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on his work, his public ministry. Thus look to be assailed, when thou art to engage in any special service. Each according to his place will find this: when he is upon some purpose of honouring God in any particular undertaking or course, and is nearest the performance, then shall the strength of hell be mustered up against him. Now, knowing it to be thus, this ought rather to embolden than discourage us in any such way. This expert enemy knows his interest well, and does not thus bestir himself lightly, but feels that his kingdom is in danger, and that he shall certainly be a loser.
Now, as this is incident to every Christian, and particularly, according to the eminency of their service, to ministers of Jesus Christ, as here to him when towards entering on his own ministry, so, in this, they should reinforce themselves in him; should follow him on, and apply and employ him for the victory.
This [Temptation] was one of Luther's schoolmasters, and so it is to all the servants of Christ; and so are all the three, Prayer, Meditation, and Temptation. And this is very needful, that both with the more skill, and with the more compassion, they may be helpful to them that are tempted. Certainly in all things, experience gives the deepest sense and the readiest faculties. He who was here tempted, could know more by speculation than ever any man; yet was it found meet, that even He should be trained by the experience of these things, as in that cited place, Heb. ii. 10.-perfected as captain, made a complete commander by hard services, sufferings, and temptations. So, Heb. iv. 15. and v. 2-8. Men expert in war, laugh at the learnedest discourse of pedants, as is reported of Hannibal.
Oh! heart feeling is a main thing in this. It is going to the wrong hand, for a troubled or tempted Christian to go to an untroubled, untempted minister, who never knew what that meant. Their errand takes not: they find little ease in complaining of their grief to him that never felt such a thing; as Nazianzen observes, that they who are stung with a serpent, cannot endure to bemoan themselves to any but some that
have felt the pain. To have found such trouble, and then an issue, such and such comfort,-Oh, it enables much in that case. See 2 Cor. i. 4, 6.
Led by the Spirit.] That same Spirit that came down on him in baptism, chap. iii., here leads him forth to his conflict, not for this alone, to seek it, but leads for such exercise there, wherein it was designed and appointed to meet him. The Spirit in us, doth not carry us wilfully seeking of temptations; yea, we pray by His direction who was thus led, that we may not be led into temptations; that is, that we may be so led into them as not to be left to them and foiled in them; but he leads us into those places and employments, when we follow his leading, wherein, by God's disposal, we do meet with temptations. And to be thus led any way whatsoever, is safe, and the issue happy, as here it was. That is sweet in all things, to be carried; not to go of ourselves any way, but that of each step it may be said, Led by the Spirit. Led to be tempted, on purpose that he might return with the glory of the victory.
Into the wilderness.] This is the field chosen for this duel betwixt the roaring lion of the bottomless pit and the royal lion of the tribe of Judah. This Serpent tempted the first Adam in the garden, and the Second Adam in the wilderness, with different success indeed; and ever since doth still tempt the posterity of both, in all variety of places and conditions, in several ways suitable. Company and conversation have their temptations, and solitude, even the wilderness, hath its own too. No place or estate on earth is privileged; no business, not lawful labouring, eating and drinking, yea, not fasting and praying; yea, in these are readily the most assaults, but in them likewise the sweetest victory as here.
Ver. 2. And when he had fasted forty days.] Though this was a miraculous and extraordinary fast, as a mark of his extraordinary person and calling, and of the ministry of the Gospel's harmoniously according with the Law and the Prophets, Moses and Elias, yet, surely a holy fast it was, wherein
our Saviour (as those his forerunners, no doubt,) fed upon prayer and Divine contemplation.
He hungered.] So all along, as in this fast, so, with his following hunger, Divine power combined with human weakness, such as was sinless.
Ver. 3. If thou be the Son of God.] Doubtless the Tempter was in some doubt himself about this; though he saw many concurrent proofs of it, yet thought possibly it might be otherwise, and therefore tries. And as he expresses his own doubt, so he suggests the doubt to our Saviour. It is vain to specify these three temptations by three particular sins, for they are each complicated and made up of variety, as usually all sins are. In this I would not exclude something of working on appetite, stirring to an impatient, intemperate haste in satisfying that; and the exception is weak, that it is not delicacies, but bread that is propounded, for that is as strong a temptation in extreme hunger, as delicacies; but the main is unbelief, and so making haste. So, in the first temptation of our first parents, the matter of pleasing appetite made some ingredient, but the chief thing was unbelief: Yea, hath God said? Gen. iii. 6. And so here, If thou be the Son of God. And as that was joined to pride, stirring them to a proud desire to be gods, so, in this case, Satan aims at drawing a needless shew of it, that Christ was God. And our Saviour's answer meets all these suggestions: that of his pressing hunger, finding another answer for it than bread; that is not the only thing for it; that of doubting or unbelief, (as it was the main evil, so the main of the answer stands opposed to it,) trusting in the word of God, that is, in His power and effectual support. I need not myself try conclusions to see whether I be the Son of God, nor (which answers the bent of it) need I at this time give a trial that I am the Son of God. So he diverts the satisfying him in that point of his Godhead, and answers only for a man: Man shall not live upon bread alone, &c.
The second and third temptations, whether they were by change of place, or representation of species, as I think it
cannot be forcibly either concluded or refuted either way, so it is not of much benefit or importance that it should be. The notion of throwing him down headlong, (though it is not thus urged by any that I remember,) seems to me with the strongest appearance to incline to a real standing upon the place; for if not, then it was necessary that both the place and the steepness, should not only be represented to our Saviour's imagination, but that he should really believe that he was there; otherwise, the temptation of casting himself down from thence, were altogether null, and could have no place. Nor, though it may be granted that he might suffer a false representation, (somewhat of which must likely be allowed, to make up the third temptation, with the advantage of a high mountain,) yet, whether we may fairly admit in our Saviour, an apprehension of such a false representation as true, should be considered.
But leaving that, we find the second temptation to be, clearly, to a presumptuous tempting of God, and the third, to the horriblest apostasy from God, even to worshipping of the devil, and that baited with an offer of the world; first to commit idolatry to it, and then next, to himself for it. He is clearly beat off in all; it could not be otherwise. But truly this may seem strange, that Satan durst suggest such horrid, foul notions, to so holy, so singularly a holy man, for that at least he knew him to be, and had strong suspicions that he was more than a man, even the Son of God.
And this I think the sovereign satisfaction of a soul, in the matter of blasphemous injections, which many, even holy persons, are troubled with: much is said to it by many; but surely there is nothing like the view of this instance. That he uses thee so, what wonder? He had the hardiness even to use thy Lord so, who was so high above all stain of sin, as in all things, so in these. True indeed, we cannot well avoid all soil, but some guilt sticks to us; as from the throwing of a dirty ball against the wall, though it is presently beat back, yet it leaves a spot behind; our nature being so easily receptive of sinful defilement. But he was altogether undefilable
in all assaults; yet this is our grand comfort, that he was tempted, and even that with such vile things. So then, if finding any such thing, cry to him for help, as one who can feel it, and entreat him to see how grating these thoughts are to thee, and to pity thee, and repel Satan; and he will do it, and will account those not thy sin at all, but his, and if any thing stick, will wash it off with his own blood.
Observe. The Devil can cite scripture. Receive not, then, every thing at first, that comes with an it is written; and as not every thing of men's opinions thus backed, so, not those doubts that are raised within thee, and managed against thee in this way. How often does Satan make a poor believer at a stand by some scripture objection! But take this course, follow thy Captain in this. Satan is a liar, and cuts and pares when he cites; as he here left out, thy ways, to make room for, Cast thyself headlong, which was not the way. Now, our Saviour does not contest with him about this, takes no notice of that sleight, but, in a plain, full counter-blow, beats him out of it, gives him another it is written, that carries clear how he abused his. And there is admirable wisdom in this, much more than if he had disputed about the word which all observe here, was cunningly left out; for in this, our Saviour teaches us our better way in this case, either with perverse men, in the avouching of their errors, or with Satan, in his thus assaulting us with misalleged scripture, not so much to subtilize about the very place or words abused. It may be so cunningly done sometimes, that we cannot well find it out; but this downright, sure way beats off the sophister with another place, clearly and plainly carrying that truth which he opposes and we adhere to. So, though thou canst not clear the sense of an obscure scripture, thou shalt always find a sufficient guard in another that is clearer.
Our Saviour was pleased thus to bear many assaults, and thus to fence and beat off the Tempter by the word, both for our instruction and comfort, who otherwise, for himself, could immediately have repelled him, and sent him back at first.