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2. The incorruptible holiness and purity of the humanity of Jesus. This arose from two causes : first, the union of the divine and human nature ; and, secondly, the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. Jesus alone was born without sin, free from defilement either in flesh or spirit. Every power of mind, every affection of soul, and every member of his body, was holy and without spot. The angel said to the Virgin, “ That holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” He is eminently styled, “ Jesus Christ the just," and the “ Holy One.” “Holiness unto the Lord” was written on the bonnet or crown of Aaron : his garments and anointing are denominated holy. But what was the type to the antitype, the shadow to the substance? What the glory and beauty of the Jewish High Priest's habiliments, his bonnet or sacerdotal crown, compared to the glorious crown and raiment of Jesus on Mount Tabor ? Our great High Priest is not about to enter as yet into “ the holiest of all;" he must first suffer and die; he only appears for a few moments at the door of the tabernacle, in the splendid vestments of his order, to exhibit his anointing and preparation for sacrifice, as “a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec.” Moses appears not to anoint him as he did Aaron, but as a heavenly witness of a better consecration. The holy anointing oil ran down from the head of Aaron to the skirts of his garments; but in the transfiguration and anointing of our High Priest, it imbues not only the body, but the entire raiment. “Who is like unto thee, O Lord ? glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders.” Who could behold the glory of his face, as the sun shining in his strength; or view the dazzling whiteness of his raiment, which, as it waved in the mountain breeze, glistened like the lightning of heaven; and not exclaim, —
" Holy, O Lord, as thou is none :
Thy holiness is all thine own!” The glory without declares the holiness within. Holiness is covered glory, and glory is uncovered holiness. No slightest stain of pollution formed a dark spot in the brightness of his humanity, to prevent the passing splendour from being transmitted through every pore of his body. In this purity of glory, and glory of purity, let us see by faith that heavenly virtue which distinguishes for ever his sacrificial blood. The spotless holiness of his humanity is best seen in the light and glory of his transfiguration. Again, in this divine mirror, we behold,
3. An exhibition of his ancient glory. If Peter, James, and John were alone favoured with the actual perception of Christ's glory on the mount, the wondrous event was designedly made known after his resurrection, for the contemplation, comfort, and improvement of his followers in all succeeding ages. We are now furnished with the complete knowledge of his will, and are called on to grow in the knowledge as well as in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This we do by searching the Scriptures, and comparing spiritual things with spiritual. In doing so, we find that the personal manifestations of Deity in ancient times were those of the Son, not of the Father. This is evident, from express declarations made upon the subject. Our Lord himself says, “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father ; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” (Matt. xi. 27.) Still more directly he speaks in John vi. 46 : “ Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.” In John i. 18, however, the matter is placed beyond doubt : “No man hath seen God at any time: the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." All personal manifestations of Jehovah from the beginning were those of the second Person in the Godhead. Behold, then, in this divine glass of the transfiguration, that same voice or word of the Lord God which Adam heard in the garden, and see in bim the Author of the first promise of redemption. See here that very“ God of glory” who, Stephen says, “appeared to Abraham;" (Acts vii. 2 ;) that same Angel Jehovah who "swore by himself, As I live, saith the Lord;" that glorious Messenger of the covenant, who also appeared to Isaac, Jacob, Manoah and his wife; and whom she also designated “the Man with the terrible,” or rather “majestic, countenance,” as if she beheld the latent glory of the transfiguration ready to beam forth. In this we discover the same Jehovah, who “appeared to Moses in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned, and was not consumed.” So it was with the body of Jesus, when transfigured on the mount. The glory was one and the same, with this difference : at Horeb it appeared in the indefinite form of a flame; on Mount Tabor it was confined to the human form of the Son of God. The sight here also is the same as that recorded in Exod. xxiv. 9–11: “ Then went up Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the Elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel : and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and it was as the body of heaven in its clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand; also they saw God, and did eat and drink.” This occurred fifteen hundred years before the transfiguration, but the divine Person is the same in both cases. When Jesus walked on the sea of Galilee, it was just the same act of power as that which framed “the body of heaven in its clearness.” Between seven and eight hundred years before his incarnation, he appeared to Isaiah, as recorded in chap. vi. of his prophecy : “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims; each one had six wings. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts : the whole earth is full of his glory." That scene in the temple, and this upon Mount Tabor, exhibit one and the same Person. The testimony of one present on the latter occasion is decisive on this point. In John xii. 41, we read, “ These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.” Still more definite and beautiful is the vision of Ezekiel, as recorded in chap. i. : “And above the firmament that was over their heads” (meaning the cherubim) “was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone ; and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” Here is a description of the glory of the incarnate Son of God. This was that form of God in which he manifested himself before he took upon him the form of a servant. It is remarkable that the manifestations became more definite as the period of his incarnation approached. The representation of his glory, however, in the appearance of fire, light, the variegated beauties of the rainbow, and the glowing and brilliant colours of precious stones, more than finds a reality in his transfiguration on the mount. Well might the Apostle Paul declare him to be “ Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." Well might he himself say, “Before Abraham was, I am ;" and, after his ascension to glory, declare, “ Behold, I am alive for evermore.” For, his permanent, immutable, and eternal being fills immensity from everlasting to everlasting. “He is before all things, and by him all things consist.” He was the one Mediator and “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” When, by his incarnation, he emptied himself of the form of God, altered the mode of his subsistence, and dwelt in the tabernacle of our flesh, he on the “holy mount” lit up this dwelling-place, exhibited his royalty, gave evidence of his identity as the immortal King of glory, and showed to his disciples, that while he was on his way to Gethsemane, Calvary, and the tomb, he was carrying forward the whole eternal weight of his glory into the sacrifice of the cross.
Again, in this heavenly mirror we may perceive,
4. A temporary but splendid view of his future glory; that glory for which he prayed, when he said, " And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." For this “joy that was set before him he endured the cross and despised the shame.” He had a foretaste of it in his transfiguration. It linked the visible Mount Tabor and the invisible Mount Zion together. It seems that, if he would redeem man, it must be concealed in, and, if we may so express ourselves, be refracted througb, the medium of our nature. Trace this divine Redeemer from the throne to the tomb. He descends from heaven into our humanity, conceals bis glory in the cloud of our flesh, gives a glimpse of it only to three of his disciples on the mount, recedes back into the thickest darkness as he approaches Calvary, where the blackness, wrath, and misery due to a guilty world concentrate around his holy and innocent soul, and there press him down into death and the darkness of the tomb. There, that head, which was crowned with “glory and honour,” was crowned with thorns ; that face which shone as the sun in his strength was covered with shame and blood; those very pores that transmitted the inherent splendour of divinity, emitted the bloody sweat in the garden. Horns of light beamed from his hands, feet, and sides on Mount Tabor, and streams of precious blood flowed from them on Mount Calvary. On the former, two of the highest messengers of heaven paid him homage ; on the latter, he died an ignominious death between two thieves. He clothed himself with light on Mount Tabor, and yet submitted to be clothed with a robe of mock majesty by Herod and his men of war. That very raiment, which glistened with transmitted glory, finally fell by lot in several parts to his greatest enemies. On Mount Tabor he displayed the sceptre of the universe ; but shortly after he deigned to carry a reed, though put into his hand as one of the insignia of pretended royalty. But will be not resume his ancient glory, and sway his universal sceptre again ? “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and enter into his glory?" Undoubtedly, he ought. “ It was impossible for him to be holden of death.” Hence he rose again, and ascended into heaven. In his transfiguration we behold a divine pledge, pattern, and specimen of the great glory which he obtained on his entrance into the heavenly place. Thus Stephen, the first martyr, “being full of the Holy Gbost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.” On his way to Damascus, the same glory struck Saul of Tarsus blind, even at noon. “At mid-day, 0 King, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them that were with me.” The same glory was seen by the beloved disciple John, in the Isle of Patmos, as Jesus appeared “in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks." His dress then was that of the Priest and King. He was “clothed with a garment down to the foot, girt about the paps with a golden girdle; his head and his hairs were white as wool, as white as snow ; his eyes as a flame of fire ; his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; his voice as the sound of many waters ; in his right hand seven stars ; out of his mouth went a sharp, two-edged sword ; and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.” Thus the same imagery and phraseology is used to express his transfiguration and his now abiding glory. A week before he was transfigured, he told his disciples, “ The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his holy angels.” John describes him, in fulfilment of this and similar declarations : “I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.” (Rev. xx. 11; iv. 3.) This is the same face, majesty, and glory, which was seen on the holy mount. The power, purity of holiness, and splendour, are the same. He enjoys no glory now which was not then shown forth, at least in kind. Faith is a substitute for sight: it now transforms us into his moral likeness ; but when we shall see him as he is, we shall be changed into the personal image of his glory. “As for me," saith the Psalmist, “I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness."
Again, in this mirror of glory we may behold,
5. An illustrious model of the future resurrection body. While Jesus prayed, his body was changed ; and when his prayer of intercession shall end, our bodies shall be changed also. “ Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom." Power is known only in effect. The same Power which said, “Let there be light, and there was light,” by a mere volition of his will, a budding forth of mighty energy, transfigured the body of Jesus in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. It remains essentially and immutably at his command, and will at his coming “change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself." (Phil. iii. 21.) From the materials of the earthly house he will then build that which is heavenly. The frail fabric of mortality shall be changed into the building of God, the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. In the transfiguration, his body in a moment seemed to pass from corruption into incorruption, from dishonour into glory, from weakness into power, and from the appearance of a natural into that of a spiritual body. Having clothed himself with incorruption and immortality, he exhibited those splendid robes of state, as the pattern of those which he has in reservation for all that love his appearing. When he had thus beamed forth before the eye, as “the resurrection and the life," he laid them aside until his grand entrance into the courts of glory. In these he shall come again to raise the dead and judge the world. His body retained its identity, being the same before, in, and after every change. So it shall be with ours; the same in substance on earth, in its bosom, and in heaven itself. “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Different degrees of holiness will manifest themselves in different degrees of glory. “Star differeth from star in glory; so also is the resurrection of the dead.” All shall be fashioned, however, after the same divine model. Still the united splendour even of the great multitude will fall as far short of the glory of his person, as the face of Moses on the mount was inferior in lustre to that of Jesus when it shone as the sun in his strength. We shall enjoy his glory in kind, though not in degree, being “ heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.” In the contemplation of this association and participation, “the sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
“ Him eye to eye we there shall see;
Our face like his shall shine.