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And he was transfigured before them; and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.—Mat. XVII. 2; with,
And, as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.—Luke IX. 29.
IN both these texts, compared together, you may observe two things:—
1. The circumstance of time: during prayer.
2. The transfiguration itself.
[1.] More generally propounded, he was transfigured before them.
[2.] More particularly explained by the change of his face and raiment. The form of any man is most seen in his face. There was a glorious shining brightness. Luke saith, ‘The fashion of his countenance was altered;’ Matthew, that ‘His face did shine as the sun.’ And in the glorious description of God in the prophet Habakkuk, it is said, chap. iii. 2, ‘And his brightness was as the light.’ For his garments, Luke saith, ‘His raiment was white and glistering;’ Mark, chap. ix. 3, ‘White as the snow, so as no fuller on earth could whiten them;’ but Matthew, ‘white as the light,’ which carrieth it higher. The works of nature exceed those of art. The transfiguration that was plainly to be seen in his face was accomplished also in other parts of his body. All his body was clothed with majesty, so as it could not be obscured and hidden by his garments.
Now, first I shall speak of the circumstances of time, and then of the transfiguration itself.
I. Of the time: ‘and as he prayed.’ Now what Christ prayed for is not specified. (1.) If he asked common blessings, and prayed only in order to his usual solace and converse with God, it showed the success of vehemency in prayer. Christ prayed at such a rate as that he was transfigured and changed into the likeness of God in prayer. (2.) If He asked to be transfigured for the confirmation of his disciples, it showeth God’s readiness to answer fervent and earnest prayers.
1. Of the first consideration. If Christ’s prayer were of ordinary import, it teacheth us that we should pray so that the heart may be raised and lifted unto God in prayer, and in some sort made like unto God. Let us state this matter aright.
[1.] It must be granted that this shining of Christ’s countenance as the sun, while he prayed, was extraordinary, and a dispensation peculiar to the Son of God. So also was the shining of Moses’s face while he conversed with God in the mount, Exod. xxxiv. 29, 30. And for ordinary Christians to expect the like is to put a snare upon themselves, for these things are proper only to the end for which God appointed them.
[2.] This must be also considered, that the eminent and extraordinary passions and affections in the soul do discover themselves in the body, especially in the face; for it is said of Stephen, that when he was heightened into a great zeal for Christ, Acts vi. 15, that ‘All that sat in the council, looking stedfastly upon him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.’ Angels have not bodies or faces, but they often assume bodies, and then they appear with a glorious and bright countenance, as the angel of the Lord that appeared at the sepulchre: Mark xxviii. 3, ‘His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow.’ Now such a glory and gladness did God put upon the countenance of his servant Stephen, that he looked like an angel. Something extraordinary there might be in the case, but yet there was an ordinary reason for it. Stephen’s mind was filled with such an incredible solace in the sense of God’s love, that he showed no troubledness, but a mind so unconcerned and freed from, all fear and sorrow, as if he had been among the angels of God in full glory, and not among his enemies, who sought his blood; and so may God raise the hearts of his people sometimes, as if they had put their heads above the clouds, and were in the midst of the glory of the world to come among his blessed ones. If that were extraordinary, Solomon tells us, Eccles. viii. 1, that ‘a man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine,’ as it gives him readiness and tranquillity of mind, and cheerfulness of countenance. Guilt and shame cast down the countenance, but righteousness and wisdom embolden it, more particularly in prayer. As our confidence and joy in God is increased, it bewrayeth itself in the countenance: Ps. xxxiv. 15, ‘They looked unto him and were lightened, and their faces were not ashamed.’ They are revived and encouraged, and come away from the throne of grace other manner of persons than they came to it.
[3.] That some kind of transformation is wrought by prayer, appeareth by these considerations:—
(1.) That as God is glorious in himself, so he maketh him that cometh to him partaker of his glory. For certainly all communion with God breedeth some assimilation and likeness unto God. It is clear in heavenly glory, when we see him as he is, we shall be like him, 1 John iii. 2; and it is clear also in our communion with him in the Spirit; for the apostle telleth us, that by ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord as in a glass, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord,’ 2 Cor. iii. 18. Not only doth vision or immediate intuition produce this effect, but also spiritual specular vision, or a sight of God in the ordinances, produces a divine and God-like nature, inclining us to hate sin and love righteousness. The more we are above with God, the more we are like him. We see it in ordinary converse: a man is as the company that he keepeth. ‘He that walketh with wise men shall be wise.’ saith Solomon. ‘but a companion of fools shall be destroyed,’ Prov. xiii. 20. Now it is not imaginable that a man should converse often with God fervently, seriously, and not be more like him. He that liveth in a mill, the dust will stick upon his clothes. Man receiveth an insensible taint from his company. He that liveth in a shop of perfumes, often handleth them, is conversant among them, carrieth away somewhat of the fragrancy of these good ointments; so by conversing with God we are made like him.
(2.) Nearer we cannot come to God, while we dwell in flesh, than by lifting up the heart to him in fervent prayer. This is the intimate converse and familiarity of a loving soul with God; therefore it is called a lifting up the heart to God. He will not come down to us, therefore we lift up the heart to him: Lam. iii. 41, ‘Let us lift up our hearts with our hands to God in the heavens.’ So Ps. xxv. 1, ‘Unto thee, Lord, do I lift up my soul;’ and Ps. lxxxvi. 4, ‘Rejoice the soul of thy servant, for unto thee do I lift up my soul;’ so Ps. cxliii. 8, ‘Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk, for I lift up my soul unto thee.’ All these places show that there can be no sincerity and seriousness in this duty, unless there be this ascension of the soul to God; it is an act of spiritual friendship, therefore called an ‘acquainting ourselves with God.’ Job xxii. 21. Now as acquaintance is kept up by frequent visits, so prayer is called a giving God a visit: Isa. xxvi. 16, ‘In their trouble they have visited thee.’ Well, then, here is the greatest intimacy we have with God. In the word, God speaks to us by a proxy and ambassador—another speaketh for him. In the Lord’s Supper we are feasted at his cost, and remember him; but we are not admitted into his immediate presence, as those that are feasted by the king in another room than he dineth in. But prayer goeth up to God, and speaketh to himself immediately; and therefore this way of commerce must needs bring in much of God to the soul.
(3.) In fervent prayer we have a double advantage—we get a sight of God, and exercise strong love to God; and both conduce to make us like God.
(1st.) We get a sight of God, for in it (if it be seriously performed) we turn our back upon all other things, that we may look to God as sitting upon the throne, governing all things by his power for his glory. By faith we see the invisible one, Heb. xi. 27. Surely if we do not see God before the eye of our faith when we pray to him, we worship an idol—not the true and living God, who is, and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Our hearts should be shut up against the thoughts of any other thing, and confined only to the object to whom we direct our worship. I reason thus: If a Christian foreseeth the Lord before him in all his ways, and keepeth always as in his eye and presence, surely he should set the Lord before him in his worship and in his prayers, Ps. xvi. 8. A good Christian doth always keep as in God’s eye and presence, much more when he calleth upon his name. Now every sight of God doth more affect and change the heart. As none but the pure in heart see God, so none see God but are most pure in heart. There is a self-purifying in moral things; purity of heart maketh way for the sight of God, Mark v. 8. So the sight of God maketh way for the purity of heart: 3 John 11, ‘He that doth evil hath not seen God.’ A serious sight of God certainly worketh some change in us.
(2dly.) In prayer, a strong love to God is acted, for it is the expression of our delight in him: Job xxvii. 10, ‘Will he delight himself in the Almighty? Will he always call upon God?’ Now we are changed into the likeness of him in whom we delight in. Love transformeth and changeth us into the nature of what is loved. There is the difference between the mind and the will: the mind draweth things to itself, but the will followeth the things it chooseth, and is drawn by them as the wax receiveth the impression of the seal. Carnal objects make us carnal, and earthly things earthly; and heavenly things heavenly, and the love of God godly: Ps. cxv. 8, ‘They that make them are like unto them, so are all they that put their trust in them,’ stupid and senseless as idols: it secretly stamps the heart with what we like, and esteem, and admire.
[4.] There are agents in prayer to help us to improve this advantage.
(1.) The human spirit.
(2.) The new nature; and,
(3.) The Spirit of God.
(1.) The human spirit, or our natural faculty, so that, by our under standings, we may work upon our wills and affections: surely God maketh use of this, for the Holy Ghost doth not work upon a man as upon a block; and we are to rouse up ourselves, and to attend upon this work with the greatest seriousness imaginable. The prophet complains, Isa. lxiv. 7, ‘There is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee. ‘Without this it is but dead and cold work, and if there be no more than this, it is but dry literal work: not that fervent effectual prayer which will change the heart, δέησις ἐνεργουμένη, James v. 16. The ἐνεργούμενοι were those that were inspired and possessed by a spirit; therefore it must be a prayer that not only hath understanding and will in it, but spirit and life in it. However, we are to put forth our utmost endeavour, and raise the natural spirit as far as we can.
(2.) The second agent is the new nature, which inclineth us to God as our chief good and last end. This also must be taken in, for the Holy Ghost doth not blow as to a dead coal; the new nature is made up of faith, hope and love, and all these must be acted in prayer: faith, or the firm belief of God’s being, and providence, and covenant; ‘For how shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?’ Rom. x. 14. Then love to God, or the desire of the fruition of him in heavenly glory, praying in the Holy Ghost: ‘Keep yourselves in the love of God.’ Jude 20, 21. If I do not love God, and desire to enjoy him, and delight in as much of God as I can get here, certainly there will be no life in prayer, or no ravishment and transport of soul, no spirit of desire animating our requests, and no spiritual solace and delight in our converse with God. Hope is also necessary to fervent praying, for a man coldly asketh for what he doth not hope for. Hope respecteth both means and end—supplies of grace by the way, and our final fruition of God in glory. This is called trust in scripture, and is the great ground and encouragement of prayer: Ps. lxii. 8, ‘Trust in the Lord at all times; pour out your souls before him.’ Prayer is the act of a trusting soul. Now these graces quicken our natural faculties, as they elevate and raise our hearts and minds to God and heaven.
(3.) The third agent in prayer is the Holy Spirit. He is sometimes said to pray in us, Rom. viii. 26; sometimes we are said to pray in him, Jude 20. The divine Spirit exciteth those graces in us which incline us to God; he raiseth our minds in the vision and sight of God. ‘In thy light shall we see light,’ Ps. xxxvi. 9; and he raiseth our hearts to a desire after and delight in God, for all that spiritual solace and joy is called ‘joy in the Holy Ghost;’ for both unutterable groans and unspeakable joys are of his working: Rom. viii. 26, ‘The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered;’ compared with 1 Pet. i. 8, ‘In whom, though ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ Well, then, these work a kind of an ecstasy. If you would pray so as to be transported, transformed in prayer, something you must do as reasonable creatures, something as new creatures, and the Spirit influenceth all, and causeth the soul to follow hard after God. We must put forth our utmost endeavour, stir up the gift of God in us; and though we cannot command the influences of the Spirit, yet he is never wanting to a serious soul as to necessary help. Pray thus, and you will find, as the help of the Spirit in prayer, so the comforts of the Spirit as the success of prayer.
[5.] As there is daily and constant prayer in which we must ever bewray a seriousness and sincerity for these daily supplies of grace, so there are extraordinary occasions, because of some great business, conflict, or temptation: in those the heart and mind must be more than ordinarily raised and stirred. In every prayer of Christ there was not a transfiguration; and we read of our Lord Jesus, that in his agonies he prayed, ἐκτενέστερον, more earnestly than at other times, Luke xxii. 44; and upon eminent occasions, as the necessities of the saints are greater, so their acts of prayer are more earnest. On these weighty occasions many Christians are wholly swallowed up with the thoughts of God, and carried beyond themselves by their high love to God, and earnest desires of the spiritual blessings they stand in need of, so that they seem to be rapt into heaven in their admiration of God and delight in him.
Use. To reprove our feeble, remiss, and benumbed requests. There is no life in our prayers, no working up of the heart to God and heaven, no flames of love, no transports of soul by the vision and sight of faith, no holy and ardent desires after God, or spiritual solace and delight in him.
Reasons—1. We pray cursorily, and go about prayer as a customary task for fashion’s sake; we come with a few cold devotions morning and evening, and so ‘God is near in our mouths, and far from our reins.’ Jer. xii. 2. Oh, take heed of this! Nothing breeds slightness and hardness of heart so much as perfunctory praying. The rule is, ‘Continue instant in prayer.’ Rom. xii. 12. And it is said of the saints that they ‘Served God instantly night and day.’ ἐν ἐκτενείᾳ, Acts xxvi. 7, that they might come to the blessed hope, with the united service of all their powers and faculties.
2. Our prayers are doctrinal and instructive, rather than affectionate and warming. We get light by other duties, but we should get life by prayer. This duty is not to inform the judgment, but to raise the affections, that they may be all flame. Other duties are feeding duties, but this is a spending duty, an egression of the soul after God: Ps. lxiii. 8, ‘My soul followeth hard after thee.’ A man may better spend two hours in hearing than half an hour in praying, if the heart be employed in it as it ought to be, in the sight of God, and an earnest desire after him. The prayers in scripture are all supplications or doxologies; there is no excursion into doctrines and instructions.
3. Else we are lamenting sin, and spend the time in confessing sin, which also hath its use in the seasons thereof; but are seldom in praises or adorations of the excellences of God, and the wonderful mysteries of his love in our redemption by Jesus Christ. Yet it is said, Ps. xxii. 3, ‘O Lord, that inhabitest the praises of Israel.’ These are the things that do most ravish the heart, and raise it in the contemplation of that glorious God to whom we speak; and fill us with the ecstasies of love, that we may be more like him—holy, wise, and good, as he is holy, wise, and good.
4. We think a dry narrative to be enough; that is, the fruit of a human spirit, or a mere product of memory and invention is a sufficient prayer, without acting faith, hope, or love in it, or those spiritual and heavenly desires which are the life of prayer: Ps. x. 17, ‘Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble, thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear.’ The ardency of humble addresses is God’s own gift, and he will never reject and despise those requests that, by his own Spirit and appointment, are direct and brought to him.
But what if I have not those strong and earnest desires? I answer, Yet keep not off from prayer: for,
[1.] Good desires must be asked of God, for it is said, he prepareth the heart.
[2.] Such desires as we have must be expressed, and that is the way to increase them, and to quicken us more. A sincere heart, that would serve God with his best, findeth more in a duty than he could expect, and by praying gets more of the fervency and ardours of praying: as a bell may be long a-raising, but when it is up, it jangleth not as it did at first.
[3.] Those cold affections which we have are killed by disuse and turning away from God; therefore go to him to get thy heart warmed.
2. Of the second consideration. If he prayed for this transfiguration, observe:—
That God often answereth his people in the very time while they are praying: Isa. lviii. 9, ‘When they call I will answer, and when they cry he shall say, Here I am.’ This hath been the course of God’s dealing with the prayer-makers all along: Abel, Gen. iv. 4, ‘God had respect to;’ it is ἐνεπύρισεν, set his offering on fire. Daniel prayeth, and saith he, Dan. ix. 21, ‘While I was speaking in prayer, the angel Gabriel was sent unto me;’ and he said, ‘At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth.’ While many of the disciples were gathered together praying, God sent Peter to them, Acts xii. 12, 13. While Cornelius was in the act of prayer, ‘At the ninth hour of the day,’ which was the hour of prayer, ‘he saw in a vision the angel of God,’ Acts x. 3-9. While Peter went up to the house-top to pray, then he had the heavenly vision. So when Paul was in prayer, Ananias was sent to him: Acts ix. 11, ‘Behold he prayeth;’ and then God taketh care of him. So Acts iv. 31, ‘When they had prayed, the house was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.’ Thus God delighteth to honour his own ordinance, and to reward the waiting soul, that is frequent and constant in this way of waiting upon God, which should encourage us to be more frequent and serious in this work. You shall see how, in the very act of prayer, God hath—(1.) averted judgments; (2.) bestowed mercies and favours.
[1.] He hath put a stop to judgments: Ps. xcix. 6-8, ‘Moses and Aaron among the priests, and Samuel among them that call upon his name: they called upon the Lord, and he answered them; he spake unto them in the cloudy pillar; they kept his testimonies and the ordinance that he gave them. Thou answeredst them, O Lord our God; thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions.’ The drift of the Psalmist in this place is to show, by eminent instances of holy men that were most notable for prayer, how they have stopped judgments when they began to be executed. Moses, at his prayer God was propitiated, after the provocation of the golden calf; for it is said, Exod. xxxii. 11, ‘Moses besought the Lord his God;’ ver. 14, ‘The Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do.’ The second, Aaron’s making an atonement for the people, whereby the plague was staid: Num. xvi. 46, ‘Take a censer quickly, for wrath is begun;’ and ver. 48, presently the plague was stayed. Upon Samuel’s prayer the Philistines were discomfited when they were overrunning Israel, 1 Sam. vii. 5, with ver. 9, 10. With every one of these God was pleased to talk and commune as a friend. Such honour was God pleased to put on these his faithful servants; and when the people had provoked God, and God’s wrath was already gone out against them for their crying sins, their prayers were so effectual as to divert the plagues and obtain remission.
[2.] So powerful, also, are they for obtaining blessings: Elijah (James v. 17, 18), though ‘a man of like passions with us.’ yet he could lock heaven and open it at his pleasure; 1 Kings xviii. 42, 45, the rain came as soon as Elijah put himself into a zealous posture to obtain it. Often success hath overtaken the prayer, and the blessing has been gotten before the supplication hath been ended. Isaac went out to meet with God, to meditate or pray, and he espied Rebecca afar off. Isa. lxv. 24, ‘Before they call I will answer, and whilst they are yet speaking I will hear.’ Oh, therefore, let us not entertain hard thoughts of God, as if he did not regard our suits and requests, and prayer were a lost labour.
II. I come now to the transfiguration itself, as it is here propounded and explained.
Doct. That one necessary and solemn act of Christ’s mediation and manifestation to the world was his transfiguration before competent witnesses.
This was one solemn act, and part of Christ’s manifestation to the world, for we have the record of it here; and it was necessary, for Christ doth nothing in vain. And here are competent witnesses, three persons of eminent holiness, before whom all this was done, and they were eye-witnesses of his majesty, and ear-witnesses of the oracle which they heard from heaven, or the voice from the excellent glory.
I shall open:—
First, The nature of this transfiguration.
Secondly, The ends of it.
First, The nature of this transfiguration. It was a glorious alteration in the appearance and qualities of his body, not a substantial alteration in the substance of it. It was not a change wrought in the essential form and substance of Christ’s body, but only the outward form was changed, being more full of glory and majesty than it used to be or appeared to be.
Two things are to be handled:—
1. How it differed from his body at another time, whilst he conversed here on earth.
2. How this change differed from the state of his body as it is now in glory.
1. How his body, now transfigured, differed from his body at other times during his conversing with men. Though the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in him always, yet the state of his body was disposed so as might best serve for the decency of human conversation; as the sun in a rainy, cloudy day is not seen, but now, as it might, discover his divine nature, it would break out in vigour and strength.
[1.] It was not a change or alteration of the substance of the body, as if it were turned into a spiritual substance. No; it remained still a true human, mortal body, with the same nature and properties it had before, only it became bright and glorious.
[2.] As the substance of the body was not changed, so the natural shape and features were not changed, otherwise how could it be known to be Christ? The shape and features were the same, only a new and wonderful splendour put upon them.
[3.] This new and wonderful splendour was not in imagination and appearance only, but real and sensible. If it had been in imagination, show, and appearance, it would make Christ like those deceivers who would dazzle the eyes of beholders with a false appearance, as magical impostors, or those apish imitators of divine glory; as Herod Agrippa, of whom we read, Acts xii. 21-23, how he appeared in royal state and made an oration, and they said, ‘The voice of a God, and not of a man.’ Josephus telleth us the manner, how he sat in the sun with glistering garments of cloth of silver, and when the sun beams did beat upon it, the people cried him up as κρείττονα τῆς θνήτης φύσεως, as something higher and more excellent than a mortal creature. No; this was not a phantastical representation, but a real impression of divine glory on the body of Christ.
[4.] Although this appeared in the face chiefly, as the most conspicuous part of the body,—the text saith his face did shine as the sun, yet more or less the other parts of his body were clothed with majesty and glory, and thence was the splendour derived to his garments.
2. How his body transfigured differed from his glorified body. This must be stated also, for Christ, by his transfiguration, was not admitted into the fulness of the state of glory, but only giveth some glimpse and resemblance of it. These two estates agree in the general nature, but some clarity, glory, and majesty is put upon Christ’s glorified body that was not now. But the difference is:—
[1.] Partly in the degree and measure; the clarity and majesty of Christ’s glorified body is greater and more perfect. Here is a representation, some delineation, but not a full exhibition of His heavenly glory.
[2.] Partly in continuance and permanency. This change was not perpetual, but to endure for a short time only, for it ceased before they came down from the mount.
[3.] The subject or seat of this glory differed, the body of Christ being then corruptible and mortal, but now incorruptible and immortal. If Christ’s body had been immortal and impassible, then Christ could not die.
[4.] Here are garments, and a glorified body shall have no other garments than the robes of immortality and glory in heaven. Christ shall be clothed with light as with a garment.
Secondly, The ends of it. By this transfiguration God would show:—
1. What Christ was.
2. What he should be; and also,
3. What we shall be.
1. What Christ was. The dignity of his person and office. That he was the eternal Son of God, and the mediator of the new covenant; the great prophet whom God would raise up to his people.
[1.] The dignity of His person was seen, for the transfiguration was a ray of the divine glory. It was not the addition of any glory to Christ which he had not before, but a manifestation of the glory which he had, though obscured under the veil of our flesh; for the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in him bodily, Col. ii. 9, ‘And we beheld his glory, as the glory of the only-begotten Son of God.’ John i. 14. But it is said, 2 Pet. i. 17, that he received from God the same honour and glory. This is spoken of him as mediator; the glory of the Son of God incarnate was so obscured, for our sakes, that he needed this solemn act to represent him to the world.
[2.] His office: the great prophet of the church, ‘Hear ye him.’ A greater prophet than Moses. Moses saw the face of God, but he was in the bosom of God. Moses, his face shone, but not as Christ’s, for it could be hidden by a veil; Christ darts his glory through his garments. Moses, his shining was terrible; Christ’s was comfortable—the apostles were loath to lose the sight of it.
2. To show what Christ should be; for this was a pledge with what glory he should come in his kingdom, Mat. xvi. 27: it prefigured the glory of his second coming. Thus, for the confirmation of their faith, Christ would give his disciples a glimpse of his glory; he knew they would be sorely assaulted and shaken by the ignominy of his cross. But what is all this to us? We see not his glory.
[1.] What was once done and sufficiently attested needs not to be repeated; but it is a great satisfaction to us that we have a glorious head and chief; when we suffer for him we need not be ashamed of our sufferings. The apostles urge this concerning us as well as them.
[2.] The immediate manifestations of him who dwelleth in light inaccessible would undo us while we are in our mortal bodies. Blessed be God that he hath chosen fit means to reveal himself to us, that we may behold the glory of the Lord in a glass, 2 Cor. iii. 18, by the ministry of the word and other ordinances. The Israelites were sensible how little they could endure him who is, as it were, all sun, and all light, and all fire: Exod. xx. 18, 19, ‘Let not God speak to us, lest we die.’ Elijah wrapt his face in a mantle when God appeared unto him, 1 Kings xix. 13; when Christ appeared to Paul from heaven he trembled and was astonished, and was three days without sight, as you may see, Acts ix. 9. There was a special reason why an apostle should see him in person.
[3.] We shall see this glory when fit for it: John xvii. 24, ‘Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me.’ The queen of Sheba took a long journey to behold the glory of Solomon, that was but a temporal, fading, and earthly glory. Now much more transcendent is the glory of Christ’s body in heaven; this we shall see to all eternity.
3. To show what we shall be; for Christ is the pattern, primum in unoquoque genere, &c.
[1.] It showeth the possibility of our having a glorified body. When the Lord is pleased to let forth and communicate his glory, he is able to adorn and beautify our earthly and obscure bodies. The body of man in its composition hath a great mixture of earth, which is dark and obscure. Now God can make this clod of earth to shine as the star or sun for brightness: Phil. iii. 21, ‘Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.’ We are apt to say, How can it be? If we consider the infinite and absolute power of God, and this instance of Christ, it will make it more reconcilable to your thoughts, and this hard point will be of easier digestion to your faith.
[2.] The certainty of it, as well as the possibility; for Christ assumed our body, not for passion only, but for glorification, that therein he might be an instance and pattern to us. For if the head be glorious, so will the members also. How base soever the people of God seem to be in this world, yet in the life to come they shall be wonderfully glorious: Mark xiii. 43, ‘The righteous shall shine as the sun in the kingdom of their father.’ So Col. iii. 3, 4, ‘Now our life is hidden with Christ, but when he who is our life shall appear, we shall appear with him in glory;’ 1 John iii. 2, ‘When he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is;’ 2 Thes. i. 10, ‘Christ shall be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe.’ All these places show we shall be partakers of this glory.
[3.] The manner. Glorification taketh not away the substance and natural properties of the body, for there is a glorious transfiguration, but no abolition of the substance of Christ’s body; it was the same body of Christ before and after transfiguration. Glory freeth us from natural infirmities, but it doth not strip us of natural properties. Christ hath showed in his own body what he can or will perform in ours—these same bodies, but otherwise adorned, τοῦτο τὸ σῶμα τῆς ταπεινώσεως: and ‘with these eyes shall I see God.’ Job xix. 26, 27: Τοῦτο τὸ φθαρτὸν, ‘This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality,’ 1 Cor. xv. 53.
Use 1. Be transformed that you may be transfigured: ‘Be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds,’ Rom. xii. 2. The change must begin in the soul (2 Cor. iii. 18), and thence it is conveyed to the body. The lustre of grace maketh way for the splendour of glory: Prov. iv. 18, ‘The path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more and more to the perfect day.’ The way of the wicked is an increasing darkness—ignorance, sin, outer darkness.
2. Be contented to be like Christ in reproaches, disgraces, and neglect in the world, that you may be like him in glory. Bear the reproach of Christ: Heb. xiii. 13, ‘Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach;’ Heb. xi. 26, ‘Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.’ Prefer it before all earthly honour: Acts v. 41, ‘And they departed from the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name;’ and 2 Sam. vi. 22, ‘I will yet be more vile and base in my own sight.’ Your Lord is a glorious Lord, and he can put glory upon you.
3. To wean our hearts from all human and earthly glory. What is a glorious house to the palace of heaven, glorious garments to the robes of immortality? The glory of Christ should put out the glory of these petty stars that shine in the world, as the sun puts out the fire. We have higher things to mind; it is not for eagles to catch flies, or princes to embrace the dunghill.
4. Since this glory is for the body, do not debase the body, to make it an instrument of sin: 1 Thes. iv. 4, ‘Possess your vessels in sanctification and honour.’ Do not offend God to gratify the body, as they do, Rom. xiv. 13, ‘who make provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof.’ Do not spare the body to do God service: Acts xxvi. 7, ‘Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope for to come; for which hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews:’ 2 Cor. vii. 1, ‘Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.’
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