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all bodies are not equally apt to be wronght upon by the same medicine, so are not all souls by the same means of faith : one is refractory, while others are pliable.
O Saviour, how justly mightest thou have left this man to his own pertinacy! Whom could he have thanked, if he had perished in his unbelief? But, O thou Good Shepherd of Israel, that couldst be content to leave the ninety and nine to go fetch one stray in the wilderness, how careful wert thou to reduce this straggler to his fellows! Right so were thy disciples re-assembled, such was the season, the place the same, so were the doors shut up, when, that unbelieving disciple being now present with the rest, thou so camest in, so stoodst in the midst, so shewedst thy hands and feet; and, singling out thy incredulous client, invitedst his eyes to see, and his fingers to handle thy hands, and his hand to be thrust into thy side, that he might not be faithless, but faithful.
Blessed Jesu, how thou pitiest the errors and infirmities of thy servants ! Even when we are froward in our misconceits, and worthy of nothing but desertion, how thou followest us, and overtakest us with mercy; and in thine abundant compassion wilt reclaim and save us, when either we meant not or would not ! By how much more unworthy those eyes and hands were, to see and touch that Immortal and Glorious Body; by so much more wonderful was thy goodness, in condescending to satisfy that curious infidelity:
Neither do I hear thee, so much as to chide that weak obstinacy. It was not long, since thou didst sharply take up the two disciples, that did walk to Emmaus, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! but this was under the disguise of an unknown traveller, upon the way, when they were alone : now, thou speakest with thy own tongue, before all thy disciples, instead of rebuking, thou only exhortest; Be not faithless, but fuithful.
Behold, thy mercy, no less than thy power, hath melted the congealed heart of thy unbelieving follower ; Then Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord, and my God. I do not hear, that, when it came to the issue, Thomas employed his hands in this trial.
were now sufficient assurance. The sense of his Master's Omniscience, in this particular challenge of him, spared, perhaps, the labour of a further disquisition. And now, how happily was that doubt bestowed, which brought forth so faithful a confession, My Lord, my God! I hear not such a word from those that believed. It was well for us, it was well for thee, O Thomas, that thou distrustedst; else neither had the world received so perfect an evidence of the Resurrection, whereon all our salvation dependeth ; neither hadst thou yielded so pregnant and divine an astipulation to thy Blessed Saviour. Now, thou dost not only profess his Resurrection but his God
head too, and thy happy interest in both. And now, if they be blessed, that have not seen and yet believed ; blessed art thou also, that having seen, hast thus believed : and blessed be thou, o God, who knowest how to make advantage of the infirmities of thy chosen, for the promoting of their salvation, the confirmation of thy Church, the glory of thy own name. Amen.
CONTEMPLATION XXXIV. -THE ASCENSION.
It stood not with thy purpose, O Saviour, to ascend immcdiately from the grave into heaven. Thou meantest to take the earth in thy way; not for a sudden passage, but for a leisurely conversation. Upon thy Easter-Day, thou spakest of thine Ascension; but thou wouldst have forty days interposed. Hadst thou merely respected thy own glory, thou hadst instantly changed thy grave for thy Paradise ; for so much the sooner hadst thou been possessed of thy Father's joy; we would not continue in a dungeon, when we might be in a palace : but thou, who for our sakes vouchsafedst to descend from heaven to earth, wouldst now in the upshot have a gracious regard to us in thy return.
Thy death had troubled the hearts of many disciples, who thought that condition too mean to be compatible with the glory of the Messiah ; and thoughts of diffidence were apt to seize upon the holiest breasts. So long, therefore, wouldst thou hold footing upon earth, till the world were fully convinced of the infallible evidences of thy Resurrection ; of all which time, thou only canst give an account. It was not for flesh and blood to trace the ways of Immortality ; neither was our frail, corruptible, sinful nature a meet companion for thy now-glorified Humanity: the glorious angels of heaven were now thy fittest attendants. But yet, how oft did it please thee graciously to impart thyself this while unto men ; and not only to appear into thy disciples, but to renew unto them the familiar forms of thy wonted conversation, in conferring, walking, eating with them ! And now, when thou drewest near to thy last parting, thou, who hadst many times shewed thyself before to thy several disciples, thoughtest meet to assemble them all together, for a universal valediction.
Who can be too rigorous in censuring the ignorances of wellmeaning Christians, when he sees the domestic followers of Christ, even after his Resurrection, mistake the main end of his coming in the flesh? Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the
kingdom unto Israel? They saw their Master now out of the reach of all Jewish envy; they saw his power illimited and irresistible; they saw him stay so long upon earth, that they might imagine he meant to fix his abode there; and what should he do there but reign? and wherefore should they be now assembled, but for the choice and distribution of offices ; and for the ordering of the affairs of that State, which was now to be vindicated ? O weak thoughts of well-instructed disciples! What should a heavenly body do in an earthly throne? How should a spiritual life be employed in secular cares? How poor a business is the temporal kingdom of Israel for the King of Heaven?
And even yet, 0 Blessed Saviour, I do not hear thee sharply control this erroneous conceit of thy mistaking followers : thy mild correction insists rather upon the cime, than the misconceived substance, of that restauration. It was thy gracious purpose, that thy Spirit should by degrees rectify their judgments, and illuminate them with thy Divine truths : in the mean time, it was sufficient to raise up their hearts to an expectation of that Holy Ghost, which should shortly lead them into all needful and requisite verities.
And now, with a gracious promise of that Spirit of thine, with a careful charge renewed unto thy disciples for the promulgation of thy Gospel, with a heavenly benediction of all thine acclaiming attendance, thou takest leave of the earth; When he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. O happy parting ! fit for the Saviour of Mankind; answerable to that Divine conversation, to that succeeding Glory! O Blessed Jesu, let me so far imitate thee, as to depart hence with a blessing in my mouth. Let my soul, when it is stepping over the threshold of heaven, leave behind it legac y of peace and happiness.
It was from the Mount of Olives, that thou tookest thy rise into heaven. Thou mightest have ascended from the valley; all the globe of earth was alike to thee : but, since thou wert to mount upward, thou wouldst take so much advantage as that stair of ground would afford thee; thou wouldst not use the help of a miracle in that, wherein nature offered her ordinary service. What difficulty had it been for thee, to have styed up from the very centre of earth? But, since thou hast made hills so much nearer unto heaven, thou wouldst not neglect the benefit of thy own creation. Where we have common helps, we may not depend upou supernatural provisions; we may not strain the Divine Providence to the supply of our negligence, or the humouring of our presumption. Thou, that couldst always have walked on the sea wouldst walk so but once, when thou wantest shipping : thou, to whom the highest mountains were but valleys, wouldst walk up a hill to ascend thence into heaven. O God,
teach me to bless thee for means when I have them; and to trust thee for means, when I have them not: yea, to trust to thee without means, when I have no hope of them.
What hill was this thou chosest, but the Mount of Olives? Thy pulpit shall I call it, or thine oratory ? the place, from whence thou hadst wont to shower down thy heavenly doctrine upon the hearers ; the place, where thou hadst wont to send up thy prayers to thy Heavenly Father ; the place, that shared with the Temple for both : in the day-time, thou wert preaching in the Temple ; in the night, praying in the Mount of Olives. On this very hill, was the bloody sweat of thine Agony; now is it the mount of thy Triumph. From this Mount of Olives, did flow that oil of gladness, wherewith thy Church is everlastingly refreshed. That God, that uses to punish us in the same kind wherein we have offended, retributes also to us in the same kind and circumstances wherein we have been afflicted. To us also, O Saviour, even to us, thy unworthy members, dost thou seasonably vouchsafe to give a proportionable joy to our heaviness ; laughter, to our mourning; glory, to contempt and shame. Our agonies shall be answered with exaltation.
Whither then, O Blessed Jesu, whither didst thou ascend ! whither, but home into thy heaven? From the mountain, wert thou taken up; and what but heaven is above the hills ? Lo, these are those mountains of spices, which thy Spouse, the Church, long since desired thee to climb. Thou hast now climbed up that infinite steepness, and hast left all sublimity below thee. Already hadst thou approved thyself the Lord and Commander of Earth, of Sea, of Hell. The Earth confest thee her Lord, when at thy voice she rendered thee thy Lazarus ; when she shook at thy Passion, and gave up her dead saints: the Sea acknowledged thee, in that it became a pavement to thy feet, and, at thy command, to the feet of thy disciple ; in that it became thy treasury for thy tribute-money; Hell found and acknowledged thee, in that thou conqueredst all the powers of darkness; even him, that had the power of death, the Devil. It now only remained, that, as the Lord of the Air, thou shouldst pass through all the regions of that yielding element; and, as Lord of Heaven, thou shouldst pass through all the glorious contignations thereof; that so every knee might bow to thee, both in heaven, and in earth, and under the earth.
Thou hadst an everlasting right to that heaven, that should be, an undoubted possession of it, ever since it was : yea, even while thou didst cry and sprawl in the Cratch, while thou didst hang upon the Cross, while thou wert sealed up in thy Grave; but thy human nature had not taken actual possession of it, till
Like as it was in thy true type, David, he had right to the kingdom of Israel immediately upon his anointing; but yet,
many a hard brunt did he pass, ere he had the full possession of it, in his ascent to Hebron.
I see now, O blessed Jesu, I see where thou art; even far above all heavens, at the right hand of thy Father's glory. This is the far country, into which the Nobleman went to receive for himself a kingdom ; far off to us, to thee near, yea, intrinsical. Oh do thou raise up my heart thither to thee. Place thou my affections upon thee above; and teach me therefore to love heaven, because thou art there.
How then, O Blessed Saviour, how didst thou ascend? While they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. So wast thou taken up, as that the act was thy own; the power of the act none but thine. Thou, that descendedst, wast the same that ascendedst : as in thy descent there was no use of any power or will but thy own, no more was there in thine ascent. Still and ever, wert thou the Master of thy own acts. Thou laidst down thy own life, no man took it from thee; thou raisedst up thyself from death, no hand did or could help thee; thou carriedst up thy own glorified flesh, and placedst it in heaven. The angels did attend thee; they did not aid thee : whence had they their strength, but from thee? Elias ascended to heaven, but he was fetcht up in a chariot of fire ; that it might appear hence, that man had need of other helps, who else could not of himself so much as lift up himself to the airy heaven, much less to the empyreal. But thou, our Redeemer, neededst no chariot, no carriage of angels: thou art the Author of Life and Motion; they move in and from thee. As thou, therefore, didst move thyself upward, so, by the same Divine power, thou wilt raise us up to the participation of thy glory. These vile bodies shall be made like to thy glorious body, according to the working, whereby thou art able to subdue all things unto thyself.
Elias had but one witness of his rapture into heaven : St. Paul had none, no, not himself ; for, whether in the body or out of the body he knew not. Thou, O Blessed Jesu, wouldst neither have all eyes witnesses of thine Ascension, nor yet too few. As, after thy Resurrection, thou didst not set thyself upon the pinnacle of the temple, nor yet publicly show thyself within it, as making thy presence too cheap; but madest choice of those eyes, whom thou wouldst bless with the sight of thee; thou wert seen indeed of five hundred at once, but they were brethren: so, in thine Ascension, thou didst not carry all Jerusalem promiscuously forth with thee to see thy glorious departure, but only that selected company of thy disciples, which had attended thee in thy life. Those, who immediately upon thine ascending returned to Jerusalem, were a hundred and twenty persons : a competent number of witnesses, to verify that thy miraculous and triumphant passage into thy glory. Lo, those only were thought worthy to