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Reply To Elder Goldsmith On The Resurrection.

BROTHER BEEBE: - Elder Goldsmith’s queries touching the resurrection now demand some attention from me, as my name is particularly referred to therein. His first position or query, imports that the resurrection spoken of in the New Testament is one and the same thing with being born again, or that the impartation of spiritual life in regeneration is the resurrection. His words are, “Now we believe that the whole body of the church were dead in trespasses and sins, according to the Apostles’ doctrine; resurrection is the opposite of death, or deliverance from it; and there is no deliverance from death, but resurrection, &c.” I do not wish to be severe, but really these expressions imply that Elder Goldsmith is as ignorant of the nature of the new-birth as was Nicodemus; for they imply that the being born of God, is only the having a life again brought into exercise which had been before lost in death, as Nicodemus supposed from Christ’s doctrine that his natural life must be a second time brought into existence. The natural and scriptural import of the word resurrection being that of reinstating in a life which had been lost in death; so also the word raised as used in reference to the dead, as in the case of Lazarus, John 11:23-25; and 12:1-9; and Matt.11:5, also in reference to the bringing up from the grave the body of Jesus, as in Matt.16:21; Acts 2:31,32; 4:2; and 17:31,32, and other places. Indeed the proper import of the word resurrection, is a revival from the dead; a return from the grave; so also the Greek word anastasis, rendered resurrection from the word anisteemi, to excite, to awake or stir up. Our English word resurrection is formed from the Latin word resurgo, which signifies to rise again, to flourish again, to be renewed. So that the idea conveyed by this word is clearly that of a renewal of a former principle of life or action; very different this from the idea of bringing in a new and distinct life or principle of action, which is embraced in the notion of being born again. Being born is never understood to be a reviving up of an old existence; it is a beginning to exist. Consequently, being born again or with another birth, is the commencement of a new and distinct existence, not a new beginning of the old existence as was Nicodemus’ notion of being born again, and as is implied in the idea of a resurrection. According to the view I have given of the new birth, the Master explains it, when he says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit.” John 3:6. A resurrection does not come up to this idea at all, it is a raising up of that which had before died, a springing up of that which had been sown; whereas the believer is manifested in a spiritual existence, in a relation to another headship. And thus other scriptures describe it, Peter says, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, &c.” I Pet.1:23. Paul says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ Jesus he is a new creature, &c.” “Created in Christ Jesus unto good works, &c.” II Cor.5:17; and Eph.2:10. As the texts in Eph.2:1-5; and Col.2:13, are frequently applied to the new birth, and as the expressions used, might be construed to import something like a resurrection, though not necessarily involving that idea, I will assign my reasons for believing that regeneration is not what is intended by those declarations of the Apostle. The quickening is one in which Christ participated with his people in; and their quickening being with, must have been in Christ. The expressions are, hath quickened us together with Christ; and in Col.2:13, the same in substance. Now this mode of expressions, is never used, nor the idea ever conveyed by the description given in the scriptures, of regeneration or the new birth, the latter being, if I understand it, descriptive of a work performed in the creature. And the idea of Christ’s participating in such a second-birth, such as he informed Nicodemus was necessary to enable a person to see the kingdom of God, is contrary to the whole of divine revelation. But in the execution of the judgment to condemnation, upon the posterity of Adam, the people of Christ lay under the curse of the law, or in a state of banishment from God, which is no other than a state of death in sin, having lost that uprightness in which man was created, and being barred from the tree of life; and thus held by the law in a state of corruption and depravity; this is of course fitly denominated a being dead, &c. This legal condemnation, this curse of the law, Christ became subject to, when he came into the law place of his people; not to their depravity, but without this, to the full curse or hell which the law could inflict. Hence the expression, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell.” From this death Christ was quickened, in receiving a full discharge from the demands of the law, when he arose without seeing corruption; and as he was raised again for the justification of those for whose offences he was delivered, they participated in his quickening; that is, they were together with or in him quickened or raised up from the judgment to condemnation. Although some seem to think there is no distinction between this and regeneration, yet those whose eyes have been opened, will I think on reflection see just the difference between the two doctrines, that there is between our relations to Adam and to Christ as heads, or between redemption and regeneration. This quickening was accomplished by Christ for his people in his own person; hence they are quickened together with him. Not so with regeneration, his people are not regenerated together with him; they are regenerated individually when they are made to receive the spirit of Christ, or the spirit that is of God. If indeed the death we died in Adam were a spiritual death, or a loss of the same life, which Christ’s people afterwards received from him as a Head, then with propriety might regeneration be termed a resurrection, because it would be a reinstating us in the same life we had once lost in death. And if a single text of scripture can be produced which manifestly speaks of regeneration or the being born again as a resurrection, then I must believe that God’s sending forth the spirit of his Son into our hearts, is nothing more than a raising us up again to the same life or standing which Adam had before he fell, and of course that heaven is nothing more than an earthly paradise. And then might we believe that the whole glory of the New Jerusalem church is seen in this life, and that the glorious appearing of the Great God and our Savior Jesus Christ, which the saints through Titus were exhorted to look for, was nothing more than his executing judgment upon Jerusalem. Let these believe such notions who desire it, but I desire to thank God that I have a hope that goes beyond the events of this life, as my anchor. But I feel confident that no text can be produced in which the distinctive idea of being born again is represented as a resurrection or being raised up; the two ideas, that of being raised from the dead, and that of being brought into distinct existence as the seed of Christ, are kept separate in the scriptures, by the use of distinct terms and modes of expression. It is surprising that a man of Elder Goldsmith’s mind and acquaintance with the scriptures, and withal his freeness from prejudice, should so confound ideas and doctrines which the Holy Ghost has so manifestly kept separated, and more so, considering that he himself speaks of the confusion which results from getting aside from truth and the consistency that is in it.

Another query is, whether we can receive Christ without receiving the resurrection? I answer, No. For as he is the Lord our righteousness, in receiving him, we receive a release from the judgment to condemnation, and are raised up from that death under the sentence of the law which came by the disobedience of one man. And as Christ has triumphed over death and the grave as the representative and first fruits of his people, in receiving him we receive the pledge of a glorious resurrection from our corruption and graves.

Elder Goldsmith’s 3rd set of queries are these, “Does not animal life belong to animal bodies, or natural life to natural bodies? And is the resurrection only a resurrection of natural life to mankind? It seems to me that Elder Trott’s notion lead to the last named conclusion, &c. It appears to me that the saints of God are to have a body like the seed from whence it grows, of course to a spiritual seed a spiritual body. Is not Elder Trott’s notion, that the spiritual seed shall have a natural body, or their old body reanimated?” These queries lead at once to a consideration, not of my notions, but of the doctrine of the resurrection as taught in the New Testament. My notion, if it be a notion, is, that what is declared in the plain language of scripture concerning this subject, will stand true, whether we can comprehend the whys and wherefores thereof or not. Elder Goldsmith and some others speak of the old body of dust as though it were a very contemptible thing. I wonder if, like the Quakers, to show his contempt of the body and the idea of its being raised again, he would carry into practice the principle of Pope, “And not a stone tell where I lie,” or, if after going thus far with them, he would not, as do they, still show some great regard for this old body, by having the place of its deposit fenced with great strength and care. But contemptible as the body may be thought to be, remember that the Son of God not only condescended to be clothed in one, but after his death he raised it again and took it with him in his ascension to his glory with the Father. And I do not believe the three disciples thought it so very contemptible a thing when they saw it in his transfiguration on the mount. But let the Apostle speak on this subject, and upon what he says, fairly interpreted, in the 15th chapter of I Cor., passing by other proofs to the same point, I am willing to rest the support of all I have written in favor of the resurrection of the body. His words are, “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen; and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain and your faith is also vain, &c.” Verses 12-14. Here the Apostle connects the resurrection of the dead so intimately with the resurrection of Christ, that to deny the one, is in his estimation to deny the other, and to overturn the whole doctrine of the gospel. Let not Elder Goldsmith think this an error to be easily overlooked. Now if it be insisted that the resurrection of the dead here spoken of, is no other than the being born again, then it follows necessarily that the doctrine of Christ’s resurrection, is no other than that he was born of the water and of the spirit, preparatory to his being able to see the kingdom of God; for the Apostle so connects the two that what is the resurrection in the one case, is in the other. But the expressions here used will not admit of the idea of the impartation of a new and spiritual life; they are, the resurrection of the dead, the dead raised, &c. Can these literally or strictly mean anything else than that the very identical part which was dead, is in itself the subject of the change expressed by the words, resurrection and raised up? Should it be asserted that it is only in reference to the resurrection of Christ that the Apostle is here speaking, we have but to refer to some of the following verses to refute such idea. After using several modes of expression showing that he is contending for the resurrection of the saints, he says in verses 22,28, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive, but every man in his own order; Christ the first fruits; afterwards they that are Christ’s at his coming.” It must be then that the Apostle is here treating of a resurrection of the saints corresponding to the resurrection of Christ; if, of course, we can understand what is meant by Christ’s being raised up, we shall arrive at a clear understanding of what is meant by the resurrection of the dead. Need I argue the point to show that the resurrection of Christ means that the very same body of his which died on the cross was raised up, was reanimated? The disciples had full proof of this fact, as when he said to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger and behold my hands, and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side and be not faithless, but believing.” And when he again said to his disciples, “Behold, my hands and my feet, that it is I, myself. Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have.” John 20:27; Luke 24:39. This then being so clearly a fact that the resurrection of Christ, consisted in his being raised up in that same body in which he was crucified, it must be that the Apostle means by the resurrection of the dead, their being raised up in the same bodies in which they died. Again, the Apostle speaks of Christ’s being the first fruits of them that slept. What were the first fruits under the former dispensation, but a part and of the same kind and an exact representation of the coming harvest? What then can he mean by this expression, other than that the resurrection of Christ was an exact representation, and sure pledge of the resurrection of them that slept, and of the same kind? If he means what his words in this case plainly imply, then he means that as Christ was raised, so will they be that are his, at his coming; that is, in the same bodies in which they died. Before Elder Goldsmith can get rid of these conclusions, and admit the Apostle’s doctrine, he must show that he did not mean what he said; an unenviable task. Elder Goldsmith quotes verse 38, “But God giveth it a body, as it hath pleased him and to every seed its own body,” or rather he makes an assertion, founded I presume, upon this text. But he certainly could not have noticed the connection in which that text stands, or methinks he could not have thought of a spiritual seed in this relation; and, indeed, I should have thought him too well acquainted with the nature of seeds in general not to have talked of a spiritual seed producing a spiritual body, &c., even if the Apostle had said nothing on the subject. But what says the Apostle in the immediate connection? See verse 36, “Thou fool; that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die.” Here the nature of seeds is presented in few words. But it is proper here to notice the ground on which the Apostle introduces this and the following figures. He seems to anticipate in verse 35, some man, making the same objection to his doctrine, which Elder Goldsmith has actually made to it, on the occasion of my having incidentally referred to it, without having given any illustration of my views thereon; the objection appears to be, that there cannot be a resurrection of the body without its being raised in the same corruptible earthly state in which it was sown. To refute this notion by plain common sense observations, he brings forward the figure of seeds sown, in which resurrection in figure is an every day occurrence. The seed in its original form does not come up; it dies, becomes extinct in that form, and yet there is in that very body sown a principle which is quickened, and identity of the body which springs up, and this identity is fully preserved in the after growth, so much so, that you have no expectation from a seed of wheat sown to reap barley, as the Apostle illustrates in the 37, 38th verses. This figure, to be sure, falls short, as all figures do, of a full illustration of the subject, but as far as it goes it illustrates what Elder Goldsmith calls my notion. The fact is, I have no notion on the subject, excepting just what the Apostle has taught in this chapter, with the further illustrations and confirmations found in other portions of scripture. I make no pretensions to ability to philosophize on the subject, or to understand the modus operandi. The Apostle then goes on further to illustrate, and insist on the fact, that the identity of the body must be preserved in the resurrection, though it be raised a heavenly and not an earthly body, by showing that every distinct body must have its peculiarities, as in the different flesh of different things, and also that there may be a difference of glory between the heavenly or risen body, and the earthly or sown body, and yet the identity be preserved, by showing that visible heavenly bodies have their distinct glories, as that “there is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, &c.” And this is what the connection shows is the import of the Apostle’s argument in saying, “For one star differeth from another star in glory;” a text which men are fond of abusing, to support their notion of different grades in glory among the saints. See verses 37-41. He then goes on to declare, not in a figure, but in plain terms, what is the fact relative to the resurrection. He says, “So also is the resurrection of the dead; it is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption,” &c. Verse 42, and on to verse 45. He herein clearly shows, not only that it is the resurrection of the body, and not of the soul of which he is speaking, but also that the identity of the body is preserved in the resurrection. He declares that the same thing, the same it, which is sown in dishonor, is raised in glory, &c. He goes further, he names the body, and declares that, “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body,” &c. How can Elder Goldsmith get rid of these positive declarations of the Apostle in support of the doctrine of the same body that dies, being raised, not in its earthly form, but in a heavenly, without wresting the scriptures from their plain import? Some difficulty may be stated to this view of the subject, from the fact that Christ arose with his body in its natural state, having flesh and bones, &c., as is evidenced, as already noticed from his disciples handling him, and also from his eating before them after his resurrection. See Luke 24:42,43. It was necessary that he should be thus raised, to show that he saw no corruption, and thereby to show that in his death justice had received its full satisfaction for the sins of his people; as it was necessary that he should die in the peculiar manner he did, to show that in it he was being made a curse for them. But the peculiarity of his resurrection no more than the peculiarity of his death, affects the general principle of his being in his resurrection, the first fruits of them that slept. It is the fact of the resurrection of the body, and of its identity in its resurrection, that the Apostle shows is established by the resurrection of Christ. I will now state what is my own notion on this subject; though even in this, I consider my views sustained by plain inferences from scripture. My notion is this, that though Christ was raised with his body in its fleshly state, yet that it was changed at his ascension, to a spiritual body. I infer this from the text, “That flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” {I Cor.15:50,} compared with this, “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body,” &c., Phil.3:21, taken also in connection with the fact that those saints who do not sleep at the coming of Christ, will be changed at their being caught up to meet him; and also that Christ gave an example of the change in his transfiguration. See I Cor.15:51,52; I Thes.4:16,17 & Matt.17:2.

One remark more, of Elder Goldsmith’s, demands some little notice; he says, “Nor does it appear matter to break fellowship on.” I have no wish lightly to withdraw fellowship from those who have been recognized as brethren, nor excepting on scriptural grounds. But does Elder Goldsmith, or does he not hold that any other resurrection awaits the saints, than that which they experienced in receiving Christ by faith? Does he, or does he not hold that those bodies which return to dust are again raised? If he does not hold those points, does not his views relative to the resurrection imply that it has passed already in reference to all that have believed? If so; wherein do his views differ from the declaration of Hymeneus and Philetus? If he cannot show an important difference, am I not required by what the Apostle says to Timothy, to withdraw fellowship from him? He says, “But shun profane and vain babblings, for they increase unto more ungodliness; and their word will eat as doth a canker, of whom is Hymeneus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred; saying, that the resurrection is passed already, and overthrow the faith of some.” II Tim.2:16-18. I shall be glad to know that Elder Goldsmith is not involved in this Apostolic sentence; and that all other correspondents of the SIGNS escape it, in carrying out their positions. I wish no break in our ranks if it can be avoided, and truth and order maintained.

I remain your brother,
Centreville, Fairfax County, Va., Jan.7, 1842.