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[In his death he seemed vanquished; but in reality he overcame; and in his ascension he led captive all his enemies and ours.
Sin had diffused its poison through all the descendants of Adam, and had infected all their powers both of body and soul. But Christ, having expiated its guilt, now rescued many vassals from its power. Satan, the god of this world, who had hitherto usurped dominion and led men captive at his will, now “ fell from heaven like lightning;" and his throne, shaken to its foundations, was demolished. Death also, that had reigned over all, now was vanquished in its turn; for Jesus “burst its bands.” “By death, he destroyed death, and him that had the power of death, that is, the devile :" and now, as a mighty conqueror, that had “ spoiled principalities and powers, he triumphed over them openlyf," and led them captive at his chariot wheels.]
From contemplating the manner of his ascension, let us proceed to consider, II. The ends of it
There were some ends that respected Christ himself, namely, that he might receive his reward, and carry on his work within the vail : but we must confine ourselves to those which respect the Church. 1. The immediate end
[As Jesus died, so he rose and ascended in a public capacity, as our mediator with God. He had purchased blessings for us; and he now went to receive them at his Father's hands, that he might impart them to us. He was henceforth to have all fulness treasured up in himself, that we might receive out of it according to our necessities. He ascended, “ that he might fill all things,” and “impart repentance and remission of sins,” together with all the gifts and graces of his Spirit, to his chosen people. That this was the immediate end of his ascension, appears not only from his own predictions respecting its, but from the express declaration of the apostles on the descent of the Holy Ghosth. Yet it was not for those only who were waiting for redemption, but even "for the rebellious also," that he received gifts; as he abundantly testified in the conversion of his murderers; and as he is ready to testify in the conversion of us also.] 2. The remote end
[It was the privilege of the Jewish Church to have the symbols of God's presence in their temple. But it is our privilege to have God himself both with us, and in us. He
e Heb. ii. 14.
f Col. ii. 15.
8 John xvi. 7.
h Acts ii. 33.
will make our hearts his habitation; he will dwell in us, and cause his glory to fill our souls. This was a further end of Christ's ascension, as he himself tells us: “I will pray the Father for you; and he will send you another comforter, that he may abide with
for &c.; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you’.” Even the most rebellious heart, that has defied the Majesty of heaven, and despised hitherto all overtures of mercy, may yet be encouraged to look up to him ; and the soul that has been filled with all iniquity may yet become the temple of the living God. Other conquerors, in the day of their triumph, have scattered largesses among their admiring followers; but this greatest of all gifts will Jesus bestow on his most inveterate enemies: let them only repent, and call upon his name, and he will give them all the riches both of grace and glory.] IMPROVEMENT1. Let none despair of mercy
[We might have well supposed, that the ascension of Jesus would rather have been for the inflicting of judgments on his enemies : yet, behold, it was for the express purpose of exercising mercy. Let us not proudly deny that we are rebels; but, humbling ourselves before him as the chief of sinners, let us desire him to display the exceeding riches of his grace in his mercy towards us.] 2. Let none despair of victory
[Conflicts we must have, as long as we continue in the body; but in the very midst of them we may say, " Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Does sin harass and defile us? Christ says, “ It shall never have dominion over us.” Does Satan seek to deceive or devour us? His head was bruised by Christ, and " he shall soon be bruised under our feet also." Does death alarm us? Its sting is drawn; it is “swallowed up in victory;" it is among our richest treasures. Let us view Christ leading them all captive in his ascension; and know that, through Him, we also shall be more than conquerors.] i John xiv. 16, 17.
k 1 Cor. iji. 22.
GRATITUDE TO GOD FOR HIS BENEFITS. Ps. Ixviii. 19, 20. Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us
with benefits, even the God of our salvation ! He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto God the Lord belong the issues from death.
THE service of God is beneficial to the soul, not merely as bringing down a divine blessing upon us, but in that it prepares and attunes the soul for further services. David had been carrying up the ark to Jerusalem, to place it in the sanctuary on Mount Zion. And now, having already celebrated the praises of Jehovah for his dealings with his people in former ages, and for the present ceremony, as typical of the Messiah's exaltation after he should have completed his work on earth; and having deposited the ark in its proper place; he bursts forth into general acknowledgments of God's mercies to his people, and devout ascriptions of praise to him, for all the wonders of his love.
Now we, Brethren, have been engaged in the holy service of worshipping our God. But shall we be satisfied with that? No: I would have that service to be a preparation for a still further honouring of God, whilst we contemplate with devoutest admiration, I. The blessings with which he has loaded us
And here I might expatiate on the temporal benefits which are poured out upon us daily, in the richest abundance; I might enumerate the various comforts that are ministered to us, in all the works both of creation and providence. But the inspired comment which we have on this passage leads our mind to far higher benefits, even to all the blessings of redemption. St. Paul quotes the words before my text, and declares them to have been fulfilled in the ascension of our blessed Lord and Saviour, and in his bestowment of spiritual blessings on his Church".
Let us contemplate, then,
[This is the first thing mentioned by St. Paul in the passage to which I have referred: “ He gave gifts unto men: he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” And is this benefit confined to the apostolic age? If we have not Prophets and Apostles, have we not pastors and teachers? And if we see not thousands converted at a time, do we not still see the Church augmented and edified in the midst of us? Yes: we have the same doctrines preached to us as were delivered in the days of old, and the same blessed effects produced by them: and it becomes us to be duly sensible of this mercy, and to bless our God for it from our inmost souls.]
a Eph. iv. 7, 8, 11, 12, 13.
2. The gift of his Spirit
[This, you know, was the immediate consequence of our Lord's ascension: he poured out his Spirit both on his disciples and on his enemies, on the day of Pentecost; for the instruction of the one, and the conversion of the other. And though we no longer have the Holy Spirit in his miraculous powers, have we not still his enlightening, sanctifying, and comforting energies experienced amongst us? Many, I trust, who are here present, can attest, that the Spirit still accompanies the word, and makes it “sharper than any two-edged sword,” and effectual for the ends for which God, in his tender mercy, has sent it". Even where it has not yet wrought for the conversion of the soul, it has, in ten thousand instances, striven with us, to bring us to repentance. Perhaps, amongst us all, there is not one who has not felt his motions within him, and heard his gracious whispers, saying, “ Repent, and turn unto thy God.” For this, then, we have also reason to adore our God: for, next to the gift of God's only dear Son to die for us, is the gift of his Holy Spirit to dwell in us, and to impart unto us all the blessings of salvation.] 3. The knowledge of his Son
[This has God richly imparted to our souls. Say, Brethren, has not “the Lord Jesus Christ been evidently set forth crucified amongst you?” You yourselves will bear us witness, that from the very beginning of our ministry we "determined to know nothing amongst you save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” The dignity of his person, the nature of his work, the suitableness of his offices, the freeness and fulness of his salvation, have been ever exhibited to your view, in order that you might believe in him, and, “ believing, might have life through his name." This knowledge, in St. Paul's estimation, intinitely exceeded every other; yea, in comparison of it he regarded “all other things as dross and dung." Yet is this bestowed on you, in all its clearest evidence, and in all its sanctifying and saving operations.)
b Isai. lv. 10, 11.
4. The hope of his glory
[By the Gospel which ye hear, not only are life and immortality brought to light, but they are brought home to your souls as actually attained in Christ Jesus. He is your Forerunner; he is gone to prepare a place for you; and, if only you truly believe in him, you may survey all the glory of heaven, and claim it as your own: for his throne is your throne, his kingdom your kingdom, his glory your glory. This is “ the inheritance to which you are begotten; and for which, by the almighty power of God, you are reserveda.”
These are some of the benefits with which you are loaded from day to day. Say whether you have not reason to bless God for them, and from your inmost souls to say,
“ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath Blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ."]
But, from the gifts, let us, in our contemplations,
II. The Author and Giver of them all
He is here described by,
[We must not forget that it is the Lord Jesus Christ who ascended to heaven, and who bestows these gifts upon men. In the Scriptures he is continually called “a Saviour:" but here he is repeatedly, and with very peculiar emphasis, called “ the God of salvation:" “ He that is our God, is the God of salvation.” Now I conceive that, by this appellation, David designed to characterize the Lord Jesus as possessing in himself all the fulness that was necessary for our salvation, and as imparting every distinct blessing with as much zeal and love as if that were the only blessing which he was qualified to bestow. In our unconverted state, we need from God all imaginable patience and forbearance: and, for our comfort, he is declared to be “the God of patiencef.” To turn us completely unto him, we need an abundance of every kind of grace: and he is “the God of all gracek." In returning to God, we hope to obtain peace: and he is “the God of peaceh.' As the ultimate end of our conversion, we hope to obtain glory: and he is “the God of glory.” We cannot conceive of any thing which we stand in need of, in order to our complete salvation, but there is all fulness of it treasured up for us in Christ Jesus; and of that fulness we may all receive to
d 1 Pet. i. 3-5. 8 1 Pet. v. 10.
c Rev. iii. 21. Luke xxii. 29. John xvii. 22 Eph. i. 3.
f Rom. xv. 5. h Heb. xiii. 20, i Acts vii. 2.