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"Evil into the mind of God or man
May come and go, so unapproved and leave
No spot or blame behind."-Milton.
THE Baptism of Jesus, being such as I have endeavoured to describe it, the Temptation follows immediately thereupon as a natural consequence.
From the nature of the human mind, seasons of new and uncommon exaltation are succeeded by periods of exhaustion. When one has long meditated a great purpose, and has at last, formally, irrevocably, bound himself to its execution, there frequently occurs a temporary recoil of the spirit. He finds himself in a new position, and looks at his situation from a new point of view; and its duties and perils rise before him in a distincter and more imposing light.*
The habitual tone of the mind of Jesus was singularly elevated. Still we cannot doubt that he experienced variations of feeling, and that at times his spirit was unusually raised. There were occasions when the holy spirit, which dwelt in him as it never before nor since
* Scott glances at this fact in the human constitution, in the tale of the Black Dwarf, where he describes the flagging spirits of the seditious assembly at Ellieslaw Castle. "They experienced the chilling revulsion of spirits which often takes place when men are called upon to take a desperate resolution, after having placed themselves in circumstances where it is alike difficult to advance or recede."
VARIATIONS OF FEELING IN JESUS.
dwelt in flesh, descended upon him to overflowing. He was always conscious of the arms of Infinite Love thrown around him, but at times he felt himself reposing on the bosom of his heavenly Father. The history bears direct testimony to the truth of these remarks.
Once, when, exhausted by hunger and thirst and fatigue, he chanced to enter into conversation with a woman of Samaria, he was so exhilarated thereby that he cared not to eat or drink. His soul ascended at once the mount of Vision and found immortal sustenance in gazing upon the moral harvest waving in ripeness before him. By the nature of things these celestial visitations, when they ceased, were succeeded by something like depression. When the intensest light of the Divine Countenance had beamed upon him for awhile, it was not followed by absolute darkness, but there was a temporary dimness produced by the excess of light. So also these periods of exhaustion and temptation were in their turn succeeded by new strength. It is observable that the last and sorest trial, the agony in the Garden, occurred just after a superhuman and long-sustained elevation of mind. At the last Supper, when Judas went out to execute his base purpose, the nearness of his fate broke with new force upon the heart of Jesus. But his first sight of that event, from so close a point of view, was not of its dark and suffering aspect. It did not produce horror, but the sublimest joy. "Now," he exclaimed, "is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him!" In that catastrophe, which, to all human seeming, involved himself and his cause in hopeless ruin, he beheld a blaze of the Divine Glory. This was the first impression caught from a nearer prospect of his fate. The next thought was of his friends and disciples from whom he would be severed by death. And he instantly devotes himself
THE BAPTISM AND TEMPTATION, CONNECTED.
to the office of preparing and comforting them. With the fourteenth chapter of John, the record of these generous consolations commences, and it continues on through the three following chapters. Review the circumstances of this occasion. Mark particularly how it was that these discourses to his disciples were suggested, and you cannot but be deeply impressed with the unequalled elevation of his mind. Judas had just left him to go and consummate his treachery; and already the enemies of Jesus were getting ready to seize him. The thickening plot was beginning to give forth busy notes of preparation. The first thing that he thinks of is the Divine Glory to be revealed in his death. Then his thoughts turn to his disciples, and he forgets himself in his endeavours to sustain them. Not until after he had parted from them, and only two or three remained with him, and he was all but alone, at midnight, did the dark and suffering side of his near fate arrest his notice. Then for awhile, in the utter want of all human sympathy, his spirit sunk within him, and he fell prostrate on the earth in an agony of prayer for himself. Is it not natural that it should have been so ? That an hour of weakness should have come is not surprising. The wonder is that it did not come soonerthat for so long a while after he was made to feel that death was close at hand, he should have kept off all selfish thoughts, and that, when the season of personal suffering did come, it was but of brief duration, and was succeeded by the sublimest self-possession, so that the last and most awful scene of his eventful career was the most glorious, glorious for his abiding serenity, for the perfect triumph of his piety and love.
Now the same naturalness appears in his baptism and temptation considered connectedly.
JESUS, DEEPLY INTERESTED IN HIS WORK.
It is important to bear always in mind that Jesus of Nazareth was no blind, unconcerned, instrument in the hands of Providence, but was personally interested in his work as no other man ever was in his-that the power of exercising the miraculous gifts bestowed on him was consequent upon the elevation of his will. One of the great truths which he announced and to which he continually referred, is, that all the blessings of Heaven, all power, light, and life, all depend upon the condition of the individual will. "If any man will do the Divine will, he will know of my teaching, whether it be of God or not." "He that doeth truth, cometh to the light." "Every one that is of the truth, heareth my voice." Why may we not look for an illustration of this great principle in the case of Jesus himself? Why may we not believe that, agreeably to the representation given in the foregoing chapter, his conviction of his destiny was not perfected until the moment when he ascended out of the water after having been baptised? And that then it followed naturally upon the previous state of his will. The view I take is simply this. Holy as his life had been before that hour, his baptism was the holiest season he had ever experienced. Then the energy of his purpose was the greatest. Never before had he been conscious of such high thoughts and aspirations, such determined resolves, as filled all his soul at that moment when, coming forth in a formal manner, in the eye of the world, through the rite of baptism, he made a solemn vow of self-consecration. A new experience, far surpassing all his previous experiences, was his; and he knew, as he had never known before, the infinite blessedness of a true spirit. Heaven was opened to him, and he heard a divine voice pronouncing him the be
THE LIFE OF JESUS, PROGRESSIVE.
loved Son of God. He was pre-eminently single-hearted before, but then so vivid were the divine persuasions that sunk into his heart, that they were new and strange even to him. They had lifted him above himself. But from the nature of the human soul, dwelling in flesh, they could not last always at the same degree of intensity. Upon no spirit on earth does heaven in all its brightness dawn at once and abide for ever. The vision and the glory would overpower.
There are heavenly bodies so distant that they seem to be stationary, and we cannot discern their motion, and yet their velocity is the greatest. So was it with the Man of men. To us he appears to have always been from the first the perfect being that he was. And compared with all others, he was so. Still the Scriptures expressly say that he grew in favour with God, that he was made perfect through sufferings, that he learned obedience by the things that he suffered. If so, then the office which he filled had for its end, not only a world's salvation, but his own spiritual growth; and we are authorised from considerations of reason and human nature to infer that there was progress in the life of Jesus, and that the first visits of these divine thoughts, which daily become more habitual till they filled his whole heart and were the most active springs of his being, all but overpowered him. In the full conviction of divine favour at his baptism, there was a peace new and unutterable. But the joy and the glory of the office to which he then knew himself to be divinely summoned, brought with them the sense of its greatness and responsibility. The consciousness of his destiny was now settled and ineradicable. There it was, fixed for ever, thrilling, burning in his heart, and nothing was wanting to its confirmation. The irrevocable step had been taken. There