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chor of hope in the darkest hour, for we knowthat with Christ in the vessel we need not fear the storm.
Hence we see how full of instruction, comfort, and joy is the great fact of the Ascension. It is an opening of the golden gates, and the nearest approach to a visible unveiling of its glories that shall be given until the everlasting gates shall be lifted up, not to welcome the King of glory back, but to return him, in all the pomp of the second advent, to judge the world. As we gaze on the sky that was once opened by the receding form of our blessed Lord, we may feel as the immortal dreamer in his vision, as he looked after the entering pilgrims. "I beheld the golden streets, and the meu with crowns on their heads, and palms in their hands, and golden harps to sing praises withal." "And after that, they shut up the gates; which when I had seen, I wished myself among them." Then let the Ascension of Jesus draw our thoughts, affections, and longings more to the rest that remaineth for his people.
THE PARTING PROMISE.
The lingering benediction. I. The appearance of the Angels. Angelic agency—Its reality and blessedness—Its nature. II. The Angelic Message. (1) The rebuke—Gazing too long into heaven— "Oh ! to be wi' thee, Richie !"—Pining sinfully for heaven. (2) The comfort—" This same Jesus"—The unchanging Friend. (3) The warning—The second coming of Christ—The Old Testament Prophets—The New Testament Prophets—Why such obscurity around the time and manner of this coming—The great Epiphany— Conclusion—The fulness of instruction during the forty days—. The coming Era—Signs of the times—The Pentecost of the future.
"We must not stand and gaze too long,
Though on unfolding heaven our gaze we bend;
We see Christ's entering triumph slow ascend.
Easter than now it fades, that gleam revive,
Our wasted frames feel the true Sun and live.
For ever fixed in no unfruitful gaze,
Age after age in worthier love and praise."
"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."—Acts i. 10, 11.
We have been looking at the appearances of our Lord, and learning the lessons they are designed to teach. We now reach his disappearance, and the lessons that we are to learn from that great fact. And it has been kindly ordered by our Master that these lessons should not be left to mere conjecture. We have them uttered to us by the lips of angels, and thus taught in the most impressive manner.
It was a touching fact that, in the Ascension, the Saviour was taken up in the very act of blessing his disciples. The benediction was begun on earth, but not ended, for " while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven." That benediction still lingers in the air, and cheers the hearts of Christ's people, and will continue to do so, until the words of the departing Saviour are swallowed up in the sounds that shall proclaim the coming Judge.
It was most natural that the disciples should continue to gaze at the receding cloud of light that enfolded the form of their beloved Master. They were moved with mingled emotions of amazement, sorrow, longing, and fear. They felt that they were now really alone, and the first feeling of their hearts would be that of Elisha, when he witnessed the ascension of Elijah: "My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof." Like him they must have felt that their great protection and guidance was gone in his removal, and had nothing more been said, they would probably have returned to the city with doubting and sorrowful hearts. But they were not so to be left, for as they gazed up into heaven, there appeared two forms above them, clad in the garb of heavenly messengers, who gently reproved their doubting sorrow, and gave them the assurance that this departing Saviour should come again, and close up the great mystery of God, in the sublime scenes of the last, great day. There are several things here that strike us : first, the appearance of the angels, and then the message they delivered.
I. The Appearance of the angels.
It is a striking fact that this wonderful interval in our Lord's life, was introduced and closed by appearances of angels. The Eesurrection was announced by angels at the threshold of the grave, the second advent was announced by angels at the gates of heaven. They came as heralds to proclaim his coming from death, they remained as heralds to proclaim his coming to judgment. Thus the gloom of the grave, and the pains of parting, are both lightened to the hearts of the disciples by the words of angels. " And it is a thought not sufficiently pondered, that the last words that fell on the ears of the disciples at this memorable time were the words of angels.
The instructive fact presented to us here is, that angelic interposition was made at the very time when it was most needed. When our Lord was visibly present with his disciples, they needed no special comfort. But when he had left them alone, their hearts were ready to sink, and they needed consolation. Hence he sent angels to them not to declare any new truth to them, but only to remind them of the old, and to recall to them those familiar things which, in their bewildered amazement, they had been unable to remember.
Thus it is that God always deals with his people. If he takes away one comfort, he puts another in its place, more suitable for our circumstances, all things considered, than that which was taken. And more than this, it is further true, that God often uses the very same agency now that he did then on Olivet.
Angelic agency is a topic from which the pulpit perhaps shrinks unduly. There is a temptation to give loose to fancy that makes many avoid it, lest the simple and sober statement of the truth should be regarded as fanciful. And there is also a secret scepticism in regard to the real existence of such agency now, that perhaps has more to do with our silence on the subject than we would willingly confess. We may not doubt it ourselves, but the fact that it is doubted by many others, causes ministers often to shrink from declaring the whole