24 November 1765

Lecture 23

From the resurrection of Christ we proceed to his ascension – ‘He ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God’. This is a comfortable [consideration] to his own people, for as they are now made conformable to him in sufferings here, so they shall be partakers of his glory hereafter.
He ascended in a visible manner before many witnesses, as is related by Luke [1] – but the eye of faith can follow him farther and gain a glimpse of his glory as seated at the right hand of God. This expression denotes his exaltation, pre-eminence and authority – He is King of kings and Lord of lords. [2] He ruleth over all – the glory, the power, the grace of God are now manifested in that man who once hung upon the Cross.
Young converts are ready to wish that Jesus had always remained upon earth; they think – O if I could but see him and hear the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth, I should be encouraged to believe – but when you are more acquainted with the truths of his Gospel, you will rather rejoice to think he is ascended, for:
1. He is again possessed of that glory which for our sakes he once laid aside.
Those who love him will surely rejoice in this. They have wept to think how he humbled himself, how he suffered and groaned and died. But it gladdens their hearts to think where he is, and how he is worshipped now.
2. When he ascended, he presented the full atonement for the sins of his people.
He entered with his own blood within the veil. This is the ground of our liberty of approach to the throne of grace – while we are praying without, the incense of his obedience to death is continually offered up by our great high priest on our behalf.
3. When he ascended he received gifts for men, even for the rebellious –
especially the great gift of the Holy Spirit. John 7:39 [3] and 16:7. [4] He is now pointed out to our faith as the fountain and treasury of every blessing – pardon, wisdom, knowledge, comfort are fully resident in him and from him by his Spirit freely communicated to all who believe in his name.
4. He has taken possession of heaven in our behalf.
The human nature is now raised to unspeakable honour and dignity, far above the highest angels, and where the head is the members shall shortly be, according to his last prayer before he suffered. John 17:24. [5] But this honour is not common to all mankind but restrained to believers. Hence he is said to have taken on him the seed of Abraham – not merely because he was to descend from Abraham according to the flesh, but because he stands in the same especial relationship to all who are partakers of Abraham's faith. See Romans 4.
5. His exercise of all power, which is included in his sitting at the right hand of God, is for his people's sake.
We read of three visible appearances of Christ since his ascension, which may teach us what he does for his church, and for each particular believer in a more secret way, by the invisible power of his Spirit.
  5.1 When Stephen was stoned he saw the heavens opened and Jesus standing to receive his departing soul. He still performs this comforting office to his people in their departing moments. You that love the Lord, fear not [to] die. Do not say, How shall I pass through that dark valley?  The Lord whom you serve will meet you there. You have his promise and may safely trust it. When flesh and heart fail, when outward things are about to leave you, then you shall find him near, to drive away your spiritual enemies, to make your last agonies tolerable, and to give you a joyful entrance into his kingdom.
  5.2 When Saul was breathing out threatenings and slaughter, opposing the work and people of Christ with all his strength, Jesus suddenly appeared, disarmed, pardoned and changed him. The lion then became a lamb. The persecutor a disciple. The outward circumstances in this case were extraordinary. But all believers are witness to a like effect. By nature they are all enemies to him, they dislike his government, they despise his grace. But when his time of love comes, he speaks to their hearts, takes away their enmity and makes them a willing people in the day of his power.
  5.3 When John was banished to Patmos and cut off from society, Jesus paid him a visit of love, and favoured him with a wonderful revelation. This shows how willing and how faithful he is to comfort his people under all their troubles, to supply the want of outward means and earthly friends, when his providence takes them away, and how he can teach them more and greater things by his own Spirit, than they could have expected to receive in an ordinary way.
1. See believers what should be your pleasant food – why should you who have tasted that the Lord is gracious at any time feed upon the wind? Have you this manna rained down about your camp to nourish you through the wilderness, and do you look back with regret upon the fleshpots of Egypt?  Shall those who are called to sit with Christ in heavenly places, suffer their affections to cleave to the dust and the world? Let us shake off our sloth, lay aside every weight and run with patience the race set before us. Think where your Saviour is – think of his redeemed ones before the throne – think of your friends and acquaintance[s] that are gone before you. You once saw them suffering and pitied them, now they are rejoicing and pity you. Have you a place preparing among those many mansions – have you a part to bear in that song? Then let your thoughts mount upward. Be not careful about many things. Be not discouraged at the troubles of the way, but be ye followers of them who through faith and patience are now inheriting the promises.
2. Let awakened souls remember that Jesus reigning in heaven, has the same compassions which he displayed upon earth. He has left you an invitation and encouragement to believe; he still says, Come unto me, that you may find rest for your souls. [6]
3. What can I say to you that know him not!  O that you knew this much at least – to cry to him for deliverance. Can you be content to die without a knowledge of his love?  Will you venture into the presence of God with your sins unpardoned and your natures unchanged?  What then must become of you? O seek him now that your souls may live. Ask in his name and you shall be heard, pardoned, accepted and saved with a great salvation.

1. Acts 13:31 And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.
2. 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16
3. John 7:39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
4. John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
5. John 17:24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
6. Mathew 11:28,29 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

Cowper & Newton Museum