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and the highest honour is succeeded by the lowest disgrace. The same lively passions and fine feelings that give the greatest relish to prosperity; give also the severest smart to the wounds of adversity
The transfiguration itself is next related. The ed vangelists seem to vie with one another in describing the glories of this scene. During this period, we are told, the fashion of his countenance was altered; his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the snow. When Moses received the law upon mount Sinai, his countenance shone in such a manner that the Israelites could not behold him. But a greater than Moses was here, and he was invested with greata er majesty: The splendour of his Divinity shone through the veil with which it was clouded; he reas: sumed some rays of that glory which he had with the Father before the world was; and he stood confessed the Son of the living God.
To heighten the grandeur and the solemnity of the · scene, Moses, the giver of the law, and Elias, the greatest among the Prophets, descended from heaven, and conferred with him concerning his kingdom. It is usual for the chief ministers of a kingdom to resign the seals and badges of their authority to their successors in office. Thus, Moses and Elias, who had been the ministers of the kingdom of God under the Old Testament, the one representing the law, the other representing the prophets, resigned their authority to Jesus Christ, who was to reign for ever. Had we, my brethren, been present on the mount of transé figuration, been spectators of this wonderful scene ; had we beheld the glorified spirits of Moses and Elias, arrayed in the robes of heaven; and adorned with the beauties of immortality ; had we beheld the Son of the Most High clothed with uncreated light, and appearing in the glories of Divinity unveiled ; had we heard the voice of the Almighty proclaiming from the overshadowing cloud, This is my beloved Son, hear him ; would we not have been thrown into that delightful amazement of soul, that trance and ecstacy
of spiritual joy, which the disciples were in when they cried out, not knowing what they said, Lord it is good for us to be here ; let us build three tubernacles, one for thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias !
The evangelist tells us, that the disciples were heavy with sieep, or rather heavy as with sleep; and Mark says that they were sore afraid. From comparing them together, it appears to have been a rapture and an astonishment that suspended all the powers of the soul with a stillness similar to sleep. The sublime appearances which they saw struck a sudden terror into their minds, and occasioned that ecstasy of soul which holy men were generally in when they were favoured with the visions of God. Moses and Elias were properly chosen as messengers to our Saviour, and witnesses of his transfiguration, as both of thein were eminent types of Christ, acceptable to God for their faith and holiness, and admired by the Jews their countrymen for the miracles which they had performed. Both of them were admitted to conference with God in Horeb; both of them had fasted forty days; both of them had divided the waters ; they had been both the messengers of God to kinys; and as they were marvellous in their lives, so there was something extraordinary and miraculous in both their departures. Moses died at the commandinent of the Lord, and was buried in a place which no man knew. Elias, without seeing death, was translated to Heaven in a chariot of fire.
When this celestial triumvirate had assembled, what was the topic of their conversation ? Did their discourse run upon the fate of empires and the fall of kings ? Did they converse about the progress of the hunan genius, about the improvements of society, the inventions of art, and the discoveries of science ? Did they talk of the glories of that heaven from which they had descended, or atteinpt a description of those mansions above, whose beauty eye hath not seen, and whose joys ear hath not heard ? No, my brethren, an event greater than all these engaged their attention. VOL. II.
They talked of that decease, or departure, which our Divine Redeemer was to accomplish at Jerusalem. The prospect of suffering an ignominious and an accursed deatli, had always appeared to our Saviour a circumstance of distress, and filled him with disinal forebod: ings oi' mind. As the event drew nearer, these fore. bodings increased. The prospect of being forsaken, denied, and betrayed by his friends ; of being inocká ed, and tortured, and crucified by his enemies ; the terrors of the hour and power of darkness; the agony in the garden ; the horrors of the cross; the assault of devils and wicked spirits; and, far above all, the hiding of his father's countenance, and drinking the cup of the wrath of God; these were circumstances of tremendous suffering, sufficient to have overwhelmed his human nature with horror and despair. ".....
But as an angel was sent to comfort him in the garden, so here two illustrious saints descended from heaven to allay the terrors of thắt decease which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. They might represent his passion to him as entering into the councils of heaven before the world began; as the hope and expectation of all the patriarchs, and prophets, and righteous men under the law; as the accomplishment of all ihe prophecies delivered to the Old Testament Church ; as tlie fulfilment of all the types and prefigu. rations of the Mosaic institution; as the consummation of the legal economy, and period of the Jewish Church; and as the commencement of a new age and higher order of events. They might place it before his eye as confirming his doctrine from above; as magnify: ing the law and making it honourable ; as rendering glory to God in the highest, and restoring' peace on earth, and good will towards men ; as conquering the principalities and powers of darkness, and setting open the gates of paradise for all the faithful to enter in. They might set it before his eyes as the means of overthrowing the kingdom of Satan; as diffusing ligiit, and life, and salvation through the world ; as uniting the nations in, the bond of charity and love;
as being the great theme to the Church universal under the New Testament; as affording a subject for new hymns and anthemis to, the heavenly host; as reaching beyond the circle of time, and drawing hosannás of praise from the heirs of immortality, through the round of everlasting ages. These considerations would comfort our Redeemer under the forebodings of his passion ; and the prospect of the joy that was set before him would animate and strengthen him to endure the cross, to despise the shame, and to finish the work which the Father gave him to do.
Seeing then that the death and passion of our Saviour is an event of such infinite importance, let us, my brethren, make it the theme of our praise, and the subject of our contemplation. Let us frequently call to mind that scene which mount Calvary belield, the sufferings that our Saviour there endured, the groans that he uttered, and the blood that he shed on our behalf. Let us dwell on that marvellous love whichi moved him to undergo such unutterable agonies, till we feel its transforming power and efficacy; and are changed into the same image from glory to glory ; that so the cross of Christ, which was to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness, may become to us the wisdom and the power of God.
VERSE 36. And they kept it cluse, and told no man. Though they were so highly favoured of their Lord, allowed to behold him in the glories of his future kingdom, and to hold converse with two illustrious messengers from the mansions above, nevertheless they made no merit of the preference that was shewn them, and even concealed froin the world that they were distinguished from the rest of the apostles. Such, my brethren, is the uniform conduct of good Christians. The manifestations of heaven only inspire them with humility. He is but a novice in the school of Christianity, who is puffed up by any privileges which he has attained. Greater degrees of grace, and higher attainments in virtue, banish all self-conceit and spiriual pride. This holds in other inatters, as well as in
religion. The pretender always outdoes the real character. The actor always exceeds nature, and goes beyond the life. In friendship, those who have the least of the reality, have generally most of the appearance and pretence, Men of the greatest talents and abilities appear in conversation but like other men ; whilst fools and coxcombs assume those airs of superiority, and that tone of solemn pedantry, which amazes the ignorant. This holds even in intidelity itself. Those wretches, who set their months against the heavens, and profess open impiety, are generally hypocrites in wickedness, who believe and tremble when alone, and are in the horrors whenever they are left in the dark.
Beware, therefore, of a form of religion without the power thereof. The voice of true piety is not heard in the streets. She sounds no trumpet before her, affects no appearances, and lays claim to no distinctions. Those persons are always to be suspected who covet the public eye; who make a show of their sanctity, and who endeavour to dazzle the world with the pomp and the parade of godliness. Let men discover your piety and virtue ; do not you discover them yourselves. There is all the difference in the world betwixt being exemplary and being ostentations. When the angels descended of old, they were in form and appearance like men ; but when the devil appeared, he transformed himself into an angel of light.