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Father: and now, as he has finished the whole course of his obedience on earth, and risen again from the dead, we must, in this discourse, follow him back again into heaven, to that bosom of ineffable delight and love which, for our sakes, he so freely left. He did not rise from the dead, to live such a low, animal life as this, but a most glorious life, as enthroned King in heaven: upon which state he was now ready to enter, as he tells Mary in the text, and bids her tell it to the disciples ;

Go, tell my brethren that I ascend to my Father,” &c. In which injunction we have,

1. The persons to whom this message was sent, My " brethren,” so he calls the disciples. A sweet term, and full of love. Much like that of Joseph to his brethren, Gen. 45 : 4, save that there is much more tenderness in it. He reminds them in the same breath of what they had done against him ; "I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold :” but Christ says, "Go tell my 'brethren,” without the least mention of their cowardice or unkindness.

2. The message itself,—Tell my brethren, "I ascend to my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God.” It is in the present tense, as if he were then ascending, though he did not ascend for some weeks after; but he so expresses it, to show what was the next part of his work, which he was to act in heaven for them; and how much his heart was set upon it: "I ascend to my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God.” This is the substance of the message sent by Mary to the pensive disciples. Hence Our Lord Jesus Christ not only rose from the dead, but

ascended into heaven ; there to accomplish all that remained to be done for completing the salvation of his people.

So much the apostle plainly witnesses, "He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above

all heavens.” Eph. 4:10. A full and faithful account of his ascension the several evangelists have given us. Mark, 16 : 19; Luke, 24:51. This is sometimes called his going away, as John, 16:7. Sometimes his being exalted. Acts, 2:33. Sometimes his being made higher than the heavens. Heb. 7:26. And sometimes his en. tering within the veil. Heb. 6 : 19, 20. We will here consider the questions: Who ascended? Whence did he ascend? Whither? When? How? Why?

I. Who ascended? This the apostle answers, "the same that descended," Eph. 4 : 9, 10, namely, Christ. And himself tells us, "I ascend.” And though the as. cension were of Christ's whole pe yet it was a figurative expression with respect to his Divine nature, and rather applies to the humanity of Christ, which really changed places and conditions. Hence he said, "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world; again I leave the world, and go to the Father.” John, 16:28. He goes away, and we see him no more. As God, he is spiritually with us still, even to the end of the world. But as man, the heavens must contain him "until the restitution of all things." Acts, 3:21.

II. Whence did Christ ascend? I answer, generally, he is said to ascend from this world, to leave the world, John, 16 : 28; but more particularly, it was from Mount Olivet, near Jerusalem, the very place where he began his last sufferings. Oh, what a difference was there between the state of Christ in his agony at the Mount of Olives before his passion, and that now at his ascension! But,

III. Whither did he ascend ? It is manifest it was into the third heavens; the throne of God, and place of the blessed ; where all the saints shall be with him for ever. It is said to be "far above all heavens,” that is, above the heavens which we see, for they are but the pavement of that stately palace of the great King. He is

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gone, saith the apostle," within the veil," that is, into the most holy place. Into his Father's house, John, 14 : 2. And he is also said to go to the "place where he was before,” John, 6:62, from whence at his incarnation he came.

IV. When did Christ ascend? Was it as soon as he arose from the dead ? No; " after his passion,” he was

seen of them forty days, speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." Acts, 1 : 3. And truly the care and love of Christ to his people was very manifest in his thus remaining with them. He had ineffable glory prepared for him in heaven, and awaiting his coming, but he will not go to possess it, till he has settled all things for the good of his church here. For in this time he confirmed the truth of his resurrection, and gave charge to the apostles concerning the discipline and order of his house or kingdom. When he had set all things in order, he would stay no longer. He had a great work to do for us in the other world. He desired to be no longer here than he had work to do for God and souls; a good pattern for the saints.

V. How did Christ ascend into heaven?

1. He ascended as a public person or forerunner, in our names, and upon our account. So it is said expressly, Heb. 6: 19, 20, speaking of the most holy place within the veil, " whither the forerunner is for us entered.” His entering into heaven as our forerunner, implies his public capacity, as one that went upon our business to God. "I go before to prepare a place for you,” John, 14 : 2, to take possession of heaven in your names. The forerunner hath respect to others that were to come to heaven after him in their several erations ; for whom he hath prepared mansions, which are kept for them against their coming. It also implies his precedency; he is our forerunner, but he himself had no forerunner. Never any entered heaven before him, but such as entered in his name, and through the virtue of

his merits. He was the first that ever entered into heaven directly, immediately, in his own name, and upon his own account. All the fathers who died before him entered in his name.

2. He ascended triumphantly into heaven. "God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises ; sing praises unto our King, sing praises.” Psa. 47:5, 6. A cloud is prepared, as a royal chariot, to carry up the King of glory to his princely pavilion. "A cloud received him out of their sight.” Acts, 1:9. And then a royal guard of mighty angels surrounded the chariot, if not for support, yet for the greater state and solemnity of their Lord's ascension. And Oh what songs of the blessed angels were heard in heaven! How was the whole city of God moved at his coming! For, as when" he brought his first-begotten in the world, he said, let all the angels of God worship him,” Heb. 1:6; so at his return thither when he had finished the work of redemption, those exalted intelligences gave no less demonstrations of their delight and joy. The very heavens echoed and resounded. Yea, the triumph is not ended, and shall never end.

It is said, "I saw, in the night visions, and behold one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him.” Dan. 7: 13, 14. This vision of Daniel was accomplished in Christ's ascension, when they, that is, the angels, brought him to the Ancient of days, that is, to God the Father, who, to express his welcome to Christ, gave him glory and a kingdom. Therefore God is said to receive him up into glory." 1 Tim. 3:16. He went up, and the Father received him ; yea, received so as none ever was received before him, or shall be received after him.

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3. Further, Christ ascended munificently, shedding forth abundantly inestimable gifts upon his church at his ascension. "Wherefore he saith, when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." The place to which the apostle refers, is Psalm 68 : 17, 18, where you have both the triumph and magnificence with which Christ ascended. " The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels : the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive : thou hast received gifts for men ; yea, for the rebellious also, that God might dwell among them.” These words were a celebration of the triumph of David over the enemies of God, 2 Sam. 8; who brought him presents, which he dedicated to the Lord. Just so our Lord Jesus Christ, when he had overcome by his death on the cross, and now triumphed in his ascension, receives his enemies as his conquest, and gives them, by their conversion to the church, for its use and service: thus he received gifts, even for the rebellious, that is, sanctifies the natural gifts and faculties of such as hated his people before, dedicating them to the Lord, in his people's service. Thus, it is said, Tertullian, Origen, Augustine, and Jerome came into Canaan laden with Egyptian gold; came into the church richly laden with natural learning and abilities. Augustine was a manichee, Cyprian a magician, the learned Bradwardine a proud freethinker, who once said, when he read Paul's epistles, Dedignabar esse parvulus, "I scorned such childish things,” but he afterwards became a very useful man in the church of God. And even Paul himself was as fierce an enemy to the church as breathed on earth, till Christ gave him into its bosom by conversion, and then no mere man ever did the Lord and his people greater service. Men of all sorts, greater and smaller lights, have been given to the church. Officers of all sorts were

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