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Author of grace, his malice was exerted against grace itself in the hearts of the disciples.
No future trial could equal this one. Christ's followers were not at ease in Zion; but deeply shared in her affliction. Now, that Christ was exalted at the right hand of God, they could say, as in Ps. xlvi. 2–6, “ Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the sea, though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God; the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God shall help her, and that right early.” The greatest hardships to which they were afterward reduced they met with fortitude, and bore with patience, and were not dismayed at death itself in its most formidable aspect. They sang in prisons, took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, and praised under the greatest tortures !
3. They were assured that in a very little they would be with him. He had told them before that he went to prepare a place for them, and that he would come again, and receive them unto himself, that where he was there they might be also. What he did at parting was preparing them for that place; and his ascension secured theirs. Firm faith and certain knowledge of their being ever with him, and sharers of his glory, could not fail to comfort their hearts. Meanwhile, he was not unmindful of them in their present situation. Though absent as to his bodily presence, he engaged to be graciously and spi
ritually with them. He promised to supply their wants, and manage all their concerns; subdue their enemies, and never leave them until he had done all that for them which his word taught them to expect. To complete their comfort, he assured them that his ear would be open to the voice of their supplications, his eye upon them in every situation, and his arm would be stretched forth for their relief. He would deliver them in six troubles; yea, in seven “no evil should touch them.”—They had another full source of strong consolation in Bethany, as they obtained,
4. An assurance of Christ's coming again in power and great glory. Never was sorrow or shame equal to Christ's. “He endured the cross, despising the shame." His disciples lately saw, with sorrow, their Master hung up naked, exposed to the multitude, and treated with the greatest cruelty, ignominy, and infamy. Could they at that time have been fully persuaded, that these very persons should have seen him with honour and glory equal to his ignominy, how would their hearts have rejoiced! They did not leave Bethany till they were certain that he would come again into the world in a glorious manner, and that “every eye should see him, and they also which pierced him.” The angels, by divine appointment, for their comfort, announced that glorious event, “and while they looked steadfastly towards heaven, as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, in like manner as ye have seen him go inte
heaven." It was no wonder that, after such comfortable news, “they returned to Jerusalem with great joy."
Christ's second and glorious coming is a joyful event to all the saints. They ardently prayed for it, crying “ even so, come, Lord Jesus !" They show forth his death till he come again; and, when grace is in exercise, they have an eye to it in their whole conduct, “looking for, and hastening unto, the coming of the day of God,” and “ seeing that they look for such things, they are diligent, that they may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless.” Many reasons concur to make his second
appearance matter of joy to his people :-It will be greatly for the honour of Christ himself; he will come in his own and his Father's glory, attended by angels, and admired in them that believe: Israel will be redeemed from all his troubles : Christ's enemies will be made his footstool: death and hell shall be cast into the lake: in his human nature he. shall judge the quick and dead: his kingdom, as to its present mode, will be delivered up to his Father, and God will be all in all, and rejoice in all his works together.We now go on to make some application, and
1. This subject informs us, that in every dark and trying dispensation, the Christian should wait upon the Lord. He brings light out of darkness, and order out of confusion: he makes crooked things straight: these things he will do for his people, and not forsake them. It was truly a dark and trying dispensation to the disciples, when Christ was on the cross and in the
grave; but at Bethany, the Lord made darkness light. There he discovered his design, and satisfied them that “what did not seem joyous to them a little before, now yielded the peaceable fruits of righteousness."
.” Though the Christian should be in the worst situation, and all God's waves and billows pass over him; when admitted to the mount of communion, and favoured with nearness to God, he gets such views of the divine procedure with him, as always lead him to submission, often to satisfaction and contentment; and sometimes to glory in tribulation. If such are the happy effects of partial manifestation here, how will the light of glory discover the propriety of all God's ways with his people, and make them say, “ He hath done all things well!” Therefore, they should wait upon him, for “ at evening time it shall be light."
2. We may also learn the vast happiness of all who have been admitted to intimate fellowship with Christ, and have received the blessing. We justly account the blessing which the disciples enjoyed at Bethany very great. Laying aside some circumstances, the happiness of the Lord's people, when his face shines upon them in duties, may greatly correspond to, and nearly equal, that of the disciples. They saw him ascend ; every believer knows that he is entered into glory. They got the blessing; and this honour have all the saints. They had intimate fellowship; so has the believer, when the Lord shines upon his soul and intimates that he is pacified. They were ravished with the thoughts of their Master's kindness; so is every saint, when admitted to
much nearness, and says, “ Is this the manner of man, O Lord !” The disciples looked up with wishful eye, desiring to follow; the believer in his happy frame, by the eye of faith looks within the vail, and says with Job, “ I loathe it; I would not live always,” and with Paul, “I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” In short, except witnessing the ascension of Christ, there was little valuable at Bethany, but what may be had in all places where the Lord blesses his people.
3. This subject sets the greatest encouragement before all gospel hearers, whether they be saints or sinners. It is not for nought, that we are told that Christ went away in the act of blessing. It is left on record to encourage us to make application to him: we may be assured, that he is as much disposed to bestow the blessing now as when he ascended. If any waters could have quenched his love, it would have been extinguished before he ascended. We have many proofs that there is no change in his love since he entered into glory. There was none a few days after, when he poured out the Spirit. Stephen found none, when he saw Christ ready to receive his soul. He appeared equally amiable and ready to bless, when he spake to Saul of Tarsus, and bestowed the blessing on him, though a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious. John, too, in Patmos, found him equally concerned about his church and people, as when he leaned on his bosom at supper, or when Christ was parted from the disciples at Bethany. Every saint should apply for every blessing which he needs, firmly persuaded that he is willing to bestow.