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than that of any bad habit, any folly, any way of wasting life? Seriousness! we must all yield to it in some shape, for it is the shadow of the spirit cast upon this earthly life; it is the token of a heart that the earth cannot satisfy, of a desire that existence here does not fill.
Let us admit seriousness, then, into our Plan of Life. And let it find us willing, yes, glad to hear what it will counsel us. Its tones are solemn: we need them. Its words are warnings: they will do us good. Their echoes vibrate through the days of the year that has closed; their
l lessons address us as we enter upon the year that has begun. " Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind : be sober, and hope to the end,” for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
RESURRECTION OF THE NATURAL BODY.
The student of the New Testament must be aware that the notion of the resurrection of dead bodies is nowhere recognized nor implied. The resurrection of the dead is enounced by Christ, and philosophically expounded by St. Paul. The resurrection of the flesh not only is not asserted, but virtually denied. We shall rise in “spiritual bodies," since “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” It becomes a very interesting inquiry, Whence originated this dogma of a resurrection of dead bodies ? how came it in the Christian Church ? and why is it tenaciously retained ?
At the time of Christ's appearing there were three principal sects among the Jews, - the Pharisees, the Essenes, and the Sadducees. The first believed in the resurrection of the material body; the second believed in the immortality of the soul, and future rewards and punishments, but rejected with horror the Pharisaic notion of the resurrection; the third believed in no future state at all, denying the existence both of spirits and angels. That the Pharisees derived their doctrine from their own Scriptures it would be vain to assert, for it is nowhere to be found in them. The only passage which has any appearance of lending it support is Job xix. 25 – 27, and this is by a false rendering, as any one may see by reference to Dr. Noyes's exceedingly lucid translation. It was not a doctrine of the early Hebrews, and was not found among the Jews until after the Babylonish captivity. It appears abundantly in the Talmud, the Jewish commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures, but not in the Scriptures themselves.
It is interesting to know that the doctrine in all its grossness was held by a sect of the Chaldæans at the time of the Jewish captivity. The Magians or Fire-worshippers had existed for a long time before, and their religion was reformed by Zoroaster, probably not long previous to the reign of Cyrus. Their creed was, that there are two principles, one of Light and one of Darkness, both contending for the supremacy of this world. The good at death go away to the abodes of Light; the bad are dragged down into Darkness; but the day will come when the bodies of all men will be raised, and reconstructed from the dust, and purified for the souls which had been separated from them to reenter and dwell in on the renovated Earth.* They believed the heavenly bodies to be animated with souls, and worshipped the sun under the symbol of fire, which was ever kept burning upon their altars.
After the restoration from the captivity this doctrine of the resurrection of dead bodies appears among the Jews, and it was an essential article in the creed of the Pharisees. They did not hold it, however, precisely as the Magians held it. The Magians believed that all souls, good and bad, would find their lost bodies, and live happily upon the Earth. The Pharisees believed that all souls would be raised out of Hades to a judgment upon the Earth, but only the righteous would find their bodies again and live happily in a terrestrial Paradise ; the wicked would be thrust down again without their bodies, and be shut up in Gehenna, the lowest region of Hades, to remain there forever.*
* Prideaux's Connexion, Vol. I. p. 196. The Zend-Avesta, by Anquetil du Perron, as quoted by Dr. Bailey, Vol. II. p. 412. Either Dr. Prideaux's authorities misled him, or the Zend-Avesta of Perron does not give the genuine theory of Zoroaster. According to the former authority, he believed in the everlasting punishment of the wicked; according to the latter, in their ultimate purification and happiness. It is agreed, however, that he taught the resurrection of the natural body.
Such was the state of opinion when the Christian Church was formed, partly from Jewish converts, believers already in the resurrection of the natural body. The dogma, however, does not appear in the primitive Christian Church. The Apostolic fathers, that is, the Christian fathers who lived in the age immediately succeeding that of the Apostles themselves, - Barnabas, Clement, and Ignatius particularly, - speak of the resurrection, but only as Christ and his Apostles had done. They say nothing of the resurrection of dead bodies. The truth is, as we suppose, it had not been made a matter of thought and investigation, and no theories had been formed about it. The Jewish converts would naturally put a Jewish interpretation upon the words; the others would not philosophize upon the subject at all, while the glory of the ascended Christ was yet open to their vision and absorbed them into it. It was no time to build theories while the heart was warm, and immortality was not a matter of speculation, but of sight. Towards the close of the second century, however, a change becomes apparent, and we hear for the first time under Christianity of “the resurrection of the flesh.” The old Jewish dogma is reproduced with this addition, that not the righteous only, but also the wicked, will be clothed in their lost bodies at the judgment day, the former to dwell in Paradise, the latter to burn, body as well as soul, in everlasting fire. How this change was brought about, and why the Jewish dogma was reproduced in all its grossness, is obvious enough. A controversy, and a very sharp one, arose on this very point between the Gnostics and the Apologists for the Christian faith, in the process of which theories must be formed, sides must be taken, and opinions distinctly defined. The Gnostics were the earliest corrupters of Christianity. They were the Hegelians of the early Church, accepting all its creeds and symbols, but emptying them of their native meaning, and filling them out again with their own wild and dreamy speculations. One of their notions was the essential evil of matter, and hence they poured contempt upon the natural body. The flesh is the prison of the soul, and keeps it in darkness and corruption. They denied, not merely the resurrection of Christ, but his incarnation. The real Christ was never clothed in flesh; it was only an appearance. These are the heretics to whom St. John is supposed to refer in his anathema against those who confess not “ that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” * They travestied the whole doctrine of the resurrection as the Church held it, and resolved the language of Christ and Paul into a figure of speech. It only meant a moral resurrection, a rise out of sin into holiness and virtue. Taking up the Jewish dogma as they found it latent in the minds of Christians, they raked it with the keen and subtile logic which they were masters of, and whenever they fell in with a Christian believer, especially among the simple and unlearned, they were pretty sure to stagger him at this weak and vulnerable point.
* Josephus, Wars, II. 10. 14.
Against these wily antagonists, Tertullian undertook the defence of the Christian faith. He was a native of Carthage, born not far from A. D. 150, and flourished, therefore, about the close of the second century. He was a convert from heathenism. His mind was coarse, rugged, full of African fire, and dwelt doggedly in the literal sense. He wrote specially against the Gnostics. His treatise, De Resurrectione Carnis, takes the extreme Jewish position, and maintains, in its utmost literalism, the resurrection of the flesh. Sometimes his argument rises into strength and grandeur. “Look now," says he, " at the examples of the Divine power. Day dies into night, and on all sides is buried in darkness. The glory of the world is dishonored; everything that exists is covered with blackness; all things are rendered mean, silent, and torpid; there is a general mourning, a cessation of all business. Thus the lost light is mourned for. And yet again it revives with its own ornament and dowry with the sun, the same as before, whole and entire ; slaying its own death, night; bursting its sepulchre, the darkness; coming forth the heir to itself, until night revives with its own accompaniments. The rays of the stars are rekindled which the morning glow had extinguished. The absent constellations are brought back, which the destruction of time had taken away. The mirrors of the moon are re-adorned, which the monthly number had worn away. The winters and summers revolve, and springs and autumns, with their own powers, habits, and fruits. Earth receives instructions from heaven to clothe the trees, after they have been stripped; to color the flowers afresh ; again to bring forth the herbage; to exhibit the same seeds that had been taken away, and not to exhibit them before they are taken away. Wonderful procedure ! from a defrauder to become a preserver; that she may restore, she takes away; that she may guard, she destroys ; that she may retain entire, she injures; that she may increase, she consumes. Nothing perishes but for salvation. Therefore this whole revolving order of things is an attestation to the resurrection of the dead. God wrote it in his works before he wrote it in his word.” *
* 1 John iv. 3.