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at the commencement of the year of grace and of liberty, the Lord Jesus, by his own shed blood, and through the rent vail of his own flesh, entered, not into the holy places made with hands, but into the heavenly sanctuary, to consecrate the way for us, that by representing the virtue of his satisfaction to the Father, he might make continual intercession for us.
XXXVII. The ascension of Christ was also shadowed forth by the golden pot or casket of Manna, which was deposited in the presence of Jehovah, that there it might be preserved, exempt from all corruption and putrefaction. It was thus signified, that he who descended from heaven to be the bread of life to sinners, who without him must inevitably have perished, was again to be taken up to heaven, that, no longer obnoxious to infirmity, he might live eternally with the Father in unfading glory.
XXXVIII. Add to this, the translation of Enoch and Elijah. As the former was translated to heaven under the promise, and the latter under the law; so Christ was translated under grace, as the exemplar of believers of all ages. A vast difference, meantime, may be observed, between the ascension of our Lord, and the translation of these ancient prophets. They were graciously translated to heaven, by no power and by no title of their own; but by the power of God, and by the virtue of the merits of Christ, and of his future ascension-a virtue which was exerted even from the beginning. Our Saviour, on the contrary, ascended to heaven, as to his own habitation, by his own power
• Heb. ix. 24. vi. 19, 20.
P Exod. xvi. 32-34.
and authority, and by the right of his Deity, as well: as by a mediatorial title acquired by his sufferings. This observation throws light on that expression of Christ: "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but "he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man, which is in heaven." 42 They were translated, besides, without tasting death; for it did not belong to them to make satisfaction for sin. But Christ ascended, after having undergone death, and after having conquered it by his own death, and triumphed over it by his resurrection from the dead; for he was not to "sit down at the right hand of the Majesty on high," till he had first" by himself purged our sins."s
XXXIX. And truly it was of importance to God the FATHER, that he should receive home at last to the embraces of his love, his Only-begotten Son, who "was daily his delight," and who had now spent so many years in a sort of exile on the earth; and that this honorary ambassador, having performed his whole work aright, should, after sojourning so long in a foreign land, return to court, to render an account of his embassy. The glory of his justice required, that his well-beloved Son should not be disappointed of that reward, which was due to an obedience so signal, and a service so arduous and so perfect; and which was to be enjoyed only in heaven."
XL. It was of importance, also, to CHRIST, that he should possess the right which he had procured for himself, and that having valiantly and successfully overthrown his enemies, he should be carried in a triumphal chariot, and, amidst the shrieks of devils, and
* John iii. 13.
t Prov. viii. 30.
$ Heb. i. 8.
u Is. xlix. 5-7.
42 See NOTE XLII.
the acclamations of angels, amidst the amazement of the wicked, and the songs of choirs of the faithful, make a joyful and glorious entry, not into such a place as Rome, or the Capitol, but into the heavenly Jerusalem, and the Temple not made with hands, there to enjoy a delightful rest, after the protracted travail of his soul. He had indeed finished all those parts of his work, which were to be discharged in the state of humiliation. But some operations belonging to each of his offices remained, which could be accomplished only in heaven. There he had to erect his chair as a Prophet, that he might instruct his people by his Spirit, who irradiates their minds from above. There he had to appear in the presence of God as a Priest ; and this was so absolutely necessary, that if he had remained on earth, he could not have been our Priest.x It behoved him either to be a Priest in every respect, or not to be a Priest at all. It belongs also to the Priest, namely, the High-priest, of whom we now speak, to enter within the vail, to make intercession for the people. Hence such an High-priest became us, as, after having offered up himself, "is made higher than "the heavens." There, in fine, he was to take possession of the Throne of the kingdom, that he might hear the Angels around the throne, shouting with a loud voice: "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, "and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and
glory, and blessing;"-that, looking down from on high, he might laugh at the impotent rage of his enemies;a—and finally, that from that impregnable fortress he might afford the most effectual succours for
▾ Rev. iii. 21.
* Heb. viii. 4.
* Rev. v. 12.
John xvi. 7-13.
y Heb. vii. 26, 27.
a Ps. ii. 4.
the protection of his people, and liberally supply them with the richest gifts.b
XLI. It is of importance also to us, who, by this means, were to be weaned from every worldly inclination and pursuit. Such is the disposition of the flesh, that, wholly intent on external advantages, it doth not elevate the mind to heavenly objects, but is occupied about trifles to the neglect of better things. Of this we have an instance in the Apostles themselves, who, so long as they enjoyed Christ's bodily presence, could, with the utmost difficulty, be induced to renounce the expectation of a carnal and worldly kingdom. Our Lord, therefore, was pleased to deprive us of the sight and presence of his body, that we might not rest in that which is external and corporeal, but, directing our attention to his merit and Spirit, might place our hearts on heavenly and spiritual objects. After his resurrection, too, he did not indulge his most affectionate friends with embraces, and kisses, or any similar expressions of accustomed familiarity; that they might gradually learn to be content with his spiritual presence, and to submit to the absence of his body.
XLII. But in addition to all this, it is truly impossible to declare the great UTILITY of Christ's ascension to us. I shall not now show particularly, that all his faithful subjects cannot fail to take a lively interest in so splendid an inauguration, and so magnificent a triumph, of their King. What can possibly be more delightful to them, than to see their Lord, who was so lately covered with so many swelling waves of unparalleled trouble and sorrow, and almost overwhelmed in the very abysses of hell, now shining in the fresh splendour of a spiri
b Is. lvii. 15.
John xx. 17.
tual body, exalted far above the stormy clouds and dreadful thunders, nay, above the sun himself and the loftiest of the stars,-made higher than all heavens, and taking possession of the throne as the Father's equal, amidst the congratulations of angels, and of the spirits of just men made perfect! That was a joyful day to Israel, in which the ark of the Lord was brought to the city of David, and into the tabernacle that he had prepared for it-when it belonged to the Levites, to carry it on their shoulders;-to the Princes, their associates, to accompany it with instruments of music, psalteries, harps, and cymbals;-to all the Israelites, to attend it with shouting, and with the sound of the cornet, and of trumpets;-to king David himself, clothed with a robe of fine linen, to leap and dance in public ;—and when the lips of all were dissolved in the most joyful songs. "We have seen thy goings, O God, "even the goings of my God, my King, in the sanc
tuary. The singers went before; the players on in"struments followed after; among them were the "damsels, playing with timbrels. Bless ye God in "the congregations, even the Lord, from the fountain "of Israel." Yet what was the translation of the ark into the city of David, but a very faint shadow of Christ's ascension into heaven! And if that solem nity so wonderfully moved the Israelites, into what joy and exultation ought we to break forth, whilst we do not eagerly survey the shadow, but behold the substance itself, as if present before our eyes! "God is gone up "with a shout; Jehovah with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises to our ing, sing praises. For God is the King of all the
d Ps. lxviii. 24-26. comp. 1 Chron. xv.