The following excerpt is from "Resurgam" (Latin for "I Shall Rise Again"), a sermon preached Sunday morning, 1 April 1860, at Exeter Hall, London.
he doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is a doctrine peculiar to Christianity. The heathen, by the feeble light of nature, were able to spell out the truth of the immortality of the soul. Those professors of religion who deny that immortality, are not so far advanced in learning as the heathen themselves.
When you meet with any who think that the soul of man may possibly become annihilated, make them a present of that little catechism brought out by the Westminster Assembly, which bears the title, "Catechism for the Young and Ignorant." Let them read that through, and begin to understand that God hath not made man in vain.
The resurrection of the body was that which was new in the apostolic times. When Paul stood up on Mars hill, in the midst of the learned assembly of the Areopagites, had he spoken to them about the immortality of the soul, they would not have laughed; they would have respected him, for this was one of the sublime truths which their own wise men had taught, but when he went on to assert that the flesh and blood which was laid in the tomb should yet arise again, that bones which had become the dwelling place of worms, that flesh which had corrupted and decayed, should actually start afresh into life, that the body as well as the soul should live, some mocked, and others said, "We will hear thee again of this matter."
The fact is, reason teaches the immortality of the spirit, it is revelation alone which teaches the immortality of the body. It is Christ alone who hath brought life and immortality to light by the gospel. He was the clearest proclaimer of that grand truth. Albeit that it had lain in the secret faith of many of the ancient people of God before, yet he it was who first set forth in clear terms the grand truth that there should be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust.
As far as I know, the doctrine has not been disputed in the Christian church. There have been some few heretics who have denied it at divers times, but they have been so few, so utterly insignificant, that it is not worthwhile to take any notice of their scruples, or of the objections which they have urged.
In order to affirm this, the ancient Christian church was in the habit in their creed of adding a sentence to the Article which runs thus:—"I believe in the resurrection of the dead." They added, in Latin words to this effect:—"I believe in the resurrection of the dead, of this very flesh and blood." I do not know that the addition was ever authorized by the church, but it was continually used, especially at the time when there was a discussion as to the truth of the doctrine of the resurrection of the body.
The very flesh and blood that is buried, the very eyes that are closed in death, the very hand which stiffens by my corpse, these very members shall live again—not the identical particles of the same matter any more than the self-same particles of the wheat spring up to make a blade, and to make full corn in the ear. Yet shall they be identical, in the true sense of the term, they shall spring up from this body—shall be the true result and development of this poor flesh and blood, which we now drag about with us here below.
Ten thousand objections have been raised against this, but they are all readily answerable. Some have said, "But when men's bodies are dead, and are committed to the grave, they are often digged up, and the careless sexton mixes them up with common mould; nay, it sometimes happens that they are carted away from the churchyard, and strewn over the fields, to become a rich manure for wheat, so that the particles of the body are absorbed into the corn that is growing, and they travel round in a circle until they become the food of man. So that the particle which may have been in the body of one man enters into the body of another. Now," say they, "how can all these particles be tracked?"
Our answer is if it were necessary, every atom could be traced. Omnipotence and Omniscience could do it. If it were needful that God should search and find out every individual atom that ever existed, he would be able to detect the present abode of every single particle.
But it is not the identity of the matter that will make positive identity. Are you not aware that our bodies are changing—that in about every ten years we have different bodies from what we had ten years ago? That is to say, by decay, and the continual wearing away of our flesh, there is not in this body I have here, a single particle that was in my body ten years ago, and yet I am the same man. I know I am precisely the same.
So you. You shall have been born in America, and lived there twenty years; you shall suddenly be transferred to India, and live there another twenty years; you come back to America to see your friends—you are the same man, they know you, recognize you, you are precisely the same individual; but yet philosophy teaches us a fact which cannot be denied—that your body would have changed twice in the time you have been absent from your friends; that every particle is gone, and has had its place supplied by another; and yet the body is the same.
So that it is not necessary there should be the same particles; it is not needful that you should track every atom and bring it back in order that the body should preserve its identity.
Have you never heard the story of the wife of Peter Martyr, a celebrated reformer, who died some years before the time of Queen Mary? Since his enemies could not reach his body, they took up the body of his wife after she was dead, and buried it in a dunghill. During the reign of Elizabeth, the body was removed from its contemptuous hiding-place; it was then reduced to ashes. In order that the Romanists, if they should ever prevail again, might never do dishonor to that body, they took the ashes of Peter Martyr's wife, and mixed them with the reputed ashes of a Romish saint. Mixing the two together, they said, "Now these Romanists will never defile this body, because they will be afraid of desecrating the relics of their own saint."
Perhaps some wiseacres may say, "How can these two be separated?" Why, they could be divided readily enough if God willed to do it; for granted that God is omniscient omnipotent, and you have never to ask how, for Omniscience and Omnipresence put the question out of court, and decide the thing at once. Besides, it is not necessary that it should be so. The life-germs of the two bodies may not have mixed together. God has set his angels to watch over them, as he set Michael to watch over the body of Moses, and he will bring out the two life-germs, and they shall be developed and the two bodies shall start up separately at the sound of the archangel's trump.
Remember, then, and doubt not that the very body in which you sinned shall be the very body in which you shall suffer in hell; and the body in which you believe in Christ, and in which you yield yourselves to God, shall be the very body in which you shall walk the golden streets, and in which you shall praise the name of God for ever and ever.