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How gladly doth Peter afterwards recount it! for he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased ; hear him.”
It was only the ear that was here taught, not the eye; as of Horeb, so of Sinai, so of Tabor, might God say, ye saw no shape, nor image, in that day that the Lord spake unto you. He, that knows our proneness to idolatry, avoids those occasions which we might take to abuse our own fancies.
Twice hath God spoken these words to his own Son from heaven; once in his baptism, and now again in his transfiguration : here not without some oppositive comparison; not Moses, not Elias, but this. Moses and Elias were servants, this a Son: Moses and Elias were sons, but of grace and choice; this is that Son, the Son by nature. Other sons are beloved as of favour and free election; this is the Beloved, as in the unity of his essence. Others are so beloved, that he is pleased with themselves ; this so beloved, that in and for him, he is pleased with mankind. As the relation betwixt the Father and the Son is infinite, so is the love: we measure the intention of love by the extension: the love that rests in the person affected alone, is but streight; true love descends (like Aaron's ointment) from the head to the skirts, to children, friends, allies. O incomprehensible large love of God the Father to the Son, that, for his sake, he is pleased with the world! O perfect and happy complacence! Out of Christ, there is nothing but enmity betwixt God and the soul; in him there can be nothing but peace: when the beams are met in one centre, they do not only heat, but burn. Our weak love is diffused to many; God hath some, the world more, and therein wives, children, friends; but this infinite love of God hath all the beams of it united in one only object, the Son of his love; neither doth he love any thing, but in the participation of his love, in the derivation from it. O God, let me be found in Christ, and how canst thou but be pleased with me?
This one voice proclaims Christ at once the Son of God, the Reconciler of the world, the Doctor and Lawgiver of his Church'; as the Son of God he is essentially interested in his love; as he is the Reconciler of the world in whom God is well pleased, he doth most justly challenge our love and
adherence; as he is the Doctor and Lawgiver, he doth justly challenge our audience, our obedience. Even so, Lord, teach us to hear and obey thee as our Teacher; to love thee, and believe in thee as our Reconciler; and as the eternal Son of thy Father, to adore thee.
The light caused wonder in the disciples, but the voice astonishment; they are all fallen down upon their faces. Who can blame a mortal man to be thus affected with the voice of his Maker? yet this word was but plausible and hortatory. O God, how shall flesh and blood be other than swallowed up with the horror of thy dreadful sentence of death? The lion shall roar, who shall not be afraid ! How shall those, that have slighted the sweet voice of thine invitations, call to the rocks to hide them from the terror of thy judgments !
The God of mercies pities our infirmities: I do not hear our Saviour say, Ye lay sleeping one while upon the earth, now ye lie astonished; ye could neither wake to see, nor stand to hear; now lie still and tremble: but he graciously touches and comforts them, “ Arise, fear not.” That voice, which shall once raise them up out of the earth, might well raise them up from it; that hand, which, by the least touch, restored sight, limbs, life, might well restore the spirits of the dismayed. O Saviour, let that sovereign hand of thine touch us, when we lie in the trances of our griefs, in the bed of our securities, in the grave of our sins, and we shall arise.
“ They looking up saw no man, save Jesus alone,” and that, doubtless, in his wonted form; all was now gone, Moses, Elias, the cloud, the voice, the glory. Tabor itself cannot be long blessed with that divine light, and those shining guests; heaven will not allow to earth any long continuance of glory, only above is constant happiness to be looked for and enjoyed, where we shall ever see our Saviour in his unchangeable brightness, where the light shall never be either clouded or varied.
Moses and Elias are gone, only Christ is left; the glory of the law and the prophets was but temporary, yea momentary, that only Christ may remain to us entire and conspicuous : they came but to give testimony to Christ; when that is done, they are vanished.
Neither could these raised disciples find any miss of Moses and Elias, when they had Christ still with them. Had Jesus
and left either Moses or Elias, or both, in the mount with his disciples, that presence, though glorious, could not have comforted them; now that they are gone, and he is left, they cannot be capable of discomfort. O Saviour, it matters not who is away, while thou art with us ; thou art God all-sufficient, what can we want, when we want not thee? Thy presence shall make Tabor itself an heaven; yea, hell itself cannot make us miserable with the fruition of thee.
What a busy life was this of Christ's! he spent the night in the Mount of Olives, the day in the temple; whereas the night is for a retired repose, the day for company: His retiredness was for prayer, bis companableness was for preaching. All night he watches in the mount; all the morning he preaches in the temple. It was not for pleasure that he was here upon earth : bis whole time was penal and toilsome: how do we resemble bim, if his life were all pain and labour, ours all pastime?
He found no such fair success the day before: the multitude was divided in their opinion of him; messengers were sent, and suborned to apprehend him, yet he returns to the temple. It is for the sluggard or the coward to plead a lion in the way; upon the calling of God, we must overlook and contemn all the spite and opposition of men: even after an ill harvest we must sow, and after denials, we must woo for God.
This Sun of Righteousness prevents that other, and shines early with wholesome doctrines upon the souls of his hearers ; the auditory is both thronged and attentive, yet not all with the same intentions. If the people came to learn, the Scribes and Pharisees came to cavil and carp at his teaching: with what a pretence of zeal and justice yet do they put themselves into Christ's presence! As lovers of chastity and sanctimony, and haters of uncleanness, they bring to him a woman taken in the flagrance of her adultery.
And why the woman rather? since the man's offence was equal, if not more; because he should have had more strength of resistance, more grace not to tempt. Was it out of
necessity? perhaps the man, knowing his danger, made use of strength to shift away, and violently break from his apprehenders. Or was it out of cunning? in that they hoped for more likely matter to accuse Christ, in the case of the woman than of the man; for that they supposed his merciful disposition might more probably incline to compassionate her weakness rather than the stronger vessel. Or was it rather out of partiality? was it not then, as now, that the weakest soonest suffers, and impotency lays us open to the malice of an enemy? Small flies hang in the webs, while wasps break through without control; the wand and the sheet are for poor offenders, the great either out-face or out-buy their shame: a beggarly drunkard is haled to the stocks, while the rich is chambered up to sleep out his surfeit.
Out of these grounds is the woman brought to Christ: not to the Mount of Olives, not to the way, not to his private lodging, but to the temple; and that not to some obscure angle, but into the face of the assembly.
They pleaded for her death; the punishment which they would onwards inflict, was her shame; which must needs be so much more, as there were more eyes to be witnesses of her guiltiness. All the brood of sin affects darkness and secrecy, but this more properly; the twilight, the night is for the adulterer. It cannot be better fitted than to be dragged out into the light of the sun, and to be proclaimed with hootings and basins. O the impudence of those men who can make merry professions of their own beastliness, and boast of the shameful trophies of their lust!
Methinks I see this miserable adultress, how she stands confounded amidst that gazing and disdainful multitude; how she hides her head, how she wipes her blubbered face and weeping eyes. In the meantime it is no dumb-show that is here acted by these Scribes and Pharisees; they step forth boldly to her accusation; “ Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.” How plausibly do they begin! Had I stood by and heard them, should I not have said, What holy, honest, conscionable men are these ! what devout clients of Christ! with what reverence they come to him! with what zeal of justice ! when he that made and ransacks their bosom tells me, “ All this is done but to teinpt him.” Even the falsest hearts will have the plausiblest mouths : like to Solomon's courtezan, “ Their lips drop as an honeycomb,
and their mouth is smoother than oil ; but their end is bitter as wormwood.”
False and hollow Pharisees ! he is your Master whom ye serve, not he whom ye tempt: only in this shall he be approved your
Master, that he shall pay your wages, and give you your portion with hypocrites.
The act of adultery was her crime: to be taken in the very act was no part of her sin, but the proof of her just conviction; yet her deprehension is made an aggravation of her shame. Such is the corrupt judgment of the world; to do ill troubles not men, but to be taken in doing it; unknown filthiness passes away with ease: it is the notice that perplexes them, not the guilt. But, О foolish sinners, all your packing and secrecy cannot so contrive it, but that ye shall be taken in the manner; your conscience takes you so, the God of heaven takes you so; and ye shall once find, that your conscience is more than a thousand witnesses, and God more than a thousand consciences.
They that complain of the act, urge the punishment : " Now Moses in the law commanded us that such should be stoned.” Where did Moses bid so? surely the particularity of this execution was without the book ; tradition and custom enacted it, not the law.
Indeed, Moses commanded death to both the offenders, not the manner of death to either. By analogy it holds thus : it is flatly commanded in the case of a damsel betrothed to an husband, and found not to be a virgin ; in the case of a damsel betrothed, who, being defiled in the city, cried not: tradition and custom made up the rest; obtaining out of this ground, that all adulterers should be executed by lapidation. The ancienter punishment was burning ; death always, though in divers forms. I shame to think, that Christians should slight that sin which both Jews and Pagans held ever deadly.
What a miscitation is this ! “ Moses commanded :" the law was God's, not Moses's. If Moses were employed to mediate betwixt God and Israel, the law is never the more his: he was the hand of God to reach the law to Israel, the hand of Israel to take it from God. We do not name the water from the pipes, but from the spring. It is not for a true Israelite to rest in the second means, but to mount up to the supreme original of justice. How reverent soever an opinion was had