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himself, “ I am not Elias," John i. 21. John, therefore, was called Elias, because he appeared in the spirit and power of that great reforming prophet. The words of Malachi' have all along been understood by the jews to predict a personal return of Elijah. Jesus, the son of Sirach, appears to have understood them thus; for in the 48th chapter of his apocryphal book, he says, “ Thou, Elias, wast taken up in a whirlwind of fire, and in a chariot of fiery horses ; who wast ordained for reproof in its season, to pacify the wrath of the Lord's judgment before it broke forth into fury, and to turn the heart of the fathers unto the
sons, and to restore the tribes of Jacob. Blessed are they that see thee, and shall be honoured on account of thy friendship; then shall we possess the true life.”
And lo! all unexpectedly, this ancient prophet actually appears again, on the mount of transfiguration, with Moses at his side—both of them engaged in sacred converse with the Lord of glory. What a wonderful event is here recorded by the evangelists ! Did, then, this event constitute the full and final accomplishment of Malachi's prediction? I doubt it, my brethren. For Malachi further said, that Elijah was to come, in order to turn “ the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers ;” but he has not yet executed this commission; consequently, the ancient prediction leaves us still to expect something more. It is already fulfilled in a typical manner;
but its entire fulfilment is yet to come. Are we then still to expect the return of Elias ? I am inclined to believe, that at the time of the restoration and conversion of Israel, he will again appear upon earth in his glorified person, and that his future coming will signalize a great and glorious epoch in the history of the kingdom of God.
How wonderful, to find a man once of like passions as we are, taking a part for thousands of years together in this world's his“0 Elijah, how art thou honoured !” we may say,
with the son of Sirach,“ which of us is to be praised like unto thee? Blessed are they that see thee, and will be honoured on account of thy friendship !" Yet even thou, what art thou but a satellite shining with another's light, and setting forth the love and grace of Christ towards sinful men!
But let us now approach the mount of transfiguration, and may the scene prove a blessing to our own souls ! It will disclose blissful objects to our view.
MATTHEW XVII. 1, 2. After six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured
before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was
white as the light.” The evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all relate this wonderful event. It was not ideal, but real. The simplicity with which it is related is sufficient to show this. It affords us a glimpse of heavenly things, though very incomprehensible to
Let joy, rather than impertinent curiosity, fill our souls in beholding this glorious event! Lo, we have here something more than the fiery sign on Carmel, more than the burning bush at Horeb, or the flames and voice on mount Sinai. “ This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” Let us devoutly consider this sublime occurrence, and
may the Holy Spirit enable us to learn something of its excellent instruction ! We will notice for the present, I. The probable intention of this event; II. The event itself.
1. The evangelists refer to the connexion of this event with a conversation which occurred almost immediately before at Cesarea Philippi, when the Lord was on the point of commencing his last journey to Jerusalem. Whom,” said he to his disciples, “ do men say that I the Son of man am ?” They replied, “Some say thou art John the Baptist, some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets.” Jesus answered, “But whom say ye that I am ?” Peter replied, “ Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God !” Jesus answered, “ Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father, which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon
this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Never had the disciples stood on such an elevation of faith as now. It was therefore a favourable season for introducing them deeper into the mystery of redemption, and for disclosing to them the solemn truth that Christ must suffer, a truth which they had hitherto been unable to bear. “ From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders, and chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” But the astonished disciples knew not what to think of all this. They could not reconcile their minds to the notion of a suffering and slain Messiah. Hence, Simon Peter fell back for a moment from his exalted faith to the mere notions of a natural man ; and, quite forgetting the humble relation wherein he stood to the Lord, he takes him aside, with unbecoming haste, and says to him in a tone of advice, or rather
of reproof, “ Be it far from thee, Lord ; this shall not be unto thee." But the Lord, immediately perceiving from whence this
Spare thyself” originated, replied with holy severity, “ Get thee behind me, Satan : thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men."
The manifestation, therefore, on the holy mount, appears to have been vouchsafed, partly on account of the disciples, in order afterwards to cast of light upon the gloom of Golgotha, by showing their Master's resignation to his sufferings; and further, to show them who he really was whom they were soon to behold crowned with thorns and nailed to the cross. They might here learn that he would not fall a sacrifice to unfortunate accidents, and that he could not fulfil the mission
which he came, unless he voluntarily gave himself up to death. They might here also learn, that the voluntary death of Christ was in harmony with the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. The voice which they heard coming out of the cloud put it beyond a doubt. Moreover, the transfiguration served to annihilate the suspicion, that there was any thing in the establishment of Christ's kingdom at variance with Moses and the prophets ; for the appearance of the heavenly envoys, and their converse with the Saviour, testified most unequivocally to the contrary. Behold then what a fulness of Divine light and information was contained in this one fact. It served to strengthen the faith of the disciples to such a degree, that they might refresh themselves by the recollection of it during the rest of their lives, as we find St. Peter does, 2 Pet. i. 16–18.
But let us not suppose that this manifestation was intended solely for the disciples. Not only earth, but heaven itself, participated in it. It was a spectacle also to angels, and to the spirits of just men made perfect. Edifying and joyous must it have been even to them to behold the glory of their abased King thus breaking forth as the light. From this glory there proceeded new occasion for heavenly praise.
Nor can we suppose that the transfiguration did not take place partly on account of the Son of man himself. Indeed its most important intention appears to have had reference to him, and him alone. For though, even in the days of his flesh, the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in him ; yet he, with equal truth and reality, led a human life likewise. As man, he had to believe, conflict, and learn obedience, even as his own disciples. His way, like ours, lay through manifold temptations, spiritual desertion, and darkness ; nay, seasons were not wanting to him, when like his people he really needed strengthening, comfort, and encouragement; neither did he despise even the sympathy of his disciples, Matt. xxvi. 38. God had prepared him for his temptation in the wilderness, by the testimony he gave from heaven, “ This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased;" and as He was now approaching a still more portentous and awful conflict, the glory on the holy mount would serve to prepare him for it. Recollect the scene in John xii. Jesus has come to Jerusalem. The fire, which is to consume him, as our sacrifice, is about to be kindled. The night is at hand; its approaching horrors are foreseen by him. His sacred humanity trembles, and the
“ Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say ? Father, save me from this hour? But for this cause came I unto this hour.” He submits to the will of the Father; and now he desires something else ;
Father, glorify thy name.” Glorify thyself in me, and show that thou art my Father, and that I am thine Only Begotten.” He speaks, and immediately a voice is heard by the people about him, who thought it thundered. “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again !" Now the words, “ I have glorified it,” might partly have reference to the event in the holy mount. Thus, the transfiguration might have been intended as a means of invigorating the Son of man himself, in the prospect of his approaching hour of trial. For, sin only excepted, our good Shepherd was willing to pass through all the states and conditions of his sheep, and to labour like them, from day to day, in faith and dependence on his Father. “He wakeneth mine ear to discipline,” saith he in Isaiah 1. “morning by morning; he wakeneth mine ear to hear as a learner. The Lord God has opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.”
II. The consideration of the transfiguration itself will afford us further instruction. “ After six days," relates the evangelist, “ Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them
up to a high mountain apart.” These three disciples he repeatedly distinguished above the rest : he afterwards took them with him to Gethsemane, as into the holy of holies, to behold there the priestly altar and sacrificial fire ; but here it was to view his regal splendour and glory. It seems almost as if the Saviour in this respect also felt and acted as a man ; that he showed that special affection, which the heart of one friend feels for another, and was nobly sensible of that lovely bond of tenderness which we call mutual sympathy ; like that of Jacob, whose life was bound up in Benjamin's life. It is true, that his children were all equally dear to him; he loved them all, even as the Father loved him. But there were two or three who seem to have stood nearer to his natural human feelings; and the nearest of these was evidently the apostle John, who is emphatically called in Scripture, " The disciple whom Jesus loved;” and the next to him were his brother James, and Simon Peter. And how amiable does Simon Peter appear, even in his errors and mistakes, on account of his ardent zeal for his Master, and his frank and ingenuous disposition! And who would not have been constrained to love James—the holy and warm-hearted man, who was ready to be, and actually was, the first amongst the twelve to drink the cup of martyrdom ! And then John, that noble young branch in the heavenly Vine, that eagle spirit, who was named,
with his brother just mentioned, a son of thunder, whose character nevertheless so beautifully resembled that of Jesus himself—a character full of tenderness and heavenly love, which seemed touched as with the live coal of the sanctuary; where has there ever existed, next to the “fairest of the children of men,” a more lovely character than this disciple ? The innermost chords of his soul harmonized with those of the human soul of Jesus.
Yet was our Lord's predilection for these three disciples only a subordinate reason for taking them with him to the holy mount. He had other reasons incomparably more important, which are to be sought for in the particular vocation of these three, and in their peculiar relation to the person of Jesus. For they undoubtedly appear as the Lord's more intimate circle, even as they were afterwards selected to be the three principal pillars of the church. They were to be the first who should plant, in the midst of storm and conflict, the banner of the cross on the mountains of Israel ; and, on this account, they peculiarly required such a signal preparation as they were now to receive.
The sacred narrative informs us, that Jesus took these disciples with him to a high mountain.” From ancient times it had been the Lord's custom to select the retired summits of hills, those quiet islands amidst the ocean of worldly confusion, for the places of some of his most remarkable revelations. The mount on which the transfiguration took place, is not definitely pointed out to us in Scripture. According to an ancient and not improbable tradition, it was Tabor, the most considerable and beautiful mountain in Galilee. This eminence, which a modern traveller found entirely covered with green oaks, and other trees, shrubs, and odoriferous plants, stands elevated in the