صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

of the Spirit, that he might teach us how to resist and overcome the powers 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: now he useth that weapon wbich 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!“Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes : O take not from me the words of truth! let them be my songs in the house of my pilgrimage; so shall I make answer to my blasphemers. 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?

I do not hear our Saviour aver himself to be a God, against the blasphemous insinuation of Satan ; neither do I see him working this miraculous conversion, to prove himself the Son of God: but most wisely he takes away the ground of the teinptation. Satan had taken it for granted, that man cannot be sustained without bread ; and therefore infers the necessity of making bread of stones. Our Saviour shews him, from an infallible word, that he had mislaid bis suggestion; that man lives not by usual food only, “but by every word that proceeded from the mouth of God.” He can either sustain without bread, as he did Moses and Elias, or with a miraculous bread, as the Israelites with manna; or send ordinary means miraculously, as food to his prophet by the ravens ; or miraculously multiply ordinary means, as the meal and oil to the Sareptan widow. All things are sustained by his Almighty word. Indeed, we live by food, but not by any virtue that is without God; without the concurrence of whose providence, bread would rather choke than nourish us. Let him withdraw bis hand from his creatures, in their greatest abundance, we perish. Why do we therefore bend our eyes on the ineans, and not look up to the hand that gives the blessing?

What so necessary dependence hath the blessing upon the creature, if our prayers hold them not together? not neglect the means, so we may not neglect the procurement of a blessing upon the means, nor be unthankful to the hand that hath given the blessing. VOL.

As we may



In the first assault, Satan moyes Christ to doubt of his Father's providence, and to use. unlawful means to help himself; in the next, he moves him to presume upon his Father's protection, and the service of his blessed angels. He grounds the first upon 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 doth but invite to another.

That blessed Saviour of ours, that 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 doth 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 piece of the pinnacle

, there is Christ content to be set for the opportunity of temptation. O Saviour of men, how can we wonder enough at this humility of thine, that thou wouldst so far abase thyself as to suffer thy pure and sacred body to be transported by the presumptuous and malicious hand of that unclean spirit! It was not his power, it was thy patience that deserves our admiration. Neither can this seem overstrange to us, when we consider, that if Satan be the head of wicked men, wicked men are the members of Satan. What was Pilate, or the Jews, that persecuted thine innocence, but limbs of this devil? And why are we then amazed to see thee touched and locally transported by the head, when we see thee yielding thyself over to be crucified by the members? If Satan did the worse and greater mediately by their hands, no marvel if he do the less and easier immediately by his own ; yet neither of them without thy voluntary dispensation. He could not have looked at thee without thee. And if the Son of God did thus suffer his own holy and precious body to be carried by Satan, what wonder is it, if that enemy have sometimes power given him over the sinful bodies of the adopted sons of God? It is not the strength of faith that can secure us from the outward violences of that evil one. This difference I find betwixt his spiritual and bodily assaults: those are beaten back by the shield of faith, these admit not of such repulse. As the best man may be lame, blind, diseased, so, through the permission of God, he may be bodily vexed by an old manslayer. Grace was never given us for a target against external afflictions.

Methinks I see Christ hoised upon the highest battlements of the temple, whose very roof was an hundred and thirty cubits high, and Satan standing by him with this speech in his mouth: “Well then, since in the matter of nourishment thou wilt needs depend upon thy Father's providence, that he can without means sustain thee, take now further trial of that Providence in thy miraculous preservation; cast thyself down from this height. Behold, thou art here in Jerusalem, the famous and holy city of the world; here thou art, on the top of the pinnacle of that temple which is dedicated to thy Father, and, if thou be God, to thyself. The eyes of all men are now fixed upon thee: there cannot be devised a more ready way to spread thy glory, and to proclaim thy deity, than by casting thyself headlong to the earth. All the world will say there is more in thee than a man. And for danger, there can be none. What can hurt him that is the Son of God? and wherefore serves that glorious guard of angels, which have, by divine commission, taken upon them the charge of thine humanity? Since therefore in one act thou mayst be both safe and celebrated, trust thy Father, and those thy serviceable spirits, with thine assured preservation: Cast thyself down." And why didst thou not, O thou malignant spirit, endeavour to cast down my Saviour by those presumptuous hands that brought him up, since the descent is more easy than the raising up? was it for that it had not been so great an advantage to thee, that he should fall by thy means as by his own? Falling into sin was more than to fall from the pinnacle. Still thy care and suit is to make us authors to ourselves of evil: thou gainest nothing by our bodily hurt, if the soul be safe. Or was it rather for that thou couldst not? I doubt not but thy malice could as well have served to have offered this measure to thyself, as to his holy apostle soon after. But he that bounded thy powers, tethers thee shorter. Thou couldst not, thou canst not do what thou wouldst. He, that would permit thee to carry him up, binds thy hands from casting

him down. And woe were it for us, if thou wert not ever stinted.

Why did Satan carry up Christ so high, but on purpose that his fall might be the more deadly? So deals he still with us ; he exalts us, that we may be dangerously abased ; he puffs them up with swelling thoughts of their own worthiness, that they may be vile in the eyes of God, and fall into condemnation.

It is the manner of God to cast down that he may raise, to abase that he may exalt. Contrarily, Satan raises up that he may throw down, and intends nothing but our dejection in our advacement.

Height of place gives opportunity of temptation. Thus busy is that wicked one in working against the members of Christ. If any of them be in eminence above others, those he labours most to ruinate. They had need to stand fast, that stand high. There is both more danger of their falling, and more hurt in their fall.

He that had presumed thus far to tempt the Lord of life, would fain now dare him also to presume upon 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 bold upon 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; ihere is 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 sons, we will not cast ourselves down into sin.

How idly do Satan and wicked men measure God by the crooked line of their own misconceit! I wist Christ cannot be the Son of God, unless he cast himself down from the pinnacle, unless he come down from the cross. God is not merciful, unless he honour them in all their desires; not just, unless he take speedy vengeance where they require it. But when they have spent their folly upon these vain imaginations, Christ is the Son of God, though he stay on the top


the temple; God will be merciful, though we miscarry; and just, though sinners seem lawless ; neither will he be any other than he is, or measured by any rule but himself.

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 doth subtilty strive with presumption! who could not but over-wonder at this, if he did not consider, that since the devil dared to touch the sacred body of Christ with his hand, he may well touch the scriptures of God with his tongue ? Let no man henceforth marvel to hear heretics or hypocrites quote scriptures, when Satan himself hath not spared to cite them. What are they the worse for this, more than that holy body which is transported ? Some have been poisoned by their meats and drinks; yet either these nourish us, or nothing. It is not the letter of the scripture that can carry it, but the sense; if we divide these two, we profane and abuse that word we allege. And wherefore doth this foul spirit urge a text, but for imitation, for prevention, and for success ? Christ had alleged a scripture unto him, he re-alleges scripture unto Christ; at least ways, he will counterfeit an imitation of the Son of God. Neither is it in this alone : what one act ever passed the hand of God, which Satan did not apishly attempt to second ? If we follow Christ in the outward action, with contrary intentions, we follow Satan in following Christ. Or, perhaps, Satan meant to make Christ hereby weary of this weapon, as we see fashions, when they are taken up of the unworthy, are cast off by the great. It was, doubtless, one cause why Christ afterward forbade the devil even to confess the truth, because his mouth was a slander. But chiefly doth be this, for a better colour of his temptation : he gilds over this false metal with scripture, that it may pass current. Even now is Satan transformed into an angel of light, and will seem godly for a mischief. If hypocrites make a fair shew, to deceive with a glorious lustre of holiness, we see wbence they borrowed it. How many thousand souls are betrayed by the abuse of that word, whose use is sovereign and saving! No devil is so dangerous as the religious devil. If good meat turn to the nourishment, not of nature, but of the disease, we may not forbear to feed, but endeavour to purge the body of those evil humours which cause the stomach to work against itself. O God, thou that hast given us light, give

« السابقةمتابعة »