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neighbor. Alienation from God, alienation from his neighbor. Thus sin would be of the same nature in the Creator if it should exist there, and in the creature where it does exist. Hence we see what temptation means.
It is any influence brought to bear on minds to break up their harmonious love in all their relations between superiors, equals, and inferiors. Love downward and upward, from side to side. Any influence tending to produce alienation is, properly, temptation. And there is no temptation that can not be shown to be in one way or another reducible to this.
Hence, when the Scripture tells us that God can not be tempted of evil, we understand what it means. Not that God is not free; not that He is an infinite necessity or fate, who can not help doing what he does; but that, being omniscient, and absolutely certain of all possible truth, no conceivable influence can be brought to his cognizance in the shape of motive to alienation either between the persons of the Trinity or between them and the creature. God must first lose omniscient intuition of the woe of such alienation before a temptation thereto could be possibly framed so as to touch him.
Hence, on the other hand, we see that creatures could not exist without temptation. If
omniscience renders God inaccessible to temptation, it follows that finite minds must be liable to temptation. And we may say there were only three things for God to choose: to exist forever in solitude; or, to create all creatures omniscient, which is absurd; or, to create creatures exposed to temptation. For any creature of finite mind, in the midst of a vast universe, and of organizations of minds of varied powers, must meet with things it can not understand, see powers it can not wield, and be thus exposed to ambition, distrust, self-reliance, and alienation.
Hence further we see, not only that creatures, however holy, can not be exempt from temptation, but we see precisely where the temptation will strike them. It will be in their faith ; that is, their affectionate reliance upon the testimony of their Creator. The very first fact that meets every creature, I care not how high and holy he may be, is limitation, and so what is felt to be privation. He meets questions he can not answer, he beholds powers he can not wield, and possessions that are not his. The temptation will then approach him precisely in this shape : “Does God think I am not capable of understanding these things? Does he tell me that if I attempt it I shall die ? That the only way for me is implicitly to rely on him? Nay, does he not rather fear lest I attain equality with him, and be as God myself? Does he not seek to keep me down? Shall I not therefore refuse implicit reliance, assert my own prerogative, and be as God myself ?” This, it strikes me, is substantially the form of temptation, to which, from the very nature of finite mind, every creature must be exposed.
This view may be illustrated by the language of Scripture. “Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness." This may be regarded as God's charge against any fallen creature-against fallen beings in general, addressed through the person of some eminent individual.
Thus the Assyrian of Ezekiel xxxi. may perhaps be taken as a symbol of fallen creatures in general and in particular, so that the very process of a fall from original holiness may be indicated. Comparing him to a cedar-tree, “Thus was he fair in his greatness," is the description, “in the length of his branches, for his root was by the great waters. The cedars in the garden of God could not hide him, nor any tree in the garden of God was like unto him in beauty; I have made him fair by reason of the multitude
of his branches, so that all the trees of Eden that were in the garden of God envied him. Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, because thou hast lifted up thyself in height, and he hath shot up his top among the thick boughs, and his heart is lifted up in his height, ** therefore I have delivered him into the hand of the mighty One of the heathen; He shall surely deal with him. I have driven him out for his wickedness. ** In the day when he went down to the grave Icaused a mourning for him. * * I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him down to Hades with them that descend into the pit."
By such descriptions I understand the Holy Spirit to indicate the process of temptation of any and of all finite minds. And herewith agrees, in a striking manner, the language of a certain tempter in Eden: "Hath God said ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden ?” This is, indeed, a beautiful paradise-a blissful abode. One would imagine happiness might be perfect here. But does God give you all you want? Has he deprived you of nothing? Has he limited you not at all? shown you no desirable things you may not enjoy? And the woman said,
eat of the fruit of the garden, but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, “Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” We have a vast variety of powers and pleasures, sources abundant of knowledge and joy. But there is a limit. There is a prohibition-a privation; and death the penalty. And the serpent said, “Ye shall not surely die. For God doth know that, in the day ye eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.”
God deprives you of the full development of your powers, for fear you will equal him. He dwarfs you to the stature of childhood. He wants to keep you down-to keep you immature, dependent, abject. Therefore assert your rights - declare your independence- renounce this credulous subjection to him.
Such appears to me the necessary explanation of the temptation of any and of every created mind, angelic, or super-angelic, or of any other sort.
It is a temptation through which it seems to me they must pass, or not be created. Those that yielded fell through unbelief. Those that did not yield lived by faith; as it is written, the just shall live by faith.
By these principles we are prepared to understand the temptation of the Son of God. Before he became Son of God, existing in form of