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On the Resurrection.

By Julius Eckman

I. If the idea of the Resurrection of the human body from death to life, is not contrary to either the explicit or implied word of God, but if, on the contrary, it owes its foundation to both;—

II. If this belief does not militate against ideas which we have of God, but if, as we shall show, it is in consonance with our ideas of His attributes of benevolence, justice, and omnipotence;—

III. If our observation of the established laws of nature does not only not weaken this our belief, but if, on the contrary, certain formations and transformations in nature,—if certain analogies in the vegetable as well as in the animal world, confirm us in such a belief;—

IV. If this idea, independently of the evidences of Scripture, <<149>> independently of its admissibility on the ground of the attributes of God; independently of the analogies in nature, receives additional assent from reason;—

V. And lastly, if our belief in a Resurrection does not weaken our reverence towards the Deity, our respect to ourselves, and our attachment to our fellow-beings; but if, on the contrary it cultivates feelings of awe and reverence, of piety and gratitude towards our Creator; if it renders us more happy in life, and in the awful hour of death; if it is calculated to render us more moral in our dealing towards our neighbour;—it will be the duty of every good man to encourage this belief, and of the sceptic and infidel to allow their doubt to prey on their own minds—and leave others to enjoy their own opinions.

As long as mankind have not reached anything like the summit of virtue, humanity, and charity—and who dare pretend that we have?—as long as we lack so much of practical moral and religious virtues: the virtuous, humane, and charitable man will not confuse the mind, and disturb the harmony of pious believers, by abstract queries, by dogmatical questions; but will allow such questions to rest on their own evidence; and surely they thus rest firmly enough; but he will use his utmost efforts, by word and by deed, in theory and in practice, by instruction and example, to animate and to rouse man to practical religion, to beneficent actions. He is the best man, who acts best. “The actions of the righteous lead to life; but the production of the wicked is—sin.” Prov. x. 16.

But unto those uncalled-for disturbers, and those unhallowed teachers and preachers in every sphere of knowledge, religious and secular, of philosophy and divinity, who do but teach what we may omit, without showing us what we have to commit; who do but show us death, but can inspire no life,—of such the prophet says:

“I have not sent those prophets, and they came running; I did not speak unto them, and yet they prophesied. If they have stood in my counsel, let them proclaim unto my people my words, that they might bring them back from their evil ways, and from their iniquitous actions. (Jerem. xxiii. 21, 22.) “The faithful messenger proclaimeth healing,” says Solomon.

Now, my dear <<150>> brethren of the House of Israel, allow a friend, who thinks that all tenets, observances, and institutions among ourselves and without us, as far as they do not militate against any truth, and may lead to advance moral and religious feelings among mankind, ought to be respected and considered sacred; (for every­thing is sacred that has been or is the means of reminding man of his duties to God and his creatures, and we must not lay sacri­legious hands on what was or is sacred to man, in order to defend one of our own tenets, when the other is embraced by millions of men and considered by them true and holy,) allow him to lay before you, in a plain and popular style, some of the grounds on which we have to believe in a future resurrection of the body, when it will be reunited with the soul as it was before their separa­tion by the violent hand of death; when it will exist in a purer and sublimer nature, when it will be no more subject to frail physical and moral corruption, but will be restored to its pristine purity, as was that of Adam* before the doom was pronounced, “Dust thou art, and to dust shalt thou return,” when the earth will again be redeemed from the awful ארורה “Cursed be she for thy sake,” and when we shall be free from all noxious influences from within and without.

* “Like the body of Adam before he sinned, and like the body of Moses who lived forty days without food or drink.” (Ikkarim vi. 30.) We need not therefore be then under any anxiety how the revived will be sustained.

This belief has been maintained for ages immemorial; it is received in all our liturgies, without exception; and he who does not believe it, dare never use the sections in which this belief is expressed; for this would be an affront to the majesty of Heaven, and an act of gross profanation. Hence the importance of the examination; and as we firmly believe that such hopes are held forth, 1st, in Sacred Writ; 2dly that they are in accordance with the ideas of the benevolence, justice, and omnipotence of God; 3dly, that we are encouraged in our hopes by analogies in nature; 4thly, and supported by reason; and 5thly, that this tends to inspire feelings of gratitude to God, and consolation to ourselves: we think it a sacred duty to use our humble efforts to lay before the House of Israel the following considerations.

The belief in the resurrection as founded on

I. The Word of God.

It is known that the sacred book is given to us, chiefly for practice. It therefore nowhere says: “This thou shalt believe,” but “Thus thou shalt act.” It is for this reason that we find so little mention made about the essence of God, about the human soul, about immortality, &c.,* yet there are sufficient incidental expressions about all these sublime ideas to show them to us, as through a veil, and he who has understanding will comprehend. The same is the case with regard to the hopes held forth in the sacred writings about the resurrection.

* “For it is the custom of the Law (the Pentateuch) to state briefly mysterious things, and the more mysterious a subject is, the more briefly will the Scriptures speak of it, and refer to it only by inference and hint. For instance, in the history of the Creation, the creation of light on the first day is told in the briefest manner possible, and a long description is given of the creation of trees and plants on the third day. So also did King David, who speaks briefly of the upper and more at length of the lower waters. This is also the reason why the resurrection and the existence in the life after death are not plainly exhibited in the Law. For it was given to the people at large, and the intellect of common men cannot comprehend deep, philosophical ideas, wherefore the holy Law comprises them in the least allusions, and only the vulgar crowd will pass them by, whilst the intelligent, scattered here and there, will ponder on them.” Rabbi Bechayé, section Haazinu.

This belief is a matter of pure revelation;† it can only be effected by the miraculous interposition of the Almighty, blessed be He. Reason would perhaps never have suggested it. It therefore has always been bitterly opposed by pagans,‡ with the exception of those whose origin extends to the remotest antiquity, who, perhaps, received it by tradition.§ But we, who believe in a revelation and in miracles, can find no difficulty in admitting the miracle of a second formation of man by the Divine creative <<152>> power, as we, of necessity, must reasonably admit the first; and we shall show hereafter, that it will be even less miraculous. Now had we no scriptural grounds at all, we might have considered it a matter of speculation, with all the extraneous evidence of its reasonableness. But, as there are many passages in Scripture which we cannot explain figuratively without meeting even with more difficulties than by admitting them to have a literal meaning, we ought candidly to examine them, and if they should not be able to confirm everything, they ought, at all events, to prevent us from judging harshly. The subject is sacred, and ought to be treated with proper deference and reverence, and not haughtily, not to say, sneeringly.

†The resurrection, therefore, is not in nature, but in quality of a miracle, a pre­ternatural thing, just as the first creation of man, and the production of the world from nothing, and many more like these, which are impossible in nature; and as we believe in these miracles on the assertion of our Law and tradition, so ought we to believe in the resurrection of the dead upon the assertion of our Law and tradition, although it is difficult of comprehension. lkkarim iii. 93. Nizachan chap. liii.

‡ Plinii Nat. Hist. lib. vii. c. 55.

§ As, for instance, the Egyptians, who therefore were so very careful about depositing their dead in secure places, and perhaps the art of embalming is connected with this idea.

As we cannot adduce all the passages containing implied and explicit reference to our subject, we shall confine ourselves to a few, which, combined with other arguments that we shall produce, cannot but make an impression on every unbiased mind, or on those in whom the Light of God is not yet totally extinguished. In the last solemn address of Moses to his people, in which his divine spirit foresaw and foretold events, which only the Almighty could have revealed to the man of his choice, he says,

“I doom to death, and I cause to revive, I wound and I heal,” Deut. xxxii. 39. If taken literally, the parallelism is not cor­rect. After wounding follows healing; but how is it, that revival or causing to live again follows after committing to death? The parallelism wins strength and correctness, if we take it as a  “hint,” I kill, but I shall revive; I wound (by death), but I shall heal.

Whoever has in any way penetrated into the spirit of the sacred authors of the Word of God, knows that such hints are of con­siderably deeper import than broad expressions. Having pre­mised this, I will be more brief on similar passages.

“I know that my Redeemer is living, and that at the last he will rise (in judgment) against dust (man), and after my skin is mangled thus, yet even from my flesh shall I see God,—whom I shall see for me (in my favour), and my eyes shall behold him, and not a stranger,* though my reins be consumed in me.” Job xix. 25-27.

* The initiated will know what stranger means.

From the text, as well as from the solemn and impressive manner in which these words are introduced, we cannot, well suppose that he speaks here of a temporal deliverance, the hope of which we see from several passages before. this, had totally left him; see chap. vi. 11 vii. 7, 8; x. 20; xvi. 22, and xix. 10, 11.

3. “As to me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake in thy likeness,” (or image in which Adam was created). Psalm xvii. 15. This passage teaches surely a resurrection; חזה, to behold, is applied to prophetic visions, referring thus to the higher enjoyment of the souls of the righteous: “to awaken in the image of God,” is again a reference to the primeval state of man, when created בצלם אלקים.

4. “Like sheep are they laid into the grave; he (death) feedeth on them (the wicked);* but the righteous shall rule over them on that morning.” Here is the definite article of great stress; “that morning,” the day of the resurrection, is called שחר, morning;† for their Tzurah!‡ is (destined) to swallow (overcome) the Sheol (abode of death), which is no habitation for them (for the righteous). Psalm xlix. 14.

* Daniel vii. 22; Mal. iv. 3 in English Bible, [in Hebrew, iii. 21.]

† Ps. lvii. 9; cviii. 3; Isaiah viii. 21; lviii. 8. Jacob wrestles with a spirit (of darkness) till the שחר dawns. Alas! Israel struggles yet. Such passages are more expressive to the intelligent than chaste prose or flowery poetry.

צורה figure, image, spirit, essence, vide Millath Higgayone and Biur to passage quoted.

5. “Therefore my heart (mind) is glad; and my§ glory (honour or soul, in David’s, Solomon’s, and others’ writings) rejoiceth. For thou wilt not leave my soul in the Sheol (abode of the dead, Hades), neither wilt thou suffer thy pious one to see Shachath,|| Thou wilt make known unto me the path of life,”** Ibid. xvii.

§ Psalm xlix. 5; lxxiii. 24; Prop. iii. 35; Is. iv. 5; xi. 10; xxiv. 23; 1 Sam. ii. 6-10; such passages, read and properly understood by a pious believing soul, give more consolation to the mind, more unction to the soul, than millions of arguments levelled against a pious belief. Dear reader! thou hast a divine soul to care for, read, learn, and practise.

|| שחת, Shacheth, the root of our English scathe, ruin, destruction.

** “ Unto the Lord our God belong the issues from death.” Ps. lxviii. 21.

6. 1 Sam. ii. 6 : “The Lord consigns to death, and reviveth again; He causeth to descend into the Sheol, and he will bring up.” My dear sisters, Christian or Jewish! this hymn is sung by one of your sex; it was a pious mother who composed it on presenting her only dear, long longed-for infant to God. Read this over and over—contemplate; it is prophetic; mind the expressions, “He causes to descend low (into the grave), but he will also exalt.” In verse 8, dust, dunghill; in verse 4, the bow of the mighty; verse 5, they who are satisfied, and the hungry; verse 9, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness, דום, Sanscrit, Tama, spirit of darkness; δαιμον, demon, doom, dumb.

Verse 10. “As to the Lord, those who contend against him shall be utterly broken to pieces; from heaven, he will thunder upon them : he will give strength unto his King, and exalt the power of his Anointed.”

(To be continued.)