« AnteriorContinuar »
how was it possible for him by dying to liberate us from death, if he had himself remained under its power? how could he have obtained the victory for us, if he had been vanquished in the contest? Wherefore we ascribe our salvation partly to the death of Christ, and partly to his resurrection; we believe that sin was abolished, and death destroyed, by the former; that righteousness was restored, and life established, by the latter; yet so that the former discovers its power and efficacy in us by means of the latter. Therefore Paul asserts that he was " declared to be the Son of God, by the resurrection from the dead;" (p) because he then displayed his heavenly power, which is both a lucid mirror of his Divinity, and a firm support of our faith. So, in another place, he says, that "he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God." (y) In the same sense, in another place, treating of perfection, he says, "that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection." (r) Yet, immediately after, he adds, "the fellowship of his sufferings, and conformity to his death." In perfect harmony with this, is the following declaration of Peter: "God raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God:" (*) not that faith totters when it rests on his death; but because "the power of God," which "keeps us through faith,"(0 chiefly discovers itself in his resurrection. Let us remember, therefore, that whenever mention is made of his death alone, it comprehends also what strictly belongs to his resurrection; and that the same figure of speech is applied to the word resurrection, whenever it is used without any mention of his death, so that it connects with it what is peculiarly applicable to his' death. But since it was by rising from the dead that he obtained the palm of victory, to become the resurrection and the life; Paul justly contends, that, "if Christ be not risen, then is" the "preaching" of the gospel "vain, and" our '" faith is also vain." (v) Therefore, in another place, after having gloried in the death of Christ, in opposition to all the fears of condemnation, he adds, by way of amplification, "Yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the
(,) Rom. i. 4. (?) 2 Cor. xiii.4. (r) PW1. ui. 10.
(0 1 Peter i. 21. (0 1 Peter i. 5. (.) 1 Cor. xr. 14, I,
right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." (vi) Besides, as we have before stated, that the mortification of our flesh depends on communion with his cross; so it must also be understood, that we obtain another benefit, corresponding to that, from his resurrection. The apostle says, "If we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: even so we also should walk in newness of life." (x) Therefore in another place, asr from our being dead with Christ, he deduces an argument for the mortification of our members which are upon the earth; (y) so also, because we are risen with Christ, he thence infers that we should seek those things which are above, and not those which are on the earth, (z) By which expressions we are not only invited to walk in newness of life, after the example of Christ raised from the dead, but are taught that our regeneration to righteousness is effected by his power. We derive also a third benefit from his resurrection, having received, as it were, a pledge to assure us of our own resurrection, of which his clearly affords the most solid foundation and evidence. This subject the apostle discusses more at large in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, (a) But it must be remarked by the way, that when he is "said to have "risen from the dead," this phrase expresses the reality both of his death and of his resurrection: as though it were said, that he died the same death as other men naturally die, and received immortality in the same body which he had assumed in a mortal state.
XIV. His resurrection is properly followed in the Creed by his ascension to heaven. For though Christ began to make a more illustrious display of his glory and power at his resurrection, having now laid aside the abject and ignoble condition of this mortal life, and the ignominy of the cross; yet his ascension into heaven was the real commencement of his reign. This the apostle shews, when he informs us, that he "ascended, that he might fill all things." (6) Here, in an apparent contradiction, he suggests to us that there is a beautiful harmony, because Christ departed from us, that his departure might be more useful to us than that presence, which, during his continuance on
(«) Rom. viii. 34. (») Rom. vi. 4, 5. (•/) CoL iii. 5.
(s) Col . iii. 1, 2. Oi)l Cor. xr. (*) F.ph. iv 10.
earth, confined itself within the humble mansion of his body. Therefore John, after having related that remarkable invitation, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink," subjoins, that "the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified." (c) This the Lord himself also declared to his disciples: "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you." (d) Now he proposes a consolation for his corporeal absence, that he "will not leave them comfortless, or orphans, but will come again to them," in a manner, invisible indeed, but more desirable: because they were then taught by a more certain experience that the authority which he enjoys, and the power which he exercises, is sufficient for the faithful, not only to procure them a blessed life, but to ensure them a happy death. And indeed we see how largely he then increased the effusions of his Spirit, how greatly he advanced the magnificence of his reign, and what superior power he exerted both in assisting his friends, and in defeating his enemies. Being received up into heaven, therefore, he removed his corporeal presence from our view; not that he might no longer be present with the faithful who were still in a state of pilgrimage on earth, but that he might govern both heaven and earth by a more efficacious energy. Moreover, his promise, that he would be with us till the end of the world, he has performed by this his ascension; by which, as his body was elevated above all heavens, so his power and energy have been diffused and extended beyond all the limits of heaven and earth. In representing this, I would prefer the language of Augustine to my own. "Christ," says he, "was about to go by death to the right hand of the Father, whence he will hereafter come to judge the living and the dead; and this by a corporeal presence, according to the rule of faith and sound doctrine. For in his spiritual presence with them, he was to come soon after his ascension." And elsewhere he treats this subject in a manner still more diffuse and explicit. By his ineffable and invisible grace, Christ has fulfilled his declaration, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." (e) But
(c) John vil 37, 39. (d) Johnxvi. 7. (c) Matt, xxviii. 20.
with respect to the body which the Word assumed, which was born of the Virgin, which was apprehended by the Jews, which was fixed to the cross, which was taken down from the cross, which was folded in linen, which was laid in the sepulchre, which was manifested at the resurrection, there has been an accomplishment of this prediction: "Ye shall not have me always with you." Why? Because in his corporeal presence he conversed with his disciples for forty days, and while they were attending him, seen but not followed by them, he ascended into heaven; and he is not here, for he sits there at the right hand of the Father; and yet he is here, for he has not withdrawn the presence of his majesty. In the presence of his majesty, therefore, we have Christ always with us; but with respect to his corporeal presence, he said with truth to his disciples, " Me ye have not always." For the Church enjoyed his corporeal presence for a few days, now she enjoys him by faith, and does not behold him with her eyes.
XV. Wherefore it is immediately added, that he is seated at the right hand of the Father: which is a similitude borrowed from princes, who have their assistants, to whom they depute the exercise of the government. So Christ, in whom the Father determines to be exalted, and by whose medium he chooses to reign, is said to have been received to his right hand; as though it were said, that he had been inaugurated in the government of heaven and earth, and had solemnly entered on the actual administration of the power committed to him; and not only that he has entered on it, but that he continues in it, till he descends to judgment. For so the apostle explains it, in the following words: "The Father hath set him at his own right hand, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the Church," &c. (g) We see the end of this session; it is, that all creatures, both celestial and terrestrial, may admire his majesty, be governed by his hand, obey his will, and be subject to his power. And the only design of the
(g) Eph. i. 20-22. Vol. I. 4 B
apostles in their frequent mention of it, is to teach us that all things are committed to his government. Wherefore they who suppose that nothing but blessedness is signified in this article, are not right in that opinion. It affects not our argument, that Stephen declares that he sees Christ " standing," (A) because the present question relates, not to the posture of his body, but to the majesty of his dominion; so that sitting signifies no other than presiding at the tribunal of heaven. .
XVI. Hence faith receives many advantages. For it perceives, that by his ascension the Lord has opened the way to the kingdom of heaven, which had been stopped by Adam. For since he entered there in our nature, and as it were in our names, it follows that, as the apostle expresses it, we now "sit together" with him " in heavenly places," (i) because we not only hope for heaven, but already possess in in our Head. Besides, faith knows that his residence with his Father conduces greatly to our advantage. For being entered into a sanctuary, which is not of human erection, (i) he continually appears in the presence of the Father as our advocate and intercessor; (/) he attracts the eyes of the Father to his righteousness, so as to avert them from our sins; he reconciles him to us, so as to procure for us, by his intercession, a way of access to his throne, which he replenishes with grace and mercy, but which otherwise would be pregnant with horror to miserable sinners, (in) In the third place, faith has an apprehension of his power, in which consists our strength, our fortitude, our wealth, and our triumph over hell. For "when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive," (n) spoiled his enemies, and enriched his people, and daily loads them with spiritual favours. He sits therefore on high, that from thence he may shed forth his power upon us, that he may animate us with spiritual life, that he may sanctify us by his Spirit, that he may adorn his Church with a variety of graces, and defend it by his protection from every calamity, that by the strength of his hand he may restrain the ferocious enemies of his cross and of our salvation; finally, that he may retain all power in heaven and in earth: till he shall have overthrown all his
(A) Acts vii. 55, 56. (t) Eph. ii. 6. (i) Heb. ix. 24.
(0 Rom. viii. 34. (,n) Heb. iv. 1& (n) Epa. iv. 8.