Charles Octavius Boothe began in God, moved from creation, to our fall, redemption, and life in Christ’s church. Now he comes to last things.
One thing is certain for all of us: Jesus will return in no more than one hundred years from the moment you read this sentence for each one of us. Why? We shall all die and at that moment the end has come: we are, each of us, hurtling toward the last things.
We should live, day by day, as though we constantly stood at the judgment seat, ready at a moment to leave the post of duty for the place of rest.
Death can be terrifying, but there is victory in Jesus. This victory begins, for Boothe, at the moment of our death when we enter the intermediate state between death and the final resurrection.
No doubt the disembodied saints are still busy in our spiritual affairs.
There was more room, at the very start of what would become Evangelical Christianity, for this kind of unexpected thinking. He is a man who supports believers’ baptism by immersion, non-hierarchical churches, but he considers a work for the dead. After all, the dead are not really dead, but more alive than ever, though not as alive as they will be!
The day will come, Boothe reminds us, when the dead will raised: a general resurrection. Boothe the apologist is ready for the objection:
Regarding the possibility of the resurrection, it is enough to say that it will be brought about by the almighty power, and in the infinite wisdom of God. Which is easier for God to do, to make a living soul, or to make forms in which to clothe it? Which is easier to do, to make a man or to make a house for him to live in? Said Jesus: “Ye do err, not knowing the power of God.” Remember who it is that engages to bring about the resurrection, and all is plain. How precious the thought!
Boothe has argued incrementally from idea to idea from chapter to chapter in this book: God exists, God is all powerful, God is wise. This Creator God made souls, so forming a body is little. We can, after all, make a statue of a man, but not give that form life. God has and will do so.Resurrection is hopeful news, if we are ready to face the general judgement of God. Some will be, some will not be and Boothe does not flinch from the truth: those not ready are damned. If a man will not consent to be changed, then he will get what he wishes. Better news is that we will consent, if we are changed, then endless bliss awaits.
Reverend Doctor Charles Octavius Boothe gave plain theology to plain people. He was a blessing to the African-American community. If he was ignored (too often) by the dominant white culture, that was a loss not just to them, but to the Republic.
Yet Boothe did not stop. He looked back to enduring truths and forward to their full realization in the end. Boothe wished the salvation of the individual and the feeding of the hungry masses. The plain people, as is often the case, had potential to change the world if some gifted, prophetic man spoke truth plainly.
Let’s be like Boothe.