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The Results of the Ascension.

The Results of the Ascension.

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" For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Sou, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." — Romans v. 10.

" For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Sou, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." — Romans v. 10.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Aug 12, 2014
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" For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Sou,
much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." — Romans v. 10.
The Apostle Paul was a great master in the art of reasoning. He often carries
us, chapter after chapter, through a most carefully constructed system of in-
ductive proofs, evidently persuaded that such forms of appeal would find
something answerable to them in the common intelligence of mankind, as well
as be very helpful in the vindication and furtherance of the truth. In the
passage from which I am going to discourse to you, he is having recourse to
that particular kind of reasoning which logicians call tlie argument a fortiori —
an argument in which we first establish the conclusion we desire to arrive at
by supposing one set of circumstances, and then, by showing that in reality
the circumstances are far more favourable, deduce a corresponding accession
to the strength of our conclusion. The premises granted, there is no form of
reasoning which proceeds so forcibly. IIow convincingly does our Lord make
use of it, in assuring us of an answer to prayer! "If ye, then, being evil,"
have the parental instinct so strong in you that you cannot but give good tilings
unto your children, how do you think it would be possible for your Father
which is in heaven to refuse good things to them that ask him ? And such,
you will perceive, is the kind of argument the apostle is constructing in our
text. His one great object is to prove that a believer in Christ has a sufficient
warrant for his hope of everlasting salvation ; and in order to this lie strings
together a succession of contrasted circumstances, all bearing upon this con-
clusion, and all connected by one principle which he takes it for granted
nobody will be found to deny — namely, that reconciliation to an enemy must
be a more difficult exercise of goodness than showing kindness to a friend —
that he who could forbear his holy resentments against us, while we were yet
in a posture towards him of stout and open rebellion, would not be likely to
o. 2,771. 4 z
visit the effects of his indignation upon us, now that the quarrel is made up.
" ow," says the apostle, in the passage before us, " the first, the great, the
aboriginal difficulty of our moral position, that of reconciling the offended
Father of our spirits to his disloyal, disaffected offspring, has been overcome,
overcome by the death of Christ. Is the life of Christ — that is, his after life
in heaven — sufficient for overcoming the other and obviously lesser difficulty,
that of maintaining this state of reconciled feeling, and of assuring to the
human objects of it such a continued place in the Divine regards as that they
should not fail of salvation ?" And his answer is, that upon the most obvious
view we can take of the past and present condition of believers it is sufficient.
"For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of
his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."
Desiring as far as may be in these lectures to keep in harmony with the
course of our Christian year, I take up a subject which brings before us some
of the results of the Saviour's ascension into heaven. We have seen what we
owe to his death — what we owe to his resurrection. Wherein does faith or
hope find anything more to build upon, by contemplating him as living for
ever in heaven ? Much every way, argues the apostle ; and he supports his
argument by three contrasted propositions, which we shall now proceed to
consider. First, that if the love of God towards us was so great, whilst we
were in a condition of enmity, much more may we calculate upon that love
now that we are brought into a stale of reconciliation. Secondly, that if the
death of Christ, even with all the mysterious accompaniments of his humilia-
tion, availed to procure such benefits for us, how much more will he be able
to accomplish for us by all the powers of his lisen and ascended life ? And
thirdly, if there were such a putting forth of infinite resources, to secure the
initial step of our reconciliation, how much more likely is it that such re-
sources should be employed to make this friendship with God complete by
our full and final salvation ?
Our first contrast, you will observe, has respect to two moral conditions, in
one of which we have stood, and in the other of which we are assumed to
stand, towards the righteous Governor of the universe. And the question to
which the apostle takes it for granted one answer alone can be given is — In
which slate might we most reasonably calculate upon ihe Divine forbearance —
in the slate when we were enemies, or in ihe slate when we are friends? Here,
as you obseive, the whole stress of the argument is laid upon the fact of there
having been an originating act of kindness on the part of God, whilst there
was nothing on our part but deep and unalleviated provocation. The apostle's
previous reasoning had been gradually working up to this point. One person
dying to save another, he had been arguing — why, it is one of those feats of
moral chivalry one does not often hear of; still, for a friend, for one of rare
excellence of character, such a thing might be. " Peradventure for a good
man some would even dare to die." Does the case, then, apply to us? o;
for herein most strikingly hath " God commended his love toward us, in that,
while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." "While we were yet sin-
ners." This it is which gives to the compassions of Deity their untold and
mysterious glory. Tliiiik how strong musi have been the moving principle of
tlie Divine mind, how inextinguishable the love for our race, to select as the
moment for doing us good the time when our hatred was at its bitterest, and
our alienation was at its deepest — when there was not a single heart among us
desiring to return to its cast-off allegiance, but when the whole human creation
was exalting itself against the reign of God. Had the world thrown down
its weapons of disobedience, had there been found among its multitudinous
population any sign of a contrite and relenting spirit — had there gone up to
heaven any consentaneous look, or sigh, or prayer for forgiveness — we had not
wondered to see the ever-anticipative mercy of our God hastening eagerly to
meet us, glad of a reason for staying the execution of vengeance, and rejoicing
at the occasion for which he had from all eternity been waiting — waiting to be
gracious. But here it seems as if the restless compassions of the Most High
could wait no longer. Instead of saying, " I will open a way of reconciliation
for men as soon as they become righteous," his language was, " I will com-
mend ray love towards them while they are yet sinners — while they are yet
without strength to be anything but sinners, under a moral impossibility to
desist from the aggravations of their unholy warfare, and in all the unsub-
dued enmities of their fallen nature, yet taking up arms against heaven.
Oh!" argues the apostle, "if God has tlius forced himself, as it were, to
forgive, if against such insuperable moral obstacles as man's rooted antipathies
seem to present, a highway of reconciliation has been thrown up — how honour-
ing, how acceptable, how pleasing must it be to him to see us enter the door
which himself had opened ; and how much more will he do for us now, as
friends, than he could have done for us in the day when he was obliged to
regard us as foes!"
But this view presents the argument of the apostle only in its federal or
collective aspect, and therefore identifies the completed act of reconciliation
with the completed sacrifice of the cross. God declared himself to be well
pleased with that propitiation, and promised to regard as friends and loyal
subjects all who should thenceforth make use of it as their plea of acceptance
at his throne. Hence that which answers to the time of our personal recon-
ciliation, is when by the power of faith we have appropriated an interest in
Christ's sacrifice, when the grace of God has broken the neck of our ancient
enmity, when imaginations have been cast down, and self-exalting thoughts
have been brought low, and there has been a bringing into captivity to the
obedience of Christ of all the desires of the flesh and of the mind. And yet
here too does the argument of the apostle apply, just as much as when taken
in its collective sense; for all the original suppositions made in that argu-
ment, namely, the fact of a confirmed moral enmity on the part of the subject,
and of overtures to reconciliation beginning absolutely and entirely with the
Sovereign, are the same in both cases — in the case of the world at large,
before the method of propitiation had been laid open, and in the case of the
individual sinner, before an interest in this propitiation has been secured. If,
brethren, there have ever been a time in your past life when the doctrines of
the cross were an offence to yuu, when the preaching of them was foolishness,
and the listening to them was wearisome — when from their spirituality and
heart searching closeness you were glad to put them away — if there have ever
been a time when the world was your all, its custom your law, its approval
your ambition, success in its pursuits and objects your highest recompence of
reward — a time when your heart was unvisited with any serious impressions,
when of devotion you knew nothing but the form, and of eternity nothing but
the name — is not the supposition rightly made of you, that at that time ye
were enemies? And if so, is not the further supposition rightly made, that
if you are now reconciled to God, and if you have laid believingly hold on
the death of his Son, and if from being afar off, you are now brought nigh by
the blood of Christ, all the originating steps towards bringing you into this
new state were taken by God himself — that in so far as any effectual effort
towards your own salvation, you were, as the apostle calls it, "without
strength." Perhaps it was a sickness that first woke up your spiritual alarm ;
but who made an angel of the sickness ? Or perhaps it was a bereavement
vviiich first reminded you of a future meeting with God; but what gave to
your dead a voice? Hundreds at your side have been sick, and hundreds
have gone to weep at a brother's grave, and they remain enemies still, nothing
weaned by their affliction from their worldly dependencies, nothing moved by
providential terrors to sepk the face of God, but continuing in that condition
described by the prophet — " Thou hast stricken them, but they have not
grieved ; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correc-
tion ; they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to
return." Hence it is plain that with God, and with God alone, originated all
the advances towards a reconciliation. He had a favour to you, whilst you
were yet at enmity with him ; keeping close by you through all your years of
thankless indifference, and working out for you behind a cloud all his designs
of grace and peace.
ow, in this showing, on the supposition that God did so much for you in
your days of forgetfulness, in your days of blind unconcern, ay, perhaps in your
days of open provocation and resistance of his Spirit, how unlikely it is that
he should leave you to yourself now? With what assurance may you calcu-
late upon the succours of heaven being extended in aid of the consumma-
tion of its own work ? God saw you, when it was with you as it was once
with the apostle himself — when your face was set against the truth, when you
were taking a bold stand on your own moral merits, when you were kicking
madly against the pricks of a struggling and an accusing conscience, and his
heart was kind towards you even then. How, think you, he will regard you
now, when through the effectual power of his own grace he sees you trembling,
and weeping, and humbled in soul, and emptied of all your own righteousness —
when he has to witness concerning you to the rejoicing assemblies of heaven —
•' Behold he prayelh !" — when he hears you crying out to him whom your
ims have pierced, " Lord, what wilt thou have me to do ?" Oh, brethren, if
we have truly become reconciled to God by the death of his Son, how should
there be found now room for our timid and weak misgivings? Shall he show
pity to the stranger, and pass by the child ? Shall he draw the avowed traitor
to his heart, and yet spurn the submissive subject from his throne ? Shall he
follow the prodigal into a far country, weeping, making him unhappy that he
may wish to return, inclining his will that he may resolve to return, inspiring
him with confidence that he may begin to return ; and yet when he has
returned meet him with an angered and forbiding frown ? ay, verily, he who
mourned for the lost will rejoice over the found ; he who watched over the
dead will keep him that is alive again. Enemies we were when he reconciled
us to himself by the death of his Son ; how much more, therefore, being
reconciled, shall we be saved by his life ?
II. But we pass on to the second form of contrasted proposition contained
in the text, and which, as I have said, is based upon the assumption that,
however strong be the warrant for our confidence, as standing in the death of
Christ, our assurance should advance immeasurably higher, when we are con-
templating the results of his risen and ascended life. This argument is one
which evidently presented itself to the apostle's mind as having peculiar
force. We have him working it out at greater length in a passage recently
brought under your notice.* " Who is he that condemneth 1" he asks ; and
then, replying to his own question, he continues, " It is Christ that died, yea
rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also
maketh intercession for us." Here it is first assumed that our justification
is rendered more sure and permanent by Christ's risen life. From whence
can the sentence of condemnation proceed ? Why, only from that throne to
which he who died for us is exalted. He appears there with the cancelled
bond in his hand; he exhibits it against anything that could be advanced by
the great accuser of the brethren, before the angels and those who watch
jealously over the righteous equities of heaven, proclaiming the illimitable
virtues of his sacrifice, and making a show of them openly.
Then next it is assumed that our sanctification is promoted by this risen life-
Christ is " even now at the right hand of God," it is said. For what end is
he there, if it be not that he may " appear in the presence of God for us" —
that he may be the " head over all things to his church" — that he may put
forth in our behalf all the attributes of his re-assumed Divinity, and that he
may pour out the gifts of his Spirit, to sanctify those whom his blood has
been shed to save? We lose sight of the more glorious part of Christ's
work, when we limit it to the procuring of a bestowment of pardon. His aim
was, that there should be no guilt attaching to the person of the sinner,
See Uoldea Lectures, Second Series, o. 15, Peuuy Fulpit, o. -',737.
whereby to provoke the justice of God, and then that there should be no
defilement on the soul of the sinner which should offend his holiness. "This
is the will of God, even our sanctification." Christ gave himself for his
church, " that he might sanctify and cleanse it, that he might present it to
himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but
that it should be holy and without blemish,"
And then, once more, there is assumed to be an added security in the restored
life of Christ from the fact of bis permanent intercession for us, as a merciful
and faithful High Priest, touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and yet
having all power and might to secure the eternal redemption of his people.
Christ left the weaknesses of his nature here on earth ; but his pitying nature
lie has carried with him to the throne. ow, as ever, he deals gently with the
broken reed, and fans with all kind encouragement the decays of the expiring
flax. The difference between his earthly and his heavenly mediation is only
in the exertion of that which, while he was upon earth, was a laid down or
suspended power, in the removal of those hindrances which it was a part of
the covenant he should not interfere with until the hour of Satan and the
power of darkness were past, and Jesus, in the strength of his risen might,
should tread down both his own and his people's foes.
Here, then, is the second point in the apostle's argument. If Clirtst by his
death were able to accomplish for you so great benefits, if when there lay upon
him all the limitations of our nature, with its infirmities, and pains, and sor-
rows — if when there was darkness upon his spirit, and a horrible dread before
his imagination, and a sense of abandonment entering like the very iron into
his soul — if at the very moment when he had to task the energies of a lofty
resolution, to do battle with his fainlings and a begun despair — if then, I say,
he could meditate for you, and satisfy for you, and overcome death for you,
and set you free from the dominion of an ancient curse, think what he can do
for you now that God hath very highly exalted him — now that all power is
given unto him in heaven and earth — now that he hath ** a name which is
above every name," and a throne which is above every throne, and a right
wliich is above every right, to deliver, and protect, and save. Surely as the
humiliation to the glory, as the manger to the mansion, as the crown of thorns to
the mediatorial diadem, as the pallid form which lay in Joseph's grave to that
sacred and bright effulgence in the presence of which angels bow, so are the
benefits procured for us by the death of Christ, when compared with those
which are derived to us from his restored and risen life.
And then, brethren, observe the argument the apostle seems to raise, in the
next place, springing out of his other contrasts: on the certainty that he who
at such a mighty cost had set on foot the means to reconcile God would
never spare anything further that niiglit be necessary, in order that whom he
fcad reconcile*] them lie slioul J also save. " For if, when we were enertiies, we
were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled,
we shall be saved by his life." The argument is strong, because, as you per-
ceive, it brings to the suppwrt of our gospel confidence l^»e guarantee of the
Divine unchangeabloness. The apostle assumes that to be reconciled is not
the same thing as to be saved. Reconciliation takes off the condemnation
from the person, but it imparts no element of sanctity to the character; it
arrests God in his further pursuit of us as an enemy, but it cortfers bo right on
us to be received back by him as a friend. It allows an Absalom to be
fetched from his exile; but there must be further intercession yet, before he
can behold a father's fttce. But then herein comes the strength of the
apostle's aigament. It was in obtaining for us this initial step towards our
salvation that the eternal Son of God incurred all his untold and unimaginable
suffering: and the question is, whether, novv that the agony, and the toil, and
the conflict, are over — now that he has nothing to do but to give effect to
the results of his own work — now that he can save by a look and convert by a
word and sanctify by a breath, he will abandon his own mighty under-
taking, and close eternally the entrance which he had laid down his life to
open. "o," argues the apostle ; " this were impossible." Dearly as Christ
had set his heart on man to deliver him, there might have been a going back,
a repented purpose once, as when the cup was bitter, and the rtevilings were
loud, and the wrath lay heavy, and the face of God was not seen. But that
there should be any failure in the subsequent stages — that the blood and
tears of the Infinite should be permitted to run to waste, that the heart
which on earth never tired of prayer for us should now in heaven grow weary
of pardoning us — this may not be ; for while to complete the work of re-
demption is far more easy than to begin, and to reconcile the enemy much
harder than to save the friend, we have seen the more difficult part wrought
out by the crucified humanity of Jesus, whilst we have the pledged faithfulness
of his eternal power and Godhead to work out that which is easy. Thus
proof arises on proof; the confidence of believers ascends to something higher
than demonstration. The argument from what a Saviour on the cross has
done to what a Saviour on the throne can and will do is a thing not to be
reasoned upon, but to be felt. God showed his love by justifying us, while
we were yet sinners: "much more, being justified, we shall be saved from
wrath through him.''
The whole subject may be taken as exhibiting the beautiful symmetry of the
gospel system, the perfect harmony and completeness which run through all
the facts of our redemption. The mediation of Christ contemplated a twofold
object, namely, to reconcile God to us and to reconcile us to God. The
enmity must be destroyed on both sides : man must be made as willing to
desire the gift as God was willing to bestow the gift. If a satisfied law he
needful, to meet tlie moral demands of righteousness, a changed nature is
needful, to abolish the whole body of sin. And this twofold benefit is
alluded to in the 16th verse. " For when we were yet without strength Christ
died for the ungodly." Here we have not only the nature of Christ's pro-
pitiation declared, as covering all claims, cancelling all debts, atoning for all
transgressions, fulfilling all righteousness, but we have also set forth the help-
less condition of those who were to be partakers of those benefits. They are
described as " without strength," without power to lay hold upon the pro-
vided remedy. Had Christ on earth set forth the propitiation, and not in
heaven set on foot the agencies for making it effectual, our moral condition
had been as helpless as before. It would have been like proclaiming heaven's
pardons to the deaf, or like putting a sick and helpless soul by the side of a
life-giving and troubled pool, when there was no hand to guide him to the
waters; but Christ in heaven both stirs the water and helps the helpless^
provides the plea and gives the power of utterance — speaks to the ear and the
heart, and inclines the heart to obey. Thus every view of Christ's work goes
to confirm his own Divine saying in reference to the next fact of redemp-
tion we shall have to consider, when he said, " It is expedient for you that
I go away ;" for even the reconciled would become enemies again, were it
not for the Holy Ghost the Comforter. Old sins would live again, vanquished
foes would rise up again ; grace would languish and hope would die, if we
could not think of, and have confidence in Christ's abiding and continuous
work, saying — " For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God
by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by
his life."

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