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it no longer should be an engagement to us to avoid unnecessary delays, and to give God the prime and vigour of our life.
Our Great Master attained not, as it seems, to the conclusion of his thirty-fifth year, if he so much as entered upon it; yet what glorious achievements did he accomplish within these narrow limits of time ! Happy that servant who, with any proportionable zeal, dispatches the great business of life! so much the more happy if his sun go down at noon ; for the space that is taken from the labours of time will be added to the rewards of eternity.
SECTION V. Matt. IV. 1-11.—MARK 1. 12, 13.—Luke iv. 1–13. AND Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost, returned from Jordan, and immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil. And he was there in the wilderness with the wild beasts, being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. And when the tempter, the devil, came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee to keep thee, and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. And Jesus answering said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, in a moment of time: and saith unto him, All these things, and all this power, and the glory of them, will I give thee; for that is delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will, I give it. If thou therefore wilt fall down and worship me, all these things will I give thee, and all shall be thine. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then when the devil had ended all the temptation, he leaveth him, and departed from him for a season, And behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
Who can read this account without amazement, when he compares the insolence and malice of the prince of darkness with the condescension and grace of the Son of God!
What was it that animated and emboldened Satan to undertake such a work? Was it the easy victory he had obtained over the first Adam in Paradise! or was it the remembrance of his own fall, from whence he arrogantly concluded that no heart could stand against the temptations of pride and ambition ? Could he, who afterwards proclaimed Christ to be the Son of the Most High God, and had perhaps but lately heard him owned as such by a voice from heaven, make any doubt of his Divinity ? Or, if he actually believed it, could he expect to vanquish him? We may rather conclude that he did not expect it; but, mad with rage and despair, he was determined at least to worry that Lamb of God which he knew he could not devour; and to vex with his hellish suggestions, that innocent and holy soul which he knew he could never seduce. Wretched degeneracy! How art thou fallen, O Lucifer, son of of the morning! to be thus eagerly driving on thine own repulse and disgrace !
But, on the other hand, how highly are we obliged to our Great Deliverer, who hath brought forth meat out of the eater, and sweetness out of the strong! who can sufficiently adore thy condescension, O blessed Jesus ? who wouldst permit thyself to be thus assaulted and led from place to place by an infernal spirit, whom thou couldest in a moment have remanded back to hell to be bound in chains of darkness and overwhelmed with flaming ruin !
The apostle tells us why he permitted this : it was that, having himself suffered, being tempted, he might by this experience that he had of Satan's subtilty, and of the strength of his temptations, contract an additional tenderness and be the more inclined, as well as better able, to succour us when we are tempted. (Heb. ii. 18.) Let this embolden us to come unto the throne of grace, to obtain mercy, and find grace to help in the time of need. (Heb. iv. 16.)
Let us remember and imitate the conduct of the Great Cap. tain of our Salvation ; and, like him, let us learn to resist Satan, that he may flee from us. Like Christ, let us maintain such an humble dependance on the Divine blessing as never to venture out of the way of it, be the necessity ever so urgent : nor let us ever expose ourselves to unnecessary danger, in expectation of extraordinary deliverance. Like him let us learn to overcome the world, and to despise all its pomps and vanities when offered at the price of our innocence.
To furnish us for such a combat, let us take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Let us not only make ourselves familiarly acquainted with the words of scripture, but let us study to enter into the true design and meaning of it; that so, if Satan should attempt to draw his artillery from thence, we may be able to guard against that most dangerous stratagem, and to answer perverted passages of holy writ by others more justly applied.
Once more ; when the suggestions of Satan grow most hor. rible, let us not conclude that we are utterly abandoned by God, because we are proved by such a trial; since Christ himself was tempted even to worship the infernal tyrant. But in such cases let us resolutely repel the solicitation, rather than parley with it, and say in imitation of our Loris example, and with a dependance on his grace, Get thee behind me, Satan.
If our conflict be thus maintained, the struggle will ere long be over; and angels, who are now the spectators of the combat, will at length congratulate our victory.
JOHN 1. 19-28. And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed and denied not, but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us: What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not: He it is, who coming after me, is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara, beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
How remarkably were the words of our blessed Redeemer fulfilled in John, he that humbleth himself shall be exalted ! (Luke xviii, 14.) He declined assuming the name of any of the servants of God among the prophets ; and yet our Lord bore testimony to him as of a higher rank than any of the prophets, than whom there was none greater among those that had in a natural way been born of women. (Luke vii. 28.)
Did John, this great and illustrious saint, speak of himself as unworthy to untie even the sandals of Christ; what reverence then do we owe him; and what reason have we to admire his condescension, that he should honour us, who are so much more unworthy, with the title of his servants ?
Let not any, the most distinguished of that happy number wonder if they be unknown by the world, and perhaps too, slighted and despised ; since it appears that even Jesus himself, not only at his first appearance stood unknown among the Jews, but afterwards was rejected by them, when his claim was solemnly entered and his miracles most publicly wrought.
Vain, and worse than vain, was this message and inquiry which when answered, was so soon overlooked and forgot. May Divine grace teach us to inquire as those that are in earnest in our search ! and then shall we know to saving purposes, if we thus follow on to know the Lord. (Hos. vi. 3.)
JOHN 1. 29–42. The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven, like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
Again the next day after, John stood, and two of his disciples: And looking upon Jesus as he walked, be saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou ? He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, thou art Simon the son of Jona: Thou shalt be called Cephas, which is, by interpretation, a stone.
Let our faith daily behold Jesus under the character of the Lamb of God, a Lamb indeed without blemish and without spot ; by whose precious blood we are redeemed, as by an infinitely more valuable ransom than silver and gold. (1 Pet. i. 18, 19.) As such let us humbly apply to him to take away our sins, and rejoice that (as the apostle John elsewhere expresses it) he is the propitiation not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world ; all ages and nations being interested in the benefit of his atonement. (1 John ii. 2.)
Let us consider him as anointed by the Holy Spirit, and as baptizing his church with it; and learn, after the example of John the Baptist, to bear our testimony to him again and again, with continued steadiness and growing zeal.
Our satisfaction in him, as the great and only Saviour, will