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the world was dependent on His now approaching death? Think of the effect which a consideration like this, urged by the Church of the upper sanctuary, in the persons of its most illustrious representatives, would have upon the heart and mind of the blessed Jesus. And to this add the willingness of self-surrender and devotion of filial love that would spring up afresh within Him as the voice of the Eternal Father was heard, not only announcing Him as His beloved Son, but also giving all things into His hands. And to this, again, the glow of hallowed delight and freedom of girded strength that would grow out of the baptism of heavenly glory that came down and streamed upon Him. What in effect would all this be but the refreshment, and exaltation, and complete invigoration of His whole nature for the agonies of mind and body that were immediately before Him—for the cup He was to drink in Gethsamene, and the death He was to die on Calvary? “He shall not fail mor be discouraged”; “He shall drink of the brook in the way, therefore shall He lift up His head”; these were the cheering words of ancient prophecy, and these were in a large degree now graciously fulfilled. Hence a little time after it is said, “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.” Prepared for the sacrifice, He went direct to the altar.
III. THE PRACTICAL LESSONS WE MAY LEARN FROM THIS SUBJECT. — One is suggested by the very place where the transaction occurred. It was “a mountain apart. Not the Temple at Jerusalem, where many met for worship; still less the open city, where more crowded for business ; but a piace high up and solitary. Tabor is the traditionary mountain, but Hermon was probably the real one.*
The remark is a trite one, that many of the most memorable scenes recorded in Scripture were enacted on mountains ; though I know not for what purpose the remark is made, unless it be in the spirit of a great living writer, who, choosing imagination for interpreter, speaks of the mountains of the earth as its natural cathedrals, or natural altars,' overlaid with gold, and bright with broidered
• Robinson's Palestine vol. ii., p. 359. Thompson. The Land and the Book, p. 231.
The now generally accepted opinion may be given in the picturesque language of Mr. Ruskin. “The tradition is that the Mount of Transfiguration was the summit of Tabor ; but Tabor is neither a high mountain, nor was it in any sense a mountain apart,' being in those years both inhabited and fortified. All the immediately preceding ministries of Christ had been at Cæsarea Philippi. There is no mention of travel southward in the six days that intervened between the warning given to His disciples, and the going up into the hill. What other hill could it be than the southward slope of that goodly mountain Hermon, which is indeed the centre of all the Promised Land, from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt; the mount of fruitfulness, from which the springs of Jordan descended to the valleys of Israel ? Along its mighty forest avenues, until the grass grew fair with the mountain lilies, His feet dashed in the dew of Hermon, He must have gone to pray His first recorded prayer about death ; and from the steep of it, before He knelt, could see to the south all the dwelling place of the people that had sat in darkness and seen the great light, the land of Zebulon and of Napthali, Galilee of the nations; could see, even with 'His human sight, the gleam of that lake by Capernaum and Chorazin, and many a place loved by Him, and Fainly ministered to, whose house was now left unto them desolate ; and, chief of all, far in the utmost blue, the hills above Nazareth, sloping down to His old home : hills on which yet the stones lay loose that had been taken up to cast at Him, when He left them for ever."- Modern Painters, vol. iv., 392.
work of flowers, and with their clouds resting on them as the smoke of a continual sacrifice."*
In the present case, solitude, separation from the world and separation, too, from one's ordinary self-was the thing to be specially desired; and nowhere could this be had so completely as in a mountain apart.” Such a place was clearly the fittest for the new and glorious experiences through which Jesus and His disciples were about to pass—for the things that were then to be seen, and for the words that were then to be spoken. And “apart" it is good for us now and then to be taken. Indeed, if God would manifest Himself unto us as He does not unto the world, if He would speak to us some word of instruction or enconragement intended specially for ourselves, if He would nerve us for some work of difficulty, or gird us for some post of danger, or gladden and cheer us in prospect of some season of sorrow, He not seldom takes us away for a time from our ordinary walks and commonly recurring experiences into the deeper privacy of a more intimate communion with Himself. Often has it been found that the bitterness of a great affliction has been anticipated in the blessedness of a previous preparation for it. Seasons of peculiar exaltation have been kindly vouchsafed to us, in clear knowledge that other and very different seasons were at hand, requiring much more than human resources for their patient and profitable use. God has seen the cross in the distance, when we ourselves could not see it, and to fit us meekly and worthily to bear it He has given us the special anointing of His grace.
On the same principle, too, the Lord deals with us when His purpose is to humble and correct us, to mortify self and drive the world out of our hearts, that He alone may come into view, and occupy the whole sphere of our thoughts and desires. He takes us “apart” for awhile, away from our customary associations and daily enjoyments, into a solitude where He only can be seen, and into a silence where he only can be heard. There is no solitude more deep, no silence more profound than that of the sick chamber or the desolate hearth. Never do we feel ourselves so much alone as when God gives us the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, when He brings down our strength to the earth and makes our beauty consume away like the moth, when He compels us to look upon death in the persons of those most dear to us, or to stand helpless and speechless amid the failure and seeming ruin of all our earthly hopes. But never than at such times are we nearer to Himself, nearer to that palpitating sympathy and yearning love which doth not afflict willingly and grieve the children of men ; and never than at such time does he speak to us in words and tones more full of tenderness and grace. Happy is it for us when, aroused from our previous slumber to a due apprehension of our gracious visitation, we are led to say, in the words of the disciples, though in a somewhat different sense from theirs, “Lord, it is good for us to be here."
And yet we are further instructed not to wait for extraordinary opportunities of solitary communion with God, but to seek them for ourselves, and to look for His promised appearing and blessing in connection therewith, specially in answer to prayer. Thus was it
• Ruskin's “Modern Painters," vol. iv., 386.
with Jesus. He went of His own accord, from His own impulse and desire to go, into a high mountain apart, and it was while He was there praying that the glorious phenomena here recorded, so fruitful of strength and blessedness to Himself, occurred.
The presence of God may no doubt be had anywhere and always, but most readily and intimately when other objects are deliberately shut out from the view, and the heart is left free to converse with Him alone. Without retirement from the world, the privilege at best is but half enjoyed, and would in time cease to be enjoyed at all. It is in most things the special that makes the common possible. The good obtained in private, and obtained because resolutely sought there, is like a fertilizing shower that gladdens the earth for many days. There must hence be chosen seasons of withdrawment from outward avocations and material interests, particularly at these times of keen rivalry in secular business and hot pursuit of merely earthly good, or the soul cannot steady itself on divine things, and will know but little or nothing of the joy which says,
“Nevertheless I am continually with Thee. Thou holdest me by Thy right hand. Whom have I in heaven but Thee ? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.” Of course there must be prayer at such seasons, as otherwise intercourse with God is not possible ; nor can any clear and satisfying manifestation of His presence be hoped for except in answer to prayer. Meditation there may and must be, but even this is of the nature of prayer, and is always most profitable when prayer is formally connected with it. It is by prayer that, in Scripture language, we come unto God, draw near to Him, talk with Him. The prayer, however, must be earnest and beseeching, if we would so overcome the force of outward obstructions as to press "even unto His seat.” It must be persevering, and in some cases at least long continued, if we would duly fit ourselves for the reception and improvement of the blessing we ask for. Very instructive is our Lord's example in this respect. How fervent and importunate His prayer was we may infer from what we know of His spirit on other occasions; how protracted it was is suggested by the circumstance that it continued long enough for the disciples to become “heavy with sleep.” Haste is the common fault of our prayers, and so the common hindrance to their success. give ourselves time to realize our wants, still less to assure ourselves of their promised supply. We pray as though our words were a charm that must operate to obtain for us what we seek; or as though the Almighty, indifferent to His own honour or to our essential well-being, had no concern but just to give us what we wish. Far otherwise was the prayer of our Lord, and hence the glorious answer that came to it. And far otherwise must be our prayer, or no answer will come at all.
We learn still further, by a very obvious suggestion, that seasons of peculiar exaltation are not in any instance to be long enjoyed here. Peter would have remained on the mount, and to this end proposed to build there three tabernacles for the heavenly visitants and his transfigured Lord, probably expressing in this the feeling of the other disciples as well as his own. But then, it is added, he knew not wbat he said. And so we in like circumstances would do much
the same thing, and in much the same ignorance of what is best for
We would linger on the heights of blessedness to which the mercy of God is pleased now and then to exalt us. We would arrest the bright but fleeting moments of some peculiar and special privilege graciously accorded us, and compel them to stay. But we know not what we wish. The present life is not an Elysian existence ; nor indeed is the next. Toil was ordained for man even in Eden ; and for other as well as the same reasons, toil is ordained for him still. Nor is the lot a hard necessity merely, but also a wise and merciful appointment. Rest would soon tire, and enjoyment would soon cloy, without it. External conditions are at best but a very limited provision for positive, especially for permament, felicity. There must be the labour that develops to new and larger capacity, there must be the trial-perchance also the suffering—that refines to purer and to nobler tastes, or there can be but few sufficing and no continuing pleasures. Besides, we are concerned for others no less than for ourselves, and our own happiness depends largely, and sometimes exclusively, on the efforts we make to promote theirs. Hence God, considering our need rather than our desire, brings us down from the mount, after a season of blessed privilege there, into the valley ; it may be into the valley of the shadow of death. He gives us something to do, and something mayhap to endure. He summons us to labour, to conflict, to hardship, to sorrow, that by these a character of greater robustness and power of achievement may be built up and perfected, and so a fuller meetness obtained for a yet deeper and more abiding joy, both in this world and in that wbich is to come.
All, however, does not disappear when the heavenly moments are fled. Jesus remains. It was thus with the favoured three. The bright cloud became dim. Moses and Elias returned to their celes. tial habitation. The voice of the Father died away into silence. The whole vision faded and vanished, save as a delicious memory. But Jesus was still there. “ He was found alone,” says one Evangelist; but He was found. The disciples “ saw Jesus only,” says another ; but they did see Him; and He doubtless now became to them, if not another, yet a dearer and diviner object than before. The like privilege is ours, though in a different sense. The spiritual has taken the place of the material, and is so much the more precious in effect as it is so much the greater and better in itself: “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” In respect to His bodily presence, Jesus went finally away when He ascended upon high; but He went then only that He might come again in another form, and with more abundant grace. “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you,” was the promise He left behind; and this promise was speedily fulfilled, and so fulfilled as to become true and real, not to a few of His followers only, but to all—everywhere, and throughout all time.
It is hence true and real to us, or may be so. Jesus is never absent, except as we desire His absence. At the very first He comes to us unsolicited, stands at the door and knocks, waits outside until His "head is filled with dew, and His locks with the drops of the night,” that He may gain our attention and win our love. Once accepted and welcomed, He never again leaves us, certainly
never of His own accord. “He shall abide with you for ever,” said He of the Comforter, and so, therefore, said of Himself, demanding no other condition of this gracious companionship than the feeling which prompted Peter to say, in answer to the question, “Will ye also go away ?” “ Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” We may not see Him now and then, from the dimness that gathers on our sight through the weakness of our faith or the magnitude of our trials; but He is at hand when we know it not, and ever nearest to us when our need of Him is greatest. It is then, as a brother born for adversity, that His humandivine sympathies are most deeply moved, and His human-divine succours most available for our help. To the three disciples, prostrate and sore afraid, He turned at once, and touching them said, “ Arise, and be not afraid.” And for us, in every condition of privation and distress, He has the same reviving touch, and the same cheering word.
We might, perhaps, in the next place, gather from this scene some instruction respecting the glory and blessedness of the future inheritance of the saints; but we pass over this to notice, finally, the object it presents to our faith, and the demand it makes on our obedience. The object is given in the death of Christ, the demand in the words spoken from the excellent glory, “ Hear ye Him." The two are intimately connected, as belonging to the same Divine purpose and plan. The death of Christ was the ground and reason of His subsequent exaltation and universal authority. It was “when He had by Himself purged our sins,” that He “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Because He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, therefore God also bath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” The world He has redeemed the Father hath given Him to rule and to judge, and so completely and absolutely that in all things He has now the pre-eminence. Our personal interest in Him therefore, as the Saviour of all men, is secured only by our entire submission to Him This submission includes the acceptance of His death as propitiation for our sins, and a humble but steadfast reliance upon it for pardon and peace. It includes also the acceptance of His authority as that of one who, in addition to His essential qualification, has acquired the right to be our sole teacher and our only sovereign. Neither of these would suffice alone, as in truth neither could exist alone. Christ is at the same time both a Prince and a Saviour, and to us He becomes the one only as He becomes the other. He must reign or He cannot redeem. A true faith, moreover, implies a true obedience; as, on the other hand, a true obedience implies a true faith. Each is offered just as the other is offered ; and both alike are offered when. in answer to the demand of the Father on behalf of His Son, we say, in simple reverence and trust, “Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth.”