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Principle, has been almost universal. We know that wicked men will often endeavour to draw their fellow-men into sin, without any prospect of advantage to themselves; and why should not wicked spirits, if such are allowed to exist, find the same perverse pleasure in seducing us to vice? And that this should be permitted by God, to a certain extent, is no more extraordinary than that He should suffer us to be tempted by our earthly associates, or by our own corrupt affections. If we are in a state of trial, which is almost universally acknowledged, there must be something to try us,—something either within us, or without us; and it makes little difference whether the seduction arise from a bad man, a malevolent spirit, or a vicious propensity. În either case, what we have to fear, and to guard against, is ourselves. Neither mortal nor immortal, neither man nor demon, will ever prevail against us, if our own hearts do not betray us, and open some secret passage to the assailant. But however mankind at large may be exposed to the snares of an invisible adversary, some have thought it strange that so exalted a character as our great High Priest, the Son of God, should be ever liable to such impious indignity. Yet wherefore
is this strange ? Though the Son of the Highest, he was likewise the Son of David : though in heaven he was “in the form of God," on earth he appeared “ in the likeness of men;" was subjected to all the wants, sensations, and infirmities of human nature; felt hunger, and thirst, and cold, and fatigue. “ In all things,” says the apostle, “it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren,” in all but wilful and actual depravity; and though “ without sin," he was “in all points tempted like as we are."
We find accordingly, that having the same natural passions, He was exposed to the same dangers, and assailed by the same temptations which are still, and ever will be, the stumblingblocks and pit-falls in the way of ordinary mortals.
Poverty, pride, and covetousness, are the three deadly foes, the prevailing ensnarers of the human heart. Want drives us to querulous discontent, distrust of providence, dishonesty, and rapine : presumptuous conceit of ourselves, exalted notions of our own importance, and our own talents and acquirements, lead us to despise appointed means, ordinary precautions, and generally received opinions, and thus open the door either
for spiritual pride, or haughty infidelity : and covetousness, the most successful, and the most fatal, of all our seducers, absorbs every faculty, and sacrifices every moral and religious principle to the hunger of gain and grandeur. These are the three prevailing instruments with which the great adversary “lures down to death the heedless souls of men.” And with these he attempted to work on our divine Exemplar, who, while on earth, was man, though he “ spake as never man spake,” and effected what never man performed. He felt the pain of famine.- If the fast of forty days was a literal and perfect abstinence from all sustenance, he must have been miraculously supported; for his human nature could no more have survived a strict and absolute privation of all food for so long a period, than it could afterwards resist the natural effects of a capital punishment, and remain uninjured by the agonizing torture and mortal wound, inflicted by the nails and spear. Jesus was mortal, though Christ was divine ; and must have sunk under the pangs of hunger, as he did under the agonies of crucifixion. Possibly, the desert wilderness might yield crude berries or coarse roots, barely sufficient to sustain life; as we know that the Baptist had before subsisted, in the same region, on locusts (probably the fungous pod of the locust tree) and wild honey. However this may be, at the expiration of the forty days he experienced the keen attacks of famine. Here the subtle assailant spreads before him a two-fold snare, and attempts, at once, to prevail upon him by the sense of pain, and the impulse of pride. “If thou be the Son of God”—that sacred character to whom all nature was to be subjected ---display thy power ; show that thou really art what thou assumest; “ command that these stones be made bread :" relieve your wants; the means are in your own hands, if you are indeed the long-expected Messiah. “It is written,” calmly replies the Saviour, “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” The life of man is not sustained merely by the food he can raise from the earth ; but by “the word”- the command, the constant and evervigilant providence of his Maker, disposing and directing all the operations of nature to produce, and fitting the organs and functions of the human body to turn that food so produced into nourishment. Nor is this animal life, this present existence, so precious as to be anxiously prized, or to
preserve which he is to use any unwarranted
His spiritual existence is to be his great object; and this is to be secured by obedience to the precepts of his Creator. He is to seek first, before all other things, food for the soul-manna from heaven.
Satan then urges him to manifest his confidence in divine aid by a bold and decisive act, and prove, at the same time, his celestial origin and his unshaken reliance on his heavenly Father, by projecting Himself from the giddy eminence on which they stood. “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down; for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee, and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone." But mark the answer—“ Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” Useless and unbidden exposure to danger and destruction either temporal or spiritual, either of the body or the soul, in expectation of preternatural aid, is not pious confidence, but rash and enthusiastic presumption.It is tempting God.
And here I cannot but remark how easily the very best means may be perverted to the very worst ends, by a wicked heart and corrupted