« AnteriorContinuar »
der discussion; if they entered at any length into that important subject, the great work of our redemption; if they: touched upon the nature, the causes, and the consequences of it; the pardon of sin, the restitution to God's savour, the triumph over death, and the gift of eternal lise; if they shewed that the susserings of Christ were presigured in the law, and foretold by the prophets; it is easy to see, that topics such as these must tend still farther to open the eyes, and remove the prepossessions of his disciples; and the more so, because they would seem to arise incidentally in a discourse between other persons casuallj overheard; which having no appearance of design or prosessed opposition in it, would be apt to make a deeper impression on their minds than a direct and open attack upon their prejudices.
But the circumstance which would, probably, be most esfectual in correcting the erroneous ideas of his disciples on this head, was the act of the transsiguration itself, the astonishing change it produced in the whole of our Lord's external appearance. *
From the expressions made use of by the several evangelists, this change appears to have been a very illustrious one. They insorm us, that "as our Saviour prayed, the sashion of his countenance was changed; his sace did shine as the sun, and his raiment became exceeding white and glistering; as white as snow, as white as the light, fo as no suller on earth could whiten it." Now Christ having assumed this splendid and glorious appearance, at the very time when Mofes and Elias were conversing with him on his sufferings, it was a vifble and striking proof to his disciples, that thofe sufferings were not, as they imagined, any real discredit aad disgrace to him, but were persectly consistent with the dignity of his character, and the highest state of glory to which he could be exalted.
But surther still; Jesus had (in the conversation mentioned in the preceding chapter) told his disciples, that the Son of man should come in the glory of his Father, with his holy angels, to judge the world. The scene on the mount therefore, -which fo foon followed that converfat'wn, was probably meant to convey to them some idea and some evidence of his coming in glory at the great day of judgment, of which his transsiguration was, perhaps, as just a picture and exemplisication as human sight could bear.
It is, indeed, described in nearly the same terms that St. John in the Revelations applies to the Son of man in. his Jiate of glory in heaven. "He was clothed, says he, with a garment down to the foot. His head and his hair were white like wool, white as snow; and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength." It is remarkable, that St. Luke calls his appearance, after being transsigured, his glory. St. John, who was likewise present at this appearance, gives it the same name. "We beheld his glory, as of the only begotten of his Father." And St. Peter, who was another witness to this transaction on the mount, resers to it by a similar expression. "For he re-*. ceived, says that Apostle, from God the Father, honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased*." There can hardly, therefore remain any doubt, but that the glory which Christ received from the Father on the mountain, was meant to be a representation of his coming in the glory of his Father, with his holy angels, at the end of the world; which is one of the topics touched upon in the preceding chapter.
Another thing there mentioned was our Saviour's refurretlion. Of this, indeed, there is no direct symbol in the transsiguration: but it is evidently implied in that trans> action; because Jesus is there represented in his glorisied, celestial state, which being in the natural order of time subsequent to his resurrection, that event must naturally be suppofed to have previously taken place.
But though this great event is only indirectly alluded to here, yet thofe most important doctrines, which are founded upon it, a general refurreSion and a day of retribution, are expressly represented in the transsiguration.
. . . t
* a Pet, i. 17
In the sixteenth chapter of St. Matthew, Christ tells his disciples, that when " he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels, he will reward every man according to his works*:" From whence it necessarily follows that every man who is dead (hall rise from the grave. And in consirmation of both these truths, there are two just and righteous men, Mofes and Elias, who had manyyears before departed out of the world, brought back to it again, and represented (as we shall see hereaster) in a state of glory. That they actually appeared in their owa proper persons there is not the least reason to doubt. Grotius even goes so sar as to asErm, that their bodies were referved for this very purpofe. But there is no necessity and no ground for this imagination. For though, indeed, the sepulchre of Mofes was not known, yet his body was actually buried in a valley in the land of Moab, and therefore must have seen corruption; and as the vvnole transaction was miraculous, it was just as easy to Omnipotence to restore lise and form to a body mouldered into dust, as to re-animate a body that was preserved uncorrupted and entire $ and, indeed, was a much exacter emblem of our own resurrection. We may, however, readily admit what some learned men have justly observed, that Elias> having been carried up into heaven without undergoing death, he was here a proper representative of thofe who shall be found aline at the day of judgment, as Mofes is of thofe who had died, and are raised to lise again. And his appearance a second time on earth, after he had been so many ages dead and buried, must have been a convincing proof to the disciples (had they duly attended to it) of the possibility of a resurrection.
And what is no less important, the manner in which both Mofes and Elias appeared on this occasion, afforded the disciples an occular demonstration of a day of retribution, agreeably to what their divine Master had a sew days before told them, that he would reward every man according to hit woris.
For we are insormed, that both Mofes and Elias appeared also in glory } a glory somewhat similar, we may
* Ver. a;.
suppofe, though sar inserior, to that with which Christ was invested. Like him they were probably clothed in raiments of unusual whiteness and splendor; and the sashion of their countenances might also be changed to something more bright and illustrious. Now this would be a just representation of the glorifiedJlate of saints in heaven, of thofe who had been rewarded according to their works. Itdr we sind thofe holy men, who have passed victoriously through their Christian warsare, described by St. John as clothed in white raiments*; and by St. Matthew, as Jhining forth like the fun in the kingdom of their Fatherf.
The glory of Chrifl therefore on the mountain, was a symbol of his exaltation to be the judge of the earth; and she glory of Mofes and Elias was an emblem of the rewards given to the righteous in heaven. *
When all these circumstances are put together, they throw considerable light over the concluding part of Christ's conversation, which has not yet been noticed. Verily I fay unto you, there be fome fanding here which Jhall hot taste of death till they fee the Son of man coming in his kingdoms. This has commonly been supposed tb reser to the signal manisestation of Christ's power in the destruction of Jerusalem. But we know of no one of Christ's disciples that survived this event except St. John; and our Saviour here speaks of more than one. But besides this, in the 27 th verse of this chapter, we are told that the Son of man Jhall come in the glory of his Father, to reward every man according to his works. This, undoubtedly, relates to Christ's sinal advent to judge the world. When, therefore, it immediately follows in the very next verse, Verily, I say unto you, that there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death till they fee the Son of man coming in his kingdom; is it not most natural, is it not almost necessary to understand these similar expressions as relating to the same great event?
* Rev. iii. 5. f Matth. xiii. 43.
\ Matthew, xvi. 48.—St. Mark says, " Till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power."—St, Luke, " till they fee the kingdom of God."
But did Christ then mean to say here that some of his 4isciples should live till the day of judgment? Most assuredly not. He meant only to intimate that a sew of them should before their death, be savored with a reprefentation of the glorious appearance of Christ and his saints on that awsul day. And this illustrious scene was actually displayed to three of them, about six days after, in the transsiguration on the mountain. Indeed St. Peter himself, who was present at the transsiguration, plainly alludes to it, in a manner which powersully consirms this opinion. "We have not," says he, "followed cunningly devised sables, when we made known unto you the power and corahtg of our Lord Jesus Christ." That is, our Lord's coming in his kingdom with power and glory and majesty, to judge the world. And how does St. Peter here prove that he will so come? Why, by declaring that he and the two other disciples, James and John, were eye-witnejsa of his majesty; that is, they actually saw him on the mount, invested with majesty and glory similar to that whicn he would assume in his kingdom at the last day. "For," continues the apostle, "he received from God the Father, honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; and this voice, which came from heaven, we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount*"
This is St. Peter's own comment on the transsiguration, in which he expressly compares Christ's glory and majesty on the mount, to that which he will display in his sinal advent; and considers the former as an emblem, an earnest, and a proof of the latter.
It is then evident, I think, from the foregoing observations, that the scene upon the mountain was a fymbolical reprefentation os Christ's coming in glory to judge the -world, and of the rewards which Jhall then be given to the righteous, topics which had been touched upon in Christ's discourse with his disciples six days before; and that one great object of this expressive action, as well as of that conversation, was to reconcile the minds of his disciples to the sufserings which both he and they were to undergo, by shew
* a Pet I 16, 17. 18.