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shortsighted mortals; but it would appear, from what may be humbly learnt and inferred from this transaction, that our blessed Lord's temptation by Satan was a necessary part in the Divine economy towards accomplishing the redemption of mankind.
Scripture instructs us that the devil is an evil spirit; the great enemy of mankind, who is permitted to try their hearts by tempting them to disobey God, and “ seek the pleasures of sin for a season.” At the beginning, he succeeded in beguiling Eve through his “ subtlety," and so brought the world under condemnation. He still endeavours to keep every individual in thraldom: to prevent their recovery to God, or to pervert them from the stedfastness of their obedience.
It formed a part of that mysterious plan of mercy now devised for the restoration of the world, that the Redeemer should be tried by the enmity of that evil spirit, whose works he came to destroy: therefore he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. It formed a necessary part of the scheme of man's redemption. It was foreseen : it was appointed.
66 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness.” That Spirit which attended him always, now prompted him to retire from the company and the abodes of man, and to devote himself to prayer and fasting And the purpose
of this preparation was equally decreed. He was led up into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.”
The mode of temptation employed here is not unlike that used towards Eve-(Gen. iii. 1.) —“ Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden." If thou be the Son of God, his beloved Son, let a proof be seen of his favour. To shake our faith in God is the first object of the spiritual enemy.
How beautiful is the reply! Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. There is something more needful to man than the supply of his temporal wants. The worst famine is not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.”—Amos viii. 11.
We naturally ask, what made this trial necessary. Our Lord was now entering upon his ministry, which should fulfil the original prophecy, and “ bruise the serpent's head.” The dominion of Satan had too long prevailed; he had earned the title of “ god of this world,” “ prince of this world;” men were led captive by him at his will. 66 The Son of God was manifested,” that he might break this way; "might destroy the works of the devil.” But Satan, we must believe, was aware of this great purpose. Without doubt he would endeavour to counteract it. He knew that the “ Word was made flesh, and was dwelling among” men, “ in form and fashion as a man.” And as he had heretofore prevailed over flesh and blood, even though made “ in the likeness of God,” after his image ; so he might hope to prevail again, and retain the world in his own power. Blessed be God, greater is he that is in us, than he that is in the world! Jesus showed himself incapable of sin,—invincible by Satan: and so began his ministry as the Saviour of mankind, by proving his superiority over the destroyer of mankind.
Another reason made this temptation necessary. Jesus had taken our nature upon him, not only that he might be able in that nature to offer a satisfaction for our sins, but that, having belonged to our nature, and been subject to our trials, he might become a fit and proper example to his followers of complete and victorious virtue. We contend not, in our exertion for heaven, “ against flesh and blood alone, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”—Eph. vi. 12. Temptation « is common to man :" therefore was the “ Captain of our salvation made perfect," not without temptation. And having been so tried, and having proved victorious in the conflict, he has left us an example that we “ resist the devil, and he will flee from us :” though still an enemy, he is a conquered enemy: Christ has defeated and disarmed him; and now encourages us with the comfortable reflection, that " we have not an High Priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are;” so that inasmuch as he “himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.”—Heb. vi. 15; ii. 18.
Blessed Lord! enable us to go forth against the enemy of our souls, encouraged by thy example, and strengthened by thy power !
BISHOP J. B. SUMNER.
When he had fasted forty days. It is remarkable that Moses, the great lawgiver of the Jews, previously to his receiving the Law from God, fasted forty days in the mount; that Elijah, the chief of the prophets, fasted also forty days; and that Christ, the giver of the New Covenant, should act in the same way. Was not all this intended to show, that God's kingdom on earth was to be spiritual and divine ? — that it should not consist in meat and drink, but in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost ?
— Rom. xiv. 17. Relative to the forty days' fast of Moses, there is a beautiful saying in the Talmudists. “Is it possible that any man can fast forty days and forty nights ? To which Rabbi Meir answered, When thou takest up thy abode in any particular city, thou must live according to its customs. Moses ascended to heaven, where they neither eat nor drink, therefore he became assimilated to them. We are accustomed to eat and drink; and when angels descend to us, they eat and drink also.” Moses, Elijah, and our blessed Lord, could fast forty days and forty nights, because they were in communion with God, and living a heavenly life.
The devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world. Abbé Mariti, speaking of this mountain, says, “ Here we enjoy the most beautiful prospect imaginable. This part of the mountain overlooks the mountains of Arabia, the country of Gilead, the country of the Amorites, the plains of Moab, the plains of Jericho, the river Jordan, and the whole extent of the Dead Sea. It was here that the devil said to the Son of God, All these kingdoms will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." What renders this probable is, that at this time Judea was divided into several kingdoms, or governments, under the three sons of Herod the Great, viz. Archelaus, Antipas,
and Philip; which are not only called Ethnarchs and Tetrarchs in the Gospels, but also Kings and are said to reign. DR. A. CLARKE.
We went out [of Jerusalem) at St. Stephen's gate, being in all, of every nation and sex, about two thousand pilgrims. Having crossed the valley of Jehoshaphat, and part of Mount Olivet, we came in half an hour to Bethany, at present only a small village. At the first entrance into it is an old ruin, which they call Lazarus's castle, supposed to have been the mansionhouse of that favourite of our Lord. About a bow-shot from hence you pass by the place which, they say, was Mary Magdalene's habitation; and then descending a steep hill, you come to the Fountain of the Apostles ; so called, because, as tradition goes, those holy persons were wont to refresh themselves here, in their frequent travels between Jerusalem and Jericho.
From this place you proceed in an intricate way amongst hills and valleys interchangeably; all of a very barren aspect at present, but discovering evident signs of the labour of the husbandman in ancient times. After some hours' travel in this sort of road, you arrive at the mountainous desert into which our blessed Saviour was led by the Spirit, to be tempted by the devil. A most miserable, dry, barren place it is, consisting of high rocky mountains, so torn and disordered, as if the earth had here suffered some great convulsion, in which its very bowels had been turned outward. On the left hand, looking down in a deep valley, as we passed along, we saw some ruins of small cells and cottages, which, they told us, were formerly the habitations of hermits retiring hither for penance and mortification : and, certainly, there could not be found in the whole earth a more comfortless and abandoned place for that purpose. From the top of these hills of desolation, we had, however, a delightful prospect of the mountains of Arabia, the Dead Sea, and the plain of Jericho, into which last place we descended after about five hours' march from Jerusalem. As soon as we entered the plain, we turned upon the left hand, and going about one hour that way, came to the foot of the Quarantania, which, they say, is the mountain into which the devil took our blessed Saviour when he tempted him with that visionary scene of all the kingdoms and glories of the world. It is, as St. Matthew styles it, an exceeding high mountain, and in its ascent not only difficult but dangerous. It has a small chapel at the top, and another about half-way up, founded upon a prominent part of the rock: near this latter are several caves and holes in the side of the mountain, made use of anciently by hermits, and by some at this day for places to keep their Lent in, in imitation of that of our blessed Saviour.
Rev. HENRY MAUNDRELL.
How replete with instruction is this history! It affords a striking representation of the power, the malice, and the subtlety of our adversary, and the nature of the warfare to which we are called. You, who follow Christ, must “ resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” (Jam. iv. 7,) as he did from Jesus. For this purpose, besides the other parts of the Christian's armour, “ take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”— Eph. vi. 17. Your Saviour has left you a noble example. Study how you may use this weapon to the best advantage; that, like him, you may be able to answer and repel every suggestion with, “ It is written."
Here, also, are exhibited the grace and tenderness of our Redeemer. How astonishing the humiliation to which he submitted ! Painful to himself, yet most salutary in its consequences to us! Now we are assured that “he is able to succour you who are tempted” (Heb. ii. 18); that he is “ touched with the feeling of your infirmities,” iv. 15; and that he “ will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape.”—1 Cor. x. 13. Yes, in due time you shall triumph over all the malice of your enemies. The victory of Jesus was an earnest of victory to his people. 66 The God of
shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly."-Rom. xvi. 20. Angels are anxiously observing your conduct. In the view of such witnesses, “ stand fast in the faith, quit you like men,—be strong,” (1 Cor. xvi. 13,)—and soon they will congratulate you on having obtained a glorious and everlasting conquest. If
you make no resistance, but willingly comply with the solicitations of Satan, the prince of darkness holds his palace in your hearts; and while you allow him the possession, he will not disturb you. But you are no other than his vassals, “ led captive by him at his will.” We entreat you to arise, and assert your liberty: for to what tremendous consequences will a continuance in your present bondage lead ! Cry to God that he would rescue you
from it, “ deliver you from the power of darkness, and translate you into the kingdom of his dear Son.”—Col. i. 13.
Rev. THOMAS ROBINSON.
Who can read this account without amazement, when he compares the insolence and malice of the prince of darkness, with the condescension and grace of the Son of God ?
What was it that animated and emboldened Satan to undertake such a work? Was it the easy victory he had obtained over the first Adam in Paradise ? — or was it that he arrogantly concluded, that no heart could stand against the temptations of pride and ambition ? Could he, who afterwards proclaimed Christ to be the Son of the Most High God, and had perhaps but lately heard him owned as such by a voice from heaven, make any doubt of his Divinity? Could he expect to vanquish time? We
may rather conclude that he did not expect it; but, mad with despair, he was determined to worry that Lamb of God, which he knew he could not devour ; and to vex with his hellish suggestions that innocent and holy soul, which he knew he never could seduce. Wretched degeneracy! How art thou fallen, O Lucifer, son of the morning! to be thus eagerly driving on thine own repulse and disgrace !
But, on the other hand, how highly are we obliged to our great Deliverer! Who can sufficiently adore thy condescension, O blessed Jesus ! who wouldst permit thyself to be assaulted, and led from place to place by an infernal spirit, whom thou couldst in a moment have remanded back to hell, to be bound in chains of darkness, and overwhelmed with flaming ruin !
The apostle tells us why he permitted this : it was, that having himself suffered, being tempted, he might, by this experience he had of Satan's subtlety, and of the strength of his temptations, contract an additional tenderness, and be the more inclined, as well as better able, to succour us when we are tempted. —Heb. ii. 18. Let this embolden' us to come unto the throne of grace, to obtain mercy, and to find grace to help in every time of need.—Heb. iv. 16.
Let us remember and imitate the conduct of the great Captain of our salvation; and, like him, let us learn to resist Satan, that he may flee from us. Like Christ, let us maintain such a dependence on the Divine blessing, as never to venture out of the way of it, be the necessity ever so urgent; nor let us ever expose ourselves to unnecessary danger in expectation of extraordinary deliverance. Like him, let us learn to overcome the world, and to despise all its pomps and vanities, when offered at the price of our innocence.
To furnish ourselves for such a combat, let us take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Let us not only make ourselves familiarly acquainted with the words of Scripture, but let us study to enter into the true design and meaning of it; that so, if Satan should attempt to draw his artillery from thence, we may be able to guard against the most powerful stratagem, and to answer perverted passages of holy writ by others more justly applied.
Once more; when the suggestions of Satan grow most horrible, let us not conclude that we are utterly abandoned by God, because we are proved by such a trial, since Christ himself was even tempted to worship the infernal tyrant : but, in such cases, let us resolutely repel the solicitation, rather than parley with it, and say, in imitation of our Lord's example, and with dependence on his grace, Get thee behind me, Satan.
How often do the greatest temptations succeed the highest testimonies of God's love! As soon as our blessed Lord himself had been owned from heaven as the Son of God, and filled with his Spirit, he was tempted, like as we are, yet without sin, but came off with triumph, that he might be able to succour them that are tempted. When Satan, taking the advantage of necessitous and dangerous circumstances, put him upon first distrusting, and then presuming upon, the promise of God; and when he grew so insolent as to offer him the possession and the government of the world, upon condition of his paying religious worship to him, as God's delegate, which is due to none but God himself, Christ defeated all his assaults by the sword of the Spirit, thereby setting us an example, and showing us the way to resist and overcome every temptation through him that loved us. O what dreadful work has sin made! It has turned once good and holy angels into malicious and unclean spirits ; has perverted human nature, and subjected it to the devil's cruel tyranny. But what a gracious, suitable, and Al. mighty Saviour have we! He is the sovereign Lord of life and death, of devils and men. How excellent is his doctrine! How gloriously did