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astonishment and delight. Can we be surprised that they were continually in the temple, His own niore immediate habitation, praising and blessing Him? It was impossible that men, trained and instructed as they had been by the Saviour himself, to the last moment of His abode upon earth, should not have rejoiced at this time in every new revelation of the glory of God, and especially in such a manifestation of it as it was now their privilege to witness.
(2.) They would greatly rejoice on account of the exaltation of their divine Master himself.
This would be a natural feeling, independently of any benefits which they might themselves expect to derive from it. If ye loved me, says Christ, ye would rejoice because I said, I go unto the Father ,* and we doubt not that the declaration of St. Peter, in reply to the pointed question, lovest thou me ? expressed the common sentiments of all the apostles. In an hour indeed of awful temptation they forsook Him and fled, for their faith failed them; but their subsequent conduct shewed the reality and the extent of their affection; and, with this feeling predominant in their minds, how sincerely would they be delighted with every new accession which He received of dignity and honour! And now He had ascended into heaven : they doubtless believed therefore that God had highly exalted Him, and given Him a name that is above every name :* they remembered His allusion to that glory which He had with the Father before the world was, t and they were convinced that He had now resumed it! that this poor despised man of Nazareth, so lately the object of persecution and outrage, had at length gloriously vindicated the majesty of His character, and that to Him, through all the realms of creation, every knee should bow, angels, and authorities, and powers being made subject unto Him. I
* John xiy. 28.
(3.) Another circumstance which served so remarkably to elevate their minds on the occasion before us, was the persuasion that the exaltation of Christ would be beneficial to themselves.
It appears from the discourses of our Lord, which were delivered a short time before His crucifixion, that He drew His arguments of consolation in a great degree from the interest which the disciples themselves had in His departure. To this effect is a large part of that striking address contained in the fourteenth and two following chapters of St. John's gospel, * Phil. ii. 9. + John xvij. 5,
Heb. iii, 22.
perhaps the most moving and pathetic address to be found in the whole compass of the inspired writings. Now that this address should have been wholly forgotten by them under their present circumstances, is a supposition which on ordinary principles cannot be made. It was delivered by Christ for the express purpose
of affording consolation on the prospect of His departure, and the fact of that departure would unquestionably recall it strongly to their minds. They would remember that He had told them, It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you ; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you :* In my
Father's house are many mansions ; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you ; and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, thut where I am, there ye may be also :t Because I live, ye shall live also : I and they would rejoice. There was a time when, in a tone of despondency, some of them were perbaps ready to exclaim, we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel :they were now assured that it was He who should redeem
the Israel of God, and as the Captain of their salvation, should conduct them to their everlasting home. “ He ever liveth,” they would say,
“ to make intercession for us; He has ascended to His Father and our Father, to His God and our God,* and He is in that Divine Presence for us. Our life is hid with Christ in God:1 and whatever may be our earthly tribulations, it is placed beyond the reach of assault, and will be eternal like His own." Neither are we to omit, in this place, the intelligence which had just been communicated to them concerning the second coming of their Lord: Ye men of Galilee, said the angels, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven. I That this was no subordinate motive of joy, may be inferred from the time and the manner of its announcement; and while it served to impress them with the highest sense of the dignity of Christ, and to bring back to their recollection what He had himself repeatedly stated upon the subject, it would be a delightful thought that the exalted Person who should hereafter descend in glory to judge the world, would be that same Jesus, that same beloved Master and Friend, whose parting words were still sounding in their ears; whose last looks of affection were treasured in their hearts.
* John xx. 17. + Col. iii. 3. | Acts i. 11.
In conclusion we may observe,
1. That the ascension of our Lord is not merely an important fact in the history of redemption, but that it furnishes a lesson of práctical duty.
The remark is just in its application to each of the great events of our Saviour's history, and is repeatedly introduced in the New Testament. Did He humble Himself in the manner of His appearing in the world? Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.* Did He endure the contradiction of sinners against himself? Consider Him, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.† Did He suffer upon the cross? We are to be crucified with Christ, and to be dead with Him. Did He rise again from the grave?
We are to reckon ourselves as alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Has He ascended into heaven? Set your affections on things above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.|| Thither our desires are to follow Him; thither, as our church has beautifully
* Phil. ii. 5.
+ Heb. xii. 3. Rom. vi. 11. || Col. iii. 2.
I Rom. vi. 6, 8.