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The great apostle of the Gentiles alludes to these splendid triumphal scenes, in his epistle to the Ephesians, where he mentions the glorious ascension of his Redeemer into heaven: "When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." These words are a quotation from the sixty-eighth Psalm, where David in spirit, describes the ascension of Messiah, in very glowing colours: "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels; the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive," or an immense number of captives; "thou hast received gifts for men, yea for the rebellious also; that the Lord God might dwell among them. Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with his benefits, even the God of our salvation; Selah." Knowing the deep impression which such an allusion is calculated to make on the mind of a people familiarly acquainted with triumphal scenes, the apostle returns to it in his epistle to the Colossians, which was written about the same time: "Having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it." After obtaining a complete victory over all his enemies, he ascended in splendour and triumph into his Father's presence on the clouds of heaven, the chariots of the Most High, thousands of holy angels attending in his train; he led the devil and all his angels, together with sin, the world, and death, as his spoils of war, and captives in chains, and exposed them to open contempt and shame, in the view of all his angelic attendants, triumphing like a glorious conqueror over them, in virtue of his cross, upon which he made complete satisfaction for sin, and by his own strength, without the assistance of any creature, › Eph. iv, 8. z Psa. Ixviii, 17, 18. a Col. ii, 15.
destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. And as mighty princes are accustomed to scatter largesses among the people, and reward their companions in arms with a liberal hand, when, laden with the spoils of vanquished nations, they returned in triumph to their capital; so the conqueror of death and hell, when he ascended far above all heavens, and sat down in the midst of the throne, shed forth in vast abundance the choicest blessings of the Spirit, upon people of every tongue and of every nation.
The officers and soldiers also, were rewarded according to their merit. Among the Romans, the noblest reward which a soldier could receive, was the civic crown, given to him who had saved the life of a citizen, made of oak leaves, and by order of the general, presented by the person who had been saved to his preserver, whom he ever after respected as a parent. Alluding to this high distinction, the apostle says to his son Timothy; "I have fought a good fight --- henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me at that day; and not to me only but unto all them also that love his appearing." And lest any one should imagine, that the Christian's crown is perishable in its nature, and soon fades away, like a crown of oak leaves, the apostle Peter assures the faithful soldier of Christ, that his crown is infinitely more valuable and lasting: "Ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. And this account is confirmed by James: "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation, for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that fear him."e
Potter's Gr. Antiq. vol. ii, p. 116. © 2 Tim. iv, 7, 8.
d 1 Pet. v, 4.
James i, 12.
The military crowns were conferred by the general in presence of the army; and such as received them, after a public eulogium on their valour, were placed next his person. The Christian also receives his unmerited reward from the hand of the Captain of his salvation: "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."f And like the brave veteran of ancient times, he is promoted to a place near his Lord : "To him that overcometh, will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father on his throne." The saints must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, who will produce the proofs of their fidelity before assembled worlds, to justify the sentence he is about to pronounce. Holy angels will applaud the justice of the proceeding, and condemned spirits, and reprobate men will have nothing to object; then, while he pronounces a sentence which at once eulogizes their conduct, and announces their honourable acquittal, "Well done done good and faithful servants, enter ye into the joy of your Lord;" he will set upon their heads a crown of purest gold, put a palm of victory into their right hand, clothe them in robes of celestial brightness, and place them around his throne: "And so shall they be for ever with the Lord."h
f Rev. ii, 10.
8 Ch. iii, 21.
h1 Thes. iv, 17.
Page 308, line 2, for It, read The cross.