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the great Apostle eaercise ourselves. We may rest assured, that the more we partake of this character, the happier and more honourable shall our life be on earth, and the nearer shall it bring us to Heaven. Conscious of our innumerable frailties, let it be our daily prayer to God, that by his powerful Spirit he would rectify what is corrupted in our nature; would guard us by his grace against the temptations that surround us; keep us from the path of the destroyer, and lead us in his way everlasting.
On the Ascension of Christ.
[Preached in the Evening after the Celebration of the Sacrarrient of the Lord's Supper.]
Luke, xxiv. 50, 51.
And he led them out as far as to Bethany; and he" lift up his hands and blessed them; And it came to pass while he blessed them, he was parted from them and ; carried up into Heaven.
npHE sacred scriptures not only set before us a complete rule of life, but give weight and authority to the precepts they deliver, by the information they communicate . of certain great and important facts, in which all the human race have a deep concern. Of those facts one of the most illustrious is the ascension of our Saviour to Heaven, after having completed the work of our redemption. This is a subject on which it is at all times pleasing to a Christian to meditate; but especially after the celebration of that solemn ordinance in which we were , this day engaged. We there renewed the memorial of our Saviour suffering and dying in the cause of mankind. Let us now take part in his succeeding triumphs. Let us with pleasure behold him rising from the grave, as the conqueror of death and hell, and ascending into Heaven, there to reign in glory, and to act as the protector and guardian of his people, to the end of time. — It will be proper to begin with taking a particular view of all the circumstances that attended this memorable event in the history of our Saviour's life; as they are related in the text, compared with the accounts of other evangelists. The circumstances will all be found to be both beautiful and sublime in themselves, and instructive to us.
We are informed *, that it was not until forty days after his resurrection from the grave, that this event took place. During this space he had shown himself alive after his passion, by many infallible proofs, being often seen by his disciples, and conversing with tliem of things pertaining to the kingdom of God. All being now concluded which he had to do on earth; the guilt of mankind having been expiated by his death, and his Apostles fully instructed in the part they were henceforth to act, and the character they were to assume; one day, we are told, he led them out of the city as far as to Bethany. — With the utmost propriety was this place selected for the scene of his ascension. Near Bethany was the mount of Olives, to which our Lord was wont so often to retire for the exercise of private devotion; and there also was the garden of Gethsemane, where his sufferings commenced with that agony in which his soul was exceeding sorrowful even unto death. At the spot where his generous sufferings on our account began, there also was his glory to commence; and those fields which so long had been his favourite retreat, and so often had been consecrated by him to medi
* Acts, i. 3.
tation and prayer, were now to be dignified with his last and parting steps towards heaven; a sort of symbol of devotion and virtuous sufferings being steps that prepare for ascent to heaven. — There, we are told, He lift up his hands and blessed his disciples; and while he blessed them, he was parted from them. How beautiful is this attitude of our departing Lord! How well did such a conclusion suit the rest of his life! Having loved his own which were in the world, lie loved them to the end. While he lived, he went about doing good: He died, praying for his enemies; and when he ascended into heaven, it was in the act of lifting up his hands and blessing his friends; like a dying parent giving his last benediction to his children and family. A worthy pattern is here set before us, of the manner in which every good man should wish to spend his last moments, in acts of devotion to God, and expressions of kindness and affection to his friends. — While our Saviour was thus employed, he was parted from his disciples; a cloud, it is said, received him out of their sight *, and he was carried up into heaven. Here were no whirlwinds, no thuiiders, no chariots of fire. Supernatural appearances of old, had been accompanied with majesty of a terrible kind. The law was given in the midst of lightnings and thunders. Elijah was caught up into heaven in a fiery chariot. But the Saviour of the world was gently received up in a cloud-; with that sort of meek and calm magnificence which bespeaks the peaceful genius of the Gospel and its
Author. Angels likewise assisted at this solemnity,
as in every dispensation friendly to mankind these bene. volent spirits are represented as taking part. At the creation of the world, the morning stars, it is said, sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy. * At the birth of our Lord, we hear of their songs of praise and joy; we find them present at his resurrection from the dead; and now again at his ascension into heaven. While his disciples looked stedfastly towards heaven, as lie went up, behold two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.i
* Acts, i. 9.
Such were the circumstances which accompanied
that great and signal event of Christ's ascension into
Heaven; all of them very. solemn and striking, and
calculated to leave a deep impression on the minds of
his disciples. Let us now proceed to consider
the ends and purposes of our Saviour's ascension, as
far as they are revealed and made known to us ; and,
together with them, the effects which ought thereby
to be produced on our minds. .
• In the first place, by our Saviour's ascension into heaven, it was made to appear that the great design for which he descended to the earth was completely fulfilled. A solemn attestation was thus given by God, to the virtue and efficacy of that great sacrifice which he offered by his death for the sins of the world: It was declared that in consideration of the high merits and generous sufferings of the Son of
* Job, xxxviii. 7. t Acts» '• 10,11.