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As for the Manner of his afcending, that we may be sure was not by a natural or artificial means; he was not, as Elias was, mounted up in a Whirlwind, or carry'd thither in any fiery Chariot, but he went up by the fole Influence and Virtue of his Divine Power. No human Body can raise it felf from the Grave by its own natural Strength, and much less can it mount it self up to Heaven; nothing but the Almighty Power of God, who made and rules all things in Heaven and Earth, could bring this mighty thing to pass.
For the End of his Ascension, it was first and chiefly for himself, to resume his former Glory, which he had with his Father before the Foundation of the World, and likewise to advance his hunian Nature, in which he did and suffer'd such great things for Man's Salvation, and reward it with the highest Honours : so we read, for this cause God hath highly exalted him, and given him a Name above every Name, that at the Name of Jefus every. Knee Mould bom, of things in Heaven, in Earth, and under the Earth; Phil, z. 9, 10. A secondary End of his ascending was for our fakes, to go before (as himself declares) to prepare a place for us, where he means shortly to receive us to himfelf, that where he is, there we may be also: "In the mean time, he is there to receive our Petitions, and to appear in the Presence of God for us.
For the Proof of his Afcenfion, we have the Testimony of the Apostles and Disciples, who were Eye-Witnefes of it; for whilst he was talking with them, they beheld him taken up, till a Cloud inclos'a him, and intercepted their further sight of hini: to which was added the Testimony of the Angels, who when the Apostles had lost the fight of him, came from Heaven to signify his Arrival thither; for while they looked stedfastly towards Heaven, as he went up, behold' im. Men stood by them in white Apparel : which two Men are suppos'd to be two Angels in the shape of Men appearing in bright shining Array ; who also said unto them, Ye Men of Galilee, mhy stand ye gazing up into Hermo ven : Why spend ye your time in gazing after him, who is gone; he is too high to be discern'd, and too bright to be seen with mortal Eyes, and therefore you were better prepare for his second Coming, than be too much concern'd for the Loss of the first: for this fame Jesus, which is taken up into Heaven, Mall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into Heaven. His going thither, is not a total deB4
parting froni you; for he shall return again in as glorious a manner, as he hath now left you ; as you have seen him, carry'd up in a Cloud, so will he come again in the Clouds of Heaven, with a numerous Train of Angels attending him in Power and great Glory ; at which time he will exe: cute Judgment upon Earth, and then all his faithful Servants fhall be caught up together in the Clouds, to meet the Lord in the Air, and so mall they ever be with the Lord; 1 Thefl. 4. 17. This is the Sum of this Day's Epistle, of which we may make the following Use and Application. As,
1. The Confirmation here given of the glorious Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord, may abundantly confirm our Faith and Hope, in him ; for what Doubt may we reasonably entertain of him, who hath given such illustrious Instances of his Divine Power ? or what Good may we not reasonably hope for, from his great Ability and Readiness to supply all our Wants, and to save our Souls? This Hope we have (faith the Apostle) as an Anchor of the Soul both sure and stedfast, fince our Forerunner is enter'd within the Veil, and made an High-Priest for ever after the Order of Melchisedeck; Heb. 6. 19, 20. This may keep us from fluctuating in Uncertainties, and fix our Hopes of Mercy, and Salvation in him.
2. Christ's Afcenfion may teach us to receive him not only as our Saviour, but as our Lord and King. So St. Peet ter told the Jews, that he whom they crucify'd was made both Lord and King, his Foes are all now become his Footitool ; and being ascended far above al! Heavens, he is to reign for evermore. And therefore we must not only rely upon him, but worship, serve, and adore him : so we find the Apostles did, who upon Christ's mounting up and leaving of them, went immediately to the Temple, and were there continually blessing and praising God, Luke 24. 52, 53. So must we pay our constant Duty and Adorations to him, if we mean to follow where he is gone before : which if we are careful to do, then,
3. His Ascension may assure us of our ascending after him : for he is ascended not in a private Capacity, for hina self only, but as our Head and publick Representative; and he will shortly have his whole Body with him. In his Resurrection he was the First-born from the Dead, or the First-fruits from the Grave; in his Ascension he was our Forerunner, to go before to take poffeffion, and to prepare
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a place for us in the Heavenly Mansions. From whence in a little time he will come again, and receive us to himself, that where he is, there may we be also. He arose, that Death might not hold us; and he ascended, to draw us after him. And therefore, .. 0 ..
Lastly, Both his Resurrection and Ascension should take off our Hearts from the Earth, and raise them to the things of Heaven. Christ would not stay. any longer upon Earth than was necessary for the Work appointed him to do: he would not take up his rest here, but went from hence as soon as possible; neither should we think of staying, or". building Tabernacles here, but be still mounting upward upon the wings of Prayer and Meditation. Let us daily send up our Wishes and Desires after him, that they too may be our Harbingers, to prepare a place for us. The holy Patriarchs of old look'd upon themselves but as Pilgrims here upon Earth, and the Apostles declar'd that their Conversation was in Heaven. Let us not then make Earth our Heaven, nor place our Felicity in any thing here below; but set our Affections intirely upon the things above, which alone can make us happy.
In a word, let us rise and ascend with Christ in our Souls now, that we may e'er long follow him with our: Bodies also: which God of his infinite Mercy grant, ca
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St. Mark xvi. 14, to the end.
T HE Gospel for this Day pursues the fame Argu
ment with the Epistle; to wit, Christ's rising
from the Dead, and his ascending up into Heaven: to which is added here, his sitting at the right Hand of God. The two former being handled before, thall be more lightly touch'd upon, and the latter the more largely insisted on. As for his. Resurrection, that hath been evi. dently prov'd by his sundry Appearances to his Apostles and Disciples after his rising from the Dead ; an Account whereof we have in 1 Cor. 15. 5,6,7,8.
The Beginning of this Day's Gospel tells us, that Jesus appear'd to the Eleven as they sat at Meat; one of the twelve being then abfent, suppos'd to be St. Thomas, to whom he made a particular Appearance after, wherein he condescended to all that he desir'd for his Satisfaction: be. cause he doubted whether it was the same Body that died on the Cross, our Saviour shew'd him the Print of the Nails, that fasten'd his Hands and Feet to it, and likewise took his Hand, and thrust it into his Side, where the Soldier's Spear had pierc'd, and bid him be no longer faithless, but believing.
Here he came in to his Disciples, as they sat at meat, and perhaps ate and drank with them; for St. Luke tells us, either upon this or the like occasion, that he called for Meat :
Chap. 24. 43. He said unto then, Have ye here any Meat ? . And they brought unto him a Piece of broild Fish, and of an
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Honey-comb, the common Food of Fishermen; and he took it, and did eat before them. And this he did, to convince them of the Reality of his Person, that he had a true human Body, and not a Body of Air, as they fondly imagin'd, but that it was he himself, with whom they had formerly convers’d; being subje&t to Hunger and Thirst, and sustain'd by the fame Food and Nourishment as they were.
And having given them such palpable Proofs of his Person, as might very well remove all just Doubts, he began to upbraid them for their Unbelief and Hardness of Heart, because they believ'd not them which had seen him, after he was risen. Of their great Backwardness of Belief, we read in sundry Places of the Evangelists : St. Mark in this 16th Chap. ver. 9, 10, 11, tells us, that when Jefus was risen early the first Day of the Week, he appesr'd first to Mary Magdalen. She being big of the News, presently went and i old his Dif. ciples, who were then mourning and weeping for him : but they, when they heard he was alive, and had been seen of her, were so far from rejoicing at the News, that they believ'd it not. After that, he appear'd in another Form to two of them, as they walk'd and went into the Country; and they went and told it unto the Residue, neither believ'd 'they them : ver, 12, 13. St. Luke tells us, that when those pious Woo men that staid at his Cross, and brought Spices to embalm his Body for his Burial, and had therefore the Honour of his first Appearance ; when, I say, those good Women rea turn'd from the Sepulcher, and told all these things to the Apon Atles, 'tis said, their Words seenid unto them as idle Tales, and they believ'd them not ; Luke 24. 11. Yea, when certain Women who had seen a Vision of Angels which said he was alive, related this matter to them, they still persisted in their Infidelity, and would not believe it : which made · our Saviour, here appearing to the Eleven, upbraid their Unbelief and Hardness of Heart, for not believing them which had seen him after he was risen; as if they were unwilling to hear of his Return to Life, or their Hearts were harden'd against receiving the Impression of it. St. Luke gives us an Account of the Words us'd by him in checking their Unbelief, Chap. 24. 25, &c. Then said he unto them, o Fools, and flow of Heart to believe all that the Prophets have Spoken ! Ought not Christ to have suffer'd these things, and for to enter into his Glory? Where he puts the Fault not so much upon the Perverseness of their Wills, as upon the the Slowness of their Understandings; they did not shut