Essential Parley P. Pratt
Foreword by Peter L. Crawley
“Immortality and Eternal Life of the Material Body”
(from An Appeal to the Inhabitants of the State of New York, Letter to Queen Victoria, (Reprinted from the Tenth European Edition,) The Fountain of Knowledge; Immortality of the Body, and Intelligence and Affection [Nauvoo: John Taylor, Printer, 1840])
[p.104]Many philosophers and divines have written largely on the immortality of the soul, while the body and its material connections have been almost entirely neglected or lost sight of, as a mere temporary structure, having no interest in, or connection with the life to come.
An opinion prevails that the material worlds, were formed from nothing; they serve a momentary purpose, connected only with our present state of existence, and are then to be annihilated,—that the life to come is a life purely spiritual, having no connection with or dependence on any thing material.
Hence the idea of a “God without body or parts”—men without flesh and bones–and a heaven beyond the bounds of time and space—a world without buildings, or materials out of which to form them, or foundations on which to place them. Indeed, a world without food, clothing or any other substance, or property of which the mind can possibly conceive. And hence too, the idea, that all materialists must necessarily be infidels.
The object of the following treatice is to demonstrate both from revelation and reason, that these are errors of the grosest kind—mere relics of mysticism and superstition, rivited upon the mind by ignorance and tradition—in fact, that all persons except materialists must be infidels, so far at least as a belief in the scriptures is concerned. That man’s body is as eternal as his soul, or his spirit.
That it is essential to his perfect organization, and that both are destined to an eternal union in the life to come. That the earth and our material bodies are the subjects of redeeming love, and are included as principle objects in the purchased possession.
In short, to set forth a system of eternal life and immortality which will include the heavens and the earth, and the inhabitants thereof, with all material substance. An eternal life of realities, of bodies and spirits immortal, of flesh and bones incorruptable, of inheritances of everlasting, of mansions eternal, of food and clothing, and gold and silver, [p.105]and precious stones, and cities, villages and gardens celestial; of relationship, and affections, and endearments, and associations, and loves, and conversations, and intellectual enjoyments of every kind; in connection with riches, and honor and thrones and dominions, and principalities and powers, which God hath laid up for them that love him. A life and immortality which will be of such thrilling interest to all who understand it that kings would relinquish their thrones and cast away their crowns to possess it.
In order to convey some idea of the subject in hand by a simple illustration, suppose for instance a medicine had been invented, which would prove an effectual remedy for DEATH, with all its train of disorders, pains and sorrows; and by which the human system might be secured from the effects of time and age, and be renewed in all the freshness, bloom and beauty of eternal youth. What price would be too dear, or what sacrifice too great in order to obtain such a medicine. Honor, wealth, pain, ease, every thing man could posses in this vain world would be counted as dross, and would be at once relinquished as the merest trifle, in order to obtain so inestimable a blessing, as an eternal deliverance from disease and death. And this even with a view of only a natural or temporal existence in this imperfect world. Philosophers and statesmen, heroes and conquerors, philanthropists and benefactors, kings and commoners, have each in turn, in the midst of their vast plans, projects, and pursuits, looked upon the monster death as the king of terrors, who stands in their way, like Bunion’s Apolion, to cut short their journey in pursuit of fame or wealth, of honor or renown. And who, like a terrible tyrant, mingles his poison in every cup of bliss and weakens all their aspirations.<
But could we gain a victory over this monster with all his train of diseases, and live forever in this life of mingled bliss and sorrow: such an order of the things though vastly precious and desirable to short sighted mortals, must fall infinitely short, in comparisons of that state of perfection to which worlds are destined to arrive, in the wisdom and order of their great creator.
Perhaps by this time the reader will be ready to lay this book aside with contempt and to suppose that such a system is too good to be true; and that no satisfactory proof can be presented to the mind, of a life and destiny so different from the conceptions of men in general; but to such I would say, be patient, read a little farther, and a little farther still, and you shall be fully satisfied that a material renovation and eternal life is not only supported by revelation and reason, but that it is the only system of salvation revealed to man, and the only order of things promised, expressed, or hoped for by Jesus Christ and his prophets and apostles.
[p.106]Man, unenlightened in regard to the past and future, may be compared to a passenger on a vessel floating swiftly down the current of an unknown river; surrounded with a dark mist which obscures from view every object in the distance. He sees the surface of the river immediately around him, and gliding swiftly onward, while its source and termination are both equally wrapped in mystery, and to him unknown.
So is man on the stream of time. At the first dawn of reason and reflection, he finds himself afloat on a current which bears him swiftly onward; while he knows not from whence he is, nor whither he goes. A mist too deep and dark for mortal eye to penetrate, shuts in his vision on every hand; while an unexplored eternity expands before, behind, and all around him.
Revelation and reason, like the sun of the morning rising in its strength, dispel the mists of darkness which surround him; till at length heaven’s broad, eternal day expands before him, and eternity opens to his vision. He may then gaze with rapture of delight, and feast on knowledge which is boundless as the ocean from which it eminates.
There are two important facts connected with material existence, which appear self evident to every reflecting mind; and which are no where contradicted by any discoveries made by the aid of either revelation, science or reason, they are as follows:
1st. Matter cannot be originated form nonentity.
2d. Matter cannot be annihilated.
Hence it follows that the original elements of matter are eternal.
I am aware that it has been often asserted that in six days God made all things out of “nothing,” but such an idea is no where found in the scriptures. It has originated in the mysticisms of modern times, and been kept alive by ignorance and folly.
The Hebrew word baurau, translated he (God) created, does not signify that he originated matter from nothing; but, implies that he formed, built, made or organized it. For instance, we say of a mechanic, that he created a building, a watch, or a steam engine; that is, he made it out of existing matterials.
As a proof that we have applied the term “create” correctly, we would here offer several examples, where the Almighty created beings out of materials, and not out of nothing. For instance, he made fish and fowl out of the water: he also created cattle, beasts, and creaping things out of the ground; and he created man also out of the ground, and woman out of a rib.
So, when we read that God made the heavens and the earth, we understand that he made them out of eternal elements, by organizing, combining, seperating and arranging them in such manner as to form [p.107]earth, air, water, fire, etc. each in their respective place, proportion and order.
The earth and other planetary systems thus formed from original chaos would still, while without inhabitants or productions, be considered empty and desolate. Hence the Hebrew words to hoo vaubohoo are introduced in the original text, to express this idea; and should be translated, empty and desolate: the sentence would then read, the earth was empty and desolate, instead of,”the earth was without form and void.” The latter sentence is a contradiction to itself, as well as to common sense. Nothing can exist and still be without form and void.
The great architect of the heavens and of the earth, having organized and arranged a world finds it still empty and desolate. He then proceeds to the organization of animal and vegetable life, all of which he formed from existing elements, and not from nothing.
Now if it were in his power to form them out of nothing, why make use of earth in order to form man, and beasts, and plants, and flowers? and why subject Adam to a deep sleep and the loss of a rib, as a material out of which to make a woman, when it was just as easy to have formed her out of nothing?!!! As scripture no where gives us to understand that things were made from nothing, let us turn to reason and philosophy.
These would teach us that something cannot be made out of nothing; because this would contradict a manifest law of truth.
The laws of truth are omnipotent and unalterable—no power in heaven or on earth can break them in the least degree. Among these laws we find that two and two make just four—that five from eight leave three, and that nothing added to nothing is nothing still. And ten thousand nothings multiplied together cannot increase the amount.
If it still be argued that something can be made from nothing, we would enquire how many solid feet of nonentity it would require to make one solid foot of material substance? The very idea is the climax of absurdity.
Therefore we argue that it is a self evident fact, clearly manifested to every reflecting mind, that the elements of matter are eternal. That the earth was formed out of the eternal elements, and man’s body out of the earth. These facts are not only proven from scripture, reason and philosophy, but are also demonstrated or confirmed by daily experience. The work of creation has been proceeding in every age up to the present time upon the same unchangable principles. That is, all material organization in our world is produced from the earth, or from its own elements, as we daily witness; while there is not a single instance of a thing, or being, produced from nothing, so far as has come within the sphere of man’s observation.
[p.108]Modern discoveries in the science of geology have had a tendency to illustrate and confirm these important facts; and to explode the systems of mysticism, which while they throw a vail over the whole subject, as if too sacred for investigation, would fain make the world believe, that a God without body or parts, whose centre is every where and his circumferance no where; originated all things from nothing, some six thousand years since, while at the same time formations are found in the bowels of the earth which indicate an existence of perhaps hundreds of thousands of years.
These narrow minded sectarians whose motto is that “ignorance is the mother of devotion,” not only shun all investigation on these subjects and teach others so to do; but they would fain compel all scientific men to be infidels whether they are willing or not. That is, they would compel them to disbelieve in the revealed word of God, or else on the other hand deny plain facts which they know perfectly to be true. On the other hand, many well informed men fall into unbelief of the scriptures, simply for want of knowledge to distinguish between that which is really revealed and the mysticisms, absurdities and nonsense which ignorance, bigotry and superstition have thrown over it.
Suppose for instance, discoveries should yet be made which would demonstrate that some of the formations of our earth had existed for millions of years. This would prove that sectarianism is false in its statement, that God made all things out of nothing some six thousand years ago; but it would not prove anything against the idea that he organized the earth at that time out of the ruins of a former world; or out of elements which had existed from all eternity. Therefore, for ought that appears in the history of creation, the scriptures might still be true.
Again, the first idea which we receive from Moses in regard to the existence of the earth, is, that it was overwhelmed in, or mingled with the elements of water. Whether this state represents the ruins of some former world destroyed by a flood, or whether it was the begining of an original organization, he does not inform us. But suffice to say, God’s spirit moved upon the surface of the waters, and he gathered or assuaged them so far, that some part of the globe became dry land. This, together with the flood of Noah, abundantly accounts for the shells and other marine formations, found in the interior of the earth, in the tops of the high mountains and in the interior of the vast continents; proving that all parts of the earth had at some remote period been for a long time overwhelmed in water.
Having arrived by careful investigation to ONE IMPORTANT FACT, and that is, that the elements of matter are eternal; that they are coexistent with the life time of the Almighty; we now proceed to the in-[p.109]vestigation of the other proposition, viz: that no material substance can be annihilated. As we have shown the absurdity of a material substance being produced from nonentity, we must now show the utter impossibility of its ceasing to exist. One error is often productive of a thousand more, while the discovery of one truth often turns the key to innumerable other truths. One of the foundation errors of modern times is the belief in a Deity without body or part, whose centre is every where, and circumference no where. This leads to the idea that we in order to become like him, must become immaterial beings, and cease to be connected with material things. Consequently, the material world is by such, considered as a work of yesterday, originating from nothing, to serve a momentary purpose, like the temporary frame-work beneath a stone arch, and destined to be torn down and cease to exist the moment the key-stones are placed in the spiritual structure. Such persons would go on from one error to another, deceiving and being deceived, till in their imaginations and hopes, (in the language of Milton,) “the great globe itself would desolve, and disappear like the baseless fabric of a vision,” and all the material orbs which shine with resplendent glory in the firmament of heaven would cease to be: and a God without body or parts, high seated on a topless throne, far beyond all space, and surrounded with myriads of beings like himself; (that is, without body or parts,) would be all in all.
What then could exist, I answer nothing. Ten thousand such Gods, and thrones, and places, and beings, all taken together, would be of less consequence than the smallest part of an atom. In fact they could neither be substance nor shadow. I here confess that a God without body or parts as described in the Church of England Confession of Faith, in the Presbyterian Articles, and in the Methodist Discipline: and as worshipped by a large portion of christendom, is not with me an object of veneration, fear, or love. It is not in his power to hate or love, or to do good or evil to any being whatever. But when this same God is said to have “his center every where and his circumference no where, it forms in the rational mind a monster so inconceivably absurd, that I am almost tempted to indulge in irony and compare it to the Paddy’s definition of the term nothing, “a footless stocking without a leg.” Pardon me, ye worshippers of this singular God, I ought to respect your feelings and rights sufficiently to refrain from any expression that would wound your feelings in the least.
But to return to the main thread of our subject, viz: the impossibility of the annihilation of matter, we would enquire in the first place what the scriptures reveal on the subject.
The Psalmist declares that the heavens and the earth shall be folded up as a vesture and that they shall be changed.
[p.110]Isaiah and other prophets testify that they will be burned; and pass away and there will be a new heavens and a new earth.
The Apostles adopt the same language on this subject with this addition, that the “elements shall melt with fervant heat.” And finally the Lord declares by the mouth of John, saying; “Behold I make all things new.” Now every one the least acquainted with terms, must know that none of these expressions convey the least idea of annihilation; but on the contrary they clearly reveal the destiny of the material world, viz: that the elements are to be melted, changed, purified, and renewed; EVEN ALL THINGS. And it is further said, that the new heavens and the new earth shall endure forever.
Therefore the scriptures decide in the most definite terms that nothing will be annihilated; but that all things will be made new.
The science of chemistry serves to illustrate the subject in the most clear and lucid manner. For instance, by burning or melting any substance, not one particle is annihilated, they are only separated, decomposed, analized, and changed, and could the whole operation be reversed they would be restored to their former state without the loss of a single particle.
If then, we find ourselves composed of, and associated with material substance, which is eternal in its elementary principles, and inseparable connected with all organized existence in all worlds, past, present, and to come, we must feel the same interest in, and the same solicitation for the salvation, exaltation, and perfection of our bodies that we do for our souls or spirits.
But a terrible and apparently insurmountable barrier presents itself at the very outset of the subject of the salvation of the body. It is this. Our experience proves, that our material bodies are subject to dissolution, decay or death. If there is no remedy for this; if there is no conqueror, no deliverer from this awful monster: no restoration from under his dominion, then farewell to all our hopes, as to the salvation of the material body. For, notwithstanding its elementary principles are eternal, yet its present organization, its shape, form, and proportions, consequently its association with our spirits must have an end.
The great inquiry at length arises, which is perhaps of more importance to the welfare and happiness of our being than any other point now under consideration. Is death, or dissolution inseparably connected with a material organization? is it an elementary principle, an attribute of all material existence? that is, are all material formations of such a nature that they must, according to the laws of their existence, wax old, decay and die? To this inquiry we answer in the negative.
The whole material world, in its first formation was good: the maker himself being judge. There is no intimation of any principle of death, [p.111]pain, sorrow, dissolution or decay, as connected with any part of all his works, while existing in their original purity; neither have we any reason to believe that they were constructed as to be incapable of enduring forever.
In this world of original life and purity, we discover at once the purpose, the object and uses of every part of our material system. The earth, as a necessary foundation, or dwelling place of animal existence, teaming with every variety of production, calculated for their increase and comfort. The material body, with all its organs of power, with all its parts so constructed as that each performs a part which is indispensably necessary for the comfort and convenience of the whole. For instance, the eyes to see, the ears to hear, the mouth to taste, the hands to handle, the feet to walk, the tongue to speak, etc., each of which principles directly contribute to the happiness of our being. To dispense with either of these parts would be to diminish a portion of our enjoyment without which we could not arrive at perfection. Such then, is the nature and purpose of our material being, considered in its original pure and uncorrupted state.
How then shall we account for the introduction of pain, sickness, disease, sorrow, and death into a world so happy, and so good?
The scriptures inform us that Adam and Eve transgressed the law of their creator, and that the penalty is DEATH. Here it is said by Paul, “that sin entered into our world and death by sin.” “That death is the wages of sin.” Also, that, “by one man came death.” Again, “the sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.”
Here then, is the root of the evil. Hence lies the whole mistake. Instead of death being necessarily connected with our original nature, he has intruded himself into our midst, as an enemy to happiness. Once he had no place, power or dominion in our world; nor could he enter there till sin, that vile traitor prepared his way, and opened to him the gates. He soon entered in triumph, with his numerous train of associates: dethroned old father Adam, our lawful sovereign, and put our garrison to the sword.
He then usurped the dominion of the earth, placed his numerous ministers in power around his royal person: and thus commenced the reign of terror, which has caused “all creation to groan in pain together until now: waiting for the redemption of the body.
So long, and so little interrupted has been his reign, that many of his subjects have concluded it is his right. They therefore resign their bodies together with the earth and its fullness to his everlasting dominion; and as they suppose to eternal dissolution and destruction: being quite contented in the hope, (like Socrates,) of escaping with nothing but their spirits, to some immaterial world.
[p.112]Having shown that the elements of matter are eternal: that they did not originate from nonentity and cannot be annihilated: that they have their uses, which are essential to our happiness, and that death is not connected with our original nature; and consequently makes no necessary part of our material organization; but is a usurper, a tyrant, to whom we have been subject; “not willingly but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope.” We must now inquire after the great plan of deliverance and restoration.
“As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” “As by one man came death, by one man comes also, the resurrection of the dead.” Christ came to destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil; and to deliver those who, through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
So says the great apostle.
From the above texts, and from what follows we shall be able to demonstrate that one of the principle objects of our blessed Redeemer in coming into our world, was the redemption of our material bodies, and the restoration of the whole phisical world from the dominion of sin, death, and the curse.
If we can give one example of a material organization; of flesh and bones, actually rescued from the dominion of death and the grave, and made immortal, and capable of eternal existence, then the immortality of the body is clearly established: and the same example will form a precedent, from which (reasoning from analogy,) we may draw a safe conclusion as to the redemption of all others, especially if we have direct and positive promises to that effect.
SUCH WAS JESUS CHRIST, THE CRUSIFIED AND RISEN SAVIOR. It was not enough that he should die for the sins of the world; but he must also rise from the dead. Christ Jesus and him crusified, would never have been preached by Peter, Paul or any one else, as glad tidings of salvation if he had not risen from the dead. A gloomy solemn silence brooded over all nature, and the once eloquent tongues of the apostles themselves were staid with grief, and their lips sealed with sadness, and the death gloom of despair hung upon their brows, and settled with deep desponding melancholy upon their hearts. Till on a sudden they “were begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of their master from the dead.” When they first saw him they (like the mystics of modern times,) supposed it was only a spirit, they seemed to have no idea of a physical or material salvation, or existence beyond the grave. But, like Socrates, Plato, Confucius, and other heathen philosophers they thought of nothing more than a spiritual existence.
But judge their surprise and joy, and wonder, when he exclaimed: “Handle me and see; for a spirit hath not FLESH AND BONES as ye see me have.”
[p.113]Here was an end of misticism; here was a material salvation; here was flesh and bones, immortal, and celestial, prepared for eternal bloom in the mansions of glory; and this demonstrated by the sense of seeing, feeling, and hearing.
What say ye, my readers, who is the infidel? Is it the materialist who believes in the eternal existence of matter in union with mind? Or is it he who, like the heathen, only fancies to himself an immortality in some fairy world of spirits, some heaven without substance? Or in the language of a modern christian poet:
“Where is heaven? beyond all space,
The distance mind can never trace.”
But to return from our short but fanciful flight to a world which only exists in the imagination of sectarians, heathen philosophers, and poets, to our world of realities and tangibility. The apostles not only handled him, and examined his wounds, but ate and drank, and walked, and conversed with him, and found him every way adapted and qualified for an active and useful life; and for an enlarged sphere of action, as a king, lawgiver, priest, mediator, judge, and conqueror, and preacher of the gospel. Hitherto his labors had been confined to Judea, and to his own kindred and people in that small province which gave him birth. But now he might with propriety exclaim, in the language of Montgomery:
“Heaven’s broad day hath o’er me broken,
Far above earth’s span of sky.
Am I dead? Nay, by this token
Know that I have ceased to die.”
Unfettered from the bonds of mortality and death, and clothed with organs, strong and lasting as the immortal mind; and no longer governed by the laws of this limited sphere of action, he could soar away to distant continents and islands, beyond the towering waves and boisterous storms of ocean; and there in other tribes and tongues, make known the glad tidings of immortality and eternal life.
Or winging his way to the abodes of spirits in prison he could there preach deliverance to the captive and the opening of the prison to them that are bound, and thus bind up the broken hearted, and comfort all that mourn. Or taking leave of earth with all its cares and sorrows, and of the dark regions of the unhappy dead; once dark but now illuminated with a ray of hope, he could wing his way to the mansions of his father, and sit down on his throne, as the joy and comfort of better worlds; till the times of restoration should call him again to earth, to [p.114]reign on the throne of his father Jacob; and to take the universal government of the purchased possession, as a king over all the earth.
His disciples, being by tangible evidence now delivered from mysticism, and made to realise in the most lively manner, a real and substantial salvation from sin, death, hell, and the grave, were filled with joy, as intense as was their sorrow; and were now prepared, when the appointed time should arrive, to be the bearers of glad tidings indeed, to a dark and benighted world; a world who through fear of death had been all their life-time subject to bondage. They not only preached Jesus Christ and him crucified: but they testified of his resurrection, and that he would change our vile bodies and fashion them like unto his glorious body.
This was a message precisely adapted to the wants of the people; it fitted their case, and it still fits ours. What is it my friends which makes us unhappy? Why do we mourn? and why is our souls sorrowful? In short, why does all creation groan in pain together? The answer is:–DEATH, DISEASE, SICKNESS, PAIN, and DEATH. These, together with our sins, weigh us down in gloom and sorrow till me thinks a visitor from a world of eternal life would hardly be able to look upon our world and contemplate the scene for a moment. In view of these things an aged poet exclaimed:
“I’ve seen yon weary
Twice forty times return;
And every time has added proof
That man was made to mourn.”
What kind of salvation then do we need? I reply, we need salvation from death and the grave, as well as from our sins. And we have now shown clearly that this is the salvation provided and brought to light by the gospel; a salvation not only of our spirits, but of our body and parts, of our flesh and bones, of our hands, and feet and head, with every organ, limb and joint. What kind of salvation does the earth need, in order to fit it for the abode of immortal man? I answer, it needs a redemption from the withering curse of sin and restoration to its paradistical state. The inquiry now arises whether this salvation will be universal as it relates to the redemption of the body; to which I answer in the affirmative, as proved by the texts before quoted. This gives rise to another inquiry, viz: whether all who rise from the dead will be equally happy? to which I answer NO. After the resurrection of the body, men are to be judged according to their works; and will enjoy that which they are prepared to enjoy. For instance, our works determine the time of our rising, as well as the enjoyments which we shall possess. We [p.115]read, Rev. 20, that there will be a first resurrection, enjoyed by the blessed and holy; while the rest of the dead will not rise till a thousand years afterwards.
Again, we read that among the servants of God one man is made ruler over ten cities; another over five; another over none; notwithstanding they all rise from the dead.
So we see, the great object of our life should be to secure a part in the first resurrection, and also to secure all the glory and dominion and power and might and possession and happiness which it is possible for us to secure, by faith, and obedience to the commandments of the risen Jesus.
In the resurrection, and the life to come, men that are prepared will actually possess a material inheritance on the earth. They will possess houses, and cities, and villages, and gold and silver, and precious stones, and food, and rayment, and they will eat, drink, converse, think, walk, taste, smell and enjoy. They will also sing and preach, and teach, and learn, and investigate; and play on musical instruments, and enjoy all the pure delights of affection, love, and domestic felicity. While each, like the risen Jesus can take his friend by the hand and say: “Handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.”
We shall now proceed to examine the writings of the prophets and apostles on this subject, in order to show that a material existence in the flesh, upon the earth, in their glorified and risen bodies. was the doctrine uniformly taught and embraced by holy men of old; and that they all lived and died, in hope of no other, than a material immortality and eternal life.
To begin at the fountain head, let me say that God, the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is every where in the scripture revealed as a being possessing a bodily organization in all its parts. He is said to have head, eyes, ears, mouth, nose, nostrils, face, arms, hands, fingers, backparts, feet and all other parts. It is also said that man was made in his likeness and image. Jesus Christ is also represented to be the express image of his person.
From all these facts we learn that God the father has a real and substantial existence in human form and proportions, like Jesus Christ, and like man. Men’s precepts would carry the idea that it was the “moral image” only and not the physical likeness of Diety that man was formed to represent. But as we find no such term in the scriptures as “moral image;” and as we presume God has no immoral image or likeness, having but one image or likeness, and that is his features shape or form, which is said to be like Jesus, and like man, therefore we can only judge of his existence by the pattern which represents him. But it is said that “God is a spirit.” This is often quoted to prove that he does not exist in a [p.116]personal or bodily form. But I would inquire of such, what a spirit is? Is there such a being as an individual intelligence in personal form, without flesh and bones, and without the grosser properties of matter which are tangible to our senses, or touch? We freely admit there is. For such are we, while our bodies are in the grave. But who shall say that an individual spirit of this kind, is not an organized personage of a proper shape, form, and proportions; and who shall say they are not composed of matter, although of a more subtle and refined nature than we are prepared fully to comprehend, while moving in our present sphere? The fact is, mortal man knows but a very little in regard to the more refined properties of matter as it approaches the confines of spirituality and approximates towards its highest state of refinement, in order to form those links which connect it with mind, or with intelligence. Suffice it to say, that reason and experience teaches that every individual intelligence, must have a deffinite centre and circumference, definite form and shape, and must therefore occupy a certain point in space. And therefore to say that an individual intelligence really exists, “whose centre is every where and his circumference no where; or even to assert that an individual intelligence can personally occupy two distinct places at the same time is worse than nonsense; it is folly in the extreme.
It is clearly manifest that Jesus Christ himself cannot occupy more than one place at a time, in person. And we believe it is admitted on all hands, that he partakes of all the fullness of the God-head, and has the same power as his father; and is glorified with the same glory. Indeed, in his prayer to the father, he admits that they are one, and prays that his disciples may be one with them AS THEY ARE ONE. Now, if the father’s centre is every where and his circumference no where, then Jesus Christ is the same; and if the father and son are thus, then all his disciples must in turn have their centre every where and their circumference no where, in order to be one, as they are one. Again, if the father is without body or parts, then the son must also be without body or parts in order to be like him: and if the father and son are thus, then his disciples must be without body or parts, in order that the prayer may be answered, which was, that the father and son and his disciples might be ONE in the same sense of the word. What a world of mystery has been thrown over the subject of the oneness of the father and the son, when the simple truth is this: they are one in the same sense of the word; that all the children of God are required to be one: that is, one by perfect agreement. “God is a spirit,” so is Jesus Christ a spirit, and so are we spirits. But then some spirits are associated and connected with bodies of flesh and bones, and some are not. But all intelligent beings have a personal identity, and embodiment; whether it be of flesh or bones, or of some substance more refined. The only difficulty remaining to be solved, is this, how or in [p.117]what sense can an organized intelligent being be every where present. To this inquiry we reply: not in person, but in influence or representation. In this latter sense of the word at least, it may be said that Queen Victoria is present in China, in India, and many other places at the same time. That is, she has representatives there. So is it with God. He has from all eternity to all eternity a priesthood of the order of his son which is after the power of an endless life, without beginning of days or end of years. This delegated authority acts in his name, and by his power when and wherever it is commissioned. It does the work that he would do if present on the same occasion, a reception or rejection of any person holding this power and authority is emphatically rejecting or receiving him that sent them. Hence Christ said to those whom he sent: whoso receiveth you receiveth me; and whoso receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.
But besides this representative presence, there is another sense in which God may be every where present, not in person; but by a proceeding principle which emanates from him to fill the immensity of space; which principle is light. This proceeding principle is in all things, and is the law by which they live and move and have a being.
But to return to the examination of the prophets and apostles, on the subject of man’s material existence and inheritance in the life to come. As Job is one of the most ancient writers let us commence with his testimony. Job, what say ye? did you look for a material existence on the earth after the resurrection, or otherwise? Ans. “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms distroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” Job 19, 25, 26.
Let the Psalmist next speak: Come David, speak out, and tell us what you know on this subject. “The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein forever.” Psalm 37, 29.
Solomon, are you of the same mind of your father? if so speak. “The upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it.” Prov. 2d. 21st.
Isaiah, your turn comes next, what do you testify? “Thy people also shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever.” Isa. 60, 21.
“For as the new heavens, and the new earth which I will make shall remain before me saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain.” “And it shall come to pass that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me saith the Lord.” Isaiah 64, 22, 23.
Ezekiel, as you are a witness in this case, please relate to us whether any thing was revealed to you in regard to the resurrection of the material body, and its final residence on the earth.
[p.118]”So I prophesied as I was commanded, and as I prophesied there was a noise, and, behold a shaking and the bones came together, bone to his bone.
“And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above.
“And the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceeding great army.”
“Thus saith the Lord God, behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit in you, and you shall live; and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord.”
“And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they and their children and their children’s children forever: and my servant David shall be their prince forever.”
“Moreover, I will make a covenant of peace with them; It shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them forevermore.” Ezekiel 37.
We will now dismiss this witness who has spoken to the point; and call upon Daniel.
“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake. Daniel 12th. 2d.
“And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom UNDER THE WHOLE HEAVEN shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High.” Dan. 7, 27.
Very well Daniel. Now here comes little Hosea to give his voice among the rest. Hear him.
“I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be thy plague; O grave, I will be thy destruction.” Hosea 13, 14.
Let us now hear Zechariah.
“And his (the Lord’s) feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives which is before Jerusalem on the east.” “And the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.” “And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.”
“All the land shall be turned as a plain, from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place from Benjamin’s gate, unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king’s wine-presses. And [p.119]men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited.”
“And it shall be that whoso will not come up of all the families of the land unto Jerusalem to worship the king, the lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.” Zek. 14.
Having selected a few out of many of the most important witnesses on this subject, from the Old Testament, we will now proceed to an examination of New Testament witnesses: beginning with Jesus Christ.
“Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit THE EARTH.” “Thou shalt call his name Jesus.” “He shall be great, and shall be called the son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David; and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” Luke 1st. 31, 32.
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” 1st. Cor. 15th, 42, 50.
So numerous are the testimonies of the Apostles in regard to the resurection of the material body, that we do not deem it expedient to quote them at large, but will submit the case to the judgement of our reader, with a single remark on one passage.
“Flesh and blood” says the Apostle, “cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” Now if he had said that flesh and bones could not inherit the kingdom of God, then he would have excluded a risen Saviour therefrom, together with all those who are to rise from the dead in his image, and in the fashion of his glorious body.
The fact should be carefully borne in mind, that while the prophets and apostles every where speak of flesh and bones, and sometimes even of skin and sinews in connection with the resurrection, they no where speak of a restoration of the blood to the physical system, but always substituted the word spirit. Hence we conclude that the immortal body in its new organization is quickened by a fluid called spirit, which emanates from God, and is so pure that it renovates the system, and fills it with eternal life, and vigour.
While the natural body and the spiritual body are alike composed of flesh and bones etc., the one is quickened by the blood, and the other by spirit only. And this seems to constitute the principle difference between them.
Having now examined the highest authorities on the earth, as far back as ancient Job, and down through all former dispensations; and having proved that they all agree in the expectation of a material resurrection and an everlasting possession on the earth:
We will now soar to the heavens, and for a moment listen to the songs of beings who have bid farewell to this vale of tears, and who [p.120]dwell in the immediate presence of God and the Lamb; and see whether they have altered their mind on this subject since their exit from time into eternity.
“And they sung a new song saying:
“Thou art worthy to take the book,
And to open the seals thereof:
For thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us,”
To God by thy blood, out of every kindred,
And tongue, and people and nation;
And hast made us unto our God,
Kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth
Rev. 5, 9, 10.
Thus our readers will perceive that heaven and earth and the inhabitants thereof, as many as are truly enlightened by the spirit of God, all join in bearing witness to the salvation, exaltation, glory and immortality of the physical system of man; and of his eternal inheritance on the earth.
Perhaps some soul, just awaking, by the perusal of these pages, from the long night of darkness and error which like a gloomy cloud has brooded over the nations, and begining to come to his more perfect senses, will enquire; is earth indeed our everlasting home? Where then is heaven? To which inquiry we reply, that earth, and the other material creations which spangle the firmament with a flood of glory, are all heavenly kingdoms, together with the inhabitants thereof: so far as they are glorified. Heaven then, composed of an innumerable association of glorified worlds, and happy immortal beings, beaming with an effulgence of light, intelligence and love, of which our earth, small and insignificant as it is, must form some humble part.
Immortal man, made a king and a priest unto God; and associated with a system of systems so grand, so glorious; so extensive and sublime, will by no means be confined, or limited in his sphere of action to this small planet; but will wing his way, like a risen Saviour, from world to world with all the ease of communication, that we now visit different neigborhoods and places on our earth; and thus exploring, conversing, searching, and forming an acquaintance with God and his works: He will be able to receive and impart that finish of education and knowledge which only buds in time; but blooms and ripens in eternity. While the continued and ceaseless exertions of creative goodness will, by the acquisition of new creations, form a sufficient field for the exercise of his priestly and kingly powers: And thus fulfill the prediction on the head of Jesus, as recorded by the prophet Isaiah, “OF THE INCREASE OF HIS KINGDOM AND GOVERNMENT THERE SHALL BE NO END.”