Page images

actually in the body, and not merely in a symbol. Without doubt, too, he saw him in heaven, when, being caught up to paradise, he “ heard unspeakable “ words,”—words of greater force and energy than the language of mortals is able to express, and which, be- , ing reserved for the world to come, are proper to be heard only in paradise :-“ Which it is not lawful for “a man to utter;" that is, which a mere man is not permitted to speak,—words so superlatively excellent, that whoever uttered them must be recognised as greater than man. We ought not, without necessity, to admit a tautology in the Apostle's language : and in order to avoid it, the first member of the clause must be referred to the person who hears, to whom the words were “ unspeakable ;” and the last, to the person who speaks, whose language was so transcendantly excellent, that it were impossible for any but God to speak in such a style.40

XXIX. 5thly, By the testimony of John, Rev. xii. 1, 2, 5. “ And there appeared a great wonder,” a remarkable emblem of the most important and interesting things.—“ In heaven,” whence John received all his revelations, and whither he was required to go up in order to behold them.r—" A woman,” that is, the Old Testament Church.—“ Clothed with the sun;" not like that other woman, who was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls ;s but irradiated by the bright beams of divine truth, proceeding from the Son of God, who is " the true light,” and “the same yesterday, and to

9 2 Cor. xii. 4.

r Rev. iv. 1. s Rev. xvii. 4.

+ John i. 9. 40 See Note XL.

day, and for ever.”_" And the moon under her “ feet,” nobly trampling on earthly, fading, and transitory objects; for the moon, being the lowest of the planets, and subject to continual variations, is a fit image of the instability of the world.—“ And upon “ her head a crown of twelve stars.” The Church is a Queen, and the daughter of the King ;' and hence she wears a crown. The twelve stars are the patriarchs, the prophets, and the saints of the twelve tribes. Previously to the birth of Christ, the twelve tribes were united in one commonwealth, and all that were genuine saints of each of the tribes of old, contributed to the beauty and splendour of the Church." And she “ being with child,” by virtue of the promises of God regarding the Messiah, who was to be born amongst the people of Israel,—“ cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.” The travailing in birth, denotes the hope and expectation of believers of those times. The crying, relates to the fervent prayers, by which they earnestly solicited the Messiah's coming. * The pain, signifies the oppression sustained by the Church, partly from Herod, that determined enemy of the Messiah’s kingdom, partly from the Pharisees and Scribes, who loaded the Church with heavy burdens, whilst they darkened and almost exploded the doctrine of the righteousness and grace of Christ ;-which served to inflame the desire of the Messiah in the breasts of the faithful." And she brought forth a “ man-child.” Christ, that strong and mighty Conqueror, was born at last, according to the hope and expectation of believers —“ Who was to rule all nations

[blocks in formation]

“ with a rod of iron; to rescue his people from the power of their enemies, and to break in pieces those enemies, compelling even the Dragon to surrender to him the government of the nations.—“ AND HER “ CHILD WAS CAUGHT UP UNTO GOD, AND TO HIS “ THRONE.” After most violent conflicts with the dragon, he, by the power of his heavenly Father, was caught up to God, from death, and from hell, or the grave. Being raised from the dead, he ascended to heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God to reign over the nations. It seemed proper to explain this passage somewhat particularly, that we might understand the meaning of so distinguished an emblem. 41

xxx. 6thly, By the testimony of the Spirit sent from heaven. “ Therefore, being by the right hand of God “ exalted, and having received of the Father the pro“ mise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, " which y

ye now see and hear.” The Spirit could not have come, unless Christ had gone to the Father.z

XXXI. 7thly, By the GREAT AND ADMIRABLE WORKS performed after his ascension, which extorted confessions of his glory from his inveterate enemies. “ Nevertheless, I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see " the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, " and coming in the clouds of heaven.". They saw this, when all Jerusalem was amazed at the effusion of the Spirit on the Apostles, while they heard their discourses, and beheld their miracles. They saw it, when Paul, one of the persecutors, beheld him shining gloriously from heaven, and heard him accosting himself. They saw it, when he came with just severity, to demolish their temple and overthrow their polity; for, as Maimonides has rightly observed, descending in a cloud sometimes denotes wrath and vengeance. They saw it, in fine, when Christ, going forth in the Gospel, as in a triumphal chariot, “ and in his majesty riding “ prosperously because of truth,”c extended his kingdom on every side amongst all the nations. In these and similar works, we behold a prelude of his approaching advent in the clouds of heaven.

y Acts ii. 33.

> John vii. 39. xvi. 7. a Mat. xxvi. 64.

41 See Not. XLI.

XXXII. But, further, it was NECESSARY that Christ should ascend on high.

“ OUGHT not Christ to have “ suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?"d Christ's ascension was necessary, 1st, That the prophecies might be accomplished. 2dly, that the types might be fulfilled. 3dly, Because it was of great importance to God the Father, to Christ, and to us.

XXXIII. The PREDICTIONS of this event are numerous and express. For the sake of brevity, we shall only illustrate the three following, two from the Psalms, and one from Isaiah. The first is Ps. xlvii. 5. “ God “ is gone up with a shout; JEHOVAH with the sound “ of a trumpet.” It is possible, indeed, although it is merely a conjecture, that the ancient Church may have sung this Psalm, when the ark was introduced into Zion, or into the temple. But the introduction of the ark into its appointed place, directs our views to a far greater event. It signified Christ's reception into heaven; which is foretold by the Psalmist. Our Lord's ascension was celebrated “ with a shout, and with the a sound of a trumpet,"—preceding the event, for the


c Ps. xlv. 4.

e xxiv. 26.

fame of Christ's resurrection from the dead had filled Jerusalem, and even all Judea ;-accompanying it, for it took place amidst rejoicing, applauding, and witnessing Angels; and also following it, for the preaching of Apostles full of the Spirit of Christ, and those other magnificent works of Christ, of which we have just spoken, were more efficacious than the sound of any trumpet. The ascension of Christ, too, is above every thing else, the cause and matter of a song, of a shout, and of the most exuberant joy, to believers.

Xxxiv. Memorable also on this topic, is the sixtyeighth Psalm; in which, after a variety of emblematical expressions relating to Christ and the Church, the Psalmist, addressing himself to the Messiah, says, verse 18. “ Thou hast ascended on high.” Thou, who didst once descend from heaven to earth to accomplish the salvation of mankind, having finished the work of redemption, now returnest to heaven, to take possession of thine original glory. In vain, therefore, do “ the “ mountains, and the high hills,” that is, the kingdoms, the nations, and the tribes, form insidious designs against one another; each by unavailing protestations arrogating to itself the throne of God. He hath his throne in heaven, and thence he rules the Church. “ Thou hast led captivity captive." Thou hast triumphed gloriously over thy vanquished enemies, and taken the prey from the haughty foe. Let Paul suffice for an example, whom Christ “ led about in tri“umph,”f as a signal conquest from the camp of the enemy, nay, a standard-bearer, who formerly 'raged against Jesus even unto blood, and withstood him in

• Is. xlix. 24, 25. Mat. xii. 29.

f 2 Cor. ii. 14. The true meaning of gueuBever, is to lead about in triumph. See Col. ii. 15.

« PreviousContinue »