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Now, therefore, be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you, to preserve life.”
And did not our Lord, by using this endearing name, in these circumstances, convey to them an intimation of duty? “ Since I do not disown the relation in which you stand to me; since I acknowledge you as brethren, notwithstanding your imperfections—follow my example; acknowledge each other as brethren; love as brethren; let there be no strife between you,
ye are brethren. Disclaim me for your brother, or receive as such every follower of mine.
Whether strong in the faith, or weak; whether young men or babes they all stand in the same relation to me, and in the same relation to you.
Hence, secondly, he adds, "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, and to my God, and your God." Let us take some views of this interesting intelligence. It may
be necessary to premise, that this ascension was real, and local. He had a body, and this, he assured his disciples, after his resurrection, had flesh and bones, and could not only be seen, but touched, and handled. With this he ascended. Heaven, therefore, is a place, as well as a state: his body cannot be every where; but wherever it be, there is heaven; at least, there is the Chris. tian's heaven. Let us now consider this ascension-in reference to the Saviour-his enemies and his people.
First.-If we view it in reference to himself, we may observe that in ascending he returned to the place from whence he came; and assumed the glory which he had laid aside, or rather obscured." Did you never observe with what ease,
and freedom from surprise, he always spoke of heavent Prophets and apostles seemed to labour for expressions, when they spoke of it; to them heaven was new, as well as vast; but he speaks of it familiarly, as one to whom there was nothing in it novel, or wonderful. And this was the case. He was the Prince of heaven: and the palace was only his home. “ What, (says he,) and if ye shall see the son of man ascending up where he was before? 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 thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
He also ascended to enjoy the reward of his humiliation and sufferings. For our sakes he became poor. He was born in a stable, and laid in a manger. As he grew up, he appeared " a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." After a life of contradiction and anguish," he became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Wherefore, God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name above every
His humiliation and death, are not to be opposed to his glory: they were the road that led to it. There was a “joy set before him, for which “he endured the cross, despising the shame;" and what he died to procure, he now ascends to possess.
What a change in his condition! Ye, who have sympathized with him in the garden, come, rejoice with him upon the throne. “ He dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over him.” The head that once wore a crown of thorns, is now crowned with glory and honour.” The hands once nailed to the tree, now wield the sceptre of universal empire. And he
who was once surrounded by blaspheming men, is now worshipped by all the angels in heaven!
Secondly. We may consider the ascension of our Lord in reference to his enemies. Thus, he is a conqueror. He had foes, but he vanquished thein, “and having spoiled principalities, and powers, he made a show of them openly.' He triumphed over them. It was customary for a Roman general, after a successful and glorious termination of a war, to return to the capitol of his country. This he entered in triumph. He rode in a lofty car: some of the spoils were suspended from on high; a number of the captives were fastened to the axle-tree of the chariot wheels; myriads gazed, and shouted; while the conqueror scattered largesges among the admiring and applauding multitude.
Behold the triumph of our Redeemer! “ Thou hast ascended on high; thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men: yea, for the rebellious, also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.". He has conquered the conquerors, and bound those who had enslaved us; sin, the devil, the world, death; these are the enemies he has overcome.
And to-day he enjoys his tri. umph. “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, o ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory The Lord of Hosts, he is the King of Glory? 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.
O Christians, what have you to fear? You behold your chief in triumph, and your enemies in chains. . We can easily imagine how a Roman would fear an enemy while they waged the war, and before the victory was obtained; but, would he tremble, think you, when he saw these foes defeated, spoiled, and exposed to view, to prove the reality of their subjection? What emotions were excited in all parts of England, through which the Spaniards were led, after the destruction of their invincible armada? And when the instrụments of their cruelty were carried along with them? How fearless of enemies, now taken captive! what joy at having escaped from their teeth! And shall we not rejoice in him who has “ saved us from our enemies, and from the hand of them that hate us?” How certainly would they, and how nearly had they, proved our destruction!
But, as he triumphs, he also bestows upon us various and inestimable blessings. “Wherefore, he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. And he gave some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” There is another gift, without which we should still have perished; and this also descends from a glorified Saviour. Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear.” He hath said to his disciples, • Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but, if I depart, I will send him unto you,” This promise was soon fulfilled, not only in miraculous, but also in saving and sanctifying operations; and continues to be accomplished, in the enlightening, conversion, and establishment, of every real believer.
But, this has led us to anticipate the third view we are to take of the Saviour's ascension; viz. as it regards his people.
And thus he ascended as the high priest of their profession. If he were on earth, says the apostle, he should not be a priest: he means, had he continued here, he could not have completely fulfilled the office that typified him. To understand this, it is necessary to observe, that the high priest was not only to offer sacrifice. When he had slain the atoning victim, he took the blood into the holy place, and sprinkled it upon the mercy seat, and also burned incense. Whether, on the occasion, he used any words, we are not informed; but the action spake loud enough. Thus, Jesus, having suffered on earth, produces and pleads his sufferings in heaven: “ Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption
For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." There he maintains our cause: there, as our intercessor, he offers much incense with the prayers of all the saints, and obtains for us both the acceptance of our persons and