« AnteriorContinuar »
"our Lord Jesus Christ?" If not, let him remember, that " no man can say that Jesus is "the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost;" and that "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he "i*< sone of His."
Grant,, toe beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so toe may also in heart and mind ascend thither, and with Him continually dwell, icho liveth and reigneth, with thee and the Holy Ghostx one God, world without end. Amen.
"TN the course of this long continued festival M of Pentecost, (which occupied the whole space of fifty days between Easter and Whitsuntide) we are to take more special notice of one particular day, before we come to Whitsunday: that is, of the feast of our Saviour's ascension, or assumption into heaven. The observation of this festival was so antient, that St. Augustin could derive its original from no other fountain, but either apostolical institution, or the general agreement of the church in some plenary council: for those things, says he, which are received and observed over all the world, not as written in Scripture, but as handed down to us by tradition, we conceive to have been either instituted by the Apostles themselves, or some numerous councils whose authority is of very great use in the church. Such are the anniversary solemnities of our Saviour's passion and resurrection and ascension into heaven, and the coming of the Holy Ghost from' heaven. It is certain therefore the feast of ascen"->n was generally observed all over the church "j before St. Augustin's time." This feast was
sometimes called Episozomene. "Why it was so called is not very easy to conjecture. Perhaps it might be, because, by our Saviour's assumption into heaven again, the whole ceconomy of His incarnation and the world's redemption was now completed, as the author of the constitutions words it. And Chrysostom, much after the same manner, says, On this day. that antient enmity was destroyed, and that long war ended; on this day an admirable and unexpected peace was restored to us. After God in His anger had destroyed man and beast from off the earth by an universal deluge, we that were unworthy of the earth, were this day exalted to heaven; we that were not worthy to reign below, were advanced to a kingdom above; we ascended above the hea.vens, and took possession of a royal throne; and that nature of ours, against which the cherubims were set to guard paradise, was this day set above the cherubims. He means that Christ, as the first fruits of our nature in perfection, was exalted into heaven; and all His members in some measure now partake of that glory, and hope in due time to meet Him in the clouds, and to be translated to the same place whither their forerunner is gone before them. This is the best account I can give at present of the name Episozomene, and the application of it to the celebrated festival of our Saviour's ascension or assumption into heaven. I need not stand now to inquire into the manner of its observation. For being in the midst of Pentecost it certainly had all the solemnity that belonged to that festival, and never passed without a proper discourse to excite men to elevate their souls, and ascend with Christ in heart and mind to heaven, In hopes of obtaining it as their proper mansion both for body and soul hereafter to all eternity."*
Having followed our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ through the successive scenes of His humiliation from the manger to the cross; and having, as it were, seen Him rise triumphantly from the grave; we are now called to contemplate His glorious ascension into heaven. In the presence of chosen witnesses who might afterwards attest the fact, He went up ' from mount Olivet towards heaven till a cloud received Him out of their sight, that He might take possession of His mediatorial throne.
The collect for Ascension-day consists of an introduction and a prayer. The introduction recites the important fact which we profess to believe. And in the prayer which is founded thereon, we implore grace that we may be enabled to imitate the example which that fact furnishes.
The fact which we now celebrate may be stated in a few words. Our Lord Jesus Christ, after that He had finished the work which was given H m to do, having by His incarnation, sufferings, and death upon the cross fulfilled the duties and sustained the penalties of the moral law, and accomplished all the types of the ceremonial law—having verified all the prophecies which had been written concerning Him, and made a complete atonement for sin; after that He had risen triumphantly from the dead, and conversed with His apostles, the future administrators of His kingdom, Tor forty days, and given them sufficient instruction and authority, returned in triumph to heaven from whence He came. In the human nature,
* Bingham's Antiquities of the Christian Church, TjflL ii page 321.
which He had assumed into union with His Godhead, (for His Godhead being omnipresent could not change its place of residence) He went up to take possession of the glory which He had merited for Himself and all His followers by His obedience unto death,
'Two modes of expression are used in the Scriptures when they describe this event. Sometimes our Lord is said to have ascended, and sometimes to have been taken up, in consequence of which the antients called it both the ascension and the assumption. The former of these terms denotes that it was by His own right and power that Christ ascended; and the latter that it was a judicial act of God the great Lawgiver, assigning to Christ as Mediator the reward of His work.
The place chosen for the scene of our Lord's ascent was mount Olivet. To the garden which lay at the foot of this mountain He had "ofttimes resorted, both alone and with - His disciples, for the purposes of secret prayer and religious conversation." In this place "He had enjoyed many delightful seasons of fellowship with God. Every spot perhaps of that distinguished ground had been consecrated by the footsteps of a meditating, and the knees of an adoring Saviour. Here also His dying sorrows began. Well might a good man say, "All places are happy, or miserable, in propor*' tion as God vouchsafes or denies His gracious "presence therein." In Gethsemane, where Jesus had so often experienced the ravishing consolations of His heavenly Father's countenance; in this very Gethsemane did the same blessed Jesus experience the first outpourings of His Almighty Father's wrath. Here it was that His righteous soul became " exceeding sorrowful even unto
VOL. II. Z