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not only to appear unto thy disciples, but to renew unto them the familiar forms of thy wonted conversation, in conferring, walking, eating with them? And now, when thou drewest near to thy last parting, thou, who hadst many times showed thyself before to thy several disciples, thoughtest meet to assemble them all together, for an universal valediction.
Who can be too rigorous in censuring the ignorances of well-meaning Christians, when he sees the domestic followers of Christ, even after his resurrection, mistake the main end of his coming in the flesh ? “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom unto Israel ?” They saw their Master now out of the reach of all Jewish envy; they saw his power illimited and irresistible; they saw him stay so long upon earth, that they might imagine he meant to fix his abode there; and what should he do there, but reign ? and wherefore should they be now assembled, but for the choice and distribution of offices, and for the ordering of the affairs of that state which was now to be vindicated? Oh weak thoughts of well-instructed disciples! What should an heavenly body do in an earthly throne? How should a spiritual life be employed in secular care? How poor a business is the temporal kingdom of Israel for the King of Heaven ! And even yet, O blessed Saviour, I do not hear thee sharply control this erroneous conceit of thy mistaken followers; thy mild correction insists rather upon the time, than the misconceived substance of that restauration. It was thy gracious purpose, that thy Spirit should by degrees rectify their judgments, and illuminate them with thy divine truths; in the mean time, it was sufficient to raise up their hearts to an expectation of that Holy Ghost, which should shortly lead them into all needful and requisite verities. And now, with a gracious promise of that Spirit of thine, with a careful charge renewed unto thy disciples for the promulgation of thy Gospel, with an heavenly benediction of all thine acclaiming attend
ance, thou takest leave of earth : “When he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight.”
Oh happy parting, fit for the Saviour of mankind, answerable to that divine conversation, to that succeeding glory! O blessed Jesu, let me so far imitate thee, as to depart hence with a blessing in my mouth; let my soul, when it is stepping over the threshold of heaven, leave behind it a legacy of peace and happiness.
It was from the mount of Olives that thou tookest thy rise into heaven. Thou mightest have ascended from the valley; all the globe of earth was alike to thee: but, since thou wert to mount upward, thou wouldst take so much advantage as that stair of ground would afford thee; thou wouldst not use the help of a miracle in that wherein nature offered her ordinary service. What difficulty had it been for thee to have styed up from the very centre of earth! But, since thou hadst made hills so much nearer unto heaven, thou wouldst not neglect the benefit of thy own creation. Where we have common helps, we may not depend upon supernatural provisions; we may not strain the divine Providence to the supply of our negligence, or the humouring of our presumption. Thou, that couldst always have walked on the sea, wouldst walk so but once, when thou wantedst shipping : thou, to whom the highest mountains were but valleys, wouldst walk up a hill, to ascend thence into heaven. O God, teach me to bless thee for means, when I have them, and to trust thee for means, when I have them not; yea, to trust to thee without means, when I have no hope of them.
What hill was this thou chosest, but the mount of Olives ? thy pulpit, shall I call it, or thine oratory? the place from whence thou hadst wont to shower down thine heavenly doctrine upon the hearers; the place whence thou hadst wont to send up thy prayers unto thy heavenly Father; the place that shared with the temple for both ; in the day-time thou wert preaching in the temple, in the night praying in thy mount of Olives. On this very hill was the bloody sweat of thine agony; now is it the mount of thy triumph. From this mount of Olives did flow that oil of gladness wherewith thy church is everlastingly refreshed. That God, that uses to punish us in the same kind wherein we have offended, retributes also to us in the same kind and circumstances wherein we have been afflicted. To us also, O Saviour, even to us thy unworthy members, dost thou seasonably vouchsafe to give a proportionable joy to our heaviness, laughter to our mourning, glory to contempt and shame. Our agonies shall be answered with exaltation.
Whither then, O blessed Jesu, whither didst thou ascend ? whither but home into thine heaven? From the mountain wert thou taken up, and what but heaven is above the hills ? Lo, these are those mountains of spices which thy spouse, the church, long since desired thee to climb. Thou hast now climbed up that infinite steepness, and hast left all sublimity below thee. Already hadst thou approved thyself the Lord and commander of earth, of sea, of hell. The earth confessed thee her Lord, when at thy voice she rendered thee thy Lazarus; when she shook at thy passion, and gave up her dead saints. The sea acknowledged thee, in that it became a pavement to thy feet, and, at thy command, to the feet of thy disciple : in that it became thy treasury for thy tribute money. Hell found, and acknowledged thee, in that thou conqueredst all the powers of darkness; even him that had the power of death, the devil. It now only remained, that, as the Lord of the air, thou shouldst pass through all the regions of that yielding element; and, as Lord of heaven, thou shouldst pass through all the glorious contignations thereof, that so
every knee might bow to thee, both in heaven, and in earth, and under the earth."
in thy grave;
Thou hadst an everlasting right to that heaven that should be ; an undoubted possession of it ever since it was ; yea, even while thou didst cry and sprawl in the manger, while thou didst hang upon the cross, while thou wert sealed up but thy human nature had not taken actual possession of it till now. Like as it was in thy true type, David, he had right to the kingdom of Israel immediately upon his anointing ; but yet many a hard brunt did he pass ere he had the full possession of it, in his ascent to Hebron. I see now, blessed Jesu, I see where thou art ; even far above all heavens, at the right hand of thy Father's glory. This is the far country into which the nobleman went to receive for himself a kingdom ; far off to us, to thee near, yet intrinsical. Oh do thou raise up my heart thither to thee; place thou my affections upon thee above, and teach me therefore to love heaven because thou art there.
How, then, O blessed Saviour, how didst thou ascend? “While they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight.” So wast thou taken up, as that the act was thine own, the power
of the act none but thine. Thou that descendedst was the same that ascendedst; as in thy descent there was no use of any power or will but thine own, no more was there in thine ascent. Still and ever wert thou the master of thine own acts. Thou laidst down thy own life, no man took it from thee; thou raisedst up thyself from death, no hand did or could help thee; thou carriedst up thine own glorified flesh, and placedst it in heaven. The angels did attend, thee, they did not aid thee: whence had they their strength but from thee? Elias ascended to heaven, but he was fetched up in a chariot of fire ; that it might appear hence, that man had need of other helps, who else could not of himself so much as lift up himself to the airy heaven, much less to the empyreal. But thou, our Redeemer, needest no
chariot, no carriage of angels: thou art the author of life and motion ; they move in and from thee. As thou, therefore, didst move thyself upward, so, by the same divine power, thou wilt raise us up to the participation of thy glory. “These vile bodies shall be made like to thy glorious body, according to the working whereby thou art able to subdue all things unto thyself.”
Elias had but one witness of his rapture into heaven; St. Paul had none, no, not himself, for “whether in the body, or out of the body,” he knew not. Thou, O blessed Jesu, wouldst neither have all eyes witnesses of thine ascension, nor yet too few. Ås, after thy resurrection, thou didst not set thyself upon the pinnacle of the temple, nor yet publicly show thyself within it, as making thy presence too cheap; but madest choice of those eyes whom thou · wouldst bless with the sight of thee; thou wert seen indeed of five hundred at once, but they were brethren ; so, in thine ascension, thou didst not carry all Jerusalem promiscuously forth with thee, to see thy glorious departure, but only that selected company of thy disciples, which had attended thee in thy life. Those who immediately upon thine ascending returned to Jerusalem, were a hundred and twenty persons: a competent number of witnesses, to verify that thy miraculous and triumphant passage into thy glory. Lo, those only were thought worthy to behold thy majestical ascent, which had been partners with thee in thy humiliation. Still thou wilt have it thus with us, O Saviour, and we embrace the condition : if we will converse with thee in thy lowly estate bere upon earth, wading with thee through contempt and manifold afflictions, we shall be made happy with the sight and communion of thy glory above.
O my soul, be thou now, if ever, ravished with the contemplation of this comfortable and blessed farewell of thy Saviour. What a sight was this ! how full of joyful assurance, of spiritual consolation ! Me