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CHRIST'S TRANSFIGURATION ON THE MOUNT.
LUKE 9: 28–36. And it came to pass, about an eight days after
these sayings, he took Peter, and John, and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. And behold there talked with him two men, who were Moses and Elias; who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease, which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. But Peter and they that were with him, were heavy with sleep; and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him. And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here : let us make three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias ; not knowing what he said. While he thus spake, there came a cloud and overshadowed them, and they feared, as they entered into the cloud. And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying: This is my bebeloved Son; hear bim. And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days, any of those things which they had seen.
EXCEPTING Moses, who on Mount Sinai talked with God face to face, and St. Paul, who was caught up to the third heaven, and heard unutterable words, no person on earth seems ever to have enjoyed such extraordinary honor and heavenly converse, as were allowed to these disciples, who witnessed the transfiguration of Christ. The vision, here described, as well it might, made a very deep and lasting impression on their minds, as appears from Peter's very extraordinary proposal and from the mention, which he makes of this event in one of his epistles, written many years after; in which epistle he speaks of being an eye witness of his majesty : for 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 mount.
Our design is, that the present discourse should consist of those observations which naturally present themselves from that very interesting portion of Scripture, which we have read.
In the first place, the occasion may suggest the duty of family religion. It is true that our blessed Lord, after beginning his public ministry, could never with propriety be said to live in a family state. The right discharge of his ministry required, that he should be almost continually travelling from place to place. He had, however, a number of disciples, who were peculiarly endeared to him; and with whom he used frequently to offer prayers to God. These disciples were, in a sense, his family. He cared for them, rebuked, corrected and taught them; he taught them how to pray, and himself led in their devotions. The text begins with saying that on a certain time he took Peter, James, and John, and went up into a mountain
This example of Christ severely reproves the sloth, or impiety of those heads of families, who either entirely neglect prayer, or perform it in a cold, basty manner; or else make the performance of it depend wholly on the state of their worldly business. Should we judge of the opinions of many persons, by their conduct in this respect, we should conclude that every .creature, in their view, ought to be served before the Creator; and that any interest of a worldly kind ought to be more regarded than the interests of the soul and eternity. How different is such an opinion, from that of our Saviour, who said : Seek first the kingdom of heaven and the righteousness thereof;—and who gave himself a sacrifice to God to save us from the present evil world, and deliver us from the wrath to come! Their spot, saith Moses, is not the spot of his children. In the exercise of all reasonable charity, I can hardly believe it possible, that such a mark should be found on a real disciple and friend of Christ. I betrays such indifference to the soul and to God; such stupidity and false notions as to the comparative value of time and eternity ; such ingratitude to Christ for his sufferings and his Gospel, as it is very difficult, if not wholly impossible, to reconcile with a gracious and saving state. Our Saviour would go up even into a mountain, rather than not have a convenient place to pray with his disciples.
While our blessed Lord was engaged in devout exercises, we are told that his person assumed a very extraordinary appearance :-his visage and his raiment were altered. His face did shine as the sun; and his raiment was as white as the light; white and glistering, so as no fuller on earth can white it. In like manner, after Moses had been on the mount with God, his face appeared resplendent : The skin of his face shone.
This suggests to us the great and excellent change, that might be produced in the character of Christians, did they make it a business to maintain devout communion with God; which communion should comprehend not only family, but daily secret prayer. If Christians would not content themselves with the form of family religion ; but would strive after a devout and humble frame, and seek for a praying spirit,--a spirit of grace and supplication, when they engage in family worship :-— if, moreover, they were constant in maintaining evangelical worship in secret ;-if they would in all things, with prayer and supplication, let their requests be made known unto God, if they would freely own and lament before God their inward corruptions, their indifference in religious pursuits, their want of animation and fixedness of thought in prayer; if they would strive to view sin and themselves in that point of light in which the Gospel places them, and to be affected with a consideration of the great things which Christ has done for human recovery and salvation :-if, moreover, they would bring the spiritual world and eternal objects full into their view, it would, without question, produce a very great and salutary effect on their visible deportment. Though no streams of material light would issue from their countenances and raiment, as did from Christ at his transfiguration, and from the countenance of Moses after he had been in the mount with God; yet froin them would
beam forth a light shining before men. They would have a more constant sense of things divine ;-more meekness and kindness towards men, stronger desires to promote their present and everlasting interest. They would be more resigned to the divine will; less affected with any worldly calamities; more conscientiously exact in all relative and social duties; more observant of the language of divine providence, and earnest to comply with its import. There would, in all probability, be such an increase of Christian graces, as would induce beholders to take knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus—their path would resemble the shining light, which shineth more and more until the perfect day.
3. At the happy season of the transfiguration, the blessed Jesus had intercourse with Moses and Elias, who appeared in glory, and spake unto him.
There is now, in a certain sense, a union between Christ's real disciples on earth and those in heaven. This union will, hereafter, be actual, agreeably to the words of Christ : Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me, be with me, where I am.
There shall then be but one fold, as there is now but one shepherd. It must be exceedingly desirable, therefore, for every Christian to be growing into a fitness to enjoy the society of saints in light, an increasing preparation to sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the kingdom of God: and nothing is likely to be more efficacious to this end, than humble and frequent intercourse with God in prayer. That Christian who takes most pleasure in conversing with God, is most habituated to this exercise, and engaged in it, is best fitted to relish the company of God's children in a glorified state.
As it was an hour of prayer, when our Lord with these highly favored disciples had communion with Moses and Elias, we may reasonably suppose, that those Christian hours of secret and family devotion are greatly instrumental through divine grace,
of preparing him for the most glorious and happy communion of saints.
4. It appears that Moses and Elias conversed with Christ, concerning his death, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. We may hence take occasion to observe, that habitual and truly Christian devotion has a great tendency to diminish the terror of death, by fixing on the mind, a lively and pleasing impression of the heavenly world. The more intercourse believers maintain with God, and the heavenly state, the more they devote themselves to meditation on those great discoveries of the invisible world, made in the Scriptures, the less unwilling will they probably be, to meet death. If they have their conversation in heaven, they will be glad to be there personally ; and if they have maintained a daily walk with God, and have had comfortable and edifying communion with him from time to time; if their desires go out after him, and those seasons which they spend with God are the most pleasant seasons of their lives, this seems to be good proof of their being formed to a holy temper, and fitted for that rest, which remains for God's people. A relish for the employments and exercises of heaven; a cordial preference of them before all worldly delights, is a good evidence of a sanctified heart.
As Moses and Elias conversed with our Saviour concerning his own death, we are hereby reminded how suitable it is that Christians, when together, should occasionally converse on their approaching dissolution. It would prevent unbecoming levity, give solemnity to conversation, and turn those seasons to good account, which might otherwise pass without any profit. Why should we not speak of our own death? It is a change, which we cannot avoid ; our forbearance to converse of it will not retard its approach a single day. It may render our condition worse ; but cannot make it better. If Christians would converse one with another, on their views of death and eternity ;freely communicate their fears, and their hopes, in regard to this important subject, it would doubtless be greatly for their mutual benefit. They would then find, that their own feelings, fears, and inward trials, were not so singular as they might have imagined. This would give a degree of hope and confidence. It is as true in religious matters, as in any other, that