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Matthew, Chap. iv. 1----11. 1. Then was Jesus, immediately after the descent of the holy Spirit, led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, or, when translated more accurately, “brought by the Spirit into a wilderness,” to be tempted of the devil.
Christ was already in the wilderness; for John baptized him in Jordan, which was the centre of it: it would therefore be improper to say that he was led into a place where he was already; but if we understand by it that he was transported in imagination, not in person, into a wilderness which became the scene of the transactions which followed, the difficulty will be removed. To be brought or carried from one place to another in the visions of God, or (which is a phrase of the like import) in or by the spirit, does not denote
real local removal, but the being transported from one place to another by way of mental lively representation under the power of a dream, trance or extacy. In the same manner as Ezekiel, xxxvii. 1. was carried by the spirit into a valley of dry bones, and John (Rev. xvii. 3.) to a wilderness and high mountain, was Jesus brought into a wilderness. His vision consisted in the seeming appearance of the devil to him, carrying him to different places and urging various temptations; although the devil had in reality nothing to do in the transaction; the whole being conducted by the spirit of God.
2. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterwards an hungered.
Under the influence of this vision he remained forty days without food, receiving miraculous communications from God; the same length of time that Moses and Elijah (Exod. xxiv. 18. 1 Kings xix. 8.) were miraculously supported without any kind of refreshment: but the divine power, by which he had hitherto been sustained without any nourishment, being with drawn, he began to feel the keen sensations of hunger, and the vision was closed with the following scenes.The fasting of Jesus left him at full liberty to attend to the divine communications which were now made to him, and at the same time prepared him for one of those trials with which the whole was to be closed; in the same manner as Peter was prepared by previous hunger for the vision of the sheet which came down from heaven,
3. And when the tempter came to him, he said, if thou be, or ruther, “ inasmuch as thou art," the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
It seemed to be suggested to Christ by the tempter, that it was very unsuitable to his dignity and peculiar relation to the Father, to remain destitute of the necessary supports of life, and that it became him to exert the miraculous power with which he was invested as the Messiah, for his own immediate relief. This was a specious temptation ; for why might not the Son of God, under the severe pressure of bodily want, and when he had no prospect of a supply in the ordinary way, exert his power for so important a purpose as self-preservation? Yet the temptation was rejected.
4. But he answered and said, it is written, man shall not live by bread alone, or only,” but by every word or « by whatever,” proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
These words, which are borrowed from the writings of Moses, 'Deut. viii. 3.) refer to the case of the Israelites in the wilderness, and assign the reason of God's feeding them there with manna from heaven. The meaning of Christ, in applying them to the present occasion, seems to be this: “ the life of man may be sustained not by bread only, but by whatever other means God shall appoint, as appears from the case of the Israelites in the wilderness, of Moses and Elijah. I will not therefore, from a distrust either of his power or goodness, undertake to supply my own wants without an immediate warrant from him.” Thus did our Lord, from a principle of resignation to God and reliance on his power and care, refuse to turn stones into bread: but this scene was also prophetical, and had a reference to his future ministry, through the whole of which he was pressed with the same kind of temptations, and resisted them upon the same principles. It conveyed to him this general instruction, that, though he was the son of God, he was to struggle with hunger and thirst and all the other evils of humanity, but was never to exert his divine power for his own protection or relief, but to wait for the interposition of God in his favour. Accordingly we find that, although he wrought miracles to feed the hungry multitudes, which followed him in the desert, he never relieved himself by miracle. The divine powers with which he was invested were designed as the seal of his mission, and were never to be applied to other purposes, lest their intention should be mistaken or their dignity and authority destroyed: it was particularly necessary that they should not be applied to exempt him from the evils of life ; for then we should have been deprived of the benefit arising from his example in conquering difficulties.
5. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, Jerusalem, and setteth him on a pinnacle rather “ wing" of the temple,
6. And saith unto him, if thou be, rather " inasmuch as thou art" 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
lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.”.
In this second scene of the vision the devil took Jeo sus to Jerusalem, the metropolis of Judæa, and placed him on the wing of the temple, which commanded a view of the numerous worshippers below, and then said to him, “ inasmuch as you are the Messiah, it becomes you to open your commission in the most conspicuous manner, and therefore throw yourself down hence, in a dependence upon the divine protection which the scripture promises you ; and your miraculous preservation will induce the Jews to acknowledge you immediately as the Messiah. In answer to the quotation from scripture, by which the devil thought to enforce his temptation, which you will find Psalm xci, 11, 12. our Lord replies:
7. Jesus said unto him, it is written again, “ thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God.”
To tempt God is to make an improper trial of his power, to make new and unreasonable demands upon it, after sufficient evidence bas already been afforded. In this sense the expresssion is used in the particular instance referred to by our Lord, Deut. vi. 16. as well as on many other occasions: his meaning therefore must be this: « The scripture to which you appeal forbids us to prescribe to God in what instances he shall exert his power, and as we are not to rush upon danger without a call, in expectation of an extraordinary deliverance, so neither are we to dictate to divine wisdom what miracles shall be wrought for men's conviction.
Jesus was hereby forewarned of the frequent temptation which he would be under to an unnecessary display of his miraculous powers, and directed, even in bringing men to the faith, not to exceed the order of God, however called upon by the Scribes and Pharisees to give them signs from heaven.
Through the whole course of his ministry we find Christ assailed with temptations similar to that bere proposed, and repelling them upon the maxim here adopted. Instead of needlessly running into danger, and then relying upon the divine power to extricate him, which must have occasioned an endless multiplication of miracles, we find him using the utmost caution in declining hazards. Instead of opening his commission at Jerusalem, and displaying upon that grand theatre the powers with which he was invested, he performed the first miracle in Cana of Galilee, and made that obscure country the principal scene of his ministry for a considerable time. In the third temptation the scene changes.
8. Again, the devil táketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, 9. And
And saith unto him, all these things will I give thee if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
These two verses contain fresh and more striking proof of the necessity of supposing that what is here related passed only in vision; for Christ here, as before, is represented as holding familiar converse with a wicked spirit, which seems hardly consistent with the sanctity and dignity of his character: a supposed spiritual and therefore invisible being, is made to appear in a visible form, to speak with an audible voice, and to transport Jesus, his Lord and final judge, in his arms, through the air from one place to another ; first to a wing of the temple and then to the top of a high mountain. All