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preaching in the temple, in the night praying in the 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 meinbers, 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 confest 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.”
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 in thy grave; but thine 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 an hard brunt did he pass ere he had the full possession of it, in his ascent to Hebron. I see now, O 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, yea intrinsical. O do thou raise up my heart thither to thee; place thou my affections upon thee above, and teach me therefore to love hea ven 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 wast the same that ascendedst; as in thy descent there was no use of any power or will but thine own, no more was there thine ascent. Still and ever wert thou the master of thine own acts. Thou laidst down thy own life, no man took it froin 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 fetcht 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 hiinself 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. As, after thy resurrection, thou didst not set thyself upon the pinnacle of the temple, nor yet publicly shew 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 an 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 here 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 mny 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 ! Methinks, I see it still with their eyes, how thou my glorious Saviour, didst leisurely and insensibly rise up from thine Olivet, taking leave of thine acclaiming disciples now left below thee, with gracious eyes, with heavenly benedictions. Methinks I see how they followed thee with eager and longing eyes, with arms lifted up, as if they had wished them winged, to have soared up after thee. And if Elijah gave assurance to his servant Elisha, that if he should behold him in that rapture, his Master's spirit should be doubled upon him; what an accession of the spirit of joy and confidence must needs be to thy happy disciples in seeing thee thus gradually rising up to thy heaven! O how unwillingly did their intentive eyes let go so blessed an object! How unwelcome was that cloud that interposed itself betwixt thee and them, and, closing up itself, left only a glorious splendor behind it, as the bright track of thine ascension! Of old, here below, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud; now afar off in the sky, the cloud intercepted this heavenly glory: if distance did not rather do it than that bright meteor. Their eyes attended thee on thy way so far as their beams would reach ; when they could go no farther, the cloud received thee. Lo, yet even that very screen, whereby thou wert taken off from all earthly view, was no other than glorious : how much rather do all the beholders fix their sight upon that cloud, than upon the best piece of the firmament? Never was the sun itself gazed on with so much intention. With what long looks, with what astonished acclamations, did these transported beholders follow thee, their ascending Saviour ! as if they would have looked through that cloud, and that heaven, that hid thee from them.
But, ( what tongue of the highest archangel of heaven can express the welcome of thee, the King of glory, into those blessed regions of immortality? Surely the empyreal heaven never resounded with so much joy; God ascended with jubilation, and the Lord with the sound of the trumpet. It is not for us, weak and finite creatures, to wish to conceive those incomprehensible, spiritual, divine gratulations, that the glorious Trinity gave to the victorious and now glorified human nature. Certainly, if, when he brought his only-begotten Son into the world, he said, “ Let all the angels worship him;” much more now that he “ascends on high, and hath led captivity captive, hath he given him a name above all names, that at the name of Jesus all knees should bow.” And if the holy angels did so carol at his birth, in the very entrance into that state of humiliation and infirmity, with what triumph did they receive him, now returning from the perfect achievement of man’s redemption ? and if
, when his type had vanquished Goliah, and carried the head into Jerusalem, the damsels came forth to meet him with dances and timbrels; how shall we think those angelical spirits triumphed, in meeting of the great Conqueror of hell and death? How did they sing, “Lift up your heads, ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in !"
Surely, as he shall come, so he went: and “Behold, he shall come with thousands of his holy ones ; thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand thousands stood before him :" from all whom, methinks I hear that blessed applause, Worthy is the Lamb that was killed, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and praise: praise, and honour, and glory, and power, be to Him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb for evermore.”
And why dost not thou, O my soul, help to bear thy part with that happy choir of heaven? Why art not thou rapt out of my bosom, with an ecstasy of joy, to see this human nature of ours exalted above all the powers of heaven, adored of angels, archangels, cherubim, seraphim, and all those mighty and glorious spirits, and sitting there crowned with infinite glory and majesty ?
Although little would it avail thee, that our nature is thus honoured, if the benefit of this ascension did not reflect upon thee. How many are miserable enough in themselves, notwithstanding the glory of their human nature in Christ! None but those that are found in him, are the happier by him: who but the members are the better for the glory of the head? O Saviour, how should our weakness have ever hoped to climb into heaven, if thou hadst not gone before, and made way for us? It is for us, that thou the forerunner art entered in. Now thy church hath her wish, “Draw me, and I shall run after thee.” Even so, () blessed Jesu, how ambitiously should we follow thee with the paces of love and faith, and aspire towards thy glory! Thou, that art “ the way,” hast made the way to thyself and us: « Thou didst humble thyself, and becamest obedient to the death, even the death of the cross; therefore hath God also bighly exalted thee;" and upon the same terms will not fail to advance us: we see thy track before us, of humility and obedience. O teach me to follow thee in the roughest ways of obedience, in the bloody paths of death, that I may at last overtake thee in those high steps of immortality.
Amongst those millions of angels that attended this triumphant ascension of thine, O Saviour, some are appointed to this lower station, to comfort thine astonished disciples, in the certain assurance of thy no less glorious return; “ Two men stood by them in white apparel.” They stood by them, they were not of them ; they seemed men, they were angels; men, for their familiarity; two, for more certainty of testimony; in white, for the joy of thine ascension.
The angels formerly celebrated thy nativity with songs : but we do not find, they then appeared in white : thou wert then to undergo much sorrow, many conflicts ; it was the vale of tears into which thou wert come down. So soon as thou wert risen, the women saw an angel, in the form of a young man clothed in white; and now, so soon as thou art ascended, two men clothed in white stand by thy disciples: thy task was now done, thy victory achieved, and nothing remained but a crown, which was now set upon thy head. Justly therefore were those blessed angels suited with the robes of light and joy. And why should our garments be of any other colour? why should oil be wanting to our heads, when the eyes of our faith see thee thus ascended ? It is for