« הקודםהמשך »
holy of holies, that is, the inmost part of the sanctuary, only once a year, and no oftener. These are the words of the appointment (Levit. xvi. 2): The Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place, within the vail before the mercy-seat, which is upon the ark, that he die not. Now it is certain the Jews did all believe that the tabernacle did signify the world, and the holy of holies, the highest heaven; and so the actions of the high priest slaying the sacrifice, passing through the rest of the tabernacle, with the blood, and entering with the same into the holy of holies, did in a most lively manner represent and prefigure, that the Messiah was here to offer himself, to pass through the courts of the world below, and with his blood to enter into the highest heaven ; the most glorious seat of the Majesty of God. Thus was Christ's ascension represented typically, or prefigured by these outward signs.
As to the prophetical declaration of it, we have it fully in the text : Thou hast ascended up on high, thou hast led captivity captive, thou hast received gifts for men. Now, the phrase of on high (which in the language of the Prophet signifies heaven), could be applied properly to no other conqueror but Christ; it could not be spoken of Moses, David, nor of Joshua, but only of Him who was to conquer sin, and death, and hell, and triumph over them; to ascend into the highest heaven, and thence send the glorious gifts of the Spirit unto the sons of men. There is also another prophecy of Christ's ascension delivered by the Prophet Micah (ii. 13) in these words : The breaker is come up before them. Now, the expression of a breaker up (that is, one who was entirely to subdue his enemies) is a title the Jews confessedly applied to the Messiah ; and thus the latter part of the verse asserts, that their kings shall pass before them, and the Lord on the head of them : agreeable to which are these words of Isaiah (lii. 13), Behold, my servant shall prosper, or deal prudently; he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. No more need be said, to show that our Lord's ascension was honoured both by signs and prophecies of old.
The second illustration of what is contained in this article requires proof that Christ's ascent into heaven was not metaphorical or figurative, as though no more was to be understood by it, than that he only obtained a more heavenly and glorious state after his resurrection than he could possess on earth; and that the actual ascension of his body from earth to heaven, was not an essential part of our belief. Now, whatever glorious qualities might be added to the body of Christ when he rose, whatever alterations were made in it, that this could not properly be his ascension, is clear from his own words to Mary (John, xx. 17), Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father ; that is as much as to say, Do not be over-anxious to touch, to hold, or to detain me now, as though you suppose I have ascended to heaven, and only pay you this transient visit, to convinee you
I am alive ; and therefore your desire may be earnest to discourse with me, and pay me homage, lest you should not see me again. Now, the kind of ascension with which Christ had not ascended when he spake to Mary, after his resurrection, was not to be performed often ; for at the very same time he said unto her, Go unto my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and unto your Father, unto my God and unto your God; or, in other words, I shall not immediately ascend, but stay some time with you here on earth, when you will have sufficient opportunity to converse with me, and prove the truth of my resurrection, before the time appointed for my final departure; when wbat I before said to my disciples of going to my Father, shall be fulfilled by my ascension into heaven, in your presence: and accordingly, when it took place, it appeared plainly to be a true and positive translation, or removal, of the Son of man, as a man, from these parts of the world below, into the heaven above; by which that very body which was before, as to place, here on earth, and consequently not so in
heaven, became substantially present in heaven, and no longer locally on earth. And, indeed, the action of blessing his disciples proves his bodily presence with them; for even while he blessed them, he parted from them; and whilo they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud receive ed him out of their sight, and so he was carried up into heaven ; while they looked steadfastly towards heaven, as they looked up. Most probably, after he had laid his hands on them, and as he was pronouncing some heavenly benediction over them, he raieed himself gently from the earth, and then ascended gradually, till the organs of human sight could not distinguish the object from the vapours that involved it. Thus was our Lord's ascension visibly performed, in the presence and sight of the Apostles, that they might want no possible assurance as to the reality and certainty of it. And these few following observations may serve to confirm the truth of it.
The reason why the Apostles did not see Christ exactly when he rose, but were to be present at his ascension, is very evident, because an eye-witness was not necessary to the act of resurrection; it being enough that Christ showed himself to them alive after his passion: for, as they knew him before to be dead, and now saw him alive, they were thereby certain that he rose again. But the case was very different as to the act of his ascension; because, as the Apostles could not see our Saviour in heaven, it became absolutely necessary they should be eyewitnesses of the very act of his going there, who could not, from the nature of the thing, behold the effect in this case, as in the former.
But, to crown the glorious ceremony, and both to confirm its truth, and cheer the naturally drooping spirits of the Apostles at losing such a Comforter, the gracious mercy of the Father appointed, in his high wisdom, to honour bis Son's triumph with a celestial evidence. Those blessed spirits which ministered before, and saw the favour of God in heaven, knew well that Christ ascended up from whence they came; and because the mortal eyes of the Apostles could not follow him so far, God sent the inhabitants of that place to testify of his reception: (Acts, i. 10, 11,) For, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, which also said, Ye men of Galilee, 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.—And thus I conclude this second particular of our belief, which is, that the eternal Son of God, who died and rose again, did, with the same body and soul with which he died, and rose, ascend up into heaven in the presence of his disciples. The next object that presents itself for our consideration,