Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

"his passion, by many infallible proofs; being "seen of them forty days: and speaking of the "things pertaining to the kingdom of God."7 This being done, as he had now gone through the whole of his work on earth, it was proper that he should return to that happy place, from whence his compassion to a lost world had brought him down according to the words of his own prayer; "Father, the hour is come; I have glorified thee "on the earth; I have finished the work which "thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with the glory which I had with "thee, before the world was.' There did not remain any further reason for his appearing personally amongst men; till he should" come again "to judge the quick and the dead." Many ages were to pass "before that great and terrible day "of the Lord." It was fit, therefore, that, as St. Peter speaks, "the heaven should receive him, "until the times of restitution of all things."1

66

And though the redemption of mankind was completed by him, so far as, in the lower world, it could be, yet, there was left an important part of it to be accomplished above. The Jewish dispensation, as the Epistle to the Hebrews more especially informs us, "was a shadow of good

66

things to come."2 As, therefore, under this, the great sacrifice of atonement was yearly slain without the sanctuary first-and then the high priest entered alone, with the blood of it, into the most holy place, there to offer it before the Lord, and atone for the sins of the people-so, in the Gospel age, was our blessed Saviour, first, as "the Lamb of God," to be sacrificed for our sins on earth, and then, as the "High Priest of our

3

(7) Acts i. 3.
(9) Joel ii. 31.
(2) Heb. x. 1.

8 י

(8) John xvii. 4, 5.
(1) Acts iii. 21.
(3) John i. 29.

profession," "to enter with his own blood, "into heaven; the true holy place, of which the "other was a figure; there to appear with it, in the presence of God for us:"5and thus having "offered one sacrifice for sins, he was for ever to "sit down on the right hand of God.”6

When the time, therefore, was come for this purpose of divine wisdom to take effect-having gradually prepared the minds of his Apostles to bear his departure, he, in the last place, with his usual tenderness, gave them all a solemn blessing; the words of which, indeed, are not delivered down to us: but, probably, they might not be unlike, and, certainly, they could not well be more affectionate, than those which we find he used for their consolation, even before his sufferings, on a more distant prospect of his being taken from them. "Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. I go to prepare a place for you; and I will come again, and re"ceive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do. And I will pray the Fa"ther, and he shall give you another Comforter, "that he may abide with you for ever. Peace I "leave with you; my peace I give unto you; not

66

66

66

66

66

66 I

66

as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not "your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."7 "It is expedient for you that I go away. For if go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you. But if I depart, I will send him unto you, "and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man "taketh from you. These things I have spoken "unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In "the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of "good cheer; I have overcome the world.""

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

(4) Heb. iii. 1.
(6) Heb. x. 12.

(5) Heb. ix. 12, 14.

(7) John xiv. 1, 2, 3, 13, 16, 27. (8) John xvi. 7, 22, 33.

Undoubtedly with such like words of grace and affection, which every good Christian may, and ought to, consider as spoken to himself, did our Lord, before his departure, comfort his disciples under the immediate view of that interesting event. "And it came to pass, (the Evangelist informs "us) that as he was yet blessing them, while they "beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received "him out of their sight."

9

It is hardly possible to conceive stronger or more various emotions of mind, than those with which the breast of every one of his followers must have been filled, on this occasion of surprise and astonishment at what they had seen-of gratitude and tenderness, in return for what they had heardof grief and fear, concerning their now solitary condition; yet mixed, at the same time, with submission, and hope, and faithful trust in their dear Lord. But, as he himself had told them, "If they loved him they would rejoice, because "he went unto the Father;"1 so, in fact, amidst all the passions working within them, this prevailed above the rest and triumphant gladness of heart was the feeling that took possession, and dwelt with them. 66 They worshipped him, and "returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and were "continually in the temple, praising and blessing "God."2

Let us then rejoice, also, in this glorious exaltation of Christ, our head. Let us consider the opportunity it gives us of exercising that faith in him, which the Apostle justly calls the "evidence "of things not seen;" and of obtaining a reward suitable to the greater virtue and piety that we show, in conducting aright our understandings, our hearts, and our lives, under a lower, and yet

(9) Luke xxiv. 51. Acts i. 9. (2) Luke xxiv. 52, 53.

[ocr errors]

(1) John xiv. 28.
(3) Heb, xi. I.

sufficient degree of evidence for our holy religion. "Because thou hast seen me, (saith he himself to "St. Thomas) thou hast believed; blessed are "they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”4 This blessedness, therefore, by his ascension, he hath left to his whole Church the means of acquiring, "that the trial of your faith (as St. "Peter expresses it) may be found unto praise, "and honour, and glory, at the appearing of "Jesus Christ; whom, not having seen, ye love; "and in whom, though now ye see him not, yet .་་ believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and "full of glory; receiving the end of your faith, "the salvation of your souls."5 Let us consider, too, that if his absence tries our faith, the manner of his going away powerfully confirms it. For the Apostles were eye-witnesses of his ascending into the clouds; and what stronger proof need we, of his coming from God, than his being thus taken. up to him again, according to his own repeated predictions; besides the remarkable, though obscurer, intimations of the same thing in the Old Testament.

Nor let it seem strange, that the Scripture should speak of one especial place, as the peculiar and appropriated residence of God. We acknowledge that he is, and cannot but be, every where. "Heaven and earth are full of the majesty of his "glory:"yea, "the heaven, and heaven of hea46 vens, cannot contain him."7 "Whither shall I "go from thy Spirit ? or whither shall I flee from "thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou

art there if I go down to hell, thou art there "also. If I take the wings of the morning, and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand

(4) John xx. 29.
(6) Te Deum

(5) 1 Pet. i. 7, 8, 9.
(7) 1 Kings viii. 27.

[ocr errors]

"shall hold me." Yet, notwithstanding this, the Scripture constantly mentions him, as having condescended to establish his throne in one particular place; and exhibit himself there, in the symbol of light inaccessible: where, therefore, his holy angels attend upon him, and see his face; from whence he issues forth his commands, as princes do theirs from the royal palace; and is represented as viewing and observing the actions of his creatures; and pouring down blessing or vengeance, as their behaviour requires. "The Lord

is in his holy temple-the Lord's seat is in hea"ven; his eyes behold-his eyelids try, the chil"dren of men." 999 Here it is, that "thousand “thousands minister unto him; and ten thousand "times ten thousand stand before him," celebrating his praises, and rejoicing in the light of his countenance. "For, in his presence is the ful"ness of joy-and at his right hand there are pleasures for evermore."2

66

Into this blessed place, then, did our Saviour ascend; and there, as the Creed, in conformity with Scripture, teaches, "sat down at the right "hand of the Father." Not that God, who is an infinite Spirit, and by the word of his power doth whatever he pleases, both in heaven and earth, either hath, or needs, bodily members, for instruments of perception or action, like our imperfect nature. But these things are figuratively ascribed to him, in condescension to human capacities. And the meaning of such figures is easily understood. He is the King of the whole world. Now, into a king's immediate presence, not all persons are usually admitted. And of those who are, not all possess the same rank, and degree of nearness to him; but every one such as he pleases to appoint.

(8) Psal. cxxxix. 7-10.
(1) Dan. vii. 10.

(9) Psal. xi. 4.
(2) Psal. xvi. 12.

« VorigeDoorgaan »