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of that generation which had witnessed the miraculous circumstance of his infuncy, had sunk into the grave; and most of those who remained had been, probably, so far disappointed by his not earlier assuming his extraordinary character, that they either had almost forgotten the predictions of Simeon and Anna, or supposed them to have some other meaning than what the words appeared to convey. So little was the expectations of the public directed to Jesus, that John the Baptist himself, though a near relation, declared himself ignorant that he was the Messiah. John, however, was so well acquainted with our Lord's superior piety and holiness of life, that he conceived it absolutely improper that Jesus should mingle with the crowd of abandoned characters who had offered themselves to baptism, and refused to wash him with water in whom no impurity could be discovered. Our Lord did not sustain John's excuse, 'but insisted upon being baptized, because it became them to fulfil all rightemusness. This expression might, perhaps, mean, in general, that it became the faithful to conform to every divine appointment; or he may have had the Levitical law in view, [Exod. xxix. 4, xl. 12.] which ordained that the priests, at their consecration, should be purified by washing; and desired to obey the letter, as well as the spirit of that law, before he entered on his ministry, wherein he discharged the office of high-priest for all the nations of the world. Christ's baptism being proper on these accounts, he urged it, and John, at length, complied, baptizing him in Jordan before a multitude of spectators. But as he had no need of the instructions that were given after baptism, he came straightway out of the water; and, kneeling down on the banks of the river, prayed, probably, for the influences of the Spirit, whereby his future ministry would be rendered acceptable to God, and effectual unto the salvation And Jesus when he was baptized went up straightway out of the water. Luke iii. 22. And, praying, the heaven was opened (Mark, to him); and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape, like a dove, upon him. Mat iii. 17. And, lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is ( Mark, thou art) my beloved son in whom (Mark, in thre) I am well pleased. The epithet beloved, given to the son on this occasion, marks the greatness of his Father's affection for him, and distinguishes him from all others to whom the title of God's son had formerly been given. Accordingly we find our Lord alluding to it, with peculiar pleasure, in his intercessory prayer. John xvii. 26, "And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it, that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." It was, therefore, the voice of God the Father that was heard at Christ's baptism, probably, loud like thunder, as in the instance recorded, John xii. 29, making a sound which no human organ of speech was able to form, and, consequently, could not be mistaken for the whispering voice of any one present. See Prov. viii. 30, to which, it is thought, the voice alluded.
The Son of God was one of the Messiah's known characters, [Mat. xvi. 16. Mark xiv. 61. John i. 49.] founded on Psalm ii., Iss. vii. 14, where it is expressly attributed to him. And, therefore, according to the received language of the Jews, Jesus was, on this occasion, declared from heaven to be their long expected deliverer; and his mission received a most illustrious confirmation from the Father Almighty, a confirmation on which Jesus himself laid great stress, as absolutely decisive. John v. 37. For, lest the people might have applied the words of the voice of the Baptist, the Holy Spirit alighted upon Jesus, and remained visible for some time in the before mentioned sensible symbol, [John i. 33.] which, probably, surrounded his head in the form of a large glory, and pointed him out as God's beloved son in whom the richest gifts and graces resided. Thus all present had an opportunity to hear and see the miraculous. testimony, particularly the Baptist, who, as soon as he beheld the Spirit remaining
on Jesus, cried out, [John i. 15.] This is he of whom I spake, when I told you he that cometh after me is preferred before me,namely, by God. Erasmus supposes that John here refers to the honours which he knew had been paid to Jesus in his infancy, by the angels who announced his birth to the Bethlehem shepherds, by the shepherds themselves, by the eastern magi, by Simeon and Anna, honours which could not be paralleled by any thing that had happened to him. But the words seem to have a more extensive meaning, comprehending the superior dignity of Christ's nature, office, commission, and exaltation, as mediator. This appears plainly from Mat. iii. 11, the passage here referred to: For he was before mo: it is at that Jesus should be raised above, because he is a person superio in nature to me; for, though he was born after me, he existed before. The evangelist John adds, [Johni. 16.] And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. The last expression is frequently translated grace upon grace, referring to the richness and freedom of the supply, which the apostles, and all succeeding Christians, have derived from the inexhaustible fulness of our Saviour's perfections. John i. 17.] For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. It is in this present dispensation that the truth and mercy of God are more clearly revealed, than they ever were before the incarnation of the Messiah. No man hath seen God at any time; neither Moses, nor any other prophet, who, in former ages, delivered the will of God to men, ever saw the divine Being; and, therefore, they could not make a full discovery of his perfections and councils to men. The only person who ever enjoyed this privilege was the Son of God, who is in the bosom of the Father. He always was, and is, the darling object of his tenderest affection, and the intimate partner of his councils; and, therefore, he was able fully to declare the great purpose of God concerning the redemption of the world. The ouly begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath revealed him. It may not be improper to observe, that the descent of the spirit on Jesus was predicted, Isa. xlii. 1, lxi. 1. In like manner the voice from heaven is supposed to be predicted, Psalm ii. 7, The Lord hath said unto me, thou art my son.
Jesus having received those different testimonies from his Father, from the Spirit, and from John the Baptist, all given in presence of the multitudes assembled to John's baptism, began his ministry when he was abont thirty years old, the age at which the priests entered on their sacred ministrations in the temple. Then Jesus, being full of the Holy Spirit with which he had been just anointed in so extraordinary a manner, returned from Jordan, where he had been baptized, and immediately after this was led by the strong impulse of that Spirit on his mind into that desolate and solitary place the wilderness, that he might there be exercised and tempted by the most violent assaults of the devil; and, by conquering him, afford an illustrious example of heroic virtue, and lay a foundation for the encouragement and support of his people, in their future combats with that malignant adversary.
And he was there in the wilderness forty days, and, during that time, he was tempted by Satan, and, also, was surrounded with a variety of the most savage and voracious kinds of wild beasts; but they were so overawed by his presence, that (as in the case of Daniel, when in the den of lions, Dan. vi. 22.) none of them offered him the least injury; and in all those days he did eat nothing at all.
And when he had thus fasted forty days and forty nights, as Moses, the giver of the law, [Exod. xxxiv. 28.] and Elias, the great restorer of it, had done before him, [1 Kings xix. 8.] having been thus far miraculously borne above the appetites of nature, at length he felt them, and was very hungry, but was entirely unprovided with any proper food.
And just at that time the tempter, coming to him in a visible form, (putting on a
human appearance, as one that desired to inquire further into the evidences of his mission,) said, If thou art the Son of God in such an extraordinary manner as thou hast been declared to be, and art indeed the promised Messiah who is expected under that character, command that these stones become loaves (of bread,) to relieve thy hunger, for in such a circumstance it will undoubtedly be done.
But Jesus answered and said unto him, It is written in the sacred volume, [Deut. viii. 3.] "Man shall not live by bread only, but by every word proceeding out of the mouth of God, or by whatever he shall appoint for the preservation of his life." He can, therefore, support me without bread, as he fed the Israelites in the wilderness; and, on the other hand, even bread itself, if these stones were turned into it, could not nourish me without his blessing, which I'could not expect were I to attempt a miracle of this kind, merely in compliance with thy suggestions, without any intimation of my Father's will.
Then, as the devil found it was in vain that he had tempted Christ to a distrust of providence, he was for trying to persuade him to presumption; and, to this end, he taketh him along with him to Jerusalem, which, being a place where God dwelt in so distinguishing a manner, was commonly called the Holy City, and there he setteth him on one of the battlements of the temple, which, in some parts of it, and particularly over the porch, was so exceeding high, that one could hardly bear to look down from it. And, as he stood upon the brink of this high precipice, the tempter saith unto him, If thou art, indeed, the Son of God, cast thyself down courageously from hence, and mingle with those that are assembled for the worship of God in yonder court. The sight of such a miracle will undeniably convince them of the truth of thy pretensions; and thou canst have no room to doubt for thy safety, for thou well knowest it is written, [Psalm xci. 11, 12.] " He shall give his angels a charge concerning thee to keep thee, and they shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou shouldest, by any accident, dash thy foot against a stone." And surely the Son of God may depend upon a promise which seems common to all his
And Jesus answering said unto him, It is also written, to prevent the ungrateful abuse of such gracious promises as these, [Deut. vi. 16.] Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God," by demanding farther evidence of what is already made sufficiently plain, as my relation to God is by the miraculous and glorious testimony he hath so lately given me.
Again, the devil being resolved once more to attack him by the most dangerous temptation he could devise, taketh him up into a mountain in those parts, which was exceeding high, and from thence, in a moment of time, sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them. And, with the most egregious impudence and falsehood, the devil said unto him, All this extensive power, all these splendid things will I give thee, and all the glory of them, which thou hast now before thee, (for it is all delivered to me who am the prince of this world, and I give it to whom I please); and, great as the gift is, I am so charmed with that wisdom and magnanimity which I have now observed in thee, that I propose to give it thee upon the easiest terms thou canst imagine, for all that I desire is, that thou shouldest pay me homage for it; if, therefore, thou wilt but fall down and worship me, upon thy making this little acknowledgment to me, all these things shall be thine.
Then Jesus, moved with indignation at so blasphemous and horrid a suggestion, answered and said unto him, with becoming resentment and abhorrence, Get thee hence, Satan, and begone out of my sight, for I will no longer endure thee near me; for it is written as a fundamental precept of the law, [Deut. vi. 13.] "Thou shalt