« AnteriorContinuar »
in this division of my discourse, is the nature of the place to which our blessed Lord ascended.
Thirdly, then, HEAVEN is a general term, and admits of several acceptations in the sacred writings; yet I think we shall find no difficulty, by their help, to fix the import of it, past all dispute, in the sense it should here be properly received. Indeed, it may be truly said,
Christ was in heaven before the cloud received him out of the Apostles' sight, because we properly term the upper regions of the air by this title, for the clouds themselves are called the clouds of heaven; but THAT heaven may justly be called only the first, and we can hardly doubt but that our Lord ascended at least as far as St. Paul was said to be caught up, that is, into the third heaven. The language of the Apostle (Heb. iv. 14), truly translated, is very descriptive of our Saviour's seat above: For we have a great High Priest (says he) that is PASSED THROUGH the heavens; denoting, that he is gone above the ethereal firmament. And the further declaration, that he was made higher than the heavens (Heb. vii. 26), argues, that he must needs pass through them. Again (Eph. iv. 10), the Apostle expressly says, that He who descended, is the same also who ascended up far above all heavens. Another argument that Christ is far above all heavens (taking the word here,
in its common acceptation), is what was just now hinted of St. Paul's translation. He was Christ's apostle to the Gentiles, born (as he says) out of time; but yet he had such things revealed to him in this divine ecstacy, as it was impossible for one in the body to relate. Now, it is not consistent that he should be where his divine Master was not, of whom (the Lord Jesus) he declares he received these things; and therefore may we conclude, our Saviour was ascended to the third heaven-that, as the Apostle adds, in the same verse, he might fill all things. The true sense, then, in which we must receive this word is, that it signifies the HEAVEN OF HEAVENS: and so Christ is ascended through, and above all other heavens, and yet is still in heaven, for he is entered into that within the veil, into the holy place, even into heaven itself, to appear in the presence of God for us. And of this heaven we have this sure description: Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth my footstool. Thus, as Christ descended unto the footstool of his Father, in his human humiliation of the flesh, so he ascended to the throne of his Father, in his glorified exaltation. In short, this was the place of which our Saviour spake to his disciples: What and if you should see the Son of man ascend where he was before? A proof at the same time, both of the nature of the place to which, and of the body with which,
he ascended; for, had he been there before in that body, it would have been no such wonder that he should ascend thither again. But what Christ proposed to them, as worthy the greatest admiration, and an object of their highest faith, was this, that the flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone, should ascend unto that place where the majesty of God was most visible; that his body in which they saw him ascend, should be seated far above all angels and archangels, all principalities and powers, even at the right hand of God. This, indeed, was another mystery of godliness, surpassing all the miracles at which they had before been amazed. Whatsoever heaven, then, is higher than all the rest that are called heavens; whatsoever sanctuary is holier than all which are called holies; whatsoever place of greatest honour in all the heavenly courts above; into that place is Christ ascended, where, in the brightness of his divine glory, he was before he took upon him our frail humanity.
The further expressions in the article, as they contain no difficulty, so they require no very copious explanation. To be seated on the right hand of God, plainly assures us of the pre-eminence, or high post of honour, to which our blessed Master is now exalted. Few people are so ignorant, as not to know, that to sit at the right hand of any one of great quality or
power, is a mark of the merit or excellence of the person so distinguished; but a few scriptural authorities even for this article of our belief, may reflect due honour upon the assertion; for even this has types and prophecies to support it. Joseph, we have already shown, was in several respects an express type or figure of Christ; and no part of his history represents what was to happen to our Saviour more, than that of his exaltation from prison, to the supreme power of Egypt; for these are the words of Pharaoh (Gen. xli. 40), Only on the throne will I be greater than thou.-Accordingly, he invested him with all the marks of second in the kingdom; he caused him to ride in the second chariot that he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee; and he made him ruler over all the land. This was a clear representation of the Son of man, who, by sitting on God's right hand, obtained power to rule and govern all things, both in heaven and earth, especially as the ruler of his house the church, with express command that all things both in heaven and earth, and under the earth, should bow to him; for, unto Jesus every knee shall bow: but all this in the name of the Father, to whom the throne is still reserved, in whose original authority it still remains; for it is written, He must give up all rule, and all authority and power, and be subject to Him who put all things
under him, that God may be all in all: and thus Christ's seat above was prefigured.
And, that it was as clearly foretold, both the phrase and sense of the Prophet David's words absolutely declare (Psalm ex. 1): The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy FOOTSTOOL. And that this honour did properly belong to our Jesus, whom we worship as the true Messiah, appears from this testimony of the Evangelist (Mark, xvi. 19), He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God; or, as the Apostle expresses it, God raised Christ from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in heavenly places. To have been seated there, he must have ascended. This was an exaltation never given, never promised, to any but the Messiah. The glorious spirits stand about the throne, but never any sat down at the right hand of God; for, to which of his angels said he at any time, Sit thou at my right hand? And so assured was our blessed Lord of this honour, that, even with all the ensigns of death before him, and sentence ready to be passed, he publicly declared, Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God.
To conclude this part of the article: the expression is certainly figurative. The particular place is described, according to our received notions of honourable exaltation. God being a