RPM, Volume 18, Number 14, March 27 to April 2, 2016

Sermons on John 17

Sermon XIV

By Thomas Manton

"And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are." John 17:11

Hitherto Christ had argued with the Father, and showed many reasons why he would pray for the disciples. Now he cometh from arguments to requests. Here the prayer itself beginneth. His first request is, that God would have a care of them when he was gone from them; as a father, when he is about to die, commendeth his children to the care and tutelage of a near friend; so doth Christ commend his disciples to God: "And now I am no more in the world," &c.

The circumstances notable in the verse are these:

1. The occasion of the prayer, wherein there is a new cause and reason why he commendeth them to the Father, "And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee!

2. The compellation of the party to whom the prayer is made, "Holy Father." Titles are suited to requests: "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing," (Rom. 15:13). The matter of the prayer, for perseverance in grace, "Keep through thine own name."

4. The parties prayed for, "Those which thou hast given me;" an argument often urged before.

5. The end of the prayer, or of the blessing asked in prayer, "That they may be one;" which is amplified by the exemplary pattern, "as we are one." Or rather, the whole is a new request; two matters are prayed for�"conservation from evil, and perfection in good. Christ prayed for conservationem a malo, et perfectionem in bono.

In this verse there is a large field of matter. Let me explain the words, and then, raise some practical observations.

First, I begin with the occasion.

"I am no more in the world;" that is, by and by I shall be no more. Christ was yet in the world; for he saith, "These things I speak in the world," (v. 13); still subject to the miseries of it; his passion was not over, his sorest combat was at last, and that was nigh at hand; but Christ went to it with such a resolved mind, that he seemed already to be exempted from a worldly condition. But how "no more in the world," since he saith, "I am with you to the end of the world?" He is spiritually still with us, but he was about to withdraw his cor­poral presence.

"But these are in the world." �"I am almost on shore, but these are still to remain at sea, floating upon the waves; out of the duty of their of calling, they are to stay behind, and must expect tempests, labors, dangers, and persecutions, infirmities within, and temptations without. The world is a step-mother to the saints; Christ pitieth their case that they are to stay in the world, as those that are in the haven pity their fellows that are left behind at sea in the midst of the storm.

"And I come unto thee." �"An explication of what he said before, "I am no more in the world;" only it addeth something more. "I am no more in the world," implieth only his death; but "I come to thee," his ascension. It is expressed before: "I go my way to him that sent me: I go to the Father," (John 16:5,10). I am about to enter into the glory of the Father. It doth not signify, as Lyranus would have it, I come to thee in prayer, by way of address and supplication; but, I come to be with thee in glory. Mark, there was a great deal of time yet to pass, forty days after the resurrection. Faith presents things future as present; in this sense we enter heaven before our time.

In this clause, the occasion, I observe three things:�"

1. Christ's ascension, Father, I come to thee.

2. The necessary ceasing of his corporal presence by virtue of that ascension, I am no more in the world.

3. Christ's care to make up that defect to his people; it is the occa­sion of the present address to God.

Of these in their order.

First, Of Christ's ascension, "I come to thee." Here is �"(1.) The history; (2.) The reasons; (3.) The benefits; (4.) The use that we may make of it.

1. The history of Christ's ascension. There are many circumstances; I shall touch upon them briefly.

[1.] The time when he had finished his work, not only of doing and suffering, but giving sufficient instructions to the apostles about his kingdom: "He was seen of them forty days, speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God," (Acts 1:3). As Hezekiah was to "set his house in order before he died," (Isa. 38:1), so Christ would not ascend into heaven till he had set all at rights upon earth. Christ would have his house well governed after his death, and therefore stayeth forty days to give instructions.

[2.] The place from whence he ascended; from the Mount of Olives, (Acts 1:12). A mount, a high and eminent place, to ascertain them of the truth of his ascension; he did not withdraw himself secretly, as at other times, but in open view. The place is yet again notable: the Mount of Olives was the place from whence he went to be crucified; the same mountain yielded him a passage to his cross and his crown; there his pains and torments began, in the garden of that mount, and thence he ascended. How often doth the Lord make that place that hath been the scene of our sorrows to be the first steps to our rising and advancement! Wherever the saints die, they have their Olivet, in the prison, on the scaffold, their sick beds, where they have been racked with tormenting pains. As sometimes with wicked men, the place of sin is the place of vengeance. So Ahab's dogs licked up his blood in the same place where he shed the blood of Naboth.

[3] The place to which, the third heaven. The tabernacle figured the church, the temple heaven. In the temple were three partitions; the court, where was the altar of burnt-offerings; the holy place, where was the table, candlestick, shew-bread, and the altar of burnt­ incense; then the holy of holies, where the high priest came once a year. So in that vast space which the scriptures call heaven, there are, as it were, three storey's�"the etherial heaven, the starry heaven, and the heaven of heavens; into this Christ, as our high priest, is entered. There was not only a change of his presence, but a transla­tion of his body into the high and holy place.

[4.] The witnesses, the eleven apostles; these were his choice wit­nesses, not the whole company of believers.

[5.] Another circumstance was his last action a little before his ascension: "He blessed his disciples," (Luke 24:50); nay, it is added again, to put the greater emphasis upon it, "And while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven," (v. 51) It is the fashion of good men to die blessing; Jacob and Moses, when they were to take their leaves of the world, they blessed the tribes. Christ, before he would go, would first leave his blessing; nay, the last act with which he would close up his life was an act of blessing, to show that now the curse was removed, and he was going to heaven to convey the blessing to all the heirs of salvation: "Unto you first, God having raised up his son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities," (Acts 3:26); as God blessed Adam and Eve, when his work was done.

[6.] The manner: "When he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight," (Acts 1:9). The cloud answered to God's appearance in the taber­nacle. When we look on the clouds, this was Christ's chariot; he will come again in like manner.

[7.] In his ascension he went to heaven as a conqueror, he triumphed over his enemies, and gave gifts to his friends: "When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men," (Eph. 4:8). As glorious conquerors lead their chief enemies fettered in iron chains. So, "Having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it," (Col. 2:15). There is some difficulty about the exposition of that place; those seem too literally to interpret it that think there was some open pomp and show. The Papists say he went to the limbos patrum, and took Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and other holy men of the Old Testament, along with him in triumph to heaven; but then he should have taken the devils. Zanchy thinks there was some real visible triumph, visible not to all, but to God, angels, and men, leading the devils through the air. Still it seemeth too gross, and to be asserted without warrant. But this must be interpreted suitably to the other acts of his office; this triumph must be referred to his ascension. Christ fought for heaven, and struck the last stroke on the cross, seized on the spoil at his resurrection, led them in triumph at his ascension, and by his quiet sitting on the throne his subjects enjoy the benefit.

[8.] Christ's entertainment by the angels. Some were left to com­fort the apostles: "While they looked steadfastly towards heaven, two men stood by in white apparel," (Acts 1:10). These two men were two angels in the shape of men. When the husband is to go a long journey, he writeth to the wife from the next stage, whilst her grief is fresh and running, and giveth an account of his welfare. Christ despatcheth two messengers out of his glorious train, which message being done, they accompany him with other angels into heaven: "I saw one like the Son of man, with the clouds of heaven, and they brought him near before him," (Dan. 7:13). They, that is, the angels; the Son of man, that is, Christ, as appeareth by the next verse, they wait upon him; and guard him into the presence of God. Certainly if the angels came so cheerfully to proclaim his incarnation when born, what triumph is there by that blessed company in heaven at his ascension! Still the angels are in Christ's company; when he cometh to judgment, the angels shall come with him. Christ coming into the presence of the Father, is royally attended; his entrance into heaven is glorious, with glorious applauses and acclamations: "Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the king of glory shall come in," (Ps. 24:11); viz., at the coming of his humanity; so Justin Martyr, Basil, Euthymius. But clearly there is an allusion to the bringing the ark into the place prepared by David for it; a figure of Christ's entrance into heaven. They applaud him as mighty in battle, as newly returned from the spoils of his enemies. The entrance of a victorious and triumphant captain is there described, and so it is proper to Christ. Once more, the blessed saints have the like applause. Isaiah describes it, "Who is this that, cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine­ fat? I have trodden the wine-press alone, and of the people there was none with me," (Isa. 63:1-3), &c. There is a dialogue, as before, to express the saints' acclamations to Christ; the church is brought in there wonder­ing at Christ's glorious triumph over all his enemies, as returning victorious from some bloody fight, like a great commander in goodly rich robes, besprinkled with the blood of his enemies.

[9.] The last thing is his welcome from God: "I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance," (Ps. 2: 8), &c.; "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool," (Ps. 110:1; compared with Matt. 22:44). In the day of his in­auguration God will say, Welcome, Son; sit at my right hand; all the kingdoms of the earth are thine. Christ doth not only enter as a conqueror, but in a favorite; Son, thy work is well done; sit at my right hand; that is God's first word to him; and then, Ask what thou wilt, it is thine. It is a fashion among great princes, when they would show great affection or extraordinary liking to any, they bid them ask what they would; as Herod to Herodias's daughter: "When Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod: whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask," (Matt. 14:6,7). And Ahasuerus to Esther "What wilt thou, queen Esther, and what is thy request? it shall be even given thee, to the half of the kingdom," (Esther 5:3).

2. The reasons why Christ would not have gone, if it had not been expedient: "Nevertheless, I tell you the truth, it is ex­pedient for you that I go away," (John 16:7). A woman had rather have her husband live at home than go to the Indies, but when she considereth that it is to do her good, to enrich the family by traffic, she yieldeth her consent, it is a profitable voyage. So it is expedient that Christ should go to heaven. In the infancy of the church Christ was present as a nurse, but he would not have them always hang on the teat. The reasons of Christ's ascension are these:�"

[1.] He is gone that we may look upon him as in a greater capacity to do us good. All weakness is now removed from him, his human nature glorified, and placed in heaven, his majesty restored; we may now reflect upon the glory of his person with comfort; he is now a king on the throne, a king in his palace, and a place of royal residence. David was king as soon as anointed by Samuel, but when he was crowned in Hebron then did he actually administer the kingdom. Christ had his followers in the days of his flesh, as David had his four hundred companions in the desert. The thief owned Christ upon the cross, and Christ tells him, "This day shalt thou be with me in para­dise," (Luke 23:43). What may we not expect from Christ now in heaven! Every office is royally exercised; as a prophet he sendeth out his Spirit; as a king, he ruineth his adversaries; as a priest, he intercedeth with God.

[2.] To prepare a place for us: "I go to prepare a place for you," (John 14:2). It is good to consider how Christ prepareth heaven for us by his ascension. It was prepared before the world began, by the decree of God the Father: "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit a kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world," (Matt. 25:34). This was an inheritance intended for the heirs of promise; by a free choice he designed the persons, and their particular portion and degree of glory. But because we are to hold heaven, not only by gift, but by purchase, Christ came from heaven to prepare it, and went to heaven again to prepare; yet further to open the door that was before shut up; as our head, he went to seize upon it in our right; as our legal head, he possesseth heaven in our names; as a guardian taketh up lands for the heir, Christ holdeth heaven in our right; till we be ready for it, he keepeth possession. And as our mystical head and author of grace, he dispenseth the Spirit, and maketh us fit for that place, making intercession for us, that our sins be no impediment. He is called our forerunner: "Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec," (Heb. 6:20). His going is to make way for us; as our harbinger, to take up rooms and lodgings for us. As the captain of our salvation, he hath taken up quarters for himself and all his company: "It became him for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of our salvation perfect through sufferings," (Heb. 2:10). Christ hath opened heaven's door that was shut up; there was a guard, set upon paradise, but Christ hath removed it. He is gone to fit all things for our entertainment, as Joseph was sent into Egypt to prepare for Jacob. Die when we will, our place is ready; there is nothing to keep us out. The church is tossed with waves, but Christ is gone ashore, and hath secured for us a landing-place; and his ascension is a pledge of ours, as he rose as the firstfruits of them that slept. It is the meritorious, exemplary, efficient cause of our ascension.

[3.] To represent his satisfaction. The Levitical priest was to enter­ into the sanctuary with blood, so doth Christ into heaven, to show that he had done his work. The apostle hath an expression which needeth, opening: "If he were on earth, he should not be a priest," (Heb. 8:4). What is the meaning? Was not Christ a priest when he was on, earth? I answer�"Yes. Why then doth the apostle say that "if he were on earth he should not be a priest?" that is, he could not dis­charge the whole office of the priesthood; for the high priest once a, year carried the sacrifice through the court before the sanctuary, and there killed it, and there took the blood thereof into the holiest of all, and presented himself before the Lord to intercede for the people: so Christ carried his sacrifice out of the city, offered it up to God, and then entered into the heavenly sanctuary, where he liveth forever to intercede for us, and his blood always runneth fresh; and therefore, if he were on earth he could not discharge the whole office of a priest. So, "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us," (Heb. 9:24). As the high priest entered on the behalf of the people, with the names of the twelve tribes on his breast and shoulders, so Christ is entered on the behalf of us all, bearing the memorial of every saint on his heart. Mark, the apostle with, "Now to appear," not only once. The high priest stayed not within the sanctuary, but Christ is our constant lieger [a resident ambassador] in heaven, all the time from his ascension unto this day, constantly, still, while it is called nom

[4.] To pour out the Spirit; "The Holy Ghost was not yet given, for Christ was not yet glorified," (John 7:39). When the husband is wanting, then he sendeth tokens; so when Christ is glorified, then he giveth out the Spirit; as Elijah, when he ascended, let fall his mantle. Proper acts have their proper fruits. Christ in earth established our right, and in heaven he puts us in actual possession; the purchase was by Christ's exinanition [humiliation], the application by his advancement. It was not meet Christ should use a royal act till his advancement, and till he went to the Father; he ascended then, that his blood might not be spilt in vain, but that he might be in a capacity to execute his own testament; unless Christ had ascended, we needed not this supply.

3. The fruits and benefits of his ascension.

[1.] It is a sign God hath received satisfaction. His resurrection was a pledge of it, then our surety was let out of prison, the Lord sent an angel to remove the stone; not to supply any power in Christ, but as a judge when the law is satisfied, sendeth an officer to open the prison doors with power and authority: "The God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus," (Heb. 13:20). Christ was not to break prison. While the surety lieth in prison, the debtor can have no discharge. But now Christ's ascension gives a further degree of assurance. Christ is not only taken out of prison, but taken up to God with glory and honor. God hath taken up our surety to himself, and rewarded him. Christ hath perfectly done his work, or else he had never been taken out of the grave, much less taken up to God. God is well pleased with him; he hath not only a discharge, but a reward. Christ is said not only to ascend, but to be received into glory, (1 Tim. 3:16), anebh, anelhfqh, an active, and a passive word; the one noteth the power of his godhead, the other noteth the grant of the Father. Christ took upon him the quality of our surety, and he must pay every farthing ere he can go to his Father. It is a sufficient pledge: "Of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye see me no more," (John 16:10). Thus there was an everlasting righteousness established; he was never to see God's face more if he had not perfectly done his work: "Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you," (Gen. 43:5). He is God's favorite.

[2.] It is a pledge of our ascension: "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man that is in heaven," (John 3:13). Ascendit solos, sed non totes. Head and members must be together; our head being there before, the members must follow after. Christ speaketh as if he were not content with his own heaven without us: "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," (v. 24). Christ took our flesh to heaven, and left his Spirit, which is an earnest of our glory: "He hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit," (2 Cor. 5:5). God never taketh anything from his children, but he sendeth them a better thing in the room of it.

[3.] We have an intercessor at God's right hand, a favorite in the court of heaven: "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, even Jesus Christ the righteous," 1 (John 2:1); as when offenders have a favorite in court. We need a mediator in heaven; he is gone to disannul all Satan's accusation. The sacrificing part is done and ended, and his intercession now taketh place. We have these two great advantages in prayer�"Christ is our advocate, and the Spirit our notary.

Use 1. Information.

1. It informeth us of the privileges of God's children. When a child of God dieth, he doth but go to his Father. Christ and we have the same relation: "I ascend unto my Father and your Father, to my God and your God," (John 20:17). He is no more in the world, but still he is. He doth not say, "I am no more," but "I am no more in the world;" they do not leave life, but the world. As Christ was the Son of God by nature, they are the sons of God by grace, and when they die, they go to their heavenly Father, to a sweet rest, to the bosom of God. The same entertainment Christ had, we shall have, a joyful entertainment, a sweet welcome when we come to heaven, and the conduct of angels thither: "The beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom," (Luke 16:22). God will take us as it were by the hand, with a "Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord," (Matt. 25:21).

2. It informeth us that all that Christ did was for a believer's use and comfort; if he cometh into the world, it is to merit; if he ascendeth into heaven, it is to apply. He descended from heaven for the redemp­tion of man; after that work is accomplished, he ascendeth thither again to bestow it on us; and at the last day he will come again and fetch his bride; as when all things are ready, the heir cometh in per­son to fetch the bride into his father's house. Going, coming, staying, still Christ is ours. He was born for us, he lived for us, he rose again and ascended for us: it is for our good that he went away; whatever he did, in his abasement and exaltation, it was for our good.

3. It informeth us that the greatest comforts may be supplied, Christ's corporal presence by the presence of the Spirit: "That as our sufferings in Christ Jesus have abounded so our conso­lation also hath abounded through Christ," (2 Cor. 1:5). They should lose nothing by his departure: "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you for ever," (John 14:16). He would not leave them orphans. We cannot be made unhappy by the want of any outward comfort; we have the more of God, the less we have of these outward helps. If the corporal presence of Christ can be recompensed by the presence of the Spirit, certainly lesser sup­ports of life will be recompensed.

Use 2. Exhortation.

1. To all sorts of persons to get an interest in Christ, and to clear it up to their souls, How sweet would it be if when we are no more to be in this world, we could say, "Holy Father, I come to thee!" We all affect this, "Let my latter end be like his," as Balaam spake. An evidence of this is, if you ascend with Christ: "He hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus," (Eph. 2:6). Head and heart ought to be together. Your head is in heaven; if your heart be there too, you are members of his mystical body. How shall a man know that he is ascended with Christ?�"

[l.] If the things of the world seem small; as when we are in a high place, men seem as ants. Worldly glory will appear to be small, and worldly profits small. But when we are upon earth, heavenly things seem small, as stars appear but as spangles.

[2.] If you behave yourselves to him as to a glorified person. Do you serve him? "If any man serve me, let him follow me, and where I am, there shall my servant be. If any man serve me, him will my Father honour," (John 12:26). Carnal men crucify him again.

[3.] If you keep yourselves "unspotted from the world," (Jam. 1:26). No unclean thing shall enter into heaven. The world is a de­filing thing; that filth that cleaveth to our fingers in telling of money is an emblem of the filthiness of the world. A man that looketh to be like Christ in glory certainly would not defile himself in the world. If a prince marry a mean woman, would he endure to see her live like a scullion [kitchen servant]? Christ hath married our nature. A man that loveth the world, and would always live here, is like a scullion that lieth among the pots. Would you yourselves hug nastiness, and embrace the dunghill?

2. To press God's children to be holy and heavenly in their minds, to wean their affections from the world. We should be where Christ is: "Our conversation is in heaven, whence we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ," (Phil. 3:20); "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God," (Col. 3:1). Who would not desire to be in heaven now Christ is there? As the loadstone draws iron to it, let us be pre­sent in heaven, as Christ is present on the earth by the Spirit. Though our bodies are tied with the fetters of the flesh, yet let our souls ascend, let our minds be there, our wishes, our desires there; by these means we walk in heaven before our time. A stone, though it breaks to pieces by the fall, will move to its centre; though we naturally abhor death, we should desire it to be with Christ. It is a shame that a stone should be carried with greater force to its centre than we to Christ.

Use 3. Comfort. We have Christ for us in the heavens: "Seeing therefore that we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God," (Heb. 4:14). We have Christ always for us in heaven; he hath a part of his office to perform there. His absence doth not hinder us from having a right to him, or a spiritual posses­sion of him. He is ours, and he hath his residence in heaven, and hath power to open it to us and give us entrance. His high honor doth not hinder him from the discharge of his office to do us good. He is at God's right hand, and yet "a minister of the sanctuary." Christ hath a ministry, and part of his service to perform in heaven; is our faithful agent: "We have such a high priest who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary," (Heb. 8:1,2). For all his glory, Christ is called a minister of holy things; he taketh care of all holy things which we present to God, and to con­vey holy and spiritual things to us. Christ is not stately: many for­get their poor friends when advanced; Christ regardeth his poor church as much as ever. The butler, when he was advanced, forgot Joseph: but he remembereth us; he disdaineth not to look after every poor Christian: "We have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities," (Heb. 4:15). His heart is not changed by his honor, but he in a greater capacity to do us good. Having such a friend in heaven, we need not fear a foe upon earth. Heaven is open for us: "Having bold­ness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and liv­ing way which he hath consecrated for us, through the vail, that is to say, his flesh," (Heb. 10:19,20).

Use 4. Direction in the sacrament. If we have anything to do with Christ, we know where to seek him: "Blessed are they that believe, and have not seen," (John 20:19). Those that are far from court never saw the king. God hath removed Christ out of sight that we might behold him by faith. Let us look for him in the sacrament, not for his bodily presence. How can he be there bodily, when he is received into glory? But for his spiritual presence, the influences of his grace, and a derivation of virtue from his person.

Secondly. The next point is the necessary ceasing of his corporal presence upon his ascension: "I am no more in the world, but these are in the world." Let us see the reason why he will be no more with us. Now the reasons why Christ would withdraw his bodily presence from us are these: �"

1. That he might try the world, and yet in a way suitable to his glorious estate. Christ, when he came to try the Jews, he came in disguise, not as the Son of God, in majesty and glory: "He came unto his own, and his own received him not," (John 1:11). Still to try men's obedience there must be some veil. If he should be present in the world, in a glorious way becoming his majesty and empire, there would be no trial; and therefore in a manner he still cometh in dis­guise, his glory is veiled under the ministry of men, and carried on in a spiritual manner. If he should appear in glory and power, sinners durst not quack, and so the wickedness of man would not be discovered, nor would the faith of his people be exercised with such praise and honor if he were personally and gloriously present. This is the commendation and praise of Christianity, that they can "walk by faith" when they cannot "walk by sight," "We walk by faith, not by sight," (2 Cor. 5:7). They see not Christ, because he is absent in body; yet they believe in him, and love him, and send their hearts after him. So, "Whom having not seen ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory," (1 Pet. 1:8). Faith is eagle-eyed, and can look above the clouds. The absence of Christ did not prejudice their comfort and hope. Faith contenteth itself with an intellectual sight and certainty. This is a trial of Christians, when they can believe in Christ, and re­joice in Christ as if they did see him with their bodily eyes, and hear him with their bodily ears. They fasten their hearts upon him, though they cannot fasten their eyes. Faith is sight enough. Thus would Christ try the world; but yet, as I said, in a way suitable to his glorious estate. If he should still have continued his body among us in that state of weakness wherein he conversed in the world, his holy body would still be subject to abuse, and the injuries and scorn of wicked men, which would not agree with his glorification; and therefore, after his resur­rection, he only showed his body to some few chosen witnesses, and so departed into heaven, that it might be no more seen, till he cometh to the last judgment with glory and power. So Christ himself saith, "Ye shall not see me henceforth till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord," (Matt. 23:39); that is, till ye be compelled to say so, though now ye are angry at the children that welcomed me in this manner: "Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven," (Matt. 26:64). Never till then, after I am taken down from the cross and buried.

2. That way might be made for his spiritual presence. Some presence of Christ there must be for our comfort and safety: "I will not leave you comfortless, but will come unto you," (John 14:18). That Christ is still spiritually present with the church is clear by those promises to the apostles and to believers. To the apostles and their successors: "I am with you always, to the end of the world," (Matt. 28:20). Into whatsoever place and time of the world our lot is cast, we may have an assurance of Christ's presence, that is, of his assistance and blessing, as much as if he were actually and corporally present with us. To ministers: now if they improve their interest, they might have Christ in their company, as the apostles had; they are taken into the same patent and charter. So also to all believers, "Wherever two or three are met together in my name, I am present in the midst of them," (Matt. 18: 20). Whenever we are met together in any religious work and business, Christ's gracious presence is with us; in this sense he will never depart from believers. Now this gracious presence was not vouchsafed till his corporal presence was removed. Partly because Christ will do nothing unnecessarily. When he was personally present, to solve their doubts, to instruct them in all cases, the Spirit was not poured out in such abundance; as it is usual still with God to make up to us in spiritual supplies what we want in outward helps. Partly because his disciples had carnal thoughts of his bodily presence, and rested in it, which was to be confuted by his absence. Partly to make way for his unlimited universal influence; his bodily presence could only be in some places; but now he is ascended, "he filleth all things," (Eph. 4:10). As the sun, if it should come down and shine on one particular field, it could not diffuse its beams far and near; but now it is fixed in the firmament, nothing is hidden from its light. So Christ exalted, scattereth his beams and influences everywhere, into all parts and corners of the world. Partly because it was meet that Christ should enter into his glory and king­dom, before he declared his efficacy to men by the more plentiful pouring out the Spirit; as princes use at their coronation to give gifts and send abroad ambassadors. So when Christ was in his royal palace, "he gave gifts unto men, and he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers," (Eph. 4:8-11).

Use 1. For confutation of the Lutherans, who, to establish their doctrine of consubstantiation, make Christ's ascension to be, not a local remove, but only a change of the manner of his presence; they say he is still corporally present, but not visibly; as if the human nature of Christ were made invisibly omnipresent, and not locally removed and carried into heaven. This is a doctrine contrary to scriptures; for it is expressly said, that "he was taken up into heaven," (Acts 1:11). And by virtue of this taking up he is no more in the world, no more in the earth, nor in any place thereof; for it is said, "That the heavens must contain him till the time of the restitution of all things," (Acts 3:21); there is his personal presence fixed. And therefore "if any say, Lo here, or, Lo there, believe him not." It is flatly contradictory to scripture that Christ should be corporally present on earth till he cometh to judgment; and it is contrary to the truth of Christ's body; though it be glorified, it is not deified; a body cannot be omnipresent and without quantity, for then it is no more a body. And it is a doctrine barren, and of no use; the presence of Christ's body is not so absolutely necessary to the comfort of a Christian: "It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing," (John 6:63). Nearness or distance of place doth not help or hinder his presence with us or efficacy upon us. The degree of his gracious operation doth not depend upon the degree of his personal presence; as if Christ were like the sun, shining more or less hot according to the difference of his posture and situation. Christ doth not work like a natural agent, by contact, but according to his free pleasure, and the wise dispensation of his own will; and our communion with him is wholly spiritual and mystical, not gross and carnal: "The flesh profiteth nothing." Yea, it is against our comfort. Christ hath business to do for us in heaven, and it is our advantage that he is no more in the world. If he were not in heaven, he were not a priest: "If he were on earth, he could not be a priest," (Heb. 8:4). And, again, we had need of a priest "who is made higher than the heavens," (Heb. 7:26); that is, that is ascended into the third heaven, "those holy places not made with hands, now to appear in the presence of God for us," (Heb. 9:24). But to leave this.

Use 2. To press Christians to look for the spiritual presence of Christ, though they do not enjoy his bodily. You may make use of Christ, now he is in heaven, as the disciples did on earth, to ask him questions, to seek his counsel, to commend your prayers and persons to God. It is no disadvantage to faith that Christ is removed out of sight, but only an occasion given whereby it may discover itself with more praise. Therefore let us believe in Christ, though we see him not; we shall one day see him in the heavens to our comfort, and to the terror of the wicked; in the meantime, let faith serve instead of vision. It will be your commendation, "whom having not seen, ye love," (1 Pet. 1:8). God hath removed Christ out of sight, to make way for the exercise of faith and love; and it is much better by faith to converse with him in heaven, than by sight to see him upon earth: "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet believe," (John 20:29). Thomas would make his senses the judge; he must feel the wounds, and put his finger in the print of the nails, and thrust his hand into his side; which discovered the weakness of his faith. Faith is not grounded on sense, but testimony. Be not discouraged, though you never saw him in the flesh, you shall one day see him in heaven; though you could not hear his gracious words, yet you have whispers and counsels from his Spirit. You saw him not hanging on the cross, yet "he is crucified before your eyes," (Gal. 3:1). In the word and sacraments he is notably and plainly laid forth to faith. The gospel is a magical glass, as it were, wherein God will have the soul look, that we may see our absent friend; there are the very postures of Christ. Therefore let us make use of our present advantages; you may expect as powerful influences from him as if present in person; as the sun doth not come down from heaven, but only his influence. There is a derivation of virtue from his person; yea, Christ is not like the sun; the farther absent from us in body, the more powerful is his influence: "When he ascended up on high, be filled all things," (Eph. 4:10). Briefly then if you: have anything to do with Christ, you know where to seek him. Those that live far from court, never saw their king, yet they enjoy the benefit of his government, and are bound to allegiance. Christ is as meek, as gentle, as easy to be entreated as ever.

Use 3. For the conviction of them that please themselves in fond wishes and excuses; they think that if they had lived in the days of Christ's flesh, and had heard his words, full of grace and wisdom, it could not have been but they should have believed in him; they would never have crucified him, as the carnal Jews, and never have rejected his person and doctrine. Thus they bind the efficacy and virtue of Christ to his corporal presence; as if it would have been a greater advantage to them than his spiritual. A great deceit of the heart! This plea proceedeth upon a false supposal, as if Christ's virtue depended upon the nearness and distance of place. If there be any difference, now in heaven he is most apt to work, because he is entered upon his royalty, and the actual exercise of his kingdom. The apostles themselves, when they had Christ's presence, were more gross, dull, and carnal; but afterwards they savored nothing but heaven and life eternal. And again, it is usual for men to dislike present dispen­sations, and betray their duties by their wishes. Alas! if Christ were now present in the form of a servant, what sorry entertainment would most give him! We think we should not have done what the Jews did; in probability we would have done worse: you grieve his Spirit as much as they did affront his person; the malice of the Jews was more gross, but ours is as inexcusable. Besides, there is a natural reverence that even hypocrites will bear to their godly ancestors: "Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets: Dead things and persons do not exasperate and cross present interests; the prophets, that lived in their ancestors," (Matt. 23:29,30); days, were out of sight, no eyesore to present practices, their speeches were not personally directed to them. The worst men usually honor the dead, but are injurious to the living. As much as we detest the memory of Annas and Caiphas, so do they of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. The name of Judas is not more odious to us than Ahab to them; therefore our detestation of the Jews, or longing for the person of Christ, is no argument of great devotion to him.

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