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SERMON LXIV.

LIFE OF CHRIST.

No. XXXI.

ASCENSION.

Luke xxiv. 51.

And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted

from them, and taken up into heaven.

Jesus Christ having paid the ransom for our sins upon the cross, and having sanctified the grave for his followers by his residence in it, departed from this world and ascended to his Father. He thus ascended that he might discharge more fully his mediatorial offices of king, priest, and prophet, of his people. Since his kingdom was not earthly and temporal, but spiritual and heavenly; since it was not limited but extended to all creatures, it was proper that he should ascend to the highest heaven in order to exercise it. And there he is seated, king over all things, and the head of his church, governing and directing the universe, and managing the concerns of his people. As a priest, he had offered up himself a sacrifice in our stead, and satisfied divine justice. But still it was necessary for him to ascerd to · heaven, there to present the sacrifice of Calvary,

and to intercede for us. As our prophet, he had instructed man in the will of God, but much still remained to be revealed by the Holy Ghost, who, according to the divine purposes, could not be sent till after Christ's ascension. “ It is expedient for you,” said he to his disciples, " that I go away, for if I go not away the Holy Spirit will not come unto you.” His mission was reserved as the reward of the Saviour's obedience, as the effect of his intercession above, as the consequence of his triumph, as the evidence of the power and glory which he possessed in heaven. It was necessary that Christ should ascend, that he might receive the reward of his sufferings and humiliation. 66 He humbled himself,” says St. Paul, “ and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; wherefore God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name that is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth.”. It was necessary that Jesus should ascend to heaven, to take possession of it for his followers, and there to prepare mansions for them. This reason he more than once assigns; and his apostle assures us that he entered not in his own name only, but as our forerunner and harbinger. It was necessary that he should ascend into heaven, that our love, our faith, our worship, might be pure and spiritual. Had he remained on earth, our love would have been mingled with animal affection, our faith would have had no opportunity of exercise, our worship would have been interrupted by familiar intercourse with him. But now that he has left the earth, our love becomes more spiritual, we have an opportunity to attain the blessedness of those who having not seen have be

51

VOL. II.

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lieved, and our worship is correspondent with his high elevation : that he might fulfil the ancient prophecies, which declared that “ he should ascend on high, and lead captivity captive:” that “ the everlasting doors should be unfolded to receive this King of glory, this Lord strong and mighty.”. To accomplish the ancient types, this spiritual Joseph rose from the prison of the grave to the highest dignity and glory; this nobler David, after all his afflictions and trials, quietly possessed his crown; this great highpriest entered into the holiest with the blood which he had shed. For these and similar reasons Jesus ascended into heaven.

The time, the place, the witnesses, the circumstances of his ascension, all are calculated to interest and instruct us.

Having broken the bonds of death, 'and risen triumphant from the grave, he did not immediately ascend to his native heaven, and take possession of that glory which he had with the Father before the foundation of the world. Seeking not his own glory, but man's felicity, he would not return to the bosom of his Father, and the adoration of the celestial host, till he had confirmed the faith of his disciples, that had been shaken by his sufferings; till he had prepared them for his departure; till he had given to mankind the most incontestable proofs of his resurrection. Forty days therefore he remained on earth showing himself to his followers, filling up this last period of his residence below with acts of mercy and kindness; consoling, animating, and instructing his disciples ; and “ speaking to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”

Imitate his example, Christian parent! When you like your

Saviour are about to leave those committed

to your charge, when you are about to pass from earth to heaven, seize with avidity the few moments that remain to you to direct, animate, and instruct those that you leave behind you. Think it not sufficient to have your heart filled with joy at the prospect of celestial felicity:.speak also of this felicity to those whom you leave on earth, and whom you wish to follow you into the kingdom of your Father.

The place selected by the Saviour for his triumphant ascension was the mount of Olives. This place had been consecrated by the instructions and the prayers of Jesus. From it he had dispensed his heavenly doctrines to the people; to it he often retired after the labours of the day; and on it spent the wakeful night pouring out his petitions to his Father. By ascending from it he shows that he was authorized by God to give these instructions; that these prayers had been heard and answered by his Father. This mountain had been the theatre of his sufferings. Its ground had smoked with the blood which gushed from every pore of his agonized frame. It now is the theatre of his glory;, the witness of his elevation. What place then could have been selected better calculated to instruct the apostles ? In the afflictions of Jesus upon Olivet they saw an image of those which they would be called to endure. But in the ascension of Jesus from Olivet they saw the glory to which these afflictions would conduct them, and they resolutely prepared to encounter them. What place could have been selected more calculated to console thee, suffering believer? Behola Jesus on this mountain pouring forth strong cries and tears, and exclaiming, “ My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death!” Can any thing exceed his misery? Behold Jesus rising from this mountain to the throne of heaven, and acknowledge that “ Blessed are those that weep, since they shall be comforted.”

This ascension took place while he was “ lifting up his hands on his disciples and blessing them.” How admirably does this last act of the Saviour correspond with the whole course of his life! When he entered into the world, angels formed wishes for the happiness of man: when he leaves the world he forms wishes for the happiness of his disciples. He was born, he lived, he died, he ascended into heaven for the happiness of man. Truly does the

apostle say, “ God sent him to bless us.”

We know not the words that our Lord used on this occasion; but we know that they must have been most tender and affecting. The kindest friend, the most affectionate father, never could conceive that love which Jesus entertained for his disciples : in what moving language then must he have told them all that he felt for them, all that he asked of God in their behalf. He blessed them, and what more precious legacy could he bestow on them? Unlike the impotent good wishes of our fellow men, his benediction is always efficacious. It is the greatest of treasures; it is the source of infinite and eternal felicity. By it, heaven was opened to the apostles, and the earth subjected to them. By it they were enabled to suspend the laws of nature, and perform the most stupendous miracles. It was their buckler, defending them from all the assaults of their enemies. It was their sword, by which they subdued the world to the obedience of faith.

To give greater solemnity to this benediction, the Saviour accompanied it with a ceremony used among the Jews. He lifted up his hands on his disciples,

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