" And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. LUKE xxiv. 50-52. THE Gospel according to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are the two books of one continuous history, by the same author. The first book contains the per sonal, ministry of our Lord ; and the second gives sketches of the great mission work conducted by the apostles, un der the ministry of the Spirit, after their Head had with drawn from their view. The ascension of the Lord Je sus is the point of contact between the two books; and,

The Ascension. 29 as is natural in such cases, they overlap each other a little there. From the end of the Gospel we gather some features of the ascension which are not repeated in the Acts. There we learn in succession how the as cending Lord regarded his disciples, and how the dis ciples regarded the ascending Lord. I. How the Lord regarded his disciples when he was in the act of leaving them. Look unto Jesus at the moment of his departure. If we acquaint ourselves with him as he goes away, we shall be prepared to welcome him when he returns. As he has gone, so will he come again; with this differ ence, that at his second coming every eye shall see

him. 1. The place: " He led them out as far as to Beth any." It was the village on the further side of Olivet, where Lazarus and his sisters dwelt. The heart of the man Christ Jesus was not indifferent to the associations connected with the spot. There he had often rested when he was weary. There he had proclaimed and proved himself the Resurrection and the Life. Perhaps it was at Bethany that the eleven could best bear to let him go out of their sight. " He that believeth on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." There hu man love clothed itself with omnipotence, and recalled a brother from the grave. If the disciples, in their weak ness, could anywhere endure to look the last time in this world on their Lord, it was on the spot where their friend Lazarus was loosed and let go. Places have power on human hearts. He who knows our frame acknowledges this principle, and uses it. Some spots of this dull Earth are consecrated by bright, blessed memories, which, when occasionally revived, refresh a weary soul. Do not be superstitiously subject to places ; but, on the other hand, beware of despising them; for though they cannot save, they may serve. "All things are yours." 2. The parting act: "He lifted up his hands, and blessed them." Those hands were never lifted up to smite; those lips blessed, and cursed not. Let those who bear his name strive to follow his steps. Let our hands, our lips, be like his. Jesus is the revelation of God is God revealed. Not by his words only, but

3<D The Church in tJie House. also by his life, he showed us the Father. Off that blessed life we may read while we run the legend, " God is love."

Bear in mind that Christ is God s visit to the world. From first to last that visit was love. His appearing was gentle as a summer s dawn. He was born a babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. Such was the step by which a holy God approached our world when it rebelled against him. Angels sang the advent as peace on earth and good-will to men. The key-note struck at his birth was maintained throughout his history; and you catch its cadence in his dying agony, when he prayed, " Father, forgive them." In the moment of his ascension you recog nize still the Lamb of God: " He lifted up his hands, and blessed them." In the last glimpse we get of Jesus, as he leaves the world, he appears lifting up his hands to bless. He disappears in the act of giving; Mary, on the con trary, disappears from our view in the act of receiving. He, at his departure, as becomes the Saviour of sin ners, gives to the needy out of his own fulness; she at her departure, as becomes a sinner saved, is opening her mouth wide, that she may receive from her Re deemer s grace. He lifts up his hands to bless; she bends her knees to pray (Acts i. 14). Even so; for there is but one Mediator between God and man. 3. His departure. He went to heaven as he came to earth for his people s good. " It is expedient for you that I go away." We need an advocate with the Father; and we have one, Jesus Christ the righteous. We need an anchor of the soul while we are exposed on the stormy sea; and we have one, for our Forerun ner has, on our account, gone before us within the veil. But though lie went out of their sight, he did not go far from them. He has left the promise, " Lo, I am , with you alway." Leaning on his arm, they look for his appearing.

II. How the disciples regarded their ascending Lord. I. " They worshipped him." This is a great word. This is a great step in the path of those who followed Christ, and the print of it is full of meaning for us to-

The Ascension. 31 day. It is worship: it is the homage of a human heart, which is due to God alone. " See thou do it not," is the angel s stern command, as soon as a man proposes by mistake to offer worship to any created being. Man is made for worshipping. This is shown by the two facts: that he has been made, and that he has been made so great. The beasts that perish have, like him, been formed by the Creator s hand; but they have not the faculties necessary for recognizing their Maker. We, as much as they, are the work of God s hand, but, unlike them, we possess intelligence to ob serve and own the hand that made us. By the double fact that we are high enough to know God, and not high enough to be God, we are constrained to worship. Man is constitutionally a religious being. In his heart there lies a capacity for worship, and a tendency to exercise it. But while there is something allied to an instinct within us prompting to worship, a darkened mind and a defiled conscience continually turn the stream aside from its proper channel and pollute all its volume. It is human to worship; but no human being since the Fall, when left to himself, worships aright. Error, which apart from Revelation and the minis try of the Spirit is universal, parts practically into two, and flows in diverging channels. Worship is directed either to the true God, and in that case is dead; or to an idol, and in that case it can afford to have a species

of life. Man finds it easy to offer ardent worship to a creature, but impossible, without the intervention of a Mediator, to give real worship to the living God. Hence idolatry is frequently earnest; while the worship of Jehovah, apart from the knowledge of him in Christ, is a form. The gulf was bridged for man bythe incarnation of the Son of God. Here men worship a Man, and yet there is no idolatry. In Emmanuel a human heart may dissolve in Divine homage to a brother of our own flesh and blood, and yet not be defiled by spirit ual unchasteness. Here man worships a Man, and yet preserves purity of spirit. Only in Christ can he find an object whom he can worship without fear, and yet worship without sin. God has bowed his heavens and

32 The Church in the come down. He has taken hold of our nature: we, when we feel his touch, awake and worship worship him that touched us, and yet worship only God. 2. "They returned to Jerusalem." This was a great point gained. The master did not miscalculate the strength of the love to himself which he had kindled in the breasts of those poor men. It was difficult for them to take the first step. It required the ministry of angels to tear them from the spot. " Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven ? " (Acts i. II.) Ah, ye angels that excel in strength, something that ye know not of rivets these men to the spot. These ministering spirits asking the disci ples why they stood gazing after the risen Lord, are like persons who never knew a mother s joys or sor rows expressing surprise to see a mother melting away with grief when her babe is dead. He took not on him the nature of angels; but in the own nature of

these Galileans the Lord of Glory had kept them com pany, and won their hearts and redeemed their souls. Therefore they stood and gazed toward heaven at the spot where he ascended. Their spiritual life hitherto had depended on the presence of the Lord, as an infant s life depends di rectly on its mother. They were children, and at that moment children weaned. The branches seemed brok en from the tree, and they thought they must droop and die. But he who made them new creatures had so constituted their spiritual life that it could survive the weaning and grow stronger thereby. " Greater things than these shall ye do, because I go to my Father." His departure was necessary for their devel opment into the stature of perfect men. They were not disobedient to the heavenly vision. They did not, on the one hand, continue gazing from the mountain up to heaven, in a fervent but unpracti cal devotion; neither, on the other hand, did they re turn to Galilee to their farms and their fishings. They did not demand the return of their Lord, neither did they desert his cause when they were deprived of his presence. They returned to Jerusalem. This simple act, in their circumstances, proved two things: first, their firm conviction that the promised Spirit would

The Ascension. 33 come; and second, their settled determination to ac cept the task of converting the world. They came into the city to wait for the Spirit; but they waited for the Spirit in order that they might go forth in his power to win the nations to Christ. There was much in this act. When those poor and afflicted men went back to the city where their Master s

blood had been shed, it was at the risk of spilling also their own. If they had not been sustained by a super human courage, Jerusalem would have been the last place to which they should have turned their steps. It was the power of their unseen Lord that nerved their hearts, as they made their way down the western slopes of the mountain and entered Jerusalem as the followers of Jesus the crucified Nazarene. 3. They returned with great joy. What have we here? Great joy! How comes this? As well might you ex pect a flame to burst from yonder altar after the piled wood has been soaked and the ditch round its base tilled with water. But a fire from heaven, at Elijah s cry, made the dripping fuel burn; and light from the love of God kindled these men s hearts and made their faces shine in spite of the sea of troubles that surrounded them. They had witnessed the rage of the Jews against their Master, and they had been distinctly warned that a sim ilar persecution would overtake those who should dare to witness to his name and cause. In Jerusalem no comfort awaited them. Among its multitudes they had no friends except a few timid men, who dared not face the danger; and a few faithful women, who were weeping themselves away in some obscure hiding-places. Jeru salem contained the Roman governor and his soldiers; the Sanhedrim and the mob; the multitude that heaved and stormed like the sea, until its cruel appetite was appeased by the blood of Jesus. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, there was nothing in thee to make these men of Galilee glad when they returned from Bethany without their Lord. They are not permitted to enter rest with their Lord, but they are sent to work for him; and this made them glad. They worshipped him; and now they go from worship down to work: from the work they will, in due

34 The Church in the House. time, return again to worship. Thus, between these two, the pendulum of their life will vibrate, until its last hour strike; and then the laborer, at a bound, will enter his eternal rest. Thus, a Christian who lives up to his privilege leads a sort of charmed life. Nothing can come wrong. To depart is to be with Christ ; to remain is to work/^r Christ : and both are joyful. 1. 68 FREE BOOKS 2. ALL WRITINGS

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