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Let the reader inquire whether he be a believer in the doctrine of Divine inspiration to the extent in which our church maintains it. If not, he is a dissenter in principle from the church. And surely a dissenter from her principles is as much a dissenter as one who dissents from her discipline and worship.
This important doctrine was generally held by the members of our church till the time of Archbishop Laud. Under the protectorate of Cromwell, enthusiasm, in the vicious sense of the word, reared its hydra-head, and produced the most dreadful consequences both to church and state. After the restoration, a desire of diverging as far as possible from the spirit of enthusiasm produced a general silence on this essential point in Divinity, and ultimately a contempt of it. It is now not unfrequently exploded.* But there can be no genuine Christianity without a belief and experience of it. It is the life and soul of the Christian system. And it is a well known maxim, that no argument can be raised against the legitimate use of any thing from the abuse which has been made of it, or to which it is liable.
Is the reader a practical believer in the neces. sity of Divine influence? Doth he feel his personal need of a participation thereof? Doth this conviction produce earnest prayer to God, “ that by His holy inspiration he may think “those things that be good, and by His mer“ ciful guiding may perform the same, through
* See Knox's Christian Philosophy, and especially sect. iii.“ On the prejudices against all Divine and supernatural “ influence on the mind of man.” In this treatise the reader will find a body of evidence from English Divines, antient and modern, on the subject of Divine influence,
« our Lord Jesus Christ?" If not, let him remember, that “no man can say that Jesus is “ the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost;" and that “ if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he “ ją pone of His."
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens ; so we may also in heart and mind ascend thither, and with Him continually dwell, who liveth and reigneth, with thee and the Holy Ghosta one God, world without end. Amen.
N the course of this long continued festival
of Pentecost, (which occupied the whole space of fifty days between Easter and Whitsuntide) we are to take more special notice of one particular day, before we come to Whitsunday: that is, of the feast of our Saviour's ascension, or assumption into heaven. The observation of this festival was so antient, that St. Augustin could derive its original from no other fountain, but either apostolical institution, or the general agreement of the church in some plenary council : for those things, says he, which are received and observed over all the world, not as written in Scripture, but as handed down to us by tradition, we conceive to have been either instituted by the Apostles themselves, or some numerous councils whose authority is of very great use in the church. Such are the anniversary solemnities of our Saviour's passion and resurrection and ascension into heaven, and the coming of the Holy Ghost from heaven. It is certain therefore the feast of ascension was generally observed all over the church
before St. Augustin's time.” This feast was
sometimes called Episozomene. Why it was so called is not very easy to conjecture. Perhaps it might be, because, by our Saviour's assumption into heaven again, the whole economy of His incarnation and the world's redemption was now completed, as the author of the constitutions words it. And Chrysostom, much after the same manner, says. On this day that antient enmity was destroyed, and that long war ended; on this day an admirable and unexpected peace was restored to us. After God in His anger had destroyed man and beast from off the earth by an universal deluge, we that were unworthy of the earth, were this day exalted to heaven; we that were not worthy to reign below, were advanced to a kingdom above; we ascended above the hea.vens, and took possession of a royal throne; and that nature of ours, against which the cherubims were set to guard paradise, was this day set above the cherubims. He means that Christ, as the first fruits of our nature in perfection, was exalted into heaven; and all His members in some measure now partake of that glory, and hope in due time to meet Him in the clouds, and to be translated to the same place whither their forerunner is gone before them. This is the best account I can give at present of the name Episozomene, and the application of it to the celebrated festival of our Saviour's ascension or assumption into heaven, I need not stand now to inquire into the manner of its observation. For being in the midst of Pentecost it certainly had all the solemnity that belonged to that festival, and never passed without a proper discourse to excite men to elevate their souls, and ascend with Christ in heart and mind to heaven, in hopes of obtaining it as their
proper mansion both for body and soul hereafter to all eternity."*
Having followed our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ through the successive scenes of His humiliation from the manger to the cross; and having, as it were, seen Him rise triumphantly from the grave; we are now called to contemplate His glorious ascension into heaven. In the presence of chosen witnesses who might afterwards attest the fact, He went up from mount Olivet towards heaven till a cloud received Him out of their sight, that He might take possession of His mediatorial throne.
The collect for Ascension-day consists of an introduction and a prayer. The introduction recites the important fact which we profess to believe. And in the prayer which is founded thereon, we implore grace that we may be enabled to imitate the example which that fact furnishes.
The fact which we now celebrate may be stated in a few words. Our Lord Jesus Christ, after that He had finished the work which was given Hm to do, having by His incarnation, sufferings, and death upon the cross fulfilled the duties and sustained the penalties of the moral law, and accomplished all the types of the ceremonial law-having verified all the prophecies which had been written concerning Him, and made a complete atonement for sin ; after that He had risen triumphantly from the dead, and conversed with His apostles, the future administrators of His kingdom, for forty days, and given them sufficient instruction and authority, returned in triumph to heaven from whence He came. In the human nature,
* Bingham's Antiquities of the Christian Church, wpl. ii