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Galilee. 33 - for thou savourest not the things that be of Goda Matt. x. 38. 34 a Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his
cross, and follow me.
35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it ; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake
LUKE ix. ver. 22. part of ver. 23, 24. 26. and ver. 27. b Matt. xvii. 22 Saying, “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of
the elders, and Chief Priests and Scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.
23 And he said to them
24 —the same shall save it. c Matt. x. 33. 26 < For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall
the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come and in his Father's d Matt. xvi. 27 d But I tell you of a truth, There be some standing here which shall not
taste of death till they see the kingdom of God.
The Transfiguration of Christ ”.
And it came to pass about eight days after Luke ix. 28. * Or, things. these * sayings,
Matt. xvii. 1.
22 ON THE TRANSFIGURATION. Having now prepared the minds of his disciples for his approaching sufferings and death, our Lord, for the greater confirmation of their faith in all the predicted trials that awaited them, determines to manifest himself to them in his glorified state: in that state, we may believe, in which He was before the world began, in which He is at present, in which also He will appear to an assembled world. He sets before them, as his custom was, by a significant action, a demonstration of the truth of what he had told them, that some of them should see their King in his glory. The transfiguration of Christ, like his resurrection and ascension, appears as it were to draw back for a moment the veil from the invisible world. The impenetrable barrier is passed ; a light seems to dart from heaven to disperse the thick clouds that hang over the valley of the shadow of death, and we are admitted into the presence of the Judge of the world; and see, with the eye of faith, the spirits of the just made perfect, before we are called upon to resign this corruptible body to the shroud and to the tomb. Where the spirits of the departed exist, what their condition, or what their laws of consciousness, or means of happiness, man must die before he can ascertain. But it is not improbable that the invisible world is so mysteriously connected with this visible diurnal sphere, that the cessation of our consciousness as to present things, is but the commencement of our consciousness of all those unknown realities of the other world. Who can say, that we are not at this moment surrounded—that we are not at every period of our lives encompassed
Mark ix. 2. Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and Galilee.
with a crowd of angelic spirits, the anxious witnesses of our thoughts and actions ?
" Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth
Unseen, both when we wake, and when we sleep :" and it is only the fragile veil of this body that prevents us from distinguishing them; as soon as that is dissolved we shall become spirits among spirits.
Bishop Porteus, in his beautiful and elegant discourse on this portion of Scripture, observes that the evident tendency of the whole passage is to prepare the minds of his disciples for the cruel treatment which both he and they were to undergo, and at the same time to raise their drooping spirits, by setting before their eyes his own exaltation, and their glorious rewards in another life. The very mentioning of Christ's death, by such men as Moses and Elias, without any marks of surprise or dissatisfaction, was of itself sufficient to cause a great change in the sentiments of the disciples respecting those sufferings; and to soften those prejudices against them, the removal of which seems to have been one of the more immediate objects of the transfiguration. He continues by remarking, that the circumstance of Christ's assumption of this splendid and glorious appearance at the very time Moses and Elias were conversing with him on his sufferings, was a visible and striking proof to his disciples, that those sufferings were neither a discredit nor disgrace to him, but were perfectly consistent with the dignity of his character, and the highest state of glory to which he could be exalted. The transfiguration of Christ may be considered as a visible and figurative representation of Christ's coming in glory to judge the world, of a general resurrection, and of a day of retribution. For although the resurrection is not expressly mentioned in this transaction, it is evidently and distinctly implied ; because Jesus is there represented in his glorified state, consequently the resurrection must be supposed to have taken place. In the preceding section we read that when Christ should come again in glory, he would reward every man according to his works, (v. 27.) and in confirmation of the truths of a resurrection, and a day of retribution, Moses and Elias, two just and righteous men, who had for many centuries before departed out of this world, were brought back to it again in the possession of a state of glory. Elias having been carried up into heaven without seeing death, most aptly represents those chil. dren of light who should be found alive at the last day; and Moses shadows forth the glorious perfection of those blessed spirits who have died in the Lord, and who in the day of judgment, their body and soul being united and glorified; will receive the reward of their works. The glory of Christ therefore on the mountain was a symbol of his exaltation to be the judge of the earth, and the glory of Moses and Elias was an earnest of a resurrection, and of the rewards and happiness prepared for the righteous in heaven. The other great purpose of the action on the mount, was, to give a figurative signification of the abrogation of the Mosaical law, and the commencement of the Christian dispensation, upon which it was to be established. - Moses and Elias, as the representatives of the law and the prophets, who had successively testified of the promised Mes
and went up into a mountain to pray ;
Luke ix, 28. and he leadeth them up into an high mountain Mark ix. 2. apart by themselves :
siah, it appears to me, were now in their glorified state, permitted to behold on earth the magnificent completion of all their predictions ; and by their farewell testimony to the truth of his divinity, afford to man the most powerful evidence that human reason could either receive or require. By their testimony they acknowledged the accomplishment of all their prophecies, and that the commencement of the Messiah's kingdom was established on the law and the prophets ; and when the disciples, in an extacy of happiness, desired to erect three tabernacles, God himself proclaimed, This is my beloved Son, hear-HEAR YE HIM. Moses and Elias instantly disappear, overshadowed by the bright cloud, and Christ alone remains the undivided object of all their worship. To Him alone are they to build their altars; to Him alone are they to look for happiness and glory; and He shall come again with his holy angels, and ten thousand times ten thousand shall stand before him. The great day which God has appointed for the duration of this earth is rapidly rolling round, with all its successive generations; and He who created man in the morning of that day, shall descend again from heaven in judgment, when its hour of evening closes. His glory then will fill the skies, and these stupendous but inferior manifestations of his Godhead, are but as the morning stars, which shall be lost in the glory of that magnificent · sun which shall then beam upon the gathered universe. Inspiration itself seems
to labour under the description of that day. Language fails before the glories and overwhelming splendours of the invisible world. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive, what God hath prepared for them that love him."
The best treatise on the important event we are now considering, is that by Witsius, in the Meletemata Leidentia. It is too long to translate ; but as the book itself is not often to be met with, I shall subjoin an abstract of the reasoning of the learned author.
The matter of his treatise is arranged under four general heads.
The glorifying.–Person and apparel; converse with Moses and Elias; attes, tation from God the Father.
Adjuncts./Weakness of the Apostles; indulgence shewn them by Jesus; interruption by St. Peter.
Sequel.---Fear of the beholders on his descent; comfort imparted by Christ; secrecy enjoined, and observed by the Apostles.
The circumstances of the peculiar prophecy of the time in which our Lord was transfigured have been already noticed. The place is uncertain, but is generally supposed to have been Mount Tabor.
The witnesses were few in number, but they were the same as were required
And as he prayed, the fashion of his counte- Galilee. nance was altered,
by the law to testify the truth of any fact. Peter, James, and John, were selected as the most eminent among the disciples.
The transfiguration took place while Christ was in the act of prayer.
The nature of the change produced in the person, face, and garments of Christ, i cannot be comprehended in this state of our existence.
The transfiguration took place on our Lord's account, as well as on our own. The weakness of his human nature might require such support. But it was principally for our sakes, that we might believe that Christ was the true Messiah.
The reasons why Moses and Elias appeared, were, that Moses was the founder of the Jewish polity, and Elias was the reformer of the Jewish Church, and the most zealous of its prophets. Their presence implied, that the ministry of Christ was attested by the law and the prophets.
Witsius then enquires, were these persons really visible, or merely phantoms in their shape ? There is no difficulty about Elias, who having been translated in body, may easily be conceived to have come down from heaven to Christ on the mountain. But how did Moses appear, who died and was buried ? From the dispute between Michael and the devil about the body of Moses, some imagine that his body was preserved from corruption, for the express purpose of being restored to him on this occasion. But however this be, his body certainly might have been restored to him; and it seems most probable that such was the case. Whether he returned with Elias to heaven, or tarried upon the earth to accompany Christ in his ascent, is a question of curiosity, sect. 15. · But how could the Apostles tell who Moses and Elias were? Most probably either by divine revelation, or by some emblematical tokens, or by the conversation which passed between them and Christ, sect. 16.
They appeared in glory, partly to do honour to their Lord, partly to give the Apostles an idea of glorified bodies, which they themselves should afterwards possess in heaven, sect. 17.
They talked to our Saviour about his impending death, not to point out to him what he had to suffer, but that they might assert the momentous truth, that the salvation of the human race depended entirely on the death of Christ, sect. 19.
Adjuncts-Drowsiness of the Apostles. This might have happened because it was night, or because they were fatigued with ascending the mountain, or from the length of Christ's prayers, sect. 20.
. The proposal of Peter was inconsiderate, but proceeded from a love of his mas-, ter, and zeal for his service. It must be delightful, he thought, to continue for some time longer in the enjoyment of such celestial society; and, with a view of discovering the will of the Lord, he said, “ It is good that we should remain here," sect. 23 and 24.
The bright cloud was a symbol of the divine presence, while it served to shroud God's glory. Its brightness was contrasted with the darkness and terror that accompanied the descent of Jehovah on former occasions, pointing out the mild character of the new dispensation. It also served to prevent the Apostles from looking into mysteries, by observing what became of the glorified bodies of Moses and Elias, sect. 30. • The words that were heard to proceed from the cloud, are extremely empha
and he was transfigured before them,
Mark ix. 2. +
tical and important—" This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased ; hear ye him." These words contain a declaration of the glorious nature of Christ, joined with an injunction to obey him_“ Hear ye him:" i.e. Hear him alone; where there is a tacit contrast with Moses and Elias. Christ indeed came to confirm the law and the prophets ; but he came in a character so transcendently elevated, that the twinkling sparks of the old covenant were absorbed in the blaze of his Gospel, sect. 33.
The sum and substance of the Gospel is contained in this concise declaration from above. We are herein told who and what He is, whom the Father appointed for the Saviour of the human race; His Only Son; the object of his love ; dear beyond all created beings, sect. 34.
A most consoling truth; since the only Son of God, for our sakes, was consigned to such cruel tortures, and so dreadful a death, sect. 35.
Sequel.-- Fear of the Apostles.--This might arise from the awful sound of the voice which they heard; but it was chiefly occasioned by visible symbols of the presence of the Divine Majesty, sect. 39.
They saw no one but Jesus only. It was not fit that Moses and Elias should remain on the earth any longer, as their ministry was not to be confounded and mixed with that of Christ and with the apostolic functions, sect. 42.
The Apostles were commanded by Christ not to divulge what they had seen till after his resurrection. The following reasons are assigned: Christ was at that time in his state of humiliation, and he ever conducted himself with a modesty. agreeable to that state; He therefore avoided every kind of display. The Apostles were not yet qualified to publish these things, by power given them from above. If they had done so, they would not have been believed by the Jews, until after a more public demonstration of his glory, in his resurrection and ascension, sect. 43.
The fidelity of the Apostles on this occasion is praiseworthy: although they disputed with each other what the resurrection from the dead might mean, yet they scrupulously observed the injunction of secrecy, sect. 45.
Such is the brief outline of Witsius' learned Treatise on the Transfiguration. He has omitted, however, to notice the peculiar circumstance related Mark ix. 15, that the people who beheld our Saviour coming from the mountain were amazed at his appearance. Doddridge agrees with the conjecture of Whitby, that it is probable our Lord's face shone with rays of glory, as the face of Moses did when he came down from the Mount. Pilkington likewise proposes the same idea, as if it was entirely his own. "I hope to be excused,” he says, “in offering a conjecture to illustrate an expression in this section, which hath generally been passed over by the commentators without any remark. It is here said, that the people were greatly amazed, when they beheld Jesus coming unto them: and no satisfactory account hath been given of their surprise or astonishment; which, I am induced to think, proceeded from some rays of the heavenly glory, which yet rested on our Saviour, and were visible unto them. We cannot well read of the people being now greatly amazed at the sight of him, without recollecting what happened to Moses, when he had been more immediately in the divine presence ;, that, at his return to the people, the skin of his face shone so, that Aaron and