The Resurrection of the Body
Thus much for the second benefit which God bestoweth on His church, namely, remission of sins; now followeth the third in these words: The resurrection of the body. In the handling whereof, sundry points must be considered:
1. The first, whether there be a resurrection or no? This question must needs be handled, because Epicureans and atheists in all ages, and at this day, some do call this article into question. Now that there is a resurrection of the body after death, it may be proved by many arguments, whereof I will touch only the principal:
(1) The first is taken from the work of redemption. St John writeth (1 John 3:8) that Christ came to dissolve the works of the devil; which are sin, and by sin, death; and hence I reason thus: If sin and death are to be dissolved utterly, then the bodies of the faithful which are dead in the grave, must needs be made alive, otherwise death is not abolished; but sin and death must be utterly abolished; therefore there shall be a resurrection.
(2) Secondly, God had made a covenant with His church, the tenor whereof is this (Jer. 31:33): I will be thy God, and thou shalt be my people. This covenant is not for a day or an age, or for a thousand years or ages, but is everlasting and without end, so as GodŐs people may say of God for ever, God is our God; and likewise, God will say of His church for evermore, This people is my people. Now if GodŐs covenant be everlasting, then all the faithful departed from the beginning of the world must be raised again to life. And if God should leave His people in the grave under death for ever, how could they be called the people of God? For He is a God of mercy and of life itself; and therefore though they abide long in the earth; yet they must at length be revived again. This argument Christ useth against the Saducees, which denied the resurrection (Matt. 22:32): God is not the God of the dead but of the living; but God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which are dead, and therefore must rise again.
(3) The third argument must be taken from the tenor of GodŐs justice. It is a special part of GodŐs glory, to shew forth His mercy on the godly, and His justice upon the wicked in rewarding them according to their works, as the apostle saith (Rom. 2:6-8), God will reward every man according to his works; to them that by continuance in well-doing seek glory, and honour, and immortality, life eternal; but unto them that disobey the truth, that be contentious, and obey unrighteousness, shall be indignation and wrath. But in this life God rewardeth not men according to their doings; and therefore Solomon speaking of the estate of all men in this world, saith (Eccl. 9:2), All things come alike to all, and the same condition to the just and unjust, to the good and bad, to the pure and polluted, to him that offereth sacrifice and to him that offereth none. Nay, which is more, here the wicked flourish, and the godly are afflicted. The ungodly have hearts-ease and all things at will; whereas the godly are oppressed and overwhelmed with all kinds of miseries, and are as sheep appointed for the slaughter. It remains therefore that there must needs be a general resurrection of all men after this life, that the righteous may obtain a reward of GodŐs free mercy, and the wicked utter shame and confusion. But some will say, it is sufficient that God do this to the soul of every man, the body needeth not to rise again. I answer, that the ungodly man doth not work wickedness only in his soul, but his body also is an instrument thereof; and the godly do not only practise righteousness in their souls but in their bodies also. The bodies of the wicked are instruments of sin, the bodies of the righteous are the weapons of righteousness, and therefore their bodies must rise again, that both in body and soul they may receive a reward according to that which they have wrought in them.
(4) The fourth argument, which is also used by Paul (1 Cor. 15;12-20) is this: Christ Himself is risen, and therefore all the faithful shall rise again; for He rose not for Himself as a private man, but in our room and stead, and for us. If the Head be risen, then the members also shall rise again; for by the same power whereby Christ raised Himself, He both can and will raise all those that be of His mystical body, He being the first-fruits of them that sleep.
(5) The fifth argument is taken from express testimony of Scripture. Job hath an excellent place for this purpose (Job 19:25-27): I am sure (saith he) that my Redeemer liveth, and He shall stand the last on the earth, and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet I shall see God in my flesh, whom I myself shall see, and mine eyes shall behold, and none other for me. And St Paul to the Corinthians avoucheth and proveth this point at large (1 Cor. 15), by sundry arguments which I will not stand to repeat; this one remembered (vv. 14,18): If (saith he) the dead rise not again, then your faith is vain, our preaching is in vain, and the godly departed are perished.
(6) The sixth argument may be taken from the order of nature, which ministereth certain resemblances of the resurrection; which though they be no sufficient proofs, yet may they be inducements to the truth. Both philosophers and also divines have written of the phoenix, that first she is consumed to ashes by the heat of the sun, and that afterward of her ashes ariseth a young one; and on this manner is her kind preserved. Again, swallows, worms and flies, which have lien dead in the winter season, in the spring, by the virtue of the sunŐs heat, revive again; so likewise men fall in swoons and trances, being for a time without breath or shew of life, and yet afterward come again. And (to use PaulŐs example) before the corn can grow and bear fruit, it must first be cast into the ground, and there rot. And if this were not seen by experience, men would not believe it. Again, every present day is as it were dead and buried in the night following, and yet afterward it returns again the next morning. Lastly, we read how the old prophets raised some from death; and our Saviour Christ raised Lazarus among the rest, that had lien four days in the grave and stank; and why then should any think it impossible for God to raise all men to life?
But let us see what reasons may be alleged to the contrary:
(1) First it is alleged that the resurrection of bodies resolved to dust and ashes, is against common sense and reason. Answer: It is above reason, but not against reason. For impotent and miserable man, as experience sheweth, can by art even of ashes make the curious workmanship of glass; why then may we not in reason think that the omnipotent and everlasting God is able to raise menŐs bodies out of the dust?
(2) Secondly, it is said that menŐs bodies being dead are turned into dust, and so are mingled with the bodies of beasts and other creatures, and one manŐs body with another, and by reason of this confusion, men cannot possibly rise with their own bodies. Answer: Howsoever this is impossible with men, yet it is possible with God. For He that in the beginning was able to create all things of nothing, is much more able to make every manŐs body at the resurrection, of his own matter, and to distinguish the dust of menŐs bodies from the dust of beasts; and the dust of one manŐs body from another. The goldsmith by his art can sunder divers metals one from another; and some men out of one metal can draw another; why then should we think it impossible for the almighty God to do the like?
(3) It may be further objected thus: A man is eaten by a wolf, the wolf is eaten of a lion, the lion by the fowls of the air, and the fowls of the air eaten again by men; again one man is eaten of another, as it is usual among the cannibals. Now the body of that man which is turned into so many substances, especially into the body of another man, cannot rise again; and if the one doth, the other doth not. Answer: This reason is but a cavil of manŐs brain; for we must not think that whatsoever entereth into the body, and is turned into the substance thereof must rise again and become a part of the body at the day of judgment; but every man shall then have so much substance of his own, as shall make his body to be entire and perfect; though another manŐs flesh once eaten be no part thereof.
(4) Again, it is urged that because flesh and blood cannot enter into the kingdom of God; therefore the bodies of men shall not rise again. Answer: By flesh and blood, is not meant the bodies of men simply, but the bodies of men as they are in weakness, without glory, subject to corruption. For flesh and blood in Scripture, signifies sometime the original sin and corruption of nature, and sometimes manŐs nature subject to miseries and infirmities, or the body in corruption before it be glorified, and so it must be understood in this place.
(5) Lastly, it is objected that Solomon saith (Eccl. 3:19), The condition of the children of men, and the condition of the beasts are even as one condition. Now beasts rise not again after this life, and therefore there is no resurrection of men. Answer: In that place, Solomon expoundeth himself: They are like in dying; for so he saith, as the one dieth, so dieth the other; he speaketh not of their estate after death.
2. The second point to be considered is the cause of resurrection. In mankind we must consider two parts: the elect and the reprobate; and they both shall rise again at the day of judgment, but by divers causes: the godly have one cause of their resurrection, and the ungodly another:
(1) The cause why the godly rise again is the resurrection of Christ, yea it is the proper cause which procureth and effecteth their resurrection. In the Scripture, Adam and Christ are compared together, and Christ is called the second Adam; these were two roots. The first Adam was the root of all mankind, and he conveyeth sin, and by sin death to all that sprang of him, Christ only excepted. The second Adam, which is the root of all the elect, conveyeth life both in body and soul to all that are united to Him; and by the virtue of His resurrection they shall rise again after this life. For look as the power of the Godhead of Christ when He was dead in the grave, raised His body on the third day; so shall the same power of Christ His Godhead convey itself unto all the faithful, which even in death remain united unto Him, and raise them up at the last day. And for that cause, Christ is called a quickening spirit (1 Cor. 15:45).
(2) Now the cause why the wicked rise again, is not the virtue of ChristŐs resurrection, but the virtue of GodŐs curse set down in His Word (Gen. 2:17): In the day that thou shalt eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt die the death, that is, a double death, both of body and soul. And therefore they arise only by the power of Christ as He is a judge, that this sentence may be verified on them; and that they may suffer both in body and soul eternal punishment in hell fire.
Furthermore, St John (John 5:28) setteth down the outward means whereby the dead shall be raised, namely, the voice of Christ: The hour shall come (saith he) in which all that are in the grave shall hear His voice, and they shall come forth. For as He created all things by His Word, so at the day of judgment by the same voice all shall be raised again. This may be a good reason to move us to hear the ministers of God reverently; for that which they teach, is the very Word of God; and therefore we are to pray that it may be as effectual in raising us up from the grave of sin in this life, and it shall be after this life, in raising us from the grave of death unto judgment.
3. Thirdly, we are to consider what manner of bodies shall rise at the last day. Answer: The same bodies for substance. This Job (Job 19:26,27) knew well when he said, I shall see Him at the last day in my flesh, whom I myself shall see, and none other for me, with the same eyes. Nevertheless the bodies of the elect shall be altered in quality, being made incorruptible and filled with glory.
4. The last point to be considered is the end why these bodies shall rise again. The principal end which God intendeth, is His own glory, in the manifestation of His justice and mercy. Now at the last day, when all men shall be raised to judgment by the voice of Christ, the godly to life, and the wicked to condemnation; there shall be a full manifestation both of His mercy and justice; and therefore by consequence a full manifestation of His glory.
Thus much for the doctrines touching the resurrection; now follow the uses:
Use 1. First, it serveth wonderfully for the comfort of all Christian hearts. David speaking not only of Christ, but also of himself, saith most notably (Psa. 16:9,10), Mine heart is glad, my tongue rejoiceth, and my flesh also doth rest in hope. Who so? For (saith he) thou shalt not leave my soul in the grave, neither wilt thou suffer thy holy one to see corruption. Though the days of this life be days of woe and misery, yet the day of the resurrection shall be unto all the children of God a time of rejoicing and felicity, and as Peter saith (Acts 3:19), It is the time of refreshing. Whosoever is now an hungred, shall then eat and be filled with the fruit of the tree of life; and whosoever is now naked, shall then be clothed with the white garment dipped in the blood of the Lamb; and whosoever is now lame, shall have all his members restored perfectly. And as this day is joyful to the godly, so on the contrary it is a day of woe and misery to the ungodly; as St John saith (John 5:29), They that have done evil, shall come forth to the resurrection of condemnation. If they might cease to live after this life, and die as the beast doth, O, then it would be well with them; for then they might have an end of their misery; but the wicked must after this life rise again to condemnation, which is the accomplishment of their eternal woe and wretchedness; a rueful and doleful case to consider, and yet it is the state of all unbelieving and unrepentant sinners. If a man were bidden to go to bed, that after he had slept and was risen again, he might go to execution, it would make his heart to ache within him; yet this, yea a thousand-fold worse is the estate of all impenitent sinners; they must sleep in the grave for a while, and then rise again, that a second death may be inflicted upon them in body and soul, which is the suffering of the full wrath of God, both in body and soul, eternally. This being so, let us embrace the good counsel of St Peter, who saith (Acts 3:19), Amend your lives and turn, that your sins may be done away when the time of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. If a man die repentant for his sins, it is a day of refreshing; but if he die in his sins, impenitent and hard-hearted, it is a day of eternal horror, desperation and confusion.
Use 2. Again, if we believe that our bodies shall rise again after this life, and stand before God at the last day of judgment, we must daily enter into a serious consideration of this time, and have in mind, that one day we must meet the Lord face to face. A traveller comes into an inn having but a penny in his purse, he sits down and calls for all store of provision and dainties; now what is to be thought of him? Surely in the judgment of all men, his behaviour betokens folly, or rather madness. But why? Because he spends freely, and hath no regard to the reckoning which must follow. How foolish then and mad is the practice of every man that liveth in his sins, bathing himself in his pleasures in this world, never bethinking how he shall meet God at the last day of judgment, and there make reckoning of all his doings? An ancient divine writes of himself that this saying ran in his mind, and sounded always in his ears: Arise ye dead and come unto judgment. And this ought always to be sounding in our ears, that while we have time we should prepare ourselves to meet God at the last day.
Use 3. Thirdly, if we believe the resurrection of the body, we are not to weep and mourn immoderately for our friends deceased. Our Saviour Christ did weep for Lazarus, and when Steven was stoned to death, certain men that feared God buried him, and made great lamentation for him; and therefore mourning is not condemned; and we must not be as stocks, that are bereft of all compassion; yet remember we must, what St Paul saith to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 4:13): I would not, brethren, have you ignorant concerning those which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, as others which have no hope. For the godly man properly dieth not, but lays himself down to take a sleep after his manifold labours in this life; which being ended, he must rise again to joys everlasting; and therefore we must needs moderate and mingle our mourning for the deceased, with this and such like comforts.
Use 4. Fourthly, we are taught hence to labour and strive against the natural fear of death; for if there be a resurrection of our bodies after this life, then death is but a passage or middle way from this life to eternal life. If a beggar should be commanded to put off his old rags, that he might be clothed with rich and costly garments, would he be sorry because he should stand naked a while till he were wholly bestripped of his rags? No surely; well, thus doth God when He calls a man to death; He bids him put off his old rags of sin and corruption, and be clothed with the glorious robe of ChristŐs righteousness; and our abode in the grave is but for a space, while corruption be put off. This is PaulŐs argument, saying (2 Cor. 5:1), We know that when our earthly house of this tabernacle shall be dissolved, we have a building given of God, which is an house not made with hands, but eternal in the heavens.
Use 5. Fifthly, whereas the godly are subject to manifold afflictions and miseries, both in body and mind in this life, here they shall find a sufficient stay to quiet and calm their minds, if they consider that after this short life is ended, there will endue a joyful resurrection. Job (Job 19:26), in the extremity of all his temptations, made this the comfort to his soul, that one day he should rise again, in which he should enjoy the glorious presence of his Creator. And the Holy Ghost saith (Heb. 11:35) that the servants of God in the days of Antiochus were racked and tormented, and would not be delivered. Why so? Because they looked for a better resurrection.
Use 6. Lastly, the consideration of this point serveth to be a bridle to restrain a man from sin, and a spur to make him go forward in all godliness of life and conversation. St Paul (Acts 24:15) had hope toward God that the resurrection of the dead should be both of the just and unjust. Now what did this move him unto? Mark (v.16): Herein (saith he that is, in this respect) I endeavour myself to have a clear conscience towards God and towards men. And let us for our parts likewise remember the last judgment, that it may be a means to move us so to behave ourselves in all our actions, that we may keep a good conscience before God and before men; and let it also be a bridle unto us to keep us back from all manner of sin. For what is the cause why men daily defile their bodies and souls with so many damnable practices, without any remorse of conscience? Surely they never seriously remember the day of the resurrection after this life, wherein they must stand before Christ to give an account of that which they have done in this life, whether it be good or bad.
Thus much of the duties; now mark it is further said, The resurrection of the body. If the body rise, it must first fall. Here then this point is wrapped up as a confessed truth, that all men must die the first death. And yet considering that the members of the church have the pardon of their sins which are the cause of death, it may be demanded, why they must die? Answer: We are to know that when they die, death doth not seize upon them, as it is in his own nature, a curse; for in that respect it was born of Christ upon the cross, and that for us; but for two other causes, which we must think upon, as being special means to make a man willing to die:
(1) They must die that original corruption may be utterly abolished; for no man living on earth is perfectly sanctified; and original sin is remaining for special causes to the last moment of this life, then it is abolished and not before.
(2) The godly die that by death as by a straight gate they may pass from this vale of misery to eternal life. And thus Christ by His death makes death to be no death, and turns a curse into a blessing.
And to proceed: It is not here said, the resurrection of the soul, but of the body only; what then (will some say) becometh of the soul? Divers have thought that the souls then, though they do not die, yet are still kept within the body (being as it were asleep) till the last day. But GodŐs Word saith to the contrary. For the souls of the godly lie under the altar (Rev. 6:9,10), and cry, How long, Lord Jesus? Dives (Luke 16:23) in soul did suffer the woe and torments of hell; and Lazarus had joy in AbrahamŐs bosom.
Again, some others think that menŐs souls after this life do pass from one manŐs body to another; and Herod may seem to have been of this opinion (Matt. 14:2); for when news was brought him of Christ, he said that John Baptist being beheaded was risen again, thinking that the soul of John Baptist was put into the body of some other man. And for proof hereof, some allege the example of Nebuchadnezzar, who forsaking the society of men (Dan. 4), lived as beasts; and did eat grass like a beast; and they imagine that his own soul went out of him, and that the soul of a beast entered into the room thereof. But this indeed is a fond conceit; for even then he had the soul of a man when he lived as a beast, being only stricken by the hand of God with an exceeding madness, whereby he was bereft of common reason; as doth appear by that clause in the text (v.34) where it is said that his understanding, or knowledge, returned to him again.
Again, some other think that the soul neither dieth nor sleepeth, nor passeth out of the body into another, but wandereth here on earth among men, and oftentimes appeareth to this or that man; and this is the opinion of some heretics, and of the common people, which think that dead men walk. And for proof hereof some allege the practice of the witch of Endor (1 Sam. 28), who is said to make Samuel to appear before Saul, but the truth is, it was not Samuel indeed, but only a counterfeit of him. For not all the witches in the world, nor all the devils in hell, are able to disquiet the souls of the faithful departed, which are in the keeping of the Lord without wandering from place to place. For when men die in the faith, their souls are immediately translated into heaven, and there abide till the last judgment; and contrariwise if men die in their sins, their souls go straight to the place of eternal condemnation, and there abide as in a prison, as Peter saith (1 Pet. 3:19). In a word, when the breath goeth out of the body, the soul of every man goeth straight either to heaven or hell; and there is no third place of abode mentioned in Scripture.
To conclude, the resurrection of the body is expressly mentioned in the Creed, to shew that there is no resurrection of the soul, which neither dieth, nor sleepeth, but is a spiritual and invisible substance, living and abiding for ever as well forth of the body as in the same.