Page images

an angel like lightning, and his raiment white as snow; they who upon this sight did shake, and became as dead men, while he whom they kept became alive; even some of these came into the city, and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done, when Christ rose from the dead. And the angels, that heavenly host, which brought the glad tidings of his birth to the shepherds, bore evidence to the truth thereof. One came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. Two, in white, sitting one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain, said unto the women,

Why seek ye the living among the dead? he is not here,

but is risen. And

The reason why he only appeared to his followers, and not to the Jewish nation is, because it was only of necessity, that those, who were to be the first publishers of the gospel, should have the utmost evidence and satisfaction concerning the truth and reality of Christ's resurrection; for, by the same reason that he was obliged to have appeared to the Jewish nation, it might be pleaded, that the whole Roman empire ought to have had the like manifestation, and that he should have shown himself so the unbelieving in all succeeding ages.

It was necessary Christ should rise from the dead, to show the debt, he died for, was discharged; and that his satisfaction was accepted in heaven. If Christ be not risen, ye are yet in your sins. Besides, he rose to prove himself to be the Messiah, and to evidence the truth and divinity of his doctrine, which he had enjoined to be observed by all men. He had appealed to it as a sign of his being a true prophet, and therefore, by the way of trial, which God prescribed the Jews, vi. the accomplishment of predictions, he had appeared to be a false prophet, had he failed therein; for, if Christ be not risen, your faith is vain. God having raised our Saviour from the dead, after he was con demned and put to death for calling himself the Son of God, is a demonstration that he really was the Son of God; and, if he was the Son of God, the doctrine he taught was truth from God, and is our guide to heaven.

Again, the resurrection of Christ is an argument of our resurrection; because, by his rising from the dead, he became the first fruits of them that slept; by this is secured our resurrection to eternal life, that he who hath promised to raise us up, did raise himself from the dead.

V. In the sixth ARTICLE of our christian faith we profess to believe that JESUS ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; for the same Jesus, who by his own power rose again for our justification, having for the space of forty days confirmed the truth of his resurrection, by appearing several times to his disciples, discoursing with them, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God, finished his course upon earth with blessing his disciples; for while he was blessing them, and they beheld and looked stedfastly toward heaven, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight: and behold, Jesus being ascended up into the highest heavens, two angels appeared unto the disciples with the comfortable promise, that as Jesus was taken from them into heaven, so he should in a glorious manner return again to judge the world. And all this was done for the confirmation of the certainty and reality of this great mystery of our faith. Here was need of eyewitnesses, which was not necessary in the act of his resurrection; because whatever was a proof of his life after death was a demonstration of his resurrection, but the apostles not being able to see him, when in heaven, it was necessary they should be eyewitnesses of his act of ascending, that so they might be able to bear their testimony thereto. Besides, before the apostles saw our Saviour ascend, he had told them whither he was going, and what power and dignity would be conferred upon him; and, as an evidence of his exaltation on the right hand of God, had promised to send down the Holy Ghost upon them in a sensible manner; so that they afterward receiving the wonderful effects of his being there, had abundant evidence of his exaltation, namely, his ascension into the heaven of heavens, the presence of God, where his human nature is seated far above all angels and archangels, all principali


ties and powers, even at the right hand of God the Father. Therefore,

Since this our Lord's ascension is of that great advantage to mankind, it may and has been asked, Why he did not ascend in the sight of the Jews, that they, who had been deceived before at the time of his crucifixion, might have received a conviction of their error? To which it is answered, that it was only absolutely necessary that they who were to preach the gospel should have the utmost evidence of those matters of fact they testified. God's design was to bring the world to salvation by the exercise of faith, which is an act of assent upon the testimony of another, which is inconsistent with sight. Moreover, it is to be doubted whether they who ascribed our Saviour's miracles to the power of the devil, and suborned the soldiers to say upon his resurrection, that his disciples stole him away, would not have called his ascension, if they had seen it, a phantasm and vain apparition of the spirit of some corrupt man. But let the reason be what it will, God appointed it so to be, it is not the business of the creature to ask the Creator his reasons for such and such acts of his omnipotency.


VI. Christ, being now seated at the right hand of God, is become a perpetual patron and advocate in our behalf, to plead our cause, to solicit our concernments, to represent our wants, and to offer up our prayers and requests to God, by virtue of his meritorious sacrifice, which he offered upon the cross for the sins of the whole world. And this his sitting at the right hand of God is expressly foretold in these words, The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. And we are assured by the holy penman, that our Jesus is actually there; for one tells us, that he was received up into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God: and another records, that God raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in heavenly places. But such scripture phrases are not to be taken in a strict and proper, but in a figurative

sense, as spoken in condescension to our capacities and after the manner of men, and by way of comparison to what belongs to mankind. And as the sitting at a prince's right hand is esteemed a place of the highest honour, the first import of this phrase seems to be, that Christ is invested with the highest glory from God, and exalted to the highest dignity; and since by the hand of God his infinite power may be signified, this phrase may further import Christ's having received the highest power and dominion from God: but where Christ is said to be sitting, we are not to understand that he is determined to such a particular posture of body as is commonly meant by sitting; for he is sometimes represented as standing at God's right hand, sometimes in general as being there, without expressing the particular manner of it; but by his sitting we are to understand his secure and quiet continuance in that high glory, majesty, and judicature; and his full possession of dignity, and perpetuity in retaining it.

And this confirms our faith; because it gives us a further proof of our Saviour's divine mission: for, had he not been sent into the world by God, he had not approved of the message Christ delivered to man. His visible ascension into heaven strengthens our hope: for, by seeing our own nature thus advanced, we are assured that dust and ashes may thither ascend also; and the blessed Jesus being our head, as members of his body, we may expect admission into that heavenly court where he sits in glory, since we have his word, which can never fail, that he is gone to prepare a place for us; and it exalts our affections, by putting us in mind that our treasure is above, and that therefore we ought not to set our affections upon such things as must perish in this world; that heaven is the true and only happiness of a christian; that our great design in this world ought to be to fit and prepare ourselves for the enjoyment of a blessed eternity; that our constant endeavours ought to tend toward the qualifying ourselves to be received into our Saviour's presence, to whom we have the greatest obligations of gratitude and duty; that by trampling upon our sins, and subduing the lusts of the flesh, we may make our conversation

[ocr errors]

correspond to our Saviour's condition, that where the eyes of the apostles were forced to leave him, thither our thoughts may follow him, even into the highest heavens. We should also learn from this to have an assurance of the pardon of our sins, acceptance of our sincere, though imperfect obedience, and of protection and defence in our spiritual warfare, as knowing that at last we shall be more than conquerors; and it should raise in us a noble ambition of being inade partakers of that glory, to which Christ our head already is advanced; who has promised, that to him who overcometh he will grant to sit with him in his throne.

VII. When we profess, in the seventh ARTICLE of our belief, that Christ will come again to judge the quick and the dead, we declare that we stedfastly believe that our Lord Jesus Christ shall at the end of the world descend from heaven in his human nature. As to the manner and the circumstances of Christ's coming: He shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels: he shall descend with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trump of God: he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and in that of his holy angels: he shall sit upon the throne of his glory, and all nations shall be gathered before him, and he shall separate them the one from the other, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: those that sleep in the grave shall awake, and the dead in Christ shall rise first, and they that are alive shall be changed, and caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Which sufficiently shows the glorious appearing of the great God, and our saviour Jesus Christ, who shall then come glorious in the brightness and splendor of his celestial body; supported by that authority, which his Father had committed to him, of universal judge, accompanied with thousands of angels, who shall attend, not only to make up the pomp of this appearance, but as ministers of his justice; and seated in that bright throne of glory, from which he shall summon all mankind to appear before his dreadful tribunal, where they shall come upon their trial, and have all their actions strictly examined.

Concerning which, if we search the scriptures, there we shall find God hath given assurance unto all men, that he

« EelmineJätka »