Christ's Sympathy with Temptation
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Matthew 4:1
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Matthew 4:1
Then Jesus was led out into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted there by the Devil. Matthew 4:1
This must be regarded as one of the most marvelous pages in the Savior's history, and, to a large portion of the Church of God, not less precious end soothing. That the Son of God should be exposed to so personal, so searching, so trying, and so protracted an onslaught of the devil as this- that He who was sinless and could not sin, who was almighty and could not fall, who with one word could have commanded back the foe to the regions from where He came, or with a breath could have annihilated his being, should yet for forty days and forty nights have subjected Himself to this fiery, burning furnace- which, had He not been God would have utterly consummed Him- is the marvel of earth, and will be the wonder, the study, and the song of heaven through eternity. But it was a part of the suffering of our Lord by which He was to learn, even though He were a Son. That wilderness was to Christ both a school and a battle-field. He had not been perfected but for this suffering, He had not learned obedience but for this trial, He had not been complete, as the Head of His Church, but for this furnace. Had our Lord been exempt from temptation, had He known nothing of Satanic agency and power, what an essential defect would there have been in His mediatorial relation to the Church! How could He have met the case of a tempted member of His body, a worried sheep of His flock, a Satan-terrified lamb of His fold? Impossible! Where, then, could these have turned for support, aid, and deliverance in temptation? From whom, when the fiery darts fell thick and fast around and upon them, could they have obtained the skill to quench, the grace to support, the sympathy to soothe them in the conflict, and bring them through more than conquerors? Alas! not another being in the universe could have met the case! And it was necessary for the Church, His body, that Christ, its Head, should be in all points tempted like as we are, and yet be without sin. Reserving, for the present, the peculiar circumstances attending Christ's temptation, let us view the temptation itself, and then apply it as illustrating His sympathy with His tempted people.
THE TEMPTATION ITSELF.
In the first place, let us remark that Christ was tempted by the devil. He was confronted with the leader, the chief of the hierarchy of hell. It was proper that it should be so. To have met and defeated a foe of inferior rank, a subordinate agent of the Evil One, one of less authority or of less power, would have broken the Scriptures and compromised the Church. But "the Scripture cannot be broken," and the interests of the Church can never be imperilled. The sentence pronounced upon the serpent in Paradise involved a prediction which must be fulfilled- "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." It was necessary, then, that, if our Lord be tempted, that temptation should come from the prince of the devils- the tall archangel of hell himself. Our temptations from Satan often flow from indirect sources, from sin within or incentives to sin without; our Lord's were directly from Satan. He had come to destroy the works of the Devil, but He must first confront, bind, and virtually destroy the Devil himself. It was by this malignant foe God had been accused to man, and it is by this same malignant foe man is accused to God; and it was proper that, by the God-man, He should be met and overthrown- himself accused and condemned. But how replete with instruction, and how full of consolation to the Church is this truth! Not the myrmidons, not the subordinate ministers and agents of the Devil have been defeated by Christ, but the Devil himself. The head has been bruised, the prince has been despoiled, the chief defeated, by Christ's heel. Thus, from personal experience, our Lord learned who and what Satan is- his subtlety, his malignity, and his power- and is prepared to support and sympathize, as no other being can, with those who are tempted. It was proper, then, that the Captain of our salvation should meet in conflict hell's chief; that the Head of the Church should meet face to face the head of hell, and so "be led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil."
And what were His temptations? They would seem to have been from every quarter and of every kind. The quiver of the artful foe lacked no darts. The moment one was winged and quenched, another, yet more potent, was upon the string! The devil is never at a loss for means and appliances. His resources are vast, his ingenuity versatile, his operations as rapid and as telling as the electric current. The wiles and devices of the devil are worthy a being of so vast, yet so depraved, an intellect. What, then, was his first assault upon our Lord?
It was the temptation to distrust the providence of God. After His long, exhausting fast our Lord hungered. He needed bread. He was man, and He felt as man. Oh, touching evidence of His real humanity! precious proof of His perfect oneness with us! Of this sinless infirmity of His nature Satan took advantage. Thus we read, "And when the tempter came to Him, He said, If you are the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread." The temptation was timely, plausible, and strong. It had been as easy for Christ to have established the fact- not denied by His adversary- of His Divine Sonship by turning the stones into bread, as subsequently He did by turning the water into wine. But He would not! He had come to bring to our spiritually famished race Himself the Bread of life; to teach His disciples the lesson of a believing reliance upon the care and provision of their heavenly Father- His Father and their Father. To have yielded to this temptation, to have complied with this suggestion of the wily foe, would have been a practical compromise of the one, and a direct denial of the other. No! Christ would not break His fast upon such terms. He would endure the gnawings of hunger still rather than place the food that perishes above the food that endures unto eternal life, or throw the shadow of a shade of distrust upon a Father's care. How Godlike and sublime His reply, "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." And is there not a page in our experience corresponding to this? How often by the same Adversary we are assailed with the same temptation! It is one of the ingenious plans of our subtle foe to seize upon the present circumstances of believers, turning them to his own advantage, and to their discomfort, by constructing them into a weapon of point and power with which to assail them. Are we in affliction and sorrow?- He tempts us to question God's goodness and love. Are we prostrate on a sick and suffering couch?- He tempts us to doubt the wisdom and kindness of our Father. Is the mind in spiritual darkness, the soul painfully exercised, a cloud-veil thrown over the evidences of our union with Christ and our adoption into God's family?- He tempts us to ignore our past Christian experience as a delusion, and to yield ourselves to a present and dark despair. Are the providences of our God trying, painful, and mysterious?- He tempts us to carnal reasoning, and hard thoughts of the character and government of God, sometimes bringing us to the very verge of atheism and infidelity- impeaching His character, if not doubting His very being. Are our temporal resources straitened, our needs pressing, our position trying and critical?- He tempts us to unbelief, distrust, and despondency; to employ unwise, if not unlawful, means of extrication, and to purchase immediate and temporary relief by a compromise of integrity, reputation, and happiness. My reader, Satan knows your circumstances, is acquainted with the network of your trying and difficult position, and is prepared to forge from it a weapon of assault upon your principles, your well-being, and your peace. The Devil is marvelously strategic: his suggestions will have all the appearance of reason, fitness, and propriety; they will seem plausible, facile, and honest; nevertheless, they are satanic, are from beneath, and must not receive from you the consideration of a moment. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6. The Lord can give you bread- and no good thing will He withhold from you- without the intervention of a miracle. The sustenance is all provided; no need, then, that He command the stones that they be made bread!
The second temptation of our Lord was self-destruction. This was its form- "Then the Devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down! For the Scriptures say, 'He orders his angels to protect you. And they will hold you with their hands to keep you from striking your foot on a stone.' " Matthew 4:5-6. And still there is no denial of His Divine Sonship on the part of the devil. Alas that there should be on the part of man! He places the fact in a hypothetical point of light only- "IF you be the Son of God,"- for on a subsequent occasion the unclean demon could exclaim, "I know you who You are, the Holy One of God." And yet, there was this fearful temptation of this Holy One. And what was its nature? Suicide! "cast yourself down- destroy Yourself! Presume upon the providence and power of God to preserve You. Commit the act, and leave Him to shield You from its consequences." Such, in substance, was the reasoning of this arch-fiend of darkness. With what holy horror must the Son of God have recoiled from the temptation to this rash, sinful, appalling crime! And yet with what dignity and power He repels and silences it! "Jesus said unto him, It is written again, You shall not tempt the Lord your God." (Jesus responded, "The Scriptures also say, 'Do not test the Lord your God.' ") Matthew 4:7. There are few temptations by which our race is assailed more common, and none more dire, than this. And, as Satan loves a prominent and shining mark, the victim of his malignity is often placed upon a pinnacle of the temple, that the crime may be the darker, and his triumph the more conspicuous and complete. Therefore it is that God's saints, Christ's disciples, are not the exception, but generally the rule, of this appalling onslaught of the foe. How many of the saints of the most High are, like their Lord and Master, thus assailed by the devil! My dear reader, it may be that this fiery dart has been hurled at you. Taking advantage of your position, your circumstances, your domestic anxieties, your pressing liabilities, the detractions of enemies, a nervous temperament, mental dejection, a frame tortured by suffering or enfeebled by disease, this may be the form of the temptation by which Satan approaches you. As "there has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man," and as both Christ and many of His disciples have been alike assailed as you may now be, it may not be considered out of place or unacceptable if we endeavor to meet and mitigate your present trial with such words and counsels as the Holy Spirit may suggest and apply.
The temptation that assails you is- self-destruction. "Cast yourself down." With whom but with a spirit so inventive of crime, so depraved and malignant, could so unnatural a suggestion, so fearful a sin, originate? Every point of light in which we view it, every reason with which we assail it, every plea by which we dissuade from it- its touching relation to the present, and its more solemn relation to the future- conspire to render the act abhorrent and repelling. Reserving, for the present, its more religious aspects, regard the sin of suicide in the light of nature. There is not a stronger or more innate principle of the human mind than self-preservation. The love of life and the fear of death are feelings naturally and incontestably implanted in all beings. The irrational creation possess an instinctive principle of the kind engrafted in their nature by God. But it has been left for man to war against a principle of his nature which all other beings preserve inviolate; and, though endowed with reason, intelligence, conscience, and responsibility, yet, estranged from God, and the subject of a deranged mind, he is often swept on by the force of an irresistible current which lands him at the tribunal of eternity, the destroyer of a principle the most precious and solemn in the universe! It is a remarkable fact that in the primitive state of society the idea of self-destruction is scarcely known; that it is only in nations of extreme civilization and high intelligence that this crime the most greatly prevails. A distinguished French physician remarks that, when a captive in Russia, He once spoke to an intelligent peasant concerning this unnatural deed, and found him totally and blissfully ignorant of its existence. In the rise of the Roman republic it was scarcely known, nor did it become frequent until after the battle of Pharsalia. Thus it would seem that, as society advanced in civilization and refinement, not only modes of self-destruction became more refined, but the act itself more familiar. We need scarcely cite the cases of Regulus, Codrus, and Socrates as illustrating what have been termed virtuous and patriotic examples, but which, in no point of light, justify a crime as opposed to the instincts of man as it is condemned by the law of God. As we are not attempting a treatise on this melancholy subject, we forbear pressing our inquiry into the various motives or causes which may predispose the mind in the commission of so rash an act. Indeed, it would seem impossible to give anything like a proper analysis or classification of them. A few examples will show this- Adrian, Licinius, and Coecinus destroyed themselves from excess of pain; Imilicar, Nasso, and Hannibal from excess of fear; Pontius Pilate from chagrin at the spread of Christianity; Maximian from despair at having oppressed its disciples; Judas from guilt and remorse at having betrayed its Author. Others have been tempted thus to anticipate their future from the pressure of poverty, from the dread of exposure, from wounded pride, from crushed affections; from disappointed hopes, from hypochondriacism assuming a religious form, from sheer selfishness, and from a morbid disgust and weariness of life. These are some of the predisposing causes to which this wastefulness of life may be traced. But it is with the temptation itself we have now to do.
We premise, however, that in most cases of this kind the melancholy subject of the temptation must be regarded in the light of an irresponsible agent, whose diseased and disordered mind has utterly destroyed the self-controlling power of the soul, and consequently annihilating the only basis upon which human responsibility rests- that is, a sound and healthful mind. The majority of suicidal cases must be thus resolved- the alienation of an unbalanced intellect obscuring the light of reason, and destroying the responsibility of the agent. Let nothing, therefore, which may be traced upon this page deepen the shade of sadness which still lingers upon the memory of the past; but let the profoundly mysterious act resolve itself in the righteous permission of the Divine will, quenching in its melancholy subject every vestige of human accountability. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" "Even so, Father, for so it seems good in your sight," must be the expression of our submission to so dark a mystery of providence. With regard to the temptation, if for a moment it be suggested to your mind, there is every argument drawn from the light of nature with which resistance may be strengthened, and the crime repelled. Let us briefly group them together. Your life is not your own. "Behold, all souls are mine, says the Lord." The possession of a power over your own life establishes no claim to ownership, any more than the same power over the lives of others invests you with a right to destroy them. God, therefore, "in whom we live and move and have our being," as your sole Proprietor, alone has authority to dispose of you- demanding or retaining your life, as it pleases Him. "None of us can hold back our spirit from departing. None of us has the power to prevent the day of our death. There is no escaping that obligation, that dark battle." Eccles. 8:8. "None can keep alive his own soul."
What an impeachment, too, is this act of the wisdom, goodness, and righteousness of God. Deliberately and dispassionately to fling into His face a soul He had created in His own image; endowed with an intelligence second only to His own; and for whose culture, happiness, and preservation He had provided, in His infinite goodness, so amply; is to insult His majesty, to deny His faithfulness, and virtually to own a disbelief in His very being. It is an act, too, of extreme selfishness; selfishness utterly indifferent to the claims and feelings of those dependent upon our existence for their own, whose interests we compromise, and upon all the future of whose earthly happiness we cast the dark shadow of grief. What sad fruit, too, of pride, shame, and cowardice is this act, calmly, premeditatively done! Shrinking from meeting the eye of man, yet not afraid of rushing into the presence of God! Seeking to escape from present embarrassments, afraid to face existing responsibilities, yet not shrinking from the responsibility of a sane suicide, braving the terror of God's tribunal before which the soul thrusts itself uncalled! Oh, it is a fearful temptation of the arch-foe of man, from listening to which for a moment every natural, reasonable, and moral argument and consideration powerfully and solemnly dissuades. Listen to the voice of God, echoed by reason and conscience- "do yourself no harm."
The language of a good man is, "All the days of my appointed time will I wait until my change comes." Let revelation and reason unite in winning back your thoughts to solemn reflection and self-restraint, that thus you may be doubly armed against this fearful temptation of Satan.
"Our time is fixed, and all our days are numbered;
How long, how short, we know not; this we know
Duty requires we calmly wait the summons,
Nor dare to stir until Heaven shall give permission.
Like sentinels that must keep their destined stand,
And wait the appointed hour until they're relieved.
Those only are the brave who keep their ground,
And keep it to the last. To run away
Is but a coward's trick; to run away
From this world's ills, that at the very worst
Will soon blow over, thinking to mend ourselves
By boldly venturing on a world unknown,
And plunging headlong in the dark! it is mad;
No frenzy half so desperate as this."
We have remarked that this is a temptation of Satan from which God's people are not totally exempt. A consideration of this will place before us the religious aspect of the subject. The Head of the Church thus tempted, the Church and the individual members of the Church must not expect to be absolved. "Cast yourself down," was the temptation presented to Christ by Satan. "Destroy yourself," is the like dark thought often suggested by the Evil One to the minds of Christ's disciples. Seizing upon your peculiar and pressing circumstances, or the physical and mental condition through which you are for the time passing- your tried spirit, or embarrassed position, or bodily suffering, or spiritual gloom and despondency of mind, Satan avails himself of it to present to your mind gloomy thoughts and distrustful feelings of God and His dealings, and to insinuate an easy and effectual mode of escaping from present difficulties and mental distress- the dark, the awful, the appalling one of anticipating the future by your own hand! The idea, the suggestion, the mode of its execution come from him the adversary, the accuser, the foe of God's saints. But not for the universe must an instigation so awful in its nature, so dishonoring to your Christian profession, so wounding to Christ, so denying of God; and investing life's close with a pall of woe so dark, find a moment's reflective response in your heart or mind. All the powers of your soul, every effort of self-resistance, every tender, holy consideration it is possible for you to command, must be summoned to the battle and aid you in the victory. Far beyond this, must you betake yourself to Christ the tempted One, tempted as you are now and by the same tempter, who is prepared to strengthen, aid, and fortify you against, and deliver you out of, this terrible onslaught of His foe and yours. No imagination can portray the tenderness, the compassion, the sympathy of Christ with you in this dark hour of your terrible temptation. All the boundless resources of His grace, power, love, and sympathy are enlisted on your side, and are at your command. How appropriate and precious are the Divine declarations of this truth written for you- "We have not an high Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." "For in that He himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to support their that are tempted." Oh, yield yourself in this extremity to prayer. There is no weapon of resistance like this. With it, you can "resist the devil, and He will flee from you." Meet the arch-foe with the name of Jesus, and He will quail before you. Uplift in faith the cross of Christ, acid you will put to flight all the hosts of hell.
Christ has wounded, despoiled, and vanquished Satan on the cross and in the grave; and a yet more signal and a final triumph over him awaits the Son of God- and you have but to shelter your tried, tempted, trembling soul beneath His overshadowing wing until this dark hour of temptation is past. Oh, what a soothing reflection is this- "The Son of God, my Savior, was tempted to self-destruction, even as I am! Then, will He desert me in this hour of my weakness? will He leave me to combat the tempter alone? Will He not assist me by His grace, aid me with His strength, comfort me with His love, soothe me with His sympathy, and deliver me by His great power? Most assuredly He will! He has trodden this very path Himself. He has been assailed by this very foe, and with this very temptation; and will He not support me as no other being does, as no other being can? O sweet assault that opens to me the gentle heart of Jesus, into which I run, and am shielded by its power, soothed by its sympathy, and am lost in its love. Then, I will look to Jesus, cling to Jesus, trust in Jesus, who knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and who will deliver- me!"
Closely akin to this form of temptation of Satan, is a modern manifestation popularly termed "Spiritualism," or the alleged power to unravel the mysteries of the spirit-world. To so great an extent has this delusion spread, and so disastrous has been its influence upon the mental and moral well-being of numbers of its victims, that, in touching upon the subject of satanic agency, we should be scarcely justified in passing it over in total silence. We do not assert that the senseless mummeries of spirit-rapping; table-turning, clairvoyance, and kindred delusions- professed media of communication with the invisible world- are the direct results of satanic power- the manifestations are far too clumsy and transparent to conduct us to such a conclusion- still, we avow our unhesitating belief that they are the conceptions of human depravity and the inventions of human fraud, working upon the imagination of the weak and the credulous, suggested, prompted, and abetted by the Evil One, who employs the sin that is in man to increase the amount of sin and misery that is in the world. Indirectly, then, we track these ungodly arts, these awful delusions, to the "prince of the power of the air, who "works in the children of disobedience." From all such proceedings, then, it becomes the solemn duty of every believer in Jesus to turn with detestation and horror, as from the Evil One himself, and to have no fellowship with these works of darkness, but rather to reprove them. They are diabolical and satanic so far as they are a part of the machinery by which the Devil carries forward his government in this ungodly world, where for a season his seat is. That even some of the elect of God have been deceived by these delusions, it is mournful and humiliating to confess; and not a few cases have transpired in which domestic happiness has been blasted, spiritual peace has been destroyed, Christian hope has been beclouded, and the mind has succumbed either to moody despair, or to hopeless insanity, in some instances terminating in self-murder. Oh, be this our constant prayer, "Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins: let them not have dominion over me." And to the Divine exhortation we do well that we take heed- "Put on therefore the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Therefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."
The third temptation of our Lord was IDOLATRY, with the promise of temporal territory, glory, and power. This was the form in which the Devil put it- "Next the Devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him the nations of the world and all their glory. "I will give it all to you," he said, "if you will only kneel down and worship me." Matthew 4:8-9. We pause not to notice the monstrous arrogance and mendacious insolence, together with the glaring falsehood, exhibited in the form of this assault. It is enough to notice the aspiring ambition of this proud Lucifer who now demanded the homage and worship of the Son of God, and thus aspired to be God: "If you will fall down and worship me!" This would seem to have been the climax of horror, the sin of sins, to the holy Son of God. No sin has Jehovah so emphatically forbidden, or has marked with such signal and overwhelming indications of His hatred, displeasure, and wrath, as the sin of idolatry. And yet this was the climax to the series of temptations by which our Lord was assailed of the devil! Dwell upon the thought for a moment- devil-worship, offered, justified, and encouraged by the example of the Son of God! Can the imagination depict a temptation so fearful, or a crime so appalling? Again we remark, with what horror must the Savior have met, with what indignation must He have repelled, and how instantaneously must He have quenched this fiery dart of the foe! Listen to His words: "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" Matthew 4:10.
And are the saints of God entirely exempt from temptation akin to this? We believe not. Assailing us through our senses- the eye fond of beauty, the heart ambitious of power, the mind dazzled with glory, the soul lusting for possession- easy and accessible avenues are open to this arch-foe of Christ and of the Church. To what idolising of ourselves, and of the creature, and of worldly possessions, are the best of saints exposed! We may– so deceitful and wicked are our hearts- be beguiled, before we are conscious of our sin, into a worshiping of our intellectual powers, of our acquired endowments, of our popularity, of our usefulness, of our very graces! Wherein else could have been the appropriateness and the force of the apostolic exhortation- "Therefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry." And again, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." And what is the homage paid by the ungodly to objects that are sinful, yes, to sin itself, but a worship unconsciously, but really, offered to Satan? It is against this the saints of God have need to be armed and fortified- to be vigilant and prayerful. He assails us through the affections- through the eye- the ear- the intellect, yes, through every bodily sense and mental faculty. The creature may become an idol of the heart, and learning an idol of the intellect; we may be so enamored with the beauty of the arts, of the melody of music, of the fascination of science, as to be swept on by the resistless force of the passions to a point where we may worship and serve the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Such is the natural tendency to idolatry of the human heart, such the power and influence of Satan, we have need to be acquainted, in some measure, with the deceitfulness and wickedness of the one, and not to be ignorant of the wiles and the devices of the other.
From this subject of our Lord's temptations, we may glean some LESSONS OF HOLY INSTRUCTION, and derive some STREAMS OF REAL COMFORT.
We learn that our great adversary and accuser is a defeated foe. From this onslaught upon Christ He retired foiled, vanquished, and abashed. The Seed of the woman had bruised the serpent's head. It is true, "Satan left Him for a season," to renew the battle on another and a more conspicuous field, and at a future and a more eventful time; but only to be more signally discomfited, more fatally wounded, and more completely overthrown. Tempted believer in Jesus! learn thus the paralyzed power of your tempter, that you do not be disheartened and dismayed. Remember that the Son of God has foiled him, that the Captain of your salvation has pierced him, signally and fatally; and that every fiery dart winged at your soul is plucked from a quiver all whose weapons, pointed at the believer, are tipped with the conquering blood of Christ, and are hurled by the stricken arm of an archer humbled and cowed by the consciousness of a signal and irrecoverable defeat!
Learn to meet Satan's suggestions, to answer his arguments, and to repel his temptations by the "sword of the Spirit, which, is the Word of God." He too can quote and apply Scripture, only to misquote and misapply it. You may, therefore, safely infer that if He seeks to give Scripture point and force to a vile insinuation- quotes a promise or cites an example from the Word of God in support of some infernal suggestion, some dark design, some horrid temptation- He has by fraud and subtlety stolen from the arsenal of truth weapons with which, by perversion and wicked ingenuity, to accomplish his dark, nefarious design. Lend not your ear for a moment to a temptation that comes clad in Scripture authority. Suspect the cloven foot of Satan. The Word of God is very pure. It is on the side of holiness, of uprightness, of goodness, of love. It inculcates the fear of God, confidence in God, and love to God. It teaches the protection, the sufficiency, and the sympathy of Jesus. It unfolds many exceeding great and precious promises; announces many gracious and free invitations; and it is designed to support the tempted, to comfort the mourner, to soothe the sorrowful, to hold out the promise of pardon to the guilty, salvation to the lost, and to reveal the hope of glory to all those who humbly and simply believe in Christ. The moment, then, beloved, that a text of God's Word is suggested to your thoughts in favor of sin, of distrust of God, of disbelief of Christ, of self-injury, repel it with the holy indignation of a believer in Christ from the threshold of your mind, as from the Evil One, prompting you to evil, and seeking to slay you with the very weapons God graciously provided for your defense! O yes! God's Word will fortify, strengthen, and support you in temptation. It is the Book of the tempted. Like its Author, it is divine, invincible, and holy. It is the history of saints tempted like you, but from whose temptation God rescued them. "The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation." The most gracious souls, the most eminent saints, have been tempted saints. Abraham was tempted, David was tempted, Job was tempted, Peter was tempted, Paul was tempted, Luther was tempted- and, above all, and greater than all, Christ was tempted; and all from the selfsame foe- "Satan, the accuser of the brethren." All passed through this heated crucible, all were taught in this painful school, all bore to heaven the scars of the wounds in this battle with the devil- but out of all God delivered them. Do not think, then, that some strange thing has happened unto you- that you tread a peculiar, solitary path, a path untrodden by the saints of God. O no! You are one of the "great cloud of witnesses" of whom it is recorded, "they were tempted," and with them you shall testify to the power of faith in giving you the victory over all the assaults of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Fly, tempted one! to the precious Scriptures. They are your grand arsenal, richly stored with every species of weapon with which to foil and vanquish your powerful, sleepless, subtle foe. "Your word have I hid in my heart, that I should not sin against you." Above all, fly to the Christ of the Scriptures, and nestle your tempted spirit beneath His sheltering wing.
And do not forget what a girding of the soul in the temptations of Satan is- prayer. Take your temptation, drag the tempter to the throne of grace, and you are safe. The shadow of that spot is too divine, too pure and holy, for a temptation to live a single moment. There the Wicked One will cease to trouble you, there your weary soul will sweetly rest. Communion with God, the opening of your heart to Christ, flying into the very bosom of the Comforter, will put to flight all the hosts of hell. Oh, betake yourself, tempted child of God, to prayer! God invites you, the blood of Jesus gives you access, and the mercy-seat will cover you with its Divine and sacred shadow, beneath which God will keep you in perfect peace. "Oh, how great is your goodness, which, you have laid up for those who fear you; which you have wrought for those who trust in you before the sons of men! You shall hide them in the secret of your presence from the pride of man; you shall keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues." Resort, then, to prayer "If he haunts you with fears of your spiritual estate, fly to the throne of grace, and beg a new copy of your old evidence, which you have lost. The original is in the pardon-office in heaven, whereof Christ is Master; if you are a saint, your name is upon record in that count; make your moan to God, hear what news from heaven, rather than listen to the tales which are brought by your enemy from hell. Did such reason less with Satan, and pray over their fears more to God, they might sooner be resolved. Can you expect truth from a liar, and comfort from an enemy? Did He ever prophesy well of believers? Was not Job the devil's hypocrite, whom God vouched for a nonsuch in holiness, and proved him so at last? If He knew that you were a saint, would He tell you so? If a hypocrite, he would not have you know it; turn your back therefore on him, and go to your God: fear not but sooner or later He will give his hand again to your certificate. But see that you do not pass rashly a censure on yourself, because a satisfactory answer is not presently sent at your desire; the messenger may stay long, and bring good news at last." (Gurnall)
Designed as this volume is to set forth the sympathy of Christ with man, no illustration of this precious truth is more touching than Christ's sympathy with the tempted. The inspired allusions to it are few, but, oh, how pointed and precious! "In that He himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to support, those who are tempted." "We have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." How schooled and trained to this work of sympathy with Satan-tempted souls, then, is our great High Priest! What! is He not "touched?" will He not "support?" And when Satan stands at your right hand to accuse, do you think that He, your Advocate with the Father, will not put in a plea on your behalf that shall quash the indictment, silence the accusation, and condemn the accuser? Oh, enfold yourself, tempted believer, within the robe of your Savior's sympathy! Hide within its rich, its ample folds, until the temptation be past. Christ will not fail you. He may permit, for wise and holy ends, the messenger of Satan to buffet you, but He will restrain the enemy, permitting him to go so far and no farther, and will make good His promise, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness." This very temptation of your soul may make you better acquainted with Christ than ever. For this end, doubtless, He permits it. You have learned what Christ is in times of guilt, in times of sorrow, in times of need, in times of perplexity; now you are to learn what He is in times of temptation. New views of God will be opened to you, new treasures of truth unlocked, new promises applied, new discoveries and manifestations made to you of the love, the grace, the tenderness, the sympathy of Christ. You will have found some new niche in His heart of love and sympathy, unknown, undiscovered before, into which your weary, panting spirit will insinuate itself and nestle in assured safety and repose until the tempter flee. Every deluge has its dove, every dove its ark, every ark its Noah, every cloud its bow. And when the enemy shall come into your soul like a flood, the Spirit, the Comforter, will gently lead you to Jesus, and cloister you within the secret place of His loving, sheltering bosom. Hidden and resting there, the swelling waves may lift up their voice, but the Lord Jesus on high "is mightier there the noise of many waters, yes, than the mighty waves of the sea," and you need not fear. Satan is more restless, earnest, malignant at the present moment than ever; yes, often assuming the form of an angel of light, seeing that his time is short. But the Lord is at hand! In a little while He will come and complete the victory begun in Paradise, continued in the wilderness, renewed on the cross, carried on through the long history of His Church, and consummated in the day of His personal, glorious, and triumphant appearing. Tempted child of God! take heart- look up! You shall, through your conquering Head, bruise Satan under your feet shortly!
But slight allusion has been made in this chapter to THE AWFUL CONDITION OF THE UNCONVERTED, still under the dominion and power of Satan, led captive by him at his will. We would not close it without a solemn word addressed especially to such. My dear reader, be your standard of morality, your religious creed, your education, your rank in society what it may, nothing modifies, softens, or alters, in the slightest degree, the appalling fact that an unrenewed, unregenerate soul is a soul yet the subject of Satan- the captive and slave of his power and service. What is the unerring testimony of God's Word? Addressing those who, through grace, were rescued from the power of Satan, the apostle thus speaks, "You has He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience." What an appalling description of the unrenewed! Reader, it is a faithful portrait of you. if you are yet not born again of the Spirit. What need have we of further testimony? Surely this one passage, were there no other proof, is sufficient to fill with awe and alarm every unconverted reader of this page. The strong man armed, who is the Devil, has still the full possession of your soul; and will remain in undisturbed, undisputed, and willing occupation, until a stronger than He enters, spoils him of his goods, and casts him out. "Satan, the god of this evil world, has blinded the minds of those who don't believe, so they are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News that is shining upon them. They don't understand the message we preach about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God." 2 Cor. 4:4. It is his aim and policy to keep your soul in carnal security, in false peace, in the stillness and insensibility of spiritual death. Mistake not your real condition! Mistake not cold ritualism for vital religion; dead formalism for spiritual life; carnal insensibility for Divine peace; rash confidence for humble faith; human excitement for holy love; groundless expectation for assured hope! Satan is a great counterfeiter! He not only can quote Scripture, but He can imitate grace. Every species of false religion, and every form of spurious Christianity, are his inventions. He will strive to retain possession of your soul, nor relinquish his hold without a long and a desperate struggle. Be assured of this, that everything that is evil and false is of Satan. Every atheistical idea of God, every infidel thought of the Bible, every suggestion of sin, every prompting to evil, every new attraction of the world, every impediment in the way of your salvation, every argument and persuasive pleading for a postponement to a more convenient season, it may be to a sick and dying bed, of the great, the needful work of repentance and of faith, the solemn, the momentous preparation of the soul for eternity, all, all is of Satan. In all this you are "led captive by him at his will." Oh, solemn, appalling thought- "My soul the palace of Satan! my intellect, my will, my heart all under his influence and at his command! My present and my future life not God's, not Christ's, not heaven's, but Satan's!" Oh, throw yourself at the feet of the Savior, whose mission it is to destroy the works of the devil, and the devil himself, and beseech Him to rend the chain, to eject the usurper, and to claim and possess the throne and the kingdom of your soul as His own forever! Hell shall not then be your everlasting abode, nor Satan your eternal tormentor. But He who came into this world "to proclaim liberty to the captive, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound," will claim you as His lawful prize, and when you die, heaven will be your home and God your Father. You shall live and reign with Christ forever and ever. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom He may devour; whom resist steadfast in the faith." And then comes the final defeat and eternal doom of him who so long and so fearfully reigned and ruled, the God and despot of mankind– "Then the Devil, who betrayed them, was thrown into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." Rev. 20:10