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Mark ix. 2. Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John,
from distinguishing them; as soon as that is dissolved we shall
Bishop Porteus, in his beautiful and eloquent discourse on
Loke ix. 28. and went up into a mountain to pray.
Galilee. Mark ix. 2. and he leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by
extacy of happiness, desired to erect three tabernacles, God
The best treatise on the important event we are now consi.
The matter of his treatise is arranged under four general
1. The circumstances.
The glorifying.-Person and apparel ; converse with Moses
Adjuncts.-Weakness of the Apostles; Indulgence shown them by Jesus : interruption by St. Peter.
Sequel.- Fear of the beholders on his descent; comfort im.
The circumstances of the peculiar prophecy of the time in
The witnesses were few in number, but they were the same as
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, 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
Luke is, 29. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was Galilee.
The reasons why Moses and Elias appeared, were, that Moses
Witsius then enquires, were these persons really visible, or merely phantoms in their shape? There is no diffieulty 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 master, 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 his 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 emphatical 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 propbets; but he came in a character so transcendently elevated, that the twinkling sparks of the old covenant were absorbed in. the blaze of bis Gospel, sect. 33.
Mark ix. 2. and he was transfigured before them.
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 aud 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 assigued : 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 praise worthy: 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 bas 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 surprize 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 the children of Israel were afraid to come nigh him, Exod. xxxiv. 30. And the reader may likewise observe, that the word èxdaybeapal, which is here translated, to be greatly amazed, is used by St. Mark, in another place, to signify, particularly, the being astonished and terrified, at a glorious and supernatural appearance, chap. xvi. 5, 6.
Mark ix. 3. And his raiment became shining,
were Moses and Elias :
he should accomplish at Jerusalem.
with sleep; and, when they were awake, they saw his
glory, and the two men that stood with him.
33. And it came to pass, as they departed from him,
good for us to be here: [and] if thou wilt, let us make
In addition to these remarks, it must be observed, that there were traditions among the Jews, that Moses and Elias should return to earth during the reign of the Messiah -Schoetgen, to prove this, quotes Debarim rabba, sect. 3. fol. 255. 2. and Tanchuma, fol. 42. 1. Horæ Hebraicæ, vol. 1. p. 148.
It may be remarked here, that one Evangelist, in relating the transfiguration, states that Jesus went up into the moontain six days after the previous conversation, (vide the preceding section,) and by another that it was eight days. This dis. crepancy is easily reconciled. St. Matthew marks the interval of six complete days; whereas St. Luke takes into calculation the day on which the conversation was held, and that likewise on which the transfiguration took place; making thereby eight days.
The sleep of Peter and the Apostles does not appear to be generally understood. Some suppose that as St. Luke has mentioned this eircumstance in the midst of his narrative, that the disciples were asleep during the time of the transfiguration, and while Moses and
Elias were conversing with our Lord. The passage in St. Luke must be considered as in a parenthesis ; and seems to imply that the Apostles had fallen asleep most probably from fatigue, the difficult ascent; or, as others suppose, from the length of time in which our Lord continued in prayer. Whatever might have been the cause, they were certainly awoke from their lethargy by the celestial glory that surrounded them.
Bishop Hall, in bis Contemplations, has also many ad. mirable remarks on the subject of the transfiguration. He arranges his matter under the four heads: of Time, Place, Attendants, and Company. His devotional thoughts on the various particulars are eminently beautiful (a).
(a) Hall's Contemplations, Works, Pratt's London edition, 10 vols. 8vo. vol. ii. p. 374.- See also Porteas's Works, vol. v. lectare 15. Dr. Holmes also, late Dean of Winchester, the Collator of the Septuagint, in a sermon, preached at Oxford, 1777, bas expressed the same opinions as those of Bishop Porteus.-Witsins Meletemata Leidensia, Diss, iv. de Glorif, in Monte, p. 215.-Whitby in loc.-Doddridge Fam. Expos. sect. 90 and 91.–Pilkington Evan. Hist, notes, p. 85.-Schoetgen Horæ Hebraicæ, vol. i. p. 118.