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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 ;c that they might gradually learn to be content with his spiritual presence, and to submit to the absence of his body.
XLI. 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
Is. lvü. 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.”d 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 solemnity 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 ! “ 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
“ God is gone up
d Ps. lxvii. 24–26. comp. 1 Chron. xv.
" earth; sing ye praises with understanding."e On the day when Solomon was anointed king over Israel, so extatic was the joy of the people, so vehement were their acclamations, so loud the noise of the pipes, “ that the o earth rent with the sound of them.”f But how much more joyful to us that splendid day, on which Solomon's Antitype and Lord, solemnly took possession of the kingdom! Then was it for Angels, then was it for all the pious inhabitants of heaven and of earth, to clap their hands together, and to sing together with one voice. “ The LORD reigneth, let the earth rejoice; “ let the multitude of the isles be glad. The LORD
reigneth, let the people tremble; he sitteth between “ the cherubims, let the earth be moved. The LORD “ is great in Zion; and he is high above all people.” These sacred odes, adapted to that occasion, were dictated long before to the Church, by the Spirit of prophecy. And truly that man has no love to Jesus our King, to whom it is not a pleasure, to celebrate his glorious triumph in joyful songs.h
XLIII. But another point now demands our attention. For us, even for us, the ascension of Christ is expedient. As for us he was born, for us he lived, for us he suffered, for us he died; so for us, also, he rose again, and for us he ascended to heaven. The following, in particular, are the purposes for which he ascended. 1st, That he might pray for us, pleading that the whole virtue and worth of his satisfaction may be imputed to us.i Heaven sometimes appears to be at so vast a distance from us, and the voice of our prayers so feeble, that we can scarcely dare to hope that it will pierce through the intervening clouds, and reach the ears of the Supreme Being. But how great a comfort is it, that we have an Advocate in heaven, at once thoroughly acquainted with our concerns, and industriously attentive to them; who being near to God, and being his intimate Friend and Confederate, pleads our cause without intermission ; and who, as he is always heard, will certainly obtain for us whatever he pleaseth.k 2dly, That he might prepare a place for us." It was already prepared of old in the immutable and eternal decree of God. It was reared and furnished “ from the foundation of the world.”m It was acquired for us by the merit of our Lord's sufferings, death, and descent into hell. It only remained, that he should go to possess and inhabit it, in our name and place. As our “ forerunner, he “ hath entered into that within the vail;”n and we are “ made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ “ Jesus.” 3dly, That he might thence shed down upon us his gifts, more precious than gold. When the ark of the covenant was introduced into its habitation,
e Ps. xlvii. 6, 7, 8.
fi Kings i. 40.
“ to the whole multitude of the Israelites, “ as well to the women as men, to every one a cake of “ bread, and a good piece of flesh, and a flagon of wine. "P But far better gifts were to be expected from Christ after his ascension to heaven;—not bread, or flesh, or wine, adapted merely to the support of the body,—but the quickening virtue of his own flesh, lately offered up to the Father, and that celestial “ corn, which makes “ the young men eloquent,” and that mystical “ new “ wine,” which has the same effect on " the maids."q*
See Vol. I. Note XIX. * i John ü. 1.
1 John xiv. 2. m Mat. xxv. 34.
n Heb. vi. 19, 20. • Ephes. ii. 6.
P 2 Sam. vi. 19. 9 Zech. ix. 17.
The Redeemer himself being most liberally anointed with the oil of joy above his fellows, he doth not distil a few drops of it merely on his people, but waters them with a copiouş shower. The kings of this world, at the festival of their coronation, throw amongst the people a small number of pieces of money, perhaps of silver ar of gold; which a few individuals, and generally the boldest and the most forward, seize for themselves. But, unlike those kings, Christ doth not require his people to be satisfied, so to speak, with a few crumbs and toys. On the contrary, he confers on all of them, gifts, which cannot be valued with the fine gold of Ophir, or with the precious onyx, sardius, or the sappbire, or the finest jewel, or the topaz of Ethiopia ;s Damely, the gifts of his Holy Spirit, who is “ the Spirit “ of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel “ and might, the Spirit of knowledge, and of the fear “ of the Lord;"_" the Spirit of adoption,” in fine, " by whom we cry, Abba, Father.”u 4thly, That when he shall at last return from heaven, he may receive us to the place where himself now is. O how blessed will that day be, in which our soul, emancipated from the prison of this vile body, shall be gently conveyed by angels above the moon, the sun, and all the stars, into the magnificent palace of the greatest of kings, to the possession of heavenly joys! And how much more blessed the day when the body, now made glorious, spiritual, and beavenly, shall be re-united to the soul, and when, in soul and body, we shall be caught up in the clouds, together with all the saints, “ to meet the Lord in the
• Job xxviii.
I Joel ü. 21–32. Is. xliv. 3.
John xiv. 2. xvii. 24.