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offender, to assert his superintending providence and/ supreme dominion over all his creatures, and to give them the most awful proofs that, from his all-searching eye, no wickedness can be concealed.
The remaining part of this chapter is occupied with the recital of two miracles, on which I have only to observe, that they have both of them a spiritual as well as a literal meaning, are both of a very extraordinary nature, as calculated to make, as they did, a most powerful impression on the minds of the spectators; these were, the feeding above five thousand persons with five loaves and two fishes, and our Saviour's walking on the sea. The first of these had a reference to that spiritual food, that celestial manna, that bread of life, which our Lord was then dispensing in such abundance to those that hungered and thirsted after righteousness. The other was meant to encourage the great principle of faith; of trust and reliance upon God, in opposition to that self-confidence, that high opinion of our own strength, which we are too apt to entertain, and to which St. Peter, above all the other apostles, was peculiarly liable. When therefore, in consequence of his own request, he was permitted to go to Jesus on the water, and forgetting immediately who was his guide and support, began to be afraid and to sink, and called out to his divine master to save him, our Lord graciously stretched forth his hand and caught him, and said unto him, "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt ?" A reproof well calculated to convince him that it was not in proportion to his own natural strength, but according to the degree of his faith, that he must rise or sink. And what he says to Peter, he says to all who waver in their belief: "O of little faith why do ye doubt ?"
But there is another circumstance belonging to these miracles, which is of great importance; they are very extraordinary and astonishing instances of our Lord's power over nature, and of such a kind as to admit of no possibility of being counterfeited. And accordingly we find that although some cheats have pretended to
cure diseases miraculously, and some have even attempted to raise the dead, yet no impostor I believe has ever yet been so bold as to undertake to feed five thousand people at once with five loaves and two fishes, or to walk upon the sea. And the reason is plain. It would not be very easy to persuade five thousand people that they had been plentifully fed, when in fact they had received no nourishment at all; and it would be rather too dangerous an experiment for any man, not really supported by the hand of God, to attempt walking on the sea, when he cannot but know that the loss of life must be the inevitable consequence of it. Indeed this act has always been considered as utterly beyond all human power to atchieve; accordingly two feet walking upon water was an Egyptian hieroglyphic to denote impossibility. And Job represents the power of treading on the waves of the sea as a distinguishing mark and attribute of the Deity. Yet this did Jesus do; this impossibility did he accomplish; a most incontestible proof that God was with him. And in fact, this miracle seems to have made a stronger impres sion on the minds of his disciples than any other recorded in the gospels, even than that of raising the dead; for we are told in St. Mark, that when our Lord went up into the ship from walking on the sea, the disciples were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered. The words in the original are still stronger; indeed so strong, that it is impos sible for the English language to express all their force, In comparison of this miracle, even that of the loaves and the fishes seems to have appeared nothing in the eyes of the disciples; for St. Mark tells us, that they considered not the miracle of the loaves, for their heart was hardened; but at the act of walking on the sea they were amazed beyond measure; they were over, whelmed and overcome with this astonishing display of divine power; they fell instantly at the feet of Jesus, and worshipped him; and exclaimed, as every one who considers this stupendous miracle must do, “ Of a truth thou art the SON OF GOD!"
Job ix. 8.
† Chap. vi.<
I SHALL now request your attention to a very `remarkable part of our Saviour's history, that which is called by the evangelist his TRANSFIGURATION, and which is related in the seventeenth chapter of St. Matthew. It so happens, that many years ago I turned my thoughts very much to this particular subject in the sacred writings, and ventured (though without my name) to lay my sentiments concerning it before the public. I could have wished therefore to have excused myself from repeating here any part of what I have said elsewhere, and to have passed over this incident unnoticed. But when I considered that this transaction is of a very peculiar and extraordinary nature; that there are circumstances attending it which cannot fail to excite the curiosity of an inquisitive mind; that there are difficulties in it which stand in need of a solution, and conclusions to be drawn from it of considerable utility and importance: when I considered further, that much the greatest part of this audience had probably never seen or even heard of what I had formerly written on this subject; I determined not to omit so material a part of the task I am engaged in, but to give you what I conceive to be a true explanation of this interesting event. And I now feel the less difficulty in doing this, because, upon a careful review of that interpretation, after an interval of twelve years, I am still convinced of its truth, and have had the additional satisfaction of finding it confirmed by the authority of some learned and judicious commentators, whose opinions on one or two leading principles coicide with my own; but whose observations I had not seen (having consulted but very few expositors on the subject) when my essay went to the press.
The relation of this singular transaction is given us by three out of four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and
Luke, and alluded to in the writings of the fourth.They all agree in the main points. There is no material variation, and not the least contradiction between them. But, as is very natural, where different persons relate the same fact (and as indeed must generally happen where the story is not concerted among them) a few particulars are taken notice of by some which are passed over in silence by others. St. Matthew's account of it is as follows:
“And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a 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 the Moses and Elias talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here; if thou wilt, let us make 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. And as they came down from the mount, Jesus charged them, saying, tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.
"And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes, that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias shall truly first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, that Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed likewise also shall the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist,"
Such is the history which the evangelist gives us of the transfiguration; andon the very first view o. it, every one must see that a transaction of so uncommor and
splendid a nature could not be intended merely to surprise and amuse the disciples. There must have been some great object in view; some end to be obtained, worthy of the magnificent apparatus made use of to accomplish it.
Now there were, I conceive (besides some collateral and subordinate designs) two principal and important purposes, which were meant to be answered by this illustrious scene.
The first was to set before the eyes of the disciples a visible and figurative representation of Christ's coming in glory to judge the world, and to reward, with everlasting felicity, all his faithful servants.
In order to prove this, and at the same time to bring to the reader's view those circumstances which preceded, and in some degree gave occasion to this celestial vision, it will be necessary to look back to the chapter immediately before that in which the transfiguration is related.
In the 21st verse of the sixteenth chapter we find, that Jesus then, for the first time, thought fit to give some intimations to his disciples of the strange and extraordinary scenes he was soon to pass through; his sufferings, his death, and his resurrection; things of which, before this declaration, they seem not to have had the smallest conception or suspicion.
"From that time forth began Jesus to shew to his disciples how that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, aud be killed, and raised again the third day."*
This information, so perfectly new and unexpected to the disciples, and so destructive of all the fond hopes they had hitherto indulged, overwhelmed them with astonishment and grief. And St. Peter, whose natural warmth and eagerness of temper generally led him both to feel such mortifications more sensibly, and to express his feelings more promptly and more forcibly, than any of the rest, was so shocked at what he had just heard, that he took Jesus, and began to rebuke him,
* Matth. xiv. 21.