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As for the Mariner of his afcending, that we may be fure 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 raife it felf from the Grave by its own natural Strength, and much lefs can it mount it felf 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 pafs.
For the End of his Afcenfion, it was firft and chiefly for himfelf, to refume his former Glory, which he had with his Father before the Foundation of the World; and likewife to advance his human Nature, in which he did and fuffer'd fuch great things for Man's Salvation, and reward it with the highest Honours: fo we read, For this caufe God bath highly exalted him, and given him a Name above every Name, that at the Name of Jefus every Knee should bom, of things in Heaven, in Earth, and under the Earth; Phil. 2. A fecondary End of his afcending was for our fakes, to go before (as himself declares) to prepare a place for us, where he means fhortly to receive us to himfelf, that where he is, there we may be alfo. In the mean time, he is there to receive our Petitions, and to appear in the Prefence of God for us.
For the Proof of his Afcenfion, we have the Teftimony of the Apostles and Difciples, who were Eye-Witneffes of it; for whilft he was talking with them, they beheld him taken up, till a Cloud inclos'd him, and intercepted their further fight of him to which was added the Testimony of the Angels, who when the Apostles had loft the fight of him, came from Heaven to fignify his Arrival thither; for while they looked ftedfaftly towards Heaven, as he went up, behold' two Men ftood by them in white Apparel: which two Men are fuppos'd to be two Angels in the fhape of Men appearing in bright fhining Array; who alfo said unto them, Ye Men of Galilee, why ftand ye gazing up into Hea ven? Why fpend ye your time in gazing after him, who is gone; he is too high to be difcern'd, and too bright to be feen with mortal Eyes, and therefore you were better prepare for his fecond Coming, than be too much concern'd for the Loss of the firft: for this fame Jefus, which is taken up into Heaven, ball fo come in like manner as ye have feen him go into Heaven. His going thither, is not a total de
parting from you; for he fhall return again in as glorious a manner, as he hath now left you; as you have seen him. carry'd up in a Cloud, fo 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 execute 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 fo fhall they ever be with the Lord, 1 Theff. 4. 17. This is the Sum of this Day's Epiftle, of which we may make the following Ufe and Application. As,
1. The Confirmation here given of the glorious Refurrection and Afcenfion of our Lord, may abundantly confirm our Faith and Hope in him; for what Doubt may we reafonably entertain of him, who hath given fuch illuftrious Inftances of his Divine Power? or what Good may we not reafonably hope for, from his great Ability and Readiness to fupply all our Wants, and to fave our Souls? This Hope we have (faith the Apostle) as an Anchor of the Soul both fure and fedfaft, fince our Forerunner is enter'd within the Veil, and made an High-Prieft for ever after the Order of Melchifedeck; Heb. 6. 19, 20. This may keep us from fluctuating in Uncertainties, and fix our Hopes of Mercy and Salvation in him.
2. Chrift's Afcenfion may teach us to receive him not only as our Saviour, but as our Lord and King. So St. Pe 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 afcended far above all Heavens, he is to reign for evermore. And therefore we must not only rely upon him, but worship, ferve, and adore him: fo we find the Apoftles did, who upon Chrift's mounting up and leaving of them, went immediately to the Temple, and were there continually bleffing and praifing God, Luke 24. 52, 53. So muft we pay our conftant 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 Afcenfion may affure us of our afcending after him for he is afcended not in a private Capacity, for himfelf only, but as our Head and publick Reprefentative; and he will fhortly have his whole Body with him. In his Refurrection he was the Firit-born from the Dead, or the Firft-fruits from the Grave; in his Afcenfion he was our Forerunner, to go before to take poffeffion, and to prepare
a place for us in the Heavenly Manfions. From whence in a little time he will come again, and receive us to himself, that where he is, there may we be alfo. He arofe, that Death might not hold us; and he afcended, to draw us after him. And therefore,
Laftly, Both his Refurrection and Afcenfion fhould take off our Hearts from the Earth, and raise them to the things of Heaven. Chrift would not stay any longer upon Earth than was neceffary for the Work appointed him to do: he would not take up his reft here, but went from hence as foon as poffible; neither fhould we think of ftaying, or building Tabernacles here, but be ftill mounting upward upon the wings of Prayer and Meditation. Let us daily fend up our Wishes and Defires after him, that they too may be our Harbingers, to prepare a place for us. The holy Patriarchs of old look'd upon themfelves but as Pilgrims here upon Earth, and the Apoftles declar'd that their Converfation was in Heaven. Let us not then make Earth our Heaven, nor place our Felicity in any thing here below but fet our Affections intirely upon the things above, which alone can make us happy.
In a word, let us rife and afcend with Chrift in our Souls now, that we may e'er long follow him with our Bodies alfo: which God of his infinite Mercy grant, &c.
The GOSPEL for Afcenfion-Day.
St. Mark xvi. 14, to the end. Jefus appear'd to the Eleven as they fat at Meat, and upbraided them with their Unbelief and Hardnefs of Heart, because they believ'd not them which had seen him after he was rifen. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the World, and preach the Gospel to every Creature, &c.
HE Gofpel for this Day purfues the fame Argument with the Epiftle; to wit, Chrift's rifing from the Dead, and his afcending up into Heaven to which is added here, his fitting at the right Hand of God. The two former being handled before, fhall be more lightly touch'd upon, and the latter the more largely infifted on. As for his Refurrection, that hath been evidently prov'd by his fundry Appearances to his Apostles and Difciples after his rifing from the Dead; an Account whereof we have in 1 Cor. 15. 5, 6, 7, 8.
The Beginning of this Day's Gofpel tells us, that Jefus appear'd to the Eleven as they fat at Meat, one of the twelve being then abfent, fuppos'd to be St. Thomas, to whom he made a particular Appearance after, wherein he condefcended to all that he defir'd for his Satisfaction: becaufe he doubted whether it was the fame Body that died. on the Cross, our Saviour fhew'd him the Print of the Nails, that faften'd his Hands and Feet to it, and likewife took his Hand, and thrust it into his Side, where the Soldier's Spear had pierc'd, and bid him be no longer faithlefs, but believing.
Here he came in to his Difciples, as they fat at meat, and perhaps ate and drank with them; for St. Luke tells us, either upon this or the like occafion, that he called for Meat: Chap. 24.43. He faid unto them, Have ye here any Meat? And they brought unto him a Piece of broil'd Fish, and of an
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 Perfon, 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 fubject to Hunger and Thirst, and fuftain'd by the fame Food and Nourishment as they were.
And having given them fuch palpable Proofs of his Perfon, as might very well remove all juft Doubts, he began to upbraid them for their Unbelief and Hardness of Heart, because they believ'd not them which had feen him, after he was rifen. Of their great Backwardnefs of Belief, we read in fundry Places of the Evangelifts: St. Mark in this 16th Chap. ver. 9, 10, 11. tells us, that when Jefus was rifen early the first Day of the Week, he appear'd firft to Mary Magdalen. She being big of the News, prefently went and told his Difciples, who were then mourning and weeping for him: but they, when they heard he was alive, and had been seen of her, were fo 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 Refidue, neither believ'd they them: ver. 12, 13. St. Luke tells us, that when thofe pious Women that ftaid at his Crofs, and brought Spices to embalm his Body for his Burial, and had therefore the Honour of his firft Appearance, when, I fay, thofe good Women re turn'd from the Sepulcher, and told all these things to the Apo ftles, 'tis faid, their Words feem'd unto them as idle Tales, and they believ'd them not; Luke 24. 11. Yea, when certain Women who had feen a Vifion of Angels which faid he was alive, related this Matter to them, they ftill perfifted, 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 feen him after he was rifen, as if they were un-, willing to hear of his Return to Life, or their Hearts were harden'd against receiving the Impreffion of it. St. Luke gives us an Account of the Words us'd by him in checking their Unbelief, Chap. 24. 25, &c. Then faid he unto them, O Fools, and flow of Heart to believe all that the Prophets have Spoken! Ought not Chrift to have fuffer'd these things, and fo to enter into his Glory? Where he puts the Fault not fo much upon the Perverfenefs of their Wills, as upon the the Slowness of their Understandings; they did not shut