Essential Parley P. Pratt
Foreword by Peter L. Crawley
“The Regeneration and Eternal Duration of Matter”
(from The Millennium, and Other Poems: To Which is Annexed, A Treatise on the Regeneration
and Eternal Duration of Matter [New York: Printed by W. Molineux, 1840])
[p.48]Matter and Spirit are the two great principles of all existence. Every thing animate and inanimate is composed of one or the other, or both of these eternal principles. I say eternal, because the elements are as durable as the quickening power which exists in them. Matter and spirit are of equal duration: both are self-existent,—they never began to exist, and they never can be annihilated. We do not enter upon this boundless subject as a matter of mere speculative philosophy, calculated in its nature merely to charm the imagination—to interest the curious, or to please the learned. So far from this we consider it a subject of deep and thrilling interest to all the human family. A subject equally interesting to Jew, and Christian; Mohammedan and Pagan; the wise and the simple; the learned, and the ignorant—all—all are journeying swiftly through time and are bound to eternity. All are lovers of life and happiness; all are looking forward with inexpressible anxiety to the unexplored regions of futurity.
THE JEW, as he follows his aged parent, his bosom friend, or his tender offspring to the sepulchre of his fathers, while his bosom heaves with anguish, grief and sorrow, is still comforted with sure and certain hope of their being raised from the dead with the whole of Israel’s race, and clothed upon with flesh; and of their being restored again to that land which was given to them and their fathers for an everlasting inheritance: while David takes his seat in the holy city and reigns over the twelve tribes forever and ever.
THE MODERN CHRISTIAN when called upon to endure the pangs of grief and sorrow, in following to the grave his nearest friends, is comforted with the hope of a spiritual existence, in a world far distant from his native earth; and far beyond the bounds of time and space, where spirits mingle in eternal joy and everlasting song; and although the body should rise from the dead, yet they suppose that the whole will become spirit unconnected with matter, and soar away to worlds on high, free from all elements of which their nature was composed in this life; and thus enjoy eternal life and happiness, while matter, Animate and inanimate shall cease to be;
[p.49]And no more place be found for Heaven, Earth, or Sea.—
THE MAHOMMEDAN is equally subject to all the heart-rendering grief and anguish, which others feel at the loss of friends; but comforts himself with the thoughts of one day gaining a paradise of sensual pleasures; where, with all his faithful friends, he expects to bask forever in all the enjoyments of sensuality. He dreams of trees loaded with delicious fruits, and bending their branches invitingly to his appetite;–and of gardens and pleasure grounds, adorned with pleasant walks—with cooling shades and with blooming sweets which perfume the air; and surrounded with fields of spices more delicious than all the productions of Arabia: while his golden palaces and seraglios are thronged with myriads of delightful virgins, more pure and beautiful than the fairest daughters of Circassia. With these he hopes to spend a life of pleasures forevermore.
THE PAGAN too, in turn, when bowed down with grief and sorrow, finds some relief in anticipation of a future existence—some shady forest filled with game—some delightful prairie of blooming flowers—some humble heaven behind the cloud-topped hill, where he hopes to join his wife, his children, his brothers, his fathers; and in their society to spend a peaceful eternity in all the enjoyments of domestic life, while his faithful horse and dog shall bear him company. These are the hopes and anticipations which serve to dry his tears,—calm his heaving bosom, and to his troubled spirit whisper peace. How desirable then is a just and correct knowledge on this all-important subject. Who does not desire to become acquainted as far as possible with the nature of that eternal state of existence to which we are all hastening? We are dependent alone on the light of revelation and reason, for any just and correct information on this subject. Moses, in his account of the creation, commences thus: [Publisher’s note: the Hebrew text is omitted here.]
Which may with propriety be translated thus: “In the beginning God made (or formed) the heavens and the earth, and the earth she was empty and desolate; and darkness upon the faces of the abyss; and the wind of God was brooding over the faces of the waters.”
Moses did not see fit to inform us of what kind of materials the Lord formed the earth, and indeed there was no need of revelation to guide us on that subject; for we see for ourselves that it is composed of the common elements which constitute matter in general, and of course this element or matter already existed, and that too in sufficient quantity for the formation of a globe like this. From the Mosaic account of the creation, many have gathered the idea that God created all things out of nonentity,—that solid matter sprung from nothing. But this is for want of reflection, or an exercise of reason on the subject; for instance, when a child inquires of its father, saying, father, who made this [p.50]house? the father replies, the carpenter made it. Again the child inquires, who made me? the father replies, the Lord made you. Again, the child inquires, who made the earth? the father replies, the Lord made the earth, and all things upon the face thereof. Now the child might suppose that the carpenter created the house without any materials; that he brought it into existence from nothing; and so, with equal propriety, he might suppose that he was formed from nothing; when in fact he was formed of materials which grew out of the earth. And with the same degree of impropriety we might suppose that God made the earth from nothing when in fact he made it out of self-existing element.
It is impossible for a mechanic to make any thing whatever without materials. So it is equally impossible for God to bring forth matter from nonentity, or to originate element from nothing, because this would contradict the law of truth, and destroy himself. We might as well say, that God can add two and three together, and the product will be twelve: or that he can subtract five from ten and leave eight, as to say that he can originate matter from nonentity; because these are principles of eternal truth, they are laws which cannot be broken, that two and three are five, that five from ten leaves five, and that nought from nought leaves nought; and a hundred noughts added together is nothing still. In all these, the product is determined by unchangeable laws, whether the reckoning be calculated by the Almighty, or by man, the result is precisely the same.
Here then, is mathematical demonstration that it is not in the power of any being to orginate matter. Hence we conclude that matter as well as spirit is eternal, uncreated, self-existing. However infinite the variety of its changes, forms and shapes;—however vast and varying the parts it has to act in the great theatre of the universe;—whatever sphere its several parts may be destined to fill in the boundless organization of infinite wisdom, yet it is there, durable as the throne of Jehovah. And ETERNITY is inscribed in indelible characters on every particle. Revolution may succeed revolution,—vegetation may bloom and flourish, and fall again to decay in the revolving seasons—generation upon generation may pass away and others will succeed—empires may fall to ruin, and moulder to the dust and be forgotten—the marble monuments of antiquity may crumble to atoms and mingle in the common ruin—the mightiest works of art, with all their glory, may sink in oblivion and be remembered no more—worlds may startle from their orbits, and hurling from their spheres, run lawless on each other in conceivable confusion—element may war with element in awful majesty, while thunders roll from sky to sky, and arrows of lightning break the mountains asunder—scatter the rocks like hailstones—set worlds on fire, and melt the elements with fervent heat, and yet not one grain can be lost—not [p.51]one particle can be annihilated. All these revolutions and convulsions of nature will only serve to refine, purify, and finally restore and renew the elements upon which they act. And like the sunshine after a storm, or like gold seven times tried in the fire, they will shine forth with additional lustre as they roll in their eternal spheres, in their glory, in the midst of the power of God.
When in the progress of the endless works of Deity, the full time had arrived for infinite wisdom to organize this sphere, and its attendant worlds, and to set them in motion in their order amid the vast machinery of the universe,—when first the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy, at the grand occasion of the acquisition of a new system to the boundless variety of his works, all was pronounced very good. The waters, obedient to his word, retired within their respective limits, and filled with the quickening, or life-giving principle, which we call spirit, they produced living creatures in abundance, and very soon the vast deep was found teeming with animal life in countless variety, and in regular graduation, from the monster Leviathan to the shell-fish; or descending down the scale of existence to the minutest speck which is only to be discerned by the aid of powerful glasses. The air swarmed with an almost infinite variety of animal life, from the lofty and aspiring eagle which soars on high, and seems to dip his wing in ether blue, to the humming bird which darts from flower to flower, and hides itself amid the blooming sweets of spring, or descending still, to the puny nations of insects which swarm in clouds of blue on summer breath of morn: all, all the air seemed life and happiness.
THE DRY LAND, organized in its own proper sphere, presented a surface every where well watered, abounded in springs, streams and rivulets, and uninterrupted by any of the rough, broken rugged deformities which now present themselves on every side. Its surface was smooth, or gently undulating, and delightfully varied. Its soul enriched by the dew of heaven, and impregnated with the spirit of animal and vegetable life, soon poured forth a luxuriant growth, not of noxious weeds, and thorns and thistles, but of fruit trees, and herbs, all useful for the food of man or animal, fowl or creeping thing, And soon, too, it brought forth from its bosom every varied species of the animal race, from the ponderous mammoth or the mighty elephant, down to the mole; or descending still in the scale of existence, to the smallest creeping thing that specks the surface of the rock, or mantles the standing pool with varied life.
ITS CLIMATE, free, alike from the noxious vapors and melting heats of the torrid zone, and the chilling blasts of the polar regions, was delightfully varied by the moderate changes of heat and cold which only tended to crown the varied year with the greater variety of productions. Streams of life, and odors of healthful sweets came floating on every [p.52]breeze. Thus earth so lately a vast scene of emptiness and desolation, burst from its solitude arrayed in its robes of splendor; and where silence had reigned through the vast expanse, innumerable sounds now reverberated on the air, and melting strains of music re-echoing in the distant groves, stole upon the ears of admiring angels, and proclaimed the gladsome news of a new world of animated life and joy.
Thus all was prepared and finished, and creation complete. All save the great masterpiece, the head and governor, who was destined to rule or preside over this new kingdom. This personage, designed as the noblest of all the works of Deity, was formed of earth by the immediate hand of God; being fashioned in the express likeness and image of the Father and the Son, while the breath of the Almighty breathed into his nostrils,—quickened him with life and animation. Thus formed of noble principles, and bearing in his godlike features the emblems of authority and dominion, he was placed on the throne of power, in the midst of the paradise of God, and to him was committed power, and glory, and dominion, and the kingdom, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven. From the bosom of this noble being, or rather from his side emanated woman. She being composed or fashioned from his bone and from his flesh, and undergoing another process of refinement in her formation she became more exquisitely fine, beautiful and delightsome; combining in her person and features the noble and majestic expression of manhood, with the soft and gentle, the modest and retiring graces of angelic sweetness and purity, as if destined to grace the dignity of manhood,—to heighten the charms of domestic life,—to delight the heart of her lord, and to share with him the enjoyments of life, as well as to nourish and sustain the embryo, and rear the tender offspring of her species, and thus fill the earth with myriads of happy and intelligent beings. O reader, contemplate with me the beauty, the glory, the excellence, the perfection of the works of creation as they rolled from the hand of omnipotent power and wisdom, and were pronounced good—very good, by him whose hand had formed them, and whose eye surveyed them at a single glance. Tell me, O man, which of all these works was formed for decay? and which in themselves possessed the seeds of mortality, the principles of dissolution and destruction? Tell me, was there any curse, or poison, or death inherent in or appertaining to any department of existing matter? Tell me, were any of these works so calculated in their physical construction as to be incapable of eternal duration? Was there any death, or sorrow, pain or sickness, sighing, groaning, tears or weeping? Was there any thing to hurt or destroy in all the holy mountain? The answer to all these questions is plain, positive and definite, if the sacred writings may be relied on as decisive evidence. We are informed in scripture that sin entered into the world, [p.53]and DEATH by sin. That by one man came death, and that the devil had the power of death. We are also informed that the ground was cursed for man’s sake, and its productions materially changed. In short, the great head and ruler, with his fair consort were subjected to many curses and troubles while in life, and with them all the productions of the animal and vegetable kingdoms together with the earth itself were subjected to the dominion of the curse. Thus creation felt the blow to its utmost verge, and has groaned in pain for deliverance until now. From all these declarations of holy writ, and from many other proofs which might easily be adducrd, we feel ourselves safe in saying that SIN is the sole cause of decay, or death. If there had been no sin, there would have been no death, no dissolution, no disorganization, no decay, no sorrow and groaning, tears or weeping; neither would there have been any pain, but creation would have continued in the same state to an endless duration. O sin, what has thou done! Thou hast hurled man from his blissful dominion, and hast reduced him from a throne of power and dominion to a state of servitude, where sunk in sorrow and misery, he groans out a wretched existence, which terminates in painful dissolution, and he mingles with his mother earth and is forgotten and lost amid the general ruin.
Thou hast converted a garden of delicious fruits and blooming flowers into a gloomy forest of thorns and thistles. Thou hast transformed a world of life, joy and happiness into the abodes of wretchedness and misery, where sighing, groaning, tears and weeping are mingled in almost every cup. By thee the earth has been filled with violence and oppression; and man, moved by hatred, envy, avarice or ambition, has often imbrued his hands in the blood of his fellow man, by which the fairest portions of the earth have been made desolate,—the abodes of domestic happiness turned to sorrow and loneliness,—the happy wife and tender offspring have become widows and orphans,—the bride has been left to mourn in irretrievable anguish, and the virgin to drop a silent tear over the ruined fragments of departed loveliness. By thee the world has been deluged with a flood of waters, and unnumbered millions swept at once from the stage of action and mingled in the common ruin, unwept and unlamented save by the tears of heaven, or by the eight solitary inhabitants of the ark who alone escaped to tell the news. By thy ravages empires have fallen to ruin, and cities become heaps. The fruitful plains of Shinar, and the splendid palaces of Babylon have been doomed to perpetual waste and irretrieval desolation, never to be inhabited; not even as a temporary residence of the wandering Arab. (And the Arabian shall not pitch tent there. See Isaiah XIII, 20) By thee the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the flourishing country about them, once extremely fertile, and watered as the garden of Eden, [p.54]have been desolated by fire, and perhaps overwhelmed by a sea of stagnant waters. By thee the land of Edom, once a flourishing empire, possessing a productive and well cultivated soil, and every where adorned with flourishing villages, and splendid cities, has become desolate, without inhabitants; and the Lord has cast upon it the stones of emptiness, and the line of confusion. It has lain waste from generation to generation, as a haunt for wild beasts of the desert, a court for owls, and a place for the cormorant and bittern. On account of thee, the city of Jerusalem has long lain in ruins, the land of Judea is desolate, and their holy and beautiful house where their fathers praised Jehovah is burned with fire; while the Jews have long remained in exile among the nations, in fulfilment of that awful imprecation “his blood be upon us and our children.” By thy power the once mighty empires of Greece and Rome have been shaken to the centre, and have fallen to rise no more; and before thy desolating blast, almost innumerable provinces lay in ruin. The waste deserts of burning sand—the sunken and stagnant lakes and miry swamps—the innumerable rockey barrens and mountainous steeps—the desolate and dreary wastes of the polar regions–these all present but so many monuments to thy memory—they speak in language not to be misunderstood, that sin has been there, with its dreadful train of curses, under which they groan in pain to be delivered.
The solid rocks have burst asunder at thy withering touch; they have been rent in twain, and hurled from their firm foundations by thy mighty power: and they lay scattered in broken fragments and ruined heaps as monuments of agonizing nature; and as a testimony of the heaving sighs, the convulsive quakings, and dreadful groanings of the earth itself, while by wicked hands the great Messiah was slain. And what shall I say more? for the time would fail me to innumerate the evils of intemperance, dissipation, debauchery, pride, luxury, idleness, extravagance, avarice and ambition, hatred and envy, priestcraft and persecution, with all their attendant train of troubles, miseries, pains, diseases and deaths; which have all contributed to reduce mankind to a state of wretchedness and sorrow indescribable. The noble and majestic features of manhood have often been transformed by these vices into the frightful and disgusting image of demoniac furies,—the angelic beauties of earth’s fairest daughters as often transformed by vice into objects of mingled pity and contempt: but cease my soul, no longer dwell on these awful scenes; my heart is faint, my soul is sick, my spirit grieves within me; and mine eyes are suffused with tears while contemplating upon the scenes of wretchedness and misery which sin has produced in our world. O misery, how hast thou triumphed! O death, how many are thy victories! thrones, and dominions—principalities and powers—kingdoms and empires have sunk beneath thine all conquering arm,—[p.55]their kings and their nobles, their princes and their lords,—their orators and statesmen, beneath the blast of thy breath have found one common grave.
The dignity of age,—the playful innocence of youth, or the charms of beauty cannot save from thy cruel grasp,—thou hast swallowed up the nations as water, and thou art an hungered still,—thou hast drunk rivers of blood, and hast bathed in oceans of tears, and thy thirst is still raging with unabating fury. Whither,–ah whither shall I turn for comfort? in what secret chamber shall I hide myself to elude thy swift pursuit? If I would heap up gold as dust I cannot bribe thee. If I would fortify my habitation with the munitions of rocks, thine arrows would pierce them as the spider’s web, and find their way to my heart. If I would soar on high as the eagle, or fly to the most secret haunts of the desert, or hide myself in the gloomy thicket with the solitary bird of night; or retire with the bat, to the inmost recesses of the cavern, yet thy footsteps would pursue me, any thy vigilence would search me out. No arguments of the wise—no talents of the eloquent can prevail with thee. The tears of the widow, the cries of the fatherless; or the broken hearted anguish of the lover cannot move thee to pity: thou mockest at the groans and tears of humanity, thou scornest the pure affections of love and tenderness; and thou delightest to tear asunder the silken cords of conjugal affections, and all the tender ties of love and endearment which twine around the virtuous heart, and which serve to cement society, and to administer joy and happiness in every department of life. What mighty power shall check thy grand career, and set bounds o’er which thou canst not pass? Whose mighty voice shall command, saying “thus far, no farther shalt thou go, and here let thy proud waves be stayed?” What almighty conqueror shall lead thee captive—shall burst thy chains—throw open the doors of thy gloomy cells, and set the unnumbered millions of thy prisoners free?—who shail bind up the broken hearted—comfort the mourners—dry the tears of sorrow—open the prison to them that are bound set the captives free—make an end of sin and oppression—bring in everlasting righteousness—swallow up death in victory—restore creation to its primative beauty, glory, excellence, and perfection; “and distroy him who has the power of death, that is the Devil, and deliver those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage?” but hark—
On the plains of Judea me thinks I hear
The melting strains of the lonely shepherd’s
Midnight song, as it echoes among the hills
And vales, and dies away in the distance.
[p.56]Its heavenly melody betokens
A theme of joy such as the sons of earth
Have seldom heard,—some heavenly theme as if
The choirs of angels—mingling their music
With the sons of earth, conspired to celebrate
Some new event—some jubilee of rest—
Some grand release form servitude and woe.
But see—ah see! the opening heavens around
Them shine; a glorious train of angels bright,
Ascending, fill the air:—it is indeed
A more than mortal theme. But hark again—
Me thinks I understand the words,—they
Celebrate the birth of king Messiah,
The mighty prince who soon shall conquer death
With all his legions, and reign triumphant
Over all, as king of kings, and Lord of lords.
Their chorus ends with peace on earth, good will
To men. O monster death I now behold
Thy conquerer! Jesus of Nazareth—
The babe of Bethlehem—the son of God.
He comes to earth, and takes upon him flesh and blood,—even the seed of Abraham; and this for the express purpose of conquering sin and death, and restoring a lost and fallen world to its former perfection that it may be capable of eternal life and happiness.
“As in Adam all die even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Now let the reader endeavour in particular to understand the precise object of the mission of Jesus Christ into our world; and what was to be accomplished by his death and resurrection. We have already endeavoured to show the effect of Adam’s transgression in a physical as well as moral point of view; we have seen that sin materially affected the earth itself, as well as all its animal and vegetable productions. Now the object of a Saviour to bleed and die as a sacrifice and atonement for sin, was not only to redeem man in a moral sense, from his lost and fallen state, but it was also to restore the physical world from all the effects of the fall; to purify the elements; and to present the earth in spotless purity, before the throne of God, clothed in celestial glory, as a fit inheritance for the ransomed throng who are destined to inherit it in eternity. If the question be asked for what Christ died? the answer is first, he died for all of Adam’s race. Secondly, for all the animal and vegetable productions of the earth, as far as they were affected by the fall of man. The lion, the wolf; the leopard and the bear; and even the serpent, will finally feel and enjoy the effects of this great restoration, precisely in the [p.57]same degree in which they were affected by the fall. Thirdly, Christ died for the earth itself, to redeem it from all the effects of the fall, that it might be cleansed from sin and have eternal life. Now this atonement which was made by Jesus Christ was universal, so far as it relates to the effects of Adam’s transgression: and this without any conditions on the part of the creature. All that was lost, or in the least affected by the fall of man, will finally be restored by Jesus Christ,—the whole creation will be delivered from its dreadful curse, and all mankind redeemed from death, and all the dreadful effects of the transgression of their first parents; and this without any conditions of faith and repentance; or any act on the part of the creature; for precisely what is lost in Adam’s transgression without our agency, is restored by Jesus Christ without our agency. Thus all will be raised from the dead, and the body and the spirit will be reunited, the whole will become immortal, no more to be separated, or to undergo dissolution. This salvation being universal, I am a universalist in this respect,—this salvation being a universal restoration from the fall, I am a restorationer,—this salvation being without works, or without any conditions except the atonement of Jesus Christ, I am in this respect a believer in free grace alone, without works; this salvation, redeeming all infants from original sin, without any change of heart, newbirth, or baptism, and the infant, not being capable of actual transgression, and needing no salvation from any personal sin, is therefore in a state of salvation, and not of depravity; and therefore of such is the kingdom of God: and in their infancy they need no ordinances, or gospel to save them, for they are already saved through the atonement, therefore the gospel and its ordinances are only for those who have come to years of understanding. But while on the subject of redemption, I must not pass without noticing another and very different part of the subject, viz—After all men are redeemed from the fall and raised from the dead, their spirits and bodies being reunited and the whole becoming eternal no more to see corruption, they are to be judged according to their own individual deeds done in the body; not according to Adam’s transgression; nor according to sovereign, unconditional grace. Here ends, universalism; here ends Calvinism; here ends salvation without works—here is introduced the necessity of a salvation from actual sin,—from individual transgression, from which no man can be redeemed short of the blood of Jesus Christ applied to each individual transgressor; and which can only be applied on the conditions of faith, repentance, and obedience to the gospel. Now all who neglect to fulfill the conditions of the gospel, will be condemned at the judgment day, not for Adam’s fall but for their own sins. But as our subject is more particularly confined to the salvation and durability of the physical world, the renovation and regeneration to a state of eternal [p.58]and unchangeable purity, we must leave the further prosecution of these often contested points of theology to be perused in their usual channel, and come directly to the merits of the great subject which we have undertaken. Let us now examine, more closely the physical structure and properties of the resurrected, immortal body; endeavour to ascertain in positive, definite terms, whether it does really consist of flesh and bones,—of matter as well as spirit: and if so, endeavour to learn something of its place of residence or final destiny. Christ being the first fruits from the dead, and the only person whose history after their resurrection has come down to us; and he being the great head and pattern of the resurrection, we shall endeavour to ascertain all the particulars which will serve to throw light on the subject, as to the physical nature of his body, both before and after he arose from the dead. His mother was a virgin, a chosen vessel of the Lord, who conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost and brought forth a child, who was composed of flesh and blood; and in his physical organization differing nothing in any respect from the other seed of Abraham. Like other children in their infant state, he no doubt received his nourishment from the breasts of his mother; like all others, he was helpless and dependent for care and protection on his parents, who by the command of God fled into Egypt in order to preserve him from the cruel sword of Herod, who feared a rival in the person of the babe of Bethlehem: like all others he grew in stature by means of the food received into the stomach, and its strength diffused through the physical system; and when grown to manhood his system was composed of the same earthly particles, or the same elements which constitute the human system in general. He was every way subject to the infirmitives, passions, pleasures, pains, griefs, sorrows and temptations which are common to the constitution of man; hence we find him sorrowing, weeping, mourning, rejoicing, lamenting, grieving, as well as suffering hunger, thirst, fatigue, temptation, etc. and we also find him possessed of the most refined sensibilities of natual affection, and susceptibilities for close and intimate friendship with Lazarus of Bethany, and his kind-hearted and benevolent sisters, Martha and Mary. He went with the tears of fond affection over the grave of his departed friend Lazarus, and mingled his tears with the sorrowful and disconsolate sisters, as if to sympathize with them and help to bear their grief, insomuch that the Jews exclaimed, “behold how be loved him.” Another striking example of this natural affection is illustrated in his close intimacy with his beloved disciple John. This apostle was at supper; and who was employed to ask questions on subjects in which the others felt a delicacy: he is frequently called “that disciple whom Jesus loved.” Now we must think that Jesus loved them all as disciples and followers [p.59]of the Lamb; but as to a natural affection John was his peculiar favorite; to him he committed his sorrowing and disconsolate mother, as he was about to expire on the cross, and from that time, Mary, the mother of Jesus, became a member of John’s family. “He took her home to his friends, at length yielded up the ghost, and his disembodied spirit took its rest in paradise; while his lifeless corpse was carefully wrapped in linen and laid in a sepulchre; but for fear of some imposition being practised by his disconsolate and sorrowing disciples, the door of the sepulchre was secured with a great stone, and sealed with the initials of kingly authority, besides a strong guard of Roman soldiers who watched around the door by day and by night. But early on the morning of the third day, an angel descended, at the glory of whose presence the soldiers fell back as dead men. The seal was broken, the great stone rolled away, the door of the sepulchre was opened, and his body re-animated by the returning spirit, awoke from its slumbers and came forth in triumph from the mansions of the dead. Now when his friends and disciples came to the sepulchre and found not his body but saw his grave clothes lying useless, they were troubled, supposing that he had been moved to some other place; but the angel of the Lord said unto them: “He is not here, but is risen,” and called them to come and see the place where he had lain. How let us bear in mind, that it was the same corporeal system—the same flesh and bones, which had yielded up the ghost on the cross, and which had been wrapped in linen and laid in the tomb, that now came forth from the dead, to die no more. Now in order to assist his disciples in understanding this subject, that they might know the difference between disembodied spirits and resurrected bodies, he not only ate and drank with them, but called upon them to handle him and see; for said he, “A spirit hath not flesh and bones as we see me have.” On another occasion, he exhibited his wounded side and hands, and called upon Thomas to put his finger into the prints of the nails, and to thrust his hand into his side, where once the spear had pierced; and finally after being seen of them forty days, he led them out as far as Bethany, and there he was taken up into heavens from their presence, and a cloud received him out of their sight.
Now let us inquire, what was the physical difference between the mortal body of Jesus Christ and his resurrected body? They are both the same flesh, the same bones, the same joints, the same sinews, the same skin, the same hair, the same likeness, or physical features, and the same element, or matter; but the former was quickened by the principles of the natural life, which was the blood, and the latter is quickened solely by the spirit, and not by blood, and therefore is not subject unto death, but lives forevermore. With this glorious body he ascended to [p.60]the Father, and with this glorious body he will come again to earth to reign with his people. This view of the resurrection is clearly exemplified in the persons of Enoch and Elijah, who never tasted death, but were changed instantaneously from mortal to immortal, and were caught up into the heavens, both body and spirit. This change upon their physical systems was equivalent to death and the resurrection. It was the same as if they had slept in the grave for thousands of years and then been raised and restored to eternal life. When Elijah, for instance, was taken into the chariot of fire, and carried from the presence of Elisha he did not drop his body, but only his mantle; for if he had dropped his body, the sons of the prophets would have attended to his burial, instead of ranging the mountains in search of him. This same subject is made equally plain in the writings of Job, who declares, saying: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he will stand in the latter day upon earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my FLESH shall I see God.” The Jewish prophets also understood this matter in its clearest light. Isaiah declares, “Thy dead men shall live,–together with my DEAD BODY shall they rise.” Daniel speaks plainly of the awaking of them that sleep in the dust. Ezekiel illustrates the subject very clearly in his vision of the dry bones. (See Ezekiel xxxvii.) He not only mentions their being raised from the dead, but the bones, the sinews, the flesh, the skin, and the spirit by which they will be re-animated, are all brought to view in a clear, plain, and positive manner. The writings of the Apostles abound with clear elucidations of the physical nature of the resurrection: for on this one point, depended the whole foundation of the christian system. Hence Paul argues, that if there is no resurrection, then Christ is not risen; and if Christ be not risen, then their preaching was vain; and their faith and joy was vain; they were yet in their sins, and the apostles were false witnesses; and they were of all men most miserable. But there is one view which Paul takes of the subject, that will serve to carry out our present theory in a most conclusive manner. It is this: in opening to his disciples the mysteries of the second advent of the Messiah, and the great restitution of all things spoken by the prophets, he declares, that the saints would not all sleep, (in death,) but that they which were alive and remained until the coming of Christ, should be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and so should be forever with him. Here then, is demonstration, that tens of thousands of the saints,—indeed all the saints who live at a certain period of time will be translated after the pattern of Enoch and Elijah, and their spirits and bodies never be separated by death! Such then is the resurrection; and such the lively views which inspired the prophets, apostles and saints of former times, and having this hope they could with propriety say, “O death, [p.61]where is thy sting; O grave, where is thy victory?” O, the deep-rooted blindness of early tradition and superstition, how art thou interwoven with all our powers of intellect! and how hast though benumbed and blunted every faculty of our understanding. From early youth the principles have been instilled into our minds that all must die and moulder to corruption—that Enoch and Elijah were the only persons who were, or ever would be translated without seeing death, when in fact, tens of thousands, as I said before, are yet to arrive by faith to this inconceivable fullness and consummation of eternal life and happiness without tasting death, and without even a momentary separation of soul and body; the transition from mortality to immortality being instantaneous. And yet, strange as it may seem, none will ever attain to this blessing except such as firmly believe in and expect it, for, like all other blessings, it is only to be obtained by faith and prayer. But how shall we believe in and seek for a blessing of which we have no idea? or how shall we believe in that which we have not heard, and how shall we hear without a teacher.
From all these considerations it appears evident that these principles muct necessarily be revived so as to become a conspicuous part of modern theology. They must be taught to the people, and the people must believe them; insomuch that every saint on earth will be looking for the great day of the Lord, and expecting to be caught up to meet him in the air; for if the great day of the Lord should come at a time when these principles were neither taught nor believed, surely there would be none prepared for translation: consequently there would be no saints to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air; and if so, the words of the Lord by Paul would become of none effect. I have made the above remarks in order to impress deeply upon the minds of our modern teachers and learners the importance of arousing from the slumber of ages on this subject, and of ceasing to teach and impress upon the youthful mind the gloomy thoughts of death, and the melancholy forebodings of a long slumber in the grave, in order in inspire them with solemn fear and dread, and thus move them to the duties of religion and morality. Experience has proved, in innumerable instances, that this course is insufficient to restrain vice, and to lead to the practice of virtue and religion. The wayward and buoyant spirits of youth feel weighed down and oppressed, when oft reminded of such gloomy and melancholy subjects. All the more cheerful faculties of the soul are thus paralyzed, or more or less obstructed in their operations; the fine toned energies of the mind cease to act with their accustomed vigor, the charms of nature seem clothed in mourning and sackcloth. We conceive a distaste for the duties as well as the enjoyments of life. Courage, fortitude, ambition, and all the stimulants which move man to act well his part in [p.62]human society, are impaired and weakened in their operations, and the mind, thus soured and sickened, finds itself sinking under deep melancholy and settled gloom, which soon becomes insupportable. He at length sinks in despair,—becomes insane, or groans under various diseases brought upon his physical system by the anguish of his mind; or, with a desperate effort, tears himself from friends and society, and from all the social duties and enjoyments of life, to lead a life of solitude within the walls of a convent, or in the gloomy caverns of the monk. But more frequently the youthful mind when laboring under these gloomy impressions makes a desperate effort to free itself from its dreadful burden, by plunging into all the allurements of vice and dissipation; endeavoring by these means to drive from them the memory all those gloomy impressions, and to lose sight of, or cease to realize, the sure and certain approach of death.
Let us then cease to give lessons on death and the grave to the rising generation, and confine ourselves more exclusively to the proclamation of eternal life. What a glorious field in intelligence now lies before us, yet but partially explored. What a boundless expanse for contemplation and reflection now opens to our astonished vision. What an intellectual banquet spreads itself invitingly to our appetite, calling into lively exercise every power and faculty of the mind, and giving full scope to all the great and ennobling passions of the soul. Love, joy, hope, ambition, faith, and all the virtuous principles of the human mind may here expand and grow, and flourish, unchecked by any painful emotions or gloomy fears. Here the youthful mind may expand its utmost energies, and revel, uncontrolled by remorse, unchecked by time or decay, in the never-fading sweets of eternity, and bask forever in the boundless ocean of delight.
This course of instruction followed out in demonstration of the spirit and of power, would serve to check the allurements of vice, and would greatly tend to lead and encourage the mind in the practise of virtue and religion, and would cheer and stimulate the saint in all the laborious duties of life. It would remove the fear and dread of death. It would bind up the broken hearted, and administer consolation to the afflicted. It would enable man to endure with patience and fortitude all the multiplied afflictions, misfortunes and ills to which they are subject in this momentary life. It would almost banish the baneful effects of fear and gloom, and melancholy from the earth, and thus give new tone and energy to all the various departments of society. The long night of darkness and superstition is now far spent. The truth, revived in its primitive simplicity and purity like the day star of the horizon, lights up the dawn of the effulgent morn when the knowledge of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. With what propriety then, may the [p.63]rising generation look forward with a well grounded hope, that they or their children may be of that unspeakable happy number who will live to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and like Enoch and Elijah, escape the pangs of dissolution, and the long imprisonment of the grave. Or, with still more certainty, they may hope that if they sleep in the dust, it will only be of short duration, and then they will rise again to enjoy the pleasures of life for evermore. Parents, do you love your children? Does it grieve you to see their lifeless bodies laid in the tomb, and shut, as it were, forever from your society? Children, have you ever been called to bid farewell to your beloved and venerable parents, and to grieve with heart-broken anguish, as their bodies were deposited in the cold and silent grave, and you left as orphans upon the dreary world? Husbands and wives, do you love your companions, and often wish that you both might live in the body forever, and enjoy each other’s society, without undergoing a painful separation by the monster, death? Be careful, then, to secure a part in the first resurrection, that you, and your friends may live and reign with Christ on earth a thousand years.
O thou broken hearted and disconsolate widow, thou hast been called to part with the bosom friend of thy youth, and to see thy beloved shut from thy presence in the dreary mansions of the dead. Have you ever been comforted with the reflection that the tomb will burst asunder in the morning of the resurrection,—that these once active limbs, now cold in death,—these bones and joints, and sinews, with the flesh and skin will come forth, and be again quickened with the spirit of life and motion; and that this cold and silent bosom will again beat with the most animated and happy sensations of pure love and kindred affection?
Parents and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, have these thoughts sunk deep into your hearts in the hour of sorrow, and served to comfort, to soothe and support your sinking spirits in the hour of keenest distress? or have you imagined to yourselves some spiritual existence beyond the bounds of time and space; some shadow without substance, some fairy world of spirits bright far from earth your native home; and at a distance from all the associations, affections and endearments which are interwoven with your very existence here; and in which were mingled all the sweets of life? No wonder then, that such should cling to life, and shrink from death with terror and dismay: no wonder that such should feel insupportable and overwhelming grief at the loss of friends; for who can bear the thoughts of eternal separation from those lovely scenes with which they have been accustomed to associate from early infancy? Who can endure to be torn from those they love dearer than life, and to have all the tender cords of affection which twine around the heart with mutual endearment, severed and destroyed for ever?
[p.64]Let us then endeavour to inspire the minds of those who are placed under our care and instruction, with a firm faith in and lively sense of this the most important of all subjects, the resurrection of the body, and eternal life; and thus encourage them with the greatest of all inducements to lead a life of righteousness, such as will secure to them a part in the first resurrection, and a happy immortality in the society and friendship of the ransomed throng who are arrayed in spotless white, and who reign on earth with the blessed Redeemer.
Having now shown clearly that the resurrection of the body is a complete restoration and reorganization of the physical system of man; and that the elements of which his body is composed are eternal in their duration; and that they form the tabernacle—the everlasting habitation of that spirit which animated them in this life; and that the spirits and bodies of men are of equal importance and destined to form an eternal and inseparable union with each other; we must now return to research, as to the final destiny of the earth and its productions of animal and vegetable life.
We have already shown that the earth itself, and all its productions were deeply affected by the fall, and by the sins of the children of men: that the atonement which was made by Jesus Christ was not only for man, but also for the earth and all the fulness thereof: that all things were redeemed from the fall, and would finally be restored from all the dreadful effects thereof; and be regenerated, sanctified and renewed after the pattern, and in the likeness and image of its first creation; partaking of the same beauty, glory, excellence and perfection it had in the beginning. But it is evident that this restitution did not take place at the first advent of the Messiah; and that it has not taken place at any time since: therefore it is yet future, and must be fulfilled at a certain time which is appointed by infinite wisdom. This certain time is called in holy writ, “the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” Now this restitution is to be accomplished by nothing short of a second advent of the Messiah. He must again descend from heaven to earth in like manner as he ascended. This second advent of Messiah, and the grand events connected with it is a theme which all the prophets and apostles have dwelt on more fully in their writings than they have on any other subject whatever. If I would quote proofs on this subject, I might begin with Enoch the seventh from Adam, who exclaims, “Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints,” etc. and end with the revelation of Jesus Christ to his servant John, “Behold! he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him; and they also which pierced him, and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.” This glorious advent of the Messiah was the comfort of Job in his extreme affliction; he could lift up [p.65]his sorrowful eyes from the midst of sackcloth and ashes, and exclaim “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he will stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God,” etc. This was the solace of Daniel in his captivity. He could exclaim, “I saw in the night, visions and behold, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven,” etc. This same theme often inspired Isaiah, and David, with an extacy of admiration and delight, and caused them to pour forth their sweetest strains,–their sublimest effusions of poetic inspiration; and this same subject seems interwoven with almost every page of the New Testament writings. Indeed it formed a kind of centre, or rallying point, around which hovered all the hopes, joys, anticipations, and comforts of the former day saints. In bonds or imprisonments, in persecutions and afflictions, in tortures or in flames; they could look forward to the coming of the Lord in joyful anticipation of a resurrection and reward.
It is this glorious advent of the Messiah, and the great restitution connected with it which has ever formed the hope of the Jews; on this one point hangs the destiny of that long dispersed nation, in their final restoration to the favour of God, and to the land of their fathers, and to their beloved city Jerusalem.
This advent is what Paul has allusion to in his writings to the Romans where he said, “As it is written there shall come out of Zion a deliverer, who shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” This second advent, is what Peter meant when he said to the Jews, (see Acts iii.) “And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you, whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution,” etc. It seems evident then, that Jesus Christ is to come again at the times of restitution; at which time a trump shall sound, at the voice of which the graves of the saints will be opened, and they arise from the dead, and are caught up together with those who are alive and remain, to meet the Lord in the air.
In the mean time the earth will be terribly convulsed; the mountains will sink, the valleys rise, the rough places become smooth; while a fire will pass over the surface of the earth, and consume the proud and all that do wickedly, as the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed in the days of Abraham: and thus after the earth is cleansed by fire, from all its wicked inhabitants, as it once was by water, and after its mighty convulsions have restored it to its former shape and surface, it becomes a fit residence for Jesus Christ and his saints. The Jews behold their long-long expected Messiah, and come to the knowledge that he is the Jesus whom their fathers crucified; they are cleansed from their sins through his most precious blood; their holy city Jerusalem becomes a place of holiness indeed, and a seat of government; where will be the tabernacle and throne of Messiah; and where the nations of them that are saved will resort from year to year, from all the adjoining countries to worship the king, the Lord of hosts; and to keep the feast of tabernacles: and thus, there will be one Lord, and his name one; and he [p.66]will be king over all the earth. “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” This promise made by the Saviour while on the mount, will then be fulfilled. (See also, xxxvii Psalm; and also Ezekiel xxxvii.)
The curses which came upon the earth by reason of sin will then be taken off. It will no longer bring forth thorns and thistles, but its productions will be as they were before the fall. The barren deserts will become fruitful, the thirsty land will abound in springs of water, men will then plant gardens and eat the fruit of them, they will plant vineyards and drink the wine of them, they will build houses and cities, and inhabit them, and the Lord’s elect will long enjoy the work of their hands. All the earth will then be at rest under one sovereign. Swords will then be beaten into ploughshares, and spears into pruning hooks, and the nations shall learn war no more. The very beasts of prey will then lose their thirst for blood, and their enmity will cease. The lion wil eat herbs instead of preying upon flesh, and all the animal creation will become perfectly harmless as they were in the beginning, while perfect peace will cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea; while all the ancient prophets, apostles, saints and martyrs will be on earth, with their glorified, immortal bodies, to sing the song of victory, and to praise the great Messiah who reigns in the midst of his people. O reader, this is the first resurrection! “Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection.”
O reader, this is the great sabbath of creation; the thousand years of rest and peace; the longexpected Millennium. Wouldst thou live in the flesh, and have part in it? Wouldst thou again enjoy the society of thy friends who were so near and dear to thy heart in this life? Wouldst thou inherit the earth, and be free forever from the grave? Remember–remember, that meekness and holiness of life are the conditions. That it is the meek only who then inherit the earth. That it is the saints who then inherit the earth. That it is the saints only who then possess the kingdom, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven. In this delightful sabbath of creation, earth and its inhabitants will rest one thousand years from all the pains, and woes, and sorrows they have undergone during the six thousand years of labor, toil and suffering.
After this thousand years is ended, the last resurrection will soon come, together with the judgment day. These grand events will be ushered in by the sounding of the last trump, which will call forth the wicked from their long confinement in the grave, and they will be judged according to their works, and will then depart from the presence of the [p.67]Lord to the place appointed for them. At that time the heavens and earth will undergo their last and final change. They die, and rise again from the dead; or, in other words, the elements are changed from their temporal to their eternal state; being renewed, purified, and brought to the highest state of perfection and refinement which it is possible for them to receive.
The earth being thus renewed and purified, is no more to be changed or shaken. It will then roll its eternal rounds amidst the unnumbered systems of the universe; being clothed with celestial glory, and inhabited by immortal and celestial beings who were redeemed from sin and raised from the dead by the blood of Jesus Christ and the power of his resurrection, and who are clothed in white raiment with crowns upon their heads in glory; being kings and priests unto God and to the Lamb with whom they reign on earth for ever and ever; for there will be the holy city, New Jerusalem, the place of his throne; and his tabernacle will be with man, and he will dwell with them and be their God; and he will wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there will be no more death, neither sorrow nor groaning; neither shall there be any more pain, for the old order of things will have passed away and all things will have become new.
Reader wouldst thou leave thy native earth, and soar away to worlds on high, and be at rest thou mayest do so until the great restitution of all things spoken by the prophets; for Christ and the saints have gone to worlds on high, and have entered in before thee. But remember, that in the worlds on high thy stay is short. Jesus and the saints are only there to await the full time for earth to be cleansed and prepared for their reception, and they will all come home again to their native planet; and even while they are in heaven and absent from the earth, they look forward with joyful anticipation to the time of their return to the place of their nativity. The joyful theme of reigning on the earth inspires the music of their heavenly song; for the proof of this the reader is referred to Rev. v. 9, 10, he there records a song which he heard sung by the hosts of heaven, which closes with the following words, “We shall reign on the earth.”
If man would enjoy a heaven beyond the bounds of space peopled only by spirits: if he would desire to be for ever free from earth, and absent from the body of his flesh, and from his native planet, he will be under the necessity of embracing the doctrines of the Alcoran, or some of the fables of the heathen mythology, where, in the boundless fields of fancy, or amid the romantic wilds of imagination and fanaticism, the mind roams unchecked by reason, and loses itself from all the realities of rational existence; in a land of shadows, a world of phantoms, from which it will only awake in disappointment by the sound of the last [p.68]trump, and at last find itself constrained to acknowledge that eternity as well as time, is occupied in realities, and by beings of a physical as well as spiritual existence for the inspired writers, one and all have agreed, that the earth is destined for the eternal inheritance of the saints. The sacred volume opens with a paradise on earth, and closes with a paradise on earth. Moses introduces us to a world of beauty, glory, excellence and perfection in the beginning. And John closes the volume by leaving man in possession of an eternal habitation in his immortal body, in the holy city; and upon the very planet that first gave him being: and this is the end of the matter.