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the general Belief, though right in its Foundation, yet in almost all the Particulars of it was rendered ridiculous and absurd. Hence it is, that among the Writers of Antiquity, we sometimes find wise Men ridiculing the Follies and Superstitions of the People, and bad Men always arguing from these Follies against the very
Notion itself, and calling in question the Reality of
future State. Under these Circumstances of the World, our blessed Lord appeared to bring to Light Life and Immortality through the Gospel. Let us then consider how this fundamental Article of Religion now stands upon
the Foot of the Gospel Revelation.
As to the principal Point, there is no Difference between the Hopes conveyed to us in the Gospel, and the Expectation built upon natural Reason: For, as the wifest Men thought there must be, so the Gospel assures us there will be, a Day in which God will judge the World in Righteousness, and render to every Man according to his Works. Thus far then the Doctrine of the Gospel and the Dictates of natural Reason must stand or fall together. If this Doctrine has had a larger and more extensive Influence through the Authority of the Gospel, than it could have
had by the mere Force of speculative Reasoning, the World has received an Advantage by the Encouragement given to Virtue, and the Restraint laid upon Vice by these Means, which ought ever to be acknowledged with Thankfulness.
But the Gospel has added to this Doctrine, and communicated to us the Knowledge of some Circumstances, which were not disco verable but by the Means of Revelation ; and they are principally these : That there shall be a Resurrection of the Body; That Christ shall be Judge of the World; That the Rea wards and Punishments in another Life shall be in Proportion to our Behaviour in this.
I shall speak briefly to these Particulars, and Thew for what Purpose they were reyealed.
First, The Resurrection of the Body was revealed to give all Men a plain and a senfible Notion of their being subject to a future Judgment. Death is the Destruction of the Man; and sure we are that the lifeless Body is no Man; and whatever Notions some
may have of the Soul in its State of separate Existence, yet a mere Spirit is not a Man; for Man is made of Soul and Body: And therefore to bring the Man into Judgment to Сс 2
answer for his Deeds, the Soul and the Body must be brought together again. This Doctrine, established upon the Authority of the Gospel, does not remove all Prejudices of the Case, when examined by the short and scanty Notions we have of the Powers of Nature but it effectually removes all Difficulties that affect this Belief, considered with respect to Religion and Morality. For the single Point in which Religion is concerned, is to know whether Men shall be accountable hereafter for their Actions here. Reason tells us they ought to be so : But a great Difficulty arises from the Diffolution of the Man by Death; a Difficulty followed by endless Speculations upon the Nature of the Soul, of its separate Existence, of its Guilt in this separate State with respect to Crimes committed in another, and in conjunction with the Body, and by other Difficulties of the like kind. But take in the Declaration of the Gospel, that Soul and Body shall be as certainly united at the Resurrection as they were divided by Death, and
every Man be himself again; and there is no more Difficulty in conceiving that Men
may be judged for their Iniquities hereafter, than there is in conceiving that they may be judged here, when they offend against the Laws of the Country.
But still there are Prejudices remaining : To some it is incredible that the Dead should be raised. To these we answer, upon the Foot of the Gospel Evidence, That the Dead have been raised; upon the Foot of Reason, That it is altogether as credible, that God should be able to raise the Dead to Life a second Time, as that he was able to give them Life at first. There is no Difference in the Cases; they are Acts of one and the very
same Power. But we are farther asked, What Body shall be raised, since no Man has exactly the same Body two Days together ? New Parts are perpetually added by Nutrition, old ones carried off by Perspiration : So that in the Compass of a few Years an human Body may be almost totally altered, and be no more the same than a Ship which has been so often repaired, that no Part of the original Materials is left. But this Objection, as plausible as it may seem, has nothing to do in the
present Case; for Religion is concerned only to preserve the Identity or Sameness of the Person, as the Object of future Judgment; and has nothing to do with that kind of Identity against which the Objection can be supposed
to have any Force. Were the Case otherwise, the Difficulty would be really as great in human Judgments in this Life, as in the divine Judgment hereafter. Suppose a Man should commit Murder when he was twenty, and not be discovered till he was fixty, and then brought to Trial ; would common Sense admit him to plead that he was not the fame Person who committed the Fact; and to alledge, in Proof of it, the Alterations in his Body for the last forty Years ? Suppofe then that, instead of being discovered at fixty, he should die at fixty; and should rise either with the Body he had at fixty, or twenty, or in any
intermediate Time, would not the Case be just the same with respect to the future Judgment? Evidently it would be the fame: Which shews that the Article of the Resurrection, as far as it is a Support of Religion, and of a future Judgment, stands quite clear of this Difficulty.
But the Prejudices which affect Men most, when they consider this Article of the Resurrection, arise from the weakest of all Imaginations, that they can judge from the settled Laws and Course of Nature, what is or is not possible to the Power of God. It is very true,