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SERMON VII.

THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST.

Psalm lxviii. 18.

Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led cap

tivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men ; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell

among

them. Such was the voice of prophecy relating to our glorious and conquering Redeemer. And it is confirmed by the testimony of the gospel. “ He led them out,” says St. Luke, “ as far as to Bethany, and he 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."

I. Here then we discover, in the first place, the advancement of human nature to a state of more than its original glory. We see it not only lifted up from the debasement of the fall, but made partaker of a dignity which had never belonged to it before. He who was once seen ascending into heaven was as truly man as he was truly God; and, in the glory which he then took unto himself, we may behold the possibility and the pattern of our own exaltation. “ Thou hast ascended on high.” • Thou hast taken the form of a servant, and hast crowned it with glory and honour. Thou hast worn in lowliness the garb of our humanity; thou hast kept it free from all that can defile it; thou hast carried from this world of ours a spotless body and a spotless soul, and hast exalted them to the throne of the Eternal.'

The honour that has thus been put upon our nature by the Saviour's ascension may be to us, by the divine assistance, a subject of profitable contemplation. It does not indeed offer to gratify a vain curiosity. We know that the form which our Redeemer has assumed is the form of a glorious body; but we cannot, at present, by looking, or by searching, or by praying, become acquainted with its glories. The light in which he dwells is a light which mortal eye must fail to penetrate. But, while nothing is disclosed to reward an idle speculation, enough has been declared to animate the faith of a Christian, and, by means of this faith, to ennoble and purify his soul. To consider aright the glories of our exalted Redeemer,—to contemplate in the majesty of Jesus not only the greatness of Deity, but also the honour of dignified humanity,—to pursue the meditations of our faith until we are powerfully reminded that the end of our calling, the hope set before us in the gospel, is that we ourselves may one day be like him, and be with him where he is ;-here surely is a prospect which, more than all others, may tend, by the blessing of God, to elevate our desires, and to purify our hearts.

It has a bad effect upon the mind to set constantly before it the degradation or the wreck of our nature. It is a good thing, and an improving exercise, to place before our view the more excellent qualities, and the higher faculties and destinies, of man. But, how noble soever our nature may appear to us while we consider the powers of the human mind, or how high soever its destinies may seem while we regard it as a candidate for a certain unknown immortality,there is no point of view in which it appears to so great and eminent advantage, as when we behold it encompassed with honour, and adorned with immortality, in the person of our ascended Saviour. And we would that this glorious spectacle were habitually present to the minds of all those who profess and call themselves Christians ! We would that every carnal and ungodly one among them would behold, with the vision of a

lively or awakening faith, some few rays of the glory which was given to our Redeemer when he ascended up on high! There, indeed, would be a manifestation that should shame them from their vile pursuits, and inspire them with holier desires, and render them nobly ambitious of the grandeur and the glory of the accepted sons of God! To be carnally minded, as it is death in its consequences, so in itself and in its actings it is present and practical infidelity. What !-we would say to men who are sunk in sensual pursuits, or devoted to the interests of this present world,—while you live the life as of a brute that perisheth, and reckon it your happiness to carry out the maxim, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,'— while you pamper or injure your bodies by rioting in luxury, and indulging with greediness the works of the flesh,—while you darken and stupify your souls by restraining their desires to the trifles of earth, and by confining your thoughts to the objects of a scene which is rapidly passing away,—is it possible that your practice is coupled with a realizing view of Jesus on the right hand of the Majesty on high, and with a belief, a powerful conviction, that yourselves have been called to become partakers for ever in his pure and transcendent glory? Undoubtedly this cannot be. When any man declares to us, with his lips or by his life, that he knows of nothing better than to pursue or to enjoy the pleasures, honours, or other good things, of the world, then it is plain, and it is involved in his confession, that he knows nothing of Christ, as our forerunner, abiding in the regions of purity and bliss ; he knows nothing of the value and power of that voice of intercession, Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am ; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me.” (John xvii. 24.)

Surely, my Christian brethren, there is a great practical lesson to be derived from considering the honour which was put upon our nature by the ascension of Jesus into heaven. Let the faith of the followers of Christ, given and maintained by the Holy Spirit, lay hold of and realise this fact; and that faith will certainly avail to purify and elevate their souls. It will teach them to abandon all mean and frivolous pursuits, and to abstain from all low and degrading pleasures,--to scorn the vile practices, the sinister dealings, and the dishonest artifices, of a perishing world, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, as the heirs of a better immortality. It will shame them from the lusts of the flesh, and warn them against the intrigues of the spirit. It will reveal the foul darkness of hatred, and jea

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