Transfiguration Sermon 3 - Matthew 17:3 and Luke 9:30-31The Transfiguration of Christ by Thomas Manton (1620-1677) (Volume 1)
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Transfiguration Sermon 3 – Matthew 17:3 and Luke 9:30-31
“And behold there appeared unto him Moses and Elias talking with him.” MAT. XVII. 3;
“And behold there talked with him two men, Moses and Elias, who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.” LUKE IX. 30, 31.
HAVING spoken of Christ’s transfiguration, we come now to speak of those special accidents and adjuncts which happened at the time of his transfiguration. Here are two mentioned:-
1. The extraordinary apparition of Moses and Elias.
2. Their conference with our Saviour.
In the first:-
1. The persons who appeared: Moses and Elias.
2. The manner of their appearing. Luke saith, ‘They appeared in glory.’ Since the scripture affixeth a behold, or note of attention, wherever this history is mentioned, it will not be unprofitable for us to consider it a little.
First, Who appeared: Moses and Elias. These were there in person, as well as Christ was there in person; for it is not a vision, but a thing really done and transacted. Christ would have but two, being to give us a glimpse only, not the full lustre and splendour of his glory and majesty, as he will at the last day, when he shall come in the glory of the Father, and all his holy angels with him.
But why these two?
1. With respect to the gospel or new law which he was to set up, it is for the confirmation thereof that Moses and Elias appear talking with him, showing the harmony and agreement between them, and the subordination of their dispensation to Christ and salvation by him. Moses was the person by whom the law was given, and Elias was a principal prophet. The law is represented by Moses, and the pro-phets by Elias. Both did frequently foretell and prefigure the death and resurrection of Christ, and all the scripture which was then writ-ten was usually called by this term, law and prophets: Acts xxiv 14, ‘Believing all things that are written in the law and the prophets;’ and Mat.xi. 13, ‘For all the law and the prophets prophesied until John;’ Luke xvi. 24, ‘They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them;’ so Acts xxvi. 22, ‘I witness no other things than those which Moses and the prophets say should come to pass;’ so Mark vii. 11, ‘Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do you the same to them, for this is the law and the prophets.’ Well, then, the books of the Old Testament are frequently and solemnly thus called law and prophets; the Messiah was spoken of and foretold in both, and the godly before his coming waited for him as such. One place I had almost forgotten: Rom iii. 21,’ The righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets.’ Which showeth that not only the person of Christ was set forth, but also his institution and gospel dispensation. Well, to manifest this consent, here is law and prophets, Moses and Elias friendly conferring with Christ, or rather attending upon him, as servants upon their Lord. Christ and Moses, Christ and the pro-phets, are not at variance, as the Jews suppose, but here is a fair agreement betwixt them.
2. With respect to the persons themselves, there are many special reasons. These had been the most faithful and laborious servants of the Lord, and public eminent instruments of his glory Moses a giver of the law, and Elias a restorer of the law; Moses faithful in all the house of God, and Elias zealous for the glory of God. Both had ven-tured their lives: Moses by encountering Pharaoh, and Elias Ahab. Both had seen the glory of God in Mount Horeb, and spake with God also: Moses, Exod. xxxiii. 11,’ He saw the Lord face to face, and spake with him as a man doth with his friend;’ and Elias, 1 Kings xix. Both had fasted forty days, as Christ also did; therefore conveniently were these chosen.
3. With respect to our profit and instruction, Christ would not choose two angels for this service, but two men. Here the business was not to see glorified spirits, but glorified bodies; therefore the angels, having no bodies of their own, and must appear in assumed bodies, if in any, are not fit; therefore two men that had bodies wherein they might appear.
But you will say, If two men must appear in glorified bodies, why not Enoch rather than Moses, who was translated into heaven, and remaineth there with a glorified body as well as Elias?
Ans. Enoch had no public charge; Enoch lived before the legal dispensation. These both belonged to it, and were chief in it, of great authority among the Jews. Enoch hath an honourable testimony in the word of God, but had no public office and charge in the church, which the other two had, and managed with great fidelity. By the appearance of Moses the whole legal economy is supposed to appear in his person, and by the appearance of Elias the prophetical ministry, which was a kind of chancery to the law, is supposed to appear also. Both do, as it were, deliver over to Christ their whole dispensation, and lay it down at his feet, as the magistrates that are to go out of office solemnly resign the ensigns of their authority to him that succeedeth; and also they come both to reverence the majesty of their supreme Lord. In short, it is for our comfort that one that died, and one alive in glory, should come to show that Christ is Lord of quick and dead, Rom. xiv. 9. Moses was dead, Elias translated: these two come, the one to give a pledge of the glory of the world to come, the other of the resurrection of the dead, which is the way and introduction to it and both these persons come to attend and adore our Saviour and do homage to him.
Secondly, They appeared in glory, that is, in a corporeal shape, shining with brightness and glory as Christ’s body did, bating only for the degree and proportion, that there might be a difference between the Lord and his servants. Now, whether they appeared in bodies formed and assumed for the present purpose, and to be laid down again, as we do our garments, or in their own proper bodies, is often disputed by interpreters, upon this occasion. That they appeared in bodies is certain, for bodily acts and properties are ascribed to them – as their talking with Christ, their being seen by the apostles; for a spirit cannot be seen. If in bodies, why not their own? It is as easy to the Lord to cause them to appear in their own bodies as in a body assumed for this special purpose and service; and they were known by the disciples to be Moses and Elias, not by the external lineaments, for they never saw them in person before, but either were made known to them by some internal revelation, or by Christ’s words, or by some words of Moses and Elias themselves; but which way soever they knew them, certain it is they knew them, and took them to be Moses and Elias, therefore Moses and Elias they were, both as to soul and body. The apostles that were admitted to this transfiguration were not to be deceived by a false appearance, for they were admitted to be confirmed in the truth of Christ’s person and office, that by what they saw they might con-firm others. How would it weaken the testimony if what they saw appearing before them in glory were not the bodies of Moses and Elias, but only other bodies assumed! Concerning Elias the matter is without difficulty, for since he saw not death, but was translated both body and soul into heaven, why should he lay down his own body and take another to come and serve Christ upon this occasion? Cause sufficient there was why he should come from the blessedness of heaven to Mount Tabor; no cause why he should lay aside his own proper body. It is no loss nor trouble, but advantage, to blessed and heavenly creatures to be serviceable to their Redeemer’s glory, though it be to come out of the other into this world. But concerning Moses the matter is more doubtful. We read that he died in Mount Kebo and his body was buried by God in the plains of Moab, so that his grave was known to no man unto this day, Deut. xxxiv. 5, 6. Some think it was pre-served from putrefaction by the extraordinary power of God, that he might resume it at this time. The Jews say that God sucked out Moses’s soul from his body with a kiss, and afterwards restored it again, and so he liveth in immortality; but he that looketh for divinity among the Jewish rabbins will much sooner find a ridiculous fable than any sound doctrine. Suffice it to us that he was really dead and buried, and his body mouldered into dust as our bodies are, and now, on this special occasion, raised out of the dust; but after this, whether it were laid down in dust again or carried into heaven, it is not for us to deter-mine: it may be either, according to the analogy of the Christian faith. If his body returned to corruption again, surely it is a great honour that it was raised up for this special use: I say it was a great joy to these prophets to see all their predictions fulfilled in Christ. If we say it entered into glory, what inconvenience was there if God would indulge him this peculiar prerogative, to be raised from the dead and enjoy blessedness both in soul and body before the last day? He granted it to Enoch and Elias, and those who came out of their graves after Christ’s death, Mat. xxvii. 53: the great harvest is at the last day, but some first-fruits before.
Secondly, Their conference with our Saviour: they ‘talked with him,’ saith Matthew; they ‘spake of his decease which he should ac-complish at Jerusalem,’ saith Luke. They talked with Christ, not with the apostles. Here is an apparition to them, but no parley and intercourse between them and the glorified saints. The saints that are glorified are out of the sphere of commerce of the living; nay, it is a question whether they heard at all what was said to Christ; but of that in the next verse.
Here observe three things
1. What they spake of Christ’s death.
2. The notion by which his death is set forth: it is exodos
3. The necessity of undergoing it, in the word plhrein ‘which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.’
1. What they spake of none could divine, unless it had been told us, and the evangelist Luke telleth us that it was of his death. This argument was chosen:-
[1.] Because it was at hand. The next solemn mediatory action after this was his death and bloody sufferings. After he was transfigured in the mount he went down to suffer at Jerusalem.
 This was an offence to the apostles, that their master should die: Mat. xvi. 22, 23, ‘Then Peter took him, and began to re-buke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee.’
[3.] This was the Jews’ stumbling-block: 1 Cor. i. 23, ‘We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling-block.’
[4.] This was prefigured in the rites of the law foretold in the writings of the prophets. In the figures of the law it was represented: Heb. ix. 22, ‘And almost all things are by the law purged with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no remission;’ especially the apostle urgeth the entering of the high priest with blood to the mercy-seat, ver. 23, 24. All the legal sacrifices were slain, and their blood brought before the Lord. So the predictions of the prophets: Isa. liii. 10, ‘Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief, when thou shalt make thy soul an offering for sin,’ etc.; and Dan. ix. 26, ‘The Messias shall be cut off, but not for himself.’ In short that Christ should die for the sins of the world, was the great thing represented in the law and prophets. Rabbi Simeon and Rabbi Hadersim out of Daniel, that after Messias had preached half seven years he shall be slain.
[5.] It was necessary that by death he should come to his glory, of which now some glimpse and foretaste was given to him: Luke xxiv. 46, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and rise from the dead the third day ‘ – that is, with respect to the predictions; ver. 44, ‘All those things which were written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the book of’ Psalms, concerning me may be ful-filled;’ and again, Luke xxiv. 25, 26 ‘Oh fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to have entered into his glory?’
[6.] The redemption of the church by Christ is the talk and dis-course we shall have in heaven; the angels and glorified spirits are blessing and praising him for this: Rev. v. 9, ‘Thou art worthy, for thou wert slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.’ The angels, ver. 12, ‘Worthy is the lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and glory, and honour, and blessing.’ The redeemed church, and glorified saints and angels, have all one song, and one praise – the honour of the Lamb that was slain.
[7.] It is an instructive pattern to us, that Christ, in the midst of his transfiguration, and the glory which was then put upon him, forgot not his death. In the greatest advancements we should think of our dissolution. If Christ in all his glory discoursed of his death, surely it more becometh us, as necessary for us to prevent the surfeit of worldly pleasures, we should think of the change that is coming for ‘Surely every man at his best estate is vanity,’ Ps. xxxix. 6. In some places they were wont to present a death’s head at their solemn feasts. Merry days will not always last, death will soon put an end to the vain pleasures we enjoy here, and the most shining glory will be burnt out to a snuff.
2. The notion by which his death is expressed: his decease, exodon which signifies the going out of this life into another, which is to be noted
[1.] In respect unto Christ his death was exodos for he went out of this mortal life into glory and so it implieth both his suffering death and also his resurrection: Acts ii. 24, ‘God hath raised him up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was impossible he should be holden of it.’ The grave was like a woman ready to be delivered; it suffered throes till this blessed burden was egested.
[2.] With respect to us. Peter calls his death exodon: 2 Pet. i. 15, ‘I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease.’ The death of the godly is a going out but from sin and sorrow to glory and immortality, as Israel’s going out of Egypt (whence the second Book of Moses is called Exodus) was no destruction and cessation of their being, but a going out of the house of bondage into liberty. Paul saith, ‘I desire to be dissolved,’ analusai, Phil. i. 23 – a setting sail for the other world. In scripture language the body is the house, the soul is the inhabitant: 2 Cor. v. 1,’ We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.’ The soul dwelleth in the body as a man in a house, and death is but a departure out of one house into another – not an extinction, but a going from house to house.
3. The necessity of undergoing it, in the word plhrein. This word accomplish noteth three things
[1.] His mediatorial duty, with a respect to God’s ordination and decree declared in the prophecies of the Old Testament, which when they are fulfilled are said to be accomplished. Whatsoever Christ did in the work of redemption was with respect to God’s will and eternal decree: Acts iv. 28, ‘To do whatsoever thy hand and counsel determined before to be done.’ Now this was the more binding, being it was a declared counsel in the prophecies and figures of the Old Testament, therefore Christ cried out at his death, John xix. 30, ‘It is finished,’ or accomplished – meaning principally that the pro-phecies, and figures, and types which prefigured his death were all now accomplished.
[2.] His voluntary submission, ‘which he should accomplish,’ noteth his active and voluntary concurrence. It is an active word, not passive, not to be fulfilled upon him, but by him; for though his death in regard of his enemies was violent and enforced, yet he voluntarily underwent it for our sakes; no man could have taken his life from him unless he had laid it down, John x. 18; it was not forced upon him, but he yielded to it by a voluntary dispensation. As to men, it was an act of violence; but as to his Father, it was an act of obedience; as to us, an act of love. On Christ’s part his enemies could not have touched him against his will, as indeed they cannot also one hair of our heads but as God permitteth.
[3.] That it was the eminent act of his humiliation, for this cause he assumed human nature. His humiliation began at his birth, continued in his life, and was accomplished in dying: all was nothing without this, for less could not serve the turn than the death of the Son of God. Then all sufferings were undergone which were necessary to take away sin; therefore there is a consummation or perfection attributed to the death of Christ: Heb. x. 14, ‘By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.’ There is done enough to expiate sin, to open a way to heaven and happiness. This accomplisheth all that is necessary by way of merit and satisfaction.
Now what shall we learn from hence, for surely such solemn actions of Christ were not in vain?
I. A notable argument to confirm the Christian faith, namely, the consent between the law and the prophets and Christ; for Moses and Elias are all Christ’s ministers and servants, agreeing in one with him, and therefore appear at his transfiguration, where he is proclaimed to be the beloved Son. of God, and the great doctor of the church, whom all are bound to hear under pain of damnation.
I will prove two things: –
First, The necessity of this appearance, both to the Jews and us Gentiles.
1. To the Jews in that age; for there were three opinions con-cerning Christ. Some had a blasphemous opinion of him, as if he were an imposter, and called him Samaritan and devil. So the chief priests and Pharisees, Mat. xxvii. 63, ‘We remember that that de-ceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again;’ and Mat. xii. 24, ‘This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.’ Generally they looked upon him as an enemy to Moses: John ix. 29, ‘We know that God spake to Moses; as for this fellow, we know not whence he is.’ Others had a more moderate opinion, who were alarmed by his miracles, and convinced by his holiness: Mark vi. 14 – 16, ‘ Some said it is Elias others said it is a prophet, Jeremias, or one of the prophets; but Herod said it is John whom I beheaded, who is risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him.’ Herod’s con-science could not digest John’s murder, therefore he twice saith it is John, it must needs be John. The third opinion was that of the disciples, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living Gcd,’ John vi. 69. Now, to set all at rights, to confute the blasphemous Jews, to rectify the moderate Jews, to confirm the disciples, here come Moses and Elias to justify him. They would not have owned him if a blasphemer and imposter, nor have come from heaven to honour him and do him homage if he had been an ordinary prophet; therefore they appear in glory, and talk with him of his death.
2. With respect to the modern Jews, and us Gentiles, this apparition was necessary to confirm us in the faith both of Christ’s person and office; that he was the great teacher sent from heaven to make known the way of salvation to lapsed mankind; and Moses and Elms must be hereafter silent. Now the great prophet and doctor of the church is brought forth; and no other revelation or dispensation is to be expected or regarded, now he is brought forth. There is need that this should be sufficiently evidenced, partly because Christ had the law of Moses to repeal, which was well known to the Jews to be God’s own law, else they and every true subject of God might refuse to obey him: partly because he had a new law to promulgate, even the law of faith and gospel ordinances, and so must manifest his authority before they can be received and submitted unto with that firm assent and consent which is necessary: partly because he himself was to be received and entertained as the Redeemer of the world, who had expiated our sins by his decease at Jerusalem, which was a new work, yet man’s salva-tion lay upon it. And his death there was clouded with many prejudices; for they put him to death as a false prophet, guilty of blas-phemy and sedition. Therefore it needed to be made manifest that such a man of sorrows, reckoned among transgressors, was the Saviour and Redeemer of the world.
Secondly, The sufficiency of this evidence. For if Moses and Elias appear in glory to countenance this dispensation, and declare their hearty concurrence and consent, there is no reason Jew or Gentile should scruple it. If Moses the lawgiver, and Elias, so zealous for the law, consent, why should the Jews refuse the gospel so agreeable to their dispensation, or the Gentiles question a doctrine so long ago manifested to the church by God, long before Christ and his apostles were in being? Those that lived in so many different ages could not lay their heads together to cheat the world with an untruth. There is a double argument may be drawn hence
1. The matter of fact. Moses and Elias did appear to witness their consent. Now this dependeth upon the testimony of the apostles pre-sent, whose testimony was by other means ratified and made valuable: 2 Pet. i. 16 – 18, ‘For we have not followed cunningly-devised fables, when we made known unto you the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour 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.
2. Their consent in doctrine, which is obvious in all their writings. The apostles related nothing concerning Christ but what Moses and the prophets had foretold, and what was history in the New Testament was prophecy in the Old, either as to the person of Christ, or as to his kingdom – the duties and privileges thereof: John v. 39, ‘Search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they that testify of me.’ So ver. 45-47, ‘Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father; there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how will ye believe my words?’ The Old Testament beareth witness of Christ’s person, natures, offices, birth, life, sufferings, and the glory that should ensue: 2 Pet. i. 19 – 21, ‘We have also a more sure word of prophecy, where-unto ye do well that ye take heed, as to a light that shineth in a dark place, till the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts. Know-ing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpre-tation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of men, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.’ The apostles taught the same things the prophets had written, only applied them to Jesus of Nazareth, whom they had crucified, that they might know that he was Lord and Christ. The heathens take notice that at that time when Christ appeared, there was Vetus et constans fama (Sueton.); Ex antiquis sacerdotum libris (Tacitus) – that their King, Messiah, should come.
Use 1. For confutation of the Jews, and to show their obstinacy in not receiving Christ as the Messiah. God had told Moses, Deut. xviii. 18, ‘I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren like unto thee; and will put my words into his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him; and whosoever will not hearken unto him, I will require it of him;’ which cannot be understood of any other prophet but Christ the Messiah; for it is said, Deut. xxxiv. 10, 11, ‘There arose not a prophet in Israel like unto Moses, who knew the Lord face to face, in all the miracles and won-ders which the Lord sent him to do.’ But the Messias doth match and overmatch him. He was a man as Moses was; for the promise was made on that occasion, ‘Let me hear the voice of the Lord God no more, nor see this great fire, that we die not.’ Saith God, ‘They have well spoken: I will raise up a prophet like unto thee from among their brethren.’ He must be a lawgiver as Moses, but of a more perfect law; he must be such an one as should see God face to face; he is of a divine nature, approved to the world by miracles, signs, and wonders. As Moses was, so Christ. Moses divided the sea as dry land, Christ walked upon it; Moses healed the bitter waters that were sick, Christ raised the dead. All the prejudice is, that he changed the law of Moses into the rites and institutes of the Christian religion.
Ans. That was necessary, the substance being once come, that the shadows and ceremonies should be abolished; and besides, these were proper and peculiar to one nation in the world, namely, Judea; the exercise permitted but in one only place of that country, namely, Jerusalem, whither they were all to repair three times each year. But the Messiah’s law was to be common to all men – serves for all countries, times, places, persons, for he was to be the light of the Gentiles, as well as the glory of his people Israel How should nations so far distant from Jerusalem repair thrice every year? or a woman dwelling in England or America repair thither for purification after every childbirth? Lev. xii. When Moses delivered the law to them: Deut. xviii. 15, ‘The Lord thy God will raise thee up a prophet like unto me, unto him shalt thou hearken.’ And the prophets, when they prophesy of his law: Isa. ii. 3, ‘The law shall go forth out of Zion, and the word of God from Jerusalem.’ Moses’s law was published from Sinai, not from Sion; but the preaching of the gospel began at Jerusalem, and from thence was spread over all the world. Again it is said, Isa. xlii. 4, ‘The isles shall wait for his law; that is, the maritime countries. I pursue it no farther now.
2. To us Christians. Our religion is true: oh, let us be true in the profession of it; otherwise it will little help us in the day of our accounts: 2 Thes. i. 8, ‘Taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ You stand upon the vantage-ground, but are not taller in stature than heathens and Jews. Disciples in name, not in deed: John viii. 31, ‘If ye continue in my words, then are ye my disciples indeed:’ Christians of letter, not of the spirit. Oh, reverence Christ, if Moses and Elias did him homage. When we have found truth, let us look after life and having owned the true religion, express the power of it.
II. The next thing we learn is the necessity and value of Christ’s death. For Moses and Elias insist upon ‘his decease at Jerusalem; which quite contradicteth the Jewish deceit, and establisheth the Christian hope. The death of Christ for our redemption is the great article of the Christian faith, the thing foretold and prefigured by law and prophets, Luke xxiv. 44; and the ground of our comfort and peace: Isa. liii. 4, 5, ‘Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.’
Let us consider
1. The notions by which Christ’s death is set forth.
2. The. necessity of it.
First, The notions by which Christ’s death is set forth. Two solemn ones: a ransom, and a mediatorial sacrifice.
1. A ransom, lutron anti pollon, Mat. xx. 28; antilutron, Tim. ii. 6, ‘Who gave himself a ransom for all.’ A ransom is a price given to a judge, or one that hath power of life and death, for to save the life of one capitally guilty, or by law bound to suffer death, or some other evil and punishment. This was our case: God was the supreme judge, before whose tribunal man standeth guilty, and liable to death; but Christ interposed that we might be spared, Job xxxiii. 24, ‘Deliver him from going down to the pit, for I have found a ransom.’ There is a price or recompense given in our stead.
2. A mediatorial sacrifice: Isa. liii. 3, ‘When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin;’ Eph. v. 2, Christ ‘hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.’ He hath undertook the expiation of our sins, and the propitiating of God. God’s provoked justice would not acquit the controversy it had against us till it were appeased by a proper sacri-fice 1 John ii. 2, ‘He is the propitiation for our sins.’
Secondly, The necessity of it.
1. The sins and guilty fears of mankind needeth such a remedy. We are naturally sensible that the punishment of death is deserved and due to us by the law of God: Rom. i. 32, ‘They which commit such things are worthy of death.’ Now these fears are not easily appeased: Micah vi. 6, 7,’ Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’ Christ came and died to free us from there’ that we might serve God cheerfully: Heb. ii. 14, 15, ‘Forasmuch, then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself took part of the same, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil;’ Heb. ix. 14, ‘How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your consciences from dead works, to serve the living God?’
2. The glory of God requires it:-
[1.] To declare his justice: Rom. iii. 25, 26, ‘Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God: to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.’ If God will pardon sin, there must be a fit means to keep up the honour of his justice, and the authority of his law; for sin is not a wrong done to a private party offended, but a disobedience to authority, and disturbeth the order of government.
[2.] To declare his holiness, that he is a pure and holy God, bating sin. This was demonstrated in the sufferings of Christ, and the dear rate at which it was expiated; for if this was done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?
Use 1. Oh, then, be affected with this great mystery, the death which the Son of God accomplished at Jerusalem; look upon it under a double notion. With respect to his Father’s command, it was an act of obedience, carried on with such humility, patience, self-denial resignation of himself to God, charity, pity, as the like cannot be done by man or angel: Rom v. 19,’ By the obedience of one many were made righteous;’ Phil. ii. 8, ‘He humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross.’ This commendeth obedience to us. It was an act of love: Gal. ii. 20, ‘Who loved me, and gave himself for me;’ Rev. i. 5, ‘To him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his blood.’ He thought no price too dear for our salvation. Let us love him, again, who loved us first: 1 John iv. 19, ‘We love him, because he first loved us;’ and be contented to suffer with him and for him, that we may enter into his glory: Rom. viii. 17, ‘If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together,’ if he call us thereunto.
2. Feel the virtue of it in heart and conscience. In heart: by our dying to sin, then we are planted into the likeness of his death, Rom. vi. 5. ‘They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with the affec-tions and lusts thereof,’ Gal. v. 24; ‘Who his own self bare our sins in his body on the tree, that we, being dead to sin, should live unto righteousness.’ Then glory in it: Gal vi. 14, ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I unto the world.’ In conscience: 1 John v. 10, ‘He that believeth in the Son of God hath the witness in himself,’ etc.; Heb. xii. 24, ‘And to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than the blood of Abel’ – doth it appease our guilty fears, and purge our consciences from the stain and guilt of sin.
III. The state of future glory and felicity.
1. The dead in the Lord are not perished, but live for ever with God in heaven; for here they appear long after their departure hence: Luke xx. 38, ‘He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live unto him.’ They all live to God. Though they are gone out of the sphere of our commerce, they have another life with God. Now fix this in your hearts, for many carry it so as if there were no immor-tality or life to come: we do not vanish into the air when we die. Moses is somewhere, and Elias somewhere, in the hand of God, and can appear when God will have them.
2. The saints appeared in a true, and in their own bodies, to establish the faith of the resurrection; their bodies were reserved for this use. One of them was already in glory in soul and body, the other now raised out of the dust after many years’ burial. And why cannot God gather up our dust again and enliven it, that we may accompany Christ at his coming?
3. This instance showeth also the degrees of glory. All the saints have their portion in bliss, but not a just equality. Moses and Elias appeared in glory, not Enoch; nor were any of the rest admitted to this solemnity. Here were three choice disciples, when the rest stood at a remote distance; so two glorified saints, but the rest not admitted to this honour, but stood waiting for his glorious ascension. There is difference on earth in the worldly state – some have greater riches, honours, and dignity than others; difference in the church, both in gifts and graces; yea, a difference in hell – some have a hotter, others a cooler punishment. So in heaven, according to eminency in holiness and faithfulness with God; otherwise there would not be a suitableness in God’s dispensations.
4. The perfect subjection of the glorified spirits to the will of God, either to remain in the vision of God, or to be employed in the service of their Redeemer. We should think that a self-denial which they count an happiness, to come from heaven to Mount Tabor; they take up or lay down a body as God pleaseth. Heaven is a state not only of perfect happiness, but of exact conformity to God.
5. We shall have the company of the blessed saints in heaven. The disciples here did not only enjoy the company and sight of Christ, but the company and sight of Moses and Elias, being glorified saints. So in the heavenly life: Mat. viii. 11, it is made a part of our blessedness in the kingdom of God to ‘sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob;’ and Heb. xii. 23, ‘Ye are come to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.’ Here we are joined to them by faith and hope; there by sight and fellowship. The company of wicked men is now grievous and tedious to us, Ezek. ii. 6; but we shall have better company hereafter. Here we often part with our choicest friends and acquaintance, but there we shall meet and never part more. It is not to be imagined but that we shall have the comfort of our glorified fellow-creatures. The body hath its objects and felicity fit for a body.
6. The saints shall know one another, as the disciples knew Moses and Elias, though not by countenance, having never seen them before, but by revelation. Christ told them who they were, and we who have known before our old acquaintance shall know them again. Memory is not abolished, but perfected; we shall make one body, one society. Now we shall not converse as strangers; Abraham knew Lazarus, Luke xvi. 25. Ministers, 1 Thes. ii. 19, ‘What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?’ Christ’s argument, Luke xvi. 9, ‘Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when ye fail they may receive you into everlasting habitations.’ Angels know not only themselves, but all the elect now; how else do they minister about them? They know the least believer: Mat. xviii. 10,’ Take heed that ye offend not one of these little ones, for I say unto you that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.’ And they are at length to gather them from the four winds: Mat. xiii. 41, ‘The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that do offend.’
7. The conference of the blessed saints. We shall be with them, speak to them, hear them speak to us, though not after an earthly manner. We have now bodies, and so tongues and lips, which are the instruments of speech; ears, which are the instruments of hearing. Now these would seem vain and to no purpose if there were no use of speech and hearing. It was a blessed thing for Peter, James, and John to stand by and hear the conference between Christ, Moses, and Elms: 1 Kings x. 8, ‘Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and hear thy wisdom.’ Much more may it be said here.
Use. Well, then, Christian religion is true, Christ’s death necessary, eternal life certain. Oh let our time, and hearts, and care be taken up about these great and glorious things; meditate on them, seek after them. First begin with the sureness of Christian doctrine, that you may lay a good foundation; that Christ is the teacher of the church, who hath ‘brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,’ 2 Tim. i. 10; then penitently sue out your pardon, in thc name of Christ, depending on the merit of his death; and make this eternal life and happiness your choice, and the scope of your life and conversation: 2 Cor. iv. 18, ‘While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.’