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they were unable to decide. The fact, therefore, of His leading them out in this solemn manner towards Bethany, would tend to raise their expectations, and to fix their thoughts with the greatest possible correctness upon the words and conduct of their Lord. Had He been taken up into heaven when they were not present to behold Him; had he vanished from their sight on a sudden, when they were entirely unprepared for such an event, or when from the tumult of outward circumstances, or the distraction of their own minds, they were not wholly intent upon it; their testimony might have been less conclusive : but in this case there could be no mistake; under no circumstances could men be less open to deception.
When they arrived at Bethany, He lifted up His hands and blessed them.
How much again must this circumstance have arrested their attention! They had associated with Him during the period of His public ministry; they had experienced daily proofs of His kindness, and had heard that affecting prayer, which a short time before He was betrayed He addressed to the Father on their behalf; but on no other occasion is it recorded, that His benedictions were pronounced in a manner so remarkable. It was at once an act of peculiar authority, and an intimation, that this was the last time when they should hear the voice, or behold the countenance of their Lord. I pause not to dwell upon
the emotions which must at that moment have inflenced their minds; but it may be doubted whether even the scene of His sufferings was calculated to produce a more deep and powerful effect.
All there was tumult, agitation, alarm: here every thing was tranquillity and peace : their hearts were engaged with only one object, and that object was the Son of Man, who had risen from the dead; in the retirement at Bethany, with Him, they seemed to have nothing in common with a jarring world; and who shall describe how earnest must have been their attention to Him, how ardent their expectation while He thus lifted up His hands and blessed them !
And it came to pass while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven; or as we are told more particularly in another place, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.* Such are the simple terms
* Acts i.9.
in which this event is recorded ; an event which must be felt as of the deepest interest to every Christian, and which closed the series of wonders connected with the personal history of the Son of God.
The evidence, by which this fact is supported, is obviously neither so extended, nor so various as that which went to establish His resurrection. Such a variety of evidence was neither necessary nor possible. It was not necessary, because if you have once proved that cardinal doctrine of the resurrection of Christ, there is no event in reference to Him, and consistent with the object of His mission which may not readily be believed. And the same accumulation of evidence was impossible; for after His passion He showed Himself alive to the apostles, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God ;* a kind of proof which the nature of the case would not in this instance admit.
If, however, it were required of us to support, by additional proofs, the statement on this subject, as to the main fact of our Lord's ascension into heaven; a statement, which
* Acts i. 3.
there is no question, was uniformly, and under all circumstances, maintained by eleven competent eye-witnesses, nearly all of whom laid down their lives for that gospel, of which it forms so important a part, such proofs can readily be found. There is a remarkable collateral evidence, which may justly be deemed conclusive. I allude particularly to the predictions of Christ, concerning His return to the Father, and His promise of the blessings which should speedily follow it. So clear are His declarations as to the first of these subjects, that we scarcely know by what terms it could be more distinctly announced; and although the apostles failed rightly to understand the predictions, till interpreted by the event, yet, viewing them at this day, in connection with the statement of the text, we can scarcely fail to perceive how strongly they confirm it. And the effects, which according to the promise of our Lord, were speedily to follow His ascension, did unquestionably appear.
Within a few days after the occurrences mentioned in this passage, the Holy Spirit was sent down with a visible and extraordinary influence; and although the miraculous operations of that Spirit ceased with the times, which particularly
needed them, we have proof in the history of the church of Christ, that His daily and ordinary influence is not withdrawn; and hence, in the effusions of that gracious influence, a lasting evidence of the fact, that our blessed Saviour has indeed ascended into heaven.
But we proceed to consider,
A POSTLES BY THE ASCENSION OF THEIR MAS
They worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God.
They worshipped Him. There was nothing in the mere circumstance of His being taken up into heaven, which should induce them to worship Him. We read of no such mark of veneration offered to Elijah, by the prophet, who witnessed his removal; and it is plain that the apostles viewed the Son of God, at this time, under a very different light, from that in which they beheld the greatest of their prophets. The worship offered to Him by the wise men of the east might perhaps amount to little more than that reverential demeanour, which they would have paid to an illustrious prince; the minds of the apostles had now