The Transfiguration.

J. G. Bellett.

1888 97 It must have been familiar with us all to have observed, that the certainty of our view of an object has depended very principally on the light in which it was set; and that our enjoyment of a prospect has been greatly determined by the way by which we approached it.

I venture thus to introduce my observation upon the transfiguration of our blessed Lord on the Holy Mount, because, as I judge, the way by which He was led there has not with sufficient care been traced out and preserved by those who since, in faith, followed Him there. The road was much longer to Him than we generally suspect; and yet, to be on the mount with Him, so as to enter rightly through the Spirit into the design of His being there at all, we must be patient in marking the way which conducted Him to that secret place of His heavenly glory. We will then, trusting His guidance, track this way after Him somewhat more carefully.

It was apostacy in Israel that prepared "the place that is called Calvary;" and, under the determining hand and counsel of God, there erected the cross: so that the Lord Himself said to the Jews, "when YE have lifted up the Son of Man, then shall ye know that I am He" (John viii. 28). For the Son had been sent forth to preserve and reign over the house of Israel for ever; but Israel would none of Him. Of course in all this the purpose of the counsels of God was only effected; but still the cross is the witness of Jewish unbelief; as is said, "For of a truth against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done" (Acts iv. 27-28).

The cross therefore directly led to the casting off of Israel as God's people on earth; and to the consequent present call of the church out from among the Gentiles. Accordingly, in the progress of the Lord's ministry, as the Jews were at times betraying their unbelief, so was the Lord ever following this with the intimation (either to themselves, or in secret to His disciples) of the judgment for which this unbelief was preparing them; or of its further results in the call and edification of His body the church.

And if we but carefully trace His ministry, we shall at once discover this as one of its characters, and be led in this way: and I will say only in this way, justly to apprehend the purpose (most gracious in Him and blessed to them, and to the whole church with them, as it was) for which He ever took His favoured disciples up to that heavenly hill with Him.

The Gospel of Matthew (as confessedly the most complete narrative of our Lord's history) is that through which we will trace Him until He reach the mount of transfiguration in Matthew xvii.; for I am assured that there is to be discovered, through all this part of His ministry and the circumstances attending it, that which was opening His way to that mount.

Every thing previous to the imprisonment of John will be found to be only introductory to our Lord's ministry — i.e. all that is recorded by our evangelist, down to Matt. iv. 12. But the tidings "that John was cast into prison "drew Him forth; and we read, that "from that time, Jesus began to preach." Then did light spring up to them, which sat in the region and shadow of death; then did the Shepherd of Israel begin to feed the flock; and, unlike those who had come before Him, to strengthen the diseased, to heal the sick, to bind up the broken, and to seek the lost (Matt. iv. 23-25, Ezek. xxxiv. 4).

In the three following chapters we have the sermon on the mount; the purpose of which I judge to be this — to reveal the Father in heaven (from whose glory the Son had come down) in connection with Israel; to exhibit the necessary characters of a people brought into this blessed connection; but at the same time, on the ground of the corruptions and hypocrisy of their present accredited fathers, to disclose, though as yet but darkly, the mystery of Israel's full apostacy and rejection, and the consequent call of an election from among them, and the opening of a new scene of blessing to them.

In Matthew viii. the Lord pursues His ministry of mercy, and as yet He pursues it unhindered. Every step in His bright path of blessing, leaving behind it the traces of One who had come as "the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in." Matthew ix. however presents to us, for the first time, the enmity of the blind guides of Israel, "because their deeds were evil" against the light of Israel. The occasion for this first manifestation of their enmity and unbelief is very specially worthy of our notice. It is the case of the man sick of the palsy, who had been let down through the roof in order to meet the eye and compassion of the blessed Jesus; (see Matt. ix. 1; Mark ii. 1-4) "and Jesus," as we read, "seeing their faith, said unto the sick of the palsy, Son be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee." Here then the Lord, witnessing the faith of this little band of His people, at once proclaims remission of sins in Israel, and consequent healing — power on earth to forgive sins now manifested.* The Jehovah of Israel now appeared among them, "forgiving all their iniquities, and healing all their diseases." Every sickness and every plague had through disobedience been brought upon them (Deut. xxviii. 61); but He who had once led them out of Egypt, was saying to them again, "I am the Lord that healeth thee." (Ex. xv. 26).

[*The blotting out of Israel's sins is connected with "the times of refreshing" and "the restitution of all things," as St. Peter speaks in Acts iii. 19-21; and so the Lord says in this very case of the palsied man, that the healing of disease was the sure and certain proof to Israel of sins forgiven; for says He, "that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith He to the sick of the palsy) Arise, take up thy bed and go unto thine house." (Matt. ix. 6.)]

He was, as it were, renewing His covenant with them, His covenant of health and salvation; He was taking away from them all sickness and dispensing healing through the land (Deut. vii. 15). Faith would have rejoiced and begun that song of praise prepared of old for repentant and believing Israel, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name; bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits; Who forgiveth all thine iniquities and healeth all thy diseases" (Ps. ciii). But Israel's guides and rulers, now thinking evil in their hearts, whispered, "This man blasphemeth."* The enmity of the rulers thus, once awakened, worked more and more as the gracious Shepherd went on to gather "the poor of the flock." Thus we find Him immediately afterwards calling Matthew the publican, and sitting at meat in company with sinners, and the rulers rebuking Him for this grace that was in Him. But it was that grace of the divine physician which they all equally needed: yet, ignorant of this, they were vainly and fatally to themselves making sin the occasion of judging, and comparing as among themselves, instead of knowing and confessing that "the whole head was sick and the whole heart faint." They had now been smitten according to the curse on disobedience (Deut. xxviii. 28) with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart, as every city and village of theirs, through which Jehovah their healer was now passing, witnessed, but knew it not. The Lord their God was even now showing them that He would not contend for ever; for though He had seen their ways and the frowardness of their hearts, yet that He had come to heal them (Isa. lvii. 18). He was now showing that for the hurt of the daughter of His people He was hurt, and that balm was now to be found in Gilead, and a physician there; but the daughter of His people was refusing health (Jer. viii. 21, 22). The enmity still working, the fairest and most favoured portion of Israel next came forward with their challenge, "the disciples of John;" they who had been under the ministry of him, than whom, among those born of woman, there had not risen a greater — the burning and the shining light of Israel in his day. In answer to them the Lord darkly intimates the mystery hid from ages and from generations, and for the full disclosure of which the unbelief of Israel was thus gradually making way. He speaks to them of the strange act of the bridegroom's removal (Israel having heard out of the law only of Christ's "abiding for ever"); and with this gives them notice, as by a parable of Israel's apostacy and consequent rejection as an old garment, and as a vessel in which there was soon to be no pleasure; and the Lord's consequent election of another witness of His grace and blessing (Matt. ix. 14-17).

[*The forgiveness of sins to Israel was not connected, as to us now whether Jews or Gentiles, with glory and eternal life in heaven, but with restitution of all their Canaan blessedness; all present earthly blessings were to come upon them to overtake them (as the glorious promise of the Lord expressed it), if Israel would but hearken to His voice, and among these blessings the removal of all sickness, as is again and again said (Ex. xv. 29. Ex. xxiii. 15); and thus the pardon of their sins and healing are treated as the same (see Matt. xiii. 15. and Mark).]

Matthew xi. begins by telling us that when the Lord had thus given them this commission, He Himself in like manner departed "to teach and to preach in their cities." But that chapter does not close until we listen to Him, in all the grace of ill-requited and as it were disappointed love, upbraiding those cities "because they repented not." "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes" (ver. 21). But sad to His soul as this view of the unbelief of Israel must have been, He finds His relief in the consciousness of the stability of the Father's purpose; in this, as St. Paul did afterwards, that the foundation of God still stood sure, and that therefore there would be still a gathering to Him of all those whom the Father foreknew, and who should hear His voice as the good Shepherd, saying, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden."

In the next chapter we see the Jews still further manifesting their unbelief, by the Pharisees holding a council against Him how they might destroy Him; (Matt. 12:14); and again by saying of Him, the gracious physician who was forgiving all their sins and healing all their diseases, spending His love and His strength upon them throughout all their coasts, "This fellow doth not cast out devils but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils:" (Matt. 12:24); and again, by desiring to see a sign from Him (Matt. 12:38). In the course of His reply to this last expression of unbelief, our Lord gives them solemn and full warning of the judgment they were hastening upon themselves, shutting them up under the condemnation of the sign of the prophet Jonah.

Jonah is, generally, the witness of burial and resurrection. Thus does He set forth the mysterious history of the blessed Son of Man Himself — "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matt. 12:40). But the sign of Jonah equally sets forth the history of Israel; inasmuch as that nation is now doomed to the judgment of death and the grave: but in the purpose of the love of God, it is destined to be called forth from under the power of death, and to rise again into the life and liberty of God's people (see Ezek. xxxvii. 1-14). But for the present they are in the grave; that unrepentant generation which was thus challenging the Lord for a sign was laid there; for there the Lord solemnly consigned them when He thus gave them the sign of the prophet Jonah. And when He had thus delivered them over to the judgment of death and the grave, He discloses to them, in the parable of the unclean spirit, that fulness of iniquity which they were to accomplish, and which would mature them for the full judgment of God. "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none, Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation" (Matt. 12:43-45).

Israel had been once possessed with an unclean spirit. Before the Babylonish captivity, the idols had defiled that land where Jehovah had set His own name and the witness of His presence; but this unclean spirit had now gone out of Israel: the house was swept, and emptied, and garnished; the altars, and the groves, and the images were no more. But this was all. God had not been restored to His place there: idolatry had now yielded to the spirit of scorning and unbelief. The Lord came, but there was no man; "He came to His own, but His own received Him not" (John i. 11). And thus into this empty house the full, or sevenfold, energy of Satan had entered — the unclean spirit had taken with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and was preparing to dwell there; and so has he since dwelt. The god of this world has blinded the nation to the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; and they continue to this day to deny the Son of Man, and to leave their last state worse than the first.*

[* Malachi was stationed as a prophet in Israel after the return of the Jews from Babylon and when the Jewish system was revived and put on trial again. But he witnessed, as it were, the gathering together of these seven spirits; the mystery of that iniquity was in his days beginning to work. The Lord does not complain through him of the return of the unclean spirit of idolatry, which had before been in the house, but of the spirit of scorn and unbelief, of the first workings of that which should one day end in the manifestation in its full energy of the god of this world, which ended in the cry, "Crucify Him, crucify Him;" and which left them in their last and worst state ripe for the judgment of God.

To the close of this chapter our Lord's thoughts appear to be still on the same awful truths, when He formally ceases to identify real and fleshly connection with Himself, as He would have been enabled to do had the seed of Abraham been also the children of Abraham — had they who came of the loins of Abraham, also done the works of Abraham.]

The next chapter (Matthew13) begins to present our Lord as a teacher with a new style and manner; He opens His mouth in parables and utters dark sayings of old, and on being questioned by His disciples, why was it thus? He answered and said unto them, "Because it is given unto you to know the mystery of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given; for whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away, even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables, because they seeing, see not; and hearing, they hear not, neither do they understand; and in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias which saith, By hearing ye shall hear and shall not understand, and seeing ye shall see and not perceive; for this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them." This change of manner in the ministry of this blessed and perfect master in Israel was thus awfully judicial: He had spoken to them plainly, and spoken no proverb; but when He had thus called, there was none to answer, and now, as the Lord in judgment, He began to pour out on them the spirit of deep sleep and to close their eyes, that the scripture might be fulfilled which saith, "And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, read this, I pray thee; and he saith, I cannot, for it is sealed: and the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, read this I pray thee, and he saith, I am not learned" (Isa. xxix. 11, 12).

We are too careless in marking all the actions of the blessed Jesus. Among ourselves the eye and ear of a friend will discover in little things the heart of him with whom friendship has made us familiar; and how does the Holy Ghost trace for the saints the less discovered paths of the Spirit of Jesus when on earth, so that when once let into the secret of communion with Him, we may see Him where the sharpest eye of this world's wisdom would never have discovered His path! "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him" (Ps. xxv. 14). Now we read after this (Matt. xiv. 13), that when Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, "He departed thence by ship into a desert place apart." This action of the Lord is full of meaning. The murder of that righteous man was a chief matter in filling up the measure of the nation's sin; it was the sure witness of their deep revolt from God. They had done with God's servant "whatsoever they listed," served the lust of their own evil hearts upon him, instead of receiving him as the messenger of the Lord of Hosts to them. And what ripeness for judgment was just then exhibited among them! Only mark the scene in Herod's palace at that time, what a living in pleasure was there and being wanton! what a nourishing of the heart as in a day of slaughter, did the court of Israel's king then present!

1888 115 Herod's birthday was kept: the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine were in the feast, and the blood of the righteous was mingled with it all. The just was condemned and killed, but there was to be no resistance — no present redress. The sin of Babylon was found in Jerusalem, and more than the sin of Babylon. It was a feast full of more horrid rites than that which drew forth the handwriting of death upon the wall, to seal the fate of Belshazzar and his kingdom. The vessels of the temple were profaned there, but in Jerusalem the blood of the righteous was shed. But there was no second handwriting: the Lord came not to break the bruised reed, nor to quench the smoking flax; He came not to visit Israel's sin upon them. And so we read, that when He had heard of this deed which so stained their land, "He departed into a desert place apart," His spirit thus leading Him away from the view of the nation's sin (which was not as yet to call forth His right hand from His bosom) to pursue, as we find, His patient labours of mercy through their land, though they were thus rewarding Him evil for good, and hatred for His love.

In tracing further the ministry of the Lord, we find Him in Matthew (Matt. xv.) brought into view again of other evidence of Jewish apostasy, such as showed that all their worship had been now turned to vanity; that, loving the praise of men rather than the praise of God, they were honouring man in his traditions, and, for the sake of this, forsaking God and His commandments. And thus were they forsaking their own mercy, and, travelling on in the darkness of this world, they knew not whither they were going, and would speedily stumble, and be snared, and taken.

Thus witnessing all the way the deepening of Jewish unbelief, and the settling of the purpose of their revolted heart not to receive Him, we are at length conducted to that scene in the Lord's ministry which prepares for His ascent without further delay up the holy mount. On His again being challenged to show the sign from heaven (Matt. xvi. 1), after upbraiding them with their hypocrisy, we read that He "left them and departed." Another action of the Lord, big with judgment, had this voice, that the time was at hand when they should be judicially deserted of God. We find that He pursued this solemn journey of separation from them, till He reached the coast of Caesarea Philippi, the most distant corner of the land. Here we must pause with Him, and meditate on this most interesting moment of His ministry, when He, having taken up this lonely and remote position, judicially separating Himself as far as He could from all Jewish associations and recollections, breaks open both to the eye and ear of His disciples the secret that had been hid from ages and from generations, that is, the special and distinctive glory which in the purpose of God had been of old ordained for His church.

Here in the solitudes of Caesarea Philippi, the Lord, as we read, "asked His disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?" By this He designed (closing His controversy with them) to draw forth the full and formal proof of the nation's unbelief, of their having failed or refused to discover in Him the light that was to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of His people Israel. And such was now drawn forth; for the disciples, who had been more than their Lord mixed with the multitudes, and had known their present ways, could only say, "Some say that thou art John the Baptist; some, Elias; and others, Jeremias; or one of the prophets." But they had no tidings to bring Him that any had echoed the joy of the prophet, "To us a Child is born, to us a Son is given;" that they had ever heard, through their towns and villages, one saying, "I am the Lord's; and another calling himself by the name of Jacob; and another subscribing with his hand to the Lord, and surnaming himself by the name of Israel" (Isa. xliv. 5). His hand was as strong now for them, as when He rode with His chariots of salvation through the sea, and covered the Egyptian heavens with sack-cloth; but there was none (Isa. 50:1, 2). Israel did not know, the people did not consider, that the Heir of the vineyard was refused and disallowed by the husbandmen.

Thus was the earth shut upon Him; for His earthly throne, by His own ancient decree, was set in Zion (Ps. 2:6). The people of the earth had rejected Him. "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not; He came to His own, and His own received Him not." And now was the time for His unveiling another and hitherto hidden region. The heavens must open if earth be shut to Him and His people. If the key of the house of David laid upon His shoulder cannot as yet be used to give Him entrance to His inheritance of the fulness of the earth, the keys of the kingdom of heaven must open the glories and joys of heaven to Him and His church. And therefore, as we read, the Lord, designing to draw this forth of His elect, and to bring it into direct contrast with the unbelief of Israel, said to the disciples, "But whom say ye that I am?" And so He did draw this forth; for Peter, as confessing the faith of the body of Christ, the faith of the family that belongs to the Father in heaven, "answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." For this is just the knowledge by which the heavenly family have their very being: "he that hath the Son hath life." And the body of Christ is fashioned by the power of the Holy Ghost imparting this faith, and will have its full edification when all the elect have by the same Spirit been brought into this faith; as it is written, "till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. iv. 13).

And the Lord therefore at once acknowledged this confession to be the confession of the church; the proper faith of all those who have had the Son revealed to them by the Father in heaven, and are thus made one with Christ in the present love wherewith He is loved and in the coming glory wherewith He is to be revealed. "And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I also say unto thee that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it: and I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 16:17-19)*

[*I may just remark that here, for the first time in Scripture, the term "church" is used (Israel being rather the people of God).]

Here then, for the first time, the Son and the church — the destined Bridegroom and Bride are manifested in the presence of each other; here do they for the first time salute each other, and enter into that fellowship of knowledge and those blessed embraces of love which shall endure for ever. Then did the church in Spirit sing, "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine;" and the Son could rejoice in opening to His brethren the very heavens themselves, and giving them seats with Himself in the Father's house. In His esteem, as it were, the earth was too low for them, and the heavens must open to them. His members should be fashioned here, but the body in its perfectness should find its place for ever on high. The throne and not the footstool should be theirs.

I do believe there was no moment like this in the ministry of our blessed Master. This was the great moment of transition from earth to heaven: the one was refusing its increase to God, and would now cast out the Heir of all its fulness; the other was preparing a throne for Him, and for all who would love and adhere to Him in this scornful and rejecting world.

Thus can we discern, during the ministry of our Lord, the unfoldings of that character and unbelief in Israel which carried His prospects, if I may so speak, from earth to heaven; and so are we able to trace that way which conducted His steps to the distant coasts of Caesarea Philippi; and from thence, as we shall presently see, up the heavenly ascent of the Mount of Transfiguration.

The earth being thus, as He now saw, closed upon Him, the Lord begins, as we read, from that time to reveal the wonder of His death; which was the finishing of the earth's sin, and its rejection of God. It was a circumstance in the history of their Messiah that lay quite beyond all Jewish calculations, that was beside His character as Son of David in which Israel knew Him. This was the time, therefore (the Son of David being thus disowned by Israel), for the Lord to speak fully and openly to His disciples of His death. "From that time forth began Jesus to show unto His disciples how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day" (Matt. 16:21).

But here, alas, how far below the power of His own blessed confession so lately made, does the apostle come! Like Abram of old, he had just come out, as it were, from his home and kindred on earth, in the energy of the faith of the Son of God, which was really separating him unto the heavenly glory; but, like Abram, how soon the world and the god of this world has him under the power of his own spirit (see Gen. 12). "Then Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him, saying, Be it far from Thee, Lord; this shall not be unto Thee. But He turned and said unto Peter, Get thee behind Me, Satan, thou art an offence unto Me; for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men" (Matt. 16:22, 23).

Could Peter promise himself that his Master would be any thing but a sufferer in a world which had thus been manifesting its rejection of God? And should Peter, or those whom Peter's confession represents, look for any portion for themselves in a world which has now rejected the Son, and is still saying that they will not have Him to reign over them? It is only of Satan that the love of it can savour, and thus it cannot abide in the same heart with the love of the Father. The saints through the Holy Ghost have met the Father in affection, in the person of the Son; and the world by the spirit of the wicked one is at enmity with the Father, by still refusing to kiss the Son, counting that there is no beauty that they should desire Him.

In accordance with this reprobate character of the world, the Lord shows His disciples, drawn to Him in spirit out of it, what their suffering condition must also needs be while in it. "Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me; for whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it." But at the same time He graciously sustains them thus called to be His suffering followers, with a promise of reward in the glory of His kingdom; a glory too, which He at the same time intimates to be far above all Jewish measures or expectations of glory, being "of the Father." "For," says the Lord to them, "what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? for the Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to his works." And so great, so wondrous, so exceeding all previous calculations, was this "glory of the Father," which He now speaks of, that He gives His disciples a very solemn pledge of it, promising them (in terms most strikingly expressive of the deep and interesting value of it) a sight of this glory. Thus by the two witnesses, as it were, His prophecy and their vision of it, the thing must be adjudged to be no "cunningly devised fable," but be established in their faith, and ever live in the remembrance of His church, till the day itself dawned, and till the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the majesty of His kingdom, should rest no longer in vision or in promise, but be manifested to the everlasting satisfaction of all who wait for it. "Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here which shall not taste of death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."

Accordingly this gracious pledge He quickly redeems. As we read, "And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them; and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light. And behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with Him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be hero: if Thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles, one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spake, behold, 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. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid: and Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid: and when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only" (Matt. xvii. 1-8).

1888 131 Now the single purpose of the Lord in giving Peter, James, and John this vision in the holy mount, was, as I have thus been endeavouring to show, to give His church a sight or sample of that heavenly glory which is their inheritance, and which is quite beside and above all previously expected glories, quite of another character from all the promises of glory made by Jehovah to Israel. The secret of God was here in vision disclosed to these favoured disciples; the heavenly Jerusalem stood with her opened gates before them for a little passing moment; and though the disciples were then but "eye witnesses" standing on the earth, still in flesh and blood, and separated from that which they were beholding, they were afterwards, through the Holy Ghost, taught to know that their portion was to be in that glory, that they were to take the better place of Moses and Elias with the Lord (2 Peter i). And thus they might have seen, reflected in Moses and Elias glorified with the royal Son of Man, the inheritance of the saints in light, the hope of the calling of the Father of glory, the glory given to the Son, and imparted by the Son to the church, that they might be one with Him in it for ever (Eph. i. 17, John xvii. 22).

Peter's joy in the presence of this glory, and his desire to continue there (such was the satisfying delight which his soul was taking in the scene), may give us to know something of the character of the blessedness of Israel and the nations continuing in natural bodies, "of the earth earthly," in the kingdom of the Son of Man when this His glory shall appear. But all this was merely incidental. The single purpose of the vision was to show the church her portion in the glory, and not to let Israel know their joy merely in the presence of it. The church's high calling of God in Christ Jesus was that which was to be established by this vision. The God of all grace has called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus; and this was then exhibited. Accordingly the transfiguration passed on the Lord, on Moses and Elias — they all appeared in the same glory. Moses and Elias were no more, as they were once on earth, than was the Lord Himself: their vile bodies had been fashioned like unto His glorious body; and He, then appearing for a little time, they also appeared in glory with Him.

But what a mystery was this, that they should be fellow-heirs and of the same body!* In other ages it was not made known to the sons of men, but now was manifested, visibly manifested; so that, as we may say, we have seen it with our eyes and have looked upon it. But truly it was so strangely excellent, so far surpassing the thoughts even of these chosen ones of Israel, that it was worthy of this solemn pledge and assurance, in order that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God, and have strong consolation who have fled to this hope set before us. And oh that this was more and more our consolation! Oh that we abounded in the hope of this! — that our anchors were more firmly cast within the veil, and that we were more with desire wishing for the day! And not only were the saints in their glorified bodies exhibited in that holy mount, but the enfolding of the church with her blessed Head in the cloud of the excellent glory was seen there also. The promised "glory of the Father," of which the Lord had spoken (Matt. xvi. 27), and in which He is to come when He brings His reward with Him, now descends on that holy hill. Surely this was none other than the house of God — the house where mansions are preparing for the saints in the Father's presence.

[*This is a mistaken application of the scripture in Eph. 3, which really applies, not to the glorified saints, but to the union of believing Jew and Gentile in the church now. So in the next page Rev. 7 is misconceived. Ed.]

In that presence are the saints to be presented without spot; and then will they know the blessing which ear hath not heard nor the heart conceived. There will be the presence that refreshes, and the happy service of the redeemed day and night before the throne, while He that sitteth thereon is dwelling among them. There shall they see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. But "the blood of the Lamb" will have washed them and made them meet for this their inheritance in light. And therefore do we find that when Moses and Elias spake with the Lord in the Mount, they spake of "His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem" (Luke ix. 31). And how suited was this also to rebuke Peter, who had so lately rebuked his Master for speaking in this manner of His decease! In glory they speak of it, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain." Oh what has made entrance for the glory, but the sufferings of Christ which it follows! The way to it has been opened by the nails and the spear, and the precious blood tracks it out for us all.

And here too we learn the secret of the disciples' fears in the presence of this excellent glory. "They feared as they i.e. the Lord and Moses and Elias (see Luke ix. 34) entered into the cloud." For nothing will strengthen us to stand assured in the presence of the glory, but the knowledge of the humiliation of Christ; and this Peter and they who were with him knew not then. His humiliation is the only but the sure (most blessed) ground of fellowship with even the excellent glory; for it assures us that all that which this glory would have otherwise found in us to judge and to consume has been already judged and put away in Him Who bore all our shame. And this was most graciously assured to the disciples on this very occasion. For Jesus came to them, amazed and confounded as they were, and with a voice and touch of Son of Man restored them. And these were the signs of His humiliation: the voice and the touch could tell them that He, who was in the form of God, was found in fashion as a man like themselves, and that they need not fear. As in a like case, the glory of God being found in the person of the Son of Man, the conscious patriarch could say, "I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." The majesty of the God of heaven was not therefore his destruction (Gen. xxxii. 30). So the prophet's comeliness was turned into corruption, and he retained no strength in the presence of the same majesty; but he knew in himself that he was strengthened when the hand of one, in the appearance of a man, had touched him (Dan. x. 18). And thus it is ever; the divine terror shall not make us afraid, nor the hand of the Almighty be heavy upon us (though of old it meted out heaven and measured the waters, and gathered the winds,) if we know Him, Who has been formed out of the clay like ourselves, and is according to our wish in God's stead" (Job xxxiii. 6, 7).

And it was with this humiliated One that the disciples again (it might be too soon) found themselves alone, "when they lifted up their eyes," — not knowing but that they should still behold the excellent glory. "But they saw no man save Jesus only." Jesus! the title of all which men despised and rejected, the sign of the carpenter's son, of Him who belonged to Galilee, the Nazarene. With such an One did they now find themselves alone. The vision was yet to be for an appointed time; the glory had been folded up and was departed; and they were still to know only fellowship with Him Whom man was despising and the nation abhorring.

And with Him should we be walking still. And oh! for more and more power, through the Holy Ghost, to know this blest companionship — companionship in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ. For though we know not how short, yet still the vision is for an appointed time; but then in the end it shall speak and not lie. The glory is within the veil, but will surely come forth and not tarry; and all who have waited for it, and are in the power of the secret of it, shall find it to be their salvation, while it is consuming all things beside. Gideon and the host of Israel stood, for they were in the secret of the Lord, when the glory shone forth from the broken pitchers; but the host of Midian — the army of the aliens — cried and fled, and were discomfited. J. G. Bellett.