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SUNDAY READINGS. No. III.
ON RECOGNITION IN THE FUTURE LIFE.
BY REV. J. H. HINTON, MA.
WHATEVER difficulties may attach to our conception of the of recognition in the future life (and of them we shall st presently), no doubt at all, it seems to us, can be entertaine the fact. Although nowhere, that we recollect, asserted in ext terms in Holy Writ, it is taught by necessary implication. certain that in the future life there must be a recollection of facts which have occurred in this, since there is to be a "da which God will judge the secrets of men,” and “will rende every man according to his deeds." Without a recollection off universal, minute, and vivid, such a process of judgment could take place; and marvellous as such a practical restoration memory of life, now, in great part, so rapidly and so comple forgotten, may appear, it is inevitably presupposed as the either of any estimate of moral character, or any acts of rett tion, whether of punishment or reward. Several of our L parables are obviously founded on this idea. Now, to our mind recollection of facts necessarily brings along with it a recollec of persons.
As our life cannot in fact be abstracted from persons amidst whom it is spent—from those on whom we act, those by whom we are acted upon-so neither can it be in mem And the recollection of persons seems to us to involve their re nition, if an opportunity for such recognition is given. It is ceivable that in the future life no such opportunity might be gif that, in the vast multitudes of the human race, those who have ! most intimately acquainted on earth might never meet; but they should meet and, with a vivid recollection of all their in course, not recognize each other, seems to us, we confess, incong able.
Besides the parables of our Lord, to which reference has alre been made, there is to be found in the Scriptores at least one d case of anticipated recognition. What but such an expectat breathes in the following language of the apostle Paul? what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ
, at his coming?" 1 Ty ii. 19. * Here it is evident the Apostle looks forward to a red nition in the future life of those who had been converted uni his ministry. Now such an instance cannot stand alone; must be a part of a system, without which it could not exist, the existence of which it inevitably implies. If Paul will recogt his converts, assuredly they are not the only persons whom he will recognise ; and if he will recognise those whom he has known on earth
, assuredly he is not the only one of human kind who will While the fact of recognition in a future life is beyond question, peat difficulties, as we have already hinted, attach to our concepba of the manner in which it will be effected. In touching this part of the subject, we begin by observing that sture recognition is rendered quite independent of the body, by the istance at which the resurrection of the hody is placed from us. If ognition in the future life takes place at all, it is scarcely to be supased that it will be held in abeyance during the period antecedent the resurrection, to await the re-appearance of mankind in the by; it is much more reasonable to suppose that it will occur imediately on our entrance on the future life, and, consequently, while we are in the condition of disembodied spirits. By this consideration the manner of future recognition may seem o be thrown at once, and entirely, into darkness ; inasmuch as we pot, and cannot, know anything at present of the manner in lieh disembodied spirits either perceive, or are perceived. While
are in the body, the corporeal organisation is so intimately aded with all our spiritual action, that the action of a spirit bout a body is, of necessity, an impenetrable mystery to us. hing remains to us but a general persuasion of the existence of ne mode of recognition, of great facility, vividness, and beauty: It may be suggested, however, as possible, and not, perhaps, imobable, that disembodied spirits may be recognisable, and may sually recognise each other, by character. It is the highest excelnee of the body itself, that, id some degree, it expresses character. very member has, to some extent, this aptitude, but above all, countedance; and it is not only by the form and figure, but also the expression—and pre-eminently by the expression--that we five at personal recognition ; so much so, that, if the expression ire to be materially altered, we probably should not know our lest and most intimate friends. The character is the great object our personal affection, and the visible features only constitute the hicle for its exhibition. Even without the exercise of the senses all
, merely by actions, or by words reported to us, we often recogthose we love; and exclaim in a moment, “I am sure it was father, or my husband, or Mr. So-and-so, who said or did that; is so like him. Now it must certainly be supposed that the aspect of a spirit htbout a body will be at least as expressive of character as that of body in which a spirit dwells—it may be said, unspeakably more
so that recognition of a spirit by a spirit would be facile and Afect to a degree now unknown. And the diversity existing among men, the peculiarities of which mark them out as in duals, must be quite as easily expressed in aspects of characte of features. It is certainly a wonderful thing that a face, consis of some three or four features, should be susceptible of som modifications as to exhibit individually so many millions of hu beings, and yet that no two faces should be alike; but the elem of character are far more numerous, and capable of far more sig cant combinations. Why may not spiritual aspects of the int gent, the noble, the pure, the affectionate, supply the mean personal recognition, at least as well as the contour of the foreb the formation of the eye, or the curvature of the lip? At leas well, and why not a great deal better?
The distinctness of character is in some cases strongly marke us by historical familiarity, without any personal acquainta Peter, Paul, and John, are already portraits to us.
Let us sup! that we now saw their character in spiritual embodiment (if we be allowed to use the expression), should we not at once recog them? And, graven as those we love are upon our memories, m we not recognise them by such an exhibition of their chara too?
It is true that the completion of the work of sanctification ni be expected to throw over all characters some kind of uniform inasmuch as all will be made perfectly holy; but it can hardly be : posed that even this will annihilate all constitutional and of differences, and render all men so much alike that one cannot known from another.
If the disembodied spirit has an aspect recognisable by charac it remains to inquire (if one may venture so far), what alteration this aspect may be effected by the resurrection of the body, and reunion to the spirit.
Undoubtedly, the body to be raised will be the same body a now deposited in the earth; but this affirms nothing until web ascertained wherein the identity of the body consists. It is q1 certain that this does not consist in the presence of any of the g ser particles composing it at any particular time, since it is ascertained fact that such particles are perpetually shifting, that, at the distance of many years—probably even of a fewone of those constituting the body at a former period remains ir In what sense, then, is the body of the babe the same as that the old man ? Is it only that the change has been gradual, not violent? Or is it not rather, that some more refined mate of a permanent nature constitutes, so to speak, the germ of corporeal organisation, and is capable of developing itself into body, at once essentially the same as the old, and widely differ from it! The occurrence of such a change as this would seem bring other changes in its train.
The language of the Scripture, however, makes it clear that the naised body, while essentially the same, will differ greatly from the present in what may be called its accidents. In his well-known discourse in 1 Cor. xv., the Apostle supposes an objector to say, "How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come ?" And he answers by the comparison of the seed, in the course of which he says, “Thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare
but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him.” t cannot be unfair to infer from this comparison, that the body which is laid in the grave bears a relation to that which shall be raised out of it somewhat similar to that which a grain of wheat bears to the ripe wheat-ear, and that the dissimilarity may be as great in the one case as in the other. Further on in the same dapter the Apostle describes the change which takes place at the Pesurrection, by saying, “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a epintual body; and he takes occasion from this phrase to lay down the general proposition—“There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. The phrase "a natural body is scarcely intellýible ; the Apostle's idea would be more correctly expressed by de phrase
, "an animal body.” But now, what can "an animal Wy," and, as contrasted with it, “a spiritual body," be, but a Ny adapted to the purposes respectively of an animal or a spirit? bis, no doubt, the same body may, under different modifications, -under one modification adapted to the use of an animal, and hder another adapted to the use of a spirit; but this surely inAlves very great changes, inasmuch as the modes of action of an imal and of a spirit must be widely different. It would seem as sugh the adaptation of the human body to the use of the spirit, dien human existence shall be no longer animal, could scarcely inHve less than an entire abolition of its present form and organisation. It is sometimes asked, Is not the human form a thing too autiful to be abolished? Can we suppose the resurrection to do peethan perfect its beauty? We think that, in this question, the auty of the human form is too highly estimated. It is doing it injustice to say that its beauty lies mainly, if not entirely, in adaptation. In a condition in which none of the purposes
of dily life could be carried out, the supposed beauty of the body elf would entirely vanish. And much as we extol the beauty of Bhuman form, there is only one part of it—the face—which we te to exhibit: the “ less comely parts” of it we array with "more undant honour." Are splendid robes to be worn hereafter ? It has by some been supposed that the glorified body of Christ ains the form of the present human body; but we think toneously. Undoubtedly, the body of Christ after it was raised by the grave differed, as the history shows, from its previous dition : it had undergone a great change ; but it seems im
possible not to suppose that it underwent a further, and a stil greater change, on his ascension into heaven. Then only, we conceive, did he assume his glorified body, the type of the "spiritual body," which awaits his followers at the resurrection.
For ourselves, we confess that the present form and aspect of the body altogether remove themselves from our conception of the mode of future recognition ; and we are quite willing that they should do
It is enough for us to hope that the raised body will, in some manner, act as a transparency (if we may be allowed the expression), to let the higher beauty of the spirit shine through.
To pass to another aspect of the subject before us. It is a question of some interest, whether recognition in the future life will involve the revival of the relations which have been sustained in this. Inwrought as these relations are into our very being here, it seems hard to think that they will not revive with the recovery of our mutual knowledge, and difficult to conceive how we shall recognize those who have been our parents or our children, and not claim them as such for ever. Upon full consideration, however, it would not seem that such a view can be maintained.
As these relations are of earthly origio and adaptation, so it seems reasonable to think that they will be only of earthly duration. Here they answer beneficial and important purposes ; but hereafter they will be of no use. Since there will be neither children to be trained nor infirm parents to be cherished, the parental and filial relations would be merely nominal, and practically null.
In the present world, it may be further observed, these and similar relations do not stand naked and alone; they are surrounded by groups of congruous circumstances and associations, such as cannot be transferred to another world. Here every family has, and requires, a home; and pursues a life, if more or less social, also more or less isolated. But assuredly heaven and hell are not to consist of family groups like these.
Nor does it seem possible, indeed, to carry out a conception of this kind to the necessary length, without involving ourselves in the grotesque and the ludicrous. Within the compass of two generations-a third is rarely reached; such a conception may be practically realized; but in a multitude the fruit of a hundred generations, a promiscuous multitude, in which the order of generation would not be observed, and in which the fathers of erery generation must be the children of that which preceded it, domestic scenes and family groups naturally and entirely disappear.
And to this must be added a consideration of great solemnity; namely, that, on moral grounds, there is no security for the reconstruction of family groups in another world. There is a heaven and a hell, but there is no certainty that all the members of any single family will be found in either of them. If of one family many