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person and representative of believers? How are we all concerned to secure to ourselves an interest in Christ, and consequently in this blessed resurrection! What consolation would be left in this world, if the hope of the resurrection were taken away? It is this blessed hope that must support you under all the troubles of life, and in the agonies of death. The securing of a blessed resurrection to yourselves, is therefore your deepest concern. And it may be secured to yourselves, if, upon serious heart-examination, you discover the following evidences:
If you are regenerated, born in a new nature to God, for we are "begotten again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." Christ's resurrection is the ground-work of our hope; and the new birth is our title or evidence of our interest in it. So that until our souls are partakers of the spiritual resurrection from the death of sin, we can have no assurance that our bodies shall be purtakers of that blessed resurrection to life. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection, on such the second death hath no power." Rev. 20: 6. Let not unregenerate souls expect a comfortable meeting with their bodies again. Rise they shall, by God's terrible citation, at the sound of the last trump, but not to the same end that the saints arise. They, and they only, who are sanctified by the Spirit, shall have a joyful resurrection.
If you be dead with Christ, you shall live again by the life of Christ. If we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. Rom. 6: 5, 8. Some refer the word CUMQUTO, (planted together,) to believers themselves; Jews and Gentiles, who "grow together like branches upon the same root;" but I rather understand it with reference to Christ and believers, who are, in other scriptures, said to suffer together, and be glorified together;
to die together, and live together; to be crucified together, and buried together; all showing the communion they have with Christ, both in his death and in his life. Now, if the power of Christ's death, that is, the mortifying influence of it, have been exerted upon our hearts, killing their lusts, deadening their affections, and subduing their appetites, then the power of his life, or resurrection, shall come upon our dead, withered bodies, to revive and raise them up to live with him in glory.
If your hearts and affections be now with Christ in heaven, your bodies in due time shall be there also, and conformed to his glorious body. "For our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his own glorious body." Phil. 3: 20, 21. "The body is here called vile, or the body of our vileness." Not as God made it, but as sin hath marred it. Not absolutely, and in itself, but relatively, and in comparison with what it will be at the resurrection. Then those scattered bones and dispersed dust, like pieces of old broken, battered silver, will be new-cast, and wrought in the best and newest fashion, even like to Christ's glorious body. Whereof we have this evidence, that our conversation is already heavenly. The temper, frame, and disposition of our souls is already so; therefore the frame and temper of our bodies in due time shall be so.
If you strive now to attain the resurrection of the dead, no doubt it shall be yours. This was Paul's great desire, "that by any means he might attain unto the resurrection of the dead." Phil. 3: 11. He means not simply a resurrection from the dead, for that all men shall attain, but that complete holiness and perfection which shall attend the resurrection of the just; so it is explained, verse 12. So then, if God have raised in your hearts a vehement desire and assiduous endeavor after
a perfect freedom from sin, and full conformity to God, in the beauty of holiness, that very love of holiness, and your present pantings after perfection, speak you to be the persons for whom it is reserved.
If you do good in your generation; if you are useful in the world, you shall have part in this blessed resurrection: "All that are in the graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life." John, 5: 28, 29. Now it is not every act, materially good, that entitles a man to this privilege; but the same requisites defined as necessary to constitute a good prayer, are also necessary to every good work. The person, matter, manner, and end must be good. Nor is it any single good act, but a series and course of holy actions that is here meant. What an incitement should this be to us all, (as indeed the apostle makes it, closing up the doctrine of the resurrection with this solemn exhortation, 1 Cor. 15: 58, with which I also close,)" Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."
Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.
THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST.
"Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." John, 20: 17.
We have been following Christ through his humiliation, from the time that he left the blessed bosom of the
Father: and now, as he has finished the whole course of his obedience on earth, and risen again from the dead, we must, in this discourse, follow him back again into heaven, to that bosom of ineffable delight and love which, for our sakes, he so freely left. He did not rise from the dead, to live such a low, animal life as this, but a most glorious life, as enthroned King in heaven: upon which state he was now ready to enter, as he tells Mary in the text, and bids her tell it to the disciples; "Go, tell my brethren that I ascend to my Father," &c. In which injunction we have,
1. The persons to whom this message was sent,-My "brethren," so he calls the disciples. A sweet term, and full of love. Much like that of Joseph to his brethren, Gen. 45 : 4, save that there is much more tenderness in it. He reminds them in the same breath of what they had done against him; "I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold:" but Christ says, "Go tell my `brethren," without the least mention of their cowardice or unkindness.
2. The message itself,-Tell my brethren, "I ascend to my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God." It is in the present tense, as if he were then ascending, though he did not ascend for some weeks after; but he so expresses it, to show what was the next part of his work, which he was to act in heaven for them; and how much his heart was set upon it: "I ascend to my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God." This is the substance of the message sent by Mary to the pensive disciples. Hence
Our Lord Jesus Christ not only rose from the dead, but ascended into heaven; there to accomplish all that remained to be done for completing the salvation of his people.
So much the apostle plainly witnesses, "He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above
all heavens." Eph. 4:10. A full and faithful account of his ascension the several evangelists have given us. Mark, 16: 19; Luke, 24:51. This is sometimes called his going away, as John, 16: 7. Sometimes his being exalted. Acts, 2:33. Sometimes his being made higher than the heavens. Heb. 7:26. And sometimes his entering within the veil. Heb. 6: 19, 20. We will here consider the questions: Who ascended? Whence did he ascend? Whither? When? How? Why?
I. Who ascended? This the apostle answers, "the same that descended," Eph. 4: 9, 10, namely, Christ. And himself tells us, "I ascend." And though the ascension were of Christ's whole person, yet it was a figurative expression with respect to his Divine nature, and rather applies to the humanity of Christ, which really changed places and conditions. Hence he said, "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world; again I leave the world, and go to the Father." John, 16:28. He goes away, and we see him no more. As God, he is spiritually with us still, even to the end of the world. But as man, the heavens must contain him "until the restitution of all things." Acts, 3:21.
II. Whence did Christ ascend? I answer, generally, he is said to ascend from this world, to leave the world, John, 16:28; but more particularly, it was from Mount Olivet, near Jerusalem, the very place where he began his last sufferings. Oh, what a difference was there between the state of Christ in his agony at the Mount of Olives before his passion, and that now at his ascension! But,
III. Whither did he ascend? It is manifest it was into the third heavens; the throne of God, and place of the blessed; where all the saints shall be with him for ever. It is said to be "far above all heavens," that is, above the heavens which we see, for they are but the pavement of that stately palace of the great King. He is