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and a divine power more easily produce. Observe, 5. How Christ, the great master of the feast, doth marshal his guests: He commands them all to sit down by fifties in a company. None of them reply," Sit down! but to what? Here are the mouths, but where's the meat? We may soon be set, but whence shall we be served?"
Not a word like this, but they obey and expect. Lord! how easy it is to trust thy providence, and rely upon thy power, when there is corn in the barn, bread in the cupboard, money in the purse; but when our stores are empty, when we have nothing in hand, then to depend upon an invisible bounty, is a noble act of faith indeed. Observe, 6. The actions performed by our blessed Saviour: He blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and they to the multitude. 1. He blessed them, teaching us by his example never to use or receive the good creatures of God, without prayer and praise; never to sit down to our food as a beast to his fodder. 2. Christ brake the loaves: he could have multiplied them whole.
Why then would he rather do it in the
breaking? Perhaps to teach us that we may rather expect his blessing in the distribution of his bounty, than in the reservation of it. Scattering is the way to increasing, liberality is the way to riches. 3. Christ gave the loaves thus broken to the disciples, that they might distribute to the multitude. But why did Christ distribute by the disciples' hands? Doubtless to gain respect to his disciples from the people: and the same course doth our Lord take in a spiritual distribution. He that could feed the world by his own immediate hand, chooses rather by the hand of his ministers to divide the bread of life amongst his people. Observe, 7. The certainty and greatness of this miracle: They did all eat, and were filled; they did all eat, not a crumb or a bit, but a satiety and fulness; all that were hungry did eat, and all that did eat were satisfied; and yet twelve baskets of fragments remain: more is left than was at first set on. 'Tis hard to say which was the greatest miracle; the miraculous eating or the iniraculous leaving. If we consider what they left, we may wonder that they eat any thing; if what they ate, that they left any thing. Observe lastly, These fragments, though of barley-loaves and fish-bones, must not be lost, but at our Saviour's command gathered up the great Housekeeper of the world
will not allow the loss of his orts. Lord! how tremendous will their accounts be, who having large and plentiful estates, do consume them upon their lusts! How will they wish they had been born to poverty and want, when they appear to make up their account before God;
alone praying, his disciples were 18 And it came to pass, as he was with him and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am? 19 They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, That one of the old prophets is risen again. 20 He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God. 21 And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing; 22 Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.
These verses relate to us a private conference which our Saviour had with his disciples, touching their own and others' opinion concerning himself. Where observe, 1. Our Saviour's enquiry, what the generality of the people thought and said of him: Whom do men say that I am? Not as if Christ were ignorant, or did vaingloriously enquire after the opinion of the multitude; but his intention and design was to settle and more firmly establish his disciples in the belief of his being the true and promised Messias. The disciples tell him, some took him to be John the Baptist; some, Elias; some, one of the prophets. 'Tis no new thing, it seems, to find diversity of judgments and opinions concerning Christ and the affairs of his kingdom. Observe, 2. Peter, as the mouth of all the apostles, and in their names, makes a full and open profession of Christ, acknowledging him to be the true and promised Messias: Thou art the Christ of God. Learn thence, that the veil of Christ's human nature did not keep the eye of his disciples' faith from discerning him to be truly and really God: Thou art the Christ of God. Observe, 3. The charge and special injunction given by Christ to tell no man of him: that is, not commonly to publish, and openly to declare him to be the Son of God, because being in his state
of humiliation, the glory of his divinity was to be concealed till his resurrection; he was then declared to be the Son of God with power, Rom. i. 4. Observe, lastly, The great wisdom of our Saviour in acquainting his disciples with the near approach of his death and sufferings: The Son of man must suffer many things, &c. This our Saviour did, 1. To prevent that scandal and offence which otherwise they might have taken at his sufferings. 2. The better to fit and prepare them to bear that great trial when it did come. 3. To correct the error which they had entertained concerning the temporal kingdom of the Messias, and that he was to be a great and mighty prince here upon earth; for these reasons did Christ frequently acquaint his disciples with his sufferings.
23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24 For who soever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
Observe here, 1. How our Saviour recommends his religion to every person's election and choice, not compelling any one by force and violence to embrace or entertain it: If any man will be my disciple: that is, if any man chooses and resolves to be a christian. Observe, 2. Our Saviour's terms propounded: namely, self-denial, gospel-suffering, and gospel-service. ]. Self-denial Let him deny himself; by which we are not to understand either the denying of our senses in matters of faith, or in the renouncing of our reasons in matters of religion, but a willingness to part with all our earthly comforts and temporal enjoy ments for the sake of Christ, when called thereunto. They to whom we bear the greatest natural affection, even the wife of our bosom, and the offspring of our bowels, and those to whom we yield the highest reverence, and to whose commands we owe most entire obedience, as our fathers and mothers; if the authority of natural, civil, or ecclesiastical superiors should combine to tempt us to do what Christ forbids, yet Christ must be loved more than these, and obeyed before all these; yea all these must be comparatively hated in respect of him. Farther, this precept requires us to deny our honour and reputation, our wealth and outward estate, our whole subsistence, and
all our temporal good things, even life itself, when the interest of Christ and religion calls for it; otherwise we cannot be his disciples. 2. Gospel sufferings: he must take up his cross daily; an allusion to a Roman custom; when a malefactor was to be crucified, he took his cross upon his shoulder, and carried it to the place of execution. Here note, That not the taking of the cross, but patient bearing of it, when God has made it, and laid it upon our shoulder, is the duty enjoined: let him take up his cross. 3. Gospel-service: Let him follow me, says Christ; that is, obey my commands, and imitate my example. He must set my life and doctrine continually before him, and be daily cor recting and reforming of his life by that rule and pattern. Observe, 3. The arguments urged by our Saviour to induce men to a willingness to lay down their lives for the sake of Christ and his holy religion: He that will save his life shall lose it, and he that is willing to lose his life for the sake of the gospel, shall find it : intimating to us, 1. That the love of this temporal life is a great temptation to men to deny Christ, and to renounce his holy religion. 2. That the surest way to attain eternal life, is cheerfully to lay down our temporal life, when the glory of Christ, and the honour of religion, require it at our hands.
25 For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?
Here our Saviour goes on to show the folly of those that for saving their temporal lives will expose their eternal life, or the life of their souls, to hazard and danger, yea, sometimes by refusing to lay down our temporal life for Christ, we lose that also; which renders it the greatest folly in the world to refuse to part with any enjoyment, even life itself, at the call and command of Christ.
26 For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels.
That is, whosoever shall deny and disown me, either in my person, in my doctrine, or my members, for any fear or favour of man, he shall with shame be disowned by me, and rejected of me, at the great day. There are two passions which
cause men to disown Christ in the day of temptation; namely, fear and shame. Many good men have been overcome by the former, as St. Peter and others; but we find not any good man in scripture guilty of the latter, namely, that denied Christ out of shame: this argues a rotten, unsound, and corrupt heart. If any man think it beneath his honour and quality to own the opposed truths, and despised members of Christ, Christ will think it beneath him to own such persons at the great day. Learn hence, 1. That such as are ashamed of Christ's doctrine, or members, are in God's account ashamed of Christ himself. 2. That such as either for fear dare not, or for shame will not, own the doctrine and members of Christ now, shall certainly find Christ ashamed to own and confess them at the great day.
27 But I tell you of a truth, There be some standing here which shail not taste of death till they see the kingdom of God.
There is a threefold sense and interpretation of these words given by expositors. 1. Some refer the words to the times of the gospel after Christ's resurrection and ascension, when the gospel was propagated far and near, and the kingdom of God came with power. Learn thence, That where the gospel is powerfully preached, and cheerfully obeyed, there Christ cometh most gloriously in his kingdom. 2. Others understand these words of Christ's coming and exercising his kingly power in the destruction of Jerusalem, which some of the apostles then standing by lived to see. Others (as most agreeable to the context) understand the words with reference to our Saviour's transfiguration; as if he had said, "Some of you, (meaning Peter, James, and John,) shall shortly see me upon mount Tabor, and that in such splendour and glory, as shall be a preludium, a shadow and representation, of that glory which I shall appear in, when I shall come with power to judge the world at the great day." And whereas our Saviour saith not, there are some standing here which shall not die, but which shall not taste of death, till they have seen this glorious sight; this implies two things, 1. That after they had seen this transfiguration, they must taste of death as well as others. 2. That they should but taste of it, and no more. From whence learn, 1. That the most renowned
servants of Christ, for faith, holiness, and service, must at length, in God's appointed time, taste and have experience of death, as well as others. 3. That although they must taste, yet they shall but taste of death; they shall not drink of the dregs of that bitter cup; though they fall by the hand of death, yet shall they not be hurt by it, but in the very fall be victorious over it.
28 And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. 29 And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. 30 And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: 31
Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease, which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were awake, they saw his glory and the two men that stood with him. 33 And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said. 34 While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. 35 And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. 36 And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.
Here we have recorded the history of our holy Saviour's transfiguration; when he laid, as it were, the garments of our frail humanity aside for a little season; and put on the robes of his divine glory to demonstrate and testify the truth of his divinity; for his divine glory was an evidence of his divine nature, and also an emblem of that glory which he and his disciples, and all
his faithful servants and followers, shall enjoy together in heaven. Observe, 1. The design of our Saviour in this his transfiguration, namely, to confirm his disciples' faith in the truth of his divine nature: he was therefore pleased to suffer the rays of his divinity to dart forth before their eyes, so far as they were able to bear it; his face shined with a pleasing brightness, and his raiment with such a glorious lustre, as did at once both delight and dazzle the eyes of his disciples. Observe, 2. The choice which our Saviour makes of the witnesses of his transfiguration: his three disciples, Peter, James, and John. But why disciples? why three disciples, and why these three? 1. Why disciples? Because his transfiguration was a type of heaven: Christ vouchsafes therefore the earnest and first fruits of that glory only to saints upon earth, on whom he intended to bestow the full crop in due time. 2. Why three disciples ? Because these were sufficient to witness the truth of this miracle. Judas was unworthy of this favour, yet, lest he should murmur or be discontented, others are left out as well as he. 3. But why these three rather than others? Probably, 1. Because these three were more eminent for great zeal and love towards Christ: now the most eminent manifestations of glory are made to those that are most excelling in grace. 2. Because these three disciples were to be witnesses of Christ's agony and passion, to prepare them for which, they are here made witnesses of his transfiguration. This glorious vision upon mount Tabor fitted them to abide the terror of mount Calvary. Observe, 3. The glorious attendants upon our Saviour at his transfiguration: they were two; those two, men; those two men, Moses and Elias. This being but a glimpse of heaven's glory, and not a full manifestation of it, only two of the glorified saints attended it, and these two attendants are not two angels, but two men; because men were more nearly concerned than angels in what was done. But why Moses and Elias, rather than any other men? 1, Because Moses was the giver of the law, and Elias the chief of the prophets; now both these attending upon Christ, did show the consent of the law and the prophets with Christ, and their accomplishment and fulfilling in him. 2. Because these two men were the most laborious servants of Christ: both adventured their lives in God's cause, and therefore were highly honoured by him; for those that
honour him he will honour. Observe, 4. The carriage and behaviour of the disciples upon this great occasion: 1. They supplicate Jesus: they do not pray to Moses or Elias, but to Christ: Master, it is good being here. O what a ravishing comfort and satisfaction is the communion and fellowship of the saints! but the presence of Christ amongst them, renders their joys transporting. 2. They proffer their service to further the continuance of what they did enjoy: Let us make three tabernacles; saints will stick at no cost or pains for the enjoyment of Christ's presence and his people's company. Learn hence, That a glimpse of heaven's glory is sufficient to raise a soul into ecstacy and to make it out of love with worldly company. 2. That we are apt to desire more of heaven upon earth than God will allow us; we would have the heavenly glory come down to us, but are not willing by death to go up to that. Observe, 5. How a cloud was put before the disciples' eyes, when the divine glory was manifested to them, partly to allay the lustre and resplendency of that glory which they were swallowed up with: the glory of heaven is insupportable in this imperfect state, we cannot bear it unvailed; and partly did this cloud come to hinder their looking and prying farther into this glory. We must be content to behold God through a cloud darkly here; ere long we shall see him face to face. Observe, 6. The testimony given out of the cloud by God the Father, concerning Jesus Christ his Son: This is my beloved Son, hear him. Where note, 1. The dignity of his person; he is my Son, for nature co-essential, and for duration co-eternal with his Father. 2. The endearedness of his relation; He is my beloved Son, because of his conformity to me, and compliance with me likeness is the cause of love, and an union or harmony of wills causes a mutual endearing of affection. 3. The authority of his doctrine; Hear ye him; "not Moses and Elias, who were servants, but Christ my Son, whom I have authorized and appointed to be the great prophet and teacher of my church; therefore adore him as my Son, and believe in him as your Saviour, and hear him as your lawgiver." The obedient ear honours Christ more than either the gazing eye, the adoring knee, or the applauding tongue.
37 And it came to pass, that on the next day, when they were come
down from the hill, much people met him. 38 And, behold, a man of the company cried out, saying, Master, I beseech thee, look upon my son; for he is mine only child: 39 And, lo, a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth again; and bruising him hardly departeth from him. 40 And I besought thy disciples to cast him out; and they could not. 41 And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation ! how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? Bring thy son hither. 42 And as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare him and Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father.
Observe here, 1. The person brought to Christ for help and healing; one bodily possest by Satan, who rent and tore him, but rather to torment than to despatch him. O how does Satan delight to do hurt to the bodies, as well as the souls, of mankind! Lord, abate his power, since his malice will not be abated. Observe, 2. The person who represented his sad condition to our Saviour; his compassionate father, who kneeled down and cried out. Need will make a person both humble and eloquent; every one has a tongue to speak for himself, happy he that keeps a tongue for others. Observe, 3. The physicians which this distressed person is brought unto: first to the disciples, and then to Jesus. We never apply ourselves importunately to the God of power, till we despair of the creature's help. But what hindered the disciples that they could not cast out this evil spirit? Why, it was their unbelief; O faithless generation. Learn thence, That the great obstacle and obstruction of all blessings, both spiritual and temporal, coming to us, is our wretched infidelity and unbelief. Observe, 4. The sovereign power and absolute authority which Christ had when on earth over the devil and his angels: Jesus rebuked him, cast him out, and charged him to return no more into him. This was a proof and demonstration of the Godhead of our Saviour, that, in his own name, that, by his own power and authority, he could and did cast the devils out.
Observable it is how frequently our Saviour forewarned his disciples of his approaching sufferings, and as the time of his suffering drew nearer, he did more frequently warn them of his death. But all this was little enough to arm them against the scandal of the cross; and to reconcile them to the thoughts of his suffering condition; how an ordinary prophet should be delivered into the hands of men they could easily understand, but how the Messias should be so treated they could not apprehend; for the disciples had taken up the common opinion, that the Messias was to be a temporal prince, and should conquer and reign here upon earth; and how to reconcile apprehend; and they were afraid to be this with being killed, they could no ways
too particular in their enquiries about it. Now, from Christ's so frequently warning his disciples of his approaching sufferings, we may gather, That we can never hear, either too often or too much, of the doctrine of the cross, nor be too frequently instructed in our duty to prepare for a suffering state; as Christ went from his cross to his crown, from a state of abasement to a state of exaltation, so must all his disci
ples and followers expect likewise.
46 Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest. 47 And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him, 48 And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me; and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.
It may justly seem a wonder, that when our blessed Saviour discoursed so frequent