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nChrist
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« Reply #75 on: June 17, 2008, 09:31:32 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
19. FAREWELL VISITS TO THE SONS OF THE PROPHETS
By John MacDuff, 1877

        We may with reverence put into his lips, the farewell words which a Mightier far employed in leaving His college of disciples -- "Now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to you. Holy Father, keep through your own name those whom you have given me!" Elijah makes one last effort to test the attachment of Elisha. "Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan." But he receives the same reply -- "As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you," and it is briefly added, "they two went on together." They are seen descending the slopes from Jericho, and having crossed the hot undulating sands, they are now approaching by the shelving banks of the "arrowy river." But there is a last touching and significant incident presented in this picture of the old Prophet's collegiate life. As they are thus standing by the brink of the Jordan -- high up on the terraces -- the steep, abrupt ridge behind -- there are ranged fifty of his old Students -- fifty Sons of the prophets. If forbidden the gratification of giving him a personal convoy, they have come out to the most conspicuous of the heights around to follow their master with loving eye, which they could do for a long distance, in that clear Eastern atmosphere, until he be lost from their sight in the gorges on the farther side of the river; sorrowing, like the elders of Ephesus, when, on the shore at Miletus, they bid Paul farewell, that they would see his face no more.

        We may, surely, gather from this affecting scene, the tenderness of the tie which knit together the old Master and his young disciples -- the sternness of manner of his earlier years being now mellowed and softened by age; or rather, by the grace that was ripening him for immortality. We see in it the realization of his old vision at Horeb -- his own character reflected in that sublime diorama of nature. The earthquake and whirlwind and fire were now past -- the close of his life had its befitting symbol in the "still small voice." "Mark the perfect man and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace."
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« Reply #76 on: June 17, 2008, 09:33:54 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
20. THE CHARIOT OF FIRE
By John MacDuff, 1877
       

        2 Kings 2:8-18

        Then Elijah folded his cloak together and struck the water with it. The river divided, and the two of them went across on dry ground!
        When they came to the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, "What can I do for you before I am taken away?"
        And Elisha replied, "Please let me become your rightful successor."
        "You have asked a difficult thing," Elijah replied. "If you see me when I am taken from you, then you will get your request. But if not, then you won't."
        As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between them, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha saw it and cried out, "My father! My father! The chariots and charioteers of Israel!" And as they disappeared from sight, Elisha tore his robe in two.
        Then Elisha picked up Elijah's cloak and returned to the bank of the Jordan River. He struck the water with the cloak and cried out, "Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?" Then the river divided, and Elisha went across.
        When the group of prophets from Jericho saw what happened, they exclaimed, "Elisha has become Elijah's successor!" And they went to meet him and bowed down before him. "Sir," they said, "just say the word and fifty of our strongest men will search the wilderness for your master. Perhaps the Spirit of the Lord has left him on some mountain or in some valley."
        "No," Elisha said, "don't send them." But they kept urging him until he was embarrassed, and he finally said, "All right, send them." So fifty men searched for three days but did not find Elijah. Elisha was still at Jericho when they returned. "Didn't I tell you not to go?" he asked.


        "And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up here. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them." -- Revelation 11:12

        "And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire; and those who had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God." -- Revelation 15:2

        The loving attachment of the "sons of the prophets" to the person of Elijah, is rewarded by the sight of the closing miracle of his life, the recollection of which could not fail ever afterwards to embolden and strengthen them in the midst of their labors and trials. He is to pass over Jordan. The old Gileadite, with that instinctive love of country and birthplace so common at life's close, seems desirous to get across the border-river, that the scene of his mysterious departure might be amid the secluded valleys and ravines of his Fatherland. There was a ford or ferry then, as now, across the Jordan. But as the public life of the Prophet began, so it would terminate, by an exhibition of divine power. The God he served would certify to him, by an outward visible sign, the truth of that promise, which others apprehend only by faith, "Lo I am with you aways, even unto the end of the world."

        Elijah unties his well-known mantle or cape; wraps it tightly round and round (as the word means), in the form of a staff -- and, like Moses of old with his shepherd's rod, he violently smites the waters of the river. These were divided to the right and to the left, and the two prophets cross through the dry channel. On reaching the opposite bank, they quietly resume their lofty converse. Elijah feels that his moments are numbered -- be must bid his best and truest earthly friend farewell -- "What shall I do for you before I be taken away from you?" is the interrogatory with which he breaks silence. It was a startling, perplexing question. Elisha well knew how much the departing prophet had in his power. But as we may well imagine, earthly ambition had no share in dictating his answer -- the wealth, and honors, and prizes of the world had no fascination in the eyes of one, who had already given such noble proof of self-renunciation, and self-sacrifice. His thoughts are not on himself but on the Church which is so soon to be orphaned -- his one solitary wish and ambition is, that he might be enabled to follow the footsteps of his great predecessor, by glorifying God in his day and generation. To him, nothing was half so enviable or desirable, as to inherit a portion of that noble spirit -- to have his own soul enkindled with some sparks of that hallowed fire which is now to be borne from the altar of earth to that of heaven! "And Elisha said, I beg you, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me."

        What did he mean by this request? We never for a moment can entertain the supposition, which some have ventured to advance, that Elisha's humble nature could have prompted him to crave that he might be doubly endowed in comparison with Elijah, by the possession of superior gifts and graces. The expression he used was one well understood among the Hebrews. A double portion of goods always descended to the eldest son of an Israelite -- this bringing along with it the special birthright blessing. Elisha's request, therefore, was no more than this -- that he would have the double portion of the first-born, and thus be served heir and successor to his illustrious master. Elijah, indeed, in reply, allows that he had asked "a hard thing" -- he refers the granting of it to the Divine decision; informing his companion that if he is permitted to see with his bodily eyes the miraculous ascension, he may accept this as a pledge and assurance, on God's part, that the farewell request is not denied.

        The two holy men are now lost to the sight of the fifty spectators among the recesses of Gilead. "They still went on," we read, "and talked." What that talk was, we know not; although we almost wish we could lift the veil and listen to the interchange of thought at that solemn moment, when one of the two was standing on the threshold of eternity.

        It may have been about Israel -- the completion of the overthrow of idolatry -- the continued revival of the olden faith, and the nurturing of a manly piety through the instrumentality of the schools of the prophets.

        It may have been about themselves -- Elijah may have been presenting some last faithful lessons to his successor, from his own failures and shortcomings -- by a mutual rehearsal of the divine dealings, they may have been "encouraging one another in the Lord their God."
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« Reply #77 on: June 17, 2008, 09:36:35 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
20. THE CHARIOT OF FIRE
By John MacDuff, 1877

        It may have been about the mysterious, unseen realities of that glorious spirit-world, on which the honored Tishbite was about to enter. Be this as it may; a tempest -- a desert whirlwind -- would seem to have swept over them. We are reminded of Ezekiel's vision -- "And I looked, and behold a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire unfolding itself -- and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof, as the color of amber out of the midst of the fire." The mountains in a moment glow with lurid light. The unearthly splendor has resolved itself by their side -- into a Chariot of FIRE, and horses of FIRE. Seated in this flaming equipage -- the burning axles revolved by the fierce hurricane -- the Prophet is swept upwards to the clouds.

        Who can follow that chariot of mysterious flame? Imagination feebly tries to realize the feelings of the enraptured and astonished occupant. He who is now borne aloft -- not as a Prophet, but as a Conqueror -- must, in his upward journey, have undergone some marvelous transformation, alike in bodily and spiritual organism, the nature of which we can only dimly conjecture. He left earth, "the man of like passions," with the body of corruption and death -- but mortality is now swallowed up of life, and the corruptible has put on incorruption.

        Nor can we attempt to comprehend the magnificence of that flight, as he passes, through suns, and stars, and worlds, into the presence of the Infinite. We can but faintly picture in thought, the bands of Angels -- the Seraphim (the burning or fiery ones) welcoming their kindred spirit within the heavenly gates. We can think of another illustrious member of the covenant people welcomed by Abraham and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God -- or, as he bends before the throne -- uttering, as his first words, the old motto of earth, now the song and rejoicing of eternity -- "JEHOVAH LIVES BEFORE WHOM I STAND!" Prophet of FIRE, you have reached the source of your brightness! "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the SUN in the kingdom of their Father."

        Such may have been the scene in heaven. What was it on earth? The solitary companion of his pilgrimage stands awestruck, trembling, confounded -- his eye scorched with the blaze of the dazzling retinue. He can only give vent through his tears to the unavailing lament -- "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof!" He speaks like a bereft fatherless child. It is another proof of the change which had taken place in the naturally rough, stern spirit of Elijah -- making him the object, not of dread or terror, but of affection and filial love. At a former period of his history he would more probably have been addressed as "Prophet of fire," "Herald of wrath;" but now, it is "My father, my father."

        Moreover, in the loss to the Church on earth of that one man, Elisha saw a sadder calamity than if the hosts of Jehoram -- fifty thousand strong -- had been swept away. HE had been the true army of Israel -- its bulwark of defense -- its infantry of strength -- its head and shield in the day of battle. The chariots and charioteers on which earthly kings depend for victory, had been concentrated, in the case of Israel, in him. His word had at one time closed the loopholes of heaven; at another, it had unmasked its batteries, and brought the lightning from the clouds. Rending his own clothes in customary token of grief, Elisha catches up the mantle that had dropped from the ascending chariot. It was a precious memorial of departed worth -- the old well-known companion of many wanderings -- associated with the performance of many chivalrous deeds.

        More than this, it was the priceless badge of his own investiture with the prophetic office, the guarantee that his parting request had really been granted, as well as a visible sign to others that the spirit of Elijah rested upon him. The weeping, solitary prophet must not abandon himself to fruitless tears or disconsolate grief. With that cloak as a treasured keepsake, and a pledge of reunion in a better country where no chariot of fire could part them, he hastens back to work and duty.

        Standing again by the Jordan, he folds up the mantle, and smites the water, saying, "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" -- (lit., "Where is Jehovah, the God of Elijah, even He?") Elisha knew that he had received for his heritage not only Elijah's mantle and Elijah's spirit, but, what was better, the guidance and support of Elijah's GOD. His best earthly friend and protector was gone -- severed from him for all time; but he had an unchanging portion and refuge in his Heavenly Friend -- the living JEHOVAH, the strength of his heart and his portion forever. The smitten waters obeyed his summons. The sons of the prophets, who were still gazing from the Jericho terraces, had their faith still further confirmed by this renewed miracle. It afforded them additional assurance that Elisha was divinely invested with the spirit and office of their beloved father. They came to meet him, and "bowed themselves to the ground, doing homage before him."
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« Reply #78 on: June 17, 2008, 09:38:40 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
20. THE CHARIOT OF FIRE
By John MacDuff, 1877

        With a natural incredulity, however, they could hardly be convinced that Elijah's translation had been real. He was used often, in the same way, suddenly to disappear from the haunts of men, and as suddenly to show himself when duty demanded. Might he not possibly still be found dead or alive amid these savage mountains? Might not that fierce whirlwind have only taken him up a little way in its wings, and dashed him down on some mountain or valley? He had disappeared near the same spot, where, in an earlier age, his great predecessor in work and spirit had withdrawn from mortal view; and then, if it had been true that God had taken the soul of His servant to Himself -- could they not rescue his remains, at least, from the oblivion and mystery which had rested for centuries around the burial of the old Hebrew lawgiver? It was a labor of love at all events -- a befitting and gratifying homage to his memory, to send fifty bold mountaineers to search these cliffs and precipices. This they did for three days without success -- "He was not, for GOD TOOK HIM."

        Let us occupy the remainder of the chapter, in seeking to discover some reasons for the peculiar method of Elijah's departure in his chariot of flame -- carried soul and body to heaven without tasting the pangs of dissolution.

        In the symbolic teaching of the Old Testament, the Chariot of fire could not have been without its significancy, as a befitting close to a life of flaming zeal. We cannot avoid comparing and contrasting it with a greater and yet kindred event in a later age. A mightier than Elijah ascended also to heaven from one of the mountains of Palestine. But His triumphal chariot -- appropriate to His divine character and person as Immanuel, was a cloud, the chariot of God -- the invariable emblem of Deity -- which bore Him majestically from the gaze of the engrossed disciples -- that same "cloud" on which, as Judge, He is to come again -- "Behold, He comes with clouds!"

        But as Elijah was the flaming minister of vengeance in an apostate age -- the successive acts in whose life drama were the fiery flashes of divine judgment -- what more appropriate, than that in a chariot of Fire -- (the symbolic emblem of God's judicial righteousness and wrath against sin) -- he should ascend to his crown! "Elijah," says Matthew Henry, "had burned with holy zeal for God and His honor, and now with a heavenly fire he was refined and translated."

        Nor have we to go far to discover the special end and design which God had in view, in vouchsafing to him this strange anomalous exemption from the universal doom of mortality -- revoking in his case the sentence of dissolution. He wished, by a startling outward visible sign, to give evidence to these degenerate times of the existence and reality of another life. Three great beacon-lights of hope and comfort on the subject of the body's Resurrection and a separate state, were set up to illumine each of the three grand eras or dispensations of the Church. The patriarchal era had this "blessed hope" unfolded in the translation of ENOCH; the Mosaic era in the departure of ELIJAH; and the crowning and triumphant pledge of it was reserved for the Christian era, in the Resurrection of our LORD -- "Christ the first fruits, afterwards those who are Christ's at his coming." Let us stand with Elisha in these dreadful solitudes of Gilead; and as we see the Prophet-hero, in a moment, wrapped in his chariot of flame, and soul and body together borne upwards to heaven -- let us regard the mysterious scene as a grand prophecy by symbol and vision of our own glorious future as believers in Jesus -- "children of the resurrection." Let us accept it as the foreshadow and pledge of what will happen to all the saints, both those whose bodies shall, at that solemn hour, be slumbering in their graves, as well as those who shall be alive at Christ's second coming. "We shall not all sleep," says the apostle, "but we shall all be changed, in a moment." The world itself shall then be resolved into a fiery chariot -- "the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein shall be burned up." But, far above this tremendous conflagration, shall be heard the song of the glorified, as they are upborne in the cloudy whirlwind to meet the Lord in the air -- "Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness."

        And is there not comfort and encouragement, also, for every desponding believer, in this final dealing of God with His servant -- ministering to him such an "abundant entrance" into a world of glory? Who was this transfigured conqueror? Was it not the same coward-prophet, who once sat moping under the wilderness juniper-tree -- peevish -- fretful -- abandoning himself to iniquitous despair? Yet out of weakness he had been made strong -- he had risen "like a giant refreshed" -- and for this "man of like passions," who had, once and again, too painfully manifested the infirmities of a fallen nature, there was decreed at last the most glorious of triumphs!

        In the prospect of the same hour of departure, there may be some reading these pages, who, by reason of present corruptions and infirmities, and the saddening memory of past unworthiness and sin, may, through fear of death, be all their life-time subject to bondage. Let not these recollections of past shortcomings and backslidings, and the consciousness of present infirmities, needlessly depress you. If, like Elijah, you have listened to the still small voice -- if you have resolved, like him, to rise from your posture of despondency, to grapple with duty, to face trial, and to make a renewed consecration of yourselves to God -- He will not deny to you the chariot of final triumph -- and give you, in Jesus, victory over death.
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« Reply #79 on: June 17, 2008, 09:41:13 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
20. THE CHARIOT OF FIRE
By John MacDuff, 1877

        Are we fit for the chariot of fire? Is our work done? Are we girded for the glorious dismissal? Can we say, as the New Testament Elijah could say, "I am now ready?" Could we meet the fiery whirlwind bravely, calmly, as the Prophet did? We can, if we have made his life-motto our own, "Jehovah lives." Or rather, if we have heard the voice of Him who has taken the sting from death, and robbed the grave of its victory -- "Fear not, I am he that LIVES, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of the grave and of death!"

        Laying hold by an appropriating faith of these words -- the chariots of death become the chariots of salvation, the gate of the grave and the gate of heaven become one. Elijah, by his symbolic act, tells us how the last enemy may be truly conquered. It was when, with his mantle, he smote the Jordan, that the chafed waters receded and opened for him a safe passage. We have a mantle, also, by which we can smite the Jordan of death. It is the mantle of Christ's finished work and righteousness. It divides the darksome waves, and enables us to sing with the Psalmist, "We went through the flood on foot, there did we rejoice in him."

        Even now, as we are journeying on towards Jordan, some of us, it may be, near it -- Jesus asks each of His true servants, as Elijah did his of old, "What shall I do for you?" "Whatever you ask in my name, that will I give unto you." What shall our request be? Shall it not be that of Elisha, that, as heirs of God, we may have the portion of His First-born -- that we be "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ" -- that even now we may be enrolled as members of "the general assembly and Church of the First-born who are written in heaven!" God keep us all from any poorer request; from bartering, like Esau, our heavenly birthright for any mere mess of earthly pottage.

        Again, to pass to the other closing incident; as we see the mantle of Elijah falling on Elisha, let us ask ourselves, 'Has his mantle fallen on us?' What mantle? His true cloak was not that rough coverlet of sheepskin; that was the mere outer badge and symbol peculiar to his age and office. But the mantle in which we may all more or less be arrayed, is the mantle of his virtues -- the beautiful spirit of consecration to the God he served; active, self-denying, single-eyed, bold, unflinching, uncompromising. O Prophet of the Highest, whose work, in these degenerate days, could stand the fiery test and ordeal like yours? "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof!"

        One other thought. It was in a chariot of FIRE, Elijah was taken to heaven. Is it not in a similar chariot, in a figurative sense, He takes many of his people still? He brings them, as He did Elijah, to the brink of Jordan; keeps them for years hovering amid the rough, rugged glens and gorges of trial -- seats them in a flaming carriage -- reins in the fiery horses, until, in the fire, they are refined and purified as gold, and fitted for their radiant crowns!

        Many are making it their life-long effort to mount some worldly chariot -- the chariot of riches, or the chariot of fame. God often appoints far other for His loved ones. It is the chariot of FIRE! He whispers in their ears as they enter it, "Through much tribulation you shall enter into the kingdom!" Oh, how many can bless Him with their dying lips, for that chariot -- and can say, on the retrospect of years on years, it may be, of burning trial, 'But for that chariot of fire, and these horses of fire, we would never have reached the throne and the crown!' and whose eternal ascription, as they cast that crown at the feet of a Redeeming Savior, is this, "we are saved, yet so as by FIRE!" If God from time to time may be taking some of us out amid Jordan valleys, to witness glorious departures, let us bless His name as we see the chariots ascending, that far humbler saints than Elijah are still left in the Church to strengthen the faith of the beholders; to magnify the power of sovereign grace, and to cast down upon mourning survivors a priceless mantle of Christian faith and love and triumph.

        Further, if any be like Elisha, mourning the loss of departed relatives, let these follow his example, by smiting the waters of death with the noble question, "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" Elijah has gone -- but the Lord God he served still remains -- the creature has perished, but the Creator perishes not. The chariot of flame has borne my loved ones out of sight; I have to return to life-duties like the Prophet of Gilgal -- all solitary and alone -- the companionship I most prized and cherished, gone forever! But where is Elijah's Lord God? He ever lives, He ever loves. Yes, I will go back to my stricken home -- from these ravines of sorrow, these waters of death -- exulting and saying, "The LORD LIVES, and blessed be my Rock, and let the God of my salvation be exalted." "They shall perish; but YOU remain." And when the Lord shall conduct me down to these same ravines, and dark Jordan-floods -- I will take courage, from seeing the dying grace manifested by them, to go boldly through the gloom -- "Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me." I will sing as they sang, with trembling lip and faltering utterance, just as they were stepping into the chariot of victory -- the horses of fire impatient for flight --

        "Raise the eye, Christian, just as it closeth,
        Lift the heart, Christian, before it reposes;
        You from the love of Christ nothing shall sever;
        Mount when your work is done -- praise Him forever."

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« Reply #80 on: June 17, 2008, 09:44:06 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
21. THE MOUNT OF TRANSFIGURATION
By John MacDuff, 1877
       

        Luke 9:28-36

        About eight days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothing became dazzling white. Then two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared and began talking with Jesus. They were glorious to see. And they were speaking of how he was about to fulfill God's plan by dying in Jerusalem.
        Peter and the others were very drowsy and had fallen asleep. Now they woke up and saw Jesus' glory and the two men standing with him. As Moses and Elijah were starting to leave, Peter, not even knowing what he was saying, blurted out, "Master, this is wonderful! We will make three shrines - one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." But even as he was saying this, a cloud came over them; and terror gripped them as it covered them.
        Then a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him." When the voice died away, Jesus was there alone. They didn't tell anyone what they had seen until long after this happened.


        "And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud; and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire." -- Revelation 10:1

        In the former chapter we found the gates of glory closing on Elijah and his triumphal chariot of fire. He had entered that silent land, from whose boundaries no traveler ever returns to this nether world. It was now a thousand years since he had taken his place among its redeemed multitudes -- a fixed star in the unchanging heavenly skies. For many centuries, however, the whole Jewish nation had entertained a confident expectation of his reappearance somewhere on the old scene of his labors -- an expectation founded on the remarkable, though mysterious words of Malachi -- all the more remarkable and memorable from being the last announcement of the last of their prophets -- "Behold, I will send you Elijah, the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." That utterance (partially and typically fulfilled perhaps in the ministry of the Baptist, but whose true and literal accomplishment may yet be future) had as shadowy fulfillment also in the sublime scene we are now to consider.

        In perfect keeping with the sudden dramatic changes of his older history, like some blazing meteor, the "Prophet of Fire" wanders back again to earth; or rather, as the satellite follows its parent sun, he appears in transfigured glory, by the side of the same "Living Jehovah," before whom it was his boast formerly to stand. But it was now JEHOVAH-JESUS -- "God manifest in the flesh!" The mysterious humiliation of that adorable Being was about to terminate in a darker night of suffering. In the prospect of undergoing the agonies of the garden and the cross, His divine Father had decreed a preliminary hour of glory and triumph. On the height of one of the mountains of the covenant land, delegates from the redeemed Church in earth and heaven met to do Him homage -- sustaining His soul in the prospect of treading the wine-press of the wrath of Almighty God. Out of the glorious throng of ransomed worshipers in the upper sanctuary, from Abel downwards, two appeared as representatives of the Church triumphant. Whether they were specially chosen for this high charge by God Himself, or whether they volunteered their lofty services, we cannot tell. If the latter, we may imagine, how, as the adorable Father announced His purpose of delegating messengers to glorify the Son of His love; and as He asked the question, amid the hushed stillness of the glorified throng -- "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" -- One bright spirit, glowing amid the ranks of Seraphim, and still burning with the old unabated ardor of earth, is heard to respond, "Here am I, send me!"

        It was a magnificent spectacle, indeed, which last occupied our attention -- the ascent of the Prophet-conqueror in his chariot of flame. But he himself tells the disciples, in the topic which engages their talk and thoughts on the Mount, that there is One theme infinitely more glorious than translation -- that is, that mighty deed of dying love -- atoning suffering -- without which no horses of fire could ever have been yoked to the ascending chariot, nor any enterings made within the gate into the heavenly city.

        The contrast is striking and worthy of note, between the Old and New Testament delineations of the character of Elijah. In the one he is almost from first to last presented to us as the Minister of vengeance, the Herald of wrath -- severe, vigorous, stern; while, if left to glean our estimate from the few incidental notices contained in the gospel, we meet him as the minister of kindness to the widow of Sarepta -- an example of the power of effectual fervent prayer -- "turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just." "This remarkably illustrates," as a recent writer well observes, "the great differences which may exist between the popular and contemporary view of an eminent character, and the real settled judgment formed in the progress of time, when the excitement of his more brilliant but more evanescent deeds has passed away. Precious, indeed, are the scattered hints and faint touches which enable us thus to soften the harsh outlines or the discordant coloring of the earlier picture. In the present instance, they are peculiarly so. That wild figure, that stern voice, those deeds of blood which stand out in such startling relief from the pages of the old records of Elijah, are seen by us, all silvered over with the white and glistering light of the mountain of Transfiguration. Under that heavenly light, Ahab and Jezebel, Baal and Ashtaroth, are forgotten, as we listen to the Prophet talking to our Lord of that event which was to be the consummation of all that He had suffered and striven for." (Smith's Biblical Dictionary)

        Let us then approach this pavilion of glory, and catch our last sight of the Prophet on earth, until we meet Him on a better Transfiguration mount, where we shall have the brightness of the earthly scene without any of its transience. We shall endeavor to depict the circumstantials of the Transfiguration-scene itself -- leaving for the concluding chapter the more special objects it was designed to subserve, particularly in its connection with the appearance of Elijah.
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« Reply #81 on: June 17, 2008, 09:45:59 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
21. THE MOUNT OF TRANSFIGURATION
By John MacDuff, 1877

        It was after a season of unremitting labor in the great work of His ministry, that the Redeemer ascended this "high mountain" for rest and prayer. We know that "the evening" was the season He usually selected for these "Sabbaths of His soul." Moreover, as the same evangelist informs us that the three disciples who accompanied Him were "heavy with sleep," and finishes his account of the transaction by stating that "on the next day they came down from the hill" -- are we not abundantly warranted in supposing that the Transfiguration took place during night? If this conclusion be correct, what an additional pictorial interest does it impart to the scene! The sun has already set, far to the west, over the great sea -- all nature is hushed to repose -- nothing is heard but the rippling of the mountain streams -- nothing is seen but the pale silvery moonlight, falling on the everlasting snows of the mountain -- or, high above, myriad stars, like temple lamps lit in the outer court of some magnificent sanctuary -- these, however, about to be quenched, for the time, by the seraphic radiance which is presently to stream forth from the Holiest of all.

        We cannot resist pausing for a moment on the threshold of this consecrated shrine, in order to mark the grand prelude to the manifestation of the excellent glory -- Jesus PRAYS. On that lonely hill top, or ridge, the Son of Man and Lord of all, pours out His soul, as a strong wrestler, in the ear of His Father in heaven. The moon and stars listen to their Maker's voice; and that voice, the voice of Prayer -- pleadings for Himself -- intercessions for the world -- the Church -- for His disciples -- for us! It is well worthy of note, though the remark be a trite one, that all the great events and crises of the Savior's incarnation-life are hallowed by prayer. He prays at His baptism, and lo! the heavens are opened. He prays in the garden -- "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass;" and "being in an agony He prayed the more earnestly." At the cross He prays, "Father forgive" -- "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." His very cry in the hour of His God-desertion -- "My God, my God" -- was an impassioned prayer!

        We have all in our diverse human experiences, though separated by an untraveled distance from those of the Divine Redeemer, our crises-hours -- solemn emergencies -- terrible moments of temptation -- sore suffering -- crushing disappointment -- poignant bereavement. Shall we not learn, from the Prince of sufferers, our true preparation against the dark and cloudy day? If Almighty strength and Infinite purity needed to be thus girded for the struggle-hour, how can such weaklings as we are, dispense with the sacred privilege?

        Oh, that in all time of our wealth, when climbing the giddy heights of prosperity -- led out by Satan to "the exceeding high mountain" -- tempted to surrender or compromise principle in order to propitiate the world's maxims and fashions, and barter a good conscience for its perishable baubles -- disloyal and unfaithful to God; or, in all time of our tribulation, when called to climb the mount of trial -- we would listen in thought for our protection and safety, our encouragement and example, to the voice of Him "who, when He was on earth, made supplication with strong crying and tears to Him that was able to save Him from death; and was heard in that He feared."

        The three disciples selected from the apostolic company to be the representatives of the Church on earth, at their Lord's Transfiguration, are Peter and the two sons of thunder. Peter "the Rock" -- James, the first of the twelve who was to suffer death for his Master's sake -- John, the favored disciple, whose head afterwards leaned on the bosom of incarnate Love. Wearied with the fatigues of the day, these infirm watchers fall asleep. They continue locked in slumber until a strange unearthly light is felt playing on their eyelids. Is it a dream? a trance? They wake up; and lo! a spectacle of overpowering glory bursts upon them. The Lord they left praying, is now seen before them, arrayed in garments woven as with sunbeams -- His clothing emitting light, vying in whiteness with the virgin snow; or as Mark, in his own graphic way of delineation adds, "So as no launderer on earth can whiten them."

        A bright fleecy cloud surrounds Him with a halo of glory; and on either side of the transfigured Savior there is a glorified form. The apostles gaze in mute wonder. As their adorable Master is engaged in converse with these mysterious visitants from another world the question must have passed from lip to lip -- "Who are these arrayed in white robes and whence came they?" They do not require, however, to wait a reply. Either by revelation, or more probably from hearing their Lord addressing the two glorified ones by name, they know that they are in the presence of none other than MOSES and ELIJAH. With what profound interest -- with what trembling transport -- would they gaze on the two Fathers of the Nation, whose names must have been embalmed in their holiest memories since the dawn of earliest childhood. "What!" we may imagine them exclaiming, as they fixed their eyes first on the older saint -- "Is this indeed the great Shepherd who led Israel like a flock; who did marvelous things in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan? Is this he whose rod smote the waves of the Red Sea -- whose feet trod the steeps of Sinai, who spoke amid its lightnings and thunders face to face with God? What! is this indeed the great Elijah -- the old prophet of Gilead -- the faithful witness for Jehovah in Israel's most degenerate age -- the mighty wrestler on Carmel -- the slaughterer at the Kishon -- the fiery minister of vengeance -- the herald of righteousness, whose earlier life of tempest and earthquake and fire merged at last into the still small voice of love -- he who was taken to heaven alive in a whirlwind, and who was prophesied of by Malachi as the precursor of the great and dreadful day of the Lord?
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« Reply #82 on: June 17, 2008, 09:48:34 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
21. THE MOUNT OF TRANSFIGURATION
By John MacDuff, 1877

        The earthly character and mission of both, presented a lowly yet striking reflection of Him they had now come to honor. Their messages, had been received like His with scornful indifference. One had, in a noble spirit of self-sacrifice, surrendered his bright prospects as heir to the throne of Egypt; the other, with fearless devotion to truth, had confronted royal frowns, and offered a heroic protest against the nation's guilt, in the name of his dishonored Master. No more befitting attendants surely could have been selected to do homage to Him, who "made Himself of no reputation" -- left His throne and crown for a manger and a cross; "the faithful and true Witness," who came "not to do His own will, but the will of the Father who sent Him."

        The eyes of the earthly and the heavenly delegates are alike fixed on the great central figure of the group -- the toil-worn sorrow-stricken Man, who, a few hours before, had climbed the steep ascent with weary limb and burdened soul, but who is now radiant with superhuman glory, the true Apocalyptic Angel "standing in the sun." The face of one of these heavenly attendants, fifteen hundred years before, had been seen resplendent by the camp of assembled Israel, but it was a borrowed luster. He had come forth from the presence-chamber of God on Sinai, and the ineffable brightness still lingered by reflection on his countenance. In the case of the Redeemer on the Transfiguration-mount, that glory was inherent. The rays of indwelling Deity, imprisoned in His body of humiliation, burst through the casement of flesh -- the luster of eternity streamed through the veil of His humanity. "Moses," it has been observed, "only showed the brightness of the Father's glory, He was that brightness." No wonder that Peter, in an ecstasy of impulsive joy, exclaims, "Lord, it is good for us to be here;" and that he even proposed the erection of three tabernacles, where their Lord and His glorified attendants might take up a permanent abode, and, enthroned on these majestic peaks of Hermon, reign over regenerated Israel.

        But gaze we yet a little longer, and there is a new phase in this panorama of heavenly splendor. A cloud of yet more transcendent brightness descends on the head of the Savior and His two celestial companions. It is nothing less than the Shekinah, or Divine glory, the symbol and emblem of a present Deity -- the same cloud which of old preceded in a pillar-form the march through the wilderness; which hovered over the ark in the tabernacle, and over the holy of holies in the Jerusalem temple. The three disciples seem, at this juncture, to have been shut out and excluded by the new cloudy canopy. They became greatly afraid; the appearance of the cloud struck them with awe. This feeling, moreover, increased as they felt themselves thus dissociated and dissevered from their Lord, whose presence a moment before, radiant though it was with almost intolerable brightness, had yet been to them the blessed pledge of security and safety. A voice issues from the cloud. A message comes to them from the midst of the excellent glory -- "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear him." It is the sublime attestation of God the Father. "He installs the Son as sovereign of the kingdom." He consecrates Him as Prophet, Priest, and King for evermore.

        If such be the utterance of the Eternal Father in this seraphic scene, let us return for a moment to Elijah, and inquire what part he takes in the august conference. Are his lips sealed? Does he appear as a mere speechless witness, a passive spectator, mutely doing homage to his great Lord, and then silently winging his arrowy flight back among the ministering Seraphim? No, he does speak, and we listen with profound interest to the theme with which he breaks silence. He and Moses are the first messengers from the spirit-land who have visited our earth -- the first voyagers who have ever come back with tidings from the undiscovered shores! What then, we curiously inquire, is the theme which engrosses their thoughts -- what is the subject of their heavenly converse -- what communications have they brought down with them from the realms of light, with which to gladden their Lord in His hour of glorification?

        When we last parted from Elijah it was when he was taken to heaven in his fiery chariot. Does he talk of this? or, now that the scenes of his old labors are faintly revealed under the star-lit heavens, do these suggest to him the rehearsal of his own life-marvels, or those of his sainted companion? or does he commune of the nobler inheritance on which he had since entered -- the thousand years -- the millennium of bliss, since last he trod the earth? -- does he speak of the last song in which he had joined with the celestial worshipers, or of the last embassy of love on which he had sped, or of his lofty association with the brotherhood of Seraphim–the ministers of flaming fire, who keep the lamps of the heavenly temple continually burning? No, none of these.

        His topic of converse, and that of his illustrious compeer is the last we should have dreamt of as being selected for ecstatic triumph. It is DEATH! -- "Death," that dreadful anomaly in God's universe -- "Death," the theme of all others undwelt on in heaven, because there unknown. Death too -- the King of Terrors, lording it over the Prince of Life -- for it was Death about to vanquish none other than the Majestic Being who was now glorified under that canopy of dazzling splendor. Moreover, it was death in peculiar and abnormal form -- not the gentle dismissal of the soul to the unseen world -- not the tranquil sleep of His "beloved" which God gave to one of these saints, nor the holy beatific rapture he given to the other -- but death specifically spoken about as occurring at "Jerusalem" -- a death mysteriously associated, at all events to the Omniscient Son of God, with a thorn-crown, and bitter anguish, and an accursed tree -- a fearful baptism of blood! Nor would it appear that the strange converse was limited to the glorified attendants -- the transfigured Savior Himself joined in that wondrous talk. 'Speak not,' He seems to say, 'of my crown; speak to me rather of my cross; speak to me, even at this moment of my glorification, of that bitter humiliation which awaits me. It is by being "lifted up," not as now in glory, but lifted up in suffering and anguish, that I am to "draw all men unto myself!"'
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« Reply #83 on: June 17, 2008, 09:50:04 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
21. THE MOUNT OF TRANSFIGURATION
By John MacDuff, 1877

        But the hour of triumph is at an end, the dazzling luster has faded from the Redeemer's clothing, the celestial voices are hushed, the vision has passed away. Emerging from the cloud and returning to the three still terrified disciples, their Lord finds them, in the extremity of their fears, to have lost all consciousness. They are still "heavy with sleep." Alas! for weak, fragile human nature, even in seasons when it might well be expected to rise above its weakness. These disciples slept now in the hour of their Master's rapture, as they slept afterwards in the hour of His sorrow. Ah, men "of like passions!" If Elijah saw them then from his cloudy canopy, he would remember the juniper-tree, and be silent. "What are you doing here, Elijah?" What! my own disciples, "could you not watch with me one hour?" Blessed for us who may be mourning over our dull, lethargic frames, losing by our slothfulness many bright transfiguration-experiences -- the blessings of the mount -- happy for us that there is a day and a world coming, when the gentle rebuke of an injured Savior shall nevermore be needed -- "Why are you sleeping?" For "there shall be no night there!"

        But He is faithful that promised -- "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." The hour of manifested glory has made no change in the sympathizing tenderness of the Brother-man. He is still "that same Jesus" -- He comes to the disciples, as He had done often before, in their weakness and terror; touches them, and with gentle voice says, "Arise, be not afraid." They lifted up their eyes -- the cloud -- the glory -- the celestial visitants -- the voice, were gone; "they saw no man–except Jesus only." The morning light was again tipping the eastern hills -- and they must hasten down the slopes of the mount, once more to encounter stern duty, temptation and trial.
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« Reply #84 on: June 17, 2008, 09:52:02 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
22. LESSONS OF THE MOUNT, AND CLOSING THOUGHTS
By John MacDuff, 1877
       

        Matthew 17:3-11

        Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus. Peter blurted out, "Lord, this is wonderful! If you want me to, I'll make three shrines, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
        But even as he said it, a bright cloud came over them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with him. Listen to him." The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground.
        Jesus came over and touched them. "Get up," he said, "don't be afraid." And when they looked, they saw only Jesus with them. As they descended the mountain, Jesus commanded them, "Don't tell anyone what you have seen until I, the Son of Man, have been raised from the dead."
        His disciples asked, "Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?"
        Jesus replied, "Elijah is indeed coming first to set everything in order.
         

        You have not come to a physical mountain, to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind, as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai when God gave them his laws. For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice with a message so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking. Hebrews 12:18-19

        No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to thousands of angels in joyful assembly. You have come to the assembly of God's firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge of all people. And you have come to the spirits of the redeemed in heaven who have now been made perfect. Hebrews 12:22-23

        Having in the previous chapter endeavored to describe, as minutely as the details furnished by the three separate Evangelists enable us, the scene and significant incidents of the Transfiguration, we shall proceed, in these closing pages, to speak of the objects which this beautiful New Testament sequel to the life of Elijah seems mainly intended to serve.

        These were various. We shall restrict ourselves to the one which, while in itself most prominent, has also a more special connection with our Prophet -- that is, the intimation thus given by visible symbol, that the legal and prophetical dispensations were superseded by the gospel.

        Moses and Elijah were the representatives of the two former. Moses, the great lawgiver, who had received the ten commandments, amid the thunders of Sinai, from the hands of God Himself; and Elijah, as we now well know, the most distinguished in his own age, or perhaps in any age, among the Prophets of Israel. Both appear to do homage to Jesus; confessing their subserviency to Him, of whom both the law and the Prophets bore witness. They lay down, as it were, the seals of office, the warrants for their temporary ministration, at His feet -- Moses his rod -- Elijah his prophetic-mantle -- acknowledging that neither they nor the dispensations of which they were the representatives, had any glory by reason of "the glory that excels."

        The LAW seemed to say, through its representative, 'O Lamb of God, all my bleating sacrifices pointed to You.' PROPHECY seemed to say through its representative -- 'O Prophet of the Highest, all my picturings and prefigurations centered in You.' The shadow is transformed into the substance. 'In You,' says Moses as he gazes on his transfigured Lord, 'I see the end, and meaning, and reality of the Passover -- the blood-sprinkled lintels -- the smitten rock, the serpent of brass -- the blood-stained mercy-seat.' 'It was You,' says Elijah, 'I saw in the sacrifice on Carmel -- You, I heard in "the still small voice" of Horeb.'

        And when Peter, in the customary ardor of his spirit, suggested the erection of three tabernacles -- one to each of the glorified people -- God gave a very significant intimation, that both of the other ministers were to give place to "the minister of the sanctuary, and the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man." For "while he thus spoke, there came a cloud and overshadowed them, and they feared as they entered the cloud; and there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son; HEAR HIM." "Hear HIM." 'You have been accustomed to hear, and to regard with profound veneration, Moses and Elijah and the other Prophets -- but a greater than these is here. This is the illustrious personage of whom your great lawgiver himself predicted, that "a Prophet would the Lord God raise up unto you of your brethren" -- this is He "of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth" -- this is the true Elijah ("the strong Lord") who shall "turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers." "This is my beloved Son; hear him."'

        And then, when the glorious vision departed, Moses and Elijah disappear, and leave "Jesus only" -- a beautiful emblem, designed to intimate that the former dispensations were now done away! Elijah and Moses, two names which the disciples, in common with their countrymen, regarded almost with religious awe, were to give place to a greater. The work of the servants is done -- merged in the glory of their Master; the rod of Moses is broken -- the mantle of Elijah falls on the true Elisha -- JESUS was to be hailed as "King of the Jews." By Him the moral law was obeyed -- the prophecies accomplished -- the types fulfilled. And now, in accordance with God's customary dealings with His subordinate ministers, a solemn investiture takes place of the Great Antitypical-Priest, Lawgiver, and Prophet -- the glorious company of the apostles -- the goodly fellowship of the Prophets -- the noble army of martyrs -- praise Him! Adoring Him as Redeemer, they proclaim through these, their two sainted representatives, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"
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« Reply #85 on: June 17, 2008, 09:53:49 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
22. LESSONS OF THE MOUNT, AND CLOSING THOUGHTS
By John MacDuff, 1877

        The accompaniments of that scene of glory, also, were such as to vindicate the superiority of the gospel over any of the previous dispensations. The legal dispensation was ushered upon the world from the blazing summit of a mountain, amid a fearful canopy of cloud and darkness, thunderings, and lightnings, and tempest. The other, from the summit of a mountain, too; but now the thunders are hushed -- the blackness has passed away -- and in its stead a cloud of surpassing brightness overshadows. We behold Moses on the one -- his language is, "I exceedingly fear and quake" -- Peter on the other, "Lord, it is good for me to be here." On the one, we listen to a voice which shakes the earth; and "they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more" -- on the other, we hear a voice -- but it is the still small voice of love, pointing us to Christ, saying, "Hear Him!" Elijah, on the same Horeb-mount, comes forth from his cave, muffling his face in his mantle, gazing with trembling awe on the winged symbols of vengeance that passed in succession before him. Now, with open face, he beholds, as in a glass, the glory of his transfigured Lord, and is "changed into the same image from glory to glory!"

        As a further reason why Moses and Elijah were employed on this occasion in preference to other ransomed saints, we may infer that they were sent to bear attestation to the great plan of the Redemption which is by Christ Jesus -- "that neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved."

        Of those who had entered on the inheritance of the promises, if any there were, who could have attained heaven on the ground of their own good works and meritorious deeds, it would doubtless have been the two who are here with the Lord on the mount. We know well the history of the one -- how in his life of exalted purity, there is but one solitary recorded blemish -- discovering him to be a "man of like passions." A similar intimacy with the other, would unfold a marvelous display of faith, humility, devotedness, heroic endurance, self-denial, and heavenly-mindedness. So that if any of the human race could have laid claim, so to speak, to the kingdom above, on the footing of personal merit, we would have pointed to these two illustrious representatives of the two earlier dispensations -- these two heads of the sainted hierarchy. But we could not have been more powerfully or impressively told, that every redeemed worshiper before the Throne, from the least to the greatest in the kingdom, owes his place there to another righteousness than his own.

        These mightiest of glorified mortals talk of nothing but "the death that was to be accomplished at Jerusalem!" They appear in shining clothing -- but they proclaim that these robes owe all their brightness, these crowns all their luster, to the Savior of Calvary. We may regard them, therefore, not only as the representatives of bygone dispensations of types and figures on earth, but as the representatives of a higher dispensation of glory in heaven -- sent down from the ransomed multitude above, to tell to the world that not a robe is there from Abel's downwards, but what is washed in the blood of the Lamb -- that every jewel that sparkles in their crown they owe to His cross and passion.

        We may regard them as commissioned to tell of the intense interest with which that approaching "decease" was contemplated by the companies of the upper sanctuary. In this view of it, while the scene on the mount would greatly strengthen the faith of the disciples in the hour of trial, it would also tend, and was doubtless designed, to impart courage and consolation and support to the great Redeemer Himself, in the prospect of coming anguish. Oh! would He not be cheered and strengthened for His approaching conflict, when He descended the hill with the approving smile of His heavenly Father resting upon Him -- conscious that He carried with Him to the garden and the cross, the awakened interest and sympathies of a Redeemed multitude which no man can number, who waited in profound suspense for the moment of Victory, when He should cry, "It is finished," and bow His head and give up the spirit!

        Let us try to imagine the wondrous converse. "They spoke of His death!" They would strengthen His soul, by telling of the mighty results that decease was to accomplish -- the transcendent luster it would pour around the throne of God -- magnifying every attribute of His nature -- securing peace on earth, and glory in the highest. They would tell of the august lesson it would read to a wondering universe -- what an attestation to God's unbending holiness -- His spotless truth -- His hatred of sin, and yet His love to the sinner! They would tell of the countless multitudes who had died in the faith of this "decease," and were now rejoicing above in the prospect of its accomplishment -- of the myriads, in unborn ages, who were to reap its fruits, out of every nation, and kindred, and people, and tongue.
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« Reply #86 on: June 17, 2008, 09:55:27 AM »

THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
22. LESSONS OF THE MOUNT, AND CLOSING THOUGHTS
By John MacDuff, 1877

        Yes! we may conceive that the eye of the Transfigured Savior (as of old from mount Pisgah did that of the lawgiver of Israel, who now stood by His side) would, from the top of this northern height, survey the land of covenant promise. Stretching far beyond the plains of Galilee, He would see, in majestic perspective, the nations of the earth confessing Him as Lord, and rejoicing in that very decease He was about to accomplish. Amid the stillness of that midnight scene, He would direct His own eyes, as He had done those of the Father of the Faithful ages before, to the starry skies, and behold there an emblem of His unnumbered spiritual seed. Thus seeing of the travail of His soul, He would be satisfied. The thought that He would thus turn many to righteousness, who would shine as the stars forever and ever, would mightily nerve Him for the hour and power of darkness.

        Oh! when, from this holy converse, the past, and present, and future, all seemed to combine in proclaiming the results which were suspended on His death -- when He saw the tide of glory that would thereby roll in to the Throne of God -- when He thought of the mighty moral influence of His death, not on the family of earth only, but on unknown worlds -- varied orders of intelligence throughout the universe -- in the dispensation of the fullness of time gathering together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and in earth -- He would descend to the conflict rejoicing to think, that, though His own garments were to be rolled in blood, the garments of a myriad multitude should by that blood be made white -- contemplating such results as these, not only would He willingly enter the garden, and drink the cup, and endure the cross; but, as if longing for the hour of victory, He could exclaim, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished!"

        In addition to this more special design of the Transfiguration, there are many other interesting and comforting truths which may warrantably be deduced from the consideration of the hallowed scene. Among these is the testimony borne to the state of immediate bliss into which the souls of believers pass at the hour of death -- that the moment the spirit leaves the walls of its crumbling earthly prison, it soars into the presence of God, and engages forthwith in active errands of love and duty. The appearance of Moses and Elijah surely affords a conclusive refutation of the cold, cheerless theory, which is not without its modern advocates, that, after death, the disembodied soul passes into an intermediate state of torpor and inactivity -- a condition of lethargic slumber; that there is an arrest put on its spiritual activities, until the Resurrection morning welcomes it back from its sojourn in this dream-land, and reunites it to the raised and glorified body. If the case of Elijah be deemed peculiar, he having been translated, soul and body together, without dying, it is not so, at all events, regarding his brother delegate. The body of Moses was mysteriously entombed amid the solitudes of the Moab mountains, over against Baal-peor -- his limbs composed by angels -- his grave dug by God Himself, (for "God buried him,") though sedulously secreted from the eye of man. But we see the Hebrew Prophet on the Transfiguration-mount -- a visible, living, speaking, recognized representative of the family of the ransomed. He comes forth, along with a kindred spirit, from the brotherhood of the redeemed; and as if the theme, also, in which they had been just engaged with the adoring multitudes around the throne, were still thrilling on their tongues. His body slumbers amid the ravines of Pisgah -- it has long ago crumbled away in insensate dust, but the true MAN is a conscious, thinking, living being -- a ministering angel before God -- embarked in the ceaseless energies of holy service.

        Behold, also, in visible symbol, the blessed bond of union which links together the Church on earth and the Church in heaven -- Moses and Elijah, from the bright-robed company above -- the three disciples from the Church in the wilderness, have their eye centered on ONE peerless Object of adoration and love. The note which the two glorified ones last struck on their golden harps within the veil, is taken up on the earthly mount -- "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain," It was for Him -- in order that they might testify to His sufferings and their resultant glory -- that these two immortal ones left their thrones and their bliss for that hour of earthly rapture, and it is in active embassies of love for "that same Jesus," that the redeemed are now delighting, and will delight to exercise the noblest energies of their natures through all eternity.

        Yes! as we leave the history of the great Prophet, whose life of marvel has so long occupied us, it is surely delightful and interesting to bear away the recollection that the last glimpse we get of him, as he is hidden from our sight by the enveloping Shekinah on the mountain summit, is adoring the Redeemer of the world -- casting all his mighty deeds, his zeal, his humility, his heroic endurance, his untiring self-consecration -- all at the feet of the Lord who died for him! Yes, more -- we believe, were we to draw aside the mysterious curtain which hides the invisible, we should behold him still in his old attitude -- rejoicing in a living Savior-God, before whom he stands. And as others among the company of the redeemed, who revered his hero-deeds on earth, might still love to rehearse them in his presence; we may imagine him, with the tongue of fire, now burning only with love, exclaiming in self-renouncing lowliness, 'Perish the memories of Cherith, Sarepta, Carmel, Jezreel, Jericho, the chariot-rapture -- God forbid that I should glory, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!'
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THE  PROPHET OF FIRE
The life and times of Elijah, with their lessons
22. LESSONS OF THE MOUNT, AND CLOSING THOUGHTS
By John MacDuff, 1877

        Blessed thought -- Christ the all in all of heaven! The saints may be lustrous, radiant points of light -- hallowed luminaries, emitting rays of sacred glory -- "But the city had no NEED of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God enlightened it, and the Lamb was the light thereof." We can think, indeed, of the Redeemed, bound to one another by the same mental and moral affinities and idiosyncrasies which affiliate them on earth -- bands of the white-robed multitude gathered around some favored spiritual father -- embarked with him in congenial occupation, whether that be worship, or contemplation, or active service and ministry of love. We can think of Elijah, for example -- "Prophet of Fire," as ever gathering his band of Seraphim around him, enkindling them with his own unquenchable ardor -- yoking still his chariot with its fiery steeds, to speed himself and them together in whirlwind embassies of flaming zeal, to comfort distant saints, or form distant worlds; or we can suppose him collecting together contemplative spirits among the ranks of the ransomed, as he did of old the sons of the prophets, and pursuing in concert with them the deep studies of eternity. But all revolve around a more glorious center. They -- their persons, their deeds, their studies -- have no glory by reason of the glory which excels.

        In the great astral system in the skies above us, while dependent planets circle around their different suns, astronomers tell us these aggregate suns themselves own a mightier influence -- wheel in stupendous revolution around Alcyone, the supposed great common center of the material universe. So, whatever may be the separate groupings among the Redeemed -- whatever their minor revolutions -- there is one peerless, sovereign Sun, around whom they all lovingly revolve -- one sublime song -- the music of these "heavenly spheres" -- which circulates to the remotest circumference of the celestial glory -- "Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto God and his Father -- to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen!" Thus the loftiest idea of a future heaven -- the true "hill of God" -- is that of an eternal Transfiguration, the concentric circles of saints and adoring angels gazing with unquenchable rapture on the glorified Son of God, and exclaiming, "It is good for us to be here!"

        If such were the lofty themes of converse which occupied the delegates from heaven on the heights of the Holy Mount, let us take a parting glance outside the cloud, when all is over, on the disciples -- the representatives of the earthly Church. The heavenly messengers have come and gone; the cloud, the radiance, the lofty converse, the majestic voice of paternal love -- all have vanished. The cold, chill, morning air, the drenching dews of early dawn, the fleecy clouds in the valley, the smoke in the distant hamlet -- all denote that they are back to the dull world again -- that soon they shall once more be involved in the rough contacts of daily life. What a contrast with the past night of seraphic bliss!

        "Alone!" -- yes, "yet not alone!" "When they lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only." Bereft they are of their celestial companions; but they have one compensating solace for all they have lost. The stars and satellites and moons have waxed and waned and departed -- the candle-lights have been extinguished; but the great Sun still remains to illuminate their path, and perpetuate the bliss of that glorious Sabbatic hour and scene -- "they saw no man, except Jesus only." JESUS ONLY -- it is enough -- they ask no more. With His love and presence to cheer them, they pursue their path, ready for duty, for trial, for suffering -- animated by the sight of the crown, they descend more willing to bear the cross.

        "Jesus only" -- what a motto and watchword for us! Many of the most loving and beloved of human friends come only, like Moses and Elijah, on 'angel visits' -- illuminating the night of earth with a transient, yet blessed radiance -- then leaving us, like the disciples, amid the chill, gray mists of solitude -- our path moist with dewy tears, as we hurry back once more to a cold, unsympathizing world. But blessed be God, to His true disciples, as to the favored three on Hermon, their best Friend is still left -- "JESUS ONLY." "Fear not," he said on another occasion to these same disciples, "I AM; be not afraid." "I AM" -- then perish every desponding thought. "I AM" -- faithful among the faithless, changeless among the changeable! Oh, blessed antidote to all cares! blessed balm for all wounds! blessed compensation for all losses! blessed solace in all sorrows! -- to descend from the mountain-heights of worldly bliss to the deepest valleys of humiliation and trial -- with JESUS ONLY!

        "PROPHET OF FIRE," farewell! We shall long for your return -- if not in person, at least in spirit -- to rekindle the watch-fires on the walls of Zion! Let the last glimpse we have of you on the inspired page direct every wavering eye to the source and secret of all your greatness and power -- the Transfigured ONE, who alone can "baptize with the Holy Spirit and with FIRE!"

        "He was not the light; he was only a witness to the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was going to come into the world."

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