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AUTHORITY OF THE CHURCH.
MATTHEW, xvii. 1. “ And after six days, Jesus taketh unto him Peter, and James, and
John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart, and he was transfigured before them.” The incident of our Saviour's life, which is recorded in this day's Gospel, must be a subject of consolation to every Christian. To see our blessed Lord,—whose doctrines were indeed listened to with avidity by crowds, and whose miracles filled the world with union and curiosity, but, yet, whose doctrines were so little followed, and whose cause was espoused by so few,-retired, on this occasion, though but for a moment, into the happy society of those who really loved and honoured him,—to see him receive the willing homage of his chosen ones on earth, and of the spirits of the just made perfect in heaven,—to see him, moreover, obtain that glory from the Father which his sublime dignity deserved, is assuredly some consolation to our feelings, and some compensation for that bitter sympathy, which we must feel towards him through his neglected career.
But, yet, my brethren, there is a circumstance, of much greater importance than such feelings, connected with this cheering and consolatory narrative. For, you will observe, on the one hand, who are chosen to be the witnesses of this glorious scene. They are the most favoured of his apostles, the representatives in a manner, and deputies on this important occasion, of those who were to preach his doctrines with most especial authority, and give to their commission the strongest sanctions of its truth: James, who was destined to be the first of the twelve, to seal his preaching and doctrines with his
blood; John, who was intended to prolong the age of the apostles almost beyond its natural duration, by his protracted life, and thus, as it were, to dovetail their authority and evidence into the teaching of those that succeeded them; and, above all, Peter, who was expressly appointed, after his fall and conversion, to confirm his brethren, to open the gates of salvation to Jews and Gentiles, and be the solid foundation of the entire Church.
Thus, therefore, we may easily imagine, with what awful strength and power the testimony must have been presented to their minds, which was given on this solemn occasion; and we find that by the apostles themselves, it was considered as giving the most solemn sanction to the teaching of their divine Master. For Peter expressly says,
“ We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known to you the power
and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, but having been made eye-witnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, this voice coming down to him from the excellent glory : • This is my beloved Son in whom I have pleased myself, hear ye him.' And this voice we heard brought from heaven when we were with him in the holy mount.”*
It is to the testimonies, then, given upon this occasion, that St. Peter appeals, as some of the strong ground-work on which he builds his authority to preach.
And what were the testimonies there given? They were manifestly of a two-fold character. For, in the first place, there appeared, beside our Saviour, Moses and Elias, the two most eminent and divinely gifted men of the olden time,-bearing homage and giving testimony unto him, resigning all the privileges and pledges of the law into his hands, who was come to perfect and complete it. For, my brethren, not merely by the words of the law are we taught; but we all understand, that, whatever happened unto the Fathers was done to them in figure ; so that not merely in their writings, but in their persons and actions, we
* 2 Peter, i. 16, 19.