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tion is made s of several thousand Jews who believed, and yet were all zealous of the law.” And it was the suspicion that St. Paul had forsaken, and taught others to forsake Moses, which brought his life into the most imminent danger, and actually occasioned his imprisonment. No wonder then that a transaction which was designed to prefigure this very doctrine that St. Paul was charged with, and that was so offensive to the Jewish converts in general, should be thought unfit by our Lord to be publicly divulged till some time, perhaps a considerable time, after his resurrection.
From the whole, then, of the preceding observations, it appears, that the transfiguration of Christ was one of those emblematical actions, or figurative representations, of which so many instances have been pointed out, and at the same time very distinctly explained, and elegantly illustrated, by some of our best divines.
The things represented by this significant transaction were:
First, the future glory of Christ, a general resurrection, and a future retribution.
Secondly, the abrogation of the Mosaical, and the establishment of the evangelical dispensation.
And the immediate purpose of these representations was, as I before observed, to correct two inveterate prejudices which prevailed among the disciples, and the Jewish converts in general.
Of these one was the extreme offence they took at any mention of the death and sufferings of Christ, which they conceived to be utterly inconsistent with his dignity.
The other was their persuasion that the ceremonial law was not done away by the Gospel, but that they were to exist together in full force, and to have an equal obedience paid to them by all the disciples of Christ.
But though the removal of these prejudices was, as I conceive, the primary and immediate design of the transfiguration, yet there are also purposes of great utility to all Christians in general in every age, which it might be, and probably was intended to answer.
In the first place it affords one more additional proof of the divine mission of Christ, and the divine authority of his religion.
It is one of the few occasions on which God himself was pleased, as it were, personally to interpose, and to make an open declaration from heaven in favour of his Son.—“ This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased : hear ye him." Two other instances only of this kind occur in the Gospels ;
one at our Saviour's baptism, the other on his praying to his Father to save him from the sufferings that awaited him.
Now these signs from heaven may be considered as a distinct species of evidence, different both from miracles and prophecies, frequently and earnestly wished for by the Jews, but not granted to them, nor vouchsafed to any one, but very sparingly, and on great and solemn occasions.
But besides this awful testimony to the divine origin of our religion in general, a particular attestation was (as we have seen) given on the mount to two of its principal doctrines, a general resurrection, and a day of retribution. The visible and illustrious representation of these in the glorified appearance of Christ, and Moses and Elias, has been already explained, and is appealed to by St. Peter, who saw it, as one convincing proof, among others, that “ he had not followed cunningly devised fables, " when he made known “the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.' And, indeed, since these two doctrines, a resurrection, and a day of judgment, are two of the most essential and fundamental articles of our faith ; and since it was one of the chief purposes of the Christian revelation, “ to bring life and immortality to light,” no wonder that God should graciously condescend to confirm these great truths to us in so many various ways; by words and by actions, by prophecies, by miracles, and by celestial visions.
The subject of this Lecture is a part of the eighteenth chapter of St. Matthew. It is evident that the disciples of our Lord were, for a considerable time, possessed with the imagination which prevailed universally among the Jews respecting their Messiah, that their Master's kingdom was to be a temporal one; that he was at some time or other to become
prince of great power and splendour, and that they of course should enjoy the largest share of his favour, and be placed in situations of great distinction and great emolument. And this delusion had taken such strong hold upon their minds, that although our Lord took frequent opportunities of combating their error, and made use of every means in his power to undeceive them, yet they still persisted in maintaining their favourite opinion; and in the beginning of this chapter they came to Jesus, saying, who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? It appears, from the parallel passage in St. Mark, that they had been disputing by the way who should be the greatest. Our Lord knowing this, and finding that all he had said on this subject had produced no effect upon them, determined to try whether a different mode of conveying his sentiments to them might not strike their minds more forcibly. He therefore had recourse (as in the case of the transfiguration) to what may be called a visible kind of language. He took a little child and placing it before them, bid them contemplate the innocence and simplicity, the meekness and humility which marked its countenance; and theri assured them, that unless they were converted, and became as little children; that is, unless a total change took place in the temper and disposition of their minds, unless they became as unambitious and unaspiring, as meek, as humble and contented, as little concerned about worldly honours and distinctions, as the child before them, they could not enter into the kingdom of heaven: they could never be considered as true objects of Christ's kingdom here, or be capable of inheriting the rewards of heaven hereafter. In the eye of God, true humility is a most sublime
virtue; and whoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Our Lord . then goes on to say, “ Whosoever receiveth one such little child in my name, receiveth me.” That is, it is men of humble minds and meek dispositions, whom I most highly prize, and whom I inost strongly recommend to the notice, the kindness, the protection of all those who are friends to me and my religion ; and so dear are men of this discription to me, that I make their interests my own, and I shall consider every man who receives, and assists, and encourages them on my account, and for my sake, as receiving me. But if, instead of receiving and protecting these my humble disciples, any one should dare to injure them, he must expect the severest marks of my displeasure. “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a mill-stone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world, because of offences; for it must needs be that offences come, but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh.'
In order to comprehend the full meaning of this denuncia tion, it will be necessary to explain the peculiar meaning of the word offend. Now this expression in the present passage, as well as in many other parts of the New Testament, signifies to cause any one to fall from his faith, to renounce his belief in Christ by any means whatever; and against every one that makes use either of violence or artifice to terrify or seduce the sincere and humble, and unsuspicious believer in Christ from his faith and obedience to his divine Master, the severest woes, and the heaviest punishments are here denounced.
This text of scripture therefore I would most earnestly recommend to the serious consideration of those who either are or have been guilty of this most dangerous crime; and I would also no less earnestly caution all those who have not yet been guilty of it, to avoid, with the utmost care, every degree of it, and every approach to it. It is a crime often touched upon in holy writ, but less noticed, or at least less enlarged upon by divines and moralists than perhaps any other sin of the same magnitude. For this reason, I shall enter more fully into the consideration of it than has hitherto, I believe, been usually done, and shall advert briefly to the several modes of making our brother to offend, that is, to renounce his faith in Christ, which are most common and most successful; and these are persecution, sophistry, ridicule, inimoral examples, and immoral publications.
With respect to the first of these, persecution ; it was, dur
2 ing the first ages of the gospel, and for many years after the reformation, the great rock of offence, the chief instrument made use of (and a dreadful one it was) to deter men from embracing the faith of Christ, or to compel them to renounce it. But since that time we have heard little of its terrors, till they were some years ago revived, to a certain degree, in a neighbouring nation, where the various cruelties inflicted on their clergy are too well known, and cannot surely be ascribed altogether and exclusively to political causes.
In our own country, it must be acknowledged, we cannot justly be charged with this species of guilt. Intolerance and persecution are certainly not in the number of our national sins. But in the next mode of making our brother to offend; that is, by grave argument and reason, by open and systematic attacks on the truth and divine authority of the Christian revelation, in this we have, I fear, a large load of responsibility upon our heads.
It has even been affirmed by some, that we are entitled to the distinction of having led the way to this kind of impiety and profaneness. We have this honour given to us (for an honour they esteem it) by foreign writers, and what is worst of all, we are applauded for it by such men as D'Alembert and Voltaire.
To be stigmatized with their praise, and for such a reason, is a disgrace indeed; and it would be a still greater if we could not justly disclaim and throw back from ourselves the humiliating and ignominious applause which they would inflict upon
But this I apprehend we may effectually do. There appears to me sufficient ground for asserting, that the earliest infidels of modern times were to be found, not in this island, but on the continent. If we may credit the account given of Peter Aretin (who lived and wrote in the fourteenth century) by Moreri, and particularly the epitaph upon him, which he recites, there is reason to believe that he was an infidel of the worst species; and Viret a divine of great eminence among the first reformers, who wrote about the year 1563, speaks of a number of persons, both in France and Italy, who had assumed the name of Deists, and seem to have formed themselves into a sect. But it was not until the beginning of the following century that any men of that description, or any publication hostile to revelation, appeared in this kingdom. From that time indeed down to the present, there has been a regular succession of anti-christian writers of various descriptions and various talents, whose uniform object has been to subvert the