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he has not withdrawn himself. Perhaps you have been left alone of friends and relations—but with the Saviour you can say, I am not alone: because the Father is with me.
Do not therefore groan under your exercises—if I am his, why am I thus? You are thus because you are his. He chastens you because he loves you. He will not let you alone because you are not'bastards, but sons! He destroys the cisterns to bring you nearer to himself—the fountain of living waters. He hedges up your way with thorns, that you may not pursue those paths which lead you astray from him, your "exceeding joy."
And rather than you should stop short of the prize of your high calling; rather than you should sit down satisfied with a portion in this world—he will spoil your prospects— turn every pleasure into a pain—and imbitter or dry up every spring of comfort
Heavenly Father! who knowest what things we have need of before we ask thee, express thy concern in what way thou pleasest; but never treat me with neglect! Chide me if I err; take peace from me when I sin; fill me with painful reflections and apprehensions when the world is drawing me away from thee; but never—never say—"He is joined to idols: Let Him Alone!"
WHOM THE MESSAGE IS ADDRESSED. II. Thi SUBSTANCE OF THE INTELLIGENCE.
I. It may be asked—Why was not this information sent to the scribes and pharisees and chief priests? Why did he not thus convince his enemies, and render his resurrection undeniable! Because—" whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them Mb covenant" He never refused explanation to any humble inquirer—but he was surely not obliged to force information upon those that "hated knowledge." To what purpose is it to adduce evidence to those that shut their eyes and will not see? They had seen him heal the sick with a touch, and raise the dead with a word. They knew the report of the guards, and had given them money to propagate a known falsehood, " saying, his disciples came by night and stole him away while we slept"
But his own followers only laboured under infirmities. They loved him, and had forsaken all to attend him. They wished to be established in the truth; they were willing to come to the light, and had doubtless been praying, "That which I see not, teach thou me." And, " then shall we know if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning: and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain' unto the earth." And thus enlightening, and thus refreshing was this message to the perplexed and desponding disciples.
But what I wished to observe here was not only his sending this message exclusively to' his disciples, but also his addressing them under a particular name—"my brethren." This is more than he could have said of angels. He is only their Lord; but he is onr brother. "He took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham." Thus he is "bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh." "Both he that sanctifieth,. and they who are sanctified, are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praises unto thee. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren; that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." Many an elder brother has stood between the affections of the father and the rest of the children, by engrossing the whole of the inheritance has reduced the younger branches to dependence, if not to want; but Jesus pitied those who were less happy than himself, pleaded for
them, shared with them in all their miseries, and determined to make them partakers of all his honours and riches. Thus they have fellowship with him; they are " heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ"
By using this name he would show that his elevation had not made him forgetful of those he was to leave behind. Though he was now rich, and they were poor; though he had now a glorious body, and they were groaning under the burden of the flesh; though he had now all power in heaven and in earth, and they were weak, despised, and persecuted—he calls them brethren. Yea, he will not be ashamed to do this even in the great day when he shall sit upon the throne of his glory, and before him shall be gathered all nations. In the presence of men, of angels, and of God, he will say, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
His addressing them in this message, as brethren, would comfort his disciples. One had denied him; the rest had forsaken him and fled. They had acted a very unworthy part, and their consciences made them uneasy. And had they heard only of his resurrection, it would have filled them not merely with surprise, but with terror; and afraid of his rebukes they would have hid themselves from him rather than have approached him. When therefore he sends them word that he is risen from the dead, he calls them "brethren; and by this he seems to extend his arms to embrace them again; by this he seems to call after them, and say, " 'Return, ye backsliding children;' I am ready to pity the weak, ana to pardon the penitent" Thus he dispels their anxiety, and fills them with hope. And thus he realizes his illustrious type when he made himself known to those who had treated him with baseness and cruelty. Joseph saw what confusion, and anguish, and dread, the discovery of himself had produced in those who were now in his power, and at his mercy; and therefore with his name he is eager to mention his relation, and to give them encouragement to trust in him. "He said unto his brethren, I am Joseph; doth my father yet live? And his brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled at his presence. And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your Brother, whom ye sold into Egypt Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life."
And did not our Lord, by using this endearing name in these circumstances, convey to thorn an intimation of duty !" Since I do not disown the relation in which you stand to me; since I acknowledge you as
brethren notwithstanding your imperfection*; follow my example; acknowledge each other as brethren; 'love as brethren; let there be no strife between you, for ye are brethren.' Disclaim me for your brother, or receive ai such every follower of mine. Whether strong in tne faith or weak; whether young men or babes—they all stand in the same relation to me, and in the same relation to you."
II. Hence he adds, "Go to my brethren, and—say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God."—Let Us Take Some Views Of Ted
INTEREST! Vl INTELLIGENCE.
It may be necessary to premise that this ascension was real and local He had a hody, and this he assured his disciples after his resurrection, had flesh and bones, and could not only be seen, but touched and bandied. With this he ascended. Heaven therefore is a place, as well as a state; his body cannot be every where; but wherever it be, there i» heaven, at least—there is the Christian's heaven. Let us now consider this ascension —in reference to Himself—His Enemies— and His People.
If we view it in reference to Himself, we may observe—that in ascending he returned to the place whence he came, and assumed the glory which he had laid aside, or rather obscured. Did you never observe with what ease and freedom from surprise he always spoke of heaven? Prophets and Apostles seemed to labour for expressions when they spoke of it—to them heaven was new as well as vast; but He speaks of it familiarly —as one to whom there was nothing in it novel or wonderful. And this was the case. He was the Prince of heaven—and the palace was only his home. "What," says he, "and if ye shall see the Son of man ascending op where he was before!—I have glorified thee on the earth : I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was."
He also ascended to enjoy the reward of his humiliation and sufferings. For our sakes he became poor. He was born in a stable, and laid in a manger. As he grew up he appeared "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." After a life of contradiction and anguish, he "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every nam*. His humiliation and death are not to be opposed to his glory—they were the road that led to it There was "a joy set before him, for which he endured the cross, despising the shame:" and what he died to procure he now ascends to possess. What a change in his condition! Ye who have sympathized with
km in the garden, come rejoice with him apon the throne. "He dieth no more: death bath no more dominion over llim." The head that once wore a "crown of thorns," is now "crowned with glory and honour!"—The hands once nailed to a tree now wield the sceptre of universal empire. And he who was once surrounded by blaspheming men is now worshipped by all the angels in heaven!
We may consider the ascension of our Lord in reference to his Enemies. Thus he is a conqueror. He had foes, but he vanquished them; "and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly." "He triumphed over them." It was customary for a Roman general, after a successful and glorious termination of a war, to return to the capital of his country. This he entered in triumph. He rode in a lofty car. Some of the spoils were suspended from on high. A number of the captives were fastened to the axle-tree of the chariot wheels. Myriads gaied and shouted; while the conqueror scattered largesses among the admiring and applauding multitude.
Behold the triumph of our Redeemer! -* i'hou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men: yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them." He lias conquered the conquerors, and bound those who had enslaved us. Sin, the devil, the world, death—these are the enemies he lias overcome. And to-day he enjoys his triumph. "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory. 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."
O Christians! what have you to fear? You behold your chief in triumph, and your enemies in chains. We can easily imagine how a Roman could fear the enemy while they waged the war, and before the victory was obtained—but would he tremble, think you, when he saw these foes defeated, spoiled, And exposed to view, to prove the reality of their subjection? What emotions were excited in all parts of England, through which the Spaniards were led, after the destruction of their invincible armada, and when the instruments of their cruelty were carried along with them! How fearless of enemies now taken captive—what joy at having escaped from their teeth! And shall not we rejoice in him who has "saved us from our U
enemies, and from the lana of them that hate us?" How certainly would they, and how nearly had they proved our destruction!
But as he triumphs, he also bestows upon us various and inestimable blessings. "Wherefore he saith, when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" There is another gift, without which we slum Id still have perished, and this also descends from a glorified Saviour. "Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear." He hath said to his disciples, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you." This promise was soon fulfilled, not only in miraculous, but also in saving and sanctifying operations; and continues to be accomplished m the enlightening, conversion, and establishment of every real believer.
But this has led us to anticipate the Third view we are to take of the Saviour's ascension. It regards his People.
And thus he ascended as the High Priest of their profession. "If he were on the earth," says the Apostle, "he should not be a priest" He means that had he continued here, he could not have completely fulfilled the office that typified him. To understand this, it is necessary to observe, that the high priest was not only to offer sacrifice: when he had slain the atoning victim, he took the blood into the holy place, and sprinkled it upon the mercy-seat, and also burned incense. Whether on this occasion he used any words we are not informed—but the action spake loud enough. Thus Jesus having suffered on earth, produces and pleads his sufferings m heaven: "Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." There he maintains our cause; there, as our intercessor, he offers much incense with the prayers of all the saints, and obtains for us both the acceptance of our persons and services. "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." Who ia he that condemneth t It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." How eloquent are his wounds! How vocal is his sacrifice! "Blood of sprinkling, which speaketh better things than that of Abel!" speak not only to God, but to our souls, that hearing thy voice we may enter into rest; and, though unworthy and imperfect in all our duties, we may have "boldness and access with confidence, by the faith of thee!"
He ascended as their head and representative. Two characters had ascended before, Enoch and Elias. But they ascended as private individuals; and it did not follow because they ascended, that others would ascend too: they were not so connected with others as to move them by their influence. But he attracts, he draws millions. His glory is the pledge of our own. By virtue of an intimate and inseparable union which no event can destroy, no distance can weaken—because he lives, we shall live also. He is the master, and we are the servants; he is the head, and we are the body. We are therefore said to be "raised up and made to sit together with him in heavenly places." The apostle, speaking of the Christian's hope, says, "Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the vail; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec." You see even heaven would be no refuse for us, if he were not there. When our hope penetrates heaven, there is nothing on which our hope can fix but himself. But he has entered, and not for himself only but for us—to procure a passage— to prepare a place for us—and to insure our following after. When he entered his glory he opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. And the gates he left open—saying, "More are coming. I am only the forerunner of a 'multitude which no man can number, out of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues.' I saw them loosening from the world and asking for a better country. Some were coming from agreeable Bcenes, and many from great tribulation. They are now upon the road, at unequal distances. I have made provision for their guidance and safety, and here in due time will they all arrive.
He ascended as their protector and governor. "He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens that he might fill all things." His situation and capacity are sufficient to relieve all the wants, and accomplish all the hopes of those that are under his care. He has universal sovereignty and boundless resources—and he has all this for them. "He is head over all things unto his body the Church." Their
present and everlasting welfare is secured; since he has all creatures under his control, and can make all things work together for their good!
And now what remains but that we trans-' late this article of our creed into our lives, express his government in our subjection, and by being the most obedient of all servants, declare him to bs the greatest of all masters!
And First, follow him where he now is. '"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God." Is not he your portion and your treasure i Why then are you so attached to earth i Why seek ye the living among the dead! "He is not here: he is risen; he is ascended." Far above this vain world is your Saviour and your exceeding joy. How strange is it that you do not more long to depart to be with him! When a most beloved friend has removed from, you to a distant part af the kingdom, has it not weakened your attachment to your own situation, and made you think much of his! You have buried a relation; you have a child in heaven. How you follow him thither in your thoughts and desires! You have something to render heaven more endearing and attractive. And oh! how much less has the world to charm and to chain you! But the body is deposited in yonder grave—thither you go—feel an interest, and claim a property m the dust—this was—it w—mine. But nothing of the Saviour remains here—Not even his dust—for he saw not corruption: hisbody forsook the tomb,and was "received up into glory." Away then from earth—and follow after him to heaven.
Secondly. "Seeing that we have a great High Priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession." Let net those who know where he is, be ashamed of their connexion with him or dependence upon him. Boldly avow his truth, and openly employ yourselves in his service. If you disown him, you are far worse than Peter. Peter denied him—but he was then at Pilate's bar, and going to be crucified. But you deny him now he is Lord of all, and coming to judge the world!
Thirdly. What encouragement can you want to rejoice in him! You have a brother at court He says to you, as Elisha said to the Shunamite, "Wilt thou be spoken for to the king?" In every difficulty you can go to him and say, "Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me." His ear is open to your prayer; his eye views all your walkmg through this great wilderness; his arms are underneath you; he will make you more than conquerors over all your enemies. And by-and-by he will "come again and receive you to himself, that where he is, there you may be also."
* But where will the ungodly and the sinler appear?" Beware of opposmg-. Beware of neglecting him! It is unreasonable. It is ruinous. He is now "exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance unto Israel, and remission of sins." If you seek him, he will be found of you. But if you make light of these things, how can you escape? Remember that he is ascended to be your Judge. "Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him. But who may abide the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appeareth?"
THE PRAYER OF NEHEMIAH.
O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy tervantt, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the tight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.—Nehemiah i. 11.
This book partially records the history of the children of the captivity after their return from Babylon, in consequence of the decree and proclamation of Cyrus. The Persian empire now flourished in all its grandeur; and Greece and Rome were rising to eminence im the world. But " the 1 /ird's portion is his people: Jacob is the lot of his inheritance."
We find therefore the attention of the Scripture principally confined to the Jews; and the affairs of the surrounding nations are no otherwise mentioned than as they have some connexioa with the concerns of the Israel of God. And Nehemiah, m the view •f the Supreme Being, was a far more illustrious character than Demosthenes the orator, Zenopuon the commander, or Plato the philosopher who lived about the same time.
The eye affecteth the heart, and so does the ear. Nehemiah was at too great a distance to see the ruinous condition of Jerusalem—but he heard of it, and the effect it had upon his mind did him honour. "It came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, that Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and pray
ed before the God of heaven." And thus he concludes his humiliation and devotion: "O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer." These words furnish us with the following remarks.
I. God Has His Servants In All CondiTions AND OCCUPATIONS OF LIFE. In his
Church "there is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither bond nor free; there is neither rich nor poor." We behold Zenas the lawyer, Erastus the chamberlain, Paul the tent-maker, Luke the physician, Zaccheus the publican, Peter the fisherman, Joseph the carpenter, Amos the herdsman, Darnel the minister of state, Nehemiah the cupbearer— all standing in the same relation, swayed by the same mfluence, rejoicing in the same hope, and destined to live together in the same everlasting kingdom.
This is by no means a useless remark. Let it teach us two things.
First, not to condemn bodies and professions of men indiscriminately. All such reflections are not only illiberal, but dangerous, and often produce very mischievous consequences. For too many are governed by opinion, rather than principle; and what they know they are commonly supposed to be, they are very likely to become; concluding that since they are doomed to wear the scandal of the character, they may as well have the profit of it There may be exceptions; but in general we shall find, that if we honour those with whom we have to do with our confidence, they will feel a responsibility, and be concerned to repay us. But when we indulge suspicions, and behave towards our fellow-creatures as spies and enemies—is it likely that they will feel towards us as friends?
Secondly; let us not make our business an excuse for ungodliness. Some lines of life are indeed much less favourable to morality and religion than others; they afford fewer helps, or more hinderances than others—and this consideration should powerfully influence those who have the disposal of youth. But where the providence of God places us, the grace of God can keep us. And hereafter you will see many of the glorified taken from the same employments with yourselves. "These," says God, "these had the same nature, were partakers of the same infirmities, and placed in the same circumstances with yourselves. But they 'escaped the corruption of the world through faith.' They found time to serve me. They distinguished between the duties and the vices of their I calling, and so performed the one as to avoid I the outer. They 'followed me in the ne