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Whilst this wonderful conversation was going on, the disciples "were heavy with sleep," overcome, perhaps, with the heavenly glory of our Lord, or giving way to the weakness of the flesh which too often causes men to slumber amidst the most solemn and animating subjects. But awaking, at length, they saw the glory of Christ, and beheld the two men standing with Him. It was not a dream, but an open vision. It appeared not to one of them only, like those apparitions which men sometimes, when their minds are out of order, may fancy that they see; but they all saw the glory and the two men standing with Christ. Peter, James, and John, were each of them eye-witnesses of His majesty. In the mouth of
three witnesses is this truth established.'
"Then answered Peter, and said, Lord, it is good for us to be here and if thou wilt let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias, not knowing what he said." Amazed and yet entranced at what he beheld, Peter desired to remain on Mount Tabor; he felt that it was indeed "good for them to be there:" and so far he was right; for what can we imagine to be more full of ravishing comfort and satisfaction, than such communion with the saints, especially with the presence of Christ among them. But when he purposed to erect there three tabernacles, one for Christ, one for Moses, and one for Elijah, he did indeed show that "he knew not what he said;" as if Moses and Elias were equal to the Redeemer! as if the law and the prophets could be separated from Christ! No; there is only one tabernacle; only one holy catholic Church; only one house of God, in which Christ is Lord, and in
which Moses and the prophets think it their chief glory to have been faithful as servants to the Son of God: as St. Paul says in his epistle to the Hebrews, when speaking of the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus, that "he was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house." But on this occasion St. Peter was carried away with amazement, and "wist not what he should say ;" and while he was yet speaking "unadvisedly with his lips," consulting, as he thought, for the glory of Christ, yet not exalting him above glorified men, "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." Moses was a lawgiver, Elias was a prophet; both illustrious in their time and place; but our great Prophet, our great Lawgiver, is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. For "God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed Heir of all things; by whom also he made the worlds." Him must we attend to, above all other teachers. "He that despised Moses' law died without mercy; of how much more punishment shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God?" "How then shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation, which at first began to be spoken by the Lord himself." Let us never then forget the words which the apostles heard in the holy mount; "This is my beloved Son; hear Him." Great was the glory already described, in which our Lord appeared with His two faithful servants, Moses
and Elias. But greater still was that, which accompanied the sound of the heavenly voice. St. Peter, speaking of it in his epistle, calls it the excellent glory, or as the word might, I believe, be still more closely rendered, the magnificent, the majestic glory; the glory of the Divine Majesty. No sooner indeed did the disciples hear this Voice, than they fell on their faces and were sore afraid.
E. Just as the prophet Daniel did, Mamma, when he saw that great vision which God revealed to him.
M. Yes, he tells us himself," there remained no strength in me; and when I heard the voice of his words, then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face towards the ground." Isaiah too was filled with the like dread when he saw, as St. John teaches us, the glory of the Son of God. Then said he, "Woe is me, for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts," the same King, whose glory the disciples now behold on the mount of transfiguration, where they too sunk on their faces, overcome with the divine majesty. For even glory, far more heavenly glory, is too much for weak man to bear. Our fallen nature shrinks from it. "Then Jesus came and touched his disciples, and said, Arise, be not afraid.” He it is that supports His followers under the trials of the Christian life, and prepares them also for its rewards. Heaven itself, my child, with all its overwhelming happiness, would be an object of dread rather than desire, to the human heart, if it were not renewed by the Spirit of God: if it were not "touched" as it were with strength from on high to bear that
'exceeding weight of glory,' which is "about to be revealed" hereafter.
The glorious vision was now ended. The heavenly visitants were gone. The disciples had seen enough to convince them of the majesty of Christ, their Lord and Master, notwithstanding all the sufferings which He had condescended to undergo, and His ignominious decease, which according to what both the Law and the Prophets had spoken, He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. "And when the three disciples had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only, with themselves."
E. Then Moses and Elijah were gone again! I dare say the disciples wished they could have kept them with them.
M. Jesus was still with them, and having Him how could they want any thing more? "In his presence there is fulness of joy." If He had gone, they might indeed have been miserable, even though Moses and Elijah had both remained. For no created being can make up for Christ. "It matters not much who is away, if Christ be with us." His presence could at any time make this cold earth seem like heaven; and heaven without Christ would be no heaven to those who love Him as they ought.
But there is another lesson taught us by the Son of God on this great and glorious occasion. It is this— heavenly privileges, the important truths, the bright hopes, the blessed comforts of religion, must not so occupy our hearts as to draw us away from our daily duties in life. Nay, even the raptures of devotion, those glimpses as it were of celestial glory, must not hinder us from performing the important duties which
God has marked out for each one of us in this world: they should rather refresh and strengthen us, and prepare us for still greater exertions in the path appointed us. Let us observe our Lord's example in this respect.
Behold His continued activity in doing good. See how He returns with a steadfast heart to the trials and duties of life. Scarcely has He reached the foot of Mount Tabor, than He begins again that course of miracles, that ministry of blessings, in which we have so long seen Him engaged. As He left His glory in heaven to come down to labour, suffer, and die for us, so He now leaves His glory in the holy mount, and enters at once upon His labours of love for a faithless and perverse generation. The sacred historians conduct us again throughout Galilee, to witness with them His Almighty power, His amazing miracle
Nor is this all. Our Saviour is a glorious King: He had shewn Himself such at His transfiguration: by His miracles He had given clear evidence that He was the Lord of whom the prophet had said, "Behold the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple." He had shown that He was not a servant in the Church of God, like Moses and Elijah, but the Son of God, having authority over His own house. Yet to Him did the persons appointed to collect the public tribute money, come to demand the offering which every Israelite was required to pay towards the services of the temple. With this demand of course our Lord had nothing to do, because He was Himself the Lord of the temple; and so He told His disciple Peter, when the people asked him, whether his Master did not pay tribute. Yet rather than cause offence, He gives up His own right, and humbly, and peace