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An Inquiry About Resurrection: Dear Sir:
I look with great interest on the attitude you have taken in reference to what you consider wrong views of future punishment. Will you have the goodness in an article in your next number to state your views of resurrection If I am not mistaken, "the resurrection of the body," "the resurrection of the flesh " are not biblical expressions It has been called the foolishness of begging minds I would like to hear your views on resurrection—the how and the when.
If our correspondent will refer to the last January number, she will find there an article on the "Time of Resurrection." Some views upon this point are also thrown out in the article in this number on 'The Coming of the Lord." "The resurrection of the body" is not precisely a Biblical expression. It is however taught (1 Cor. xv. 35-49) that the dead, when raised, are invested with a body. This indeed lies in the very idea of resurrection. Elsewhere it is said that our bodies or the present fashion of our manhood, is to be changed and fashioned into the likeness of the Lord's glorified body (Phil. III. 31). It would be presumptious in anyone to attempt to describe how this change will be wrought. We know it can and will be effected by that working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself." When we observe what wonderful changes are all the time being wrought in the realms of life around us, it is absurd to say that such a change in the form of our manhood is impossible. It is true all the changes we can observe take place within the limits of this natural order. But there is an invisible side to this present system in which the real forces of nature reside, and we know in fact but little of their secret potencies. Moreover man, in the possession of a spiritual nature, is lifted so much above the lower orders of creation, that such a change in him ought not to appear more wonderful than that an egg should be changed into a bird, or a grubworm into a butterfly. A foretaste of the possibilities of change of which the human body is capable was given on the Mount of Transfiguration, when the face of Jesus did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light. But it was not until after the death or dissolution of His earthy taber nacle, that the perfect heavenly manhood appeared.
In the first article above referred to, we suggest that there may be progressive stages in resurrection life. The believer is represented as now risen and possessed of life eternal. It is promised that he shall not lose his "soul" in that dissolution of his being which we call death. His spirit is not stripped of this finer vestment, and is not cast out naked. This does not preclude the idea of a final change and a more complete embodiment at the coming of the Lord to make all things new. But this view that resurrection may be in part anticipated, enables us to account for the appearance of Moses and Elijah on the Mount, and for the appearance of saints from their graves after Christ's resurrection. He must be the firstfruits. And we are taught "They thatare Christ's at His coming." But just as His coming is presented in Scripture as having progressive stages until it culminates in a supreme revelation of His glory, so His resurrection power is spoken of as active from the moment of His resurrection, and as even anticipatory of it. Hence Jesus assures believers that they "shall never die," that they are passed from death unto life, and that even in this present hour dead men hear His voice and live. Their life beyond the grave must be from the first a risen life for which a "building of God, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, i9 now prepared" (2 Cor. v. i). We may also well believe that faithful and tried saints, like Paul and the early martyrs, are already far advanced toward the full glory of the resurrection state. The early church believed that the martyrs passed at once into celestial light and blessedness. All this can be held in connection with the other line of Scripture teaching to the efiect that the sleeping saints await the coming »f their Lord. For before this complete redemption of the body their lives are redeemed from destruction. Out homed from the body they are inhomed with the Lord ;Cor. v. 6 Gr.). All this implies anticipations of the final glor,. .ndeed, in this feature of the divine administration, as well as in every other, we need to connect the idea of sudden and cataclysmic change with that of evolution and progress. Both are features of the divine me I hod. The one grows out of the other. To suppose that the whole period of Christ's waiting is a transition period through which His saints are being prepared for the glory of the eternal life is reasonable Our whole understanding of Scripture, and especially of things to come, would be im
proved if we learned to look at its predictions as graphic strokes, grouping together on one plane of canvas events which, though related, are remote from one another in place and time Thus judgment, the coming of the Lord, and the resurrection are presented to us, not only as grand results of the future, but as processes already begun. And from this point of view we see that Scripture can speak of the saints as already raised and to be raised.
With respect to the resurrection of the unjust, it is represented as tarrying until after that of the saints. We believe also that it is dependent also upon theirs, and the result of deliverances, of which, with and under Christ, they are to be the agents. It is important, however, to bear in mind, that the integrity of our main principle, that resurrection is redemptive, remains the same, whatever may be the ultimate truth as to the how and the when.
O God, who hast knit together all who have been baptized in the name of Thy Son Jesus Christ into one mystical body, bless, we beseech thee, the one body of the one Lord, Carry each member of it safely through his appointed trial and discipline. Replenish it with all Heavenly gifts and graces. Heal its dissensions and divisions. Let the power of Thy Spirit be manifest in all its holy offices and ministries; that so taught and guided and governed by Thee, we may all come, in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. So shall we evermore offer unto Thy Holy Name the incense of true praise, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
VOL. IV. FEBRUARY 1888. NO. 2.
Some of our friends have written to inquire about our present position before the Presbytery to which we referred the two-kid question as to the right of a Presbyterian miriister to move for a revision of the standards, and as to tbe legitimacy of the discussion we have raised concerning their statements of the doctrine of future punishment.
Contrary to the impression made by some newspaper reports, no charges have ever been made against us before that body. It was of our own motion that their advice was asked. The matter was referred to a committee, and the answer they recommended was published, in part, in the last July number. The Presbytery adopted that part of their report which relates to the first point of inquiry. No action having yet been taken on their reply to the second point. Our standing, up to this time, in the Presbyterian Chinch remains unimpaired, and if the Pres'tvtery should give an swer that discussion like ours is beyond the limits permitted to a minister of that Church, there would be no compulsion in that action. No one can lie deprived of his standing in the Church in this way without his own consent. If we should see fit to withdraw after such action.it would only be a voluntary yielding to fraternal advice.
But we earnestly hope the decision of this question wil not be forced upon us. In our view it Uoffar more importance to the interests of the Presbyterian Church that we should remain in it, than it is to our own- We have but little more to lose. The position we have taken has required the sacrifice of almost everything that a man counts dear in such a relations. But that Church will lose much more if it stifle honest inquiry and reverent investigation into matters upon which there is confessedly wide difference of opinion among good men, and in which we have all departed, more or less, from the letter of the book. In ways besides the efforts we are making, the Spirit and Providence of God are calling that Church to face manfully the question as to whether she is dealing honestly with the souls of men, and preserving a conscience void of offence before God, in refusing to amend her standards at a point where she is no longer fairly loyal to them, and upon which many of her best friends believe that God is throwing a larger light than was given to the fathers. Anyone who has read the recent letters passing between Mr. Ingersoll and Dr. Field will see to what an immense disadvantage a Church is put, that stands formally for doctrines which she does not manfully declare, and for which she feels compelled continually to apologizeAnd anyone who has read the fourth chapter of St. Paul's epistle to the Ephesians will see further how contrary to the whole New Testament idea it is, that she should so anchor herself to " Standards," however useful in their place, as to forbid her growth toward that unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God which is her true goal, and to which she must attain before the world shall own Him as its Saviour and Lord.