Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive. Thou haste received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.
This is Christ the Prophet here speaketh to. That He it is, the Apostle is our warrant, Ephesians the fourth chapter, and eighth verse. There he applies it to Christ: 'Thou art gone up,' saith the Prophet here, in the second person; 'He is gone up,' saith the Apostle there of Him in the third.
To Christ then, and to Christ 'gone up,' or 'ascended;' and therefore 'ascended,' they be the last words of this verse, 'that God might dwell among us.' Which cannot be applied to Christ Himself in person, for then He was not to go 'up on high' from us, but to stay here still below with us. Therefore God here is God the Holy Ghost, Who this day came down after Christ was 'gone up,' to be not only among us, but even 'in us,' saith our Saviour; 'To be in us and abide with us for ever.' So the text begins with the ascending of Christ, and ends with the descending of the Holy [221/222] Ghost. And that was upon this day; and so we are come to Christ's hodie impleta est, 'This day is this Scripture fulfilled,' the best application of every text.
Our books tell us, the Scripture will bear four senses; all four be in this, and a kind of ascent there is in them.
First, after the letter and in due consequence to the word immediately next before this, the last word of the verse, which is Sinai. It is a report of Moses' ascending thither. For he, from the bottom of the Red Sea, went up to the top of Sinai, leading with him the people of Israel that log had been captive to Pharaoh; and there 'received gifts,' the Law, the Priesthood, but above all, the 'Ark of the covenant,' to be the pledge of God's presence among them. This is the literal.
2. This of Moses, by analogy, doth King David apply to himself; to his going up to mount Sion, and carrying the ark up thither. For all agree, this Psalm was set upon that occasion. The very beginning of it, 'Let God arise,' &c., sheweth as much;--the acclamation ever to be used, at the ark's removing, as is plain by the tenth of Numbers, verse thirty-five. Now this was done immediately upon his conquest of the Jebusites; whom a little before he had taken captives and made tributaries there. What time also, for honour of the solemnity, dona dedit, he dealt 'bread' and 'wine to all the people,' gift-wise, as we find, the first of Chronicles, sixteenth chapter, and the third verse. This is the analogical; as Moses to Sinai, so David to Sion.
3.From these two we arise to the moral sense, thus. That, as whensoever God's people are carried captive and made thrall to their enemies; as then God seemeth to be put down, and lie foiled for a time, that one may well say, Exsurgat Deus, to Him: so when He takes their cause in hand and works their deliverance, it may well be said, Ascendit in altum, 'He is gone up,' as it were, to His high throne or judgment-seat, there to give sentence for them. Even the Church's depressing is, as it were, God's humiliation; and their deliverance, after a sort, His exaltation. For then He hath the upper hand. And this is the moral.
4. Now from this we ascend to the Prophetical sense, 'to the testimony of Jesus, which is the spirit of all prophecy.' For [222/223] if in any captivity, as of Egypt, of Babylon, God be said to be down; and in any strange deliverance, such as those were, to be got up on high: in this of Christ, of all other, it is most pregnantly verified, that the highest up-going, higher than Sion or Sinai far; that the most gracious triumph that ever was. When the principalities and powers that had carried, not Israel but mankind, all mankind into captivity; they as captives were led before His chariot, attended, as it is in the next verse before, with 'twenty thousands of Angels.' What time also the gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost were shed forth plenteously upon men, which was this very day; and God, not by a wooden ark but by His own Spirit, came to dwell among them.
And in this sense, the true prophetical meaning of it, doth the Apostle deliver it to us, and we to you. That God Which ever and at all times doth, then and at that time did most specially shew the valour of His victory, and the bounty of His triumph, when 'He went up on high,' &c.
To put that in other order, which is itself well-ordered already, were but to confound it. The order as it stands is very exact. I. Christ's ascending first; II Then the manner; III. and last the end of it. 1. The ascending in these; 'Thou art gone up, &c.' 2. The manner is triumph-wise, and that two ways: 1. leading His captives before Him; 2. scattering His gifts about Him; 3. and then thirdly, all to the end that God by His Spirit, the true Ark of his presence indeed, 'might rest with us for ever.' Or you may, if you please, of these four make two moities, and give the two former to Christ's ascending, the two latter to the Holy Ghost's descending, in dona dedit hominbus, the peculiar of this day.
'Thou art gone up,'--a motion and 'on high,'--a place. Christ in His ascendant going up, Christ on high is a good sight. A better sight to see Him so, tanquam aquila in nubibus, than tanquam vermis in pulvere, 'an eagle in the clouds than a worm in the dust,' as a great while we did. To see 'a cloud to receive Him' than a gravestone to cover Him. Better 'leading captivity' than Himself led captive. Better 'receiving gifts for men' than receiving wrong from them. Yet it is strange, St. Paul commenting upon this verse, (Ephesians the fourth, ver. 8) whereto we shall often have recourse as we [223/224] are looking at 'His going up on high,' pulls us back and tells us of His being here down below: 'In that He ascended,' what is it, saith he, but that He descended first? A note out of season one would think, But he best knew what was proper and pertinent, and that is, that Christ's going up is ascensus post descensum.
And this, as it is for His glory--for when one hath been down, then to get up is twice to get up--far more for His glory than if He never had been down. And the lower He hath been down, the more glorious is His getting up. Bis vincit qui victus vincit; 'being overcome to overcome is twice to overcome,' for so he overcomes his overcomers, and that is a double victory. As for His glory, so for our good. For His being above before He was below, is nothing to us. But being below first, and then that He went up, that is it we hold by. As the Son of God He came down, as the Son of man He went up. If as the Son of man, there is hope that the sons of men may do the like.
But always remember there must be a descent before. Ascendit Angelus et factus est diabolus. Why He never descended first, and therefore is now in the bottom of hell. But He That first descended, and ascended after, is now in the top of Heaven. To teach us this high top must have a deep root. He that is thus high now, was once low enough. We to be as He was, before we be as He is. Descending by humility, condescending by charity. For he who so ascends with Him, he it is and none other who will ascend after Him. This is St. Paul upon ascendit, His motion.
Now, will you hear him upon in altum, 'on high,' the pitch of his motion? 'On high' is somewhat a doubtful term: if it be but to some high mountain, as they thought of Elias, it is 'on high,' that. Neither to Sion, nor to Sinai:- set one upon the other, and Pelion upon Ossa too, it is higher yet. So high, saith St. Luke, 'till a cloud came and took him out of their sight.' And what became of Him then? That the Apostle supplied, He came Øperr£uw-Øper 'above,' ¥uw 'aloft;' Øper ooÙrauîu Øper p£utwu tîu oÙrauuîu; 'above all the heavens,' even the very highest of them.
Keeping just correspondence between his high and his low. [224/225] That was ad ima terræ, to the 'lowest parts of the earth,' than which none lower, none beneath them. This was ad summa coeli, 'the highest top of the heavens,' than which none higher, none above them.
So, exsurgat Deus, the first verse is not enough; that was but from the lower parts of the earth to the upper parts of it. Ascendat in altum, 'Let Him go up on high;' 'Set up Thyself, O Lord, above the heavens'--there is High place. And so now He is where He should be. This for in altum.
But we must not stand taking altitudes; this is but the gaze of the Ascension. The Angels blamed the Apostles; that blame will fall upon us, if we make but a gaze of it. What is there in it hominibus, 'for us men?'
First, is He 'gone up on high?' We may be sure then all is done and despatched here below. He would not hence re infecta, till His errand were done He came for. All is despatched--for look to the text; He went not up till the battle fought, and the victory gotten. For the next point is, 'Captivity is led captive.' So no more for Him here to do; consummatum est. And after it was consummatum est for us, no reason but it should be consummatus sum with Him also.
But though all be done here, all is not there; there above, whither He is gone. There is somewhat still to be done for us. We have our cause there to be handles, and to be handled against a false and slanderous adversary--so Job found him. By means of His being there 'on high,' habemus Advocatum, saith St. John, 'we have an Advocate' will see it take no harm. And what were such an one worth in place there!
But as our case is, for the most part, we rather stand in need of a good High Priest to make intercession, than of a ready Advocate to put a plea for us. And He is there likewise to that end; 'on high' within the sanctum sanctorum as 'a faithful High Priest' for ever to appear, and to make an atonement with God for our trangressions. Thus there all is well.
But how shall we do here, if He be gone up 'on high' from us? Not a whit worse: Ascensor coeli auxiliator, saith Moses, Deuteronomy the thirty-third, ver. 26. By being there He is the better able to help us, to help us against our enemies. For in that He is 'on high,' He hath the advantage of the high ground; and so able to annoy them, to strike [225/226] them down, and lay them flat--St. Paul found it; yea to 'rain down fire and brimstone, storm and tempest, upon them.'
To help us against our wants. Wants both temporal, for from 'on high' He can 'send down a gracious rain upon His inheritance,' to refresh it; and spiritual, for from 'on high He' did send down the gifts and graces of the Spirit, the dona dedit of this feast, and of this text both. Look to the text. He is so gone up that our enemies are his captives: we shall not need to fear, they can go no further than their chain. And though He be gone, dona dedit. He is ready to supply us upon our need with all gifts requisite. We shall not need to want; for no good thing will He withhold from them who have Ascensiones in corde, who have their hearts upon Him and upon His ascension; who lift up their hearts to Him there.
There is yet one, and I keep that, for it shall be the last. In that He is ascended into Heaven, Heaven is to be ascended to; 'by the new and living way that is prepared through the veil of his flesh,' a passage there lieth thither. They talk of discoveries, and much ado is made of a new passage found out to this or that place; what say you to this discovery in altum, this passage into the 'land of the living?' Sure it passes all. And this discovery is here, and upon this discovery there is begun a commerce, or trade of intercourse, between Heaven and us. The commodities whereof are these gifts, we shall after deal with them--and a kind of agency. Christ being there for us and the Spirit here for God; either agent for other. It is the happiest news this, that ever came to mankind. For hominbus, 'for mankind' it is He is gone up; for that is to be repeated to all three, and every of them ¢pÕ koiuoà. 1. 'He is gone up on high,' for men; 2. 'led captivity captive,' for men; as well as 'received gifts for men.'
His going up then is not all for Himself; some part, and that no small part, 'for us.' For thither He is gone, ut Praecursor noster, as our 'Forerunner,' or Harbinger; pandens iter ante nos, saith the prophet Micah, 'to make way before us,' to prepare a place and to hold possession of it in our names, saith He Himself. Till, say the Angels, 'as He was [226/227] seen to go up, so will He likewise be to come down again.' Once more to descend, (it is His last) and upon it, His last ascending into High tribunal seat, there as our favourable Judge to give us the Ite benedicti, the immediate warrant for our ascensions. And so He will take our persons thither, where He now is in our persons, that 'where He is we may be there also. And thus much for His 'going up on high.'
Now the manner, how He went. Ascendit Dominus in jubilo, saith the forty-seventh Psalm, a proper and peculiar Psalm for this day. For this is the fiftieth day, and fifty is the number of the jubilee; we must look for a jubilee ever at Pentecost. He went up in jubilo. Now to a jubilee there go two acts: 1. the releasing of prisoners, one; 2. and the new giving or granting estates gratis, don dedit, the other. And both are here.
He went up in triumph, as a Roman victor up to the capitol; as David, after His conquest, up to Sion: so He to the capitol in Heaven, to the Sion that is above, the high and holy places made without hands. Now, two actus triumphales there were: 1. One, captives led bound before the chariot; 2.The other, casting abroad of new coin, or as they called them, missilia, among the multitude. And these two are in this. This the manner of His going up, like the Jews' jubilee, like the Heathens triumph. 1. First then of His valour, in his victory, leading His captivity. 2. Then of His bounty in His triumph, dispersing His gifts.
Of the first. Here is a captivity led in triumph. A triumph is not but after a victory, or a victory but upon a battle; and even a battle presupposeth hostility, and that some quarrel whereupon it grew. His ascension is His triumph, His resurrection His victory, His death His battle, His quarrel is about hominibus, about us 'men,' for another captivity of ours that had happened before this.
I ask then, what was this captivity here? Of whom? when taken? when led? For taken it must be, before it can be led in triumph. Some interpret it by Satan, say it was by him and 'the power of darkness.' Some other, that it was Adam and all his progeny; and so we are in it too. And both say well; they and we were taken together. For when they were taken captives, we that then were in their hands and power [227/228] as captives to them, were taken with them. So both were taken, and by Christ both; but not both alike. Both were taken, but not both led. They were taken and led; we are taken, and let go. And not let go barely, but rewarded with gifts, as it is in the verse. Both these are within the compass of this Psalm.
To begin with this of the verse; we find it more particularly set down, Colossians the second. There, of the 'principalities and power of hell' it is said, Christ 'spoiled them, made a show of them, triumphed over them in His own person.'
With these He had battle at His death, and then He seemed to lose the field. But up again He got at His resurrection; and then got the day, carried the victory clear. For lo, as with a trumpet, the Apostle sounds the victory, Absorpta est mors in victoriâ, 'death is swallowed up in victory.'
But what was the quarrel? That began about us hominibus; in every branch we must take in that word. For no other quarrel had He, but that these whom He leads away captive here, had let us captive away before.
And the quarrel was just; for we were His, twice His. 1. His once by creation, 'the work of His hands.' 2. His again now, by redemption, 'the price of His blood.' He had no reason to lose that was His quite. It stood not with His honour to see them carried away without all recovery.
But how came we captives? Look to Genesis the third. There you find, lex membrorum, as St. Paul calleth it; 'fleshly lusts,' as St. Peter, a garrison that lies in us, even in our loins, and 'fighteth against our souls.' They surprised Adam, and of whom one is overcome, his captive he is. So was he led away captive, and in him all mankind. The effect whereof you see at Christ's coming. The spirit of error had, in a manner, seized all the world. And if error had taken his thousand, sin had his ten thousand, we may be sure; and this was the first captivity under the power of Satan. For sin and error are but leaders under him, take to his use; and so all mankind held captive of him at his pleasure. And oh, the thraldom and misery the poor soul is in, that is thus held and hurried under the servitude of sin and Satan! The heathens' pistrinum, the Turkey galleys are nothing to it. If [228/229] any have felt if he can understand me, and from the deep of his heart will cry, 'Turn our captivity, O Lord.'
Will ye then see this 'captivity' turned away, and those who took us taken themselves? Look to His resurrection. Agnus occisus est is true, like a lamb He died; but that was, respect had to His Father. To Him He was a lamb in all meekness, to satisfy His justice, and to pay Him the ransom for us and for our enlargement, Whose prisoners justly we were. That paid, and justice satisfied, the 'hand writing of the law that was against us' was delivered Him, and He cancelled it. Then had He good right to us. But death, and 'he that had the power of death, the devil,' for all who would not let Him go, but detained Him still wrongfully. With them, the lamb would do no good; so He took the lion. Died a lamb, but rose a lion, and took on like a lion indeed; 'broke up the gates of death,' and made the gates of brass fly in sunder; trod on the serpent's head and all to bruise it; 'came upon him, took from his armour wherein he trusted, and divided his spoils.' So it is in the Gospel, so in this psalm. Till He had no sooner right, but He made His might appear, was a lion; et vicit Leo de tribu Juda. His right was seen in His death, His might in His resurrection.
Ye see them taken: now, will you see them led? Of this victory, this is here the triumph. And if you will see it more at large, you may in the Prophet Osee; and out of him in the Apostle, the first of Corinthians, the fifteenth chapter, death led captive without His sting; hell led as one who had lost the victory; 'the strength of sin,' the law, rent and fastened to His cross, ensign-wise; the serpent's head bruised, borne before Him in triumph, as was Goliath's head by David returning from the victory. And this was His triumph.
So then, upon the matter here is a double captivity, a first and a second. 1. A first, and in it captivans they, and captivata we. 2. A second, and in it captivans He, and captivata they. They took us and He took them. And this is the jubilee, that He That was overcome did overcome; and they that had overcome were overcome themselves. That captivans is become captivata, and captivata is brought out of [229/230] captivity and set at liberty. For the leading of this captivity was the turning away of ours.
The 'five kings' took Sodom and carried Lot away prisoner. Comes me Abraham upon them, takes the five kings and Lot in their hands: so Lot and they both became Abraham's captives. The Amalekites took Ziklag, David's town, his wives, children, and all his people. David makes after them, takes Amalek, and with them his own flock too; and so became master of both. So did the Son of Abraham, and the Son of David, in this captivity here.
For all the world as an English ship takes a Turkish galley, wherein are held many Christian captives at the oar. Both are taken, Turks and Christians; both become prisoners to the English ships. The poor souls in the galley, when they see the English ship hath the upper hand are glad, I dare say, so to be taken; they know it will turn to their good, and in the end to their letting go. So was it with us, we were the children of captivity. They to whom we were captives, were taken captives themselves, and we with them. So both came into Christ's hands; they and we His prisoners both. But with a great difference. For they are carried in triumph to their confusion, as we see, and after condemned to perpetual prison and torments. And we, by this new captivity, rid of our old, and restored to the 'liberty of the sons of God.' So that in very deed this captivity fell out to prove our felicity; we had been quite undone, utterly perished, if we had not had the good hap thus to become Christ's prisoners.
It is not good simply to be taken captive; but thus it is. For felix captivitas capi in bonum; 'He is taken in a good hour that is taken for so great a good.' A happy captivity then may we say; indeed so happy as no man can be happy if he be not thus taken prisoner by Christ. It is the only way to enjoy true liberty. And this for this great 'captivity' here led.
Other inferior captivities there be in this life, and those not lightly to be regarded neither. But this of mankind is the main; the rest all derived from this, and but pledges of it. We have lived to see, that Ascensor Coeli was Auxiliator noster, and Ductor captivitatis nostræ even this way.
In the year 88, the Invincible navy had swallowed us up quick, and made full account to have led us all into captivity. We saw them led [230/231] like a sort of poor captives round about this isle, sunk and cast away the most part of them, and the rest sent home again with shame. Eight years, since they that had vowed the ruin of us all, and if that had been, the thraldom of this whole land; they were led captives in the literal sense, (we saw them) and brought to a wretched end before our eyes. So He that here did, still can, and still doth 'lead captivity captive' for the good of His. Take these as remembrances here below, but look up beyond these to our great captivam duxisti here; and make this use of both, that we both these ways 'being delivered out of the hands of our enemies,' and from the slavery of Satan, 'might serve Him' Whose service is perfect freedom, 'in righteousness and holiness before Him all the days of our life.'
And this for the first point of ascendit in jubilo--a principal part whereof was the releasing of captives--and so much for the triumph of His victory. Now for the bounty of His triumph. In that, His valour, valour in leading captivity; in this His magnificence, magnificence in distributing His gifts.
Accepit dona. All this while, there has been nothing but going up. Here now, there is something coming down, even love with his handful of gifts, to bestow them on us--which is the second part; even His largess or bounty, as it were the running of the conduits with wine, or the casting abroad of His new coin among the lookers on, on this, the great and last day of the feast, the conclusion or shutting up of His triumph. This is the day of dona dedit in kind,and dona dedit, the high honour of this feast. Always the height of His place, the glory of His triumph, makes Him not forget us, we see by this. He sends these for a token that He is still mindful of us.
Four points there be in it. 1. 'Received,' 2. 'gifts,' 3. 'for men,' 4. an enlargement of this last word men; for such men as of all men seemed least likely to get any of them, 'even for His enemies.'
'Received.' The Prophet here saith, dona accepit; the Apostle, he saith, dona dedit, and both true. Accepit et dedit for accepit ut daret, 'He did what He received, [231/232] for He received to give.' So, what He received with one hand, He gave with the other. For He received not for Himself, but for others; not to keep, but to part with them again. And part with them He did--witness this day, the day of the giving.
'Received' from whom? Whosoever the party was He received them from, He seems to stand well affected to us. It is the Father. And we see He said true of Him, 'I go up to my Father, and to your Father,' that is, yours as well as Mine. Which appears in His fatherly goodness, ready to part with them to us. Yet not immediately to us, but by Him to us; that seeing by whose hands they come, we might know, know and acknowledge both, for whose sake both He gives and we receive them. We of Him, He of His Father; but for us, and for our use.
'Received gifts.' Alas! poor captives never think of any; tantum libera nos, is all they say. 'Free us only' and we desire no more. This one gift is enough, will richly content them, even the gift of liberty we even now spoke of. Enough for them, but not enough for Him; 'the Scripture offereth greater grace.' He will not let them go, but not let them go away empty; send them away rewarded, and not with one gift, but plurally dona, with many. So many, as in the next verse He says, they be even laden with them. And not give them again their former estate freely--the jubilee of the law; but a far better than that was, even in heaven, which is far beyond the laws, and is indeed the jubilee of the Gospel.
To speak of these gifts in particular, one hour-glass will not serve, they be so many. To recapitulate dona in dono, all in one: it is the gift of gifts, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the proper gift or missile of this day. O si scires donum Dei, saith our Saviour of it, it we but knew this gift! And God grant we may know it, that is, that we may receive it, for then we shall, but otherwise we shall never know it; for nemo scit nisi qui acceperit, 'but he that receiveth it, no man knoweth it.'
But God it is, this gift. The text is direct; this giving is to the end 'God may dwell with us.' That cannot be, if He who is given were not God. So then man He carried up to heaven, God He sent down to earth; our flesh is there with [232/233] God, His Spirit with us. Felix captivitas we said before, felix cambium, may we now say; a happy captivity that, a blessed exchange for us this.
This is but one; it is expressed plurally--dona, many; there be many in it. It is as the ark of the covenant; the ark was not empty, no more is this. The two tables that teaches the heart, the hidden manna that feedeth the soul, the censer that perfumeth all our prayers, the rod which makes us do as itself did, of withered and dead to revive and flourish again. Great variety of gifts there are in it, and all are feathers of the dove mentioned in this Psalm, verse thirteen; either the silver feathers of her wing, or the golden of her neck, for all are from her. They are reduced all to two; 1. 'The gifts,' 2. 'the fruits.' 'The gifts,' known by the term gratis data; 'the fruits,' pertaining to gratum faciens. But the gratum faciens being to every man for himself, the gratis data for the benefit of the Church in common; these latter are ever reckoned the proper, and most principal, dona dedit of this day. And indeed they are all in all. For by them are the scions planted, on which the other, the fruits, do grow.
And so it is. For what were the true and 'proper' gifts this day sent down? Were they not a few tongues? And those tongues had heads, and those heads belonged to men, and those men were the Apostles. Upon this point, these 'gifts' in the end will fall out to prove men; the gift ever leading us to the office, and the office to the persons by whom it is borne.
In the place where the Apostle comments upon this verse, and upon this word 'gifts,' ask him what the 'gifts be?' He will tell us, Ipse dedit quosdam Apositolos, 'He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists;' these were of the gifts. These three now are gone, their date is out. But in the same period, he puts pastors and doctors too; and them we have still, and they are all the remains that are now left of the dona dedit of this day. A point I wish to be well thought on; that for these gifts this feast is holden, that for these we keep this high holy-day.
What, and are these such goodly gifts? Yea 'the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists,' we grant, for we love to build sepulchres as well as the Pharisees; they must be dead, ere we [233/234] esteem them. Oh, if we had lived in the Apostles' days, we would have made other gates account of them, that we would. We know our fathers then did; we would even have done the same. For those we have left, it is daily heard and seen how poor a rate we set on them. This we find: the Apostles themselves were fain to magnify their own apostleship and to say, Well, they hoped the day would come when their people's faith were as it should be, that they also should be esteemed according to their 'measure,' that is, better than they were. So that they were undervalued. I will not say the same of these, which are all that are now left of this dona dedit; that of these holy-day gifts there is but a working-day account. These are they that daily do rescue men and women laden with sins, and so captives to Satan, from Satan's captivity, and take them prisoners to Christ. These they, by whose means and ministry are wrought in us those impressions of grace, which we call 'the fruits of the Spirit'' the price whereof is above all worldly gifts whatsoever. And if 'God dwell among us,' these be they by whose doctrine and exhortation we are edified, that is framed and reared up a meet building for Him.
Truly, if we did but seriously think of Ipse dedit, Who gave; of Spiritus sanctus posuit, Who placed them; nay if but of the feast itself we hold, it would be better than it is; if not for theirs, for the very feast's sake. For why keep we it? For these dona dedit, plain. And how prize we them? I list not tell how meanly. This I say then: either esteem them otherwise, or what do we keeping it? Put down the feast, wipe the day of Pentecost out of the calendar, keep it no more hardly. Never keep so high a feast for so low a matter. But if we will keep it, make better reckoning of dona dedit hominbus than hitherto we have, or presently we do.
Now the parties for whom all these: Hominibus. endit, duxit, dedit, all for hominibus, 'for men!' 'For men' He 'ascended up on high; for men He led captivity; for men.' He 'received' these 'gifts.' They the cistern, into which all these three streams do flow. As God, of God He received them, that as man to man He might deal them. I will tell you St. Paul's note upon this word, and indeed it is the only cause for which He there [234/235] bringeth in this verse; the number--that it is hominibus, not homini. 'To men' among them; to every one some, not to any one at all. For no one man is hominibus, and hominibus it is He deals them to. None so complete but he wants some; none so bare left that He wants all. A note, if well digested, which would cause this fastidious disdain to cease, we have one of another. 'The spoils are divided to them of the house-hold,' come not all to one man's hand; they be merismoi , by proportion and measure, part and part. So that any man, though he wants this gift or that, have not all, if he have but some to do good and do good with that some, need not be dismayed. He is within the verge of Christ's bounty, of dona dedit hominibus.
The last is the enlargement of His largess of this clause in the grant. 'For men?' yea, for some men, some special men, may some say, such as Abraham and David, God's friends; but not for His enemies, nor for such as I. Yes; syddzk da. Yes, 'even for His enemies,' even for 'His rebels,' so is the nature of the word, even to them this day He is willing to part with His gifts. 'His enemies;' why the devils themselves are no more but so, but His enemies; what for them? No, it is hominibus, etiam inimicis, it is not daemonibus; so they are out clear. But for men, though His enemies, there is hope even for them, that He so far enlarges the gifts of His feast!
Will ye but hear His commission given about this point? This it is; that 'remission of sins,' the chief gift of all, in 'His name be proclaimed to all nations.' And all nations then, in a manner, were within the Apostle's cum inimici essemus. But that is not it, but the last words that follow; that this proclamation should be made, 'beginning at Jerusalem.' At Jerusalem? why there all the injuries were done Him, all the indignities offered Him that could possibly be offered Him, that could possibly be offered by one enemy to another. Begin there? Why the stones were yet moist with His blood so lately shed, so few days before as scarce dry at the proclamation time. Well yet, there begin: this is etiam inimicis indeed. Enough to show He would have His enemies should be better for this day; festum charitatis this right.
[235/.236] And will you now see this put in execution? This very day, so soon as ever these gifts were come, St. Peter thus proclaims, that Holy and 'Just One, you have been the betrayers and murderers of Him'--that is inimicis, trow I, in the highest degree. Well yet, repent and be baptized, and your sins, yes even that sin also, 'will be done away, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.' They that have laid Him full low, past ever ascending as they thought, even they have their parts in His ascension. They that bound Him as prisoner, He looses their captivity. They who did damna dare to Him, He does dona dare to them. All to show, etiam inimicis is no more than the truth; and what would we more? Then let no man despair of his part in these gifts, or say, I am shut out of the grant, I have so lived, so behaved myself, never dwell with God, I. Why what art thou? A captive? No, are you an enemy? Why, if de hominibus, etiam inimicis; if a man, though an enemy; this Scripture will reach Him, if he put it not from him. The words are so plain; 'for men, yes though His very enemies.'
See then what difference is between the two feasts: the Resurrection, the first verse of the psalm, 'Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered;' that is. inimmici dæmones, or men that put Him from them. But now at this, 'Let God arise, and let His enemies' -that were, and would not be--be gathered, and let 'those that hate Him'--and now hate themselves for it--fly unto Him. It is the feast of Pentecost to-day. This is the day for etiam inimicis; to-day He has 'gifts' even for them too. And thus much for the latter part, and so for the whole triumph.
The end now why all this? Hominibus, 'for men, that God may dwell among men.' God, that is the whole Trinity by this Person of it. Why? dwelt He not among men before? He did. I know not well whether it may be called dwelling, but sure never so did. I know not well whether it may be called dwelling, but sure never so did before as since these gifts came from Him.
Did not dwell (they call it visiting then; went and came, and that was all. But since He came to settle Himself, to take His residence, not to visit any longer, but even to 'dwell among them.'
Not 'among men,' but among some men. He was [236/237] cooped up, as it were, notus in Judaea Deus, and there was all. Since the 'fullness of the Gentiles' is come in, Japhet into Shem's tents; all nations His neighbours are interested in Him and His gifts alike. St. Paul upon this verse, He ascended, ut impleret omnia. Impleret His, omnia ours. Filled with His gifts He, full all; that is, all the compass of the earth full of His fulness.
It is for love, even filauqrwpia,. for His 'love of men' that makes Him desire thus to dwell with us. This is evident by this captivitas soluta, and these dona distributa, by this 'captivity led,' that is, by His fighting for it; by these 'gifts given,' that is, by His bidding for it; that all this He doth and all this He gave, and all for no other end but this. So as quid requirit Dominus? on His part, quid retribuam Domino? on ours; all is but this, ut habitet nobiscum Deus, that the true Ark of His Presence, His Holy Spirit, may find a place of rest with us.
What shall we do then? Shall we not yield to Him thus much, or rather thus little? If He have a mind to dwell in us, shall we refuse Him? It will be for our benefit; we shall find a good neighbour of Him. Shall we not then say, as they did to the Ark, 'Arise, O Lord, into Thy resting place.'
But first two things would be done.1.The place would be meet; 2. and the usage or entertainment according. For the place, never look about for a soil where; the place are we ourselves. He must dwell in us if ever He dwell among us. In us I say, not beside us; hgybv is the word, and so it signifieth; sic inter nos, ut in nobis.
And if so, then locus and locatum would be suitable. A dove He is: He will not come but ad tecta candida, to no foul or sooty place. Ointment He is: poured He will not be into a clean and sweet, not into a stinking or loathsome phial. To hold us to the word; God He is, and Holy is His title: so would His place be a holy place; and, for God, a Temple. You know who saith, Templum Dei estis vos, 'know ye not you are the Temples of God, if He dwell in you?'
But it is not the place, though never so commodious, makes one so willing to dwell, as does the good usage or respect of those, in the midst of whom it is. Here will I dwell, for I have a delight, says He. It would be such as to delight Him, [237/238] if it might be; but such as at no hand to grieve Him. For then He is gone again migremus hinc straight, and we force Him to do it. For who would dwell where he cannot dwell but with continual grief?
And what is there will sooner grieve Him and make Him to quit us, than discord or disunion? Among divided men or minds He will not dwell. Not but where unity and love is. In vain we talk of the Spirit without these. Aaron's ointment and the dew of Hermon--both types of Him--ye know what Psalm they belong to; it begins with habitare fratres in unum. It is in this Psalm before, 'where men are of one mind in a house'--there He delights to be. This very day, they that received Him were _mqumasÕu, 'with one accord in one place.' That ÒmoqumaadÕu. is the adverb of the feast. And the Apostle in his comment on this verse--no better way, saith he, to preserve the 'unity of the Spirit,' or the Spirit of unity, choose you whether, than in the 'bond of peace.' To say truth, who would be hired to dwell in Mesech where nothing is but continual jars and quarrels? Such places, such men, are even as torrida zona, not habitable by the Spirit, by this Spirit. But for the other spirit, the spirit of division they are; ut habitet deamon inter eos, a fit place for the devil, to dwell among such. Think of this seriously, and set it down, that at Salem is His Tabernancle, and Salem is peace, and so the Fathers read it, in pace factus est locus Ejus. Make Him that place and He will say, Here is my rest, 'here will I dwell, for I have delight therein.'
We said even now: to 'dwell among us' He must dwell in us; and in us He will dwell, if the fruits of His Spirit be found in us. And of His fruits the very first is love. And the fruit is as the tree is. For He Himself is love, the essential, and love-knot of the undivided Trinity.
Now to work love, the undoubted both sign and means of His dwelling, what better way, or how sooner wrought, than by the sacrament of love, as the feast of love, upon the feast day of love; when love descended with both his hands full of gifts, for very love to take up His dwelling with us?
You will observe, there ever was and will be a near alliance between His dona dedit hominibus, and His dona reliquit hominibus, 'the gifts He sent' and 'the gifts He left us.' He [238/239] left us the gifts of His body and blood. His body broken, and full of the characters of love all over. His blood shed, every drop whereof is a great drop of love. To those which were sent, these which were left, love, joy, peace, have a special connatural reference, to breed and to maintain each other. His body the Spirit of strength, His blood the Spirit of comfort; both, the Spirit of love.
This Spirit, we said, we are to procure, that it may abide with us and be in us. And what is more instrinsical in us, abides surer, grows faster to us, than what we eat and drink? Then, if we could get 'a spiritual meat,' or get 'to drink of the Spirit,' there were no way to that. And behold there they be. For here is 'spiritual meat', that is breeding the Spirit; and here we are all made 'drink of one Spirit,' that there may be but one spirit in us. And we are all made 'one bread, and one body,' kneaded together, and pressed together into one--as the symbols are, the bread, and the wine--so many as are partakers of one bread and one cup, `the bread of life,' and `the cup of blessing', the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ. And in figure of this, even King David dealt these two, 'bread' and 'wine,' in a kind of resemblance to ours, when the Ark in type. And we to do the same this day when the Ark in truth did come, and will come to take up His rest in us.
Will you now hear the end of all? By this means God will 'dwell with us'--the perfection of this life; and He dwelling with us, we shall dwell with Him--the last and the highest perfection of the life to come. For with whom God dwells here, they will dwell with Him there, certainly. Grace He does give, that He may 'dwell with us;' and glory He will give, that we may dwell with Him. So may He dwell, He with us: so may we dwell, we with Him, eternally. So the text comes round. It began with an ascension, and it ends with one; began with Christ's, ends with ours. He ascended, that God might dwell with us; that, God dwelling with us, we might in the end ascend and dwell with God. He went up 'on high,' that the Spirit might come down to us below; and, that coming down, make us go the same way, and [239/240] come to the same place that He is. Sent Him down to us, to bring us up to Him.
Where we shall no less truly say; this is our rest for ever. To which rest, Ascensor caeli, Ductor captivitatis Largitor donorum, 'He that is gone up to Heaven, the Leader of captivity, the Great Receiver and Giver of these gifts,' vouchsafe to bring us; that as this feast is the period of all the feasts of the year, so this text, and the end of it, to dwell with God, may be the end of us all; all our desires here, of fruition there! Which, &c.