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as no one knows that he shall see tomorrow's sun to rise.
It naturally then presents itself to us, first to ask and inquire, By what spirit it was that our Lord here is said to be led up to be tempted.
Was it any violent impetuous movement of his own mind? Was it from an evil spirit? or by the good spirit or power of Almighty God?
The term led up, as the learned know, in the original, implies being forcibly impelled, lifted up by violence, where the subject or person is wholly passive in the business.
It cannot then be intended that it was the work of an evil spirit, for reasons that will hereafter appear; and because it would be a frivolous and absurd repetition, for the writer to say that Jesus was led up of the evil spirit to be tempted by the evil spirit.
Neither can he be said to be led of God to be tempted, as that signifies an actual solicitation to vice, for that is never the language of the scriptures concerning God, and would be to blaspheme his character. "Let no man say" speaks the holy apostle (James i. 13.) "when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God
cannot himself be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man to it."
Nor can it be ascribed to the suggestions of his own spirit, that Jesus was led into temptation; for this is entirely contrary to that character of prudence and wisdom by which our Lord was distinguished, to put himself in the way of any any sinful temptation, which he might properly and honourably avoid. It would have been going directly contrary to that part of the divine prayer he gave us for our direction "lead us not into temptation," and which no doubt was his own constant devout desire of God. He could not lead himself into that, from which he prayed to be delivered. Not to omit that neither he nor any one could have any ground in such a case to expect the divine protection.
These considerations may induce us to try and examine, whether instead of a real history, which we thus know not how to account for, it may not be a vision or representation made to him of somewhat relating to his great office of Teacher and Saviour of the world, which he was then entering upon, and of what was to befall him in the course of it. Now
Now this will appear probable by attending to the following circumstances.
St. Luke (iv. 5.) says; "The devil, taking him up into a high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time; in an instant."
Now this leads us to see something of what kind of exhibition it was.
A man falling asleep, or dozing, imagines a thousand things; journeys undertaken, long conversations and dialogues held with variety of persons in a very short space of time;-yet finds himself, when awake, just where he was before. In like manner had our Lord the things that are here succinctly mentioned obtruded upon his mind, which had equal effect upon him as if they had been real.
We gather also that the sacred historian intended to teach us that it was merely a vision, by telling us that Christ had all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them showed him from a high mountain in a moment of time.
In itself, this was a thing impossible. From the highest mountain no eye can descry one large
kingdom, much less all the kingdoms that are in the world. We may see thence many beautiful landscapes, rivers, and woods, and goodly cities but the glory of a kingdom, whether it consist in a well ordered government and just subordination of each member to promote the good of the whole, which is their truest glory; or that outward splendour and affluence which is falsely pursued for it; these may be perceived in an instant by a visionary representation, but not otherwise.
It will also by and by appear, that the vision was entirely from God, and not from any evil spirit.
But I would observe to you, that, to make out the scenery of the vision, the devil, or Satan, is introduced; not implying that there really is in God's creation such a being made up of nothing but malevolence and wickedness, and in power almost equal to God himself; but in agreement with the popular notions of the times, which the Israelites in their captivities had learned in Chaldea, this supposed evil principle or spirit is brought in as
For in this passage, as in other parts of scripture, many things in a general way are ascribed
ascribed to Satan, or the evil spirit, when they are only such as might be supposed to come from an evil being, not that they really did so.
So Satan is said to have tempted David to number Israel; (1 Chron. xxi. 1.) when the thought flowed from nothing but his own pride, and forgetfulness of God, in whom alone he ought to have put his trust.
So Satan is said (Luke xxii. 3.) to have entered into Judas, after he had himself been marked out as a traitor, when it was only his own wicked, revengeful, covetous disposition that stirred him up to betray his kind heavenly Master. And here, as trial was to be made of our Lord in the vision by temptations to evil placed before him, Satan, or a supposed evil spirit, is properly introduced as an agent
It may further be added, that none of the disciples were present at this supposed interview between Christ and Satan, and therefore it wants the proper attestation of a real history. All the material circumstances of our Lord's life, his miracles, death, resurrection, happened in the presence of credible witnesses; some of whom committed to writing what they had seen with their eyes.