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Ascension Day.
by the Rev. Prebendary Melville Scott, D.D.
from The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels.
A Devotional Exposition of the Continuous Teaching of the Church Throughout the Year,
S.P.C.K., London, 1902.
OUR Church puts before us to-day not so much a doctrine as a fact established on the evidence of eye-witnesses. In the case of the Resurrection no such evidence was necessary, for to have seen Christ alive after His death was sufficient proof that He had risen again.

The evidence to be given does not stand alone, but is in harmony :—

(1)   With the Foreshadowings of Type.

Such may be traced in the translation of Enoch, in the lordship of Joseph after a supposed death, in the passage of David through trouble to his crown, in the ascension of Elijah, and in the speaking ritual of the Day of Atonement.

(2)   With the Predictions of Prophecy.

We have three such in the Psalms—Ps. lxviii. 18, cx. 1, and particularly xxiv. 7-10. But, in truth, every foretelling of the spiritual and eternal Kingdom of the Messiah takes for granted, and, in effect, declares the Ascension.  The Christ must rise to His throne before He could reign.  The earth is God’s footstool, and, therefore, Christ could not reign here.  Thus viewed, the Old Testament teems with predictions of this event.

(3)   With the Promises of Christ.

Christ spoke of Himself as “ascending up where He was before”; He prayed, “ Glorify Me with the glory I had with Thee before the world was”; He explained to the disciples how He was about “to leave the world and go to the Father,” and His message after the Resurrection was, “ I ascend.”
(4) With the object of His Mission.
The Ascension was necessary to complete His threefold work as the Messiah. He could not teach as our Prophet till He had sent the Spirit. He could not save as our Priest unless He had ascended to intercede and present before God the sacrifice of His death. He could not rule us as our King unless He had been exalted to the throne, and any throne but the highest would have been humiliation rather than exaltation.


We may best consider this passage as exhibiting the evidence of the Ascension.

A.   The Evidence of the Evangelist.

The Book of the Acts was the sequel to the Gospel, and comes to us from the same hand. He who recorded for us the life of Christ has also recorded His Ascension into Heaven. No part of the history can be severed from the rest. The Evangelist regards the Ascension

(1) As the completion of the Life of Christ.
The Ascension was the final act which closed the mission of Christ upon earth. That mission was not ended until He had finished His ministry, chosen and instructed His Apostles, illumined their hearts with faith in His Resurrection, and their minds with knowledge of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. This done, His work was ended and He returned to the Father.

(2) As the beginning of the Life of the Church.
His last commands related to the endowment of the Spirit. His Apostles were not to separate as if their mission was ended, but to wait, and wait together, for the promised baptism of the Holy Ghost. The time of instruction was past, and all that was necessary to learn had been taught; now was the time of work and witness in ever-widening circle of influence.

B.   The Evidence of the Apostles.

We are left in no doubt or uncertainty in this great matter. Christ did not steal away from His Apostles, leaving them to gather the conviction that He was gone, but in their very sight. His departure was not involved in mystery, and those who saw it tell us the time, place, and manner with undoubting accuracy.

C.   The Evidence of the Angels.

As we have the evidence of those whom Christ left behind Him, so we have the evidence of those to whom He came.

“Those blessed spirits did know that Christ had ascended to Heaven; and, because the eyes of the Apostles could not follow Him so far, they came to testify of His reception.” (Bp. Pearson.)

The assurance of the two angels is that of Christ Himself, for He sent them. His also is the assurance that the present state of loneliness, incompleteness, and expectation shall not last for ever. He will return, “this same Jesus,” and in the same manner as He departed—visibly, in human form, and in Divine glory.


We are not entitled to consider the last fourteen verses of S. Mark as written by the Evangelist, but as a later postscript, added, probably, in order to take the place left vacant by the loss of the final page as originally composed. The addition is, however, of very early date, and expresses the universal belief of the early Church.

The writer agrees with S. Luke in considering the Ascension :—

A.   As the Completion of the Past.

Christ did not ascend until He had gathered up the threads of His earthly ministry.

He confirmed the doubting faith of the Apostles by clear evidence of His Resurrection.

He gave them their final commission as more fully recorded in S. Matthew—” To go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation.”

He instituted the sacrament of baptism as the pledge of salvation, and gave solemn warning of the danger of unbelief—” He that disbelieveth shall be condemned.”

He gave them His last promise of supernatural assistance and of miraculous power to be exercised in His Name,” as evidences to His disciples of the reality of their mission.
B.   As the Inauguration of the Future.

Not until the Lord had completed His work was He received up with triumph into Heaven and exalted to “the right hand of God.”

The departure of the Master was the signal for the activity of His followers. They went forth and preached everywhere, strong in the power of their ascended Master and the attestation afforded by miracles.


This Collect exemplifies the principle that all that has been done by Christ must, in a spiritual sense, be done over again in the Christian, as noticed on the Circumcision.

A.   The Ascension of Christ.

We have accepted the truth of the Ascension on the evidence of Scripture and of the Church, and have believed that He Who ascended was no mere man, but the only-begotten Son, sharing both the throne and nature of the Father.

B.   The Spiritual Ascension.

This is no mere play upon words, but is the effect which should follow faith in the Ascension. Such faith will kindle our love and draw us irresistibly to where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. It will exalt the whole mind and spirit, drawing them to high and heavenly things, until no more of us than our bodies are left below.