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The truth being established that there exists a company of evil spirits, continually employed in resisting the power of God, and stirring up his creatures to rebel against his authority, it is not to be expected that in every instance cited as illustrating this truth, precise mention by name should be made of those who are clearly exhibited in that work. Very many cases may be adduced where such mention is distinctly made ; and in tracing others to the same source, we must bear in mind the apostolic warning, “ Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted of evil, neither tempteth he any man ; but every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed.” James i. 13, 14. The plan, therefore, of Satan is to watch the indications of our prevailing corruptions, and to provide us with opportunities of gratifying them, that lust when it hath conceived may the more readily bring forth the sin which, as the enemy well knows, will, when it is finished, bring forth death.
Nor is it to the evil passions alone that he appeals ;
his daring knows no bounds. Even in the holy nature of the man Christ Jesus, as untainted by original or by actual sin, he could seek for somewhat whereon to build a powerful temptation. He had been incessantly assailing the patient Saviour in the wilderness, during forty days; at the end of which he saw him tor. tured by the cravings of a hunger, which the termination of his prescribed season of fasting left him at liberty to satisfy. Now it would have been every whit as easy for our Lord, by the putting forth of his infinite power, to transform a stone into bread, as to mul. tiply five loaves to the satisfying of five thousand people; or out of the stones of the temple to raise chil. dren unto Abraham. The desire for food was natural, lawful; yea, it was a duty to satisfy it, since prolonged abstinence must end in self-murder. We may indulge in guesses and suppositions as to the precise grounds on which the suggestion stood as a temptation of the Devil, but all that we can certainly know is, the fact, that so it was, and that as such it was rejected. Coming as it did in the shape of a proposal merely to satisfy a human want by means of his divine power, we see the deep craftiness of this insidious and perfidi. ous tempter, and learn a solemn lesson of perpetual watchfulness, and careful sifting of whatever is sug. gested to our minds, whether by outward circumstances, the counsel of friends, or the seemingly intuitive suggestions of our own minds : for he who assailed the * Master will not spare the servant.
Again, the object of our Lord's incarnation was to wrest from Satan the kingship of the world ; to cast
him out of his possessions, to take the prey from the mighty, and deliver the lawful captive. This was to be accomplished by exceeding bitter sufferings, of which a foretaste was then present, in the pangs of extreme hunger. Humanity shrank from what Deity foreknew; and we have very touching statements from the evangelists, of the anguish that overwhelmed the blessed Jesus on the near approach of the climax of his woes. He was even brought to pray,
“O my Fa. ther, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me!" Matt. xxvi. 39. Yet in all this not a taint of evil existed; it was the innocent shrinking of innocent, holy flesh, from intense tortures. Of this Satan seems to have taken his next advantage; for he exhibited to the divine object of his infernal artifices all the kingdoms of the world, with a reference to his own acknowledged sovereignty over them, and proposed terms on which he would consent to abdicate in favour of his dreaded opponent, so rendering needless the terrific conflict in which the Lord must engage to effect his expulsion by force. This was a most refined temptation : it proposed a single momentary act of homage, in acknowledgment of the existing supremacy of that enthroned rebel and traitor, to be followed by the instantaneous resignation of his usurped dominion into the hands of the rightful King. He saw the mortal frame drooping under prolonged inanition; he knew how closely the human mind naturally sympathized with the body's feebleness: he calculated on the effect of forty days' endurance of hunger, thirst, weariness, solitude, and unsheltered exposure; and he, the Devil, the liar and
the murderer, boldly ventured on a proposition, the nature of which sends a shudder through the heart of the Christian, for whose sake the Lord of Glory was exposed to such an indignity as this ! But it gives a very terrible view of the self-confident greatness of the adversary. May it sink deep into our minds, and fill us with that salutary fear which shall keep us ever mindful of the foe's devices.
The Lord's reply was strongly indignant; “Get thee hence, Satan!" But now this holy indignation, this desire to be freed from the presence of the archfiend, who had been harassing him for forty days and nights, this detestation of his odious suggestions, was next laid hold of as the ground-work of a third temptation. By the exercise of that mysterious power, of the nature of which, we must remain ignorant, but ought never to be forgetful, the devil placed his destined conqueror on a pinnacle of the temple in Jerusa. lem, and calling to his aid the Scriptures, which had been successfully opposed to his preceding attempts, he invited the Saviour to cast himself down; " for it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee, and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone." Ļuke iv. 10, 11. To be at once delivered from the immediate presence of Satan, and received into the arms of the holy angels; while to decline it was apparently to shrink not only from the proof of his divinity, but also from a test of individual faith in the promise of God : this was a snare, the craft and subtle, ty of which are not always sufficiently considered.;
nor the practical use of the lesson regarded. For, be it remembered, it was no necessary part of our redemption to make us acquainted with such a passage in our Lord's experience: the Holy Ghost has very sparingly revealed to us the particulars of what was by far the most grievous portion of his sufferings : we are not told what took place during the forty days, throughout the whole period of which St. Luke tells us, he was tempted of the devil. The thorny crown, the scourge, the nails, the spear, were the lot of many others, whose physical frames suffered, perhaps, no less exquisitely the pangs of a torturing death ; but here we have a glimpse of mental and spiritual endur. ances, such as would crush the whole mass of guilty men- the travail of his soul” the 56 sorrows the “grief;" the heavy pressure wherewith “it pleas ed the Lord to bruise him." Isaiah liii. 10. We know not what ensued, when, just previous to this fearful agony in the garden, the Lord said, “ The Prince of this world cometh." John xiv. 30. Neither can we penetrate what was implied in the expression used to the wretched men who seized on him - This is your hour, and the power of darkness.” Luke xxii. 53. Hereafter we shall doubtless know what in their present burdened state our spirits could not support: we shall better comprehend the nature and intensity of sufferings undergone by Him who poured out his soul unto death for us : but since what is given by inspira.' tion is written for our learning, we may be assured that the scene so distinctly sketched of the mysterious encounter between the Son of righteousness and the