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witness for the power of religion that was given by the great English essayist, when he sent for his nephew to see in what peace a christian can die; it is a more impressive testimony that is given by some poor, lonely, neglected sufferer, who, without feeling that she is acting a part for the inspection of the world, yet in obscurity and desertion, shows to those who are permitted to watch her daily life, with what patience a christian can suffer. She may testify for Christ in her poverty and sickness, with more powerful effect than the most eloquent orator in the pulpit, for she is what he only describes. Hence in every department of life, in joy and sorrow, we are able to be witnesses for Christ, and testify by our conduct what the Lord has done for our souls; and as the circle of christian influence widens, this witness
shall at last be carried to the uttermost part of the earth.
Why the Ascension is so little alluded to in scripture. I. The fact of the Ascension. (1) The time. (2) The place. (3) The attendant circumstances. II. The reason* for the Ascension. (1) The Priesthood of Christ. (2) The entrance into glory after suffering. (3) To display his Divine nature. (4) Connection with the descent of the Holy Ghost . (5) His intercession. (6) Preparing a place for us. (7) Our forerunner and example—His Ascension the picture and pledge of ours. (8) Sitting at the right hand of God— The Pilgrim.
"Soft cloud, that while the breeze of May
Draw'st thy bright veil across the heavenly way,
My soul is envious of mine eye,
The while my grovelling thoughts half-buried lie,
Chains of my heart, avaunt I say—
Pursue the bright track ere it fade away,
"So then, after the Lord had spoken nnto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God."—Mark xvi. 19.
"And he led them out as far as to Bethany; and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy." Luke xxiv. 50-52.
"And when ho hud spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken np; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while the; looked steadfastly toward heaven, as he went np, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, wby stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath-day's journey."—Acts i. 9—12.
It is a little remarkable, that an event which strikes us so forcibly as the Ascension, should not have occupied a larger space in the sacred records. To us the Ascension is even a more wonderful event than the Resurrection, and we naturally crave a full account of it, to satisfy our curiosity. But the sacred writers never attempt to satisfy mere curiosity, or the demands of imagination. Their silence and reserve are often more wonderful, and more indicative of divine guidance, than their revelations. The Ascension is regarded by them as so closely linked with the Resurrection, so necessarily following it, and so blended with it in significance, that they dwell much more on the latter than on the former. Hence, whilst all the gospels record the Resurrection, but two of them record the Ascension. Mark (xvi. 19) gives a very brief record of it: "So then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God." Luke, writing at probably a later date, when the importance of the event was more fully apprehended, gives us a fuller account of it. In his gospel (xxiv. 50-52) he states: " And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy." In the Acts, he gives another account of it—(i. 9-12): "And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven, as he went up, behold two men stood by them in white apparel, which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem, from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a Sabbathday's journey." It is alluded to by Paul in several of his larger Epistles; (Eph. iv. 8-10; Heb. x. 12 ;) by Peter twice in his first Epistle; (1 Pet. i. 21; iii. 22;) and is implied in the visions of the Apocalypse. Eev. ii. 8, &c.
Hence, it is not from any want of evidence as to the fact that it is not more frequently alluded to ; but because it is so closely connected with the Resurrection as to stand or fall with it; and because the great contest was necessarily in regard to the first, and not the second event. Admit the Resurrection, and the Ascension will follow without any difficulty.
But, notwithstanding this infrequency of allusion, the Ascension is a most important fact in the life of our Lord, and one that deserves our most careful study. It will be well worth our while to obtain a clear notion of the fact itself, with the reasons for its occurrence, and the results that flow from it.
I. The fact of the Ascension.
In looking at the fact, there are three points that claim our attention, and require a brief discussion. They are the time of its occurrence in the life of our Lord, the place of its occurrence, and the attendant circumstances.
1. The time of its occurrence was forty days after the Resurrection. Why this precise number of days was selected is matter of mere conjecture. It was forty days after his birth that he was brought to the temple to be dedicated to the Lord by his parents; and during forty days he was tempted in the wilderness, before entering on his public ministry; and during forty days he was to remain ou earth after the Resurrection, before entering into glory. It may be that these successive periods of forty days were designed to point backward to the forty years' sojourn in the wilderness before entering Canaan; and not only to link