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able term, which is often employed on this topic by the sacred as well as ecclesiastical writers. It occurs in the following passages; “ When the time was come, that he “ should be received up."
“He was received up into “ heaven.”u “ This same Jesus, which is taken up from
you into heaven,” &c. “ -Unto that same day that “ he was taken up from us.”w “-Received up into
glory.” Irenæus calls the ascension of Christ “ his
bodily analepsis, reception, into heaven;" and the Greeks style the very day of the ascension, Analepsimus,* the reception-day. Now, as has been learnedly noted by Budæus, 'uvahepe Ecven signifies to resume, to take back again : and in Demosthenes against Neara, αναλαμβανειν τον παιδα, to receive the child back again, is opposed to disowning it as amongst the Latins, agnitio, the acknowledging of children, is the opposite of abdicatio, the renunciation of them. He therefore concludes that Analepsis signifies “ the acknowledging of
Christ, who was previously in a manner disowned by “ the Father.” Beza rejects this observation as an empty quibble. We concur, however, with several eminent writers in cordially receiving it; for it both suits the genius of the language, and affords excellent instruction. Thirty-three years prior to that event, the Son was sent by the Father to accomplish the work of redemption, during the performance of which, he was so afflicted in body and mind, that he appeared to be forsaken of God, and treated with neglect; but the fact
+ Τα αποκηρυττιν.
of the ascension doth itself imply a declaration on the part of the Father, that he recognises him as his Son, and that it is his will that he should be crowned with glory and honour. This analepsis, then, involves the justification of Christ.y 39
XXIII. But in other passages of Scripture, Christ himself is said to have ascended. To this the word ’Avaßaois, ascension, refers; akin to which is the term Tlogsuopas, I go; which was frequently used by Christ himself,a and repeated in the history of the ascension.b These expressions intimate, that our Lord, making use of the right which he acquired by his obedience and sufferings, found a way for himself to heaven. “By his " resurrection from the dead he was declared to be the “Son of God with power ;”c “ all power being given "him” alike “ in heaven and in earth.”d He now, therefore, avails himself of that power. As the glorified Son of God, being “ without sin,”e being no longer defiled, so to speak, with the guilt of any sin, to prevent his access to his Father's house, or to require him to remain without, or stand at a distance; but, on the contrary, having accomplished his whole work, in the highest perfection, according to his Father's will and his own engagements, and having obtained a solemn testimony of this in his resurrection,-he now goes to his Father with joy and alacrity; and, the gates of heaven opening spontaneously to give him admittance, he takes possession of that throne of glory to which he is entitled.
y 1 Tim. iii. 16.
b Acts i. 10, 11. • 'Εν δυναμει, Rom. i. 4.
d Mat. xxviii. 18. Xwgis ápagtits, Heb. ix. 28.
39 See Note XXXIX.
XXIV. It was also a remarkable circumstance attending the ascension of Jesus, that a cloud received him, and removed him from the sight of the disciples, while they looked stedfastly towards heaven. It is ascribed to JEHOVAH, who is very great, as an evidence of his divine glory and majesty, that he “ makes the clouds * his chariots, and walketh upon the wings of the “ wind.”g Christ's being conveyed in a cloud, therefore, when he ascended to heaven, is a proof of his Divine majesty
Every where,” says Bede,* “ the “ creature approves itself obedient to its Creator. At “ his birth, the stars indicate the place of his nativity; “ the clouds overshadow him at his sufferings; they “ receive him at his ascension ; they will attend him “ at his coming to judgment.” So, too, whilst the saints are engaged in the most delightful contemplation, God is often pleased to draw over them a cloud, which serves, like a veil, to intercept their views of the heavenly glory; for in this world “we walk by faith, “ not by sight." He gave also a salutary check to human curiosity, when he permitted the disciples to see Jesus ascending, but not to see him enter into heaven. It was proper they should see a part, that unbelief might have no pretence. It would have been improper for them to see all, that faith might have its due exercise in admiring, not in boldly surveying, the hidden glories of the upper sanctuary.
xxv. The CERTAINTY of the ascension of Christ is clearly confirmed by the following testimonies. 1st, By
In hunc loc. fYttet, Acts i. 9. & Ps. civ. S.
h 2 Cor. V. 7.
the testimony of the APOSTLES; whose number is competent, whose integrity bids defiance to calumny, and whose faith was supported by the indubitable evidence of their senses; to which, as to this and similar matters, they every where appeal. i
XXVI. 2dly, By the testimony of holy ANGELS; who declare that Jesus was, in reality, seen by the Apostles, when he ascended ; and also that he is one day to come again from heaven in the same manner in which they saw him ascend. i
XXVII. 3dly, By the testimony of STEPHEN; who, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly “ into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus
standing on the right hand of God;"_and who, in the immediate prospect of death, informed his enemies, with a joyful countenance, of what he saw." It is fectly credible, that Stephen saw with his bodily eyes, something of the same kind with that which was often seen in mental visions by the Prophets, and in particular, by John in the Apocalypse ; who saw the throne, and Him that sat on it, and a Lamb as it had been slain.' Stephen saw " the heavens opened;" as Christ also did at his baptism.m This signifies at least the removal of impediments that obstructed the sight, and that would otherwise have rendered it impossible for him to penetrate to the things which are transacted in heaven. That God, who makes the seeing and the blind, who allots to individuals the different measures in which they possess the sense of sight, and who has taught mankind the art by which they can present to
i Acts i. 9, 10.
m Mat. iii. 16. Mark i. 10. VOL. II.
their view distant objects as if they were near, and small ones as if they were great, and bring to their eyes, by means of optical tubes, objects which otherwise are beyond the sphere of their vision,—that God could, with the utmost facility, miraculously strengthen the eye-sight of Stephen, so that, notwithstanding the almost unmeasurable distance intervening, he might see the objects exhibited in heaven.
XXVIII. 4thly, By the testimony of Paul, who more than once affirms that he saw the Lord ;n that is, saw him in the same manner in which he was seen by Stephen. A great light from heaven having sudderly surrounded him, he turned his eyes to the quarter whence so extraordinary a brightness shone, and there he “ saw that Just One, and heard the voice of his “ mouth.” We are not to imagine, that, on Paul's account, Christ left the highest heavens, and descended to the aerial regions adjacent to the earth; for we are assured that “ the heavens must receive him until the “ times of the restitution of all things.”p Nor are we to suppose that an Angel appeared to Paul, representing the person and sustaining the character of Christ; for it is unlawful for an Angel, or any creature, to usurp the place and prerogatives of God. One of two things, therefore, must have happened. Paul either saw Christ in a symbol, as the Israelites saw God in Sinai; or by a miraculous elevation of the power of vision, he beheld Christ's very body in heaven. That the last of these was his privilege, he seems indeed to intimate, when he adds himself to the number of those who saw Christ alive after his death, that is, saw him
ni Cor. ix. 1. xv. 8. • Acts ix. 3, 4, 5, 17. xxii. 6-9, 14. P Acts üi. 21.