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LECTURE XV.

MATTHEW xviL

T

X SHALL now request your attention to a very remarkable part of our Saviour's history, that which is called by the evangelist his Transfiguration, and which is related in the seventeenth chapter of St. Matthew. It so happens, that many years ago I turned my thoughts very much to this particular subject in the sacred writings, and ventured (though without my name) to lay my sentiments concerning it before the public. I could have wished therefore to have excused myself from repeating here any part of what I have said elsewhere, and to have passed over this incident unnoticed. But when I considered that this transaction is of a very peculiar and extraordinary nature; that there are circumstances attending it which cannot sail to excite the curiosity of an inquisitive mind; that there are disssiculties in it which stand in need of a solution, and conclusions to be drawn from it of considerable utility and importance; when I considered , surther, that much the greatest part of this audience had probably never seen or even heard of what I had formerly written on this subject; I determined not to omit so material a part of the task I am engaged in, but to give you what I conceive to be a true explanation of this interesting event. And I now seel the less dissiculty in doing this, because, upon a caresul review of that interpretation, after an interval of twelve years, I am still convinced of its truth, and have had the additional satissaction of sinding it consirmed by the authority of some learned and judicious commentators, whofe opinions on one or two leading principles coincide with my own ; but whofe observations I had not seen (having consulted but very sew expositors on the subject) when my essay went to the press:.

The relation of this singular transaction is given us bythree out of four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and alluded to in the writings of the fourth. They all agree in the main points. There is no material variation, and not the least contradiction between them. But, as is very natural, where different persons relate the same fact (and as indeed must generally happen where the story is not concerted among them) a sew particulars are taken notice of by some which are passed over in silence hf others. St. Matthew's account of it is as follows:

"And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart, and was transsigured before them; and his face did ftine as the sun, and his raiment was white as lie light. And behold there appeared unto them Mofes and Elias talking with him. Then answered Peter, and laid unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here; if thou wilt, let us make three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Mofes, and one for Elias. While he yet spake, beholi. 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. And when the disciples heard it, they sell on their sace, and were fore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man save Jesus only. And as they came down from the mount, Jesus charged them, saying, tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.

"And his disciples asked him, sayxng, Why then say the scribes, that Elias must sirst come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias shall truly sirst come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, that Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed: likewise also shall the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist."

Such is the history which the evangelist gives us of the transsiguration; and on the very sirst view of it, every one nraft see that a transaction of so uncommon and splendid? a nature could not be intended merely to surprize .apcj amuse the disciples. There must have been some greatobject in view; some end.to be obtained, worthy of themagnisicent apparatus made use of to accomplish it.

Now there were, I conceive (besides some collateral and subordinate designs) two principal and important purpofes, which were meant to be answered by this illustrious scene.

- The sirst was to set before the eyes of the disciples a vfible andfigurative reprefentation of Chris? s coming in glory to judge the world, and to reward, with everlasting felicity, all hisfaithful fervants

, In order to prove this, and at the same time to bring tov< the reader's view thofe circumstances which /preceded, and in some degree gave occasion to this celestial vision,. it will be necessary to look back to the chapter immediately before that in which the transsiguration is related.

In the 21st verse of the sixteenth chapter we sind, that Jesus then-, for the sirst time, thought sit to give some intimations to his disciples of the strange and extraordinary scenes he was soon to pass through; his sufferings, his death, and his resurrection; things of which, before this declaration, they seem not to have had the smallest conception or suspicion.

"From that time forth began Jesus to shew to his disciples how that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and raised again the third day*."

This insormation, so persectly new and unexpected to the disciples, and so destructive of all the fond hopes they had hitherto indulged, overwhelmed them with astonishment and grief. And St. Peter, whofe natural warmth and eagerness of temper generally led him both to seel* such mortisications more sensibly, and to express his seelings more promptly and more forcibly,. than any of

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the rest, was so shocked at what he had just heard, that «' he took Jesus, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it {ar from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee." Our Saviour, who saw every thing that passed in his mind, and perceived, probably, that this expostulation took its rise more from disappointed interest and ambition titan from a generous concern for his master's credit and honour, gave him an immediate and severe reproof. "Get thee behind me, Satan, for thou art an offence to me; for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but thofe that be of men." • «.

He then proceeded to shew, not only that he himself must suffer persecution, but that all thofe who would at that time come after him, and share with him the arduous and dangerous task of sowing the sirst seeds of the Gospel, "must deny themselves, and take up their cross, and follow him." But then, to support them under those severe injunctions, he cheers them immediately with a brighter scene of things, and with a profpect of his suture glory, and their suture recompence. "The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then shall he reward every man according to his works." • And he adds, "Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here which shall not taste of death till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." The meaning of these last words I shall enquire into hereafter. But the evident tendency of the whole passage is to prepare the minds of his disciples for the cruel treatment which both he and they were to undergo, and at the same time to raise their drooping spirits, by setting before their eyes his own exaltation, and their glorious rewards in another lise.

This discourse, however, he probably sound had not sussiciently subdued their prejudices, and reconciled them to his state of humiliation; and therefore he determined to try a method of impressing them with juster sentiments, which he frequently had recourse to on similar occasions; and that was, representing to them, by a fignificant aSion, what he had already explained by words.

Accordingly, within a sew days after the foregoing conversation, he taketh with him Peter, James, and John,

: and bringeth them ttp into a high mountain (probably Mount Tabor) apart. Very sancisul reasons have been assigned by some of the commentators for his taking wish him only three of his disciples. But all that it seems necessary to say on this head is, that as the law required no more than two or three witnesses to constitute a regular and judicial proof, our Saviour frequently chofe to have only this number of witnesses present at some of the most important and interesting scenes of his lise. The three disciples, whom he now selected, were thofe that generally attended him on such occasions, and who seem to have been distinguished as his most intimate and considential friends. St. John, we know, was so m an eminent degree. St. James, his brother, would, from that near connection, probably be brought mere frequendy under his master's notice; and as St. Peter was the very person who had expressed himself with so much indignation on the subject of our Saviour's sufferings, it was highly proper and necessary that he should be admitted to a spectacle, which was purpofely calculated to calm thofe emotions, and remove that disgust which the sirst mention of them had produced in his mind.

With these companions, then, Jesus ascended the mountain, and was transsigured before them; "and behold . there appeared Mofes and Elias talking with him." They were not only feen by the disciples, but they were heard also conversing with Jesus. This is a circumstance of great importance, especially when we are told what the subject of their conversation was. St. Luke gives us this usesul piece of insormation; he says, that "they spake of our Lord's decease, which he should accomplish at Jerusalem." The very mention of Christ's sufferings and death by such men as Mofes and Elias, without any marks of surprize or dissatissaction, was of itself sussicient to occasion a great change in the sentiments of the disciples respecting thofe sufferings, and to soften thofe prejudices of their's against them, the removal of which seems to have been one of the more immediate objects of the transsiguration. But if we suppofe surther (what is sar from being improbable) that in the course of the conversation several interesting particulars respecting our Saviour's crucisixion were brought un

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