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circumstances which preceded, and in some degree gave occasion to the celestial vision, it will be necessary to look back to the chapter immediately before that in which the transfiguration is related. In the 21st verse of the sixteenth chapter we find, that Jesus then, for the first time, thought fit to give some intimations to his disciples of the strange and extraordinary scenes he was soon to pass through ; his sufferings, his death, and his resurrection; things of which, before this declaration, they seem not to have had the smallest conception or suspicion. “From that time forth began Jesus to shew to his disciples how that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders, and chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day *.” The information, so perfectly new and unexpected to the disciples, and so destructive of all the fond hopes they had hitherto indulged, overwhelmed them with astonishment astonishment and grief. And St. Peter, whose natural warmth and eagerness of temper generally led him both to feel such mortifications more sensibly, and to express his feelings more promptly and more forcibly, than any of the rest, was so shocked at what he had just heard, that “he took Jesus, and began to rebuke him, saying, Beit far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee.” Our Saviour, who saw every thing that passed in his mind, and perceived, probably, that this expostulation took its rise more from disappointed interest and ambition than from a generous concern for his Master's credit and honour, gave him an immediate and severe reproof: “Get thee behind me, Satan, for thou art an offence to me; for thou savourest not the things that be of God,
* Matt. xvi. 21.
but those that be of men.” He then proceeded to shew, not only that he himself must suffer persecution, but that all those who would at that time come after him, and share with him the arduous and dangerous task of sowing the
the first seeds of the Gospel, “must deny themselves, and take up their cross, and follow him.” But then, to support them under those severe injunctions, he cheers them immediately with a brighter scene of things, and with a prospect of his future glory, and their future recompense. “The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then shall he reward every man according to his works.” And he adds, “Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here which shall not taste of death till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” The meaning of these last words I shall enquire into hereafter. But the evident tendency of the whole passage is to prepare the minds of his disciples for the cruel treatment which both he and they were to undergo, and at the same time to raise their drooping spirits, by setting before their eyes his own exaltation, and their glorious
rewards in another life. This discourse, however, he probably found had not sufficiently subdued their prejudices,
prejudices, and reconciled them to his state of humiliation ; and therefore he determined to try a method of impressing them with juster sentiments, which he frequently had recourse to on similar occasions; and that was, representing to them, by a significant action, what he had already explained by words. Accordingly, within a few days after the foregoing conversation, he taketh with him Peter, James, and John, and bringeth them up into a high mountain (probably Mount Tabor) apart. Very fanciful reasons have been assigned by some of the commentators for his taking with him only three of his disciples. But all that it seems necessary to say on this head is, that as the law required no more than two or three witnesses to constitute a regular and judicial proof, our Saviour frequently chose to have only this number of witnesses present at some of the most important and interesting scenes of his life. The three disciples, whom he now selected, were those that generally attended
attended him on such occasions, and who seem to have been distinguished as his most intimate and confidential friends. St. John we know, was so in an eminent degree. St. James, his brother. would, from that near connexion, probably be brought more frequently under his Master's notice; and as St. Peter was the very person who had expressed himself with so much indignation on the subject of our Saviour's sufferings, it was highly proper and necessary that he should be admitted to a spectacle, which was purposely calculated to calm those emotions, and remove that disgust which the first mention of them had produced in his mind. With these companions, then, Jesus ascended the mountain, and was transfigured before them; “and behold, there appeared Moses and Elias talking with him.” They were not only seen by the disciples, but they were heard also conversing with Jesus. This is a circumstance of great importance, especially when we are told what the subject of their conver