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As for the Manner of his ascending, that we may be sure was not by a natural or artificial means ^ he was not, as Eliot was, mounted up In a Whirlwind, or carry'd thither in any fiery Chariot, but he.went np by the sole Influence and Virtue of his Divine Power. No human Body can raise it self from the Grave by its own natural Strength, and much less can it mount it self up to Heaven nothing but the Almighty Power of God, who made and rules all things in Heaven and Earth, could bring this mighty thing to pass.
For the End 6f his Ascension, it was first and chiefly for himself, to resume his former Glory, which he had with his Father before the Foundation of the World ., and likewise to advance his human Nature, in which he did and suffer'd such great things for Man's Salvation, and reward it with the highest Honours: so we read, For this cause God hath highly exalted him, and given him a Name above every Name, that at the Name of Jesus every Knee should bow, of things in Heaven, in Earth, and under the Earth', Phil. 2. 9,10. A secondary End of his ascending was for our fakes, to go before (as himself declares) to prepare a place for us, where he means shortly to receive us to himself, that where he is, there we may be also. In the mean time, he is there to receive our Petitions, and to appear in the Presence of God for us.
For the Proof of his Ascension, we have the Testimony of the Apostles and Disciples, who were Eye-Witnesses of it; for whilst he was talking with them, they beheld him taken up, til l a Cloud inclos'3 him, and intercepted their further sight of him: to which was added the Testimony of the Angels, who when the Apostles had lost the fight of him, came from Heaven to signify his Arrival thither-, for while they looked stcdsasily towards Heaven, as he went up, behold' two Men stood by them in white Apparel: which two Men are suppos'd to be two Angels in tne shape of Men appearing in bright shining Array who also said unto them, Te Men us Galilee, why stand ye gating up into Heaven? Why spend ye your time in gazing after him, who is gone; he is too high to be discern'd, and too bright to be seen with mortal Eyes, and therefore you were better prepare for his second Coming, than be too much concern'd for the Loss of the first: for this same Jesus, which is taken up into Heaven, (Ijall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into Heaven. His going thither, is not a total de
B 4 parting parting from you/, -for he shall return again in as glorious a manner, as he hath now left you ., as you have seen him. carry'd up i l a Cloud, so will he come again in the Clouds of Heaven, with a numerous Train of Angels attending him in Power and great Glory , at which time he will execute Judgment upon Earth, and then all his faithful Servants shall be caught up together in the Clouds., to meet the Lord in the Air, and so shall they ever he with the Lord1 Thess. 4. 17. This is the Sum of this Day's Epistle, or which we may make the following Use and Application. As,
1. The Confirmation here given of the glorious Resort rection and Ascension of our Lord, may abundantly confirm our Faith and Hope, in him j for what Doubt may we reasonably entertain of him, who hath given such illustrious Instances of his Divine Power? or what Good may we not reasonably hope for, from Iris great Ability and Readiness to supply all our Wants, and to fave our Souls? This Hope we have (faith the Apostle) as an Anchor of the Soul both sure and stedsast, since our Forerunner is enter d within the Veil, and made an H.igh*Tricst for ever after the Order of Melchisedeck; Heb- 6. 19,20. This may keep us from fluctuating in Uncertainties, and six our Hopes of Mercy, and Salvation in him.
2. Christ's Ascension may teach us to receive him not only as our Saviour, but as our Lord and King. So St. Fe~ ter told the Jews, that he whom they crucify'd was made both Lord and King, his Foes are all now become his Footstool; and being ascended far above all Heavens, he is to reign for evermore. And therefore we must not only rely upon him, but worship, serve, and adore him: so we find the Apostles did, who upon Christ's mounting up and leaving of them, went immediately to the Temple, and .were there continually blessing and praising God, Luke 24. 52,
3. So must we pay our constant Duty and Adorations to im, if we mean to follow where he is gone before: which if we are careful to do, then,
3. His Ascension may assure us of our ascending after him : for he is ascended not in a private Capacity, for himself only, but as our Head and publick Representative; and he will shortly have his whole Body with him. In his Resurrection he wai the First-born from the Dead, or the Iirft-fruits from the Grave-, in his Ascension he was our forerunner, to go before to take possession, and to prepare a place for us in the Heavenly Mansions. From whence in a little time he will come again, and receive us to himself, that where he is, there may we be also. He arose, that Death might not hold us j and he ascended, to draw us after him. And therefore,
Lastly, Both his Resurrection and Ascension should take off our Hearts from the Earth, and raise them to the things of Heaven. Christ would not stay any longer upon Earth than was necessary for the Work appointed him to do: he would not take up his rest here, but went from hence as soon as pofiible^ neither mould we think of staying, or building Tabernacles here, but be still mounting upward upon the wings of Prayer and Meditation. Let us daily fend up our Wishes and Desires after him, that they too may be our Harbingers, to prepare a place for us. The holy Patriarchs 01 old look'd upon themselves but as Pilgrims here upon Earths and the Apostles declar'd that their Conversation was in Heaven. Let us not then make Earth our Heaven, nor place our Felicity in. any thing here below; but set our Affections intirely upon the things above, which alone can make us happy.
In a word, let us rise and ascend with Christ in our Souls now, that we may e'er long follow him with oarBodies also: which God of his infinite Mercy grant, &c.
. DISCOURSE II,
The Gospel for Ascension-Day.
St. Mark xvi. 14, to the end. Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they fat at Meat, and upbraided them with their Unbelief and Hardness of Hearts because they believed not them which had seen him aster he was risen. And he said unto them. Go ye into all the World, and preach the Gospel to every Creature, &c.
THE Gospel for this Day pursues the fame Argument with the Epistle; to wit, Christ's rising from the Dead, and his ascending up into Heaven: to which is added here, his fitting at the right Hand of God. The two former being handled before, shall be more lightly touch'd upon, and the latter the more largely insisted on. As for his Resurrection, that hath been evidently prov'd by his sundry Appearances to his Apostles and Disciples after his rising from the Dead ; an Account whereof we have in 1 Cor. 15. 5,6, 7,8.
The Beginning of this Day's Gospel tells us, that Jefit s appear d to the Eleven as they sat at Meat; one of the twelve being then absent, suppos'd to be St. Thomas, to whom he made a particular Appearance after, wherein he condescended to all that he desir'd for his Satisfaction: because he doubted whether it was the fame Body that died on the Cross, our Saviour shew'd him the Print of the Nails, that fasten'd his Hands and Feet to it, and likewise took his Hand, and thrust it into his Side, where the Soldier's Spear had> piere'd, and bid him be no longer faithless, but believing.
Here he came in to his Disciples, as they sat at meat, and perhaps ate and drank with them; for St. Luke tells us, either upon this or the like occasion, that if ailed for Meat: Chap. 24.43. He fiid unto them, Have ye here any Meat? And they brought unto him a Piece of broil'd Fish, and of an
HoneyHoneycomb, the common Food of Fishermen ; and he took it, and did cat before them. And this he did, to convince them of the Reality of his Person, that he had a true human Body, and not a Body of Air, as they fondly imagin'd, but that it was he himself, with whom they had formerly convers'd; being subject to Hunger and Thirst, and sustained by the fame Food and Nourishment as they were.
And having given them such palpable Proofs of his Person, as might very well remove all just Doubts, he began to upbraid them for their Unbelief and Hardness of Heart, because they believ'd not them which had seen him, after he was risen. Of their great Backwardness of Belks, we read in sundry Places of- the Evangelists: Sr. Mark in this 16th Chap. ver. 9, JO, I J. tells us_, that when Jesus was risen early the first Day of theWcek, he appear'd first to Mary Magdalen. She being big of the News, presently went and told his Disciples, who were then mourning and weeping for him: but they, when they heard he was alive, and had been seen of hery were so far from rejoicing at the News, thztthey believ'd it not. After that, he appear d in another Form to two of them, as they walk'd and went into the Country; and they went and tola it unio the Residue, neither believ'd they ihem: ver. 12,13. St. Luke tells us, that when those pious Women that staid at his Cross, and brought Spices to embalm his Body for his Burial, and had therefore the Honour of his first Appearance ; when, I fay, fhose good Women re> turn'd from the Sepulcher, and told all these things to the Apostles, 'tis faid, their Words feenid unto them as idle Talesy and they believ'd them'not; Luke 24.11. Yea, when certain Women who had seen a Vision of Angels which faid he was alive, related this Matter to them, they still persisted in their Infidelity, and would not believe it: which made. • our Saviour, here appearing to the Eleven, upbraid iheir Unbelief and Hardness of Heart, for not believing them which had seen him after he was risen j as if they were un-. willing to hear of his Return to Life, or their Hearts were harden'd against receiving the Impression of it. St. Luke gives us an Account of the Words us'd by him in checking their Unbelief, Chap. 24. 25, &C Then said he unto them, O Fools, and flow of Heart to believe all that the Prophets have spoken ! Ought not Cnrist to have suffer d these things, and /#• to enter into his Glory? Where he puts the Fault not so much upon the Perversenefs of their Wills, as upon the the Slowness of their Understandings they did not shut . .1 their