Lawrenceburg, Ky., Oct. 1, 1875.
MY DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - The request of Brother Caudle, of Texas, and yours accompanying it, seems to call on me for an effort to comply. My absence from home for near three months at one time, and a considerable portion of the time since my return from that long journey, may suffice for an apology for the delay. The request was that I should give my views through the SIGNS OF THE TIMES on the text found in John xi. 25: "I am the resurrection and the life." Although the words are but few and very plain, I almost tremble at the thought of writing on them, for their immense magnitude reaches far beyond my feeble powers to comprehend them. Much has been written and much spoken on this momentous subject of the resurrection, and some seem anxious to explain the whole mystery, while others seem as anxious to explain it away.
The expression of Martha and the reply of the Savior may assure us that the resurrection of Christ and of his people are in one respect identical, indivisible and inseparable, as is evident according to the following texts: "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise," &c. - Isa. xxvi. 19. I have under-scored some of the foregoing words, not by way of emphasis, but to show that they are supplied words. I do not know that they change the meaning. But again, "After two days will he revive us; in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight." - Hosea vi. 2. In their fallen nature they are his by redemption as well as by a gift from his Father. See Psalm lxxiv. 2, Isa. x1iii. 1, John xvii. 6. Therefore they are his, and one, with him in the resurrection.
"One in the tomb, one when he rose,
One when he triumphed o'er his foes,
One when in heaven he took his seat,
And seraphs sung all hell's defeat."
The unity of Christ and his redeemed in the resurrection is fully exhibited in the 15th chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians, where the apostle clearly shows that unity. Read from the 12th to the 27th verse, inclusive. It was the momentous and heart-thrilling theme of the apostles, the joy inspiring solace of the saints in all ages. "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." A body of death weighs continually upon us like a miserable incubus, to depress our every spirits, and sensibly feeling our native sinfulness and carnality of the flesh, we groan daily, being burdened.
"Temptations everywhere annoy,
And sins and snares our peace destroy;
Our earthly joys are from us torn,
And oft an absent God we mourn."
The animating hope of a glorious resurrection, when fully realized, affords the careworn pilgrim a soothing panacea for all the woes that flesh is heir to, a comfortable assurance of a final egress from a world of tribulation, and a happy ingress into one of endless felicity.
"This glorious hope revives,
Our courage by the way,
While each in expectation lives,
And longs to see the day."
Laboring and heavy laden we trudge along the dismal and rugged pathway of our tiresome pilgrimage, with now and then a flickering light to dawn upon the saddening gloom but for a moment and disappear; or if a brighter beam from the "Sun of Righteousness" illumines our dark journey, how soon a sable shade seems to obscure the light, and we feel like exclaiming with Jeremiah, "Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through."
While wading through and buffeting the billows of tribulation, how cheering to look by faith beyond the gloomy tomb and contemplate the brilliancy and blessedness of a luminous resurrection day. One by one we accompany the remains of the dear saints to their earthen dreary resting place, and while covering and secluding them forever beyond the gaze of mortal vision, may sing in solemn notes the plaintive, pleasing requiem,
"O grave, though thy gloom their remains have enshrouded,
The triumph o'er thee is already complete;
They'll rise, and be borne to the regions unclouded,
To hail their Deliverer and sing thy defeat."
Should not this "good hope" of a blessed immortality bear up our oft sinking spirits while apparent,
"Dangers stand thick through all the ground,
To push us to the tomb;
While fierce diseases wait around,
To hurry mortals home?"
And while appalled with those dangers, troubled on every side, with fightings without and fears within, how consoling for the eye of faith to look away from the gloomy picture to the dear Redeemer, and hear his animating voice proclaim, "I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE." With what joy should we contemplate the approaching period when the dear Redeemer "shall appear the second time, without sin unto salvation," when "the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel and with the trump of God," when the dead in Christ shall rise, and when he "shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself."
In writing on this wonderful and sublime subject I find myself submerged in mystery. Paul said, "Behold I show you a mystery," and a mystery it must remain until consummated. We would recoil at the idea of the resurrection of our vile body in its present state of vileness, for then it would still be a mass of putridity; but a radical change must take place, not in the new man, for he has no need of a change for the better, but in "this vile body;" and this is the first time that the word change is used in the scriptures relative to the "old man" or any part of him. This change is from corruption to incorruption, from dishonor to glory, from weakness to power, from a natural to a spiritual body. Now Christ has said, "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." In reference to the new man a nation was born at once. See Isa. xlvi. 8. The old man was first born of the flesh, and this we call his first birth. Christ is the first born from the dead, "the first fruits of them that slept," and I see no propriety in speaking of a first born, or first fruits, if there is no succeeding birth or fruits to follow. I conclude that those who follow him in the regeneration will follow him all the way through. Through tribulation in a degree, as he was troubled, through suffering as he suffered, to fill up the suffering of Christ in his body, or partake of his suffering, through temptation as he was tempted, through death as he died, and through the resurrection as he was raised. If his resurrection from the dead was a birth, ["born from the dead,"] will not the resurrection of his people from the dead be a birth also? If so, is not this the second or new birth of the old man? To me it seems inevitable.
Now, my dear brethren, I hope you will not begin to rail and say this is a "new idea," for it matters not whether it is new or old to us; the question with us should be, is it in accordance with the scriptures?
When this shall have been realized I think that the assertion of the Savior in John iii. 3 will be fully consummated, and not before; for I do not believe that the natural man, while carnal, (and Paul says, "I am carnal,") can see the kingdom of God, for it is a spiritual kingdom; "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." Therefore, as before observed, those who have followed Christ in the regeneration will follow him all the way through.
"The Spirit raised my Savior up,
When he had bled for you,
And, spite of death and hell shall raise,
The friends of Jesus too."
Then let us hopefully wait and patiently endure the tribulations, temptations, persecutions and other afflictions of the gospel, until,
"The trump of God shall rend the rocks,
And open adamantine locks;
Call forth the dead from death's dark dome,
And Jesus take his ransomed home."
"AND THE LIFE." This is the resurrection life that "brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep," and the resuscitation of the immaculate head secures the resurrection of every member of his body infallibly. It is the same life that will animate and change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, and when this resurrection life is given the mysterious change will be complete; and thus being born again, born from the dead as Christ was born from the dead, we can see the kingdom of God in its spiritual and eternal vitality and effulgent glory. Brethren, this birth from the dead inspires all the hope I have that this corruptible will ever put on incorruption, that this mortal will put on immortality. This resurrection life differs widely from the natural life that animates our fallen and decaying nature, which is, but a vapor, has been forfeited and is doomed to death. It is the element in which the new man lives, and baffles and defies the powers of death and the grave. "Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die," said the Savior. We have this life in him, not in ourselves. "He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." The blessings of this life are all in him. It is spiritual life, and requires spiritual food, drink and raiment to subsist upon. Those and other spiritual blessings are given bountifully to sustain and perpetuate it. Sin and death have no dominion over it. It defies all their powers.
Christ, who is our life, is given us, and with him all this blessedness. Precious boon! "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things." O priceless gift! The head over all things to the church is given us, eternally united to us, and from that vital head forever flows the stream of endless life that vitalizes, ramifies and permeates every member of his body. Paul says, "The life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
Not only is bestowed upon us the living head in whom all fullness dwells, but faith also is given us, by which we feast upon and participate in all the rich fullness. Having this life, we shall outride all the tempests and overtop all the billows of time that can assail us, and enter at last and be safely moored in the blissful haven of eternal repose, of endless felicity.
"Yes, we to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is given;
More happy, but not more secure,
The glorified spirits in heaven."
Now, my dear brother Caudle, I have tried to comply with your request, and have done the best I could, and hope that you and others who may read the foregoing remarks will weigh them in the proper balances, and if wanting, disclaim them. If I am wrong, the friend that will convince me of my error will receive a reward and my hearty thanks.
Respectfully submitted to and at the disposal of brother Beebe.
Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
J. F. JOHNSON.