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The subject proposed. Invocation of the Holy Spirit. John baptizing at the river Jordan. Jesus coming there, is baptized; and is attested, by the descent of the Holy Ghost, and by a voice from heaven, to be the Son of God. Satan, who is present, flies up into the regions of the air; where, summoning his infernal council, he acquaints them with his apprehensions that Jesus is that seed of the woman destined to destroy all their power, and points out to them the necessity of bringing the matter to proof, and of attempting to counteract and defeat the person from whom they have so much to dread. This office he undertakes, and sets out on his enterprise. In the meantime, God, in the assembly of holy angels, declares that he has given up his Son to be tempted by Satan; but foretels that the tempter shall be completely defeated by him: upon which the angels sing a hymn of triumph. Jesus is led up by the Spirit into the wilderness, while he is meditating on the commencement of his great office of Saviour of mankind. He narrates, in a soliloquy, what divine and philanthropic impulses he had felt from his early youth, and how his mother, Mary, had acquainted him with the circumstances of his birth, and informed him that he was no less a person than the Son of God; to which he adds what his own reflections and inquiries had supplied, in confirmation of this great truth, and particularly dwells on the recent attestation of it at the river Jordan. Our Lord passes forty days, fasting, in the wilderness; where the wild beasts become harmless in his presence. Satan now appears under the form of an old peasant, and enters into discourse with our Lord. Jesus replies. Satan rejoins with a description of the difficulty of supporting life in the wilderness; and entreats Jesus, if he be really the Son of God, to manifest his divine power, by changing some of the stones into bread. Jesus reproves him, and, at the same time, tells him that he knows who he is. Satan avows himself, and offers an artful apology. Our blessed Lord severely reprimands him, and confutes every part of his justification. Satan still endeavours to justify himself; and, professing his admiration of Jesus, and his regard for virtue, requests to be permitted at a future time to hear more of his conversation; but is answered, that this must be as he shall find permission from above. Satan then disappears, and the book closes with a short description of night coming on in the desert.
WHO erewhile the happy garden sung
ANGOLIA Paradise regained.
And Eden raised in the waste wilderness.
Thou Spirit, who led'st this glorious eremite
As thou art wont, my prompted song, else mute,
Now had the great proclaimer, with a voice
Within thick clouds, and dark, tenfold involved,
And now, too soon for us, the circling hours
To be infringed, our freedom and our being,
His birth to our just fear gave no small cause;
Things highest, greatest, multiplies my fear.