ON THE TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD
ST. MATTHEW XVII.
Consider first, how our Lord, taking with him Peter, James, and John, brought them up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them; so that ‘his face did shine on the sun, and his garments became white as snow. And there appeared to them Moses and Elias, talking with him, (concerning his decease that he should accomplish in Jerusalem,’) Luke ix. 31. Now Peter being transported with the glory of this vision, cried out, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. And as he was yet speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and lo! a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him,’ Matt. xviii. This transfiguration of our Lord, full of lessons and instructions for us, is honoured by the church in the festival of this day, with a particular view to the raising up the thoughts and hopes of her children, in the midst of the hardships and labours of their mortal pilgrimage, to the eternal repose and glory of their heavenly country, that blessed Jerusalem which the true Israelites must never forget; though constrained as yet by a miserable captivity to sit down and weep upon the banks of the rivers of Babylon, and lament their distance from the house of God in Sion.
Consider 2ndly, in this mystery of the transfiguration of our Lord, how wonderfully he was here pleased to confirm our faith, as well by the joint testimonies of the law and the prophets bearing witness to the gospel, represented by the glorious apparition of Moses and Elias with Christ; as by the testimony of God himself in all the three persons, by the voice of the father, by the glory of the Son, and by the manifestation of the Holy Ghost in the bright cloud. See how he was pleased by the same glory of this transfiguration to encourage all his followers to bear with patience the afflictions, labours, crosses, and persecutions of this life, in hopes of a share in that eternal glory of which he has given us as it were a sketch in this mystery, ever remembering that of the apostle, 2 Cor. iv. 17. ‘that our present tribulation, which is momentary and light, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory.’ But O, let us take along with us that other lesson also, which we are taught by the voice of the heavenly father, in the transfiguration of our Lord, that the true way to a happy eternity, and to all good, is ever to hear and obey the Son of God.
Consider 3rdly, how St. Peter, being out of himself with the joy of this vision, was desirous to be always in the same happy situation, and always enjoying the like glory; and therefore he cried out, ‘Lord,it is good for us to be here;’ not knowing, saith St. Luke, what he said, ch. x. 33. Because though it was inconceivable delightful to see and enjoy (though for a short time) the least glimpse of heavenly light and glory, yet as this present life was not to be the time of enjoyment, but of labours and of sufferings; and the Son of God himself was to enter into his glory by labours and sufferings (Luke xxiv. 26,) it was inordinate to desire here for a continuance of that which was reserved for hereafter, and for such only as should be entitled to it by labours and sufferings. Learn from hence, O my soul, with regard to divine consolations, and such like favours, that though thou art to receive them, when given, with humility, gratitude, and love –admiring the goodness and bounty of God, who is pleased thus to look down upon thee the most unworthy of sinners – yet art thou not to set thy heart upon them, nor to be disturbed and discouraged when they are taken away; for merit and perfection consists not in them, but in working, suffering, and loving; and for the time of this mortal life, ordinarily speaking, it is far better for thee to be with the Lord upon Mount Calvary, than upon Mount Thabor.
Conclude, instead of being eager after these transitory consolations, which at the best are but as small drops of water that fall from the clouds of heaven to refresh us for a moment in this dry desert through which we are now travelling, to aspire continually after that great overflowing river above, which gives joy without end to the city of God; and which alone is capable of quenching thy thirst and satisfying thy soul.