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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 Pasbion, 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 Cratch, while thou didst hang upon the Cross, while thou wert sealed up in thy Grave; but thy 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 a hard brunt did he pass, ere he had the full possession of it, in his ascent to Hebron.
I see now, 0 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. Oh do thou raise up my heart thither to thee. Place thou my affections upon thee above; and teach me therefore to love heaven, 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 thy 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 thy own, no more was there in thine ascent. Still and ever, wert thou the Master of thy own acts. Thou laidst down thy own life, no man took it from thee; thou raisedst up thyself from death, no hand did or could help thee; thou carriedst up thy own glorified Aesh, 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 himself to the airy heaven, much less to the empyreal. But thou, our Redeemer, neededst 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 bave 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 coinpany of thy disciples, which had attended thee in thy life. Those, who immediately upon thine ascending returned to Jerusalem, were a 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 thine humiliation. Still, thou wilt have it thus with as, O Saviour, and we embrace the condition : if we will converse with thee in thy lowly estate bere 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 my 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 ! Metbinks, 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! Oh 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 splendour bebind 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, te 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 further, 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 ali beholders fix their sight upon that cloud, than upon the best p of the firmament! Never was the sun itself gazed on with so na intention. With what long looks, with what astonished accla tions, did these transported beholders follow thee, their Ascend Saviour! as if they would have looked through that cloud and 1 heaven, that hid thee from them.
But oh, what tongue of the highest archangel of heaven express the welcome of thee, the King of Glory, into those BH ed Regions of Immortality Surely, the empyreal heaven ne resounded with so much joy : God ascended with jubilation, a the Lord with the sound of the truinpet. It is not for us, we and finite creatures, to wish to conceive those incomprehensib spiritual, Divine gratulations, tbat the Glorious Trinity gave the Victorious and now Glorified Human Nature. Certainly, when he brought his only begotten Son into the world, he said, 2 all the angels worship him ; much more now that he ascends high and hath led captivity captive, hath he given him a nan above all names, that at the name of JESUS all knees should bo: And, if the holy angels did so carol at his birth, in the very el trance into that estate of humiliation and infirmity; with what tt umph did they receive him now, returning from the perfect atchieri ment of man's redemption ! And, if, when his type had vanquish ed Goliath, and carried the head into Jerusalem, the damsels cam forth to meet him with dances and timbrels; how shall we thinl those angelical spirits triumphed, in meeting of the great Con queror of Hell and Death! How did they sing, Lift up your head ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King o Glory shall come in !
Surely, as he shall come, so he went: and, behold, he shall cound 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 Lami 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, belp to bear thy part with that happy quire 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, Arche angels, Cherubim, Seraphim, and all those mighty and glorious Spirits; and sitting there crowned with infinite Glory and Ma. jesty ?
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, O 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 ; I hou didst humble thyself, and becamest obedient to the death, even to the death of the Cross. Therefore hath God also highly eralted thee; and upon the same terms will not fail to advance us. We see thy track before us, of humility and obedience. Oh 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 thy 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 atchieved ; 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 us, O Saviour, that thou art gone to prepare a place in those celestial mansions; it is for us, that thou sittest at the right hand of Majesty. It is a piece of thy Divine Prayer to thy Father, that those, whom he hath given thee, may be with thee. To every bleeding soul thou sayest still, as thou didst to Peter, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now, but thou shalt follow me hereafter. In assured hope of this glory, why do I not rejoice; and, beforehand, walk in white with thine angels, that, at the last, I may walk with thee in white?
Little would the presence of these angels have availed, if they had not been heard, as well as seen. They stand not silent, therefore; but, directing their speech to the amazed beholders, say, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing into heaven? What a question was this ? Could any of those two hundred and forty eyes have power, to turn themselves off to any other object, than that cloud, and that point of heaven, where they left their Ascended Saviour? Surely, every one of them were so fixed, that, had not
the speech of these angels called them off, there they had set up their rest, till the darkness of night had interposed. Pardon me, () ye Blessed Angels; had I been there with them, I should also have been unwilling to have had mine eyes pulled off from that dear prospect, and diverted unto you. Never could they have gazed so happily as now. If but some great man be advanced to honour over our heads, how apt we are to stand at a gaze; and to eye him, as some strange meteor! Let the sun but shine a little upon these dials, how are they looked at by all passengers! Yet, alas, what can earthly advancement make us, other than we are, dust and ashes; which, the higher it is blown, the more it is scattered? Oh how worthy is the King of Glory to command our eyes now, in the highest pitch of his heavenly exaltation! Lord, I can never look enough at the place, where thou art; but what eye could be satisfied, with seeing the way that thou wentest?
It was not the purpose of these angels, to check the long looks of these faithful disciples after their Ascended Master: it was only a change of eyes, that they intended; of carnal, for spiritual ; of the eye of sense, for the eye of faith. “ 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. Look not after him, O ye weak disciples, as so departed, that ye shall see him no more. If he be gone, yet he is not lost. Those heavens, that received him, shall restore him ; neither can those blessed mansions decrease his glory. Ye have seen him ascend upon the chariot of a bright cloud ; and, in the clouds of heaven ye shall see him descend again to his Last Judgment. He is gone: can it trouble you to know you have an Advocate in Heaven? Strive not now so much to exercise your bodily eyes in looking after him, as the eyes of your souls in looking for him.”
Ye cannot, () ye Blessed Spirits, wish other than well to mankind. How happy a diversion of eyes and thoughts is this, that you advise! If it be our sorrow, to part with our Saviour; yet, to part with him into heaven, it is our comfort and felicity : if his absence could be grievous, his return shall be happy and glorious.
Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly. In the mean while, it is not heaven, that can keep thee from me; it is not earth, that can keep me from thee. Raise thou up my soul to a life of faith with thee: let me ever enjoy thy conversation, while I expect thy return.
END OF THE SECOND VOLUME.
C. WHITTINGHAM, Printer, Dean Street.