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glory of our Redeemer's resurrection. [5.] What became of these saints afterwards, is a question not easy to be determined. Some are of opinion, that as they rose only to bear witness of Christ's resurrection to those to whom they appeared, so having finished this their work, they retired to their graves again. But it seems to be more agreeable both to the Redeemer's honour and theirs, to suppose, that they rose, as he did, to die no more, and therefore ascended with him into glory.
7. The fruits of Christ's resurrection. Amongst many, I only name the following:
(1.) It is an argument of his having made complete satisfaction to the justice of God for the sins of his people, John xvi. 10. When the just Judge opens the prison door, it says that the prisoner's debt is fully paid, and he has received satisfaction for all demands from him. Christ's resurrection was in effect a discharge of all the debt he had taken upon
him to pay
(2.) It is an argument, that the bodies of the elect shall be rạised at the last day, 1 Cor. xv. 20. Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. If Christ has risen, the power of death is broken. And the same Spirit dwells in his members, Rom. viii. 11. And all the benefits of the covenant shall be made forthcoming, seeing he is alive to become esecutor of his own testament,
(3.) The duty of believers flowing from this is to walk in newness of life, Rom. yi. 4. They are to rise from the grave of sin, and to put on the robes of true holiness. Dead sinners are not fit members of a living head.
II. Christ ascended into heaven, the seat of the blessed. Concerning this, let us observe,
1. In what respect he ascended. Not in respect of his divine nature, for that can change no place, and is confined to no place; but in respect of his human nature, which is so present in one place, that it cannot be in another at the same time, and it chảngeth one place for another by local motion. It was his human body that ascended into heaven, and which the heavens must contain till the time of the restitution of all things.
2. The reality of his ascension. He did not merely disappear, but by a local motion went up from the earth into the highest heavens, leaving the one, and going to the other. And he ascended in a visible manner, before the eyes of his disciples.
3. The time of it, which was forty days after his resurrection, Acts i. 2, 3. This his long stay on the earth was the blessed effect of his matchless and unparalleled love to his church and people. Though ineffable glory was prepared and waiting for him in heaven, yet he would not go to possess it till he had ordered all things aright that concerned the good of his followers here on earth. More particularly, he staid so long on earth,
(1.) That he might the more convincingly testify unto his disciples the truth of his humanity, and confirm them in the faith of his being truly man.
(2.) To confirm them still the more strongly in the faith of his resurrection from the dead. This was a truth which the disciples were not easily induced to believe. Hence when they first heard it from Mary Magdalene, and the other women that had been at the sepulchre, it is said, that their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not,' Luke xxiv. 11. But his staying so long on the earth, and frequently conversing with them, gave them full assurance of the reality of his resurrection. He showed himself alive to them by many infallible proofs. He walked and talked with them, ate and drank with them. He again and again shewed them the marks of the wounds in his hands, and feet, and side ; which was the utmost proof the thing was capable of or required. Besides, it was not one or two, but many proofs which he gave them of this ; for he was seen by them forty days; not indeed constantly residing with them, but frequently appearing to them, and bringing them by degrees to be fully satisfied of the truth of his resurrection.
(3.) To instruct them more clearly and perfectly in the knowledge of the mysteries of his kingdom, which after his departure they were to preach and propagate through the world. He had given them a general idea of that kingdom, and of the time when it should be set up, in the parable of the vineyard, Mark xii. ; but upon this occasion he let them more clearly into the nature of it, as a kingdom of grace in this world, and of glory in that which is to come; and no doubt opened to them that covenant which is the great charter by which it is incorporated. Thus our Lord did not entertain his disciples with discourses about politics in the kingdoms of men, about philosophy in the kingdom of nature, but about pure divinity and his spiritual kingdom, which were matters of greatest concern, both to themselves and to those to whom they were in a little time to preach.
4. The manner of our Lord's ascension.
(1.) He ascended not figuratively and metaphorically, but really and corporally, by a local translation of his human nature from the earth to the highest heavens. He ascended from a mount, an high and eminent place, to ascertain his disciples of the truth of his ascension. He did not withdraw himself from them as at other times, but ascended openly in the view of them all, they looking stedfastly toward heaven as he went up. He ascended from the Mount of Olives, that he might enter on his glory nigh the place where he began his sufferings, and the last tragical scene of his life. It was at this indunt that his heart was made sad; for there he began to be sorrowful and sore amazed: and it was there also that his heart was made glad, and filled with ineffable and triumphant joy. The same place afforded him a passage both to his cross and to his crown ; for there his sorrows and sufferings began, and from thence he ascended into heaven.
(2.) He ascended while he was blessing his disciples. He blessed them as one having authority ; yea, commanded the blessing upon them. And while he was so employed, he was parted from them, to itimate that his being so did not put an end to his blessing of them, but that his privilege was to be continued with them by virtue of his powerful intercession for them in heaven. The first tidings of our Redeemer's birth were attended with praises to God and blessings to men: he began his public ministry with pronouncing blessings on certain characters, Matth. v. ; when he died, he breathed out his soul in blessings to his enemies, · Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do;' and just when he was leaving the world, he was translated with a blessing in his mouth.
(3.) He ascended powerfully, even by his own almighty power. As by the power of his eternal Godhead he broke through the gloomy shades of the grave, and rose again to an immortal life; so by the same almighty strength he went gloriously up through the yielding air into the bright regions of eter nal light. Enoch and Elijah were both translated soul and body into heaven; but this was not by their own, but by a divine power which exerted itself upon that occasion, by the ministry of angels. But our Redeemer went up upon the wings of his own almighty power.
(4.) He ascended softly and gradually. Though his conduct in this matter could not but strike with a strong surprise upon the minds of his disciples, yet his motion was so plain, easy, and distinct, that it fell very clearly under their observation; for while they beheld he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight.' Thus he departed by little and little, and not in a rapturous haste,
(5.) He ascended in a glorious and triumphant manner.
[1.] There was a cloud prepared as his royal chariot to carry
him up to his princely palace. A cloud, in the natural notion of it, is a thick and moist vapour, drawn up from the earth or sea, by the heat of the sun, to the middle region of the air, where it is further condensed, congealed, and thickened, by the coldness of the place, and so hangs or moves like a huge mountain in the midst of the air, partly from natural causes, the sun or the wind, but especially by super, natural ones, the mighty power and appointment of God, who is said to use the clouds as princes do horses of state or chariots of triumph to ride on. Thus he descended in a cloud to Moses, and proclaimed the name of the Lord, Exod. xxxiv. 5. ; and it is said, Isa. xix. 1. Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud. We find the clouds were serviceable to our Redeemer: for a bright cloud overshadowed him at his transfiguration; he was carried up in a cloud to hea- , yen at his ascension; and at the last day the clouds will be the chariots which will bring him to judgment. Hereby Christ discovered himself to be the Lord of all the creatures, He had already trampled upon the earth, walked upon the sea, vanquished hell and the grave; and now he makes the clouds his chariots, and rides upon the wings of the wind.
(2.) In his ascension he was attended with a bright and blessed retinue of glorious angels. These angelic spirits graced the solemnity of his birth with anthems of triumphant joy; they ministered to him at the conclusion of his forty days temptation by the devil; when he was exposed to his amazing agony in the garden the evening before his crucifixion, they waited on him; and now, when he is making his triumphant entrance into glory, their presence adds to the glorious solemnity of the happy day. To this we may add, that it is not an improbable supposition, that on this grand occasion he was attended with the company of those many saints that rose from the dead after his resurrection; whom he carried along with him, not only to g race the solemnity of his ascension, but as the first-fruits of his triumph over death and the grave, and a demonstrative evidence that the rest should follow in due time.
(3.) He went to heaven as a glorious conqueror, triumphing over all his enemies. "When he ascended upon high, says the apostle, he led captivity captive,' Eph. iv. 8. As conquerors of old in their solemn triumphs used to lead their captives fettered with iron chains; so Christ having spoiled principalities and powers, made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them, Col. ii. 15. Some think that at Christ's ascension there was some real visible triumph, some open pomp and shew, in which the devils were led as chained captives through the air ; which was visible, not to all, but to God, the angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect. But whatever be in this, it is certain that Christ fought and overcame all his enemies ; he gave them the last blow upon the cross, he seized on the spoil at his resurrection, and led them in triumph at his ascension into heaven, and by his peaceable possession of his throne his subjects enjoy the benefit of all.
(4.) He ascended into heaven with shouts and acclamations of great joy, Psal. xlvii. 5. . God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.'
Hence, (1.) His ascension was celebrated with the acclamations of angels. If they sang so cheerfully when they came to proclaim his birth, O what shouts and jubilations were heard among them when they accompanied him in his triumphant entrance into heaven! The whole city of God was moved at his coming; the very heavens resounded, and echoed their acclamations of joy. Hence is that passage, Psal. xxiv. 7. • Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors ; and the King of glory shall come in.' The entry of a mighty and victorious prince is there described; and so it is proper unto Christ: they applaud him there as a mighty conqueror, newly returned from the spoils of his enemies. (2.) The blessed saints make the like applauses, as the prophet describes it, Isa. lxiii. 1, 2, 3. · Who is this