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THIS TEMPTATION, UNIVERSAL.
like aims and labours. But want-hunger, presses him, and instantly he uses the miraculous power he possesses over nature to furnish himself with bread, merely to feed and pamper the body. Not only the stones which lie around him, but the very bowels of the earth, the silver and the gold hidden there, he digs up to convert them into bread. He might do the work of a god in the world, spread abroad the glory of truth and virtue, cause knowledge and righteousness to abound, and transform the wilderness into the residence of angelic beings, but he is false to this high office. He perverts his great qualifications and toils only to supply his animal wants, and to multiply the means of self-gratification, and so he forgets that the true life of man does not consist in the bare continuance of his animal existence but in the wellbeing of the soul, whose sustenance is the consciousness of fidelity to the high and holy word of God. We defile our heaven-tempered weapons in the low strife of the senses, fighting only for bread. How often are the rarest talents desecrated in this way! How often do we see men who possess powers fitting them to be the reformers and benefactors of thousands, sacrificing every thing for bread, or for the wealth and place which will secure bread enough and to spare! Sons of God, they are insensible to the divine relation, to the lofty dignities and expectations that belong to the offspring of Heaven and the heirs of immortal possessions. "They must live," say they. But where is the necessity? No mere life of any man is indispensable to the world. But it is necessary that every man, be he the highest or the lowest, should hold fast to his integrity-to the law of rectitude, that Word of God, even if instant death be the penalty. He must devote his powers, whatever they may be, to their true purpose, even if he die in the warfare. No life is so precious as
THE SECOND TEMPTATION..
a death incurred through devotion to duty. The bloody and lifeless corpse of a true martyr hath in it an immortal life, and it will give life to him that only looks on it, whereas a body is dead, even though every pulse is beating and every nerve strung, if it contain not a true heart, listening ever to the divine word. So felt the Son of God in the wilderness. He knew his relation to God. And knowing that, he knew also that he had far better die instantly, miserably, for lack of bread, than live by the abuse of his sacred gifts, by putting them to a false end. "The Divine voice hath assured me," thought he, "that I am the Son of God. I will act then as becomes the Son of God, in a godlike manner, even if it be at the immediate cost of my life. I will be true to this great dignity, come what may."
"Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city and setteth him on a pinnacle of the Temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down for it is written, He will give his angels charge concerning thee; and in their hands they will bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." Such is the record of another of his temptations.
Observe how, as in the former case, the tempter begins with, "If thou be the Son of God." This was the thought which recurred continually to the mind of Jesus. It was calculated to exalt him, and there was danger lest he should be too much elated by it. Let it be borne carefully in mind that at his Baptism, shortly before, this lofty and soul-thrilling conviction of his relation to God had been borne in upon him with new and all-satisfying force. Son of God! Ponder it, child of Mary, humble dweller in the town of Nazareth,
thou art the Son of God, and the special favour of the Infinite One resteth on thee! In the first and exciting consciousness of this unrivalled dignity, elated for a moment by the height to which he was raised, he proposed to himself questionable trials of his power. His mind recurred most naturally to all those passages which the Jews considered, and which the Son of God was justified in regarding, as addressed to him. If I ain,' thought he, what a divine voice hath just assured me, the beloved Son of God, then hath he given his angels charge over me. Invisible protectors are mustered to be my guards and guides, to watch over my every step. I cannot stumble over the meanest stone but that unseen hands will be extended to hold me up. Could he avoid a transient elation of mind at the thought of this special protection-of angelic hosts attending his steps? And then the thought arose in his mind of trying his invisible guardians. For the pleasure of being instantly surrounded and borne up by angelic messengers,
why," he asked, “why may why may I not go and throw myself from one of the pinnacles of the Temple ?" In imagination—in the spirit, he stood there and saw himself encircled by an angel company hovering around, and ready to save him from all harm, and the delight of being thus protected suggested itself to his mind. Here was the tempter creeping on him under the guise of vanity and self-display. But he instantly penetrates and resists the evil. Another passage of Scripture
*Is it a conjecture altogether groundless, that this particular passage of the Old Testament," He will give his angels charge over thee; and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone," was suggested by his having at that moment misstepped, or at least by the spot where he stood. Exhausted by fasting, he was wandering, lost in meditation, in a rugged, stony wilderness. To a spirit so deeply and habitually devout, the meanest incident was suggestive. At all events, the fact that stones are mentioned in both the first two temptations is a coincidence that arrests notice.
NO STRANGE TEMPTATION.
occurs to him and exposes the error- "Thou shalt not tempt (try) the Lord thy God." And he sees the irreverence of using the privileges given him that he might act the part of a Son of God, merely to gratify a vain curiosity, a selfish vanity. The Divine Providence is too sacred to be relied on for any but sacred ends. God sends his angels, not to minister to the caprices and vanity of man, but to aid him in the achievement of heavenly labours; and if we seek to avail ourselves of their ministrations to gratify ourselves rather than to serve God, we do it at our peril, and are chargeable with the impiety of thinking to induce God to do evil, to give up his perfect will for the sake of our corrupt passions. There is an Eastern story which relates how a man, having obtained knowledge of a magical spell whereby he could summon certain genii to his service, in his haste to avail himself of supernatural aid, forgot a part of the charm, so that when the genii appeared, instead of obeying his behest, they drew forth instruments of violence from under their robes, and, having beaten him till he was lifeless, vanished, carrying with them the talisman which alone they obeyed. So is it with the means and opportunities which God has placed at our disposal, and which may be regarded as angels, appointed to be our servants. Summon them aright, and they will lend all needed assistance, but trifle with them, put them on a derogatory errand, and they will rend and tear us. This was no strange temptation then that assailed the Son of God. It has lain in ambush for man from the beginning of the world. Whether guardian spirits are set to watch over us, we say not. But our own powers, and the powers of nature made obedient to our will, are so many ministering angels. In these we possess exalted privileges, and are continu
THE THIRD TEMPTATION, AMBITION.
ally tempted to employ them for the gratification of our self-love, merely to display our power, to indulge our vanity or pride. How rarely do we recollect with Jesus that our opportunities are the sacred gifts of Heaven, entrusted to us for the fulfilment of God's will, not ours. Prone to put them to our own selfish and idle uses, we do, in a manner, tempt or try the Lord our God. We act as if we thought to induce him to forget and suspend his perfect purposes for our low sakes to tempt him to join and aid us with his angels in promoting our vain ends, in doing evil.
"Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." It is not necessary to suppose that these various temptations occurred in immediate succession. There may have been considerable intervals, and they may have been suggested in various forms. But these which are recorded were the chief. First came Hunger, the representative of the animal nature. The tempter resisted in this shape, next appealed to a less sensual, or less obviously sensual, feeling-to the pleasing idea of gratified self-importance. Again baffled, he returns once more, and seeks to conquer through ambition, the great desire of universal possession and conquest, ‘the last infirmity of noble minds.' I am the Son of God,' said Jesus,This I know. I am so by the irreversible appointment of Heaven. I cannot but be what I am. My bosom heaves with the consciousness of greatness