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the kingdom of Christ-his Church--which was then small and despised, greatly enlarged and strengthened. How remarkably was this prediction verified! Son of man coming in his kingdom. The apostles lived to see the wonders of the day of Pentecost. Some of them, John particularly, saw the Jewish nation scattered-the temple destroyed-the Gospel established in Asia, Rome, Greece, and in a large portion of the known world.
Ungodly men, of discordant sentiments and parties, are united under one common head, and engaged in one common opposition to the cause of Christ; and infidels, Pharisees, and time-servers often postpone their subordinate controversies, that they may join their subtlety and influence in opposing the Word of God. Men frequently discover great ingenuity and sagacity-they make accurate observations, and deduce just inferences-in matters of a temporal nature; yet when they turn their minds to religious subjects, they seem incapable of understanding the plainest truths, which run counter to their interests, passions, and prejudices. And many are constrained to act on probable evidence, in their most important secular concerns, who perversely demand demonstration in every thing relating to religion, nay, refuse to be satisfied with demonstration itself! But Christ will convict such disingenuous prevaricators; and, in the meantime, it is commonly best for us to leave them, and not waste our time, or give them a handle, by disputing with them. We ought not, indeed, allowedly to neglect our temporal concerns, in attending to those of our souls; yet if any are betrayed into it occasionally, through great earnestness about spiritual things, they need not fear but the Lord will provide for them. Our main concern should be, to beware of false teachers and false doctrine; and to avoid the leaven of hypocrisy, pride, and infidelity, which diffuse their baneful influence on every side: yet even disciples are sometimes more anxious concerning the supply of their wants, than about keeping at a distance from error and sin. This arises from weak-' ness of faith, and will expose them to rebukes. Verses 1-12.
We often foolishly want to know what men say of us, expecting, perhaps, some flattering report; and this commonly tends to our vexation, or acts as a temptation to resentment or discontent. But our blessed Lord had wise, holy, and important reasons for making a similar inquiry; and we ought to imitate his manner of grafting instructive observations on every topic of conversation. There are various opinions concerning the Lord Jesus; and they who think the most honourably of him come nearest to the truth: but none can be his true disciples, who hesitate to confess "that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God," or who labour to explain away the meaning of such emphatical words. Happy are they who confess this from an understanding and believing heart! Whatever may be their present errors and infirmities, or their future trials and temptations, they certainly are specially favoured by the Lord; for human teaching alone has not given them this knowledge of the truth, but it is the gift of their heavenly Father, and an earnest of farther favours. We should learn to make candid allowances for inquirers, who seem to have an honest and teachable spirit, but are yet strangers to many important truths; for not the doctrines known and believed, but the origin, nature, and effects of their faith and knowledge, distinguish the true disciples from other men. The person and work of Christ, the Son of God, is the Rock on which alone the Church is built; and let the powers of darkness rage, let infidels and heretics revile and menace as they please, they will never be able to subvert this foundation, or to destroy one soul which rests his hope upon it. We have not at present such authority as was intrusted to the apostles, and none can forgive sins but God only; yet let no man despise the declarations and censures of faithful ministers-for, as far as they agree with the Word of God, they are ratified in heaven-whether they pronounce the penitent and believing to be fully pardoned, or the unbelieving and hypocritical to remain under the wrath of God. Verses 13-20.
We ought not so to regard one part of the Redeemer's character, as to overlook another; but should keep in view at once the depth of his voluntary humiliation and sufferings as our High Priest, and the height of his exaltation as our glorious King. In like manner, we should connect our view of the believer's privileges with that of his duty, and of the cross which he must bear in the way to glory. But it often happens, that men speak so excellently of one part of Christianity as to be entitled to commendation, and yet betray their ignorance and carnal prejudices when they give their sentiments on other subjects, and so lay themselves open to deserved rebukes. Those who would dissuade us from self-denying duties, or set us against the cross which lies in our path, and would counsel us to turn aside in order to shun it, ought in that respect to be considered as adversaries; and in all carnal counsellors we should recognise the voice of Satan, whose policy it is to tempt us by those whom we love, and who are in other things most worthy of our esteem. We
must not parley with such as "are an offence to us," but decidedly reject their solicitations-showing them that their false tenderness springs from their "savouring" not the " things of God, but those of men." But what repeated instructions do we need to teach us to deny ourselves, and to copy the example of our suffering Redeemer; and to convince us that every disciple must have the spirit of a martyr, whether it ever be put to the trial or not! If life is so valuable, that the whole world is a paltry compensation for the loss of it, and unworthy to be given in exchange for it, what words can describe, or computation reach, the worth of an immortal soul? It is the noblest work of God below, formed at first in his own image, possessed of vast and most valuable powers, capable of most exquisite happiness or misery, and intended for eternal existence. Such an invaluable treasure every man is possessed of; but how few seem sensible of its preciousness, or of the danger of losing it! This loss consists in the final and eternal forfeiture of the favour of God, and deprivation of his image, and banishment from his presence in the regions of darkness, misery, and despair. The souls of all men are in themselves thus lost, by transgression of the holy law of our Creator; yet, through the mercy of the Lord Jesus, none will eventually perish, but the impenitent and unbelieving. Could any man, therefore, obtain the whole world, and the sure enjoyment of it during a thousand years, as his recompense for neglecting the salvation of the Gospel, he would, through the countless ages of eternity, curse his own folly in making so mad a bargain. Yet millions lose their souls for the sake of the most trivial gain, or the most worthless indulgence, nay, from mere sloth and negligence! for whatever the object be for which men refuse or forsake Christ, that is the price at which Satan purchases their souls. Verses 21-28.-Scott.
1 The transfiguration of Christ. 14 He healeth the lunatick, 22 foretelleth his own passion, 24 and payeth tribute.
AND after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and
bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,
a Mark ix. 2; Luke ix. 28.
Ver. 1. See also Mark ix. 2-10; Luke ix. 28-36. ¶ And after six days. That is, six days from the conversation recorded in the last chapter. Taketh Peter, James, and John. These three disciples were with him also in the garden of Gethsemane. Mark xiv. 33. He designed to fit them in an eminent degree for the work of the Gospel ministry, by the previous manifestations of his glory, and of his patience in suffering. Into a high mountain apart. That is, apart from the other disciples. It is commonly supposed that this was mount Tabor, a high mountain in Galilee. The name of the mountain is not, however, mentioned in the New Testament. Luke adds (ix. 28), that he ascended there to pray. Our Saviour was much in prayer and secret communion with the Father. For this purpose he often ascended mountains, or went into the deserts.
2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
2. And was transfigured before them. The word transfigure means to change the appearance or form. It does not denote the change of the substance of a thing, but simply of its appearance. It puts on a new aspect. What this change was we are expressly told. 1. His face shone as the sun; that is, with a peculiar brightness. 2. The second change was that of his garments. They became white as the light. There is no evidence here that what is commonly said of our Saviour is true, that his body was so changed as to show what his glorified body is. His body, so far as the sacred writers inform us, underwent no change. All this splendour and glory was a change in appearance only. The Scriptures should be taken just as they are, without any attempt to affix a meaning to them which the sacred writers did not intend.
3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. 3. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias. Moses was an eminent type of our Lord. The law given through the ministry of Moses was, in all its institutions and ceremonies, typical of our Lord, and of the spiritual blessings secured by him for believers. It was peculiarly proper that Moses should appear when the ceremonial law was about to be fulfilled, and the shadow
to be supplied by the substance. Elias, or Elijah, a distinguished prophet, taken to heaven without seeing death. See 2 Kings ii. 11. Elijah had been honoured eminently by being thus translated, and still more by being made the model of the forerunner of the Messiah. Mal. iv. 5; Luke i. 17; Matt. xi. 14. They appeared "in glory" (Luke ix. 31), i.e., as they are in heaven-with the glory which the redeemed have there. Talking with him. Luke (ix. 31) informs us that they conversed about his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. To redeemed spirits, that death was an object of intense interest. By faith in that death, they had been saved; and now that the Redeemer of mankind was about to die, it is no wonder that this was the burden of his and their thoughts. Luke adds (ix. 32), that Peter and they who were with him were heavy with sleep. It is not improbable that this was in the night; that Jesus was engaged in prayer; and that he had permitted his weary followers to compose themselves to rest. It was after they were awaked that they saw this vision. Probably the sudden splendour, the bright shining, aroused them from sleep. 4 Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
4. Let us make-three tabernacles. A tabernacle is a tent. Peter was rejoiced at the vision, and desirous of continuing it. He proposed, therefore, that they should prolong this interview, and dwell there. Mark adds, that they knew not what they said in proposing this. They were frightened, amazed, and rejoiced; and, in the ecstasy of the moment, they proposed to remain there. 5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, "This is my beloved Son, ‘in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
b 2 Pet. i. 17. c Chap. iii. 17; Mark i. 11; Luke iii. 22.
d Isa. xlii. 1. e Deut. xviii. 15, 19; Acts iii. 22, 23.
5. A bright cloud overshadowed them. The word overshadow here means, rather to be diffused or spread over them. It does not mean that it made a shade. A cloud was a symbol of the Divine presence. Thus God went before the Israelites in a cloudy pillar-dark by day and bright by night (Exod. xiv. 19, 20); he appeared in mount Sinai in a cloud bright by fire (Exod. xxiv. 15-17); and a cloud, the symbol of the Divine presence, called the Shechinah, dwelt in the Most Holy Place in the temple. 1 Kings viii. 10, 11; Ezek. i. 4, x. 4. When, therefore, the disciples saw this cloud, they were prepared to hear the word of the Lord. This is my beloved Son. This was the second time that, by an audible voice from heaven, the Father gave witness to our Lord. See Matt. iii. 17. This was spoken to confirm the disciples, and to strengthen their faith in Christ when they should go forth to preach the Gospel, after he was shamefully put to death. 6. 'And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. 7 And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. 8 And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man save Jesus only.
f2 Peter i. 18. g Dan. viii. 18, ix. 21, x. 10, 18.
6. They fell on their face. They entered into the cloud; or the cloud enveloped them. Luke ix. 34. They were therefore afraid. They were awed at the presence of God; and their fears were removed only by the voice of their beloved Master. No man can see God, and live. And it is only the glory of God, as it shines in the face of Christ (see 2 Cor. iv. 6), that mortals can bear. 9 And as they came down from the mountain, "Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.
A Chap. xvi. 20; Mark viii. 30, ix. 9.
9. Tell the vision to no man. This vision was designed particularly to confirm the faith of the disciples in regard to the Messiahship of their Master. So long as Christ was with them, it was unnecessary that they should make public what they had seen. When he was betrayed into the hands of sinners, vilified, and put to death, then they would feel the value of the remarkable evidence given to them, at this time, that he was the Christ. Had the disciples published this vision, it would, in all probability, have stirred up to the highest pitch, the hatred and malignity of the Jews; and our Saviour's time had not yet come.
10 And his disciples asked him, saying, 'Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?
i Mal. iv. 5; Chap. xi. 14; Mark ix. 11.
10. See also Mark ix. 11-13. Why then say the scribes, &c. The disciples were satisfied that their Master was the Messiah. In the belief of this fact, they were greatly confirmed by the transfiguration. But they recollected that it was a common doctrine among the Jews that Elijah should appear before the Messiah came; and, in regard to this, they were in some difficulty. It is as if they had said, "We are satisfied that thou art the Christ. But Elijah has not yet come, as was expected. What 'then' is the meaning of the common opinions of our learned men, the scribes? Are they right or wrong in their expectation of Elijah?"
11 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and Krestore all things.
k Mal. iv. 6; Luke i. 16, 17; Acts iii. 21.
11. Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. In answer to the question of the disciples, our Lord taught them, that the scribes were perfectly right in asserting that Elijah should be the forerunner of the Messiah; and, moreover, that he had already appeared. He touches also upon the office of the forerunner, the work which he had to do; that work was, in the language of the 11th verse, "to restore all things." Before the public ministry of the forerunner, every thing among the Jews had gone into fearful disorder. They had lost all right apprehension of the nature of religion, were ignorant of its spirituality, and experienced nothing of its power. There were, of course, exceptions to be found, but such was the melancholy state of matters amongst the great body of the people. In preaching the doctrine of repentance, the forerunner taught them that God is no respecter of persons, and the absolute necessity of a complete change of heart and character being wrought upon them, before they could become the subjects of the Messiah's kingdom, which, contrary to their expectations, was to be a spiritual, not a temporal, one. By his doctrine, he may well be said to have restored all things; for he furnished to those amongst whom he laboured, the means of becoming acquainted with the great truths of religion, the nature of the kingdom of heaven, and the character of him whose kingdom it is. The people, however, and their rulers, had sunk into such deep spiritual slumber,—were so hardened in their sins; and, with the prophecies in their hands, so dull to perceive, and slow to believe what was there predicted, that they did not recognise in the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah. Our Saviour adds, that what had happened concerning John, would also happen to himself, viz., he would not be recognised as the Messiah, but be dishonoured, persecuted, and put to death.
12 'But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise "shall also the Son of man suffer of them. 13 "Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist. 14 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,
7 Chap. xi. 14; Mark ix. 12, 13. m Chap. xiv. 3, 10. n Chap. xvi. 21. o Chap. xi. 14. p Mark ix. 14; Luke ix. 37. 14. See also Mark ix. 14-29; Luke ix. 37-43. And when they were come to the multitude, &c. This multitude was probably composed of persons who had been in the habit of attending upon our Lord's ministrations. The nine who were not with him on the mount, were of the number. Mark (ix. 15), informs us that there were scribes present, questioning and arguing with the disciples. Perhaps they seized the opportunity which Christ's absence afforded them of endeavouring to perplex and confound them, and to draw them off from their obedience to Christ, and their faith in him as the Anointed of the Father. These scribes, it may be, were professedly making inquiries about the Saviour, but really attempting to introduce their own sentiments, and to draw them off from him. They probably artfully asked them many questions about his birth, his family, his appearance, his manner of life, his instructions-all which were contrary to the general expectation respecting the Messiah; and they intended, therefore, to insinuate that such a person could not be the Christ. Error is always subtle, and often puts on the appearance of calm and honest inquiry. Our spiritual enemies ply their temptations with the nicest skill, and most entire adaptation to the circumstances and state of mind in which we may be in at the time; they use every means to accomplish their purpose, and can only be defeated by that divine wisdom and strength which God
is engaged to communicate to his people, and which he will bestow when they ask it in the way appointed.
15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. 16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. 17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. 18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.
15. Lord have mercy. An earnest prayer, and such as we would be constantly putting up, if only we felt as we ought to do, how much and how continually we stand in need of the mercy of Christ, to heal our backslidings, and strengthen us inwardly with his grace. The man in the text was in great distress. It was his only son (we learn from Luke), that was thus grievously afflicted. He dwells upon the distressing features of his trouble with a view to excite the sympathy of Christ, and prevail with him to grant what he so earnestly asked. The more we are convinced of, and feel the evil of sin, making havoc, as it does, of the peace of the soul, the more earnestly will we pray for deliverance from its power. In the 17th verse, our Lord administers a reproof. It seems to have been addressed to all present. He reproves them for their want of faith, and obstinate hardness of heart; and represents his not breaking out upon them with severe judgments, as a token of his long-suffering forbearance. This rebuke the scribes merited. They should have known how to weigh evidence, but they persevered in their hatred of Christ, and their unbelief, notwithstanding his mighty works, and so were "a faithless and perverse generation." The father who prayed earnestly that his son might be cured, required also to be reproved. We learn from Mark (ix. 23), that he was not without faith. He seemed, however, to have supposed that the disciples had such virtue dwelling in them; that, by their own power, they could cast out devils, and heal diseases. It need not be said, that this was a very foolish supposition in itself, and very dishonouring to Christ. That he had faith in the ability of Christ to do that about which he was so painfully solicitous, appears from several considerations. It is first of all recorded of him (Mark ix. 24), that he "cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe;" but he also was humble, and very sensible of the weakness of his faith, he felt how much it stood in need of being strengthened; and, whilst he acknowledged that he did believe, he, at the same time, prayed, Lord "help my unbelief." It also appears from the fact, that the inability of the disciples to cure his son, did not make him despair, did not persuade him to doubt the power of Christ to do it, else he would not have come to him with such a request. By the words of Christ, the disciples also were rebuked. They had been brought into difficulty, perhaps, by the ensnaring questions and subtle reasonings of the scribes. Perhaps they had become vain in their imaginations, and (as happens, for men often draw nourishment to their pride, from those very things that should keep them humble) had assumed much selfimportance, because of those powers of healing which their Master had conferred upon them. They were now reminded how entirely dependent they were upon their Master, for all that they were, and all they possessed. Having reproved, as we have now seen, those present, our Lord proceeded to manifest his love to men, by performing another work of mercy; and his Divine power, by another miracle, he rebuked the devil, and he departed out of the child: and the child was cured from that very hour.
19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? 20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, 'If ye have faith as a grain of mustard-seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
9 Chap. xxi. 21; Mark xi. 23; Luke xvii. 6; 1 Cor. xii. 9, xiii. 2.
19. Then came the disciples. When the disciples, after the working of the miracle, came to Jesus apart, and asked why they could not cast the devil out of the child, he gave them two reasons for their failure:-1. It was because of their unbelief. Though they had faith, yet that faith was weak and ineffectual. As far as faith falls short of due strength, vigour, and activity, it may truly be said, There is unbelief. Many are chargeable with unbelief, yet not to be called unbelievers.