A Solemn Discharge

From “Christ’s TransfigurationSelected Sermons (ca. 1765)

The verses give us an account of what is generally called our Lord’s Transfiguration; his being wonderfully changed, and his being wonderfully owned by his Father upon the mount… Well, our Lord takes these three “up into a mountain.” Why so? Because Christ Jesus was to be like Moses, who was taken up into a mountain, when God intended to deliver unto him the moral law. And our blessed Lord went up into a mountain, because a mountain befriended devotion… There seems to be a very great propriety in our Lord’s being transfigured or changed upon the mount. I hope I need inform none of you, that when Moses went up to the mount of God, God was pleased to speak to him face to face; and when he came down from the mount, the people of Israel observed that Moses’ face shone so, that he was obliged to have a veil put upon his face. Now the shining of Moses’ face, was a proof to the people, that Moses had been conversing with God. And Moses told the people, “That the Lord would raise up unto them a prophet like unto him, whom the people were to hear.” God the Father, in order to give his Son (considering him as man) a testimony that he was a prophet, was pleased not only to let his face glitter or shine; but to show that he was a prophet far superior to Moses, he was pleased to let his garment be white and glittering, and “his countenance (as we are told by another Evangelist) did shine as the sun.”…

“Behold, two men, which were Moses and Elias;” these were two very proper persons to come upon this embassy to the Son of God. Moses was the great lawgiver, Elias was the great restorer of the law: The body of Moses was hidden and never found, Elias’ body was translated immediately, and carried up in a fiery chariot to heaven: And it may be that this was done particularly, because these two were hereafter to have the honor of waiting upon the Son of God. “They appeared in glory;” that is, their bodies were not in that glorious habit, in which the bodies of believers are to be at the morning of the resurrection. Christ was, as it were, now fitting in his royal robes; and as it is usual for ambassadors, when they are to be admitted into the king’s presence, on bringing a message from one king to another, to appear in all their grandeur, to make the message more solemn; so here, these heavenly messengers being to wait upon the Lord Jesus Christ, are invested as with royal dignity, they appeared in glory, and “they spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem,” they came to tell the Redeemer of his sufferings, and of the place of his sufferings, and to acquaint him, that his sufferings, however great, however bitter, were to be accomplished…

God the Father hereby gives Moses and Elias a solemn discharge, as though they were sent from heaven on purpose to give up their commission to their rightful Lord, and like the morning star, disappear when the Sun of Righteousness himself arises to bring in a gospel day. “This is my beloved Son, hear Him.”

But the emphasis upon the word this; this Son of Man, this Jesus, whom you are shortly to see in a bloody sweat, blindfolded, spit upon, buffeted, scourged, and at length hanging upon a tree, I am not ashamed to own to be my Son, my only begotten Son, who was with me before the heavens were made, or the foundations of the earth were laid; my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom my soul delights, and whom I do by these presents, publicly constitute and appoint to be the king, priest, and prophet of the church. “Hear ye Him.” No longer look to Moses or Elias, no longer expect to be saved by the works of the law; but by the preaching and application of the ever-blessed gospel…

But, my dear friends, did our Lord Jesus Christ take Peter, James, and John into a mountain to pray? Are any of you fathers, mothers, masters and mistresses of families? Learn then from hence to take your children, your servants, and those that belong to you, from the world, at certain times, and not only pray for them, but pray with them. If Christ did thus, who had few wants of his own to be supplied, and nothing to confess and lament over; if Christ was such a lover of prayer, surely, you and I, who have so many wants to be supplied, so many corruptions to mourn over; you and I should spend much time in prayer. I do not say that you are to lock yourselves up in your closets, and not mind your shops or farms, or worldly business; I only say, that you should take care for all your time: and if you are God’s children, you will frequently retire from the world, and seek a visit from your God.

Was the Lord Jesus transformed or transfigured, while he was praying? Learn hence, to be much in spiritual prayer. The way to have the soul transformed, changed into, and make like unto God, is frequently to converse with God. We say, “a man is as his company.” Persons by conversing together, frequently catch each others’ tempers: and if you have a mind to imbibe the divine temper, pray much. And as Christ’s garments became white and glittering, so shall your souls get a little of God’s light to shine upon them.

George Whitefield (1714-1770) was an Anglican priest and evangelist, a leader of the first Great Awakening. As a student at Oxford, he was part of John and Charles Wesley’s Holy Club, committing himself to serious discipleship. After his ordination he became an itinerant evangelist, and is estimated to have preached 18,000 sermons to as many as 10 million people in thirty years of ministry in Britain and the American colonies.


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