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How plausible! No miracle is so likely to make an impression in his favour on the multitude below; and what security is equal to the promise of that God who cannot lie? Who can sufficiently admire the calmness and wisdom with which the insinuation is repelled? the promise is admitted, the security which it bestows is acknowledged, and the authority of Scripture is established. But Scripture is not inconsistent with itself, otherwise it were not the word of God: spiritual things must therefore be compared with spiritual, and it is written, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy 'God." A man is said to tempt God, when he calls `for extraordinary and unnecessary proofs of his providential care, through diffidence, or to satisfy curiosity.
Thus Israel is said to have tempted the Lord, when pressed by the want of water in Rephidim; the supply was granted, but the place was marked by a name which expressed displeasure: "he called the name of the place Meribah, strife, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord saying, Is the Lord among us or not?" The same offence was again committed in the wilderness of Sin, under the pressure of hunger : "Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?" The miracle of relief was again interposed. "He commanded the clouds from above and opened the doors of heaven-he rained down manna upon them to eat, and gave them of the corn of heaven. Man did eat angel's food. He rained flesh also upon them as dust, and feathered fowls as the sand of the sea." But it is dangerous to put the goodness and power of God to trial, and by impatience and importunity to extort the indulgence of a man's own desire." God often withholds in love, and grants from just disapprobation." They were not estranged from their lusts; but while their meat was yet in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon them."-And for all this "they sinned still." Q
We have another noted instance of a man's tempting his Maker, in the case of Gideon, the son of Joash the Abi-ezrite. He had been called from the threshing floor to fight the battles of his country; "the Lord looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?" Gideon hesitates, urges, excuses himself. "And the Lord said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man." This does not yet overcome his diffidence; he must have a sign to cure his unbelief. "And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me. Depart not hence I pray thee, until I come unto thee, and bring forth my present, and set it before thee. And he said, I will tarry until thou come again." The sign is granted. The offering is presented upon the rock; " then the angel of the Lord put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the Lord departed out of his sight." Gideon perceives that he has presumed too far, and begins to tremble for his life, but is instantly relieved from that terror; "And the Lord said unto him, peace be unto thee, fear not, thou shalt not die." Who would not have deemed this proof satisfactory? Is not incredulity now completely disarmed? The champion of Israel must have sign upon sign. " And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, behold I will put a fleece of wool in the floor, and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. And it was so for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water." Surely the
contention is at length come to an end, and the patience of God will be put to no further trial. Wonder, O heavens, and be astonished O earth, at the presumption of man, and at the condescension of God!" And Gideon said unto God, let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: Let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. And God did so that night; for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground." But though Deity is thus pleased to yield to the unreasonable demands of man, it ill becomes man to encroach and prescribe.
In our Lord's repulsion of this temptation, mark the happy union which he recommends to his disciples; "Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves." Harmlessness brings no "railing accusation," storms not, threatens not; even the adversary is not borne down by the weight of authority, but craft is confounded by wisdom. Scripture mutilated, perverted, misapplied, is explained by Scripture in its purity and simplicity; and the tempter is again made to feel his inferiority.
With a perseverance, however, worthy of a better cause, he returns to the charge. He has been able to make no impression on the side of sense, appetite - or vanity. But ambition is the passion of great souls ; and the mighty Julius had lately furnished him with an example of the irresistible power of that lust. said the mighty conqueror, "justice is to be violated, the pleasure of domineering must plead the excuse." This "prince of the power of the air, the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience," employs his permitted energies, accordingly, to expand a delightful prospect of the pomp and glory of this world, rendered still more alluring by contrast with the real horrors of the waste howling wilderness, from the sum
mit of one of whose sterile mountains the vision was displayed. Over all this glory Satan claims absolute and unbounded dominion, and the sole right of dispo sal a claim, alas, but too well supported by reality; and of the whole he tenders an immediat transfer, on the easy condition of receiving homage for it. "Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil" was the temptation addressed to the first Adam, and it fatally prevailed, and mankind was undone. "All this power will I give, and the glory of them; for that is delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will give it If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine." By this temptation was the second Adam assailed; but it was resisted, repelled, and mankind was restored. "Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan : for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. In Christ's rejection of the former temptation we had occasion to remark the lovely mixture of wisdom and innocence; here we have an equal interesting union of wisdom and zeal of wisdom, in wielding "the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God;" of zeal, in repressing with holy indignation the insolent assumption of the empire of the world, and the no less insolent demand of the homage and worship which are due to deity alone. There is a point beyond which patience ceases to be a virtue, and degenerates into weakness. particularly so, when the name, the day, the house, the word, the worship of the great Jehovah are impiously invaded and profaned. The cloven foot is then so apparently uncovered, that nothing is left but an instantaneous and abhurrent dissent, "Get the hence, Satan." Thus when "the prince of this world" came he found nothing in Christ; no weak part, no unguarded moment, no subjection to the frailties of that nature which he had assumed. The demon hears his own name. Satan, the adversary, pronounced by the lips of truth, and feels himself detected:
Abash'd the devil stood,
And felt how awful goodness is, and saw
Thus our Lord's public ministry commenced in unparalleled trials. Thus "the captain of our salvation" began his glorious career, and was at length made" perfect through suffering." But these things were spoken, and done, and suffered for our sakes. "Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow his steps."-" Forasmuch as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind"—"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." Draw your supplies, in "the evil day," from the same sacred treasury. "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore, take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breast-plate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”