« PreviousContinue »
dwells in our hearts : and it teaches us where to watch against the approaches of the tempter.
Let us pray, then, that our eyes, ears, and all senses be mortified; that the cross be upon them all; that no images of pomp, vanity, or lust may pass through them into the affections of our hearts; that no visions of sins past, nor remembrance of any thing that can kindle pride, anger, resentment, or any unholy passion, may
passion, may haunt us; that our will may be dwelt in by the will of our sinless Lord, who for us overcame in the wilderness, and, if we be pure and true, will “ bruise Satan under our feet shortly."
When the tempter came to Him, he said, If Thou be the Son
of God, command that these stones be made bread.”
HEN our Lord had fulfilled the forty days
of His miraculous fast, “He was afterward an hungered.” He felt at that moment, more than all the sensations of languor and exhaustion to which long abstinence from food commonly brings our nature. It was a time of peculiar weakness, when, if ever, the tempter might hope to have advantage of this mysterious Person. When he came to Him, therefore, he took up the words which fell from heaven at His baptism. He said, “If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” It seems to have been partly for the sake of finding out what He truly was, and partly to prepare the way for other and worse suggestions. We
cannot say how far Satan knew with whom he had to do. Probably he could only gather His real nature by the manifestations which were revealed in this world. The tempter had, we may believe, no knowledge derived from his own intelligence who this mysterious servant of God might be. He was no longer privy to the secrets of Heaven; and no revelations in the unseen world had made him a partaker in those “ things which the angels desire to look into.” His knowledge, it seems, was to be gathered from tokens and intimations given to mankind ; as, the vision and song of the heavenly host at His birth, and the descent of the Holy Ghost, with the Father's voice at Jordan. And here he came to put all this to the test, and to elicit something more. He came seeking sign; and that sign, first of all, was a miracle, to be wrought by Christ upon the stones of the wilderness, to stay His hunger. But He who had compassion on the faintness of the multitude would not regard Himself. They had been with Him only three days, and He had fasted forty ; but He would not outrun His Father's time, or change His Father's way. He knew, it would seem, that in the end of His temptation, when He had borne it all, and accomplished the mysterious conflict, there should come ministering angels to His succour.
But my object is not so much to enter upon the
detail of this temptation, and to explain its circumstances, as to use it for our own instruction. It
may be taken as a sample of a class of temptations to which some of us are especially liable. In our Lord's hunger we may see a type of the straits and necessities into which we sometimes fall in our worldly condition ; and in the temptation of Satan an example of the unlawful and indirect ways in which men are tempted to escape from them. In one word, it may be taken as a sample of the temptations which beset those who have the part of Martha, who live in the world, charged with its temporal duties and cares, who have to provide for their own living, and for the support of others who belong to them. Our Lord's conduct is an example of trust in the providential care of God, and of the duty of abstaining from all unsanctioned ways of providing for ourselves. We will go on to consider this subject somewhat more fully.
1. And first of all, this shews us the sin of seeking our livelihood in any unlawful ways. .
This is a subject on which the consciences of men are sometimes strangely blind. The pressure of want, the encumbrances and difficulties of an embarrassed fortune, the needs of others that depend on them, are very strong and urgent reasons for great and laborious efforts to obtain a maintenance in the world. And these are often much increased in
the case of those who are, or have been, richer, whose birth lifts them above the lower kinds of employment and of temptation, and over whom the habits and expectations of society cast a powerful influence. What is more strongly felt and declared than that, “A man must live; I cannot afford to throw away any means of subsistence, or any office of emolument. If I could do so in my own person, I cannot for the sake of others. If I had nobody to think of but myself, I might withdraw from this, or abandon that, employment. Besides, the Bible
If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." It is not more a duty of reason than of religion.”
Let it be observed, I am not speaking of acts of direct robbery, - stealing, fraud, peculation, nor of the ruder or more naked forms of dishonesty by which needy men are often tempted to seek their living in unlawful ways; nor of gambling and living by chance, and the like: all these are selfevidently wicked: but of a finer class of temptations. Sometimes men of a high-toned profession in life allow themselves to participate in trades, speculations, undertakings, which are perhaps connived at by those who execute the laws of the land, though they are forbidden by the laws themselves;
11 Tim. v. 8.