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CHRIST'S ASCENSION TO GLORY.
Heb. i. 3. Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.
A REVELATION of God, by whatever means or instrument it may be communicated, demands our solemn attention. But Christianity requires the highest possible degree of reverence, because the Messenger, by whom it was promulgated, as far surpassed all other instruments in excellence, as the truths delivered by him are of deeper and more mysterious import. It is in this view that the Apostle introduces this sublime description of Christ; in which we may notice,
I. The dignity of his person—
We cannot conceive any expressions more grand than these which are here applied to Christ, and which set forth,
1. His essential dignity
[The Father is the fountain, and the archetype of all perfection. Of him Jesus is a perfect copy. As the impression on the wax corresponds with all the marks and lineaments of the seal, so is Jesus "the express image" of the Father in every particular, insomuch that "he who hath seen him hath
seen the Father." But the Father is, in himself, invisible to mortal eyes; it is in Christ only that he is seen: account Christ is called "the image of the invisible God "." And as all the glory of the sun is seen in the bright effulgence of its rays, so is all the glory of the Godhead seen in the face of Jesus Christ".]
2. His official dignity
[It was Jesus who made the worlds: and he it is who upholds them by the same "powerful word" that first spake them into existence. By him all things maintain their proper courses, and the order first assigned them. Nor is there any thing that happens either in the kingdom of providence or of grace, which does not proceed from his will, or tend to his glory. There is nothing so small but it occupies his attention, nothing so great but it is under his controul. Every thing that is good owes its existence to his immediate agency, and every thing that is evil, to his righteous permission.]
Intimately connected with this is,
II. The diversity of his ministrations—
As in the Church there are "diversities of administrations and of operations" under Christ, who is the author of them, so in the work of Christ himself there is a diversity of ministrations.
1. He "purged our sins" by his blood on earth—
[Sin needed an atonement, and such an atonement as no created being could offer. Jesus therefore, the Creator himself, undertook to make an atonement for us, and such an one as should satisfy divine justice on our behalf, and put honour on that law which we had violated. For this end he assumed that nature which had sinned, and endured the curse due to our iniquities. When he had only to create or to uphold the universe, his word was sufficient: but when he came to redeem the world, nothing would suffice but his own precious blood. Other priests offered the blood of bulls and of goats as typical expiations but, to make a true and proper atonement, Jesus was forced to offer up "himself." His prayers and tears were insufficient if he would purge away our sins, he must do it "by himself," by "pouring out his soul unto death."
This is what Jesus undertook to do; nor did he ever draw back till he could say, "It is finished."]
a John xiv. 9.
c Col. i. 15.
e ver. 2. and John i. 3.
8 Matt. x. 29, 30.
b 1 Tim. i. 17. and vi. 16.
d Col. ii. 9. 2 Cor. iv. 6.
f Col. i. 17.
h 1 Cor. xii. 4-6.
He ascended to complete his work in heaven
[The high-priest, after offering the sacrifice, entered within the vail, to present it there. Thus Jesus "passed into the heavens," the place where he was to finish his ministrations. In the presence of all his disciples he ascended thither, giving thereby a decisive evidence that nothing further remained for him to do on earth. But a further evidence of this arises from the posture in which he ministers in heaven. The priests under the law stood, because they needed to repeat the same sacrifices continually: but Jesus having offered one sacrifice once for all, "sat down at the right hand" of God, the place of supreme dignity and power. From this we infer the perfection of his sacrifice on earth; and are assured, that whatever remains to be done by him within the vail, is transacted in an authoritative manner, all power being given to him to save to the uttermost " them that trust in him.]
We may LEARN from hence,
1. The security of those who believe in Christ
[Who is it that interests himself for them? "Jehovah's Fellow." Who bought them with his blood? The God of heaven and earth'. Who has undertaken to keep them? He that "upholdeth all things by his wordm." Who is continually engaged in completing their salvation? He that is constituted Head over all things for this very purpose". What then have they to fear either from their past guilt, or their present weakness? Let them only be strong in faith, and none shall ever pluck them out of his hand."]
2. The danger of those who are yet in unbelief—
[In proportion to the dignity of this adorable Saviour must be the guilt of rejecting him. This is frequently insisted on in this epistle P. Let us lay it to heart. To neglect this Jesus is such a mixture of folly and ingratitude, of impiety and rebellion, as involves in it the highest degree of criminality, and subjects us to the heaviest condemnation. Let those who are guilty of this neglect remember that "the enemies of Jesus shall all become his footstool:" and let them kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and they perish without a remedy.]
i Heb. x. 11, 12.
1 Acts xx. 28.
n Eph. i. 22, 23.
P Heb. ii. 3, 4. and x. 28, 29.
Ps. ii. 6, 9, 10, 12.
k Zech. xiii. 7.
m Col. i. 17, 18
• John x. 28.
9 Deut. xviii. 18, 19.
Heb. i. 6. When he bringeth in the First-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.
IF God had been pleased to try our faith, he might have required us to believe whatsoever he should reveal, even though he should mention it but once: but, in condescension to our weakness, he has given us a great variety of testimonies to confirm every fundamental doctrine of our holy religion. The doctrine of the divinity of Christ is as important as any in the whole Bible: and it stands, not on one or two doubtful passages of Scripture, but on the plainest, and almost numberless declarations of the inspired writers. In the passage before us the Apostle is shewing the infinite superiority of Jesus above the highest orders of created beings; and he adduces a whole series, as it were, of testimonies in proof of this point. The one which we have now read is taken from the 97th Psalm, and confessedly relates to Jesus".
In discoursing upon it we are led to observe,
I. That Christ is a proper object of divine worship— The command contained in the text is itself decisive upon the point—
[God is a jealous God, and claims divine worship as his unalienable prerogative; yet he at the same time requires it to be given to his Son. Would he do this, if his Son were not worthy of that high honour? Would he, contrary to his express declaration, give his glory to another? We are assured he would not; and therefore his Son must be a proper object of our supreme regard.]
The practice of the Christian Church confirms it beyond a doubt—
a It speaks of Christ's kingdom, ver. 1; and the duty of angels, here called gods, to worship him, ver. 7.
[Stephen, when he was full of the Holy Ghost, and his face shone like that of an angel, at the very instant that he saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, addressed himself, not to the Father, but to Jesus; and that too in terms precisely similar to those in which Jesus in his dying hour had addressed the Father. Can we wish for any plainer example? The Apostle Paul, under the buffetings of Satan, applied to Jesus for relief, and was expressly answered, as he himself tells us, by Jesus; in consequence of which answer he from that time "gloried in his infirmities, that the power of CHRIST might rest upon him." The whole Church of God, not only at Corinth, but "in all other places," are described and characterized by this very thing, the worshipping of Christ'. But the Church triumphant no less than the Church militant are incessantly presenting before him their humble and grateful adorations.
Surely if worship be not to be paid to Christ, the Scriptures are not calculated to instruct, but to deceive and ensnare us.] Nor must it be forgotten, that to worship Christ is the highest act of obedience to the Father
[It is the Father who enjoins it in the text; and that, not to men only, but to angels also: "He has committed all judgment to his Son for this very purpose, that all men may honour the Son even as they honour the Father";" he even swears that all, at the peril of their souls, shall bow to Jesus'; and, so far from thinking himself dishonoured by it, he expressly requires it, in order that he himself may be more abundantly glorified.]
The text leads us further to observe respecting Christ,
II. That his incarnation affords a special call to all both in heaven and earth to worship him
"The bringing in of the First-begotten into the world," may comprehend the whole period of his reign under the Gospel dispensation; in which case the command to worship him is general: but if we confine the expression to the time of his incarnation, the command to worship him will be a special call, arising from the circumstance of his incarnation, and founded on it. To elucidate it in this latter view we may observe that,
d Compare Acts vii. 59, 60. with Luke xxiii. 34, 46.
g Rev. vii. 9, 10.
i Rom. xiv. 10, 11. k Phil. ii. 10, 11.