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The Chairmans having proposed the health of Lord Holland, and the Members of both Houses of Parliament who profess the true and full doctrine of Religious Liberty, the Rev. W. J. Fox, observed
That nothing but the direct and irresistible appeal which had
been the Chairman, would have induced him to
He had been involuntarily absent two suc
I cessive anniversaries of the Association. He had been in a state which one of his worthy friends had called "being buried alive, but he had been called upon in a trumpet voice to rise from it, and to the utmost of his power he would obey the call. With regard to the great change which had just been made in the laws of this country, he should confine himself to that portion of it which showed its connection with the proceedings of the present meeting, and the objects of the Institution. He regarded it not merely as a political triumph-not merely as the triumph of religious liberty; but, in his judgment, and in his conscience, he considered it as a Unitarian triumph. It had been said, that Unitarians were doing little. Whether this were true or not, their principles were doing much. He considered the passing of the Catholic Relief Bill, a Unitarian triumph, because it appeared to him that universal and unqualified religious liberty was one of the distinguishing and most glorious tenets and principles of Unitarians. He would appeal to facts in proof of his statement. Who were they that advocated the measure most consistently, that advocated the measure universally? Who were the foremost in the field? Who fired the first shot? He would reply, without fear of contradiction, the Unitarians of this country. Taking any statement which he had seen, it was an undeniable fact, that the great majority were the petitions of the Unitarians. Here then he saw Unitarian principles advancing the cause of freedom. Looking in another direction, he saw that if Unitarians were doing but little, their principles were doing much. He looked to the laws, and he watched, and watched with delight, as every friend to human kind in this country must, the progress which was making towards the simplification of the modes of legal procedure, towards the prevention of crime, and the reformation of criminals; and what was that but the application of the great Unitarian principle, that the proper end of punishment was not revenge but correction? As the state of society advanced, the theological opinions which corresponded with it must advance also. When laws became more righteous and more mercifulwhen the courts of law admitted of procedure consistent with common sense-then must men be weaned from a theology, which by the imputation of righteousness and guilt, held out a more monstrous absurdity than the worst legal fictions of our law courts in the worst of times-then would men be weaned from a belief that the wise and merciful God punished vindictively to the Vas principle, and eternally as to the duration. He would say again, that if Unitarians were doing little, their principles were doing much. He now particularly alluded to the spread of knowledge,
When he heard of the "march of intellect," he rejoiced therein, for what was intellect but a herald to prepare the way, and to make a strait and broad path for the triumphal chariot of pure religion? It had been said, that the schoolmaster was abroad, he rejoiced therein, for the schoolmaster was neither more nor less than a Unitarian missionary. When he found rival colleges about to rear their heads in the Metropolis, he rejoiced therein. Let them rear their heads ever so proudly, if men were there taught scientific truths, and the principles of sound logic, those two rising institutions would but be pillars of the porch of a Unitarian temple. Let Bible Societies send forth the Bible, let Missionary Societies send forth their Missionaries to the ends of the earth; he rejoiced in their success; for that which led men to the knowledge of God and to its study, must make known the principles of the Word of God, which were the principles of Unitarians. He felt from his heart the kindness with which the company had welcomed him after his absence. He looked upon that absence as presenting to him an additional stimulus to propagate the true principles of Christianity-those principles which not only seemed powerful and glorious in the season of social communication and excitement, but preserved all their lustre in the time of sickness and solitude; which were not only a panoply of proof for the conflicts of controversy, but a staff of support for the tottering steps of infancy and age; which, when our way of life was in the night and through the wilderness, were a pillar of fire for our guidance; and which took their stand like the angel at the tomb, pointing from the dust to heaven, and declaring a resurrection.
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AUGUST, 1829. Vol. III.
On the Principles and Evidences of Christianity.
LETTER IX. and Last.
General View of the Evidence of the Resurrection of Jesus to Immortality.
FROM the view which we have taken of the particulars recorded concerning the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, it appears that his whole person became inanimate in the grave, from whence he was both restored to life and transformed to a superior and immortal state. Nothing can appear more evident, than the entire sympathy which subsisted between his corporeal, vital, and mental powers. When the body became inanimate, the whole person was inanimate; no symptoms whatever were given of any species of vital or conscious existence; and, accordingly, his disciples, not in the least degree anticipating his speedy return to life, sunk into despondency, and gave their attention to no object beyond that of affording him an honourable interment. No indications were presented, either to his friends or his enemies, of the existence of any powers, human, divine, or superangelic, appertaining to him, during this interval. The dead body alone engaged their attention; and his enemies were intent on no other object, than that of retaining it in the sepulchre, till the fourth day from his crucifixion, that thus they might disprove his predictions, and evince the fallacy of his pretensions. And had it remained inanimate, his authority as the Messiah, "the Prince of Life," could never have been established; his Apostles could not have announced him to the world in that char
acter; they could not have " preached through him, the resurrection from the dead;" the great object and purport of the Gospel-that of "abolishing death," and of " bringing life and immortality to light"-would not have been accomplished; and since all the evidence would have gone to disprove his conscious existence, his pretensions as the Messiah must have been abandoned, and his kingdom and
power could never have been realized, either in this world or in a future existence.
Thus, the whole purport, design, and influence of Christianity, rests on the fact of the revival of the body of Jesus: nor would its simple revival have answered the purpose, without its translation to a state of immortality. There would still have been no evidence of this great and glorious event; it was in its complete transition from inanimation to a spiritual and immortal state, in which he became associated with celestial spirits, that a specimen was afforded of a like state of existence to all his followers, and, with certain modifications, apportioned to their respective merits or demerits, to the whole human race.
From the moment, therefore, of the disappearance of the body from the sepulchre, every circumstance indicates that he is not only living, but elevated in the sphere of existence above that of ordinary humanity. An angel descending from heaven is his deliverer; and eluding the vigilance of the watchmen, he passes into that state of invisibility from which the angel had proceeded. He now appears to be the companion of celestial spirits; they are the attendants on his movements, and, like them, he undergoes transitions from an invisible to this visible state, and vice versa. He occasionally assumes precisely the same bodily form and appearance, as previous to and even beyond the moment of his decease-exhibiting the wound in his side inflicted after that event, and which remaining, it was not only evident that his life was renewed, but, it is probable also, supported by a miracle. The whole evidence of his invisible existence, is effected by these corporeal manifestations from, and returns to, that state; and in each of those manifestations, the most palpable proofs are exhibited of his actual presence, as distinguished from any of those ideal images which are apt to arise in the minds of the living, on the recollection of their departed friends, and which have so often been mistaken for real external spirits or phantoms. In the last instance, after exhibiting himself again in the form of ordinary humanity, he proves, by his ascent toward the heavens, that he is gradually withdrawn from this visible to an invisible and heavenly state; the diminution of his specific gravity, necessarily attendant on his ascent, evincing not only his local removal, but the transition of his body to a state totally different from that of our present gross
bodies. Thus, every circumstance conduced to show that his whole person was both revived and translated to an immortal state, and that every change he underwent, was inseparably connected with that of his bodily frame.
His transition to the world of spirits, in consequence of the revival and translation of his body, was further evinced by his almost constant removal from the observation of his enemies, and of the world at large, from that time forward. Not only was he withdrawn invisibly from the sepulchre, but no traces of his body were afterwards discovered by them. Its total disappearance must have been to them a most unexpected as well as unsatisfactory circumstance. Unless they had received such evidence as they could not resist, that the mode of his removal and disappearance was miraculous, they would have commenced a strict scrutiny, in order to discover in what secret retreat the body had been deposited. If any reason had existed, to believe that he was living in the ordinary form of humanity, this also must have given rise to much searching and inquiry after his person, on the part of the Jewish people, from various motives. The multitudes who had ushered him into Jerusalem with hosannas, "wishing prosperity to him and his kingdom,"* as the Messiah, but who were shortly afterwards persuaded by their rulers to join in the cry for his crucifixion, would be deeply interested to know the result of his disappearance from the sepulchre; nor, probably, would any circumstance be more accordant with their expectations, than his appearance as the Messiah, "with great power and glory." That he should have become an invisible spirit, in consequence of his resurrection, would be contrary to their ideas and expectations in every point of view, and, therefore, would not easily obtain credit from them. No person, probably, had any previous idea of such a transition of an animal body to invisibility; and that the Messiah should exercise his authority in such a state, as the result of his resurrection, would be equally remote from their wishes and their expectations. It would appear to them a mass of improbabilities, alike incredible and revolting. They would, under these impressions, suspect some mistake or deception with respect to the removal of the body, and
❤ Whitby on Mat. xxi. 8. Hosanna to the Son of David, v. 9, is rendered by Cruden, “Lord preserve the Son of David, this king.”