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When the three disciples heard the voice, which was vastly different to any they had heard before, and, at the same time, that it seenied soft as the southern breeze, yet it was awful and majestic as the thunder's roar; impressed with trembling awe, they fell with their faces to the ground, and continued in that posture, till their compassionate Master came to them, and gently touched them, bid them arise, and not be afraid. They immediately looked about them, but the heavenly scene was withdrawn, and no person was seen but their divine Master, in the plain and unadorned form in which he appeared before he ascended the mountain.
Our Lord having continued on the summit of the mountain all night with his three disciples, early in the morning descended to the plain, and charged them to conceal what they had seen, till he was risen from the dead. He was well aware, that the world and even his own disciples, were strangers to his spiritual kingdom, and had no idea of his ascending to heaven, and being highly exalted at the right hand of God; therefore, they could not comprehend the design of his transfiguration, and it was unnecessary to publish it before his resurrection, as it could not be described ; and, perhaps, would not have been believed : and the present appearance of our Redeemer, joined with the afflictions, persecutions, sufferings, and sorrows which lay before him, might still tend to prejudice the minds of the people, and prevent them from believing any account of his exaltation and glory.
Nor were the disciples at this time, able to understand the doctrine of Christ's resurrection; they had never learnt that the Messiah was to die, nor had they any conception of his rising from the dead; for they were fully persuaded that he was to abide for ever, and that his kingdom was to have no end. They seemed very much surprised at the departure of Elias, and at their Master's ceasing to shine in the glorious manner they had so lately beheld on the mountain: nor could they comprehend the meaning of the prophet Malachi, who had prophesied of the coming of Elias, which their readers of the law explained to refer to a time, prior to the appearance of the Messiah. After Jong debating amongst themselves, they concluded to apply to their Master, to solve the difficulty, and therefore asked him, Why say the Scribes, that Elias must first come? To this inquiry, our Lord replied, that the Scribes had rightly explained the prophecy of Malachi, by declaring that Elias must come before the appearance of the Messiah; but at the same time, he informed them, that this great prophet had made his appearance, and had been used by that perverse generation, in the same manner as the prophets of old had been treated by their fathers: But I say unto you, said he, that Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed : likewise shall also the Son of inan suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he späke to them of John the Baptist.
When Jesus descended to the foot of the mountain, attended by his three disciples, he saw a great multitude surrounding the nine, who had continued with the people while our Lord had been
transfigured, and the Scribes disputing with them. The people seeing Jesus approach, ran to him with exultation and joy, and saluted him with the warmest gratitude, and the most respectful reverence. Our Lord having joined the company, immediately asked the Scribes, what was the subject of their debate with his disciples? to which one of the company answered Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; and wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake unto thy disciples, that they should cast him out, but they could not.
This answer seems to indicate, that the Scribes had
been reproaching the disciples, on account of their inability to restore the afflicted youth: and, no doubt, they rejoiced, that at last, a devil had appeared who was too hard for them, and, perhaps, would not submit to their Master. That something like this had been the subject of their conversation, is evident from our Saviour's reply : 0 faithless generation, said he, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you? After having spoken in this manner to the proud, selfconceited, sceptical Scribes, our Lord turned to the father of the afflicted young man, and said, Bring thy son hither. The afflicted father obeyed; but no sooner was the youth brought into the presence of the great ruler of earth and heaven, than the evil spirit attacked him with double fury: the spirit tare him ; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.
It is not to be supposed, that the blessed JESUS could not have prevented this furious attack; but he was pleased to suffer it, probably, that the minds of the spectators might be the more affected with the deplorable condition of the sufferer, and have the more just and lively ideas of that wisdom, power, and goodness, which should give him relief; and it is probable with the same views, he asked the mournful father, how long his son had been in this pitious condition To which he replied, Of a child. And oft times it hath casi him into the fire, and into the waters to destroy him: but, if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.
It seems, that the inability of the disciples to cast out this evil spirit, had greatly discouraged the afflicted father: and the exquisite torture, and apparent agonies of his son, and the remembrance of their long continuance, had dispirited him so much, that he began to fear, that this possession was too strong for the power of Jesus himself, as the Scribe had aifirmed ; which was the reason of his expressing himself with so much hesitation and doubt, when he told our Lord, how long his son had been afflicted. But Jesus, to make him sensible of his mistake, as well as gently to reprove him for his unbelief, and groundless fears, said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. The father, affected with this declaration, and with a heart full of tenderness and joy, at the supposed possibility of the relief of his son, replied with tears, Lord, I believe ; help thou mine unbelief. The vehement manner in which the afflicted parent spoke these words, caused the crowd to gather about him ; when Jesus rebuked the foul spirit; and said unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee come out of him, and enter no more into him.
The awful voice, at which all the devils tremble, had no sooner pronounced these words, than the devil, with an hideous howling, and convulsing the tormented youth in the most frightful manner, came out; leaving the youth, in a manner, senseless and motionless, as one dead. Our Lord then, taking him by the hand, restored him to life, and delivered him perfectly recovered, both in body and mind, to his father.
The nine disciples, who had unsuccessfully attempted to drive out this obstinate demon, remained most attentively silent during this transaction; doubtless they were glad to find, that this dreadful and powerful devil, was not an over-match for their Master, however they were mortified to find, that he was too hard for them. They were very desirous to know the reason, why they could not dispossess this demon, as they had done others, but did not chuse to ask their Master in the hearing of the multitude; but when he had retired, they asked him, why they failed in their attempt to restore the possessed young man? Our Lord informed them, it was because of their unbelief, For, said he, 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 to you.
Our Lord then retired to the untrequented parts of Galille; and in this solitary retreat, he again instructed his disciples in the nature of his kingdom, and the design of his coming into the world ; laying before them a view of his sufferings, death, and speedy resurrection. There, doubtless, was a necessity of inculcating these disagreeable and unpopular truths frequently on their minds; for though they must remember how sharply Peter was reproved for opposing the declaration of these events, yet our Lord's predictions concerning this matter, were very slowly receiv'ed; and the national prejudices which the disciples had so strongly imbibed, which represented the deur, glory and perpetuity of the Messiah's temporal kingdom, would not permit them to believe it possible that he should die.
After having abode a short time in the desert part of Galilee, our Lord returned to Capernaum, the place of his general abode. Soon after his arrival at that city the tax-gatherers applied to Peter, inquiring if his Master would pay the tribute : Peter promised them that his Master would satisfy their demand ; but, on further consideration, was afraid to mention the thing to him : perhaps he thought it derogatory to the dignity of so great a person to pay tribute to any potentate on earth. But, however cautious Peter might be of mentioning the affair, it was no secret to his Master, which our Lord soon apprised him of, by proposing the following question : What thinkest thou Simon 2 Of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? Of their own children, or strangers ? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then ure the children free. Peter, by this question, was Faily satisfied, that our Lord knew his thoughts, and fad fully penetrated the affair which was in agitation; he was also convinced, that, as the Son of God, and heir of all things, he was under no obligation to pay tribute to the greatest monarch on earth : but our Lord, to avoid giving offence condescended to sub