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O God, how should I look to escape the suggestions of that wicked one, when the Son of thy love cannot be free? when even grace itself draws on enmity? That enmity which spared not to strike at the Head, will it forbear the weakest and remotest limb? Arm thou me, therefore, with an expectation of that evil I cannot avoid. Make thou me as strong as he is malicious. Say to my soul also, “Thou art my son;" and then let Satan do his worst.
All the time of our Saviour's obscurity we do not find him thus assaulted; now he looks forth to the public execution of his Divine office, Satan bends his forces against him. Our privacy, perhaps, may sit down in peace; but never man did endeavour a common good, without opposition. It is a sign that both the work is holy and the agent faithful, when we meet with strong affronts.
We have reason to be comforted with nothing so much as with resistance. If we were not in a way to do good, we should find no rubs. Satan hath no cause to molest his own; and that while they go about his own service. He desires nothing more than to make us smooth paths to sin; but when we would turn our feet to holiness, he blocks up the way with temptations.
We have not a Saviour and High-priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but such a one as was in all things tempted in like sort, yet without sin. How boldly therefore may we go unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and find grace of help in time of need! Now, we see by this conflict of our almighty Champion, what manner of adversary we have; how he fights, how he is resisted, how overcome. Now, our very temptation affords us comfort, in that we see, the dearer we are unto God, the more obnoxious we are to this trial; neither can we be discouraged by the heinousness of those evils whereto we are moved, since we see the Son of God solicited to infidelity, covetousness, idolatry. How glorious therefore was it for thee, O Saviour, how happy for us, that thou wert tempted!
Where, then, wast thou tempted, O blessed Jesus ? or whither wentest thou, to meet with our great adversary ? -Into the vast wilderness, the habitation of beasts; place that carries in it both horror and opportunity. Why wouldest thou thus retire thyself from men? But, as
confident champions are wont to give advantage of ground or weapon to their antagonist, that the glory of their victory may be the greater, so wouldest thou, O Saviour, in this conflict with our common enemy, yield him his own terms for circumstances, that thine honour and his foil may be the more.
Solitariness is no small help to the speed of a temptation: “Wo to him that is alone; for if he fall, there is not a second to lift him up.” It was enough for thee, to whose Divine power the gates of hell were weakness, thus to challenge the prince of darkness. Our care must be always to keep from all occasions of spiritual danger; and, as far as we can, to get us out of the reach of temptations.
The Spirit led thee; it did not drive thee : here was a sweet invitation; no compulsion of violence. So absolutely conformable was thy will to thy Deity, as if both thy natures had but one volition. In this first draught of thy bitter potion, thy soul said, in a real subjection, “Not my will, but thy will be done.” We imitate thee, O Saviour, though we cannot reach to thee. All thy people are led by thy Spirit; 0, teach us to forget that we have wills of our
The Spirit led thee; thine invincible strength did not animate thee into this combat, uncalled. What! do we. weaklings so far presume on our abilities or success, as that we dare thrust ourselves on temptations, unbidden, unwarranted? Who can pity the shipwreck of those mariners who will needs put forth, and hoist sails in a tempest ?
In every temptation there is an appearance of good, whether of the body, of mind, or estate: the first is, the “lust of the flesh," in any carnal desire; the second, the “pride of” heart and “life;" the third, the “lust of the eyes.”
To all these the first Adam is tempted, and in all miscarried: the Second Adam is tempted to them all, and overcometh. The first man was tempted to carnal appetite by the forbidden fruit; to pride, by the suggestion of being as God; to covetousness, by the ambitious desire of knowing good and evil.
Satan having found all the motions so successful with the first Adam in his innocent estate, will now tread the same steps in his temptations of the Second. The stones must be made bread; there is the motion to a carnal appetite: the guard and attendance of angels must be presumed on; there is a motion to pride: the kingdoms of the
earth, and the glory of them must be offered; there is a temptation to covetousness and ambition.
To turn stones into bread had been no more faulty in itself, than to turn water into wine; but to do this in a distrust of his Father's providence, to abuse his power and liberty in doing it, to work a miracle of Satan's choice, had been unlike the Son of God.
There is nothing more ordinary with our spiritual enemy, than, by occasion of want, to move us to unwarrantable
"Thou art poor; steal : thou canst not rise by honest means; use those that are indirect.” How easy
had it been for our Saviour to have confounded Satan by the power of his Godhead! But he rather chooses to vanquish him by the sword of the Spirit, that he might teach us how to resist and overcome the of darkness. If he had subdued Satan by the almighty power of the Deity, we might have had what to wonder at, not what to imitate: he uses that weapon which may be familiar unto us, that he may teach our weakness how to be victorious.
Nothing in heaven or earth can beat the forces of hell, but the word of God. How carefully should we furnish ourselves with this powerful munition! How should our hearts and mouths be full of it! What needed Christ to have answered Satan at all, if it had not been to teach us that temptations must not have their way, but must be answered by resistance, and resisted by the word ?
In the first assault Satan moves Christ to doubt of his Father's providence, and to use unlawful means to help himself: in the next, he moves him to presume on his Father's protection, and the service of his blessed angels. He grounds the first on a conceit of want; the next of abundance. If he be in extremes, it is all to one end, to mislead unto evil. If we cannot be driven down to despair, he labours to lift us up to presumption. It is not one foil that can put this bold spirit out of countenance. Temptations, like waves, break one in the neck of another. While we are in this warfare, we must make account that the repulse of one temptation does but invite to another.
That blessed Saviour of ours, who was content to be led from Jordan into the wilderness, for the advantage of the first temptation, yields to be led from the wilderness to Jerusalem, for the advantage of the second. The place does not a little avail to the act. The wilderness was fit for a temptation arising from want; it was not fit for a temptation moving to vain-glory: the populous city was the fittest for such a motion. Jerusalem was the glory of the world; the temple was the glory of Jerusalem; the pinnacles, the highest part of the temple: there is Christ content to be set for the opportunity of temptation.
He that had presumed thus far to tempt the Lord of life, would fain now dare him also to presume on his Deity: “ If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down.”
There is not a more tried shaft in all his quiver than this—a persuasion to men to bear themselves too boldly on the favour of God. “Thou art the elect and redeemed of God: sin, because grace hath abounded; sin, that it may abound. Thou art safe enough, though thou offend; be not too much an adversary to thine own liberty.” False spirit! it is no liberty to sin, but servitude rather: there is no liberty but in the freedom from sin. Every one of us that hath the hope of sons, must purge himself, even as He is pure,” that hath redeemed us. “We are bought with a price, therefore must we glorify God in our body and spirits,” for they are God's. Our sonship teaches us awe and obedience; and therefore, because we are sous, we will not cast ourselves down into sin.
But what is this I see? Satan himself with a bible under his arm, with a text in his mouth! “It is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee.” How, still, in that wicked one, does subtlety strive with presumption! Let no man marvel to hear heretics or hypocrites quote scriptures, when Satan himself has cited them.
What can be a better act than to speak scripture ? It were a wonder if Satan should do a good thing well. He cites scripture, then, but with mutilation and distortion: it comes not out of his mouth till maimed and perverted: one part is left, all misapplied. Those that wrest or mangle scripture for their own turn, it is easy to see from what school they come. Let us take the word from the Author, not from the usurper.
“He shall give his angels charge over thee:” O comfortable assurance of our protection! God's children never go unattended. What creatures so glorious as the angels of heaven? yet their Maker hath set them to serve us.
adoption makes us at once great and safe. We may be contemptible and ignominious in the eyes of the world; but the angels of God observe us the while, and scorn not to wait on us. No walls, no bolts, can sever them from our sides: they accompany us in dungeons; they go with us into our exile. How can we either fear danger or complain of solitariness, while we have such inseparable, such glorious companions ?
It is true that God hath taken this care, and given this charge, of his own: he will have them kept, not in their sius : they may trust him; they may not tempt him: he meant to encourage their faith, not their presumption. To cast ourselves on any immediate providence when means fail not, is to disobey, instead of believing God. We may challenge God on his word; we may not strain him beyond it: we may make account of what he promised; we may not subject his promises to unjust examinations; and, where no need is, we must not make trial of his power, justice, mercy, by devices of our own.
All the devils in hell could not elude the force of this Divine answer: and now Satan sees how vainly he tempted Christ to tempt God.
Still does that subtle serpent traverse his ground for an advantage. The temple is not high enough for his next temptation; he therefore carries up Christ to the top of an exceeding high mountain. If the obscure country will not move us, he tries what the court can do; if not our home, the tavern; if not the field, our closet. As no place is left free by his malice, so no place must be made prejudicial by our carelessness; and as we should always watch ourselves, so most, when the opportunity carries cause of suspicion.
Wherefore is Christ carried up so high, but for prospect? If the kingdoms of the earth and their glory were only to be presented to his imagination, the valley would have served; if to the outward sense, no hill could suffice. This show was made to both : divers kingdoms lying round about Judea were represented to the eye; the glory of them to the imagination. Satan meant the eye could tempt the fancy, no less than the fancy could tempt the will. How many thousand souls have died of the wound of the eye! If we do not let in sin at the window of the eye, or the door of the ear, it cannot enter into our hearts.