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by Dr. John Thomas
An immortal disembodied existence requires a dwelling place, because something must be somewhere; and, as it is said to be virtuous or vicious according to its supposed life in the body, and post mortem rewards and punishments are affirmed -- this dwelling-place is exhibited as an elysium, or, as an orthodox poet sings, "a place of goblins damn'd".
To deter men from crime, and to move them to "get religion" that their souls may be cured of sin, frightful pictures are painted, sometimes on canvas, sometimes on the imagination, and sometimes sculptured on stones, of the crackling and sulphurous flames, hideous devils, and horrid shapes, which fill the Tartarian habitation of the immortal ghosts of wicked men.
This destiny of condemned ghosts was a part of the "vain philosophy" of the Greeks and Romans before the advent of Christ.
It was introduced into the churches of the saints soon after "God granted repentance to the Gentiles".
But, as the apostles taught the resurrection of the mortal body, (Rom 8:11, 1Co 15:42-54) the dogmatism of the Greeks was variously modified.
Some admitted the resurrection of the dead; but, as it interfered with their hypothesis about souls, they said it was already past; and consequently, that "there is no resurrection of the dead".
This gentilizing the hope of the gospel filled Paul with zeal, and caused him to pen the fifteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians to counteract its pernicious influence.
He wrote to Timothy to put him on his guard against it; and styles the gentilisms, "profane vain babblings; and oppositions of science falsely so called".
He exhorts him to shun them, and "not to strive about words to no profit"; for they "would eat as doth a canker".
If there were no other evidence in Paul's writings of inspiration, this prediction would be sufficient to establish it.
It has come to pass exactly as he foretold it.
The dogma of an immortal soul in mortal sinful flesh has eaten out the marrow and fatness, the flesh and sinew, of the doctrine of Christ; and has left behind only an ill-conditioned and ulcerated skeleton of Christianity, whose dry bones rattle in the "winds of doctrine" that are blowing around us, chopping and changing to every point of the compass.
The apostles taught two resurrections of the dead; one at "the manifestation of his presence" ( epifaneia tes parousaiasa autou ) -- EPIPHANEIA Ten epiphaneia tes parousias autou), the other, at the delivering up of the kingdom to God at the end of the dispensation of the fulness of times.
But this did not suit the theory of dogmatists.
They resolved the first into what they term "a glorious resurrection of spiritual life in the soul"; and the second, into a re-union of disembodied ghosts with their old mortalities to be sent back whence they came.
In this way they reduce the second resurrection to a very useless and superfluous affair.
Their systems send "souls" to their account as soon as death strikes the bodies down.
Some torment them in purgatory, or in an intermediate state; others send them direct into unmitigated punishment; while both, after they have suffered for thousands of years before trial and conviction, reunite them to their bodies; and if it be asked for what purpose?
system replies, "to be judged!
" Punish souls first and judge them after!
This is truly human, but it is certainly not divine justice.
The truth is, that this article of the creed is brought in to defend "orthodoxy" against the imputation of denying the resurrection of the body, which would be a very inconvenient charge in the face of the testimony of God.
But this will not avail; for, to believe dogmas that make the resurrection of the mortal body unnecessary and absurd is equivalent to a denial of it.