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gone, saith the apostle," within the veil,” that is, into the most holy place. Into his Father's house, John, 14: 2. And he is also said to go to the "place where he was before," John, 6:62, from whence at his incarnation he came.
IV. When did Christ ascend? Was it as soon as he arose from the dead? No; "after his passion," he was seen of them forty days, speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." Acts, 1: 3. And truly the care and love of Christ to his people was very manifest in his thus remaining with them. He had ineffable glory prepared for him in heaven, and awaiting his coming, but he will not go to possess it, till he has settled all things for the good of his church here. For in this time he confirmed the truth of his resurrection, and gave charge to the apostles concerning the discipline and order of his house or kingdom. When he had set all things in order, he would stay no longer. He had a great work to do for us in the other world. He desired to be no longer here than he had work to do for God and souls; a good pattern for the saints.
V. How did Christ ascend into heaven ?
1. He ascended as a public person or forerunner, in our names, and upon our account. So it is said expressly, Heb. 6: 19, 20, speaking of the most holy place within the veil, "whither the forerunner is for us entered." His entering into heaven as our forerunner, implies his public capacity, as one that went upon our business to God. "I go before to prepare a place for you," John, 14: 2, to take possession of heaven in your names. The forerunner hath respect to others that were to come to heaven after him in their several generations; for whom he hath prepared mansions, which are kept for them against their coming. It also implies his precedency; he is our forerunner, but he himself had no forerunner. Never any entered heaven before him, but such as entered in his name, and through the virtue of
his merits. He was the first that ever entered into heaven directly, immediately, in his own name, and upon his own account. All the fathers who died before him entered in his name.
2. He ascended triumphantly into heaven. "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." Psa. 47:5, 6. A cloud is prepared, as a royal chariot, to carry up the King of glory to his princely pavilion. "A cloud received him out of their sight." Acts, 1: 9. And then a royal guard of mighty angels surrounded the chariot, if not for support, yet for the greater state and solemnity of their Lord's ascension. And Oh what songs of the blessed angels were heard in heaven! How was the whole city of God moved at his coming! For, as when "he brought his first-begotten in the world, he said, let all the angels of God worship him," Heb. 1: 6; so at his return thither when he had finished the work of redemption, those exalted intelligences gave no less demonstrations of their delight and joy. The very heavens echoed and resounded. Yea, the triumph is not ended, and shall never end.
It is said, "I saw, in the night visions, and behold one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him." Dan. 7: 13, 14. This vision of Daniel was accomplished in Christ's ascension, when they, that is, the angels, brought him to the Ancient of days, that is, to God the Father, who, to express his welcome to Christ, gave him glory and a kingdom. Therefore God is said to receive him up into glory." 1 Tim. 3: 16. He went up, and the Father received him; yea, received so as none ever was received before him, or shall be received after him.
3. Further, Christ ascended munificently, shedding forth abundantly inestimable gifts upon his church at his ascension. "Wherefore he saith, when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." The place to which the apostle refers, is Psalm 68: 17, 18, where you have both the triumph and magnificence with which Christ ascended. "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that God might dwell among them." These words were a celebration of the triumph of David over the enemies of God, 2 Sam. 8; who brought him presents, which he dedicated to the Lord. Just so our Lord Jesus Christ, when he had overcome by his death on the cross, and now triumphed in his ascension, receives his enemies as his conquest, and gives them, by their conversion to the church, for its use and service: thus he received gifts, even for the rebellious, that is, sanctifies the natural gifts and faculties of such as hated his people before, dedicating them to the Lord, in his people's service. Thus, it is said, Tertullian, Origen, Augustine, and Jerome came into Canaan laden with Egyptian gold; came into the church richly laden with natural learning and abilities. Augustine was a manichee, Cyprian a magician, the learned Bradwardine a proud freethinker, who once said, when he read Paul's epistles, Dedignabar esse parvulus, "I scorned such childish things," but he afterwards became a very useful man in the church of God. And even Paul himself was as fierce an enemy to the church as breathed on earth, till Christ gave him into its bosom by conversion, and then no mere man ever did the Lord and his people greater service. Men of all sorts, greater and smaller lights, have been given to the church. Officers of all sorts were
given it by Christ. Extraordinary and temporary, as prophets, apostles, evangelists; ordinary and standing, as pastors and teachers, which remain to this day. Eph. 4: 11. And those stars are fixed in the church-heaven by a most firm establishment. 1 Cor. 12: 28. sands now in heaven, and thousands on earth also, are blessing Christ at this day for these his ascension gifts.
4. Our Lord Jesus Christ ascended with a blessing on his lips whilst he was blessing his people, he was parted from them. Luke, 24:50, 51. Therein making good to them what is said by him, "Having loved his own, he loved them unto the end." John, 13: 1. There was a great deal of love manifested by Christ in this last act on earth. The last sight they had of him in this world was a most sweet and encouraging one. They heard nothing from his lips but love, they saw nothing in his face but love, till he mounted his triumphant chariot, and was taken out of their sight. Surely these blessings at parting were sweet and rich. They were the mercies which his blood had so lately purchased for them. And they were not only intended for them who had the happiness to be with him when he ascended; but they reach us as well as them; and will reach the last saint that shall be upon the earth till he come again. They who surrounded Christ were but representatives of the future churches. Matt. 28: 20. In blessing them, he blesseth us also.
5. He ascended, as well as rose again, by his own power. He was not merely passive in his ascension, but it was his own act. He went to heaven. Therefore it is said, Acts, 1: 10, "he went up," namely, by his own Divine power. And this plainly evinces him to be God, for no mere creature ever rose from earth, far above all heavens, as Christ did.
VI. Why did Christ ascend? I answer,
1. If Christ had not ascended, he could not have inter
ceded in heaven for us; and take away Christ's intercession, and you blight the hope of the saints. For what have we to support us, under the daily surprisals of sin, but this, that "if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father :" mark that, "with the Father;" a Friend upon the place; one that abides there, on purpose to transact all our affairs, and as a surety for peace between God and us.
2. If Christ had not ascended, you could not have entered into heaven; for he went to prepare a place for you." John, 14: 2. He was the first that entered heaven directly, and in his own name; and had he not done so, we could not have entered in his name. The forerunner made way for all that should come after him in their several generations. Nor could your bodies have ascended after their resurrection but in virtue of Christ's ascension. For he ascended in the capacity of our Ilead and Representative; to his Father, and our Father; for us, and himself too.
3. If Christ had not ascended, he could not have entered on the glory he now enjoys in heaven. This world is not the place where perfect felicity and glory dwell. And then, how had the promise of the Father been made good to him? Or our glory, which consists in being with, and conformed to him, where had it been? Ought not Christ to suffer, and to enter into his glory?" Luke, 24: 26.
4. If Christ had not ascended, how could we have been assured that his payment on the cross made full satisfaction to God? How is it that the Spirit convinceth the world of righteousness, John, 16: 8, 10, but from Christ's going to the Father, and returning hither no more? which gives evidence of God's full satisfaction, both with his person and work.
5. Further: How should we have enjoyed the blessings of the Spirit and ordinances if Christ had not ascended? If Christ had not gone away, "the Comforter