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and blessed them.” It was customary with the Jews, when a single person only was to be blest, to place their hands upon his head; but when there were many, the hands of him pronouncing the blessing were elevated over them. Thus Aaron lifted
upon the people and blessed them: thus Jesus lifted up his hands upon his disciples, and blessed them.
“ And it came to pass," continues the Evangelist, “ that as he was yet blessing them, while they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight.” Under the Mosaic dispensation, the prophet Elijah was honoured by being carried up into heaven. But he ascended in a manner suited to the dispensation of terror under which he lived, and to his office, which was to announce the vengeance and draw down the punishments of God upon the guilty. He was carried up by a whirlwind into heaven, in a fiery chariot with horses of fire. But when Jesus Christ, the founder of a milder economy, whose office it had been to announce the divine grace and compassion; when he ascended, there was nothing terrible and appalling: every thing was mild, calm, and accordant with the character of him who “ came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them.”
Who can conceive the varied emotions which filled the breasts of the disciples as their eager and longing eyes followed the majestic ascension of their Lord ? Surprise and admiration, gratitude and tenderness for his parting benediction, triumph and joy at the elevation of their Redeemer, grief and fear for their own desolate condition: these and a thousand other sentiments crowded at once upon their hearts. In the mean time Jesus ascends to his throne. Myriads of angels are his convoys and attendants. The gates of heaven are lifted up, the everlasting doors are unfolded, and the King of Glory enters in ! Shall I paint to you the acclamations that resound through the arch of heaven? Shall I show you your Saviour approaching the Eternal Throne, and saying, “ Father, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do ?” Shall I speak of the love and joy with which the Father received him? Alas! these are subjects which we can neither describe nor conceivę.
But Jesus, seated on the throne of his glory, forgets not his disciples on earth. Two angels are missioned to console them: they present themselves clothed in white, the symbol of innocence and joy, and said, “ Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up
into heaven? This same Jesus.who is taken up from you
into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye haye seen him go into heaven."
Filled with joy, with zeal, with admiration, the disciples returned to Jerusalem, praising and glorifying God.
Such is a brief account of the ascension of the Saviour. Let us now consider what effect this doctrine should have on our sentiments and conduct.
1. In considering the ascension of our Saviour, we should be filled with a holy joy. How delightful is it to lift up our eyes, and behold him who for our sakes became the man of sorrows, now enjoying happiness ineffable! Him whose life on earth, from the manger to the cross, was one uninterrupted series of woes, removed infinitely beyond every affliction and pain! Him who was despised and rejected of men, worshipped and adored by the splendid host of heaven! Him whose head was pierced by the crown of thorns, now adorned with the crown of glory! Him in whose hand was placed the insulting reed, now wielding the sceptre of the universe! Him who was hung up a naked spectacle on the cross, now seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high! Christians, can you think of this without feeling your hearts overflow with joy? For you the Saviour descended from heaven; for you he experienced every pang that rends the human heart; for you he contended with sin, death, and hell; for you he conquered and triumphed over them: can you then fail to rejoice in his triumphs and elevation?
2. Jesus is ascended into heaven, and is possessed of all power. ' What consolation does this thought afford to believers, amidst all the sorrows of life, and in their last struggle with death! Can
Can you be unhappy when you remember that the universe is governed by him who loved you so dearly as to lay down his life for your salvation? He has infinite mercy: may you not confide in him? He has almighty power : what enemy need you dread? He has a fellow-feeling of your distresses : for he was tempted in all points like as you are, and sympathizes in your griefs. Be of good cheer, then, under all the sorrows with which you may meet, and ever rejoice in mighty Protector. If men combat against you, he will defend you. If men strive to tear from you every joy, he will let down into your soul the consolations of heaven. And when you are struggling with death, remember that life separates you from your ascended Lord; that death will bear you to his embraces; and acknowledge that it is far better for you to drop this veil of flesh, which conceals from you the face and the glory of your Redeemer.
3. The ascension of Christ is admirably calculated to strengthen and confirm our faith. When we behold him rising refulgent from the holy mountain, can we
doubt of the efficacy of the sacrifice presented for us ? can we hesitate in believing that it has fully satisfied the divine' justice? Can we doubt that he came from God, and had the words of eternal life; that he is worthy of full belief and entire trust, when we see this illustrious testimony of God in his favour? Can we reject the instructions of him who, having spoken to us from earth, speaks now from heaven? Can we fear the accomplishment of the promises of him who has infinite power?
4. The ascension of Christ animates our hope.. It was in the name of his followers that he ascended into heaven. There he intercedes for them; there he prepares for them an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading. “In my Father's house,” said he, “ are many mansions; I go to prepare a place for you.” “Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory.” Supported by this promise and this petition, believers may exult in hope of the glory of God.
5. The ascension of Christ should quicken and enliven us in the exercises of devotion. The sense of sin destroys our confidence towards God, and hinders our comfortable access to his throne. But when we consider an ascended Jesus presenting to the Father that blood which he shed upon earth, to procure for believers the pardon of their sins, and a freedom of access into his holy presence, we are encouraged to present our addresses with a holy boldness. “Seeing we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.” “ Having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us through the
vail, that is to say, his flesh; and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water."
6. The ascension of Christ should inspire us with heavenly affections and desires, and make us live as citizens of heaven.
If he had intended that our affections should be centered on earth, he would have remained below; but now he commands us to have our conversation in heaven. And where else, believers, should
your hearts be fixed? There is your treasure, your joy, your life; there is your true country; there your dearest friends. Ought not your thoughts and meditations then to be exalted thither? Ought you not to live above the world, and be continually meditating on the glory of your Saviour, on the bliss he is preparing for you?
be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God; set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.” Unloose your hearts from the earth, and let them soar to your Lord.
7. Finally: let us learn from his ascension to prepare for his return. This was the lesson taught by the angels themselves to the wondering disciples : “Why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who is taken up from you, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go up into heaven.” This promise consoled the apostles, dejected at the loss of their Master; and “ they returned to Jerusa
says St. Luke, “ with great joy.” My brethren, would not the angels be compelled to address us in a different manner? Would they not be forced