صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." It would, therefore, be unlawful thus to worship thee, who art no other than a mere creature, even though thou wast indeed his deputy on earth; and how much more, then, must it be so, as thou art, in reality, the great avowed enemy of God and man, for such, under ail thy disguise, I well know thee to be.

And when the devil had ended all the temptations we have given an account of, being so baffled and confounded as not to be able to present any others which seemed more likely to succeed, he departed from him for a season, yet secretly meditating some future assault. [compare John xiv. 30.]

And then, the devil having left him, behold, a detachment of angels came and waited upon him, furnishing him with proper supplies for his hunger, and congratu lating so illustrious a victory over the prince of darkness.

To have a just notion of this extraordinary event, we must consider it in two lights: 1. As it was permitted by God. 2. As it was executed by the tempter.

The reasons why God permitted his son to be tempted of the devil were such as these 1. That he might become a faithful and merciful high-priest; one who can succour his people in time of need, and pity them when they happen to fall by temptation. The apostle assigns this reason expressly. [Heb. ii. 17, 18.] Wherefore, in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high-priest, in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people, for in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted. See also chap. iv. 15. 2. That his example might be a complete pattern of all the virtues. Jesus, like a wise and valiant general, underwent, himself, all the hardships attending his service, that we, his soldiers, might be animated to sustain them together with him. He has gone before us, not only in poverty and reproach, and contempt of sensual pleasure, but was given up to be tem pted of the devil, that his people might not be dismayed by such dispensations of providence, but be taught to expect them, especially after having had proofs of the divine love, and manifestations of his presence. Also, that we might know, both what sort of an enemy we have to encounter, and the kind of temptations he will assault us with particularly, that there is no impiety or wickedness so gross, but he will tempt even the best of men to commit it.

Farther, it was designed to shew us, that the devil, though a strong enemy, may be overcome, and by what means; and to stir us up to constant watchfulness. Hence this conflict, though managed in the presence of God and the angels only, was, in due time, made public, for the instruction of mankind. 3. That our Lord might, with the greater advantage, begin and carry on his ministry, in the course of which he was to accomplish the salvation of men, it was necessary that he should first of all vanquish the strongest temptations of the old serpent, who had formerly brought ruin on mankind. His sustaining the temptations of the devil, therefore, when he entered on his ministry, teaches us, that no man is so rightly qualified to preach the gospel as he who, by temptation, has been fortified against luxury, ambition, pride, lust, covetousness, and such like passions, with which the devil overthrows the simple.

On the other hand, the motives which induced the devil to undertake this temptation might be, 1. His general desire of seducing men to sin. 2. Some particular end, which he proposed to accomplish thereby. It is reasonable to believe that God's gracious intention to save the world by his Son was not entirely concealed from the evil spirits. If so, they might be led by the prophecies to conjecture, that this was the period fixed, in the decrees of heaven, for the advent of God's Son. That the

devils are acquainted with the scriptures is evident from the citation which we find the tempter making out of the Psalms, on this occasion. Besides, they might be cOLfirmed in their opinion by the general expectation of the Messiah, with which all the east was now filled. If, therefore, they had any how received intelligence of the wonderful things which accompanied the birth of Christ, or, if having been witnesses to the descent of the Spirit upon him at his baptism, some of them had heard the voice from heaven, declaring him the Son of God, they could not but have a strong curiosity to know whether he was really the great personage so long expected by men. The resolution of this point was, undoubtedly, of the greatest moment to them, because the part they were afterwards to act, in carrying on their own projects for destroying the human race, depended, in a great measure, upon it. Wherefore, all the time Jesus was in the wilderness, the chief of the evil spirits, as being best qualified for the undertaking, beset him with a multitude of temptations, in order, if possible, to discover who he was. The form in which two of his temptations run, seems to favour this conjecture. If thou be the Son of God, command that this stone be made bread. If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence. Besides, unless the tempter had been in doubt as to the character of Jesus, it is not to be imagined that he should have attempted to seduce him at all.

A difference of opinion has been obtained respecting the way in which Satan exhibited to our Lord all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them. It is pretty generally thought that this was done only in vision; but Dr. Macknight assigns the following reasons for a contrary judgment.

"That this temptation was founded on a real, not an imaginary sight, or vision of the kingdoms of the world, is evident from the devil's carrying our Lord up into an exceeding high mountain to view them. For had it been either a delineation of the kingdoms in a map, or a visible representation of them in the air, or a vision of them in an extacy, or a sight of them in a dream, or a view of them by being carried round the globe in a moment of time, that is meant, might have been done anywhere, as well as on a high mountain. Nevertheless, a real sight of all the kingdoms of the world, from any high mountain whatsoever, may seem impossible, and therefore must be considered particularly. It is said, Deut. xxxiv. 1..3, And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho; and the Lord shewed him all the land of Gilead unto Dan. Gilead was the country beyond Jordan, and Dan was the boundary northward. Moses, therefore, on the top of Nebo, saw it to its utmost limits on every hand. And all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea, and the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm-trees, unto Zoar. Naphtali was the most northern part of the land of Israel on this side Jordan; Ephraim was the middle region; Judah was the southernmost tribe; the utmost sca was the Mediterranean; the south was the country between Palestine and Egypt; and the plain of the valley of Jericho unto Zoar was that which extended from Jericho to Zoar, encompassing Asphaltite lake, on the southern shore of which Zoar stood. From the top of Nebo, therefore, Moses saw, not only the country beyond Jordan, but the whole region on this side of the river, from north to south, and westward as far as the Mediterranean sea. This mountain of Nebo, over against Jericho, whence Moses had the prospect of the whole land, may have been that from which the devil shewed our Lord all the kingdoms of the world, that is to say, the whole land of promise, for so the word is used in the literal sense, at least, of Rom. iv. 13, The promise that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his sccd through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. The land of promise, in its largest signification,


reached from the Euphrates to the Mediterranean, east and west; and from Egypt, on the south, to beyond Sidon northwards. [Deut. xi. 24.] In Joshua's time, that extent of country contained thirty distinct principalities, besides the Philistines and the Sidonians, as Spanheim observes. And, even in our Lord's time, it comprehended several kingdoms, some of which are mentioned Luke iii. 1. All these the devil pointed out to Jesus in the temptation, taking particular notice of their glory, that is, their great and opulent cities, their rich fields, their hills covered with woods and cattle, their rivers rolling through fertile valleys, and washing the cities as they passed along; and promised to put him in possession of the whole instantly, if he would fall down and worship him. By confining this prospect to the land of promise, the third temptation will appear to have had a peculiar force. The devil, that he might know whether Jesus was Messiah, offered to give him all the kingdoms of the land, to which Messiah had an undoubted right. See Psalm ii. 8. lxxii. 8. He hoped thus to have enticed him to commit idolatry, thinking, if he was not Messiah, he would eagerly embrace this as the speediest way of accomplishing his designs."

Before this subject is dismissed, it may not be improper to take notice, that, according to the tradition, which, at present, subsists among the Christian inhabitants at Palestine, the scene of the temptation of the kingdoms was different from where I have placed it. For Mr. Maundrel, in his travels, tells us, that, in passing from Jerusalem to Jericho, after travelling some hours among hills and valleys, they arrived at the mountainous desert into which our Lord was led by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil. "A miserable dreary place," says he, "it is consisting of rocks and mountains, so torn and disordered, as if the earth had here suffered some great convulsion, in which its very bowels had been turned outward. From the tops of these hills of desolation, we had, however, a delightful prospect of the mountains of Arabia, the Dead sea, and the plains of Jericho, into which last we descended, after about five hours march from Jerusalem. As soon as we entered the plain, we turned upon the left hand, and, going about an hour that way, came to the foot of the Quarantania, (so called from our Lord's forty days' fast) which, they say, is the mountain where the devil tempted him with the visionary scene of all the kingdoms and glories of the world. It is very high and steep, and its ascent, not only difficult, but dangerous.” Nevertheless, from this description it appears, that the mountain Quarantania is not so high as to afford the prospect of the kingdoms, in the literal sense, in which, alone, this article of the history, I should think, ought to be understood.”

About this time the rulers at Jerusalem were informed, that the Baptist's extraordinary sanctity, zeal, and eloquence, together with the solemnity of his baptism, had made such an impression on the people, that they were beginning to think he might be the Messiah. They judged it proper, therefore, that certain of their number, whose capacity and learning rendered them equal to the task, should go and examine him. [John i. 19, 20.] And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites to Jerusalem, to ask him, Who art thou: And he confessed, and denied not, but confessed, I am not the Christ. To every candid judge, the declaration which, on this occasion, John made so freely to the priests and Levites, and which, on other occasions, he repeated publicly in the hearing of the people, will appear a strong proof of his divine mission, notwithstanding he did no miracle. For when deputies from so august a body as the senate of Israel seemed to signify, that, in order to their acknowledging him as Messiah, they wanted only a declaration from himself; if he had been an impostor he would immediately have grasped at the honours offered him, and have given himself out for Messiah: but he was animated by a different spirit. Integrity

and truth were, evidently, the guides of his conduct. Why, then, should we entertain any doubt of his mission, seeing he expressly claimed the character of a messenger from God. [John i. 21.] And they asked him, what then, art thou Elias? and he saith, I am not. The Jews expected that the old prophet Elijah was to come in person before Messiah appeared. This notion they entertained very early, as is evident from the LXX. translation of the passage in Malachi, on which their expectation was founded. And, behold, I send to you Elias the Tishbite, before the day of the Lord cometh. Wherefore, that the Baptist, on being asked if he was Elias, should have answered in the negative, needs not to be thought strange. For, though the name of Elias did truly belong to John, Malachi having called him thereby, he was not the person whom the people expected, and the priests meant, when they asked him, Art thou Elias? Art thou that prophet whom Moses assured us God will raise up, and of whom we are in daily expectation? [John vi. 14.] Or their meaning may have been, art thou Jeremiah, or any of the old prophets, raised from the dead? for it appears from Matt. xvi. 14, that they thought Messiah would be preceded by some extraordinary personage. And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent; what sayest thou of thyself? We are sent by the supreme council, who have a right to judge persons pretending a commission from God, as you seem to do, by baptizing and gathering disciples. It becomes you, therefore, to give an account of yourself to us, that we may lay it before them who have sent us. He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaias. I am really sent of God, being Messiah's harbinger, whose character and office is described by Isaiah xl. 3, and this answer you may carry to the senate. The late archbishop of Cambray beautifully illustrates the humility of this reply, as if this illustrious prophet had said, "Far from being the Messiah, or Elias, or one of the old prophets, I am nothing but a voice, a sound, that, as soon as it has expressed the thought of which it is the sign, dies into air, and is known no more."

And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. The priests and Levites who were sent from Jerusalem to inquire concerning the Baptist's character and mission, were of the sect of the Pharisees. This the evangelist mentions, because the decisions of the Pharisees were held, by the common people, as infallible. Wherefore, as their sect had declared that only proselytes were to be baptized, they found fault with John for baptizing the Jews, seeing he was neither Messiah, nor Elias, nor that prophet. They thought his altering, in this manner, their institutions, was an exercise of authority, which, by his own confession, did not belong to him. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize, to shew you the nature and necessity of repentance, but it is with water only, which cannot cleanse you from your sins, as the washing, predicted by Zechariah, will do. That more efficacious baptism will be dispensed unto you by Messiah, who is, at present, among you, though you do not know him, because he has not manifested himself. Besides, in dignity, Messiah is infinitely my superior, for I am not worthy to be his servant, or to do him the meanest offices: but there standeth one among you whom you know not. He it is, who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose shoes' latchet I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara, beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing; consequently, in presence of a great multitude of people.

[ocr errors]

It seems, Jesus returned from the wilderness about the time that the priests and Levites arrived at Bethabara; for the day after they proposed their questions, he happened to pass by while the Baptist was standing with the multitude on the banks of

the Jordan. But the business of Messiah's forerunner being to lead the people to Messiah, John embraced this new opportunity of pointing him out to them. The next day, John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. Grotius understands this of Christ's reforming men's lives. But as the words are plainly an allusion to the lambs offered for the atonement of sin, and, particularly, to the lambs offered daily, in the morning and evening sacrifices, their meaning must be this: Behold him who was represented by the lambs offered in the sacrifices prescribed by the law, and who is, himself, the great sacrifice, for whose sake God will forgive the sins, not of the Jewish nation only, but of the world. Lamb of God, therefore, is the great Lamb, as mountains of God are great mountains; or it signifies the Lamb, or sacrifice, appointed by God. [John i. 31..37.] And I knew him not, but that he should be made manifest to. Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven, like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not, but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on him, the same is he that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw and bear record that this is the Son of God. Again, the next day after, John stood, and two of his disciples : And, looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. John pointed out Jesus to the two disciples, probably, because they had been absent. when the Spirit descended upon him, and the voice from heaven declared him to be the Son of God. But, having now had an account of these things from their master, they desired to become acquainted with Jesus, and, for that purpose, followed him. Jesus knowing their intentions, turned about and invited them to go along with him. Then Jesus turned and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see; they came and saw where he dwelt, aud abode with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. This is supposed, by some, not to be the tenth hour, according to the Jewish reckoning, but to be ten o'clock in the forenoon, which was the tenth hour according to the Romans. [John i. 40.] One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. Probably, John the evangelist was the other, it being his custom to conceal his own name in his writings. He [Andrew] first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, we have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. It seems, the Baptist's testimony, joined with the proofs offered by Christ himself, in the long conversation which the two disciples had with him, fully convinced Andrew. And he brought him to Jesus, and when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon, the son of Jona, thou shalt be called Cephas, which is, by interpretation, a stone. Though Jesus had never seen Simon before, immediately on his coming in, he saluted him by his own and his father's name, adding, that he should afterwards be called Cephas, that is, a rock, on account of the strength of his mind, and the unshaken - firmness of his resolution; also, because the Christian church was to be built on his labours, as on a solid foundation. [John i. 43..45.] The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth Nathaniel, and saith unto him, We have found him of whom Moses, in the law and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. It seems, Peter and Andrew, in their conversation with Philip, had persuaded him to believe on Jesus, by shewing him how the predictions of the law and prophets were fulfilled in him,

« السابقةمتابعة »