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them, but that this privilege was to be continued with them by virtue of his powerful intercession for them in heaven. The first tidings of our Redeemer's birth were attended with praises to God and blessings to men: he began his public ministry with pronouncing blessings on certain characters, Matth. v.; when he died, he breathed out his soul in blessings to his enemies, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do ;' and just when he was leaving the world, he was translated with a blessing in his mouth.
(3.) He ascended powerfully, even by his own almighty power. As by the power of his eternal Godhead he broke through the gloomy shades of the grave, and rose again to an immortal life; so by the same almighty strength he went gloriously up through the yielding air into the bright regions of eternal light. Enoch and Elijah were both translated soul and body into heaven; but this was not by their own, but by a divine power which exerted itself upon that occasion, by the ministry of angels. But our Redeemer went up upon the wings of his own almighty power.
(4.) He ascended softly and gradually. Though his conduct in this matter could not but strike with a strong surprise upon the minds of his disciples, yet his motion was so plain, easy, and distinct, that it fell very clearly under their observation; for while they beheld he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight.' Thus he departed by little and little, and not in a rapturous haste.
(5.) He ascended in a glorious and triumphant manner.
[1.] There was a cloud prepared as his royal chariot to carry him up to his princely palace. A cloud, in the natural notion of it, is a thick and moist vapour, drawn up from the earth or sea; by tho heat of the sun, to the middle region of the air, where it is condensed, congealed, and thickened, by the coldness of the place, and so hangs or moves like a huge mountain in the midst of the air, partly from natural causes, the sun or the wind, but especially by supernatural ones, the mighty power and appointment of God, who is said to use the clouds as princes do horses of state or chariots of triumph to ride on. Thus he descended in a cloud to Moses, and proclaimed the name of the Lord, Exod. xxxiv. 5: and it is said, Isa. xix. 1. 'Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud.' We find tho clouds were serviceable to our Redeemer : for a bright cloud overshadowed him at his transfiguration; he was carried up in a cloud to heaven at his ascension; and at tho last day the clouds will be the chariots which will bring him to judgment. Thereby Christ discovered himself to be the Lord of all the creatures. llo had already trode upon the earth, walked upon the sea, van
quished hell and the grave; and now he makes the clouds his chariots, and rides upon the wings of the wind.
(2.) In his ascension he was attended with a bright and blessed retinue of glorious angels. These angelic spirits graced the solemnity of his birth with anthems of triumphant joy; they ministered to him at the conclusion of his forty days' temptation by the devil; when ho was exposed to his amazing agony in the garden the evening before his crucifixion, they waited on him; and now, when he is making his triumphant entrance into glory, their presence adds to the glorious solemnity of the happy day. To this we may add, that it is not an improbable supposition, that on this grand occasion he was attended with the company of those many saints that rose from the dead after his resurrection ; whom he carried along with him, not only to grace the solemnity of his ascension, but as the firstfruits of his triumph over death and the grave, and a demonstrative evidence that the rest should follow in due time.
(3.) He went to heaven as a glorious conqueror, triumphing over all his enemies. When he ascended upon high,' says the apostle, - he led captivity captive,' Eph. iv. 8. As conquerors of old in their solemn triumphs used to lead their captives fettered with iron chains : so Christ having spoiled principalities and powers, made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them, Col. ii. 15. Some think that at Christ's ascension there was some real visible triumph, some open pomp and shew, in which the devils were led as chained captives through the air: which was visible, not to all, but to God, the angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect. But whatever be in this, it is certain that Christ fought and overcame all his enemies : he gave them the last blow upon the cross, he seized on the spoil at his resurrection, and led them in triumph at his ascension into heaven, and by his peaceable possession of his throne his subjects enjoy the benefit of all.
(4.) He ascended into heaven with shouts and acclamations of great joy, Psal. xlvii. 5. 'God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Hence, (1.) His ascension was celebrated with the acclamations of angels. If they sang so cheerfully when they came to proclaim his birth, O what shouts and jubilations were heard among them when they accompanied him in his triumphant entrance into heaven! The whole city of God was moved at his coming ; the very heavens resounded, and echoed their acclamations of joy. Hence is that passage, Psal. xxiv. 7. 'Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.' The entry of a mighty and victorious prince is there described; and so it is proper unto Christ :
they applaud him there as a mighty conqueror, newly returned from the spoils of his enemies. (2.) The blessed saints make the like applauses, as the prophet describes it, Isa. Ixiii. 1, 2, 3. 'Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength ? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine-fat? I have trodden the wine-press alone, and of the people there was none with me : for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.' There is here a dialogue between Christ and the saints, to express their acclamations at his victory. They are represented as filled with admiration at his glorious triumphs over all his enemies : and they celebrate his victorious return from so bloody a battle, like a great and valiant general, gloriously adorned with rich robes and royal apparel, and besprinkled with the blood of his implacable enemies. (3.) God testifies his approbation of what Christ had done, by giving him a kindly welcome home to heaven, Psal. ex. 1. • The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool: As if he had said, “Thy work is well done, Son, thou art welcome home to glory; sit now at my right hand,' &c. And on this account it is said, Dan. vii. 13. '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.' This vision of Christ was accomplished in his ascension. The holy angels bring him to the Father, called here, the Ancient of Days, who gloriously rewards him for his toil and travel on earth, and his bloody sufferings in accomplishing the work of man's redemption, and receives him as it were with open arms, rejoicing exceedingly to see him again in heaven; and therefore he is said to be received up into glory,' 1 Tim. iii. 16.
(5.) He ascended into heaven in a most munificent manner, bestowing many royal gifts and blessings upon his people. Hence says the apostle, Eph. iv. 8. When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.' The apostle here refers to Psal. Ixviii. 13. 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. There is here an allusion to the ancient customs of princes or generals, who, after some glorious achievements, or victories, used to mount their triumphant chariot, and enter into their royal cities attended
by their captive enemies, and afterwards to distribute gifts to their subjects and soldiers. Thus Christ, at his glorious ascension, when he entered heaven with solemn triumph, bestowed many rich and inestimable gifts upon men, to fit and qualify them for the work of the ministry, and to edify his mystical body. Some of these gifts were extraordinary, as the gifts of tongues and miracles, which were necessary and very useful in the first ages of Christianity. Others, again, were ordinary, and are to continue to the end of the world. And these are of various kinds. To some he gives depths of learning and a profound judgment; to others a gaining elocution; to some a mighty pathos, and melting influence upon the affections, and to others a forcible power of arguing. But they are all designed to gain souls to Christ, and promote the interests of his kingdom.
5. Why, or for what ends Christ ascended into heaven.
1. That ho might be solemnly inaugurated and installed in glory. This was due unto him by Mediatory compact. He was to drink of the brook in the way, and therefore should ho lift his head. This was the order that God appointed for his exaltation. The combat was to precede his triumph. He was first to suffer, and then to enter into glory. Hence we read, 1 Pet. i. 11. that 'the Spirit did testify beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. His triumphant laurel grew upon the thorns of his cross, and received a verdure from his dying tears. The palms spread in his way at his entrance into Jerusalem a little before his death, are regarded by some as an emblem of this, it being the nature of that plant to grow and increase the higher by the weights that are hung upon it. For so did our blessed Lord rise to a more glorious and triumphant height by his heavy pressures.
(2.) To make way for the Spirit. For if Christ had not gone away, the Comforter had not come. This plentiful effusion of the Spirit was very necessary to fit and qualify the apostles for propagating the gospel through the world. Such weak and illiterate men as they generally were, could not have managed so great a work without a mighty magazine of divine eloquence and vigorous courage. It was therefore needful that our great High Priest should enter into the holy place, and appear before God with the blood of his sacrifice ; that the treasures of the Spirit might be opened, and that the divine flame might issue out thence to inspire them with abilities for so great an undertaking.
(3.) To plead and make intercession for his people. After he had shed his precious blood on the earth for the expiation of their sin, he rode again from the dead, and went up into heaven as their
Advocate and Intercessor, that, by virtue of his meritorious sacrifice, he might answer all the charges brought against them, and sue out all the good things promised to them.
(4.) To prepare mansions of glory for all his followers, John xiv. 2. These were indeed prepared for them from all eternity, in the immutable purpose and decree of God, and from the foundation of the world by his creative power. But they were further prepared by Christ's ascension. And this lies in the following particulars. [1.] By this he set open the gates of heaven, that poor sinners might enter in. He removed all the bars and obstructions that were in the way, and made a patent passage for them into glory. [2.] He hath as a public person taken possession of the celestial kingdom in their name. On this account ho is called 'the forerunner,' Heb. vi. 20. [3.] He prepares it for his people, in his sanctifying and purifying it for them. This was typified of old by the sprinkling the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the sanctuary, with the blood of the sacrifices. Hence it is said, Heb. ix. 23, 24. 'It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these ; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 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.' We are not to think that heaven was polluted, and so under any necessity of being made clean : but the cry of man's sin had ascended up on high, as it were with a stinking savour; and therefore Christ behoved to go up and perfume it with his precious merit. [4.] He prepares it for his people, in providing and fitting all things for their entertainment against they come ; as Joseph was sent into Egypt to prepare for his father Jacob.
Lastly ,Tho duty that this lays on all that pretend interest in Christ. (1.) Let our hearts be there where our Lord is. Hence is that exhortation, Col. iii. 1, 2. 'If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those 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.' Let us not be pursuing earthly things as our treasure, but live in this world as those whoso heads are homeward, to the house prepared by their ascended Lord. (2.) Let us thence be encouraged to encounter with magnanimity and courage all difficulties that we may meet with in our Christian course and warfare; knowing that we shall be conquerors at last through him that loved us. Christ fought his way to the glory promised him through legions of armed hosts; and so must we, if we would be conformed to him as our head: he has reached to the crown a= the reward of his obedience