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Chapter XIII.—From Our Author’s View of a Verse in the Ninety-Second Psalm, the Phœnix is Made a Symbol of the Resurrection of Our Bodies.

If, however, all nature but faintly figures our resurrection; if creation affords no sign precisely like it, inasmuch as its several phenomena can hardly be said to die so much as to come to an end, nor again be deemed to be reanimated, but only re-formed; then take a most complete and unassailable symbol of our hope, for it shall be an animated being, and subject alike to life and death. I refer to the bird which is peculiar to the East, famous for its singularity, marvelous from its posthumous life, which renews its life in a voluntary death; its dying day is its birthday, for on it it departs and returns; once more a phœnix where just now there was none; once more himself, but just now out of existence; another, yet the same. What can be more express and more significant for our subject; or to what other thing can such a phenomenon bear witness? God even in His own Scripture says: “The righteous shall flourish like the phœnix;”73677367    Δίκαιος ὡς φοίνιξ ἀνθήσει, Sept. Ps. xcii. 12.—“like a palm tree” (A.V.). We have here a characteristic way of Tertullian’s quoting a scripture which has even the least bearing on his subject. [See Vol. I. (this series) p. 12, and same volume, p. viii.] that is, shall flourish or revive, from death, from the grave—to teach you to believe that a bodily substance may be recovered even from the fire. Our Lord has declared that we are “better than many sparrows:”73687368    Matt. x. 33. well, if not better than many a phœnix too, it were no great thing. But must men die once for all, while birds in Arabia are sure of a resurrection?

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