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That immortality cannot suffer. These positions we will examine separately.
1. All men are raised to immortality at the moment of death. This proposition, which is one of the main pillars on which your argument rests, is diametrically opposite to the scriptures. When you urge this argument against our views, you virtually say that men are saved by the resurrection. We have already seen* some of the absurdities attendant upon that view of the subject. When you rely upon this argument, you in fact confess that your other grounds are untenable: for if men are saved by the resurrection, they are not saved by death's stopping their career of wickedness—not by being instructed, and not by faith and repentance, those indispensable prerequisites for the enjoyment of heaven. But the question is, are all men raised to immortality at the moment of death? We have in a former Letter, pointed out some of the objections to this notion. It was then shown that the scriptures declare, that Christ was the “first born from the dead,” which could not have been the case, if all men rise from the dead at the moment of death. It was also seen that David had not arisen in the days of the apostles, which shows that the resurrection is a future event.
But on the subject of the resurrection you constantly refer to the 15th of 1st Corinthians. Let us then for a moment look at that scripture, and see if it teaches us that all men are raised to inmortality at death. The apostle after speaking of the resurrection of Christ, mences the subject of man's resurrection in the following language ;--"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." Verse 22d. Here it is asserted that all shall be made alive, but there is not the least intimation that this resurrection takes place at death. After declaring that all shall be made alive, the
* See Letter II. to which the reader is requested to turn.
apostle adds, "But every man in his own order; Christ the first fruits, afterwards they that are Christ's at his coming." Verse 23. This verse, instead of favoring your idea, is directly opposed to it. The apostle here assures us, that Christ is the first fruits of the resurrection, that is, the first who rose to immortal life. This is also taught in verse 20th-But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.” This proves that the Lord Jesus was the first who put on immortality. This sense of the passage is confirmed by verse 21st-"For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” Death is said to come by Adam, because he was the first who experienced it. In like manner the resurrection is said to come by Christ, because he was the first raised from the dead to life immortal. Elsewhere the apostle says, that Christ is the first born from the dead. These passages clearly prove that Christ was the first, who arose from the grave to immortal life. But this cannot be true, if every man is raised at the moment of death. We must, therefore, conclude that your argument is founded upon false premises, or that the apostle was mistaken in his opinion. But the apostle, after having stated that Christ was the first fruits of the resurrection, informs us that men shall be raised afterwards. "Christ the first fruits, afterwards they that are Christ's at his coming." This passage not only says, that Christ rose first, but it also says that men shall rise afterwards. No language can more clearly contradict your position.
Besides the apostle informs us, that those who are Christ's, shall be raised at his coming. Now I will submit it to you to determine whether this alludes to his first coming, which is already past, or to his future coming. But in either case, it shows that all men are not raised at the hour of death. Christ's coming must mean some particular time, and hence the resurrection cannot take place at one time as much as at another. Again; the apostle says, verses 51st and 52d—“Behold, I show you a mystery ; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” Paul in this connexion by sleep means death. So when he says, "we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,” his meaning is, we shall not all die a temporal death, but we shall all be changed from mortal to immortal beings. But when shall this take place? The passage shall answer. "At the last trump, the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” This then informs us, that when the dead are raised to immortality, the saints who are alive on the earth, shall be changed to immortal beings. This truth is taught still more clearly, if possible, in 1 Thess. iv. 14, 15, 16, 17. “For if we believe that Jesus Christ died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shalt descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God. And the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive, and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. And so shall we ever be with the Lord.'
This passage teaches us that the resurrection is to take place at Christ's coming, which shows that all men are to be raised at some particular period. It further informs us, that, when the dead are raised, those which are alive on the earth, shall be changed, so as to be able to ascend up into the clouds, and meet the Lord in the air. Here then we can appeal to plain matters of fact.
Has this time ever arrived ? Have those who are alive on the earth ever been changed to immortal beings ? Have they ever been able to ascend up and meet the Lord in the air? No man will even pretend this. Then it is evident that the resurrection is a future event; and consequently it cannot be a fact that every person is raised to immortality, at the death of the body. What has been offered is deemed more than sufficient to confute your position, that death and the resurrection are simultaneous events.
But perhaps you will say, that I might have saved myself the labor of confuting a position which you have never advanced as your opinion. But why have you not advanced this position ? Your argument absolutely requires it. You are bound by all rules of reasoning to advance this position, or else abandon the inference you draw from it. It is of no use to you to say, that immortality cannot suffer. It would be of no use to prove that iminortality excludes all suffering, unless you prove also, that every person is raised to immortality at death. Suppose that immortal beings are incapable of pain, how does this prove that there is no misery beyond death ? If men do not put on immortality, until long after death, they may be miserable after death, and this misery may continue till the resurrection.
Now we have already seen, that the resurrection is a future event. This completely saps the foundation of your argument. You say, there can be no suffering in an immortal state. We admit it, and what follows ? Not that there is no suffering after death ; for as the resurrection is yet future, men may have suffered for hundreds or even thousands of years already, since their death, and their suffering may continue hundreds of years to come, before they put on immortality. Now if you were able to prove, that there could be no suffering in an immortal state, it would yield you no assistance. grace. For
They may suffer in an intermediate state, if they do not after the resurrection. Though destroying one of your premises overthrows your conclusion as completely, as if both of your premises were destroyed, still we shall not rest satisfied, till we have shown them both to be false. Having seen that your first position is void of foundation, let us now inquire into the truth of your other position, viz. That immortal beings cannot experience suffering. You frequently assert, that immortality cannot suffer. But we shall be better enabled to judge of the correctness of this assertion, when we shall have considered the subject maturely.
In the first place, this declaration comes from you with a very ill
you are in the habit, when pressed with any difficulty relative to a future retribution, of saying, that we have no knowledge of a future state. Attempting to expose a future reward for virtue you say, “Why should we believe that divine wisdom, with an intention to engage us in the service of virtue, should place its reward in a future state of existence, in a world we KNOW NOTHING OF, from which no traveller ever returned.” Again, in the same connexion you say, “ But all this must be carried on in a secret place, out of sight of all the living; and none to report it to us, only those who know NOTHING about it."*
Again you say, “ As amazed as any one may be at my ignorance of a future state, I have no pride in pretending to know that of which I am totally ignorant. After all that has been said by our doctors of divinity on the subject of a future state, reason will acknowledge that they have no more knowledge concerning its particulars than an infant child.”+ Once more you say, what man's constitution in a future state will be, "I humbly conceive no living man knows or can know. In these passages you assert,
* Lectures, pp. 299, 300.
Ibid. p. 133.
+ U. Mag. vol. jii. p. 131.