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And after six days Jesus takes Peter, James, and John his brother, and brings them up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them; and His face did shine as the sun, and His clothing was white as the light, etc.
Q. CAN you see any reason why Peter, James and John were selected, on this occasion from the rest of the disciples to be present at the lord's transfiguration?
A. The reason appears to be grounded in the figurative or representative character of those three apostles; for by Peter, as has been before hinted, is figured or represented the faith of the church, particularly that faith which acknowledges the divinity of the great redeemer; by James again is figured or represented the principle of charity in the church, or that principle from god, by virtue whereof man is enabled to love his neighbour as himself; and by John is figured or represented the operation of charity, or that application to good and useful works, which has a tendency at once to promote the glory of god, to increase the sum of human happiness, and to purify and strengthen by exercise the heavenly principle in which it is grounded. The reason then why the blessed Jesus selected these three disciples to be witnesses of His transfiguration was probably this, to teach the edifying and instructive lesson, that none are capable of beholding the glory of the great saviour in His one-ness with the eternal father, but such as are principled in the faith represented by Peter, in the charity represented by James, and in the good works represented by John.
Q. And can you see any reason why this selection was made after six days, or why after six days the blessed Jesus was pleased to manifest His interior glory to those three disciples?
A. The reason appears to be grounded in the spiritual signification of six days, which imply a full state of previous labour, or spiritual combat, as a state preparative for admission to a nearer and closer conjunction with the principles of heavenly life, and thus with the lord of heaven, than could be attained without such labour or combat. Thus in the fourth commandment mention is made of six days' labour, as preparative of the seventh or sabbath-day, because by the six days' labour are there signified all the trials, conflicts and temptations necessary for man's purification before he can be qualified to enter into that holy rest signified by the sabbath or seventh-day. Thus too the history of creation, or of man's regeneration, as recorded in the first chapter of Genesis, is described as the work of six days, to denote again all the states of previous labour and conflict necessary to conduct man to the complete regeneration, or to that blessedness of divine order, life and peace signified by the seventh day.
Q. But it is written of the blessed Jesus and His disciples on this occasion, that He brings them up into a high mountain — what do you understand here by bringing them up into a high mountain?
A. According to the sense of the letter, these words, are to be understood literally, as teaching that the blessed Jesus brought the three disciples, into a high mountain of the matter and measure of this lower world; but according to the spiritual idea of a high mountain, the expression is figurative, like the six days above spoken of, and the thing figured by it is a state of heavenly love, resulting from a near and close conjunction of life with the divine fountain of life. Thus it is written in regard to this figurative meaning, O lord, by Your favour you have made my mountain to stand strong, (Psal. 30:7); and thus too the mountain of the lord's house is said to be established in the top of the mountains, and to be exalted above the hills, (Isa. 2:2); in both which passages it is evident that the term mountain is applied figuratively, as in numberless other parts of the sacred Scriptures, to denote a state of holy love, communicated from the most high, and in conjunction with Him. Mountain, then as applied to the lord himself, denotes the divine love, and as applied to His disciples, denotes love derived from the divine. The spiritual meaning, therefore, of the above words, as connected in a series, is this, that after the period of previous preparation, they who are principled in faith, in charity, and in works of charity, are exalted to a state of holy conjunction with Jesus Christ in the blessed principle of His love.
Q. And what do you learn from the words which follow, where it is written that He was transfigured before them; and His face did shine as the sun, and His clothing was white as the light?
A. The original word here rendered transfigured signifies more properly transformed, and the genuine idea of transformation, when applied to a person, is the presenting an aspect different from what he usually presents, thus as applied in the present case to the blessed Jesus, it denotes His presenting the aspect of His divinity, or of His divine humanity, instead of that infirm humanity, in which He was usually presented to view. It therefore follows, that His face did shine as the sun, and His clothing was white as the light; because by His face is to be understood His interior mind or spirit, the face being the figure or index of the interiors, agreeable to which idea so frequent mention is made in the sacred Scriptures of the face or countenance of jehovah and of god, as denoting His divine mercy and love, thus His essential life. By this face then shining as the sun is to be understood, that the interior mind or soul of the blessed Jesus was seen to be divine good, the sun being a figure or emblem in outward nature of divinity, and of His essential life, since what the sun is to the natural world and its inhabitants, that the divinity is to the spiritual world and its inhabitants. It is accordingly added, that His clothing was white as the light, because as the face of the blessed Jesus is a figure or index of His interior mind or soul, in like mariner His clothing is a figure or index equally striking of the external principle with which the internal is invested: and as the internal principal, agreeable to what was shown above, is His divine good or love, therefore the external principle here denoted by clothing is His divine truth and wisdom, inasmuch as divine truth or wisdom is always proceeding from the divine good or love, and investing it as a garment; according to which idea it is written of jehovah, That He covers with light as with a garment, (Psal. 104:2). This garment, therefore, is here said to be white as the light, because whiteness is figurative of the purity of truth, and is constantly so applied in the sacred Scriptures, and light is alike figurative of the truth itself, and is as constantly applied in the sacred Scriptures according to that figure. If the sense then of this verse be connected in a series with that of the foregoing verse, the whole will run thus, that they of the church, who are principled in faith, in charity, and in works of charity, after previous preparation, are elevated into a state of heavenly love, in which state the intellectual mind is opened to a sight of the blessed Jesus in His divine humanity, as the only god of heaven and earth, because the only source of all heavenly love and wisdom, consequently of all heavenly life, thus as the sun of the eternal world, beaming forth perpetually with the heat and light of the divine mercy and loving-kindness.
Q. But it is next written, that behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with Him — how do you understand these words?
A. These words have both a literal and a spiritual meaning, and the lesson which they teach according to each meaning is important and edifying. For according to their literal meaning, they overthrow at once the creed of the infidel, who denies a resurrection, by assuring us that Moses and Elias were then alive; and at the same time they expose the fallacy by which they are misled, who conceive that souls after death are not sensible of life and existence until the day of the general resurrection, when they shall be united again with their perishable bodies. In their spiritual sense again they inculcate a doc-trine still more interesting and instructive, be-cause by Moses and Elms, according to this sense, the same thing is meant as by Moses and the prophets mentioned in other parts of the sacred Scriptures, namely. the historical and prophetical word, by Moses the historical word, and by Elias the prophetical: and since these two persons appeared talking with the blessed Jesus, it is further to be understood, according to the spiritual idea, that the historical and prophetical word was seen in its internal sense, ever treating of that incarnate god and His kingdom, If the spiritual sense then of this verse be connected in a series with that of the two foregoing verses, the whole will read thus, that they who are principled in faith, in charity, and in works of charity, are not only elevated into a blessed sphere of heavenly love, in which they behold Jesus Christ in His divine humanity shining as a sun, and dispensing from His bright countenance the beams of heavenly love and light, bat also have a perception of the holy word, both as to its historical and prophetical pages. and see it in perpetual connection with its divine source, from whom it derives the fullness of its life, its sanctity, its wisdom, and its power.
Q. And what instruction do you learn from the following verse, where it is written, that then answered Peter, and said to Jesus, lord, it is good for us to be here. If you will, let us make here three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elias?
A. I learn from these words the proper quality and character of those in the church, who are principled in a genuine and living faith, namely. that in the first place they say with Peter, It is good for us to be here; in other words, they think it their highest happiness to enjoy the blessing of interior communion with their god and saviour, adoring His perfections, contemplating His glory, and perceiving to their great joy how he and His holy word are connected together by a bond of indissoluble union, whilst He is the All of its life, its light, and its energy; and in the second place, that they say further, Let us build three tabernacles, etc. because they are ever intent on fixing their happiness in themselves, by inviting the blessed Jesus to come and dwell with them, together with all the goods and truths of His holy word, and by thus consecrating their souls and bodies, with every principle in both, as sacred habitations, devoted to the everlasting residence of the great father of life, attended by all the angelic powers of purity, sanctity, peace, and benediction.
Q. But it follows, that while He yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud which said. This is my Moved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear you Him — what do you conceive to be the meaning of these words?
A. By the bright cloud, which is here said to have overshadowed the disciples, is to be understood the letter or literal sense of the holy word, made resplendent from its internal or spiritual sense, for the letter of the holy word, in respect to its internal light and lustre, is as a cloud; a bright cloud, if the internal sense be seen through it; but a dark cloud, if it be not seen. Accordingly the term cloud is frequently applied in other parts of the sacred Scriptures, to denote the obscurity of the letter of the holy records, when compared with their internal glory and splendour, as where it is written, Your truth reacheth to the clouds, where by your truth is meant the interior sense of the divine word, and by reaching to the clouds is meant its extent to and limitation in the sense of the letter: so again it is written, He spread a cloud for a covering, and fire to give light in the night, (Psal. 105:39), where by a cloud for a covering is again to be understood the letter of the divine word, at once hiding and defending its interior holy contents. Again, to the same purport, Who makes the clouds his chariot, (Psalm 104:3), denoting that the literal sense or history of the sacred Scriptures is as a vehicle for the conveyance of the spiritual or internal sense to the minds of men. Accordingly Jesus Christ, in describing His second advent, expresses Himself in these remarkable words, Then they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, (Matt. 24:30; Mark 13:26), where by the Son of Man is evidently meant the lord in His divine humanity; and by His coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, is further to be understood His manifestation of Himself through the letter of His holy word in all the goods and truths of its interior contents.
Q. And in what sense do you understand what is further written, Behold, a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear you Him?
A. By a voice out of the cloud, is to be under-, stood instruction from the letter of the Word, and by this voice saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear you Him, is further to be understood the lord in His divine humanity, who is one with the eternal father, and who is therefore to be attended to and obeyed as the god of heaven and earth, and the only source of all divine love and wisdom, thus, of all goodness and truth.
Q. But it is written further, that when the disciples heard, they fell on their faces, and were sore afraid — what do you conceive to be the force and meaning of these words?
A. According to their literal sense, they contain a description of the fear which fell on the disciples, when they heard the voice from the cloud; but according to the spiritual idea contained in the letter, they describe the effect worked in the minds of all true disciples, when they are instructed concerning the lord's divine humanity, which effect first manifests itself in devout humiliation, signified by the disciples falling on their faces, and next in a sacred awe of adoration, signified further by their being sore afraid, agreeable to which idea it is written of John in the Revelations, that when he had a sight of Jesus Christ in His divine humanity, he fell at His feet as dead, (Rev. 1:17). For such is the effect produced in the natural mind by the first discovery of the incarnate god, dwelling in His glorified humanity as the god of heaven and earth, which effect results from the greater nearness and more powerful presence of the divine being in that manifestation.
Q. And what do you understand by what next follows, that Jesus came and touched them, and said. Arise, and be not afraid?
A. These words, according to their literal meaning, have relation to the three disciples, Peter, James and John; but according to their spiritual meaning they relate to all those who are represented by Peter, James and John, namely. those who are principled in faith, those who are principled in charity, and those who are principled in works of charity; and according to this meaning, by Jesus coming to them is signified divine presence; and by His touching them is signified communication of divine virtue or power; and by saying arise, is further signified Spiritual elevation, or elevation of the mind's affections and thoughts in consequence of that divine virtue or power; and by His adding, Be not afraid, is lastly denoted divine confidence resulting from that elevation.
Q. And what instruction do you learn from what is afterwards written, That when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, but Jesus only?
A. By lifting up their eyes is denoted an elevation of the understanding, in consequence of the former elevation of the affections and thoughts, for when the affections and thoughts are raised out of worldly ends, to the contemplation and pursuit of eternal objects, the understanding is presently elevated in the same degree, and begins to be employed in the intellectual perception of those objects: and when this is the case, then is fulfilled too what is here further written, where it is said that they saw no man, (or as it is expressed in the original, no one) but Jesus only; for when the understanding is elevated to the perception of divine and spiritual objects, then it begins soon to be seen, that all those objects are included in the person of the blessed Jesus; in other words, that Jesus in his divine humanity is the All of heaven, the All of the holy Word, the All of the church on earth, the All of every member of the church, because the All of goodness and truth, consequently the All of salvation and eternal life. Thus, when the understanding is elevated to spiritual perception, Jesus alone is seen as the All in All of every thing both divine and human.
Q. But it is lastly written, that when they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man until the Son of Man be risen again from the dead – what do you understand by these words?
A. By their coming down from the mountain is denoted a descent from the state of love and affection, to which they had been elevated, into the duties of common life, by application to purposes of use; and by Jesus charging the disciples on this occasion, to tell the vision to no man until the Son of Man be risen from the dead, is tobe understood according to the sense of the letter, that they should not tell what they had seen to any one, until Jesus Christ was risen from the dead; but according to the spiritual sense of the above words, the caution of the blessed Jesus was to this effect, that they, who had been favoured with intellectual elevation and perception, should be careful of imparting their spiritual communications to those who are not hi a state capable of receiving and profiting by them, that is to say, in whom the Son of Man is not risen from the dead, for by the Son of Man is here to be understood the truth of the holy Word; and by this Son of Man being risen from the dead, is spiritually to be understood the resurrection, manifestation and operation of that truth in the natural mind of man, which was before dead in trespasses and sins, that is to say, in mere natural affections and thoughts.
Q. What then is the general instruction which you learn from this miracle of the transfiguration?
A. I learn in the first place that there are three heavenly principles from Jesus Christ, in which He chiefly delights, and which He implants in the minds and lives of all His regenerate children, namely. faith, charity, and the operation of charity, commonly called good works. I learn further that they, who are wise to cherish in themselves these three principles, are exalted by them into the sphere of the divine love, and in that elevation have an interior sight in their mind's eye of the divine humanity of Jesus Christ in His one-ness with the eternal father, beholding Him as the divine source of all celestial good and truth. I learn also that in the same elevation they are favoured with a view of the holy word, and have their eyes open to see that it treats throughout of the great saviour, and as to its internal contents is in continual connection with Him, being full of His divine love and wisdom. I learn further, that it is the quality and character of a true faith, to delight in such views of Jesus Christ and His word, and that they, who are principled in such a faith, desire nothing more than to make their own minds the sacred tabernacles or abodes of that great god and His revealed will. Again, I am taught that the letter of the holy word is as a bright cloud overshadowing, covering, and defending its internal contents, and is ever bearing testimony to the divine humanity of Jesus Christ, and His one-ness with the eternal fat h e r, which testimony begets profound humiliation and sacred awe in the minds of the penitent, whereby they are admitted to a closer communication with their saviour god, and are at the same time made sensible in their minds of the elevation which it begets, and of the confidence which it inspires. Lastly, I learn that in that elevation of the understanding, Jesus Christ is seen as the All in All of His holy word, of heaven, and of the church, but that this view cannot be imparted to those, who do not suffer their minds to be elevated and enlightened by the eternal truth. I am resolved therefore to cherish in my mind, above all things, the above heavenly principles of faith, of charity, and of the operation of charity, that so, being elevated into the region of angelic love, I may view with the eye of faith the divine humanity of the incarnate god, and may further be enabled to see how His holy word is continually treating of the glorification of that humanity, and is thus full of divine love and wisdom, even in the sense of the letter. Thus may I hope, like the three disciples of old, to experience in. myself the blessed effects of this heavenly view, by being led into profound humiliation and adoration, and thereby into fuller communication with my god and saviour, and a more complete reception of His love and life. And thus, too, may I humbly hope to be enabled to discover, to my unspeakable joy, that Jesus Christ in His divine humanity, is the All in All of love, of wisdom, and of life, thus the All of heaven, the All of the church, the All of salvation, and the All of bliss, because the first and the last, the alpha and omega, the beginning and the ending, which is, which was, and which is to come, the almighty, (Rev. 1:8). amen.
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