T H E
By J O H N.B U N Y A N,
A Servant of the Lord's Christ.
Written from Bedford Prison.
ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR.
his very important treatise, judging from the style in which it is written, was, probably, one of the first books composed by Bunyan. The form in which it is prepared, with minute divisions to assist the memory, and its colloquial language, indicate that it was first intended for the pulpit and then enlarged to form a more complete treatise; while the frequent recurrence of the words "I say," shew the unpolished style in which he was in the habit of committing his thoughts to paper, when he became an author.
A good copy of what appears to be the first edition, is in the British Museum, a small 8vo, without date—and from this, collated with the reprint by C. Doe in Bunyan's works, 1691, the present edition is published. Doe, in his catalogue of all Mr. Bunyan's books, appended to the Heavenly Footman, 1690, states that "The resurrection of the Dead, and eternal Judgment by John Bunyan, a servant of the Lord's Christ, was first published in 1665." I have not been able to discover any subsequent edition in a separate volume.
The resurrection of the body is a subject of universal and deep importance. It defies our reasoning powers, while it exalts our ideas of the divine omnipotence. With God, all things revealed in his word are not only possible, but certain of accomplishment. The bodies of the saints, which are a part of the Redeemer's purchase will be raised in heavenly and wondrous perfection; like to the Saviour's glorious body. That body, which being transfigured "did shine as the sun, and his raiment became as the light." That body which, after his resurrection, might be touched, but which could appear and disappear to mortal eyes; in the room at Emmaus, or in a closed room filled with his disciples; could be touched, yet vanish away; could eat with them on the sea shore, and could ascend to heaven from the mount. Thus it was foretold by the prophet and reiterated by the apostle—"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (Isa 64:4; 1 Cor 2:9). Not one atom of our dust can be lost; a bright, a glorious anticipation to the saints; but how solemn and awful a thought to those who die without hope. Among Christians it is common to think and talk of the happiness of the spirits of the just made perfect; but alas, how seldom do we think or speak of the perfect bliss of our whole nature, body, soul, and spirit—incorruptible, undefiled, glorified— every part equally the object of the Saviour's purchase and of his care.
This treatise, which will be ever new, and ever important, was peculiarly required in Bunyan's early days. Under the protectorate, the minds of men, which had been kept in slavery, became suddenly emancipated from human creeds and formularies of public worship. The personal attention of every one was then directed to the Bible— the Lord's day was observed, men were chosen as ministers not from high connections, but from deep and humble piety. Tens of thousands became happy in a personal knowledge of divine truth. At such a period, it must have happened that some evil spirits would exalt themselves, and that even some serious inquirers would draw strange conclusions from a misconception of divine truth; and dimly see "men as trees walking." Among these there appeared teachers, who, unable to comprehend how that body, which had gone to dust, or in some cases had been reduced by fire to its primary elements, and dispersed to the winds or waves, could be again produced. They revived an ancient error, That the new birth was the only resurrection from death; and consequently, that to those who were born again, the resurrection was passed. The individuals who promulgated these opinions, do not appear to have been associated together as a sect, or a church. The greater number were called in derision "ranters," and some "quakers." It is very probable, that this treatise was intended as an antidote to these delusions. We must not infer from the opinions of a few unworthy individuals, who justly deserved censure, that Bunyan meant to reflect upon the Society of Friends. This treatise was printed in 1665: but it was not until 1675 that the Quakers' rules of discipline were first published, and they from that time as a sect have been, in a high degree, conformable to the morality and heavenly influences of the gospel.
But even before this, Fox, Crisp, Penn, Barclay, and others, who afterwards formed the Society of Friends, had declared their full belief in this doctrine. "The resurrection of the just and unjust—the last judgment—heaven and hell as future rewards—we believe and confess." "We believe the holy manhood of Christ to be in heavenly glory." "We acknowledge a resurrection in order to eternal recompence, and rest contented with that body which it shall please God to give us." "We do firmly believe that besides the resurrection of the soul from the death of sin, to a life of righteousness while here, there will be a resurrection of the dead hereafter, and that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." Barclay, in his catechism, 1673, clearly asserts Bunyan's own ideas of the resurrection. But in the face of these, and a thousand similar declarations, the grossest calumnies were asserted by a fanatic clergyman, Alexr. Ross, in his View of all Religions:—"The Ranters are a sect of beasts that neither divide the hoof, nor chew the cud; that is to say, very unclean ones. They, like the Quakers, oppose forms and order (the form and order of Common Prayer). To anatomize this monster: 1st, They hold that God, Devils, Angels, Heaven, and Hell, are fictions. 2d, That Moses, the Baptist, and Christ were impostors. 3d, That preaching and praying is lying." 8vo., 1696, p. 273.
And such wild slanders were uttered occasionally against all dissenters, until a much later period. Happily they are now better known, and the truths of Christianity are more appreciated. I have been careful to guard the reader upon this subject, lest it should be thought that Bunyan had in any degree manifested the spirit of those, who even to the present day misrepresent the opinions of the Quakers. This may be occasioned by their distinguishing tenet—That the work of the ministry is purely a labour of love, and ought not to be performed for hire—derived from the command of Christ to his disciples, "Freely ye have received, freely give." This, however, is no reason that they should be, as to their general views of divine truth, misrepresented and traduced.
Bunyan, at all times solemn and impressive, is peculiarly earnest and searching in this treatise. The dead will arise involuntarily and irresistibly—conscience uncontrolled, must testify the truth, yea, all the truth to the condemnation of the soul and body, unless cleansed from sin by faith in the Redeemer and the sacred influences of the Holy Spirit. The books will be opened, and every thought and word and action be seen inscribed in characters legible to all. Every soul will be able to read and clearly to understand those mysterious books—God's omniscient, his penetrating, his universal sight of all things from the creation of the world to the final consummation; and his perfect remembrance of all that he saw—are one and the same. There is then no refuge, no escape—the word depart impels obedience, and the sinner plunges into eternal woe!! O that the living may lay these awful realities to heart, and fly for refuge to the bosom of the Redeemer—he only is able—he is willing to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him. And they who find in him a refuge from the storms of life, shall hear his voice irresistibly impelling them to heaven, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
O glorious hour! O blest abode! I shall be like and near my God! And flesh and sin no more control The sacred pleasures of the soul.
May the divine blessing abundantly attend the reading of these awful or joyful realities.