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Nor are they the former Ages only which have committed such prodigious Mistakes; even in our own Age we have no less eminent Instances of unaccountable Corruption of Understanding in some Men, which because they are ordinary and common we cease to wonder at; but in truth had the Ancients by Revelation foreseen them, they would have no less admired the Folly of subsequent Ages, than we now do the Errors of precedent Times.
To name only one now among many ; Who could have then believed, that in the latter Times of the World there should exist a large Society of Men, who should pretend to eat their God, to devour his Body ten thousand times, and yet retain it whole; to divide it into as many Parts, every one of which should be equal to the Whole; and infinite other like Absurdities? And yet this we know the Papists do.
Upon the whole, it ought not to be concluded, that because such a Perverseness of Will or Corruption of Judgment cannot be well conceived by us, or seems incredible to us, judging according to the Nature of the Things themselves; that therefore it is imposfible Mankind should be ever guilty of them, For it doth appear, that there is no Error fo grofs, no Miscarriage so enormous, which Man may not commit. And that if the Jews had seen and handled the Body of Christ after his Resurrection, it is more than possible,
that they who had rejected so many antecedent Proofs, would have been insensible of this also; but it is most certain, that they were not worthy, to whom such a Favour should be granted.
It remains, that I speak to the Third and Last Consideration, That notwithstanding our Lord youchsafed not to the Unbelieving World, the visible Presence of his Body after his Resurrection; yet that he hath by other Methods offered to Mankind sufficient Arguments of reasonable Conviction of the Truth of it. This was absolutely necessary, not only in relation of the rest of the World, who had not seen his precedent Miracles; but also in regard of his Undertaking to the Unbelieving Jews, whom demanding a Sign from him, he had referred to his Resurrection from the Dead after three Days continuance in the Grave. And this he hath effe&ually performed by the Testimony of unexceptionable Witnesses, his Apostles and other Disciples ; who as they were well afsured of the Truth of it themselves, so they were fitted and enabled to testify it to the World, beyond all Contradiction.
They had feen and familiarly conversed with their Lord after his Resurrection, handled his Body, clearly perceived that a rational Soul was united to it, and the Divinity to both, as before his Resurrection. They were afterwards enabled to testify this to all Nations ofthe World by the Gift ofTongues ;
and to do it successfully by the Power of working Miracles, not only conferred
upon themselves, but
upon whomsoever they laid their Hands for that Purpose. They confirmed the Truth of their Testimony by voluntary laying down their Lives, by undergoing all the Hardships of Life; the Persecution of the Jews, and the Contradiction of Heathen Philosophers; all which none can be supposed to have been done, without an inward Conviction of the Truth of what they preached. And if they were indeed so convinced, it is impossible that in forming their Judgment of it they should have been mistaken. Or if it can be imagined, that any should be so vain-glorious, as to forego the Pleasures of Life, and suffer a Death in defence of what they knew to be false, yet are we not in this Case permitted to believe it, by reason of the many and wonderful Miracles wrought by them, by the various Operations of the Holy Ghost working in them, and communicated by them; by which God himself gave a concurrent Testimony to the Resurrection of Christ preached by them, and set to his Seal, that what they taught and affirmed was true. But of this Head, I need add no more, having more largely treated of it in my Discourse upon Easter-Day, which I will not repeat.
S E R
Preach'd on the ist of June, 1690.
at Lambeth Chapel.
M A R K xvi. 19.
So then, after the Lord had spoken un.
to them, he was received up into Heaven, and sat on the right Hand of God,
E lately celebrated the Memory of
the Ascension of our Lord; and the Offices of our Church direct us to employ our Thoughts upon it, in this intermediate Time between that and Whitsunday. To do this, we are not only induced by that near Relation which it bears to Christ, who by it took his last Farewel of his Disciples, and entred upon
the Possession of his Kingdom; but also by those eminent Benefits, which the whole Church received from it,
the Gift of the Holy Ghost, the Confirmation of Faith, and the Increase of Hope.
In discoursing of it, I will confine my self to these Three Considerations,
1. The Necessity and Convenience of the Ascension of Christ.
II. The Truth if it.
III. The Advantages and Benefits which we receive by it:
I. That it was necessary our Lord should leave the Earth, and ascend into Heaven, himself often declared, and in John xvi. 7. gives the primary Reason of it. Neverthe. less I tell you the Truth; it is convenient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. The Mission of the Comforter, that is, the Holy Ghost, was absolutely necessary, and the Necessity of it confessed by the Disciples of Christ; yet could not this be effected, until Christ should ascend into Heaven. It was convenient for the Apostles that the Comforter fhould be sent, as by whom they received a most invincible Confirmation of their Faith and their Hopes.
What greater Consolation can be imagined to Disciples afflicted for the Departure of their beloved Lord, than to receive such an infallible Assurance of his being placed in Power and Glory in Heaven, as did arise