And we ourselves heard this voice from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
I. THE WITNESS OF THE FATHER TO THE SON. On three occasions during our Lord's earthly ministry was the silence of heaven broken, and audible testimony borne by the Eternal to the "Son of his love." Of these occasions the Transfiguration was the most glorious and impressive. It was more than a majestic scene; it was an appeal to human intelligence and devoutness.
1. There was a voice from heaven. God chose an avenue which he himself had designed and fashioned, in order to reach the minds and hearts of men.
2. Expressed by this voice was the Father's personal relationship of affection towards Jesus. In his humiliation our Lord was acknowledged as the "beloved Son."
3. Witness was also borne to the complacency with which the Father regarded the Son, as fulfilling his will in the ministry and mediation he had undertaken.
4. The Transfiguration was justly regarded by the apostles as a bestowal upon their Lord of "honour and glory." Not that to them the outward splendor was everything; doubtless it was the symbol of a spiritual glory.
II. THE WITNESS OF THE DISCIPLES TO THEIR MASTER. This was a matter of fact, and is to us matter of history. Place and time are duly specified.
1. The disciples, who were serious and credible men, declared themselves to be eye-witnesses of Christ's majesty.
2. And ear-witnesses of the Divine attestation borne to him.
3. They expressly asserted that in this matter they were neither deceivers nor deceived. And, indeed, the case of their being either the one or the other is utterly incredible, is scarcely to be constructed by the imagination. They were not following cunningly devised fables; neither did they invent the incidents, nor did they adopt the inventions of others. In accepting the gospel narrative we build upon a sure foundation of fact.
III. THE PRACTICAL INFERENCE TO BE DRAWN BY THOSE WHO RECEIVE THIS TWO-FOLD WITNESS. Human nature is such that it is not possible for us to believe such facts as those which St. Peter here records, and not be affected by such belief in our spirit and our conduct.
1. As regards Jesus himself, whosoever receives the gospel is constrained to confess his power, presence, and coming.
2. As regards himself, he is bound to trust, love, honour, and serve the Saviour and Lord, who is thus made known to his spiritual nature by the revelation of the eternal Father, and by the testimony of his believing and devoted followers and apostles. - J.R.T.
We have not followed cunningly devised fables.I. THE MYTHICAL MODE. "In declaring the power and advent of the Lord Jesus, we were not as those who are familiar only with the popular myths which are deemed sufficient for the multitude; we were, rather, as the favoured few who are admitted to the secret mysteries, who are permitted to know the truths that underlie the fables and stories which fill the popular imagination." What, then, were these "myths," and what the "mysteries"? The myths, in their origin, were simply poetical conceptions of the processes and phenomena of Nature. Thus, for instance, the sun sinks, or seems to sink, every night into the sea; in the fervid East, moreover, it dries up the streams. But "sun," and "sea," and "streams" had, in the infancy of the world, masculine and feminine names, as, indeed, they still have in most of the languages spoken by men. These masculine and feminine names were soon turned into proper personal names by the vivid imagination of men to whom the world was fresh and wonderful; and hence, instead of saying "The sun sinks into the sea," they said, "The Sun-God sinks into the lap of the Sea-Goddess, and rests until their child, the Dawn, wakes him from his slumbers." Instead of saying "The sun dries up the stream," they told a pretty story of a certain River Nymph whom the Sun-God dearly loved, and who would give him no peace till he came to her in all the glory of his heavenly pomp, beholding which she was forthwith consumed. All the great and many of the lesser processes of Nature were thus mythicized, turned into poems and stories — the succession of day and night, the dependence of men and cattle on the shining of the sun, on the fruits of the earth, on the sweet, fresh water of the mountain streams. Still, under all these freaks of fancy there lay concealed the germs of many religious truths, as, for example, these: that the Powers which ruled in heaven cared for the earth and blessed it; that God, or the gods, might take human form and dwell among men; and that there was a fair spiritual world, larger, brighter, happier than the world of sense, into which even man might pass and rise. As years and centuries elapsed, these truths were forgotten out of mind, as were many of the ethical maxims deduced from them. In order that they might not altogether perish from the memory and life of man, certain "mysteries" were founded and ordained. To be "admitted," that is, to be initiated, into these mysteries, was an honour granted to comparatively few of the millions of antiquity; and it was granted only after they had passed through a probation which either was, or was affirmed to be, terrible to any but men of a brave and constant spirit. Their good faith was thus put to a severe preliminary test; tremendous oaths binding them to secrecy were administered to them; to divulge a mystery or to intrude upon it uncalled were offences punishable with death. Now, says St. Peter, when we made known to you the power and advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, we were telling you no pretty popular myth, no fable of a Divine person who came down and dwelt with men, such as you have often heard from your priests or rhapsodists, such as you may still hear from your heathen neighbours. We had been initiated into the very mysteries of truth; we had mastered their secrets, that we might divulge them to you. We spake of that which we ourselves had seen, and handled, and felt, of the Word of Life.
II. THE MIRACULOUS MODE. From the mythical St. Peter passes to the miraculous method of revelation. Where was that inner temple, that sacred and oracular shrine, in which, after their initiation, the apostles were admitted to the mysteries and stood to be eye-witnesses of the unclouded majesty of the Incarnate God? It was on "the holy mount," on which the Lord Jesus was transfigured before their eyes. But why does the apostle select this scene in our Lord's life — the Transfiguration — before all others? Simply, I suppose, because at that moment, in that scene, all that was most marvellous in the Lord Jesus Christ was shown forth in its most marvellous forms. The "advent" of Christ was a miracle; every word and deed that disclosed His Divine "power" was a miracle: but the miraculous element of His "advent and power" culminated in His Transfiguration.
III. THE PROPHETIC MODE. After describing the honour and glory done to Christ, and the voice which came to Him from the glory that shone around Him on the holy mount, the apostle adds: "But we have something surer still — the prophetic word, whereunto ye do well that ye give heed," etc. Why does he call it "something surer still"? First, because it is "as a lamp shining in a dark place." Now, as we all know, we can find our way even on the darkest night, if only we have "a lamp to our feet"; and, moreover, we can see to do any necessary work, if only we have a lamp shining over our head. In plain words, the apostle's argument is that miracles are not guides, or not safe guides; but that, on the contrary, we are under a guidance that is both good and safe when we follow the moral rules of the written Word. The Divine Word has another claim on our regard and preference. For this "lamp" which shines so helpfully on the activities of human life, has been lit and is fed by God Himself. "No prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation." That is to say, the prophetic Word is not a mere logical deduction from the facts of life and Nature; nor is it a mere guess at things to come, based on a knowledge of what has taken place in the past. There was something higher than human wisdom in the prophetic utterances, something safer than the prognostics of human reason; for prophecy never came only from the will of man, but holy men, borne along by the Holy Ghost, as the ship is borne before the wind, spake the words that were given them from God. There is a Divine wisdom, therefore, an infallible wisdom; there is a Divine power, an almighty power, in the inspired Word, even when it is most human and imperfect in outward form. This was one contrast in the apostle's mind: and the other was that the prophecies of Scripture were superior to the oracles uttered by the ministrants of heathen shrines. When these oracles were consulted, they gave "private interpretations."
IV. But, finally, THE SPIRITUAL MODE of revelation is even safer and better than the prophetic mode, as much better as sunlight is better than lamplight. When Christ is once with us, and in us, what further proof can we require of His "advent" or of His "power" to quicken and redeem? With Christ to teach us what He would have us do, we can dispense with all other teachers, all other aids. Myths! We have been initiated into the very mysteries of the faith, and are joyful eye-witnesses of His majesty. Miracles! He has wrought the great miracle upon us, bringing a clean thing out of an unclean, opening our blind eyes, unstopping our deaf ears, quickening us from our death in trespasses and sins. Laws and hopes! When once we have personally laid hold on Christ, we are a law unto ourselves, and move in the freedom of a glad obedience to His will; we have a hope already fulfilling itself in us, and yet opening up into widening vistas of light the hope of eternal life and service and peace. The morning star has risen in our hearts; the day has dawned; the darkness is over and gone, and, with the darkness, all our need of the lamps and stars which once made night tolerable to us.
(S. Cox, D. D.)I. A DISCLAIMING OF ALL FABULOUS MIXTURES WITH THE SACRED TRUTH.
II. A PROCLAIMING OF THE VIRTUE AND EXCELLENCY OF CHRIST.
1. The manifestation itself. "We made known unto you." The apostles did not hide the mysteries of salvation revealed to them (Romans 16:25, 26).(1) This doctrine makes to the conviction of them that conceal the way of the Lord (Matthew 23. 13; Romans 1:18).(2) This reproves them also that content themselves with their ignorances, and never labour for knowledge.
2. The matter manifested. "The power and coining of our Lord." By this the apostle intends the sum of the gospel, and the full salvation that is given us by Christ, in whom are all the treasures of blessedness. Of this he makes two distinct parts.(1) That Christ came in the flesh, suffered for our sins, and rose again for our justification.(2) The virtue and efficacy of this in our hearts, when we manifest the fruit of it in our well living and well believing.
III. A TESTIFYING OF THIS AND THAT FROM THE SUREST WITNESSES. In witnesses there are three things especially required.
1. That they be of good report and repute; for a bad and vicious life enervates their testimony. But these were holy men; He that sent them to give testimony did not deny them sanctimony (John 17:17).
2. That they be eye witnesses; so were these.
3. That they agree in their testimony.
I. THE STATEMENTS THAT HAVE BEEN DENOUNCED AS FABLES.
II. THE PERSONS WHO ARE SAID TO HAVE FABRICATED THESS FABLES. Infidelity asserts that they were deceivers. Of this we might justly demand proof. They appear to be men of strict integrity. They do not hesitate to expose each other's faults or to confess their own. They appear to be utterly destitute of the art of deception.
1. Is it pretended that these grand impostors were men of renown for their talents and influence, and that, therefore, they acquired an ascendancy over the public mind? This is at once disproved by the fact that, at the very outset of their career, the Jewish Sanhedrin perceived that they were "unlearned and ignorant men" (Acts 4:13), whilst Gentile magistrates and governors regarded them as weak, demented enthusiasts, whose fittest treatment was scourging and imprisonment.
2. Will it be contended that in the construction of their scheme, they adapted their fables to the popular taste? This is at once denied. Their system was absolutely opposed to parties of every class, to men of every clime. How different was the system of Mohammed! and how different have been the schemes of more modern infidels! How careful have these impostors been to pander to the passions of those they have sought to delude, presenting or promising whatever has been adapted to the views and the tastes of the proud, the worldly-minded, the sensual, and the profane!
3. But it is said that they were fools and fanatics. This assertion is more easy than the proof. They were. indeed, accused of folly and of madness, but they convinced their accusers that they spake the words of truth and soberness. Their writings certainly afford evidence that they were men of more than ordinary mental vigour. Their style is nervous and plain. Their story is simply and unaffectedly told.
4. But they were actuated by ambition, it is said. On what object was their ambition fixed? Worldly honour or worldly power is usually the great object of the ambitious. Besides, it was not their ambition to exalt themselves, though they had opportunities of doing so (Acts 3:14.). The entire history of the apostles is pregnant with proof that they sought not their own, but the things of Jesus Christ. What things might have been gain to them, those they counted loss for Him.
5. Impostors generally expect to get something by the impositions they practise; and the greater the risk of detection, or the danger of punishment, the greater is the gain, the hope of which is their animating motive. Now, what was the gain which prompted the apostles to devise and to execute their grand imposture? You must be aware, that so far as this world was considered, they had everything to lose, and nothing to gain. "Bonds and afflictions awaited them in every city." Will it be said that all this was the obstinacy of contumacy? that rather than avow the cheat, they readily underwent privations and sufferings? The life of reproach and trial the apostles lived, and the death of torture that they died, incontestably prove their sincerity.
III. But who WERE THE PARTIES ON WHOM THESE SO-CALLED FABLES WERE SO SUCCESSFULLY IMPOSED?
1. If the evangelic history had been a fraud, of course the apostle- would have been most likely to succeed in the work of deception among the inhabitants of some barbarous clime; or, at any rate, among those who lived far away from the scenes where the plot was laid. Did they then travel into some remote or obscure region, where the inhabitants would have little inclination to suspect them, and less opportunity to detect their deceit? No; they began at Jerusalem.
2. Shortly afterwards, the apostles were induced to go unto the Gentiles; the one who was most active in this great missionary enterprise among the heathen, being a convert to the faith of Christ — not an original disciple of the Nazarene — and a convert, whose accession was one of the noblest triumphs of truth, of which the Church of Christ can boast. Do you not think that the disputer of that day would demand evidence before he gave credence to the statements of the apostles? Do you not think that the wise men of Greece, and the noble of Rome, would easily have detected the deceit of "Christ crucified," had it been a cunningly devised fable, and would indignantly have denounced its abettors as worthless impostors had they not been the ambassadors of God?
IV. THE CONSISTENCY OF REVEALED TRUTH WITH REASON AND WITH COMMON SENSE. Let it, however, be remarked that those truths of Divine revelation, which it is necessary for us to understand in order to be saved, are so simple and plain that the wayfaring man, though a fool, needs not to mistake respecting them. And therefore we argue that they are not cunningly devised fables.
1. To begin at the beginning — we mention first the existence of one great, supreme Being, whom the Bible denominates God. This great doctrine is everywhere assumed throughout the sacred volume, and forms the foundation of all religion, and of all morality too.
2. This Bible professes to be a revelation from God, designed to teach us His will, and to point out to us the path that leads to immortal blessedness. Is there anything unreasonable in this?
3. Let us now proceed to ascertain whether those truths which we call, by way of eminence, the truths of the gospel, are incredible or absurd. The first we notice is the entire and universal depravity of man. Go where you will, do you not find your fellow-creatures depraved as well as degraded? Is not the hand that God has filled with plenteousness lifted up in daring rebellion against Him?
4. Another great doctrine is the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ. But it is objected that it is most unreasonable to suppose that the Divine Being should lavish so much love, as the doctrine of redemption supposes, on this insignificant world of ours, while there are so many worlds, and so many systems beside, filled with intelligent beings, all demanding the care of the Great Supreme as well as ourselves. We see nothing unreasonable in this supposition. Does the mother who watches and weeps over her sick or dying child, love her other children the less because her heart is so strongly drawn towards the afflicted one? Does it not magnify the Divine Being to know that when man had sinned and thereby excluded himself from the family of God, the Father of the spirits of all flesh spared not His own Son, in order that the banished ones might be restored?
5. And what inconsistency, either with reason or with common sense, can you find in the doctrines of justification or pardon righteously bestowed, because obtained by faith in the blood of Christ, and of the sanctification of the soul by the Spirit of Christ?
V. Among the RESULTS of this lengthened inquiry into the evidences of Christianity. we trust will he —
1. The confirmation of the believer in the truth as it is in Jesus. You know what you have believed. You know whom you have believed. You will not sell your birthright for a mess of pottage.
2. Another result we hope will be the establishment of such as may be wavering.
3. A third result we anticipate from this inquiry is a clearer perception of the nature of Christianity, and a deepened conviction of its value, How vast are my obligations to the blessed God for having devised such a scheme for saving rebellious worms, and for having made it known to me. How necessary for me to avail myself of its privileges.
(P. C. Horton.)I. THERE WAS NOTHING ABOUT THE APOSTLES OF WILD ENTHUSIASM. Before they staked everything, present life and life eternal, on the truth of Christianity, they had amplest proof that Jesus of Nazareth was the very Son of the Most High, the predicted Messiah.
1. The miracles wrought by Jesus were the capital proofs of His Messiahship.
2. The miracles of which Jesus Christ was the subject were among the signs of His glorious majesty by which the twelve recognised Him for the Redeemer. Of some of these prodigies, indeed, they were not spectators; not of the meteor star, which, on reaching His birthplace, hung over it. Nor yet, did they witness the sublime scene of His baptism.
3. The transfiguration, I observe, was that view of the Lord's majesty to which holy Peter reverts with singular fondness.
II. LET US PASS TO A FEW MARKS OF CHRIST'S POWER AND MAJESTY EXHIBITED IN HIS PERSONAL CHARACTER.
1. The imperturbable temper of the Lord Jesus was among the shining proofs of His moral greatness and Divine nature.
2. His patient endurance of injuries has a further peculiarity about it, which denotes a more than human elevation of mind. For be it remembered that we are often debarred from revenging ourselves by want of power, or by fear of retribution. But Jesus was clothed with almightiness.
3. The condescension of this Man, so mighty in word and deed, to the mean and wretched and vicious whenever they craved His assistance, was another indication of a mind cast in a singular and heavenly mould. Nothing of this kind was found among the Pharisees and popular teachers of the day.
4. The wisdom of Jesus, so immensely beyond what His country, His years, His education gave reason to look for, must also have satisfied candid observers that He was from above. Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians tried their skill from morning to night, and were unscrupulous in the artifices they employed to entrap Him; but without effect. But there was a higher kind of wisdom in which Jesus stood alone. Who can peruse His discourses on moral and religious subjects; the Sermon on the Mount, the parables of the Ten Virgins, of the Prodigal Son, and not confess that no mere human mind of any age, least of all that of a Jew in an age so ignorant, corrupt, and superstitious, could possibly give birth to such pure and holy lessons?
5. The authority of our Lord's diction and manner was another ray of His native grandeur, which penetrated the souls of His adherents and ranks high among the proofs of His divinity. He swept away the treasured notions that had come down from father to son, by the right which belonged to Him as the infallible interpreter of heaven. He debated nothing. He rarely deigned to offer reasons or proofs. He never suggested any doctrine doubtingly. You recognise the style of One quite aware that He is as much above other teachers as the heaven is higher than the earth; and that to put Himself upon a level with them were to belie His own character and mission.
6. Once more His devotedness to God, so pure, so noble, so fervent, so invariable, was it not of a kind to distinguish Him from ordinary saints, as the sun from twinkling stars? His zeal for God's glory in a manner consumed Him. Whatever are the arrangements of Providence He rejoices in them precisely because they are the movements of God's will.
(J. N. Pearson, M. A.)
I. IF IT BE A FABLE, IT WAS NOT DEVISED HALF CUNNINGLY ENOUGH. I allude to many apparent inconsistencies in the Bible. What wise man, in devising a fabulous history, would have loaded it with such difficulties as these?
II. IF IT BE A FABLE, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO GUESS BY WHAT CLASS OF PERSONS IT WAS DEVISED. "Kings," perhaps, "invented the Bible in order to keep their subjects in awe of their authority." "Priests," exclaims another, "were no doubt the authors." Yet there is a great deal written here against wicked priests also, which would scarcely have been inserted by them. Was it, then, the rich who devised this fable? Yet what is more common in the Bible than lessons on the worthlessness and vanity of riches? I need not ask whether the inventors of this fable are to be looked for among the poor. They are otherwise engaged than in writing books. "Some learned men, doubtless, compiled this book!" Still the same difficulty meets us. Learned men are often supposed to be proud of their wisdom; but here worldly wisdom is undervalued, and men are told that they must "become fools if they would be really wise" (1 Corinthians 3:18). Here, then, is a book, for which no probable author can be found, if it be a fable.
III. IF IT BE A FABLE, IT IS UNACCOUNTABLE THAT IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN SO LONG AND SO EXTENSIVELY FOLLOWED.
IV. IF IT BE A FABLE, THE FOLLOWING OF IT HAS AT LEAST BEEN BENEFICIAL TO MANKIND.
V. IF IT BE A FABLE, I MUST NEVERTHELESS FOLLOW IT TILL YOU CAN SHOW ME SOME MORE EXCELLENT WAY. I want a guide in my ignorance; I want a comforter in my troubles. Is human reason that guide? Alas! I find cause to distrust that at every step which I take. Is self-gratification the better comforter? What! to follow the devices and desires of my own heart in spite of this forbidding fable? If the gospel be not a fable, it is truth, and truth of such a nature that you will be saved or lost, according as you believe or neglect it. It must be "followed"; it must affect your heart and influence your life.
(J. Jowett, M. A.)I. PETER'S PERSONAL PERSUASION OF THE TRUTH OF HIS RELIGION. "We have not," etc. There are seasons when we all feel anxious to know on what ground we stand, just because we cannot go into eternity thinking and guessing about some peradventure. We must have certitude then.
II. OBSERVE PETER'S REPETITION OF THE OLD TRUTH ONCE AGAIN BEFORE HE DIES. The testimony of an old man like Peter, who, in his review of the past, felt happy and satisfied in the conviction of the truth he had professed, is worth many a volume of evidences to the Christian religion.
III. THE HAPPINESS PETER HAD IN THE RECOLLECTIONS OF THE PAST. All aged people revert to the past with peculiar feelings of interest, if not enthusiasm. There is happiness in having good recollections — in having bright yesterdays to look back upon — in needing no desperate endeavours to forget.
IV. THE WAY IN WHICH PETER FALLS BACK ON THE WORD OF GOD AS THE TRUE GROUND OF FAITH AND PEACE. "We have a more sure word of prophecy," etc. He had James and John, his companions, to think of. lie had the glory of the mount and the transfiguration to dwell upon. But now he needed more. The friend may deceive you: the recollections of the past may be confused, but the word of the Lord abideth for ever. It is a sure word of prophecy.
(W. O. Barrett.)
1. The first thing that strikes one on glancing at the books of the Old and New Testament, in which what is called the Christian revelation is contained, is the exceedingly heterogeneous character of their contents. A little of all ages, of all sorts of men, and of all varieties of human thought! But on even a cursory reading of these writings, heterogeneous as they seem, you cannot fail to be equally impressed with a second fact about them, that they have, after all, a strange and most striking unity. One spirit breathes throughout the whole. The same conception of God, as the eternal, self-existent, and infinite Creator, of His natural government of the world, and of His moral government of rational creatures; the same general notions of right and wrong; the same views of the design of human existence, of the individual responsibility of men, of the blessedness of well-doing and of the miseries of sin, of the guilt and want of mankind, of the justice, the goodness, and the grace of God, and of the way of reconciliation with Him. Nor does this unity of sentiment, of spirit, and of general scope and purpose seem less, but rather greater, the more carefully and thoroughly these various compositions are examined. That these men have not been mere copyists from each other, the specific diversities, and the accessions and progressive development of thought afford decisive proof. Two questions meet us therefore, namely, How came they, any of them, by views at once so unique in themselves and so immeasurably superior in intellectual and moral elevation to those attained by the historians, the poets, and the sages of all the world besides? And then, how came they, writing separately and each for his own particular end, living also some of them centuries and even thousands of years apart, so to harmonise with and to supplement each other that, taken together, their writings form one grand and well-adjusted whole? We will not now assert that with these questions before us the conviction must arise that there is something supernatural in all this.
2. The presumption thus created by the existence of the Christian revelation in the form in which we find it, is greatly strengthened, we further observe, by the obvious and admitted fact that it has entered most profoundly into the life and thought of the world. Nor can it be said that other pretended systems of religion have done the same. There are no facts of history by which such an assertion can be justified.
3. Still further, a third fact lies before us in regard to the asserted Christian revelation, which, fairly considered, must predispose us to receive it. The effects which it has wrought, both on individual man and on society, have uniformly been salutary in a very eminent degree. These, too, are allowed to be the proper products of Christianity, and not things incidentally connected with it.
4. Not less significant is a fourth fact which presents itself at the outset to the inquirer about the Christian revelation. It has thus far stood secure against all assaults of those who have sought to overthrow it, although these assaults have been many, persistent, and often conducted with great ability and learning. The ancient prophets, each in his turn, encountered the resistance of unbelief. Then followed the long and mighty struggle between Christianity and the prevailing systems of philosophy and religion throughout the Roman empire. It was a contest of life and death. Yet, after all the Christian faith held on its way and triumphed. So it has been in the modern world. The wits, philosophers, and savants of France, in the last century assailed it with pungent satire, with the coarsest ribaldry. English Deism, in a higher style of thought, with greater strength of reasoning, with no little real learning, enlisting champions who, to great metaphysical acumen, added untiring patience and fixed determination, attacked the historical credit, the supernatural credentials, and the asserted revelations of the Christian Scriptures. There was no lack of will, or talent, or diligent endeavour.
5. It is a fact which no one tolerably informed as to the condition and movements of the religious world will question, that at no period of its history was Christianity more vital, more powerful, more expectant and progressive than at the present time. Can falsehood be imagined to have such vitality?
6. Consider, too, that if the Christian revelation, as it has been received for ages, is Divine, it must be the greatest of misfortunes to reject it as a fable. If it be indeed a sun kindled of God to illuminate the moral darkness of our world, it will shine on to cheer, and warm, and bless the happy multitudes who welcome it, though you shall avert your eyes and hide from its beams in the thick shades of unbelief. You have nothing — nothing — to gain if it be false. You have everything to hope for life, for death, for an immortality beyond, if, as you have been taught from childhood to believe, it is indeed a real utterance, a precious gift of the ever-living God to man.
(R. Palmer, D. D.)
The power and coming of our LordI. THE OFFICE AND MINISTRY OF THE APOSTLE. And that principally consisted in this: In making known the power and miracles, the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But this doctrine that the apostle preached consists of two heads:
1. The coming of Christ. By which is meant His incarnation and appearance in the flesh. This was that mystery that was hid from ages, but was made manifest in these last days.
2. The power of Christ, the apostle is said to make known, which indeed at first seemed much disguised. For who would have expected any miraculous discoveries of power from One whom they had seen poor and helpless Himself? And yet in this state of weakness He was made strong, grew bold and confident, despising the pride, trampling upon the bravery of this world, resisting temptations, triumphing over the powers and charms of riches. Now to make this power known to the world is to show how much all men may be benefited by the power of Christ, if they shall love Him and believe in Him. For to as many as receive Him gives He power to become the sons of God, even to them who believe in His name.
II. THE RULES HE OBSERVED IN MAKING KNOWN THE POWER AND COMING OF JESUS CHRIST. They used all honest and justifiable arts in preaching the gospel, but declined all ways of sophistry and deceit. As if they had said, Our cause is too plain and evident to need such poor artifices as lies and fables to support it.
1. The consideration of what hath been said should encourage us to embrace this article of our faith, Christ Jesus came in the flesh, and all others, with that zeal and love, as those who will live and die by them.
2. As we are to receive the doctrines of Christianity as most true and unquestionable, so we ought to take care that we build not upon this foundation, hay and stubble (2 Corinthians 3:12).
3. Let us bethink ourselves how much we are obliged to God for this signal mercy and blessing, the making known to us the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh. Methinks our hearts should be all on fire, and burn within us while we are discoursing and talking of it.
(R. Warner, D. D.)I. THE COMING OF CHRIST WAS IN POWER. If all the devils in hell could have hindered it, He had been stayed. The kings of the earth conspire and take counsel together; but neither their power nor their policy could withstand His coming. Neither was the glory of Christ wanting, though it conveyed itself in a less public form. He had a famous harbinger to go before Him and prepare His way. There was majesty in His humility.
II. THE GOSPEL IS NO WEAK THING, BUT COMES IN POWER. Christ came once unto men; He comes still unto men in the Spirit. The law came with more terror, but the gospel comes with more power. For that could not turn his heart that bare it in his hand; but the gospel is able to change the man (Romans 1:16).
III. THE WORD OF GOD HATH MORE POWER THAN ALL MEN'S EDICTS.
IV. THE INVINCIBLE POWER OF THE GOSPEL IS MANIFESTED IN THROWING DOWN THOSE BULWARKS RAISED AGAINST IT.
Eye-witnesses of His majesty. —
I. The apostles were witnesses of His majesty when they witnessed His matchless CHARACTER.
1. He was made in the likeness of man, and He took on Him the infirmities of our nature; but He was unstained by our sins and imperfections.
2. But in Christ we not only see a character without sin, but perfect in its nature; manifesting the highest virtues in transcendent excellence.
3. With these celestial excellencies of character is joined an habitual and singular elevation above the world. His affections and labours are directed to spiritual and eternal objects. They elevate Him in the midst of ignominy; and give glory and majesty to His shameful death.
4. In Christ the various and seemingly opposite graces of character combine; and everywhere appear in their due place and on their proper occasion.
II. That in correspondence with the perfection of the character of Christ, is HIS MANNER while fulfilling the work which His Father had given Him to do. There was a calm and simple, yet deep solemnity, in His demeanour and words, suited to the truths which He declared, and the office which He sustained — which manifested also His sense of their infinite importance, and tended powerfully to affect the minds of those whom He addressed. Without the slightest tendency to haughtiness or pride, a Divine authority. He manifested the native greatness of His character.
III. There were EXTRAORDINARY EVENTS AND WONDERS in heaven and on earth, which in the midst of the deepest humiliation, gave indications of the majesty of Christ.
(S. MacGill, D. D.)
He received from God the Father honour and gloryI. THE PERSON TO WHOM THIS HONOR IS GIVEN. "He received."
II. FROM WHOM HE RECEIVED IT. The Father gives, the Son receives. The Father speaks from heaven, the Son hears it.
III. WHAT HE RECEIVED.
1. Christ would receive honour of His Father.
2. All honour and glory is Christ's, as being delivered to Him by the Father (Luke 10:22).
3. All true and blessed honour comes from God, and is to be sought there.
IV. THE TIME WHEN THE APOSTLES BEHELD, AND THEIR MASTER RECEIVED, THIS GLORY AND MAJESTY.
1. "When there came." Why did the apostles single out the transfiguration, more than any other event, to exemplify Christ's majesty, and the honour conferred on Him by the Father?(1) Because Moses and Elias appeared to Him there: in all the rest of His miracles He had no company but men on earth, now He had a testimony from two glorious saints in Paradise.(2) Because He was adorned with celestial glory. Nothing of earth was seen, but a Divine and heavenly majesty appeared.
2. "Such a voice." This is the voice that shall one day be heard from one end of the world to the other.
3. "From the excellent glory." There be glories in the world, but they are not excellent (Genesis 49:3, 4). This glory is admirable.(1) For dignity. It is a glory: and this hath been the scope of most men's endeavours and reaches.(2) For clarity. It is not a hidden, but a revealed glory (Colossians 3:4). Clear, both for condition, it shall be excellent; for cognition and apprehension, it shall be seen in the full excellency of it. It is an everlasting solstice; the length is interminable, the brightness unchangeable, the fulness unvariable.(3) For verity. It shall be indeed, not in show only, but upon us.(4) For the eternity. If it had an end, it were not excellent,
V. THE MATTER AND SUBSTANCE OF THE TESTIMONY.
1. "This"; the word shows Him to be that Messias, long before prophesied, and now manifested. This, singularly; not another, but this is He.
2. "My Son," consubstantially, because begotten of Mine own substance. Originally Mine, by union of nature; though in Him others be made Mine also, by adoption of grace. 3.
3."Beloved," eternally; not in time accepted, but before all beginning begotten.
4. "In whom I am well pleased," and never was offended: all other men were the children of wrath; I could not be pleased with them; but in this Son I rest.
(Thos. Adams.)I. It is very important that you have right thoughts of the Sonship of Christ, or of the sense in which Christ is affirmed to be God's Son. It is clear from Scripture that Christ is the Son of God, in such sense as to prove Him Divine; for St. Paul argues from His Sonship, His superiority to angels, "Unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee?"
II. We are now to consider the statement, that in this beloved Son God "is well pleased." We shall now regard the Son solely in His character of Mediator — that character which He was born to assume. The Father may be considered as "well pleased" in His Son, first, because Christ's mediation magnified all the attributes of God, and secondly, because it met all the necessities of man. And now, having investigated the causes of the Father's being "well pleased" in the Son, it becomes us to ask you whether, when Christ is displaying His character of a Saviour, you, too, are "well pleased" in Him. Judge your own restoration to God's forfeited image, by deciding whether any of the like reasons operate to make you "well pleased" in Christ.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Homilist.I. The Divine revelation which he had on the holy mount was CERTIFYING.
II. The Divine revelation which he had in the inspired record was MORE CERTIFYING.
1. The written Word furnishes a greater variety of Divine manifestations.
2. The written Word offers opportunities to a larger number of witnesses.
3. The written Word supplies better conditions for the formation of a sound judgment.
III. The Divine revelation that he had in his own consciousness was THE MOST CERTIFYING. Peter draws a comparison between the light of the Bible and the light of Christian consciousness, and implies that the latter is far more valuable than the former.
1. The one is a lamp, the other is a "day, or morning star."
2. The one is without, the other is within.
3. The one is temporary, the other is permanent.
4. The one is the harbinger of everlasting day, the other is not necessarily so.
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