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this place, may only be signified, a splendid and magnificent appearance: for God is said to come with angels, when any signal work of divine power is performed.
28. 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.
This must refer to some temporal appearance: for some of the disciples were to see it in their life time: but as only a few were to enjoy that honour, Christ's coming in his kingdom has been supposed to allude to the destruction of Jerusalem, which is frequently thus described, and which happened about forty years afterwards; and which several of those who were then present might live to see; as we certainly know that the apostle John did.
By mentioning these honours in connection with his sufferings, Christ intimates that the calamitous events which were about to befal him would not, as Peter and the rest apprehended, at all detract from his dignity.
1. We learn from this passage, what great difficulties we must be prepared to encounter in the profession of Christianity: not merely abstaining from particular enjoyments, which are prejudicial to ourselves or to society, but renouncing ourselves; acting as if we were divested of self love; as if we disowned the relation in which we stand to ourselves; as if we felt no concern for the enjoyments of life, or even for life itself, wlien compared with some other object. What human being
is there that is prepared for so hard a service, which requires us to act contrary to the strongest principles and feelings of our nature? Yet was it frequently necessary, in the first ages of the Christian church; nor is it unusual to see men called to act the same part at the present day; to give up worldly emoluments and case; to hazard every thing that is valuable in their present existence, in order to discharge their duty and preserve a good conscience.
2. From the reply which Christ made to Peter, we may see in what light we ought to regard those who would dissuade us from discharging our duty, through fear of suffering: with the appearance of friendship they are acting the part of real enemies; they are tempting us to decline our duty; they are labouring to rob us of that glory which we may acquire by courageously meeting dangers, or patiently enduring sufferings, in performing the will of God, and obeying the dictates of conscience. Severe trials and dangers are the usual road to high attainments in virtue, and great exaltation under the divine government: so far are they, therefore, from being marks of God's displeasure, that they are often the best proofs of his approbation and favour: for it is not the weak and unsteady that he calls forth to encounter great difficulties, who would dishonour themselves, and betray the cause in which they are engaged, by their weakness; but the firm, the strong and the resolute, whose virtue cannot be overcome. These are they who are called to the post of danger, which is therefore the post of honour. If we are summoned to such a station, let us chearfully obey the call, and endeavour to behave worthily of the confidence which is placed in us. If any of our friends should attempt to dissuade us from it, by saying that we act against our own interest, that we foolishly throw away our comfort or our lives; let us reject their advice with indignation, as Christ does that of Peter; let us tell them that they set too much value upon the good things of this life; that they do not understand, or do not relish, the kind designs of Providence in the trials to which it exposes
us; and that their advice is founded upon the maxims of worldly policy or worldly prudence.
We also learn that those are our best friends, not who endeavour to gain our favour by prophesying smooth things, and telling us that we have nothing to fear; but those who acquaint us plainly with our danger, and endeavour to fortify us for the hour of trial.--Thus it was that Christ acted towards his disciples, and in the same manner should we act towards those for whose happiness we are concerned.
3. Great as the sacrifices are which Christ requires from us, it would be a proof of the greatest folly not to make them: for all that we can hope to secure by declining danger is our present life, or a few comforts and enjoyments: but how will these balance the greater evils to which we shall expose ourselves hereby? Will the preservation of life now, compensate for the loss of it hereafter? a short period of ease and pleasure, for ages of pain and sorrow? Let us suppose the advantages we gain by avoiding danger, to be as great as they can possibly be; yet still they would be no more than a man's gaining the whole world, with the forfeiture of his life----of the only means by which he could hope to enjoy it: a sacrifice which no wise man would choose to make! On the other hand, by giving up the
present life, in the cause of truth and righteousness, we shall receive in exchange an everlasting existence of unspeakable value; and for every less sacrifice, a return of a hundred-fold. Nor is this a distant and uncertain reward: the Judge is at the door; as soon as life is ended, the son of man comes to recompence every one according to his works.
Matthew xvii. 1----13.
1. And after six days, Luke says eight*, Jesus taketh Peter, James and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain, apart.
* Luke is. 28.
Although Christ had declared, in the last verses of the preceding chapter, that a glorious manifestation of his kingdom would follow his ignominious death and sufferings; yet this declaration could not dispel the cloud which had been raised over the minds of his disciples by the prophecy of his sufferings; especially over the mind of" Peter: for their satisfaction, therefore, God wished to declare, in the plainest manner, that Jesus was the Messiah. The reason why these three disciples are selected from the rest was because they were to be the principal instruments in making converts to Christianity. On this account, Peter is called a rock; and the two brothers, Boanerges, or sons of thunder*. Paul calls these three disciples pillars of the church. Gal. ii. 9. The mountain here mentioned is supposed to be mount Tabor, because that is a high mountain, and not far from Cæsarea, where they were a short time before; but this by no means affords us a certain conclusion: for the six days which intervened might carry them into a distant part of the country.
2. And was transfigured, or, his appearance was changed," before them; and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light; or, as Mark has it, “white as snow t.”
By the word transfigured we are not to understand that his bodily shape was changed, or that he lost the form of a man; but that a singular brightness or majesty appeared in his countenance, which it is hardly possible to describe. This brightness was intended to assure his disciples, to whom he had been speaking of his death and sufferings, of the glory he should acquire
66 and after those events, when he rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven.
* Mark iii. 17. + This is likewise the reading of the Cambridge MS. and of several versions.
3. And behold there appeared unto them, rather, “ were seen by them,” i.e. by the three disciples, Moses and Elias, talking with him.
It is something remarkable that both Moses and Elijah had, like Jesus, fasted forty days; the one, when he gave the law to the Israelites; and the other, when he attempted to recover them to a due regard to their law, after a time of great degeneracy. It is observable also that Elijah had been translated to heaven without dying; and though it be said of Moses that he died in the mount to which God called him, yet he went up in perfect health and vigour; no body was permitted to accompany him, and his place of burial could never be found. It is therefore not improbable that he never properly died, but was translated also. As these
per• sons spake to Christ, according to Luke ix. 31. of his decease, which he should accomplish at Jerusalem, it is probable that they appeared in order to prepare him for that event; by assuring him, from the testimony of his senses, that after his death he should be in the same state of glory and happiness as themselves. We .may presume, therefore, that Moses and Elijah, as well as Enoch, are now living with Christ.
4. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, “ master,” it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles, “ tents;" one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
Peter was so pleased with the glory of Christ and of these two other persons, that he wished to remain here ,always: if the foretaste of future glory was so delightful to him, how much more so must the reality be!