and the amiable going down in solitary wretchedness to the narrow house-then it is we say, why is this? and then it is that God says, as it were, man came death." All the pain, the agony, the despair which desolate this world, sin has brought into it; and man himself it was who brought in sin. Let us then be humbled. Low as the bodies of those we love must lie, let our souls be lower still. Let us measure the grievousness of the transgression by the terrors of the punishment, and fetch home this profound and holy argument to our very hearts-if death be so tremendous, what must sin be. We know nothing more difficult, in the way of human attainment, than the arriving at anything like adequate perceptions of our human iniquity. Here, however, there is a melancholy help afforded. If it be hard to feel all that should be felt under the conviction that we live in a world which lieth in wickedness, let us endeavour to scan something of it, from considering how we feel when this truth
is forced upon us, that we live in a world of death. Let us turn our sorrows into sermons, and make of every epitaph that meets our eyes, a homily upon the text, "the wages of sin is death.”
There is, however, another lesson to be learnt from what we have been considering a lesson of consolation. There is a resurrection and a glorious one for those who die in Jesus. The grave is but a steward who must give account for every particle of that poor dust which now moulders in it. Let us then acquaint ourselves with that gospel which thus is life to the dead-let us bring all we love to know it too; and then let us lay them down, or let them lay us down, calmly, sweetly, into the gentle lap of earth. O how lovely to the soul is the thought of that sure coming day, when the doors of heaven shall be opened to shed forth summer over the place of graves, when all the risen saints shall meet around the throne in that blessed place where there shall be no more divorcement of soul and body, no more separation of heart from heart, but the whole family shall dwell together in everlasting bliss; and while they wonder at the fulness of their joys, refresh themselves not less with the consideration of their permanency. Yes, this is the rare combination which shall mark out the final dwelling places of the saints-ETERNAL in THE HEAVENS.
ERSKINE ON JUSTIFICATION.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE CHRISTIAN EXAMINER.
SIR-An attempt to press an unscriptural theory, against the plain sense of Scripture, is like trying to force a key through the wards of a lock for which the key was not made. Resistance will be encountered, and the employment of force must infallibly end in the derangement of the machine. Mr. Erskine, in order to make his theory of pardon accord with the doctrine of justification, as taught in Scripture, was forced to understand the term justification in an unusual sense, that is, as denoting not properly the removal of guilt, but a sense of its removal-a meaning of the word, which, by identifying personal acceptance with a consciousness of the privilege, would bring into question the faith of thousands, who afford solid evidence of their being believers.
I shall proceed, in this letter, to try Mr. Erskine's scheme, with reference to another point, from which its unscriptural character may be made to appear, I beg leave to observe, that when I call in question Mr. Erskine's views on this subject, I have no idea of expressing a doubt as to his own faith; nor would I intimate that I do not consider him, both in a religious and intellectual point of view, every way my superior. Still, I am persuaded he is, on this subject, in error. "The distinction," says Mr. Erskine, "which I have remarked between the judicial penalty attached to sin, and the spiritual disease produced in the mind by sin, on the one hand,