THE TRASFIGURATIO.

BY REV, DAIEL MOORE, M.A.
" And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias : who
appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at
Jerusalem." — Luke ix, 30, 31.
It is an attribute of the human intelligence, perhaps an infirmity of it, that it
receives truth most readily through the medium of sensible representations.
Parables not in speech, but in figure, seem to have been the universal lesson-
book of mankind. The trees of Paradise were silent ordinances; the types of
the law were prophetic facts ; the visions which passed before the minds of
patriarclis and holy men were all sermons to the eye ; whilst in every action
of our Lord's life there is set forth, as it were, in shadow some doctrine,
some duty, some consolation, or some hope, for the edification and instruction
of the Church of God. The Great Teacher was teaching always, — in the
humiliations of Bethany, in the obscurity of azareth, in the solitudes of the
wilderness, in the mental darkness of the cross; all his sufferings were homi-
lies, and all his miracles a gospel which they that run might read. And
hence it is that in the outsvard history of our Lord we have the best commen-
tary upon, as well as the clearest witness to, the great mystery of his two-fold
nature. As we read on in the narrative we see that two whole and perfect
natures there must have been, acting in and through that one visible im-
personation ; and our minds get possessed of the fact, before seeing how such
a resulting conclusion is to be expressed in theology. " Without controversy
great is the mystery of godliness;" but equally without controversy is it that
" God was manifest in the flesh." He hungered who could feed the multi-
tudes ; he slept who could hush the storm ; he received strength from an
angel at whose feet all angels bow, and he who stood on the holy mount, with
a countenance radiant as the sun, and with raiment white as the light, not
long after appeared on another mount, lifted up between heaven and earih,
o. 2,708. 2 w
THE THASTIGURATIO.
"a spectacle to angels and to men," fulfilling all that Moses and the prophets
had foretold of " the decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem."
The transfiguration of our Lord was an event to which the sacred writers
evidently attached great importance, no less than three of the four evan-
gelists having preserved an account of it. Let us consider for our profit, first,
some of the more noticeable features of the transaction ; and, secondly, the
lessons it was intended to convey.
I. Our attention is first called to the leading features of the transfiguration
itself. The place of its occurrence is commonly fixed at Mount Tabor; but
this is a tradition only, and the order of the narrative would certainly have
suggested some place nearer to Cacsarea Philippi. The more important point
for our notice, however, is the solemn act of devotion by which the vision was
preceded. "And it came to pass that about eight days after these sayings, he
took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray." The
prayers of Christ, brethren, we must always remember, were no mere formal
acts; they were deep realities of his spiritual being, the spontaneous outgoings
of his proper humanity, and instrumental, as our prayers are assumed to be,
to some desired and expected end ; and hence the more frequent mention of
these devotional exercises is in connection with some important passage in his
history. At his baptism he prayed; before ordaining his disciples he prayed ;
at the grave of Lazarus he prayed ; he prayed when he saw the tide of popu-
larity taking a strange turn in his favour, and when men would make him a
king ; with prayer he entered upon the mysterious scenes of his passion, and
breathed out his soul in prayer. Must not this be especially one of those
instances where Christ is a pattern to us ? In needing a help for great emer-
gency, can the disciple be above his Master, or the servant above his Lord ?
Stated prayers, it may be presumed, we have all of us, many, we will hope,
after the example of the Psalmist, at evening, in the morning, and at noon-
day ; but when we have some great work before us, when some momentous
choice is to be made ; when in that mixture of motives which influence human
conduct we are afraid that the bad, and the selfish, and the earthly should get
the upper hand ; when the principles are about to be tried, and the associa-
tions of the place we are going to will be like sparks falling on the very
stubble of our besetting sin ; when we are being led by adversity into the wilder-
ness, and to escape from difficulties we are tempted to turn stones into bread ;
or when we are carried by prosperity to an exceeding high mountain to find
that by one act of treason to God and conscience the world and all its glory
might be ours; at any and all such times, I say, do we, like our Divine Master
on all his great occasions, seek opportunity for special retirement ? Do we,
before any resolution is made, first take God into our counsels? "If thy
presence go up with us, then will we go." The wildernesses of temptation
will not be dangerous, if we go through them only when led of the Spirit ; and
mountains of prosperity will not be dangerous, if we pray before we climb.
But who were the witnesses of the Transfiguration? Three only. A less num-
ber had hardly satisfied the conditions of the law for establishing the credibility
of the fact; a greater would perhaps have attracted more attention than con-
382
THE TRASFIGURATIO.
sisted with our Lord's utter retiredness and studied humiliation. Some things
in his life were public enough ; the ignominy, the cross, the shame, the bowed
head, the smitten side, the fainting, the desolateness, the cup of mysterious
wrath — no matter how many saw these; but the glory, the honour, the witness-
ing voice from heaven, the chiefs of the saintly hierarchies waiting humbly
upon him, the fashion of his humanity all changed and glistering with the
beams of Godhead peering through — these must be seen only of witnesses
chosen beforehand. Who so fitted for this honour as Peter, who held the keys
of his kingdom — James, the first apostle who should be baptized with his
baptism — John, described by a title which, if it were possible, might excite
an archangel's envy, even " the disciple whom Jesus loved?" Moreover, for
them the lesson might be good, and for us too. The visions of God, testi-
monies and tokens from heaven, glimpses of saints and saints' happiness before
the time, are not things for the multitude, are not things to be talked about.
Let the world see our works, our zeal, our unreproached and consistent walk ;
but our soul's secret is with Christ; our communings with him are in
private and on the mount ; no stranger should intermeddle with these joys.
« Our life is hid with Christ in God."
We come next to the manner of the Transfiguration. All the evangelists
describe it differently, and yet all apparently with one end, that of magnifying
the appearance itself. The controlling influence exerted by inspiration on the
minds of the sacred writers left them perfectly free in all their natural habits of
thought, as well as in their acquired characteristics of style; and here each
writer appears to be straining after some illustration worthy of the incident he
had to record. Luke, speaking of the raiment, says it was "white and
glistering ;" Mark, that it was " exceeding white as snow ;" Matthew, describ-
ing the whole in one vigorous sentence, says, " His face did shine as the sun,
and his raiment was white as the light." All agree that the Transfiguration
was sudden, unearthly, glorious; every vestige of humiliation was for the
moment laid aside and lost ; the Star of Bethlehem eclipsed the sun in his
strength ; the " root out of a dry ground" towered above the cedars of
Lebanon ; " the form of a servant" was superseded by the assumed dignity
of the heir of all things ; and the outcast and scorned of man appeared in all
the effulgence and light of God. How this change was efiected we inquire
not, wisely. That there was no change in the bodily substance of our Lord,
no destruction of the proper attributes of humanity, we are sure, because he
lived some time after in the flesh, and in the fiesh had still to die. We can
regard the manifestation, therefore, only as an upper garment of divinity
thrown over the fleshly tabernacle, causing his entire visible form to be so
suffused and charged with glory that Godhead beamed upon his countenance,
and his very raiment had the power of transmitting light. The whole scene
was a faint and broken type of this same Jesus in a glorified state, as he was
seen of one of those chosen witnesses in the glorious visions of Patmos after-
wards — as the eye of faith, and love, and holy fear can behold him now,
" walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks," flashing the fire of his
all-consuming eye upon the worship of the dissembler and the false-hearted,
.383
THB TRASFIGURATIO.
but laying his right hand upon the penitent, and the loaded, and the trembling',
saying, " Fear not."
"And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and
Elias, who appeared in glory." Apart from the relation in which these
eminent saints stood, the one to the law and the other to the prophets, we see
a fitness in their selection on other accounts. Their earthly course had in
many respects resembled that of the Saviour. With him they had fasted
forty days and forty nights in the wilderness; with him they had encountered
shame and scorn in delivering their respective messages to the world, and
with him, at least in a way which excepted them from the common lot of all
men, did each pass to the mansions of immortality ; and to be first chosen
for this honour out of the co\inlless populations of the redeemed, was, doubt-
less, an intended reward of their faithfulness. The preference of the reproach
of Christ to all the treasures of Egypt, exhibited by one of these holy men —
the lofty independence of the otlier, when he stood, a solitary prophet, against
Ahab, against priestcraft, against all the world — be witness, heaven and earth,
to God's approval of this. " Them that honour me I will honour."
But Moses and Elias talked with Jesus about — what? Was the subject
joyous, cheering, hopeful, bright as the bright scene around them? o, "they
spake of his decease," his exodus, " which he should accomplish at Jeru-
salem." Was this meant to suggest to us, brethren, what should be our sub-
jects of meditation in prosperity — to show to us that when all is sunny, and
calm, and without a cloud in our prosperity, then we should think of our latter
end ? There need be no gloom in such thoughts ; but it may assist us to bear
¦with more humility the brightness of Tabor to think of the dark scenes we
must ere long pass through at Jerusalem. But why of his decease did these
holy saints discourse ? Was it of the method of it they spake — so different
from their own — the one by a gentle falling asleep, the other in beatific
rapture passing to the world unseen, whilst to Jesus the only way thither was
through the furnace of affliction, the baptism of blood, the lonely treading of
the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of God ? Yes, of this they might
speak; but not of this only. They spake of the deatli of Christ as a thing
that must be — a fore-ordained effect of moral government. It was the fault of
the Jews — a fault from which Peter, and James, and John at this moment
were not exempt — that they understood not their own Scriptures, understood
not that the central fact of the whole prophetic dispensation was Christ cut off
from the land of the living, " making his soul an offering for sin," having " his
grave with the wicked and the rich in his death." Moses and Elias were in
that world of light where they see light, and they discoursed of a theme not
only most precious to them, but one vast enough to task their glorified and
immortal powers. They spake of the decease of Christ, as the world's hope,
the world's salvation, the world's life ; they spake of it as the great fact in view
of which God had from all eternity arranged to restore and pardon man. In
it stood and by it was to be sealed their own immortality, the immortality of
the faithful before the flood, ay, it may be, the immortality of angels, of
myriads of unfallen creatures, of all the intelligent populations that may be
384
THE TRASFIGURATIO.
gathered together in unknown worlds. We tremble to place a limit to the
blood of the cross, to its necessity, to its reach, to its actuating and pervading
iufluence on all the moral arrangements of heaven. " That in the dispensation
of the fulness of time he might gather together in one all things in Christ,
both which are in heaven and which are on earth." For aught we know,
the recovery of our world may be no more than the first fruits of the great
sacrifice; whilst it is certain that the mind's employment for eternity, tiie
depths for angels to look into, the one theme on which glorified intellects will
ponder, and for which glorified tongues shall utter endless praise, will be the
decease which the Lord Jesus accomplished at Jerusalem.
But observe, next, that while this heavenly discourse was going on, " Peter
and they that were with him were heavy with sleep." It is to be presumed
that they had fallen asleep during the preceding prayer, and before the trans-
figuration began ; for " when they were awaked," says the narrative, " they
saw his glory." Humbling picture this, brethren, of our nature's weakness.
In this, the time of the Saviour's highest earthly exaltation, as well as in the
hour of his deepest agony and abasement, were these same disciples overtaken
by the like infirmity ! Blessed thought is it, that though the flock may sleep
the Shepherd of Israel never sleepeth. We, too, are prone to sleep in holy
duties — on the mount with God, in the retirement of the closet, in the reading
or hearing of the word. But if this spiritual lethargy be a weakness of the
flesh only — come not of indulged or unresisted sloth — be not that worst form
of sleep, the sleep of open eyes, of a pre-engaged and worldly heart, we may
rest assured the Spirit will wake us out of this sleep in time. Like Peter, and
James, and John we may lose much which it had been profitable for us to
hear; but we shall not go down from tlie mount without a blessing, without a
token, without some glimpse of an approving Saviour, before the glory has
passed away.
II. ot, however, to dwell on the remaining points of the narrative, let us
proceed to a consideration of some of the uses of the Transfiguration, as well
as of the moral instruction it was intended to convey. The chief design, we
may consider, was to accredit the Divine mission of our Lord, to put the
seal of infallible truth on his message, to proclaim him, as it were, by an act
of solemn investiture, the Lawgiver, the Prophet, the only Saviour of mankind.
The designation of prophets to their sacred office under the old dispensation
was often accompanied by circumstances peculiarly impressive and sublime.
Moses received his commission^ from the midst of the burning but uncon-
sumed bush ; Isaiah was separated to the work by the vision of the Holy One
in his temple encircled by veiled and adoring seraphim ; Ezekiel received his
anointing in the midst of the whirlwind, and the cloud, and the unfolding
brightness, the wheels of the divine chariot turning, and the living creatures
letting down their wings ; but the awful splendour of the Transfiguration rises
above these scenes. Moses, as a servant, only showed the brightness of the
Father's glory ; Christ, as the Son. was that brightness. The sublimities of
Horeb came upon Moses by surprise, and at sight of them he did exceedingly
fear and quake ; Christ goes up prepared for a beatific vision, in calm and
355
THE TRASFIGURATIO.
conscious majesty puts on his robe of light, gives high audience to two glori-
fied spirits, till the voice from heaven, testifying to the greater beauty of the
Son, sends the servants to their rest again. The entire scene must have been
encouraging to the disciples, and to their faith most assuring. To him gave
revered prophets witness; him had God the Father sealed; by him had been
put on for an instant as much as mortal faculties could bear to see of the
image of the infinite and invisible God. And memory treasured up the testi-
mony among its living things ; it made delusion or deceit as to their Master's
mission impossible. "We have not followed cunningly devised fables," said
Peter, many years afterwards, " when we made known unto you the power
and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty,
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."
But a further use, if not design of the Transfiguration, is to connect the
different dispensations of revealed truth together, to give an authorized sanction
to Old Testament announcements, to affix the signet of heaven to all the
ancient types and prophecies, and to show that Christ was the glory, the
substance, the terminating object of them all. God may speak through many
voices, but he never speaks more than one language. His truth is an in-
destructible and unchanging unity throughout all ages. It was no new theme
which was discoursed of by this founder of the law and this head of the
goodly fellowship of the prophets, when they spake of the decease which
Christ should accomplish at Jerusalem. Moses had acted it in parable, and
Elijah had exhibited it in sacrifice, whilst the Psalmist had sung of it, and
prophets had pictured it with all the graphic minuteness of historic fact.
" Search the Scriptures," said our Lord to the Jews — the writings of Moses
and the record of the prophets — " for these are they which testify of me." * I
was the life of that lifted serpent; I was the water from that smitten rock ; I
was the sweetness of that falling manna; I was the substance of that Paschal
Lamb. All the faithful of old time knew me ; I was their pillar of cloud, I was
their delivering angel. I was the enshrined presence of their sanctuary; I was
in the ark, when it gave them victory over their enemies; I was the Shekinah,
whose brightness gave testimony to an approving God.' And thus we see
with what propriety the representatives of the two great sections of the ancient
church appear with Christ upon the mount — ay, still more, with what pro-
priety they depart and leave him alone. As when they were on earth, so now
in their glorified state they would do homage to Jesus. They had spoken of
his decease ; but this done, they will intimate by their departure that their
dispensation has had its day — that in the great concern of salvation we must
look to Jesus only. The rod of Moses is laid up ; the moth hath consumed
the prophetic mantle of Elijah; the Saviour of all the ends of the earth is
come, and Christ must be " all in all." " And when the voice was passed
Jesus was found alone."
Once more : we must all acknowledge a great value of the Transfiguration,
for the practical demonstration it affords of man's immortality, as well as for
386
THE TRASFIOUR/ITIO.
the light it throws on the nature of the eternal state. Thus we are glad to
have the fact of a separate state established on such testimony. Moses had
not spoken of it, neitlier as the object of religious hope is it found in the ex-
hortations of Elijah. Implicitly, of course, the doctrine is contained in the
teachings of both, as we learn from those words addressed to the rich man in
torment: "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them." But
here in this vision is the blessed truth brought out — a living, patent, sub-
stantive reality. Evidence which their eyes can see and their ears verify is
given to Peter, and James, and John, that all true believers in Christ, after
being removed from this visible scene, whether borne away by a whirlwind
in a chariot of fire, or laid by angel's hands in some undiscovered sepulchre,
do in very deed live on — live in glory, live in blessedness — live to take an in-
terest in the concerns of that world where they have toiled and fought, live to
discourse with the blessed Jesus, and to see him as he is. " Let us not be igno-
rant, then, brethren, concerning them which are asleep in Christ, neither let us
sorrow as those that have no hope." Moses and Elias were but the Easter
first fruits of their respective dispensations; a great company which no man can
number shall come after, all talking with Jesus on the Tabor that is above, and
waiting to be clothed in their transfigured glory at " the manifestation of the
sons of God."
So also of the resurrection of the body. How much does the scene we
have contemplated aid our conceptions of this! With many people this is a
dead letter of the creed : they have an almost Athenian contempt for the doc-
trine, they have no idea of a risen body, except as a gross thing, as a perish-
able thing, as a thing fettered by the conditions of that animal economy which,
while we are in the flesh, is the source to us of so much disquietude and
so much sin. But here, after an interval of a thousand years, Moses appears,
and with a body; Elias appears, and with a body. In that unknown grave
over and against Baal-peor all that was mortal of the great Lawgiver had de-
veloped and quickened into a new organization — an organization which no
worm could feed on, nor corruption waste; and it must have been in that
brief transition from earth to heaven, at the instant of setting foot into his
gorgeous equipage of fire, that the body of Elijah became fashioned into a
glorious materialism, causing all that was corruptible, and earthly and un-
lovely to drop off, even as his mantle fell from him to the ground. And
" such honour," brethren, "have all his saints." " Who shall change our vile
body," says St, Paul : " change it" — not destroy it, not annihilate it, not
absorb it into a pure spiritualism, but refine it, sublimate it, recast it into
some new mould of being, which, while not above the conditions of a ma-
terial economy, shall leave us with a nature equal unto the angel's, and a form
like that of the glorified Son of God.
Then, lastly, in this vision on the mount we seem to be assured that in the
life of the world to come we shall know each other. Peter, James, and John
did not see two unknown messengers from the spirit land ; they saw Moses as
Moses, and Elias as Elias. And what is this but an assurance, that there
shall be blessed recognitions in heaven? Yes, brethren, when we awake
387
THE TRASPlGCnATIO.
from the deep slumbers of the grave, and are caught up with Jesus to the
mount of uncreated glory, not only shall we behold patriarchs on their thrones,
and the prophets by the altar, and the elders as they bow, and the apostles as
they cry aloud ; but we shall see those whom we knew on earth, shall be per-
mitted to embrace our children and our friends again, with all the fervour of
a pure, and spiritual, and sanctified, and everlasting love. The relation we
prayed for will be there : the erring sinner whom we rescued will be there ;
the attached flock shall behold there the face of their faithful minister, whilst
the minister shall there see his joy and crowns of rejoicing, double crowns to
him then, on finding how much he owed to his people's prayers. Without
recognitions in the heavenly state there would be no friendly ties, no love of
saints one to another. But " God is love ;" heaven is love. " Charity never
faileth." Our earthly attachments, like our earthly bodies, will not be de-
stroyed, but purified ; all in them that is unfit for heaven will be taken away ;
the rest will remain. We shall have our friendships there, deep without pas-
sion, fond without infirmity, tranquil because undisturbed by rival regards,
happy because they can be dissolved no more. And then, as we have seen,
we shall have speech in that world. Moses and Elias talked with Jesus. The
tongue is the glory of man. What should we be without it? The thought is
insupportable of a silent world, and the idea of a glorious place where praise
only breaks the silence, where nothing jars with the melody of the eternal chime,
where the roll of the pealing hallelujahs is like the voice of many waters,
where every one hath a song, every one a story of deliverance, every one hath
a tribute of thanksgiving to free, sovereign, unmerited grace, and yet in which
every one refers his blessing to the decease which Christ accomplished at
Jerusalem.
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