16 OCTOBER (PREACHED 1770)
A taste for heavenly things
‘And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.’ Luke 9:33
SUGGESTED FURTHER READING: Mark 9:2–13
Peter’s desire was from a good principle. Grace had changed his heart and given him a taste for heavenly things. He loved his Saviour, and when he saw him transfigured and had a specimen of the glory of heaven in the appearance of Moses and Elijah, he would willingly have bid the world adieu. He wanted to build tabernacles. His motive was right, but his proposal was wrong, and proceeded from ignorance and fear—not knowing what he said, for he was afraid, as is added by Mark [9:6].
His proposal was inconsistent with the design of Christ’s coming. He had been offended at the mention of his cross before (Matthew 16:22). Now he seems quite to forget it. But Peter’s soul and all his hopes depended upon his Master’s not staying there, but returning to his state of humiliation. This is the appointed, both for Head and members, to enter into glory through sufferings. He knew but little of the state of glorified spirits when he thought of tabernacles for Moses and Elijah. It is so with us. We are apt to form low and earthly notions of heavenly things—indeed we can form no others, having no ideas but what we have received by our senses. When we strive to go beyond this, we are soon lost. Peter was ignorant of the design of his own calling. He was not to live upon the mount but to be a fisher of men, to do and to suffer for Christ and to glorify God in the world.
FOR MEDITATION: There is no school like the school of the cross. There men are made wise unto salvation, wise to win souls. In a crucified Saviour are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. And the tongue of the truly learned, that can speak a word in season to them that are weary, is not acquired like Greek and Latin by reading great books—but by self-knowledge and soul exercises. To learn navigation by the fireside will never make a man an expert mariner. He must do his business in great waters. And practice will bring him into many situations of which general theory could give him no conception.
John Newton to John Ryland jnr, 26 March 1791
SERMON SERIES: ON THE TRANSFIGURATION, NO. 7 [1/5], LUKE 9:33