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Most interpreters understand the words of our Lord, John, vi. 62,
“ What if you see the Son of man ascend where he was before, as a prediction of his ascension into heaven." I think a better interpretation may be given of this difficult text, and therefore I cannot avail myself of it as an argument upon the present occasion, though it may, perhaps, contain an allusion to that event. There is, however, an unequivocal attestation to this fact in the language of our Lord to Mary Magdalene, after his resurrection; John, xx. 17. “ Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God.”
The apostle Peter, on the day of Pentecost, immediately after the effusion of the Holy Spirit, declares to the assembled multitude, this Jesus hath God raised up,
of which we are all witnesses. Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, he has shed forth this which ye now see and
hear. For David is not ascended into heaven, but he saith himself, the Lord said unto my lord, sit thou at my right hand until I make thy foes thy footstool, Acts, ii. 32–35. The same apostle observes, 1 Pet. ü. 22, that Jesus is gone into the heavens, angels, principalities, and powers being made subject to him. :
The apostle Paul saw Jesus in his glory as he travelled to Damascus; and in his epistle to the Ephesians, he avers, chap. i. 20, 21, that God had raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in heavenly places, far above all principality and power, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but in that which is to come. And though it is certain that the apostle's meaning is very different from that which the words seem to express, it is nevertheless reasonable to believe, that he here alludes to the fact of our Lord's ascension.
The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews represents Jesus as our great high priest, who had passed into the heavens, Heb. iv.
14. And Stephen, when standing upon his defence before the great council of the Jews, declares that he saw the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God. Acts, vii. 56.
Such is the direct evidence of the fact, as it is related in the New Testament, and if we admit the genuineness of the books, and the veracity of the writers, we must admit the reality of the miracle.
This miracle is greatly confirmed by its analogy to others, which are recorded in the evangelical history ; which all Christians admit, and which indeed lie at the foundation of our faith. Had no miracle been reported of Christ but that he had ascended into heaven, the fact might with great reason have been doubted ; as being contrary to the usual course of nature, and as a miracle the use of which was with difficulty discernible. But if we believe that Jesus, at his baptism, was declared by a voice from heaven to be the Son of God; that he was authorized to perform miracles and to deliver prophecies ; that he was raised from the dead, that spiritual gifts were communicated to the apostles, who authenticated their testimony to his resurrection by a train of splendid and incontestable miracles : it is perfectly analogous to these uncominon circumstances, that a person of so extraordinary a character should quit, the world in a manner different from that of the rest of mankind, and that after having been raised from the dead he should be taken up into heaven. The analogy of this event with the rest of the history, attaches to it a sort of antecedent probability, which renders it capable of being proved by that kind of testimony which in other cases of great importance would be deemed sufficient.
Such is the account of this extraordinary event which has been transmitted to us by eye-witnesses, or by writers who derived their information from those who were such. Let us now proceed to inquire a little more particularly into the nature and circumstances of this stupendous miracle. The narrative consists of two parts, which
ought to be very carefully distinguished from each other. In the first place it contains a distinct account of what was seen and heard upon the occasion.
. And secondly, it contains conclusions and opinions with regard to facts which did not fall under the cognizance of the senses.
The circumstances which the sacred historians relate, as having been seen or heard at the time of our Lord's ascension, ought to be admitted as authenticated facts, by those who allow the genuineness, and the credibility of the writers. It is a fact that Jesus led his disciples to the mount of Olives. It is a fact that he here discoursed with them concerning the approaching effusion of the holy spirit, and that he checked their useless curiosity concerning the precise time of the restoration of independence and prosperity to the Jewish community. It is a fact that he then took a solemn leave of the apostles; and that immediately afterwards he was raised from the ground, and continued gradually ascending towards the skies, in their presence, till at length he