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a voluntary excommunication, a sentence of spiritual death pronounced against them by Christ himself, who came into the world for no end but to offer them everlasting life. In this case, the flesh is preferred to the spirit, and the little concerns of this present world to the great objects of an higher state. And to convince us that the neglect is unpardonable, the same persons will frequently be found wise in their generation, able to reason and draw consequences, cunning and circumspect in driving a profitable bargain, and diligent in the business of their vocation, for the benefit of themselves and their families.
XXI. There seemeth to be yet another shape under which this temptation occurs to
The word of God is the bread by which man liveth: and as the Devil offered a stone to Christ instead of bread, it should follow, that he offers something to us instead of the words of eternal life; something which is not bread, but capable, as he persuades us, of, assuming its appearance and producing its effects. The Jews fell under this temptation, when they substituted the false wisdom of human tradition, and sometimes of heathen idolatry, in the place of the divine law; why else did the prophet ask them---Wherefore do
ye spend money for that which is not bread" ? For we learn from the prophet Micah, that the false prophets who amused the people with lies, divined for money. Thence the prophet goes on to shew, that the true bread is the revealed wisdom of God-Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good-incline your ear and come unto me; hear, and
your soul shall live. Our heavenly Father, if we ask it of him, will not give us a stone instead of this bread of divine knowledge: but the father of lyes hath no other bread for his children. The wisdom he hath to communicate, how finely soever it may be set off with a pompous sound of words, and a friendly desire of delivering us from imposition, is as unfit to nourish the soul, as a stone is to feed the body. With this however he hath deceived mankind in every age. (The false wisdom of the heathen philosophy was one of these stones: the Jewish Talmud was another; the Alcoran of Mahomet another; and amongst us, of later years, he hath been handing about a thing called the religion of nature, a system of deism, whose principal object is a God without a Christ; }against which many are.
now breaking their teeth, while they expect, on the word of a Shaftesbury, or a Bolingbroke, &c. to feed their understanding. This religion of Satan teaches us, that the human inind can bring forth a Revelation of its own, much better than that which is vulgarly received ; that reason is the only sure guide; nature the only agreeable rule : fables which are wonderfully acceptable to the pride of man; but at the bottom of them all, there lurketh the old insinuation--Ye shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil-able to dictate to yourselves, instead of being directed and led about like children. Such advice as this, expressed more at large, and in many different ways, makes a great figure in some works of genius, with which they who love darkness rather than light are highly captivated : and it
may pass for wisdom now; but it will one day be exposed to all the world as the worst of folly, and will confound and surfeit the inventors themselves--Bread of deceit may be sweet unto a man, because every thing will be so which flatters his pride, but afterwards his mouth shull be filled with gravel'.
a Prov. xx. 17.
The light of revelation can alone teach us how to look upon such miserable impositions ; and, when applied, it detects them to the bottom. Therefore, if any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not“. If this bread of life is asked of our heavenly Father, he will give it liberally, freely, and without cost; neither will he upbraid us for the importunity of our request, but approve and honour us for so laudable a desire. But if we seek wisdom from the Father of lies, he will give us a stone; and then mock at us, and upbraid us, for being so blind and ignorant as to mistake it for bread. He tempts men only that he may have an opportunity of accusing them; and it is to be feared, many who are now very high in their own conceit, must stoop at last to be derided by the Devil.
XXII. We proceed now to the next article of the temptation. He taketh Christ
into the holy City, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, &c. What is this to us? The Temple at Jerusalem is destroyed; so that the Devil cannot place us there : neither can it be supposed, that he will place us on the summit
of any other sacred edifice. We are in no danger of this temptation according to the letter of it: but our business here is to enquire into its moral; and in doing this, we shall soon discover a sense, in which he may bring us into a like situation, and tempt us to a presumptuous sin, which cannot be committed but with reference to an holy place. The sin which is visible at first sight, in the face of this account, is that of “ tempting
God, by leaping from his church into the
air, and defending the practice by a text " of scripture.” The papists say, we committed this sin at the Reformation : and if I thought they had supported the accusation with a good appearance of reason and authority, I would stop here to argue the cause ; but I apprehend little need be said to convince any impartial christian of the contrary. So we may go on, without any interruption on this account, to inspect the quality of the temptation
The temple of Jerusalem, so long as the legal system prevailed, was the church of God, and the seat of his religion. But it was no more than a figure for the time then pre
* See Remarks on the Confessional, p. 68.