Imágenes de páginas

Lord was led, not in a dream, or trance, or vision, but was actually and literally led by the Spirit into the wilderness of Judea? There is, I know, an interpretation, which explains away this obvious meaning. But that interpretation rests solely on the doubtful signification of a single Greek particle, which is surely much too slender a ground to justify a departure from the plain and literal sense of the passage. Certain it is, that if any one had meant to describe a real transaction, he could not have selected any expressions better adapted to that purpose than those actually made use of by the evangelist; and I believe no one, at his first reading of our Lord's temptation, ever entertained the slightest idea of its being a visionary representation.

3. There is an observation, which has been made, and which has great weight in this question. It is this: all the prophets of the Old Testament, except Moses, saw visions, and dreamed dreams; and the prophets of the New did the same. St. Peter had a vision, St. John saw visions, St. Paul had visions and dreams; but Christ himself neither saw visions nor dreamed dreams. He had an intimate and immediate communication with the Father; and he, and no one else in his days, had seen the Father. The case was the same with Moses; he saw God face to face. "If there be a prophet among you," says God to Aaron and Miriam, "I the Lord will make myself known to him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all my house with him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold**" Now Moses, we all know, was a type of Christ; and the resemblance holds between them in this instance, as well as in many others. They neither of them had visions or dreams, but had both an immediate communication with God. They both "saw God face to face t." This was a distinction and a mark of dignity peculiar to those two only, to the great legislator of the Jews, and the great legislator of the Christians. It is therefore inconsistent with this high privilege, this mark of superior eminence, to suppose, that our Lord was tempted in a vision, when we see no other instance of a vision in the whole course of his ministry.

4. There is still another consideration, which militates + Exod. xxxiii, 11.

* Num. xii, 6-8.

strongly against the supposition of a visionary temptation. It was in itself extremely probable, that there should be a real and personal conflict between Christ and Satan, when the former was entering on his public ministry.

It is well known, that the great chief of the fallen angels, who is described in Scripture under the various names of Satan, Beelzebub, the Devil, and the Prince of the Devils, has ever been an irreconcileable enemy to the human race, and has been constantly giving the most decided and most fatal proofs of this enmity, from the beginning of the world to this hour. His hostility began with the very first creation of man upon Earth, when he no sooner discovered our first parents in that state of innocence and happiness, in which the gracious hand of the Almighty had just placed them, than, with a malignity truly diabolical, he resolved, if possible, to destroy all this fair scene of virtuous bliss, and to plunge them into the gulf of sin and misery. For this purpose he exerted all his art, and subtlety, and powers of persuasion; and how well he succeeded, we all know and feel. From that hour he established and exercised an astonishing dominion over the minds of men, leading them into such acts of folly, stupidity, and wickedness, as can on no other principle be accounted for. At the time of our Saviour's appearance, his tyranny seems to have arrived at its utmost height, and to have extended to the bodies as well as to the souls of men, of both which he sometimes took absolute possession: as we see in the history of those unhappy persons mentioned in Scripture, whom we call demoniacs, and who were truly said to be possessed by the devil. It was therefore extremely natural to suppose, that when he found there was a great and extraordinary personage, who had just made his appearance in the world, who was said to be the Son of God, the promised Saviour of mankind, that seed of the woman, who was to bruise the serpent's head;. it was natural, that he should be exceedingly alarmed at these tidings; that he should tremble for his dominion; that he should first endeavour to ascertain the fact, whether this was really the Christ or not; and, if it turned out to be so, that he should exert his utmost efforts to subdue this formidable enemy, or at least to seduce him from his allegiance to God, and divert him from his benevolent purpose towards man. He had ruined the first Adam, and he might therefore flatter

himself with the hope of being equally successful with the second Adam. He had entailed a mortal disease on the human race; and to prevent their recovery from that disease, and their restoration to virtue and to happiness, would be a triumph indeed, a conquest worthy of the prince of the devils.

On the other hand, it was equally probable, that our blessed Lord would think it a measure highly proper, to begin his ministry with showing a decided superiority over the great adversary of man, whose empire he was going to abolish; with manifesting to mankind, that the great Captain of their salvation was able to accomplish the important work he had undertaken, and with setting an example of virtuous firmness to his followers, which might encourage them to resist the most powerful temptations, that the prince of darkness could throw in their way.

These considerations, in addition to many others, afford a strong ground for believing, that the temptation of Christ in the wilderness was, as the history itself plainly intimates, a real transaction, a personal contest between the great enemy and the great Redeemer of the human race; and in this point of view, therefore, I shall proceed to consider some of the most remarkable circumstances attending it, and the practical uses resulting from it*.

We are told, in the first place, that "Jesus was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness;" that is, not by the evil spirit, but by the Spirit of God, by the suggestions and by the impulse of the Holy Ghost, of whose divine influences he was then full. For the time when this

It is an ingenious observation of a learned friend of mine, that the temptation of Christ in the wilderness bears an evident analogy to the trial of Adam in Paradise, and elucidates the nature of that trial in which the tempter prevailed and man fell. The second Adam, who undertook the cause of fallen men, was subjected to temptation by the same apostate spirit. Herein the tempter failed, and the second Adam, in consequence, became the restorer of the fallen race of the first. St. Paul, in more places than one, points out the resemblance between the first Adam and the second; and the temptation in the wilderness exhibits a most interesting transaction, where the second Adam was actually placed in a situation very similar to that of the first. The secrets of the Most High are unfathomable to short-sighted mortals; but it would appear, from what may be humbly learnt and inferred from this transaction, that our blessed Lord's temptation by Satan was a necessary part in the Divine economy towards accomplishing the redemption of mankind.

happened was immediately after his baptism, which is related in the conclusion of the preceding chapter. We are there informed, that " Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water; and, lo! the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him; and, lo! a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Then (it immediately follows) was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil." In that moment of exaltation, when he was acknowledged by a voice from heaven to be the Son of God, and when the Spirit of God had taken full possession of his soul, then it was that Jesus went forth under the guidance of that Spirit, in full confidence of his divine power, into the wilderness, to encounter the prince of this world: a plain proof that this contest was a preconcerted design, a measure approved by Heaven, and subservient to the grand design, in which our Saviour was engaged, of rescuing mankind from the dominion of Satan.

The place into which our blessed Lord was thus led was "the wilderness," probably the "great wilderness,' near the river Jordan, in which Jesus was baptized, and soon afterwards tempted. This wilderness is thus described by a traveller of great credit and veracity, who had himself seen it. "In a few hours," says this writer, "we arrived at that mountainous desert, in which our Saviour was led by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil. It is a most miserable; dry, barren place, consisting of high rocky mountains, so torn and disordered as if the earth had suffered some great convulsion, in which its very bowels had been turned outward. On the left hand, looking down into a deep valley, as we passed along we saw some ruins of small cells and cottages, which we were told were formerly the habitations of hermits, retiring hither for penance and mortification; and certainly there could not be found, in the whole earth, a more comfortless and abandoned place for that purpose. On descending from these hills of desolation into the plain, we soon came to the foot of Mount Quarantania, which they say is the mountain from whence the devil tempted our Saviour with that visionary scene of all the kingdoms and glories of this world. It is, as St. Matthew calls it, 'an exceeding high mountain,' and in its ascent difficult

* Matt. iii, 16, 17.

and dangerous. It has a small chapel at the top, and another about half way up, on a prominent part of a rock. Near this latter are several caves and holes in the sides of the mountain, made use of anciently by hermits, and by some at this day for places to keep their Lent in, in imitation of that of our blessed Saviour*."

This was a theatre perfectly proper for the prince of the fallen angels to act his part upon, and perfectly well suited to his dark, malignant purposes.

Here, then, after our Saviour (as Moses and Elijah had done before him) had endured a long abstinence from food, the devil abruptly and artfully assailed him with a temptation well calculated to produce a powerful effect on a person faint and worn out with fasting. "If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread." But our Saviour repelled this insidious advice, by quoting the words of Moses to the Israelites in the wilderness: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of Godt." That is, he that brought me into this wilderness, and subjected me to these trials, can support me under the pressure of hunger, by a variety of means besides the common one of bread, just as he fed the Israelites in the wilderness with manna, with food from heaven. I will, therefore, rather choose to rely on his gracious providence, for my support in this exigency, than work a miracle myself for the supply of my wants.

This answer was perfectly conformable to the principle on which our Lord acted throughout the whole of his ministry. All his miracles were wrought for the benefit of others, not one for his own gratification. Though he endured hunger and thirst, and indigence and fatigue, and all the other evils of a laborious and an itinerant life, yet he never once relieved himself from any of these inconveniences, or procured a single comfort to himself, by the working of miracles. These were all appropriated to the grand object of proving the truth of his religion and the reality of his divine mission, and he never applied them to any other purpose. And in this, as in all other cases, he acted with the most perfect wisdom; for had he always or often delivered himself from the sufferings and the distresses incident to human nature, by the exertions of his miraculous powers, the benefit of his

* Maundrell.

+ Deut. viii, 3; Matt. iv, 4.

« AnteriorContinuar »