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1. How deeply are we interested in the writings of the Old Testament!
[In them are promises of which we receive the accomplishment. The word of God is not of private interpretation, as though it belonged only to this or that individual. Many parts doubtless had a peculiar reference to those to whom they were spoken; but none an exclusive reference. Let us then embrace the promises as spoken to ourselves, and expect the fulfilment of them to our own souls.]
2. What enemies are they to themselves who despise the ministry of the gospel!
[Many, when the gospel is preached to them, are ready to say, like the devils, We beseech thee, torment us not.t Yes, they look on faithful ministers as the troublers of Israel. But the scope of our ministry is to "declare glad tidings," even to proclaim a crucified, and an exalted Saviour. Let any one contemplate the foregoing subject, and see whether it do not afford matter for rejoicing. Let men only forsake their sins, and we have not a word to utter which will not administer to them an occasion of joy.]
3. What a near relation subsists between believers in all ages!
[They are our fathers, and we their children. We are all of one family, all united to one head, and all heirs of the same glory. Let us enjoy this thought, and look forward to the time when we shall sit down with all the patriarchs and prophets in the kingdom of our God."]
r 2 Pet. i. 20. • Compare Josh. i. 5. with Heb. xiii. 5, 6. Matt. viii. 29. and Luke viii. 28. " 1 Kings xviii. 17. Eph. i. 10. Heb. xii. 23.
y Matt. viii. 11. Luke xiii. 28.
CC. THE END OF CHRIST'S ASCENSION.
Ps. lxviii. 18. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men: yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God may dwell among them.
WHILE some give an unbounded scope to their fancies, and view Christ in almost every passage of the Scriptures, others run into a contrary extreme, and scarcely behold him even in the most express prophecies. But there certainly are many parts of the prophetic wri
tings, and particularly of the Psalms, which, to whomsoever they relate in a literal sense, have a spiritual or mystical reference to Christ: nor can we err in interpreting them of him, while we take the inspired apostles for our guides.
David, having vanquished all his enemies, determined to provide a fixed residence for the ark of God, that God might dwell in the midst of his people at Jerusalem. And he penned this Psalm to be used on that occasion.* But St. Paul informs us, that there was a further reference in it to the ascension of Christ; who being the true ark whereon the glory rested, went, after having triumphed over all his enemies, to his fixed abode in heaven; and, having received gifts as the fruits of his victories, gave them unto men, and provided that God should have a stated residence in his Church."
With this inspired comment, we may proceed with confidence to consider
I. The manner of Christ's ascension
Christ, having submitted to the deepest humiliation, was now to receive a proportionable advancement, which, having already been begun in his resurrection, was now perfected in his ascension. This was
[In verse 17. the glory of it is described, and it is compared with the descent of Jehovah on Mount Sinai. While he was in the very act of blessing his disciples," he was taken up by a cloud, as Elijah was in his fiery chariot, to heaven. Instantly myriads of the heavenly host surrounded him with their acclamations and hosannas. They had surveyed him with astonishment from the first moment that he came into the world. When he yet lay in the manger, they sang, Glory to God in the highest. But, when they beheld him agonizing in the garden, and expiring on the cross, we may almost conceive their songs of joy to have been turned into weeping and lamentation. We doubt not, however, but at this time their joy exceeded all that they had ever felt from their first
a It is thought that ver. 1-6. was sung when the ark was taken up by the Levites; ver. 7-14. while they were in their way to the hill, till they came in sight of it; ver. 15-17. while they were ascending it; and ver. 18-23. when the ark was deposited. © Luke xxiv. 51.
b Eph. iv. 8.
creation. They now saw their Creator and their God, who had so long veiled himself in human flesh, ascending to his bright abodes, to display his glory in a light infinitely surpassing all that they had ever seen before. What must his redeemed people also have felt the very instant that he entered the portals of heaven? with what rapture and ecstasies must they have been filled! But our imagination cannot grasp the thought. We must be in heaven ourselves before we can form the smallest idea of their felicity. Suffice it then to say with the angelic messengers, that, as he ascended up into heaven, so will he speedily come again from heaven; and that in the meantime, instead of gazing with unprofitable curiosity, we must look for his blessings, and devote ourselves to his service."]
[In his death he seemed vanquished; but in reality he overcame; and in his ascension he led captive all his enemies and ours. Sin had diffused its poison through all the descendants of Adam, and had infected all their powers both of body and soul. But Christ, having expiated its guilt, now rescued many vassals from its power. Satan, the god of this world, who had hitherto usurped dominion, and led men captive at his will, now "fell from heaven like lightning;" and his throne, shaken to its foundations, was demolished. Death also, that had reigned over all, now was vanquished in its turn; for Jesus "burst its bands:" "By death, he destroyed death, and him that had the power of death, that is, the devil:"e and how, as a mighty conqueror, that had "spoiled principalities and powers, he triumphed over them openly," and led them captive at his chariot wheels.]
From contemplating the manner of his ascension, let us proceed to consider
II. The ends of it
There were some ends that respected Christ himself, namely, that he might receive his reward, and carry on his work within the vail: but we must confine ourselves to those which respect the church.
1. The immediate end
[As Jesus died, so he rose and ascended, in a public capacity, as our mediator with God. He had purchased blessings for us; and he now went to receive them at his
d Acts i. 10, 11.
e Heb. ii. 14.
Father's hands, that he might impart them to us. He was henceforth to have all fulness treasured up in himself, that we might receive out of it according to our necessities. He ascended, "that he might fill all things," and "impart repentance and remission of sins," together with all the gifts and graces of his Spirit to his chosen people. That this was the immediate end of his ascension, appears not only from his own predictions respecting it, but from the express declaration of the apostles on the descent of the Holy Ghost. Yet it was not for those only who were waiting for redemption, but even" for the rebellious also," that he received gifts; as he abundantly testified in the conversion of his murderers; and as he is ready to testify in the conversion of us also.]
2. The remote end
[It was the privilege of the Jewish church to have the symbols of God's presence in their temple. But it is our privilege to have God himself both with us, and in us. He will make our hearts his habitation; he will dwell in us, and cause his glory to fill our souls. This was a further end of Christ's ascension, as he himself tells us: "I will pray the Father for you; and he will send you another comforter, that he may abide with you for ever." Even the most rebellious heart, that has defied the Majesty of heaven, and despised hitherto all overtures of mercy, may yet be encouraged to look up to him; and the soul that has been filled with all iniquity may yet become the temple of the living God. Other conquerors, in the day of their triumph, have scattered largesses among their admiring followers; but this greatest of all gifts will Jesus bestow on his most inveterate enemies: let them only relent, and call upon his name, and he will give them all the riches both of grace, and glory.]
1. Let none despair of mercy
[We might have well supposed, that the ascension of Jesus would rather have been for the inflicting of judgments on his enemies: yet, behold, it was for the express purpose of exercising mercy. Let us not proudly deny that we are rebels; but, humbling ourselves before him as the chief of sinners, let us desire him to display the exceeding riches of his grace in his mercy towards us.]
2. Let none despair of victory
[Conflicts we must have, as long as we continue in the body; but in the very midst of them we may say, "Thanks
John xvi. 7.. h Acts ii. 23.
i John xiv. 16, 17.
be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Does sin harass and defile us? Christ says, "It shall never have dominion over us." Does Satan seek to deceive or devour us? His head was bruised by Christ, and "he shall soon be bruised under our feet." Does death alarm us? Its sting is drawn; it is "swallowed up in victory;" it is among our richest treasures. Let us view Christ leading them all captive in his ascension; and know that, through him, we also shall be more than conquerors.]
k 1 Cor. iii. 22.
CCI. THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST AN OCCASION
Ps. xlvii. 5-7. God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises unto our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing ye praises with understanding.
IF we read the Psalms of David without any reference to Christ, we shall have a very imperfect view of their import: but if we consider them as containing many prophetical declarations, we shall find in them a rich mine of evangelical knowledge-The Psalm before us is supposed to have been written by David, when he carried up the ark from the house of Obed-edom to mount Sion; and to represent, by that typical event, the ascension of Christ. to heaven: and, as that event was celebrated with all possible demonstrations of joy, so we are here exhorted to burst forth in joyful acclamations on account of the exaltation of Christ to his throne in glory-We shall consider
1. The event predicted
Christ is here spoken of in most exalted terms
[In many of the Psalms Christ is called by names confessedly belonging to the Deity, and never communicated to any creature-In the Epistle to the Hebrews that address of the Psalmist," Thy throne, O GOD, is for ever and ever," is expressly applied to Christ-And, in the passage before us,
2 Sam. vi. 15.
Ps. xlv. 6. with Heb. i. 8.