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with the ministration of Angels, walked about for the space of forty days through the wilderness of this world, and in particular through the land of Judea, (which alas ! bore a very great resemblance to an uncultivated desert,) till he betook himself to the mount of the heavenly Zion, to be eternally present with the Father.
x. But we must not overlook the circumstance, that it was while Jesus was still speaking with his disciples that he was taken up from them;' just as, whilst Elijah and Elisha were walking and conversing together, a chariot of fire, with horses of fire, suddenly parted them both asunder. Our Lord thus discovered his assiduity in instructing and comforting his disciples to the very last. As he had begun to teach when he was a youth scarcely twelve years of age, so he did not desist on the cross; and his last hour upon earth found him engaged in the same work. In conformity to his Master's example, Calvin nobly replied to his friends, who exhorted him to abstain entirely, during his indisposition, from the labour of speaking, or at least of writing,
“ What! Do you “ wish that the Lord should find me idle ?"
XI. At the conclusion of his discourse, Christ blessed the disciples. Accordingly, Luke says: ---" He o lifted
his hands and blessed them; and it came “ to pass while he blessed them, he was parted from “ them, and carried up into heaven.”- Lifting up the hands was a gesture used in prayer; and blessing is a species of prayer. The hands of one person, were laid on the head of another, on whose behalf prayers were preferred;y for it was the request of the one, that as he protected the other with his hand, so God would protect him in his ways. Such was the practice, wherever there might be only one or two to be blessed; but if the number were greater, a more expeditious method was adopted, and instead of many repeated impositions of hands, the supplicant stretched forth his hands over the heads of the assembly. We read that “ Aaron lifted up his hands towards the people, and “ blessed them.”2 Christian Bishops were accustomed to observe the same practice, both at the beginning, and at the conclusion, of every meeting. And in the ancient constitutions which are commonly ascribed to Clement, “ the imposition of hands, and blessing both "small and great,” are numbered among “ the services * of priests.”* Our Lord thought proper to depart, whilst employed in this exercise. He had already discharged his functions as a Prophet; as a Priest, he had offered up himself. And now as a most merciful Highpriest, he imparts his blessing to his disciples; being about to enter immediately into the most holy place, to present the virtue of his shed blood to the Father, and to sit down on the throne of glory, encircled with royal magnificence. Not only did he bring a blessing with him, when he came into the world; but when he departed, he left a blessing behind him. Thus the blessed seed is always like himself. At his departure no less than at his advent, he is the source of the most desirable benedictions.
v Acts i. 9. * Luke xxiv. 50, 51.
2 Kings ii. 11.
XII. A two-fold PLACE must here be considered. 1st, The place whence Christ departed. 2dly, The
See Grotius and Vossius. y Gen. xlviii. 14.
* Lev. ix. 22.
place where he arrived. In stating the former, Scripture uses some diversity of expression. In Acts i. 12. it is said that the Apostles, immediately after Christ's ascension,“ returned unto Jerusalem from the Mount “ called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a Sabbath
day's journey.” Now, men acquainted with the customs of the Hebrews always define a Sabbath-day's journey by two thousand cubits,* or, as others express it, two thousand moderate paces. According to the calculation of Beza, and of Ludovicus de Dieu, these make five furlongs; and according to Josephus, Jerusalem is distant that number of furlongs from Mount Olivet. But in Luke xxiv. 50. it is related, that the disciples were led out “ as far as to Bethany;" whence Christ was to ascend to heaven. Bethany, too, is “ fif“ teen furlongs” distant from Jerusalem ;a that is, if Beza's computation be correct, three times the distance of a Sabbath-day's journey. To solve this seeming contradiction, is truly difficult. I intend not now to examine the various opinions respecting it, which may be seen in the writings of those who have proposed them. I shall only bring forward what appears most probable, and best calculated to remove the difficulty. Let it then be observed, 1. That Josephus speaks the truth, when he affirms that mount Olivet is at the distance of five furlongs from Jerusalem; that is, where the mountain begins to rise to any considerable height: for it is attested by them who in our own times have travelled in those regions, that the lowest parts of the mountain are still nearer the city, and are scarcely five hundred
אלפין אמין * אלפין פסיעות בינוניות +
a John xi. 18.
paces distant, whilst the brook Kidron flows between the Mount and the city. 2. That a Sabbath-day's journey is most accurately defined, not five furlongs, but seven and a half; as the Syriac Translator renders it about seven furlongs.* On this subject Drusius and Lightfoot, men of uncommon skill in these matters, may be consulted. A Sabbath-day's journey, therefore, extends to a considerable height in mount Olivet, perhaps not much less distant from the bottom of the mount, than its bottom is from Jerusalem. 3. That there are two Bethanies,—the one, a town, or village, or fort, situated beyond mount Olivet, fifteen furlongs from Jerusalem, of which we read in John xi. 18.—the other, a tract, or part of mount Olivet, contiguous to Bethphage. As Bethphaget was the tract of Olivet most adjacent to Jerusalem, being so called on account of the figs which it produced; so Bethany is a tract of the same mountain, that derives its name from the dates with which it abounds. Bethany began where Bethphage ended. § 4. That Christ ascended to heaven, not from the village of Bethany, but from the tract of Olivet which bore the same name: For he did not select a place where a multitude of inhabitants, or others, might see him ascend; but called the disciples, who alone were to be the witnesses of his ascension, to a solitary part of the mount. When these remarks are attended to, every appearance of contradiction vanishes. 37
XIII. It is related by the ancients, that when the Empress HELENA erected a splendid chapel on the place
☺ See Lightfoot in Cent. præmiss. Matth. cap. xxxvii. et Decade Chorogr. præmiss. Marc. cap. iv.
37 See Note XXXVII.
whence Christ ascended to heaven in a cloud, it was found impossible to pave, along with the rest of the floor, the spot which last received the print of our Lord's sacred feet. Whatever was applied for that purpose, the earth indignantly refused to accept of human embellishments, shaking off the marble stones, and dashing them in the faces of those who laid them. It is mentioned, besides, as a permanent evidence of the dust of that place having been trodden by the Son of God, that the impressions of the footsteps may yet be discerned; and although religionists that are daily resorting thither in multitudes, eagerly snatch away portions of the earth trodden by our Lord, the ground sustains no perceptible loss, and the earth preserves the same appearance, being still marked with the traces of the footsteps. Such is the account given by Sulpitius Severus. Jerome adds :* “ In fine, whereas “ the Church, in the middle of which the marks of the “ footsteps are, was built in a circular form, and in a
style of workmanship exquisitely beautiful, it was not possible, as is reported, by any means, to cover and “ arch over the summit of the edifice, where the Lord's “ body had passed; but that passage from earth to hea“ ven still continues open.” The same thing has been noticed by Optatus of Milevi, Paulinus, and Bede; whose words are cited by Baronius. Not satisfied with even these accounts, geographers, and travellers in the holy land, affirm that to this very day, the traces of the footsteps are visible even amidst the infidel Turks; nay, further, that they are directed towards the West, lest, forsooth, the Roman catholic Church should derive no honour from this affair to herself;
* De Locis Hebraicis.