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knowledge of thee, and to walk in thy holy ways, that they may not miss the opportunity of making the needful improvements of this their first probationary state, and go out of it with such corrupt and evil dispositions as must unavoidably be their torment and misery in the future world,
And, O thou God of all grace and goodness, who art the author and finisher of our salvation! in that thou didst afford to the blessed Jesus and his apostles, and bestowest on all others his followers, the necessary powers for their great work: keep us from all high conceits of ourselves for any of thy gifts to us, for any light or knowledge we may think we enjoy above others, as if we were thereby more worthy of thy favourable regards :
But teach us to know, that holiness, and the fear and love of thee, are beyond the highest attainments of knowledge, which maketh us only better as it influences us to do such things as are well-pleasing in thy sight.
Finally, O Lord our God, by these lessons of thy holy word, be pleased to destroy all selfishness out of our natures, and to make us ready for every thing that is good: that, according to thy gracious promise, we may be
come one with thee and with thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord! and inherit the glory and felicity which thou didst prepare for us before the foundation of the world.
Through him, as his true disciples, we de sire to ascribe unto thee, O Father, &c.
The Lord bless us. &c.
January 13, 1782,
MATTH. iv. 1.
Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
THIS is the beginning of the narrative of what is called our Saviour's temptation in the wilderness.
That it is a transaction, however, much out of the common way, highly deserving the notice of his followers, we may gather from its being one of those things which all the three historians of his life have recorded, and its being omitted by St. John, you well know, is no argument of his paying less attention to it.
We happily live in times when, by the diligence of christians and free inquiry into the scriptures, many things therein which had almost from the very first been misunderstood and perverted, have been set in a clear and useful light, and the divine oracles of truth vindicated from that unjust slight and contempt
tempt which some had ignorantly thrown upon them.
The passage before us may well claim to be of this latter number; for, taken in the literal sense as a real history in all its parts, it would not be an easy matter to reconcile them, or remove the objections that lie against it.
I propose, in as brief a manner as I can, to point out to you some of the reasons which have induced learned men, in former times as well as in our own, to look upon this our Lord's temptation, not as a real transaction, but as passing in a vision. After this I shall consider what was the design of it with regard to him, and shall then endeavour to lead your minds to some of those advantages which we derive from it for our own conduct in a may spiritual and moral view. For there is nothing recorded of our Lord but with a view to benefit his followers in this important respect. And a sad abuse would it be of his time and office, for the christian teacher to stand up in his place and furnish merely what may minister to curiosity and amusement when speaking to fellow-mortals, whose business is to improve every hour of their short day of trial,