« PreviousContinue »
ter and spirit, whose senses, whose imagina-| him, like another Herod, to fall down and tion, whose memory, whose understanding, worship him. all are so easily impressible?
It is clear that the tempter, when he used Of all the faculties which spiritual beings the expression " the Son of God," did not possess, that of rendering themselves the fully apprehend the import of what he said, objects of sense most of all exceeds our that he did not mean by it to acknowledge comprehension. They present a form, they the divinity of the Saviour. Had he known utter, and receive, and return articulate with whom he had to do, durst he have sounds, and anon they are vanished into andertaken to tempt and seduce him? By air, thin air. The appearance of Gabriel to“ the Son of God," therefore, he understands Zacharias and to Mary, and of the multitude only a prophet of distinguished rank, supeof the heavenly host to the shepherds, is a rior to all others, of pre-eminent virtue and striking demonstration of it. We have be- merit, endowed with higher gifts and powers, fore us another instance of this astonishing chosen and commissioned of Providence for faculty, in a spirit of a very different cha- the conversion and salvation of the world, racter, and for a very different purpose and of consequence infinitely dear to God. Satan, the destroyer, "foe to God and man,” In this persuasion his object is an attempt to tempting Christ in the wilderness.
defeat the plan of Providence, to counteract The two evangelists, who have given us the measures of Heaven, and, as he had sucthe history of this temptation in detail, differ ceeded in the seduction of the representative only in respect of the order of the facts head of the human race, he entertained the related, that which is placed second in St. infernal hope of prevailing also over its ReMatthew's Gospel, is the third in Luke's, storer and Redeemer. He would dive, thereand that which is the second in Luke is the fore, to the bottom of the character of Him, for third in Matthew. We have chosen to fol- whose appearance in the world such mighty low the latter, because, as he was shortly preparation had been made, and whom å after called to the office of apostleship, he series of circumstances the most extraorprobably received the history from Christ's dinary had pointed out as the peculiar care own mouth; and because the words which of Heaven. The operation of a miracle will He addresses to the wicked one, in the close one way or another serve to elear this up. of the third temptation, according to Mat- The conversion of stones into bread appearthew's statement of it, “ Get thee behind ing to him an impossibility, if Christ refuses me, Satan,” seem to have concluded the to perform it, an imputation lies against his
This slight difference, however, power; if he undertake without effeeting it, serves only to confirm the authenticity of his divine mission is rendered questionable. both historians, as it is a proof that the one can he be God's beloved Son, if he withhold did not copy from the other. We now pro- the concurrence of omnipotence in a situaceed to the temptation itself.
tion where it is of such high importance to " And when the tempter came to him, he determine what he in truth is? And again, said, If thou be the Son of God, command on the other hand, if Jesus pay any attention that these stones be made bread." Attend to whatever to the suggestions of Satan, he the season which he laid hold of.' It was at cannot be the Son of God, for that were to the moment that he saw Jesus ready to betray ignorance of the person who accosts faint with hunger. Attend to the place; it him, and of the design which he enterwas in the wilderness, which produced tainted. nothing fit for food. Attend to the sugges- Mark still farther “ the depths of Satan.” tion; it presents nothing apparently offen- He too, unhappily, knows what is in man: sive. He only wishes a little seasonable and he well knew what a stimulus it is to a relief to one under the pressure of the great- mind ever so slightly tinctured with pride or est distress, and that relief procured by vainglory, when placed, especially in emimeans at once simple and innocent. The nence of station, to have the power and law had relaxed somewhat of its severity in authority of that station called in question, favour of cases like the present, by exempt- 'The temptation has, in this view, the air of ing from the punishment of theft, the person a challenge to Christ, to support his high who had committed it only to satisfy his pretensions by corresponding actions, and hunger. But here there was not the shadow thus he would draw Him into a rash, impraof a crime; He had but to employ the power dent, vainglorious display of his power, which he certainly possessed, and which he without a reason and without an end. Miralawfully might exercise. It would be a cles are intended, and performed for the condemonstration of his immediate reliance on version of the incredulous, at least for their his heavenly Father; it would remove all conviction, and to render them inexcusable. doubt respecting the divinity of his mission. Unless this be in view, power ceases to be Who could refuse to acknowledge Him who under the direction of wisdom. Accordingly was thus declared to be the Son of God? we find, that whenever haughty, determined lle himself wants only
this proof, to induce unbelievers expected or demanded a sigh, it
was constantly denied them. What, has the stones into bread. " There is no occasion to Father entrusted him with his authority, to have recourse to this, or to any other extrasatisfy a malignant curiosity: and shall that ordinary, uncommanded means," is the Sapower be lavished away, in humouring the viour's reply, “the unlimited power of my obstinate and incorrigible, which is designed Father in heaven is not subjected to the for the instruction and confirmation of such necessity of supporting those who are followas love and seek the truth? How, Satan call ing the leadings of his Spirit and Provion Christ to work a miracle ? and for what dence, by bread alone; it has an infinity of end ? that he might believe in him? Was other methods to supply their wants, to prothe object of his mission to restore “ angels vide for their subsistence. Knowest thou who had left their first estate;" Had Christ, not what he did to the fathers in the desert, then, at the requisition of Satan, performed as I now am, and what the scripture saith a miracle, he could have nothing in view but upon the subject, “ Man shall not live by an ostentatious exhibition of the gifts com- bread alone, but by every word that promitted to him, which was all that the tempter ceedeth out of the mouth of God," that is, wanted.
through any other medium, “and by any This leads to a general observation on the other substance which he shall please to wisdom and moderation which ever governed appoint, and to which he shall affix his blessoúr Lord's conduct, in this respect. As he ing." It is thus that Jesus instructs his never employed his power for the purposes disciples to wield"the sword of Spirit, of his own glory, because he sought only which is the word of God;" thus he conthat of his heavenly Father, so he never founds the tempter, and, without calling himexercised it to promote his own advantage; self the Son of God, or proving that he was charity, not self-love, dictated all his words, so by working a miracle, he satisfies himself all his actions. He withdraws, he retires, with making the adversary feel it by the when he meant to provide for his own safety; wisdom of his answer, by his confidence in and He remains upon the cross when infi- God, and by a patient and profound submisdelity defied him to come down. An amiable sion to his will. view of the Son of God! In Him all power How mortifying is the contrast between appears enthroned, with wisdom standing the perseverance of wickedness in the worst on the right hand, and charity on the left; of causes, and the faintness and languor of and it is acting continually in conformity to human virtue in pursuing the best ! We are their advice. How then does he escape the easily discouraged, we are soon weary of snare laid for him by the devil with such well-doing, but the enemy of our salvation is dexterity and artifice? By an answer art- indefatigable, he goeth about continually, he lessly simple, but at the same time exactly returns still to the charge. He has failed in pointed, and directly to the purpose. The his first attempt, but he is determined to Israelites, when pressed by famine, bread make another." He goes on a principle but failing them in the wilderness, were sustain- too strongly verified by melancholy expe ed for forty years by manna falling day by rience, that every man, and in Christ be day from heaven; God substituting in place sees nothing yet but a man, that every tian of bread, the common aliment of man, a has his weak side, some sin that doth more celestial food, denominated in Scripture easily beset him, some leading propensity "angel's bread," probably because it was that rules him at pleasure, and which makes prepared and dispensed by the ministration interest, and reason, and conscience
, and of angels. This gives occasion to Moses to every thing bend to it. Let the tempter but observe, in recapitulating the conduct of find this out, and the whole man is his own. Providence toward that people
, “ the Lord He finds Jesus invulnerable on the side of thy God led thee these forty years in the sense and vainglory; he has escaped the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove snare by the wise and seasonable application thee, to know what was in thine heart, of Scripture ; but may not a net be woren to whether thou wouldest keep his command- entangle him, whose cords shall be drawn ments or no. And he humbled thee, and from Scripture itself? Here, in my appre suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with hension, lies the force of the second temptamanna, which thou knewest not, neither did tion. It is of a piece with the temptation thy fathers know, that he might make thee which prevailed over the man of God" who know that man doth not live by bread only, exclaimed against the altar which Jerobran but by every word that proceedeth out of the had erected, “ I am a Prophet also as they mouth of the Lord doth man live.”
art, and an angel spake unto me by the word Jesus was now in a situation exactly simi- of the Lord," and the tempter flattered himlar to that of the Israelites, in the barren self it would be as readily believed, and therewilderness, conducted thither by the Spirit in the deceiver deceived himself. of God, following the destination of divine “Then the devil taketh him," says the Providence : hunger presses, and the demon evangelist
, “ up into the holy city, that is urges him to find a supply by converting Jerusalem, and setteth him on a pinnacle of
the temple,” probably the summit of one of Rephidim; the supply was granted, but the the porticos, which terminated in a platform, place was marked by a name which exand were surrounded by a battlement, for the pressed displeasure: “he called the name pinnacle of the temple properly so called, of the place Meribah, strife, because of the was inaccessible, being finished in the form chiding of the children of Israel, and because of a dome, stuck full of sharp points gilded they templed the Lord, saying, Is the Lord over to prevent the birds from perching upon among us, or not?” The same offence was it. Josephus represents these porticos, espe- again committed in the wilderness of Sin, cially that on the south, as of a height so pro- under the pressure of hunger: “Can God digious, from the depth of the valley below, furnish a table in the wilderness ? can he that no head could look downward without give bread also? can he provide flesh for his becoming giddy. It was to this awful emi- people?" The miracle of relief was again nence that Satan was permitted to transport interposed. “ He commanded the clouds from the wilderness the Son of God, and from above, and opened the doors of heaventhere to propose to him to make experiment he rained down manna upon them to eat, of the power, truth, and faithfulness of God, and gave them of the corn of heaven. Man saying, “If thou be the Son of God, cast thy did eat angels' food. He rained flesh also self down; for it is written, He shall give his upon them as dust, and feathered fowls as the angels charge concerning thee; and in their sand of the sea.". But it is dangerous to put hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any the goodness and power of God to trial, and time thou dash thy foot against a stone." by impatience and importunity to extort the The proposal was wild and extravagant in indulgence of a man's own desire. God the extreme: but not less artful than ex- often withholds in love, and grants from just travagant. The import of it is plainly this, disapprobation. “They were not estranged if Jesus Christ be the Son of God, must he from their lusts; but while their meat was not repose confidence in the promises which yet in their mouths, the wrath of God came he has made, and rest assured of his constant upon them." —And for all this “they sinned care and protection? If he does not, it must still.” be from a secret distrust of his power and
We have another noted instance of a man's goodness, from a disbelief of Scripture pro- tempting his Maker, in the case of Gideon, mises, which were in effect to renounce his the son of Joash the Abi-ezrite. He had been character as the Son of God. The design of called from the threshing floor to fight the the tempter is apparent: he means to destroy, battles of his country; "the Lord looked if he can, the object of his fear and envy. upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and Persuaded that a fall from such a height thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the must prove fatal, and feeling his power li- Midianites: have not I sent thee ?" Gideon mited to art and insinuation, he tries to in- hesitates, argues, excuses himself. spire a presumptuous confidence in heaven, the Lord said unto him, Surely I will be with and thus to bring to an open test what he thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as really was, the beloved of God, concerning one man.” This does not yet overcome his whom he had given his angels charge, and diffidence; he must have a sign to cure his thereby terminate his own hopes, or ruin a unbelief. “ And he said unto him, If now I rash and fallible man, like every other whom have found grace in thy sight, then show me he had so successfully tried, and thus com- a sign that thou talkest with me. Depart plete his triumph over frail humanity. not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto
How plausible! No miracle is so likely thee, and bring forth my present, and set it to make an impression in his favour on the before thee. And he said, I will tarry until multitude below; and what security is equal thou come again.” The sign is granted. The to the promise of that God who cannot lie? offering is presented upon the rock; "then Who can sufficiently admire the calmness the angel of the Lord put forth the end of the and wisdom with which the insinuation is staff that was in his hand, and touched the repelled ? the promise is admitted, the secu- flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rity which it bestows is acknowledged, and rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the authority of Scripture is established. the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then But Scripture is not inconsistent with itself, the angel of the Lord departed out of his otherwise it were not the word of God. spi- sight." Gideon perceives that he has preritual things must therefore be compared sumed too far, and begins to tremble for his with spiritual, and it is written, “ Thou shalt life, but is instantly relieved from that ternot tempt the Lord thy God.” A man is said ror: “And the Lord said unto him, Peace be to tempt God, when he calls for extraordinary unto thee, fear not, thou shalt not die." Who and unnecessary proofs of his providential would not have deemed this proof satisfaccare, through diffidence, or to satisfy cuz tory? Is not incredulity now completely disriosity.
armed? The champion of Israel must have Thus Israel is said to have tempted the sign upon sign. “And Gideon said unto Lord, when pressed by the waut of water in God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand,
as thou hast said, behold I will pụt a fleece power will I give, and the glory of them: of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the for that is delivered unto me, and to whomfleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth soever I will I give it: If thou therefore wilt beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save worship. me, all shall be thine." By this Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, And temptation was the second Adam assailed; it was so: for he rose up early on the mora but it was resisted, repelled, and mankind row, and thrust the fleece together, and was restored. “ Jesus answered and said unwringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl. to him, Get thee behind me, Satan : for it is full of water,” Surely the contention is at written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy length come to an end, and the patience of God, and him only shalt thou serve." In God will be put to no further trial. Wonder, Christ's rejection of the former temptation O heavens, and be astonished, O earth, at the we had occasion to remark the lovely mix. presumption of man, and at the condescen- ture of wisdom and innocence; here we have sion of God: “And Gideon said unto God, an equally interesting union of wisdom and Let not thine anger be hot against me, and zeal: of wisdom, in wielding " the sword of I will speak but this once: Let me prove, I the spirit, which is the word of God;" of pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let zeal in repressing with holy indignation the it now be dry only upon the fleece; and upon insolent assumption of the empire of the all the ground let there be dew, And God world, and the no less insolent demand of did so that night: for it was dry upon the the homage and worship which are due to fleece only, and there was dew on all the Deity alone. There is a point beyond which ground," "Bụt though Deity is thus pleased patience ceases to be a virtue, and degeneto yield to the unreasonable demands of man, rates into weakness. It is particularly sai, it ill becomes man to encroach and to pre- when the name, the day, the house, the word, scribe,
the worship of the great Jehovah are impious In our Lord's repulsion of this temptation, ly invaded and profaned. The cloven foot is mark the happy union which he recommends then so apparently uncovered, that nothing to his disciples; “ Be ye wise as serpents, is left but an instantaneous and abhorrent and harmless as doves." Harmlessness dissent, “Get thee hence, Satan" Thus brings no “railing accusation,” storms not, when “the prince of this world" came, he threatens not; even the adversary is not found nothing in Christ; no weak part, do borne down by the weight of authority, but unguarded moment, no subjection to the craft is confounded by wisdom. Scripture frailties of that nature which he had assumed. mutilated, perverted, misapplied, is explain. The demon hears his own name, Satan, the ed by Scripture in its purity and simplicity; adversary, pronounced by the lips of truth, and the tempter is again made to feel his in- and feels himself detected : feriority.
Abash'd the devil stood, With a perseverance, however, worthy of And fett how awful goodness is, and saw a better cause, he returns to the charge. He
Virtue in her shape how lovely: saw, and pind
PARADISE LOST, iv. . has been able to make no impression on the side of sense, appetite, or vanity. But am- Thus our Lord's public ministry come bition is the passion of great souls; and the menced in unparalleled trials. Thus - the mighty Julius had lately furnished him with Captain of our Salvation" began his glorius an example of the irresistible power of that career, and was at length made w perfect lust.
“ If,” said the mighty conqueror, “jus- through suffering." But these things were tice is to be violated, the pleasure of domi- spoken, and done, and suffered for our sakes. neering must plead the excuse." This
Christ suffered for us, leaving us an erar "prince of the power of the air, the spirit ple that we should follow his steps.”_** Porthat worketh in the children of disobedience," asmuch as Christ hath suffered for us in the employs his permitted energies, accordingly, flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same to expand a delightfal prospect of the pomp mind."—"Beloved, think it not strange conand glory of this world, rendered still more cerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as alluring by contrast with the real horrors of though some strange thing happened unto the waste howling wilderness, from the sum- you: but rejoice inasmuch as ye are parmit of one of whose sterile mountains the takers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his vision was displayed. Over all this glory glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also Satan claims absolute and unbounded do- with exceeding joy." Draw your supplies, minion, and the sole right of disposal: a in“ the evil day," from the same sacred tresclaim, alas, but too well supported by reality; sury. "Be strong in the Lord, and in the and of the whole he tenders an immediate power of his might. Put on the whole ar transfer, on the easy condition of receiving mour of God, that ye may be able to stand homage for it. “Ye shall be as gods, know- against the wiles of the devil. For we ing good and evil" was the temptation ad-wrestle not against flesh and blood. but dressed to the first Adam, and it fatally pre- against principalities, against powers, against vailed, and mankind was undone, “All this the rulers of the darkness of this world,
against spiritual wiekedness in high places. He was delivered, raised up again, restored, Wherefore take unto you the whole armour and his fall was blessed to the consolation of God, that you may be able to withstand in and recovery of thousands : " And the Lord the evil day, and having done all to stand. said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath deStand, therefore, having your loins girt about sired to have you, that he may sift you as with truth, and having on the breastplate of wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy righteousness: and your feet shod with the faith fail not; and when thou art converted, preparation of the gospel of peace; above all strengthen thy brethren.” “ Brethren, if a taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are be able to quench all the fery darts of the spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of wicked. And take the helmet of Salvation, meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also and the sword of the Spirit, which is the be tempted.” And let him that has fallen, word of God: praying always with all prayer and hath been lifted up again, “ learn to walk and supplication in the Spirit, and watching circumspectly:" let him " not be high-mindthereunto with all perseverance and suppli- ed, but fear;" let him no longer trust in himcation for all saints."
self, but let him “trust in the name of the Good soldier of Jesus Christ, thy chief Lord, and stay upon his God;" let him be danger is from within. There is a traitor in merciful, as he hath obtained mercy. the fortress, carrying on a correspondence The grand tempter forced his way into a with the foe without. Let him be watched terrestrial paradise, into the holy city, scaled night and day; let him be sacrificed without the pinnacle of the temple, mingled with the remorse. The moment he is subdued, the sons of God, has “transformed himself into external enemy is stripped of his power, an angel of light, and ever with a design to "Watch and pray that ye enter not into waste and to destroy.” But into the paratemptation." * Be sober, be vigilant; be- dise of God," " that great city, the holy cause your adversary, the devil, as a roaring Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from lion, walketh about seeking whom he may God, shall in no wise enter any thing that devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith." defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomiThou hast a weak side; there is “a sin that nation or maketh a lie.” Blessed state ! doth easily beset” thee, and that the tempter when there shall be no inward corruption, knoweth full well, though it may have es- and no fear of assault from without. Fear caped thy own penetration. Oppose to his not, “ The God of peace shall bruise Satan cunning the wisdom which is from above. under your feet shortly." “ If God be for us, In a state of warfare, remember that no who can be against us? Who shall lay any danger is slight, and no foe contemptible. thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God “ Be faithful unto death,” and thou shalt re- that justifieth; who is he that condemneth? ceive" a crown of life.” “ To him that over. It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen cometh, saith the Amen, the faithful and true again, who is even at the right hand of God, witness, will I grant to sit with me in my who also maketh intercession for us. Who throne, even as I also overcame and am set shall separate us from the love of Christ? down with my Father in his throne." Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution,
Men and brethren, we take encourage- or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ment to resist temptation not only from the Nay, in all these things we are more than example, but from the intercession of Jesus conquerors, through him that loved us. For Christ. Peter was to pass through a fiery I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, trial, and to be singed at least, if not scorch- nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, ed in the flame. It was foreseen and fore- nor things present, nor things to come, nor told by his compassionate Master ; but he height, nor depth, nor any other creature, would not take warning; he rushed into the shall be able to separate us from the love of snare and was taken, but was not left in it. God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,"
HISTORY OF JESUS CHRIST.
And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season. And Jesus returned
in the power of the Spirit into Galilee : and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.' And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And therca de delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias : and, when he