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CHRIST, after his Baptism, is driven by the Spirit into the Wilderness, where he fasteth forty Days ; during which time he is tempted of the Devil several ways, but overcometh him in all of them: Afterwards Angels administer unto him.
OUR blessed Saviour, having been baptized in the river Jordan, and having received the testimony of God, in the most manifest and glorious manner, amidst vast numbers of spectators, declaring him to be the Son of the most High, now prepared to begin his public ministry, and enter upon the great work for which he came into the world. - JoRDAN, in which our great Redeemer was baptized, was the most considerable river in the land of Canaan, and ran almost from the northern to the southern boundaries of the Holy Land. It ran a great way through the wilderness of Judea, which was not called a wilderness because it was quite uninhabited, but because it was more wild, uncultivated, and less inhabited than the rest of the country. The river Jordan, like the Nile, overflowed its banks at one season of the year: it was much infested with lions, and other wild beasts, who, being driven out of their dens by the rising of the waters, spread themselves over the country; hence the allusion in the prophet, he comes like a lion from the swellings of Jordan.
The exalted Saviour of mankind, when he began his public ministry, did not seek to aggrandize himself, or court the honor or applause of men. It might have beeen expected, that, preceeded by his forerunner the Baptist, and with a blaze of divine glory round his head, he would have went to Jerusalem, the seat of power, and made known himself and his pretensions, to the great men of the kingdom. But
the meek and lowly Jesus, shunning every thing that was grand and noble, retired to the desart. The evangelist Mark informs us, that he was driven of the Spirit into the wilderness: it is not to be supposed, that he was driven by any irresistible power, but by the influence of that Holy Spirit which descended on him at his baptism, and always resided in him. The de. sign of this retirement, no doubt, was, that by solitude, contemplation, and spiritual converse with his heavenly Father, he might prepare himself for the great work which lay before him; and by baffling the temptations of the evil spirit, might triumph over the grand enemy of mankind in our stead, and point out to us the duty of withstanding his temptations. It behoved him in all things to be like to his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high-priest : for in that he hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted. That part of the wilderness into which the holy JEsus retired, is supposed to be about four miles from the river Jordan, and twenty from Jerusalem. It was in every respect, a dismal and uncomfortable situation, dry, barren, and waste, surrounded by vast craggy mountains, frequented by wild beasts, solitary, dreary and forlorn.
In this dreadful retreat, our great Redeemer remained forty days (the same time which Moses was in the Mount, when he received the law) amidst the howlings of beasts of prey, and the constant temptations of wicked spirits, who, no doubt, used all their arts to interrupt his meditations and disturb his peace. The desert was barren and dry, it produced nothing to eat; nor was there any water to allay the thirst. The Son of God fasted forty days, being supported by divine power; at the end of which time, he felt the calls of nature, and the painful sensations of hunger and thirst. What our Lord suffered from the temptations and delusive arts of the wicked spirits, during his forty days abode in the desert, is not particularly recorded ; but it seems at the end of that time, he
was attacked by the prince of apostate angels himself. It is not to be supposed but a spirit, so subtle and vigilant, must be fully acquainted with the late manifestation of divine glory, which had, at Christ's baptism, declared him the Son of God; nor could he be ignorant of the circumstance attending his birth, and the various testimonies of his life. But the great adversary of mankind, though he must certainly be convinced that he was an extraordinary person, seems not to be fully satisfied, that he was the Son of God; and to prove this important point, took this opportunity when he was afflicted with hunger and thirst, to ply him with his temptations. The wily tempter ap
proached the holy Jesus, very likely in human shape, and, knowing the extremity of his hunger, expostulated with him, why he would endure such hardships, when it was in his power so easily to find relief. If thou be the Son of God, said he, command that these stones be made bread, This temptation, seeming so kind and harmless, was the more dangerous: the crafty fiend designing to allure our great Redeemer to some superfluous acts of his divine power, to supply his present necessity, which might have been contrary to an entire resignation and obedience to the will of his heavenly Father: but our Lord repelled this insinuating temptation, by quoting the words of Moses, which implied, that God, when he pleases, can, by extraordinary means, supply the wants of his creatures, and provide food for the support of the human race. Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
The crafty fiend, repulsed in his first open attempt on the blessed JESUs, proceeded to a second trial to ensnare our exalted Saviour; in order to which, it is asserted by the evangelist, that he took him to the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple. Our great Redeemer must be hurried through air to the distance of twenty miles: it is supposed he was set upon some spire on the south side of the temple; probably on that part which was called Herod's tower,
which was built upon the edge of a rock, under which - was a valley of prodigious depth. Josephus writes, that he that was on the top of this tower, and looked down to the valley beneath, his head would immediately swim, and grow dizzy! nay, it was farther than his very eyes could reach the bottom. At this giddy height, the crafty tempter saw the blessed JEsus, and thus addressed him: 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 shall they bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Thus, by a partial and mutilated quotation from the Psalms, the great adversary of mankind attempted to draw aside and overcome their only Saviour; the words, to keep thee in all thy ways, were not to the artful tempter's purpose, and therefore were craftily omitted. The tendency of this temptation seems to be the exciting our Lord to presume too much upon the divine protection, in his present state of humility and submission; and as he depended on the word of God, when he was in danger of being famished in the wilderness, the tempter quoted the san.e. word to assure him, that God would send his angels to preserve him, though he should leap from that stupendous height. And, perhaps, the malicious fiend might secretly hope, that, if the Lord could be prevailed upon to make the experiment, he would be dashed to pieces with the fall, and all the apprehensions of the infernal powers, on his account, would then have been at an end. But the blessed JESUs was not thus to be overcome: he stood fixed on the immoveable basis of humility and meekness, and replied to the insinuating tempter, in the words of Moses, It is written again, said he, thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. By which we are to learn, that it is not lawful to try the goodness of God, or the reality of his paternal care in our preservation, by putting ourselves into unnecessary danger, or making wild and extravagant experiments of his protection.
The grand adversary of mankind, though twice repulsed with shame, yet scorned to give up the contest; but rallying all his powers of deception, stood prepared to make one more bold effort. The evangelist informs us, that from the pinnacle of the temple, the devil took our Lord to the top of an exceeding high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them. The crafty deceiver here thought to work upon our Saviour's ambition; and, doubtless, by the powers of bold enchantment, he filled the wide-stretched landscape with vast palaces, cities, temples, towers, fleets, and armies, chariots, warriors, foaming steeds, and all the mighty powers of sovereign greatness: which pointing in order to our Redeemer's view, all these things, said he, will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. To this boldness and blasphemy, the holy Jesus gave a sharper rebuke than he had done to the other temptations, and plainly manifesting his divinity, while he assumed a commanding authority, worthy the Son of God, Get thee hence, Satan, he cricd, for it is written, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
The frighted fiend now could stand no longer; he had received such a defeat, as convinced him that all further attempts were vain: his eyes were dazzled with the divine glory which shone around the Son of God; and it may be supposed that he fled murmuring to his subject fiends, complaining of his sad defeat, and giving them instructions, to use all their infernal arts, to influence the minds of men, fill them with rage against their only Saviour, and prevent their believing in him, and receiving his glorious gospel.
The grand deceiver, thus defeated, and fled, a squadron of bright cherubs descended from the heavenly world, congratulating the exalted Saviour of mankind on his victory, and administering to his necessities, such supplies from the celestial regions, as enabled him to pursue the great work which he was now to enter upon.