corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.20.10.29
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Luke 4

 

 


Verse 1

Luke 4:1

And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness

The temptation of Christ

How is the temptation of Christ to be understood?
As a history, a parable, a myth, or an undesigned, though not accidental, compound of the three? Let us begin--

1. With what ought to be a self-evident proposition. As Jesus was a moral being, whose nature had to develop under the limitations necessary to humanity, we must conceive Him as a subject of moral probation. He could not escape exposure to its perils. But again--

2. We must here conceive the temptable as the tempted. In the person and life of Jesus there was no seeming, A real humanity cannot escape with a fictitious temptation. Though our narrative may be termed by pre-eminence The Temptation, it was not simply then, but always, that Jesus was tempted. The devil left Him only “for a season”; returned personified now as Peter, now as Judas, and again as the Jews; met Him amid the solitude and agony of Gethsemane, in the clamour, mockery, and desertion of the cross. But--

3. How could Jesus be “tempted in all things, like as we are, yet without sin”? Is not temptation evil? We must consider--

I. HOW THE TEMPTED COULD DE THE SINLESS CHRIST. And--

1. What is temptation? Seduction to evil. It stands distinguished from trial thus: trial tests, seeks to discover the man’s moral qualities or character; temptation persuades to evil, deludes, that it may ruin. God tries; Satan tempts.

2. The forms of temptation. It may be either sensuous, imaginative, or rational; perhaps it is never so powerful as when its forces approach the mind together, and at once through the senses, the imagination, and the reason.

3. The sources of temptation. It may proceed either

If the first, the nature must be bad, but not of necessity radically bad; if the second it may be innocent, but must be capable of sinning. If now the temptation comes from without, three things are possible--it may speak either--

1. To still fluid evil desires and make them crystallize into evil action; or--

2. To innocence, and change it into guilt; or--

3. Supply it with the opportunity of rising into holiness. Illustrations: of

(1) Macbeth; of

(3) Isabella, in “Measure for Measure,” the play that so well expounds its own saying--

“Tis one thing to be tempted, Esealus,

Another thing to fall.”

Isabella, lovely as pure, most womanly in her unconscious strength, stainless among the stained, loving her doomed brother too well to sin for him, triumphs over his tears and entreaties, the wiles and threats of the Deputy, and emerges from her great temptation chaster, more beautiful in the blossom of her perfect womanhood, than she had been before.

4. We are now in a position to consider the temptation of Christ in relation to His sinlessness. Temptation implies

(3) The tempter must be sinful, the tempted may be innocent. Our discussion conducts, then, to but one conclusion; temptation was not only possible to the sinlessness, but necessary to the holiness, of Christ.

II. THE PLACE WHERE THE TEMPTATION HAPPENED IS NOT WITHOUT SIGNIFICANCE. Into which wilderness Jesus was led we do not know--whether the wild and lonely solitudes watched by the mountains where Moses and Elijah struggled in prayer and conquered in faith, or the steep rock by the side of the Jordan overlooking the Dead Sea, which later tradition has made the arena of this fell conflict. Enough, the place was a desert, waste, barren, shelterless, overhead the hot sun, underfoot the burning sand or blistering rock. No outbranching trees made a cool restful shade; no spring upbursting with a song of gladness came to relieve the thirst; no flowers bloomed, pleasing the eye with colour, and the nostril with fragrance; all was drear desert. Two things may be here noted--the desolation, and the solitude. The desolation must have deepened the shadows on His spirit, increased the burden that made Him almost faint at the opening of His way. And He was in solitude--alone there, without the comfort of a human presence, the fellowship of a kindred soul. Yet the loneliness was a sublime necessity. In His supreme moments society was impossible to Him. Out of loneliness He issued to begin His work; into loneliness tie passed to end it. The moments that made His work Divinest were His own and His Father’s.

III. BUT MUCH MORE SIGNIFICANT THAN THE SCENE OF THE TEMPTATION IS THE PLACE WHERE IT STANDS IN THE HISTORY OF THE LIFE AND MIND OF JESUS. Just after the baptism and before the ministry; just after the long silence and before the brief yet eternal speech; just after the years of privacy, and before the few but glorious months of publicity. We must study the temptation through the consciousness of Jesus. The temptation and the assumption by Jesus of the Messianic character and office are essentially relented. The one supplies the other with the condition and occasion of its existence. When He was driven into the wilderness three points must have stood out from the tumult of thought and feeling preeminent.

1. The relation of the supernatural to the natural in Himself; or, on the other side, His relation to God as His ideal human Son.

2. The relation of God to the supernatural in His person, and the official in His mission; and

3. The nature of the kingdom He had come to found, and the agencies by which it was to live and extend. And these precisely were the issues that emerged in His several temptations. They thus stood rooted in the then consciousness of Christ, and related in the most essential way to His spirit. (A. M.Fairbairn, D. D.)

The temptation of the King

You may expect me to begin with warning you not to think of the temptation as Dante and the men in the Middle Ages thought of it, or as Luther and the men at the time of the Reformation thought of it, or as Milton and the Puritans thought of it. I shall do no such thing. I believe they all thought of it imperfectly; that they impaired the beauty of the clear, sharply-chiselled marble, by colouring born from their own fancy and the fancy of their times. But they have shown with what intense reality this record has come to them in the most terrible moments of their existence. If they have seen it through a mist, it has not created the mist; it has done more than all other lights to dispel the mist. We may learn something from each teacher which the other could not tell us. Their mistakes may warn us of those into which we are likely to fall. If God gives us grace to enter heart and hand into the conflict which He has appointed for us and our time, we shall read this passage of St. Luke more simply than those read it who have gone before us.

1. He was led by the SPIRIT. That is the characteristic of the acts of the Son in all we read from this time onwards. He has been baptized with His Father’s Spirit. He is guided by that Spirit whithersoever He goes. He does not choose for Himself whether He shall be in the city or the wilderness. Here is the secret of His power.

2. The wilderness into which He went, says Renan [“Life of Jesus “], “was HAUNTED, ACCORDING TO POPULAR BELIEF, BY DEMONS.” We surely do not want the authority of a learned man to endorse so very probable a statement. No doubt popular belief filled Jewish deserts, as it fills all deserts, with demons. The curious fact is, that this being the case, the evangelists, who are supposed to have been the victims of all popular beliefs, do not suggest the thought of demons in this desert. They say much of demons elsewhere. That which they speak of here is far more serious and awful.

3. Being forty days tempted of THE DEVIL. The difference is all-important. We are not in the region of dark forms which haunt particular spots. We have been brought into the spiritual region.

4. “IN THOSE DAYS HE DID EAT NOTHING,” &c.

Another exhaustion of outward circumstances. Hunger may be the tempter’s instrument quite as much as food. Is there no gospel in the announcement that the anguish of hungry men has been felt by the Son of Man--the King of Men?

5. “And the devil said unto Him, IF THOU BE THE SON OF GOD,” &c. Now we begin to perceive the principle of the temptation, its real force. A stone may serve as the instrument of solicitation; the natural craving for food may be all that is spoken to; but this is the speech: “If Thou be the Son of God.” “The words at Thy baptism cannot be true, if Thou art not able to exercise this power for the relief of Thy own necessities.” He must do something of Himself and for Himself. What is His name worth otherwise?

6. His name is worth this: “IT IS WRITTEN, MAN SHALL NOT LIVE BY BREAD ALONE,” &c., i.e., “I claim the words because they are written of man.” He can depend upon the Word of God.

7. A KING IDEALLY PERHAPS. But actually is the world His? Is it His Father’s? “And the devil taketh Him up into an high mountain,” &c. How was He taken to the mountain? Did He see with His eyes or only with His mind? I know these questions occur to us all. They have occurred to me. And I can only find this answer to them: I am reading of a temptation presented by a spirit to a spirit. If Christ saw all those kingdoms ‘with His bodily eye, still it must have been his spirit which took in the prospect. The devil is reported to have said something which seems most plausible. All appearances in that time confirmed his words. The most religious men in times since have thought that he spoke truly. They have said that the kingdoms of this world and all the glory of them are his. I want to know if there is One whom I can trust who declared that they were not his, who would not do him service. I read these word:

8. “GET THEE BEHIND ME, SATAN,” &c. Did One in human flesh indeed say, “Adversary, get thee behind Me. All these things are the Creator’s, not thine.” Then is not this a gospel to us all?

9. “AND HE BROUGHT HIM TO JERUSALEM, AND SET HIM ON A PINNACLE OF THE TEMPLE,” &c. I need not discuss the question how He was brought to Jerusalem, how He was set on a pinnacle of the temple. I should say the temptation was the most real that could be. He was actually tempted to try whether God would bear Him up, if He cast Himself down. He was actually tempted by a text of Scripture to give that proof of His Sonship and of His Father’s faithfulness. Whatever were His circumstances, that thought was presented to His spirit by the evil spirit. And so we know that He was tempted like as we are. Every man hears, at some time or other, a voice whispering to him, “Go out of the place in which you are put. Do something extraordinary. Do something wrong. See whether God will not help you. Can you not depend upon His promise that He will?” Is Scripture false? I accept this story. I believe that voice is the voice of the tempter. And therefore I want to know if the argument from Scripture has been answered, and how we may treat that and like arguments.

10. Hear and consider this: “AND JESUS ANSWERING, SAID, THOU SHALT NOT TEMPT THE LORD THY GOD.” The Son of God once more claims the right to obey a commandment--the right to trust and to depend. Once more He claims that right for us. We may abide where we are placed, for our Father has placed us there. If He were not the Lord our God we might make experiments on that which He would do for us supposing we broke His law. Because He is we may submit to it and rejoice in it.

11. We are told that “THE DEVIL DEPARTED FROM HIM FOR A SEASON.” Such seasons of rest, of freedom from doubt, of joyful confidence, are, I suppose, vouchsafed to the soldiers of Christ after periods of terrible conflict, as they were to the chief Captain. But the inward battle was to prepare Him, as well as them, for battles in the world. The enemy in the wilderness must be encountered there. (F. D. Maurice, M. A.)

The temptation of Christ

If we would understand this narrative, and profit by it, we must accept it as the record of a spiritual conflict of the most intense severity. The baptism, with its accompanying sign, brings Jesus for the first time under the full burden of His life’s work, as the Messiah. This is the key to the temptation. The question is, How did Jesus Himself understand His Messiahship at the time of the temptation and afterwards? Evidently, in His view, it involved these two things at least--Power, and suffering. Here, in the wilderness, there is opened out to Him, for the first time, in full perspective, the thorny path of suffering, closed by the ignominious death of the cross; and, along with this, the consciousness of power infinitely vaster than was ever wielded by mortal man either before Him or since. The ideal of Messiahship is set before Him; will He shrink from it, or will He embrace it? Will He try to pare it down to something easier and less exacting, or will He accept and embrace it in all its rugged severity; never employing the superhuman power which is involved in it, to smooth His path, to mitigate a single pang, or to diminish by one atom the load of suffering imposed upon Him? Yes; the ideal of Messiahship, the perfect pattern of Messiahship, how to realize it? how to embody it in noble action, and yet more noble suffering?--that is the question of the wilderness; that is the key to the temptation; that has to be debated and resolved upon there, and then pursued, firmly and fixedly, in spite of all the tempter’s assaults, until He can say upon the cross,” It is finished”; “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.” (D. J.Vaughan, M. A.)

Temptation assails even the holiest

Temptation does not cease as we rise in She scale of moral elevation. Even Jesus, the highest, the holiest, the Messiah, was tempted; as truly as the vilest drunkard or profligate amongst ourselves is tempted, though in a very different way. Temptation never ceases, but it alters its form. As we rise in the moral scale by victory over it, it rises also, becomes more refined, takes a subtler and (if we may say so)a nobler form; so that to know what a man’s temptations are, is to know what the man himself is. We may be known by our wishes, our hopes, our fears; and we may be known also by our temptations. To fall short of the ideal of the Messiahship was the Messiah’s temptation. It was sin in its most refined and subtle form of shortcoming, failure, missing the mark. With Him it was no question of transgression; He was far above that; it was missing the ideal, nothing more, nothing worse, a mere trifle, we might think; yet to Jesus Himself this to us seeming trifle was agony. And is there not an ideal for every one of us? Is it not in us to be something, which we are not yet; to fill our place in the world, however small it be, in a higher, better, nobler way than we have yet learned to fill it? (D. J. Vaughan, M. A. )

Lessons from the temptation

I. THE HOLIEST NATURES ARE NOT EXEMPT FROM TEMPTATION.

II. TIMES OF GLADNESS AND SPIRITUAL ELEVATION MAY BE FOLLOWED IMMEDIATELY BY SEASONS OF CONFLICT AND TRIAL.

III. OUR RELATION TO GOD DOES NOT DEPEND UPON THE CHANGES OF OUR SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES.

IV. SOLITUDE IS NO SAFEGUARD AGAINST TEMPTATION. (Homiletic Magazine.)

Our Saviour’s temptation

I. The first reflection which this great fact excites in my mind is, that I HAVE A SAVIOUR WHOSE LIFE IS SOUND TO MINE BY SYMPATHY IN TEMPTATION, as well as in sorrow, and all the kind affections of the heart.

Even His holiness did not escape trial. It attained its perfection through trial. The path of human virtue must always lie through many temptations; and even then it is not left without its great Exemplar and Guide. In the desert I have a Companion, and it is my Master. His example could not instruct me how to overcome temptation, unless He also had struggled with it; for the conquest necessarily supposes the struggle. There is no victory without warfare.

II. I am next led to inquire BY WHAT MEANS OUR SAVIOUR TRIUMPHED OVER HIS TEMPTATION, that so I may learn how to triumph also, in the evil time, over the evil one. I find that He triumphed by the power of religious principle, by the force of piety, by bringing the most holy of all holy thoughts, that of obedience to God, in direct opposition to every solicitation of sense, and every suggestion of self-interest. On every side from which He was assailed, this was His ready and sure defence. Then temptation took another shape. Jesus was placed on a pinnacle of the temple, and was urged to cast Himself down, on the specious plea, perverted from Scripture, that God would send angelic aid to His own Son, to prevent His suffering any harm. Thy duty is obedience, and not display. The trials which God appoints, He will give thee His aid to bear, and His grace will be sufficient for thee; but how canst thou look for His aid in trials which thou hast rashly invited, and the issue of which thou hast dared, not for His glory but for thine own? One earnest, trusting, patient thought of God, would have saved many s man from destruction, who once thought himself quite safe, and was thought so, too, by the world, and yet, in the encounter with temptation, has miserably perished. Why was he not safe? Because he placed his safety in himself, and not in God, and only discovered his mistake when it was too late--perhaps not even then, but went down to ruin darkly. Why does not the thought of God come in the straits of temptation? Because it is not a familiar thought; because we do not make God our friend, and admit Him into the daily counsels of our bosom. (F. W. P. Greenwood.)

From heights to depths

From the Jordan of glorification to the wilderness of temptation. This is the way of God; as with Christ, so with the Christian; and moreover--

1. An old, and yet an ever new way.

2. A hard, and yet a good way.

3. A dark, and yet a light way.

4. A lonesome, and yet a blessed way. (J. J. Van Oosterzee, D. D.)

Christ an example in temptation

For, as commentators on Aristotle observe that his rule many times lies hid and is wrapped up in the example which he gives, so we need scarce any other rules for behaviour when we are tempted, than those which we may find in this story of our Saviour’s combat with our enemy. And our Saviour may seem to bespeak His brethren, even all Christians, as Abimelech doth his soldiers: “What you have seen me do, make haste, and do likewise” ( 9:48). (A. Farindon, D. D,)

Temptation renders virtue possible

“Take away this combat with our spiritual enemy, and virtue is but a bare naked name, is nothing.” If there were no possibility of being evil, we could not be good. What were my faith, if there were no doubt to assault it? What were my hope, if there were no scruple to stagger it? What were my charity, if there were no injuries to dull it? Then goodness is fairest when it shines through a cloud; and it is difficulty which sets the crown upon virtue’s head. Our Saviour was made glorious by His temptations and sufferings; so must we [be] by ours. (A. Farindon, D. D.)

The temptation of Christ in the wilderness

The first thing that strikes us here is that Jesus was not master of His own movements. An unerring voice, which He knew to be from heaven, sent Him into the lonely wilderness--the place where no society or communion could disturb the law of development of t/is character--in order to be tempted in that solitude. He could not have gone thither Himself, aware of the trial before Him, without tempting God. The next thing which arrests our attention and, at first, our wonder, is that He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. What a fearful and solemn glimpse is here given to us of the moral agencies of the universe. Good and evil, infinite good and absolute evil, good and evil in personal substance, with that intense antipathy to one another that souls of the largest grasp and depth must feel, are in restless action around a human soul. And if such parties were concerned in the temptation something of importance must have depended on the result. But in what form, it may be asked, did this tempter place himself in the way of Jesus? Did he keep to his spiritual incorporeal nature, or take a body, and become visible to eyes of flesh? Was the temptation transacted before the mind of Christ, or was its sphere more outward, concerned with bodily phenomena and human language? In the first place, the agency of Satan elsewhere, in the New Testament, is that of a spiritual being, and, so far as I am aware, corporeal form is never ascribed to him. In the second place, suppose the Saviour to be carried to an exceeding high mountain, yet the spherical form of the earth would allow the eye to take in but a very minute portion of the kingdoms of the world and of their glory. We must, then, either dilute the narrative, as many do, by understanding these expressions in a hyperbolical sense of the little tract of country around Palestine, or must resort to a second miracle, in order to conceive of the broad earth spread outward and upward before our Lord’s eye. What need, then, of the high mountain, and why might not the same sight be obtained without leaving the wilderness? In the third place, it is noteworthy that the narrative makes no mention of the return of Jesus from the temple and from the mountain, just as if, in some sense, He had gone there while He remained in the desert in another. And, in the fourth place, if the temptation was addressed to the bodily senses of the Lord, it loses its insidious character, and becomes easier to be resisted. I am constrained, therefore, to believe that the transaction was a spiritual one, a conflict between light and darkness in the region of the mind, in which a real tempter assailed Christ, not through His eyes and ears, but directly through His feelings, and imagination. After the same manner, the prophets of the Old Testament passed through events in vision, of which they speak as we should speak of realities. Thus Jeremiah must have been in prophetic vision when he took the linen girdle to Euphrates to hide it there and went again in quest of it, as also when he took the cup of wrath from God’s hand and gave it to the nations to drink. So, too, Ezekiel was transported from Chaldea to Jerusalem in that remarkable vision, the narrative of which occupies the chapters of his prophecies from the eighth to the eleventh. Hoses, again, it is commonly believed, narrates only a symbolical vision, where he speaks of himself as marrying an adulteress at the command of God. The martyr Stephen, also full of the Holy Ghost, saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God, not in bodily shape, but in a form presented to the mind’s eye, and yet expressive of a great reality. If, now, the Scriptures allow us to interpret the events of the temptation in this way, we can see that greater strength is thereby given to the suggestions of Satan than if they had been addressed to the bodily organs. The power over the mind of a highly endowed being through the imagination, may indefinitely exceed that which is exerted through the sight. Multitudes have been seduced by that faculty, which paints absent or distant objects in colours of its own, whom no beauty or pleasantness lying in objects of sight could have led into sin. The world of imagination is more fascinating to their elevated mind than this outward world with all its shows and riches. The phantom, which has something heavenly in it, cheats and betrays them, while they turn aside from the obvious snares of visible things. But we pass on from this point, to a more important and indeed to an essential remark, that the temptations were intended not for Jesus in His nature as a man, but for Jesus in His official station as the Messiah. God was not putting it to the test, whether a certain good man or good prophet would yield to evil or conquer it, but whether Jesus was qualified for His office--whether He would remain true to the spiritual idea of the Messiah, or would fall below it under temptation. Nor was the tempter in this case anxious simply to lead a good man into sin, but he was striking at the root of salvation; his aim was to undermine the principles of the kingdom of heaven. This thought is the key to the story of the temptation. It explains why the temptation occurred when it did, at the commencement of Christ’s public work, and shows the greatness of the crisis. The question whether Jesus would be made to adopt the worldly idea of the Messiah’s kingdom was one of life and death for mankind. And again, had Christ followed the suggestions of the tempter, He could not have taken on Him the work of our salvation. The form of a servant, which He freely assumed, involved subjection to all the physical laws which control our race, and the endurance of all sufferings which the Father should lay upon Him. But if, by His inherent power, He had now relieved His own hunger, He would have escaped from the form of a servant, and even from subjection to the Divine will; and, on the same principle, He never could have been obedient to death--even the death of the cross. But to the sophistry of the tempter Christ had a ready reply. “It is written, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God,” that is, “I may not, because entitled to His protection, appeal to it against the laws of His providence, to rescue me from dangers into which I have entered unbidden.” As thus viewed, our Lord’s reply is given in the same spirit with His former one during the first temptation. He subjected Himself freely to physical law, and His Messiahship depended on His self-chosen humiliation. His choice of means, however, for securing His kingdom would in the end amount to a choice between two kingdoms, the one, severely spiritual, introduced by moral and religious forces only, the other becoming worldly by its alliance with the world of outward influence and temporal glory. The instinctive shrinking from harm and difficulty, which belongs to us all, would lead Him to choose the worldly way of doing good, would prejudice His mind in favour of the easier and quicker method. But He held on to His spiritual conception of His office, kept His obedience, and triumphed. Satan approached Christ in the belief that He was capable of taking false views of His office, through which He might be led into sin. Another remark which we desire to make is, that the narrative, as interpreted, shows the subtlety and insinuating character of the temptation. The acts to which Christ was solicited were not sins, so much as misjudgments in regard to the means to be used for gaining the highest and noblest ends. And these misjudgments would consist, not in the use of means plainly and boldly sinful, but of such as involved a departure from the true idea of the Messiah’s earthly mission. But it is more important to remark, that the narrative is too refined and too full of a somewhat hidden, but consummate wisdom, to grow out of the imaginings of the early Church. It is no rude picture of assaults which might befall a holy man in solitude, but an intellectual and moral struggle, which put it to the proof whether Christ would be true to the spiritual idea of the Messiah. It involves a conception of the Messiah’s kingdom which the early Church did not entertain until some time after the death of our Lord; how then could it be elaborated by crude Galilean disciples of Christ, whose views were full of that earthly mixture which the narrative condemns? (T. D.Woolsey, D. D.)

Christ’s temptation a help to us

For as He hath taught us both by His word and ensample to prepare ourselves to the battle, and bestir ourselves like those who fight under His colours; so, in the next place, there is a kind of influence and virtue derived from His combat, which falls as oil upon us, to supple our joints, and strengthen our sinews, and make each faculty of our souls active and cheerful in this exercise. (A. Farindon, D. D.)

Full of the Holy Ghost

The back strengthened for the load

It was in the prospect of His temptation that the Lord Jesus received this fulness of the Holy Spirit. This presents a new aspect of the bestowment of the Spirit. He was not only filled with the Holy Ghost, but it was in the very crisis of need He was so anointed. The back will be strengthened for the load, the heart nerved for the blow. I fear we all deplorably fail to realize this, and so impoverish ourselves of the Spirit. It was upon the Lord Jesus being thus filled with the Holy Spirit that He was tempted. “Comfort ye, comfort ye,” my fellow-believers, from that. It is when a child of God is fullest of grace; when he has been declared to be a “son,” even a “beloved son” of God; when he has made a public profession of Christianity, that he is most of all exposed to temptation. (A. B. Grosart, D. D.)

Returned from Jordan

Baptism does not exempt from temptation

The temptation of the Lord having followed His baptism, tells us not to trust to baptism for escape from temptation. (A. B. Grosart, D. D.)

Spiritual favour a time of trial

That our entering upon a special service for God or receiving a special favour from God, are two solemn seasons which Satan makes use of for temptation. Though this may seem strange, yet the harshness of such a providence on God’s part, and the boldness of the attempt on Satan’s part, may be much taken off by the consideration of the reasons hereof.

1. On Satan’s part. It is no great wonder to see such an undertaking, when we consider his fury and malice. The more we receive from God, and the more we are to do for Him, the more doth he malign us. So much the more as God is good, by so much is his eye evil.

2. There are in such cases as these several advantages, which, through our weakness and imperfection, we are too apt to give him; and for these he lieth at the catch.

3. As we have seen the reason of Satan’s keenness in taking those opportunities, so may we consider the reasons of God’s permission, which are these:--

Temptation after privilege

After high favours showed to God’s children, come shrewd pinches, as after warm, growing, comfortable weather in the spring come many cold pinching frosts: what a sudden change is this I Is this He, of whom erewhile the Lord said, “This is My Son,” and doth He now send, and set his slave upon Him to vex and bait Him? (D. Dyke.)

Temptation after baptism

The history of our Lord’s temptation ought never to be contemplated apart from that of His baptism. We shall miss much of its significance, if we dissociate it, even in thought, from the solemn recognition of the Son by the Father, the salutation of Him from heaven, and the full consciousness of His Divine nature into which He was thus brought. The Church of old did not shrink from calling her Lord’s baptism His second nativity. In that baptism He received His heavenly armour, and now He goes forth to prove it, and try of what temper it is. Having been baptized with water and the Holy Ghost, He shall now be baptized with the fire of temptation; even as there is another baptism, the baptism of blood, in store for Him: for the gifts of God are not for the Captain of our salvation, any more than for His followers, the pledge of exemption from a conflict, but rather powers with which He is furnished, and, as it were, inaugurated thereunto. With regard to the temptation: it is quite impossible to exaggerate the importance of the victory then gained by the second Adam, or the bearing which it had, and still has, on the work of our redemption. The entire history, moral and spiritual, of the world revolves around two persons, Adam and Christ. To Adam was given a position to maintain; he did not maintain it, and the lot of the world for ages was decided. All is again” at issue. Again we are represented by a Champion, by One who is in the place of all, whose standing shall be the standing of many, and whose fall, if that fall had been conceivable, would have been the fall of many, yea of all. Once already Satan had thought to nip the kingdom of heaven in the bud, and had nearly succeeded. If it had not been for a new and unlooked-for interposition of God, for the promise of the Seed of the woman, he would have done it. He will now prove if he cannot more effectually crush it, and for ever; for, should Christ fail, there was none behind, the last stake would have been played--and lost. (Archbishop Trench.)

Washed and not soiled

Then, when He was washed, did the devil attempt to soil Him. (A. Farindon, D. D.)

Satan’s malice

His malice is so great that he is never at rest. He watcheth every good thing in its bud, to nip it; in its blossom, to blast it; in its fruit, to spoil it. (A. Farindon, D. D.)

The power of habit to resist temptation

What we are surely possessed of, we can hardly lose. And such a possession, such an inheritance, is true piety, when we are once rooted and built up, and established in it. It is a treasure which no chance can rob us of, no thief take from us. A habit well confirmed is an object the devil is afraid of. Oh, the power of an uninterrupted obedience, of a continued course in the duties of holiness! It is able to puzzle the great sophister, the great god of this world. (A. Farindon, D. D.)

Was led by the Spirit

Led by the Spirit

We are to consider the leader. He was led by the Spirit.

1. That the state of a man regenerate by baptism is not a standing still. We must not only have a mortifying and reviving, but a quickening and stirring spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45).

2. As there must be a stirring, so this stirring must not be such, as when a man is left to his own voluntary or natural motion; we must go according as we are led. For having given ourselves to God, we are no longer to be at our own disposition or direction. (Bishop Andrewes.)

The Divine leading a security in temptation

The Children of Israel made no scruple to pitch their tents within the borders of their enemies if the pillar of cloud did remove before them; so wheresoever the grace of God doth carry a man, God’s glory being his undoubted end (without all vain delusions, and carnal reservations) he may be bold to venture. (Bishop Hacket.)

Tempting the Tempter

Have you seen little children dare one another which should go deepest into the mire? But he is more childish that ventures further and further, even to the brim of transgression, and bids the devil catch him if he can. I will but look and like, says the wanton, where the object pleaseth me; I keep company with some licentious persons, says an easy nature, but for no hurt, because I would not offend our friendship. I will but bend my body in the house of Rimmon, when my master bends his, says Naaman; I will but peep in to see the fashion of the mass, holding fast the former profession of my faith. Beloved, I do not like it when a man’s conscience takes in these small leaks; it is odds you will fill faster and faster, and sink to the bottom of iniquity. (Bishop Hacket.)

Led by the Divine Spirit

The grounds upon which I will insist are these.

1. We must be led by the Spirit before we can work anything which is good.

2. I will unfold how we are led by initiating or preventing grace, when we arc first made partakers to taste of the hopes of a better life.

3. I will show how we are led by preparatory grace, which goes before the complete act of our regeneration.

4. With what great and mighty power the Spirit doth lead us in converting grace.

5. How we are led by subsequent grace and sanctification, which cooperates and assists us after our conversion. (Bishop Hacket.)

Temptations not to be sought

In that the evangelists do not say that Christ cast Himself upon a temptation, neither did go to undertake it till He was led to it, we note, that whatever may be the advantage of a temptation by the Spirit’s ordering of it, or what security from danger we may promise to ourselves upon that account, yet must we not run upon temptations; though we must submit when we are fairly led into them. The reasons of this truth are these:--

1. There is so much of the nature of evil in temptations that they are to be avoided if possible.

2. To run upon them would be a dangerous tempting of God; that is, making a bold and presumptuous trial, without call, whether He will put forth His power to rescue us or not. When do men run uncalled and unwarrantably upon temptation?

Led by the Spirit

The devil was the instrument of the temptation, but God ordained it. (G. S. Barrett.)

The Divine purpose in the temptation

It was the last act of His moral education; it gave Him an insight into all the ways in which His Messianic work could possibly be marred. If, from the very first step in His arduous career, Jesus kept the path marked out for Him by God’s will without deviation, change, or hesitancy, this bold front and steadfast perseverance are certainly due to His experience of the temptation. All the wrong courses possible to Him were thenceforth known; all the rocks had been observed; and it was the enemy himself who had rendered Him this service. It was for this reason that God apparently delivered Him for a brief time into his power. This is just what Matthew’s narrative expresses so forcibly: “ He was led up by the Spirit to be tempted.” When He left this school, Jesus distinctly understood that, as respects His person, no act of His ministry was to have any tendency to lift it out of His human condition; that, as to His work, it was to be in no way assimilated to the action of the powers of this world; and that, in the employment of Divine power, filial liberty was never to become caprice, not even under a pretext of blind trust in the help of God. And this programme was carried out. His material

wants were supplied by the gifts of charity (Luke 8:3), not by miracles; His mode of life was nothing else than a perpetual humiliation--a prolongation, so to speak, of His Incarnation. When labouring to establish His kingdom, He unhesitatingly refused the aid of human power--as, e.g., when the multitude wished to make Him a King (John 6:15); and His ministry assumed the character of an exclusively spiritual conquest, tie abstained, lastly, from every miracle which had not for its immediate design the revelation of moral perfection, that is to say, of the glory of His Father Luke 11:29). These supreme rules of the Messianic activity were all learned in that school of trial through which God caused Him to pass in the desert. (F. Godet,D. D.)

Into the wilderness

The danger of solitude

As a deer that is struck knows by instinct what a danger it is to be single, and therefore will herd himself if he can; so do not separate yourself from the face of men upon temptation, that is the way to betray your soul, but unite your force against the tempter by mixing yourself with good men. (Bishop Hacket.)

Christ’s a lonely life

But I reduce all to this head. The solitude of the wilderness did best befit Him in this work, because He began, continued, and ended the work of the Mediatorship by Himself, and by no other assistance. (Bishop Hacket.)

Humility

Much better it is to be humble with Christ in a barren desert, than to be proud with Adam in a delicious paradise. (Bishop Hacket.)

Man sociable

God hath made man a sociable creature, if the contagion of the world doth not make him unsociable. (Bishop Hacket.)

Solitude favourable to temptation

Solitude affords a great advantage to Satan in the matter of temptation. This advantage ariseth from solitude two ways:

1. First, As it doth deprive us of help. They can mutually help one another when they fall; they can mutually heat and warm one another; they can also strengthen one another’s hands to prevail against an adversary.

2. Secondly, Solitude increaseth melancholy, fills the soul with dismal apprehensions; and withal doth so spoil and alter the temper of it that it is not only ready to take any disadvantageous impression, but it doth also dispose it to leaven and sour those very considerations that should support, and to put a bad construction on things that never were intended for its hurt. (R. Gilpin.)

Spiritual victory in spite of disadvantage

Here we have an image of the conflicts betwixt Ishmael and Amalek, the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. God, to gain the greater glory to Himself, gives all the advantages that may be to the enemies of His Church. How unequal was the combat and contention betwixt Luther a poor monk, and the Pope, and so many legions of his creatures? They had the sword of most magistrates to sway at their pleasure, great power, and great authority, yet Luther took the prey out of their teeth, as poor David overthrew the great Goliath. (D. Dyke.)

Christ in the wilderness

What a contrast between that gracious, noble Form and the scene in which it is set! The Bible delights in contrasts. On Calvary, e.g., it shows us the cross, and One hanging on it, the very incarnation of beauty and patient love and gentleness--the perfect Man, the perfect God--and there all around Him surge the angry crowds full of hale and wickedness and every corruption. So here we behold that same Holy Being standing in the midst of the picture of desolation--oh, how desolate that desert even in the light of the noonday!--how much more desolate at night, when the imagination filled it with its own fears and mysteries and terrors! But more horrid than the darkness, more terrible than wild beasts, than any earthly terror, is the dark presence of Satan. There they stand alone together, the Son of God and the spirit of evil; and we know that they are to be the figures in some great transaction. What was the mighty event? It was the greatest event that has ever occurred on earth except the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of our Lord. It was to be the greatest battle ever fought on the earth--the battle between Satan, the personification of hate and vileness and all that is repulsive, and the incarnation of purity and holiness. (F. C. Ewer, D. D.)

Retirement preparatory to action

It has been said that Christ by His example sanctioned the eremitical life, the retirement into the deserts of the old hermits, to spend their lives in contemplation. To some extent only is this true. Christ sanctioned retirement, but He made retirement from the world preparatory to active mission work in the world. Where the old hermits misread His teaching was in this, that they retired to the deserts and did not leave the deserts again--they made that a cul-de-sac which should have been a passage. The example of our Lord seems to us in this age of high pressure to be of special importance. We look too much to the amount of work done, rather than to the quality of the work. This is the case in every branch of life, in every industry, in every profession; and it cannot be denied that in the present day the hurry of life is so great that men have not the patience to study and to appreciate good work; so long as it has a specious appearance of being good, it is sufficient. But in spiritual work, we must consider that the eye of God is on us, and that we are labouring for Him, not for men, and, by His retirement for prayer and fasting into the solitude of the desert, Christ puts into our hands the key to the door of all thorough and efficacious work in the spiritual sphere,--it must be well considered, well prayed over, and well prepared for. Every plant has its hidden life that precedes its visible and manifested life; the seed, or bulb, or tuber spends a time in accumulating to itself vital force or energy, during which period it appears to be dormant. Then, when it has taken the requisite time, it begins to grow, it throws up its leaves and flowers. The leaves and flowers are no spontaneous development out of the root, they have been long prepared for in the hidden life and apparent sleep of the seed or root underground. All life is initiated by a hidden period of incubation. And all healthy human activity has also its still unperceived phase of existence. Christ shows us that it is the same in the spiritual life. The forty days and nights--I may say the whole of the hidden life at Nazareth--was the seed germinating, and the three years’ ministry was the manifestation of the life. (S. Baring-Gould, M. A.)

Scene of the temptation

The scene of the temptation was the wilderness. What wilderness we are not told; and all which it imports us to note is that it was a wilderness, in which this encounter of the good and the evil, each in its highest representative, took place. There could have been no fitter scene, none indeed so fit. The waste and desert places of the earth are, so to speak, the characters which sin has visibly impressed on the outward creation; its signs and its symbols there; the echoes in the outward world of the desolation and wasteness which sin has wrought in the inner life of man. Out of a true feeling of this, men have ever conceived of the wilderness as the haunt of evil spirits. In the old Persian religion, Ahriman and his evil spirits inhabit the steppes and wastes of Turan, to the north of the happy Iran, which stands under the dominion of Ormuzd; exactly as with the Egyptians, the evil Typhon is the lord of the Libyan sand-wastes, and Osiris of the fertile Egypt. This sense of the wilderness as the haunt of evil spirits, one which the Scripture more or less allows (Isaiah 13:21; Isa_34:14; Matthew 12:43; Revelation 18:2), would of itself give a certain fitness to that as the place of the Lord’s encounter with Satan; but only in its antagonism to paradise do we recognize a still higher fitness in the appointment of the place. The garden and the desert are the two most opposite poles of natural life; in them we have the highest harmonies and the deepest discords of nature. Adam, when worsted in the conflict, was expelled from the garden, and the ground became cursed for his sake. Its desert places represent to us what the whole of it might justly have been on account of sin. Christ takes up the conflict exactly where Adam left it, and, inheriting all the consequences of his defeat, in the desert does battle with the foe; and, conquering him there, wins back the garden for that whole race, whose champion and representative He was.(Archbishop Trench.)

The world a wilderness

“The earth a wilderness!” you will say. “Oh, but it is full of scenes of beauty; has it not its running streams, and flowery leas, and wooded slopes, and leaning lawns? How glorious its sunsets! How fair its gardens, all filled with fragrant flowers!” Yes, the earth has its beauties, but they are not the true, the essential beauties. Go you to Quarantania: there you shall find also a certain beauty--the beauty of wild sublimity--the mountain peak, the trenchant rock, the dark ravine with its rugged sides; yet it is a howling wilderness. Quarantania has a certain beauty, and so has earth. But compare the desert, stern, barren, desolate, with the fair gardens of Italy, and great as is the gulf between these, it is not so vast as the gulf between this world that we call so fair and the Golden Jerusalem, of which we are citizens. All that is most bright and glorious here is dull and harsh and pale compared with what God is keeping for us there. Is not the earth filled with mountains of disappointments? with snares, sufferings, griefs, ingratitudes? Oh! the wilderness of this world. What a contrast with the paradise of God! (F. G. Ewer, D. D.)

The forty days in the wilderness

We make a mistake when we think that those forty days were all days of temptation and sorrow. They must have been, on the contrary, days, at first, of peaceful rest, of intense joy. Alone with God, driven by the Spirit into the wilderness, the Saviour dwelt in the peaceful thought of His union with His Father. The words spoken at the baptism, the fulness of the Spirit’s power within Him had filled His human heart with serene ecstasy. He went into the wilderness to realize it all more fully. It was then in this spiritual rest and joy that we may reverently conceive the beginning of the wilderness life was passed. As such, it was the first pure poetry of the perfect union which was to arise between the heart of man and the Spirit of God; the springtime of the new life; the first clear music which ever flowed from the harmony of a human spirit with the life of the universe. But now we meet the question, “How did this become test, temptation?” To understand this we must recall the two grand ideas in His mind:

1. That He was at one with the Father--that gave Him His perfect joy.

2. That He was the destined Redeemer of the race. To the first peaceful days had now succeeded days when desire to begin His redemptive work filled His soul. And the voice in His own soul was echoed by the cry of the Jewish people for their Messiah. He was urged, then, by two calls, one within, and one without. But--and here is the point at which suffering and test entered--these two voices directly contradicted one another. As soon as Christ turned to the world with the greeting of His love, He heard coming from the world an answering greeting of welcome, but the ideas which lay beneath it were in radical opposition to His own. The vision of an omnipotent king and an external kingdom was presented to His Spirit as the ideal of the Jewish people. It came rudely into contact with the vision in His own heart of a king made perfect by suffering, of a kingdom hidden at first in the hearts of men. It is not difficult to see the depth and manifoldness of the tests which arose from the clashing of these two opposed conceptions. (Stepford A. Brooke, M. A.)

The solitary place

No: we must be led into some secret and solitary place, there to fast and pray, to fit and prepare ourselves for the work which we have to do, there to taste how sweet the Word of God is, to ruminate and chaw upon it as it were and digest it, to fasten it to our very soul and make it a part of us, and by daily meditation so to profit that all the mysteries of faith and precepts of holiness may be, as vessels are in a well-ordered family, ready at hand to be used upon any occasion, (A. Farindon, D. D.)


Verses 1-13

Verses 2-4

Luke 4:2-4

Being forty days tempted of the devil.
And in these days He did eat nothing

The temptation of Christ;

A great part of the force and power of Christ’s example here is lost upon men, through their slipping it aside, by secretly imagining that, after all, His case and theirs are wholly different. They read of His being tempted; and as they do not disbelieve the Scriptures, they admit in a certain way that He was--that is, they never question it. But, practically speaking, and meaning by temptation such temptations as they yield to, they do not believe that He was tempted; they have a secret reserve--“ Christ was tempted, as far as He could be tempted; but how could He who was God as well as man be really tempted? What was there in Him to tempt?” By such questions the practical example of our Lord is set aside; and men lose the benefit designed for them in Scripture, in its narrative of these awful struggles of the prince of darkness with the Captain of our salvation.

1. To be truly tempted, Christ must be truly man. Unless His temptations, sufferings, and death were all wrought in appearance only, there must be that nature truly in Him which is capable of these accidents. And this, in its fullest significance, is the doctrine of the Catholic Church. And to the full perception of this truth, it must be noted, that the nature He took was the human nature as it was in His mother; not, as some have fancied, the nature of Adam before his fall; for how should He have obtained that nature from the Virgin Mary, who herself possessed it not? and if He had, how could He have been “in all points tempted like as we are, sin only excepted”? for we know not that in Adam’s body were all those sinless infirmities which dwell in ours, and which indeed we acknowledge in our Lord’s. Before the fruit of the forbidden tree had poisoned the currents of his blood, we know not that pain, and weariness, and sickness could have invaded that body which from God’s hand had come forth “ very good,” and which, we doubt not, by the fruit of the tree of life was to have been strengthened till it could not taste of death. But the body which Christ assumed was subject, like our own, to those infirmities which have not in them the nature of sin, and yet which sin has brought into our nature. The contrary opinion has arisen from the pious but mistaken fear, lest in allowing that Christ took the very nature of His mother, we should, unawares, allow that He took what was sinful; but the true answer to this apprehension is, that the Eternal Son took to Himself in the womb of the Virgin, not a human person, but humanity--humanity, which, if it had been impersonated in one of us would have been sinful, but which could not be sinful until it was a person, and was never a person till it was in the Christ. “To His own person” (says Hooker) “He assumed a man’s nature.” The flesh, and the conjunction of the flesh with God, began at one instant. And that which in Him made our nature uncorrupt, was the union of His Deity with our nature.

2. These two natures, though thus conjoined in one person, were not confounded the one with the other; neither was the proper Godhead of the Son diminished by inferior admixture, nor the humanity swollen out of the true limits of its essential properties by the alliance of Deity. To it, indeed,

Deity added that infinite worth which made it a fit sacrifice for sin; to it that grace of unction unmeasured, by which it was held up ever without spot of iniquity; but still each nature was separate and unconfused; and thus, in the unity of the Godhead could Christ declare on earth that the Son of Man was in heaven; thus could He truly suffer and die in His human body, though the Godhead is impassable and immortal; thus could He, in His human soul, be “in an agony,” though Deity can never suffer; thus could He pray, “Father, not My will, but Thine, be done,” while He could declare, “I and My Father are one.” Here, then, was the provision made for the reality of His temptation: for in whatever way Satan can approach us from without, by the influences of a spiritual presence, as suggesting to the imagination, and throwing into the mind, that which is at once temptation, and becomes sin as soon as the will has given to it the first beginnings of assent; in this same way are we enforced, by the verity of His human soul, to believe that the Son of God could be approached by Satan. So that to make His exposure to temptation perfect, we must suppose no sinless avenues to its approach, which in us are open, closed in Him. The fiery darts, indeed, found in that most true loyal soul no sinful tendencies on which to fall; they were cast back at once from the confines of His imagination by a will truly in accordance with the will of the Father, and dwelt in beyond measure by the present influence of the Spirit of all grace. So that, with a perfect exposure to temptation, spot of sin there could be clearly none. (Bishop S. Wilberforce.)

The reality of our Lord’s contest with Satan

When we read of the tempter approaching with his wiles Him whom we know to be the Lord incarnate, God the Maker of all being, we have something of the feeling with which we read of those imaginary conflicts in which man is supposed to strive with beings of a higher order: we feel, that is, as if there could be no real contest; that it is but the apparent acting out of what would be naturally impossible. When we compare the paltry baits with the infinite worthiness of Him to whom they were proffered, we feel so sure of the conclusion, that, knowing the craft and subtlety of the tempter, we cannot believe that he could thus attempt to turn aside the perfect uprightness of God’s only Son. Here, then, we need the recollection, that to him had not been made the revelation we possess of Christ’s eternal power and Godhead; that from him was kept secret the virginity of Mary and Him who was born of her, as also the death of our Lord--three of the mysteries the most spoken of in the world, yet done in secret by God; that all he knew was that this was the champion of man, the Holy One of God, the Second Adam, with whom, as with the first, was to be his great struggle for the dominion of the world. He knew that he had triumphed once, by like temptations, over the same nature unfallen; and how should it fare better now?… When we look at the temptation in this light, how strikingly does it fall in with the whole course of God’s revealed dealings! Throughout the Old Testament Satan is scarcely mentioned; and in the New he is less emphatically the enemy of God than of Christ, as if between the prince of this world and the Son of Man must be the mighty struggle. The devil (says Augustine) was to be overcome, not by the power of God, but by His righteousness. (Bishop S. Wilberforce.)

Lessons from our Lord’s temptation

As this subject will yield both motives and measures for obedience, so too will it supply us with directions for the due resisting of temptation. The Commander suffered Himself to be tempted, that He might teach His soldier to contend, says Augustine; He taught thee to bear, and He taught thee by bearing. A broad light is thrown by it on every part of temptation.

1. We see the need of watching alway. No height of piety is a sufficient safeguard against danger. We must, therefore, be prepared for conflict, not merely with the principle of evil, but with an actually living, subtle, and most powerful enemy. The principle of evil can mean nothing else than our own inward inclinations to it. By this our Master could not have been tempted, for He had no evil inclination; either, therefore, He could not be tempted, or it must be by a spirit external to Himself, and having, therefore, truly a separate existence.

2. We see the sort of wiles against which we must watch. The evil which seems farthest off is often the nearest. The fast of forty days had surely shown the absolute dominion with which the flesh was curbed in Him to whom the tempter came; yet is His first temptation a suggestion that He should turn the stones around Him into bread.

3. We see, too, with how prompt a readiness the forms of temptation are exchanged. It is not one, and then rest. From sensuality and doubt, how easily did Satan turn to presumption, and from that pass over to the baits of earthly glory, as instruments wherewith to beguile that human heart which only was for ever proof against his snares! And so, when we have resisted the coarser temptations of sensuality or a thirst for worldly advancement, how readily do self-applauding thoughts spring up to poison the purged soil of the heart; or, when we have shut out the louder solicitations of evil, are we drawn unawares, and, if need be, by the very words of Holy Writ, into an attempt to worship God in some new way, and so to approach His altar with an abominable offering of a party-zeal or self-taught service! Conclusion: And so, all through the struggle, how full of teaching is our blessed Lord’s example! With what a perfect patience did He endure the struggle to the end; not, as we are wont to do, fretting under it, and peevishly longing for the “rest of the garner,” while it is God’s will that we should still be “planted in the field.” And yet, with this entire patience, how prompt was His resistance, never yielding for a moment to that which He endured to the end. How directly was the sword of the Spirit raised against each following temptation, and how did it pierce through the fraud! And as there is here full instruction how to resist the evil one, so is there, too, a sure earnest of our victory. Satan dared, indeed, to assault our Lord, but He did not triumph over Him. He overcame the devil in our nature, that we might be partakers of His triumph. From us He took flesh, that we from Him might have salvation. In Him we were tempted; in Him we vanquish Satan. He has passed through the battle; but He will not forget those whom He has left to follow Him. He is God over all; but He has not ceased to be the Virgin’s Son. Let us trust more in His sympathy, and cast ourselves more on His care. (Bishop S. Wilberforce.)

The hour of triumph is the hour of temptation

There was at college, m my day, a young man whose career ran side by side with mine. We matriculated at the same time, and at the same time took our degree. This young man was like unto him of whom we read in the Gospel, “the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.” To his undying honour be it said he remembered that his mother was a widow, and that she looked to him then as she had once looked to his father. Most careful was he never to spend more than was needful, knowing that each shilling he spent left so much less in that widow’s purse. Most indefatigable was he in his reading, knowing that it depended on his position in the class-list whether he could secure his fellowship and so provide a home for that widowed mother. Day after day would he sit over his books; and night after night, when all else was shrouded in darkness, the flickering lamp in that student’s room would tell of the midnight reader. Throughout the whole of that university career, never was known a more earnest nor a more frequent worshipper in the house of God. Regularly as the hour for Divine service came round, so regularly was that widow’s son seen to enter that house of prayer. Days, and months, and years, rolled on, and at length the eventful day arrived, when--examinations passed, successfully passed--the tidings went rapidly round from mouth to mouth that the pattern son and student had nobly won his class, his first class. That evening I sought my friend, yea, and I found him; but where? in what condition? There, on the floor of his room, almost senselessly drunken, lay the dutiful son, the pattern student, the frequent and earnest worshipper. Alas! alas I how truly had the tempter marked his time; the hour of that young man’s triumph was the hour of his fall. (D. Parker Morgan, M. A.)

The existence of evil spirits

It is one of the most ruinously successful artifices of the great adversary of men, to persuade them that he has no existence; for thus he throws them off their guard, and makes them believe that from him, at least, they have nothing to fear; and thus the very sentiment which would appear to them to annihilate his being, completely establishes over them the plenitude of his power. The doctrine of Scripture in reference to the fallen angels has been most usually opposed by the weapons of ridicule--a mode of attack which says little for the goodness of the cause in which it is employed; for why resort to an expedient so very low, and so far from pious, if solid argument were at command? In opposition, however, to the commonly-received opinions on this subject, reason is sometimes appealed to, not only by declared infidels, but, what is far more strange, by some who assume the Christian name. But why should these opinions be reckoned improbable, or absurd? So far is the existence of beings only spiritual from being improbable, that when it is considered that the Creator Himself is a pure spirit, it is in itself more probable and mere easy to be supposed, that He should form creatures purely spiritual, than creatures partly spiritual and partly material. Nor is it at all improbable that angels should fall, any more than that man should have fallen. Nor, again, is it improbable that both the holy and the fallen angels should be employed, or permitted, to take some part in the affairs of men; that they do so is at least quite capable of proof, though not an original dictate of reason. Were it in our power to visit distant worlds, we should, without question, occasionally do so: and we should, on these visits, not be altogether unconcerned spectators of what is going on, but should in some cases interfere, properly or improperly, according to our different views and dispositions. The same thing, then, may be considered as probable with regard to angels, both good and bad. It is to be supposed that they do thus visit us and act among us, unless, indeed, they be positively prohibited by God. Nor is there any impossibility, or improbability, in the nature of things, that spirits should communicate to us thoughts both holy and sinful. We communicate thoughts to each other, in various ways, of which, if we had not been constituted exactly as we are, it would have been impossible for us to form any conception. Hence it follows that there may be other ways of communication still which we cannot conceive. It will not be disputed that angels communicate their thoughts to each other, and yet we cannot comprehend how they do so; why, then, should our ignorance of the manner in which they ascertain our thoughts, and communicate thoughts to us, be viewed as a proof that no such intercourse can exist? It may, indeed, be objected, that when men hold such intercourse with men, they are conscious of the presence and actings of each other; whereas they are not conscious either of the presence or of the communications of good or bad spirits, and therefore ought to conclude against such presence and such communications. To this we reply, that if such consciousness be demanded, there are many well-authenticated instances of it, in which men have been sensible of the presence and words and actings of these spirits. Notice, however, to what an extreme of impiety and atheism it would lead, to say that ideas cannot be conveyed to us by any being of whose presence and acts we are not conscious; for this would exclude the great Creator Himself from all access to the souls he has made. Both reason and Scripture lead us to believe that God does direct our minds, though we are not sensible of His presence and agency. Why, then, may not the same thing hold substantially with regard to the holy and fallen angels? Thus the objection, by proving too much, proves nothing. Is there not then, on the whole, something rational in the idea that good angels may promote man’s holiness, and evil angels his disobedience? On the supposition of that agency being equal on both sides, man would be no loser. On the supposition of the favourable influence being at least more general than the unfavourable, man would be obviously a gainer. It is possible, too, that the permission of some unfavourable interference might serve important purposes to man, and be overruled for the greater glory of God. Thus the subject has a very different aspect in the eye of reason, from what some profane witlings and self-conceited objectors pretend. Viewed, again, in the light of revelation, though many points are left obscure, there are many points cleared up, on the subject of the fallen angels. We are told that they were originally holy and happy in heaven, like those who are now confirmed in blessedness; that one of them of high rank, now called Satan, or the devil, by way of horrid eminence, instigated by pride and ambition, rebelled against God, and was joined in his rebellion by a great multitude of the heavenly host; that they were banished from heaven; that no means are appointed for their recovery; that they are reserved under chains of darkness unto the judgment of the great day; that though they are in general confined, they, and especially their chief, are permitted, at times, to go a certain length in their endeavour to extend the dominion of sin to which they are prompted by their malice and wickedness; that the devil was the successful tempter of our first parents; that he has been instrumental in many of the crimes and calamities of mankind; that he opposed the Sou of God, and excited to His crucifixion; that he and his associates have habitually acted, as far as they could, as the deceivers and destroyers of men; that they will continue in the same desperate course till the end of time: and that then their power will be crushed, and they will be left to lie for ever under the load of guilt and misery which they have brought upon themselves. (James Foote, M. A.)

Christ tempted, yet sinless

There is a difficulty connected with our Lord’s temptation, which has, I suppose, more or less clearly presented itself to every one who has sought at all to enter into the deeper significance of this mysterious transaction. The difficulty and dilemma may be stated thus: Either there was that in Christ which more or less responded to the temptation--how then was He without sin, seeing that sin moves and lives in the region of desires quite as really as in that of external acts? or there was nothing in Him that responded to the suggestions of the tempter--where then was the reality of the temptation, or what was the significance of that victory which in the wilderness He won? The secret of the difficulty which these alternatives present to our minds, so that sometimes it appears to us impossible that Christ’s temptation should have had anything real in it, leaving Him as it did wholly unscathed, lies in the mournful experience which we in our own spiritual life, have made, namely, that almost all of our temptations involve more or less of sin, that the serpent leaves something of his trail and slime even there where he is not allowed to nestle and make his home. Conquerors though we may be, yet we seldom issue from the conflict without a scratch--a hurt it may be which soon heals, but which has left its cicatrice behind it. The saint, if he shine as a diamond at last, yet it is still as a diamond which has been polished in its own dust. For we may take up arms against the evil thought, we may rally the higher powers of our souls, and call in the might of a Mightier to put the evil and its author to flight, yet this we seldom do till it has already found some place within us. Our acquiescence may have been but momentary yet even the moment during which the evil was not abhorred and loathed is irreconcilable with the idea of an absolute holiness, which is as a mirror whose perfect brightness no lightest breath has ever troubled or tarnished for an instant. The reconciliation of an entire sinlessness in Christ with the reality of the temptations to which He was exposed lies in this, that there was never in Him this momentary delectation; even as there need not be in us; and would not be, if we always were, and had always in time past been, upon our highest guard. (Arch bishop Trench.)

Christ’s conflict and ours

The temptation in the wilderness is the image of the conflict of the Christian life.

1. The temptation.

2. The enemy.

3. The attack.

4. The weapon.

5. The victory.

6. The crown.

Finally, the question: If you fight against Christ, how can you still have courage; if you fight under Christ, how can you still be anxious? (J. J. Van Oosterzee, D. D.)

Typical temptations

The three temptations of the Lord typify those employed against men by Satan at the different stages of life. Sensuality is especially the sin of the youth, ambition especially that of the man, avarice especially that of the old man. Whoever has overcome the first of these three temptations must count upon the second; whoever sees the second behind him will soon be covertly approached by the third. But in all temptations, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Over against forty days’ temptation in the first stand the forty days’ peace and joy in the second life of the Lord. (J. J. Van Oosterzee, D. D.)

Comfort from Christ’s temptation

Christ was tempted even as we are, yet without sin. This word is--

1. A light for our blindness.

2. A spur for our slackness.

3. A staff for our weakness. (Rautenberg.)

Temptation

There is no sin in being tempted: for the perfect Jesus “was in all points tempted like as we are.” Temptation does not necessitate sinning: for of Jesus, when tempted, we read “yet without sin.” Not even the worst forms of it involve sin: for Jesus endured without sin the subtlest of temptations, from the evil one himself.

1. It may be needful for us to be tempted--

2. Solitude will not prevent temptation.

The fasting and temptation of Jesus

What is Christ doing in this long solitude and silence of the wilderness? To say that He is fasting does not satisfy our inquiry. Who has not wished many times that he could have the record of these forty days? We know that He is not bewailing His sins; nor afflicting Himself purposely in penances of hunger and starvation; nor wrestling with the question whether He will undertake the work to which He is called. But these are negations only, and I think we shall be able to fix on several important points where we know sufficient in the positive to justify a large deduction concerning the probable nature of the struggle through which Jesus is here passing.

1. He has a nature that in part is humanly derived. But now it is opened to Him that He is here not as here belonging; that He is sent, let down into the world, incarnated into human evil.

2. It is not to be doubted that He had internal struggles of a different nature, growing out of His hereditary connection with our humanly disordered and retributively broken state. I refer, more especially, to what must have come upon Him under the law of bad suggestion.

3. It is not to be doubted that His human weakness made a fearful recoil from the lot of suffering, and the horrible death now before Him.

4. There comes upon Him also, at the point of His call or endowment, still another and vaster kind of commotion, that belongs even to His Divine nature. The love He had before to mankind was probably more like that of a simply perfect man. Having now the fallen world itself put upon His love, and the endowment of a Saviour entered consciously into His heart, His whole Divinity is heaved into such commotion as is fitly called an agony.

5. Once more, the mind of Jesus, in His forty days’ retirement and fasting must have been profoundly engaged and powerfully tasked in the unfolding of the necessary plan. (H. Bushnell, D. D.)

Satan adapts his temptations

Whensoever he tempteth he taketh this advantage, if he can discover or obtain it. He is wiser than to set sail against wind and tide, to row against the stream; therefore he labours all he can to find which way the stream of man’s affections runs; and to what sins his relations, his calling, or his opportunities lay him most open and obnoxious; accordingly he lays his snares, and spreads his net. When he meets with a proud man, him he tempteth with high thoughts: when he meeteth with a covetous man, him he tempteth to the love of the world; he lays a golden bait of profit before his eyes: the adulterous he leads to the harlot’s house. For howsoever it be true, that every man hath in him a principle suiting to every sin; yet it is a truth too, that every man is not equally active for, or disposed unto every sin; and every man hath not every particular sin predominant in him: now Satan, when he seeth what is predominant in any man, then he fashioneth and frameth a temptation suitable. (Caryl.)

Temptations in youth

The temptations assail you most fiercely now, at the outset of your life. You are like those who have to build the breakwater against the sea. And the great struggle with the waves is for the foundation; every stone laid is laid in fiercest struggle; after the foundation, the work can proceed, Now, you are laying the foundation. Yield once to temptation, let but once the tempter be your master, and he may lead you for evermore in chains. Be strong and be very courageous. “Take to yourself the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand in this evil day, and having done all to stand!(H. Wonnacott.)

Christ not harmed by temptation

His purity will not be sullied by temptation. Temptation cannot defile. The unclean bird, as he flaps his black wings in flight, may throw his shadow on the whiteness of the mountain snow, but it is not stained. The clear blue of highland lake may be darkened by overshadowing blackness, but the lucid depth is undefiled. Christ may be tempted, but temptation harms only as it is entertained, and dallied with, and obeyed. (H. Wonnacott.)

Face to face with Satan

Perhaps very few of you know how a man feels when, for the first time, he finds himself, as I remember finding myself, within a few inches of a serpent--when he sees the cobra di capello rearing its head ready to strike, and knows that one stroke of those fangs is death--certain death. That moment he experiences a varied passion, impossible to describe. Fear, hatred, loathing, the desire to escape, the desire to kill, all rush into one moment, making his entire being thrill. Now, take two men: one is in the face of that serpent; the other is in the presence of the old serpent called Satan, the devil; one is in danger of the sting; the other is in danger of committing sin. Which of the two has most reason to flee?(W. Arthur, D. D.)

The best of men not exempt from temptation

Felix Neff was often heard singing praises to God, when alone in his room. Worldly men said of him: “What a singular being! he seems unhappy, and yet, when he is alone, he is always singing!” It was because Neff rejoiced in the Lord. Yet his friends relate that he had also great spiritual trials. He said that he was sometimes so assailed by the adversary of souls, that he seemed to himself to be surrounded with ruins, and he lost for a moment even the hope of being saved. But soon he resumed courage. “He who has taken me into fellowship with Himself is faithful,” said he; “and if, on account of my many unfaithfulnesses, He hides for a moment His face, I hope ever in Him: I know in whom I have believed!

“Meaning of tempt”

The word “tempt,” in the simple notion of it, signifies to try, to experiment, to prove, as when a vessel is pierced, that the nature of the liquor it contains may be ascertained. Hence God is said sometimes to tempt, and we are commanded as our duty to tempt, or try, or search ourselves to know what is in us, and to pray that God would do so also. So temptation is like a knife that may either cut the meat or the throat of a man; it may be his food or his poison, his exercise or his destruction. (J. Owen, D. D.)

Satan is sometime incessant in temptations, and sets upon us with continued importunities

Here we may note a distinction of temptations, besides that of invisible and visible: that some are movable and short fits, and as it were skirmishes, in which he stays not long, and others are more fixed and durable. We may call them solemn temptations, in which Satan doth, as it were, pitch down his tents, and doth manage a long siege against us. (H. Gilpin.)

Christ tempted with good

If any one say He was not moved by any of those temptations, he must be told that then they were no temptations to Him, and He was not tempted; nor was His victory of more significance than that of the man who, tempted to bear false witness against his neighbour, abstains from robbing him of his goods. For human need, struggle and hope, it bears no meaning; and we must reject the whole as a fantastic folly of crude invention, a mere stage show; a lie for the poor sake of the fancied truth. But asserting that these were real temptations if the story is to be received at all, am I not involving myself in a greater difficulty still? For how could the Son of God be tempted with evil? In the answer to this lies the centre, the essential germ of the whole interpretation: “ He was not tempted with evil, but with good”; with inferior forms of good, that is, pressing upon Him, while the higher forms of good held themselves aloof, biding their time, that is, God’s time. I do Dot believe that the Son of God could be tempted with evil, but I do believe that He could be tempted with good--to yield to which temptation would have been evil in Him--to the universe. (G. Macdonald, LL. D.)

The three temptations

In these three characteristic temptations we are--

1. To look for the central principles of Christ’s work brought to the test at the outset of His career.

2. To discern, in some degree at least, the central points of the trial of all human souls which our Lord felt in all its intensity. (H. Wace, D. D.)

We will consider

I. THE TEMPTED. I would say here that I believe in one malignant powerful spirit. I believe the devil has a personal existence. He must have influenced the mind of Christ in one of two ways; either immediately, or by means of external agency. Which was it? Judge ye.

II. THE TEMPTED. Notice three things.

1. The fact that pure human nature should have been tempted thus at all. Jesus had no sympathy with evil, yet here we find evil coming in contact with Him.

2. This temptation assailed Him immediately after His investiture with singular glory.

3. These temptations came to Christ just as He was beginning His great work of mediation on earth.

III. THE TEMPTATION. Notice

I. The scenes.

2. There is an appropriateness between each of these temptations, and the scenes where they occurred.

3. In each temptation, Christ was either tempted to use a wrong end or to use wrong means to secure His end, and this is the whole of temptation.

APPLICATION: You who are tempted, remember--

1. That the only pure Being on earth was tried by three dreadful temptations.

2. That our nature has vanquished temptation.

3. That He who was tempted and overcame is our Friend and Brother, and High-priest. (Caleb Morris.)

The general elements of the temptations

I. ABUSE OF POWER.

II. PERVERSION OF TRUTH. “It is written,” said the tempter.

III. MAKING PRESENT HAPPINESS THE END OF LIFE. (Caleb Morris.)

The nature of the three temptations

I. IN THE FIRST, TO CONVERT STONES INTO BREAD, Christ, if He had yielded to it would have sinned against--

1. The law of spiritual self-government.

2. The laws that govern natural life.

3. The law of miracles.

II. IN THE TEMPTATION TO FALL DOWN AND WORSHIP.

1. The essence consisted in the giving up of spiritual power to worldly grandeur.

2. The tempter sinned

III. IN THE TEMPTATION TO CAST HIMSELF DOWN FROM THE PINNACLE OF THE TEMPLE, CHRIST WAS TEMPTED TO DO THREE THINGS.

1. To seek personal applause.

2. To use unnatural means to secure it.

3. In doing all this, falsely to trust to God for protection. (Caleb Morris.)

The secret of victory

The history of these temptations furnishes us with the principles on which they may be vanquished. Not by fasting; for He was tempted while He was fasting. Not by retiring from the world; for He was tempted while He was alone. But by the deep indwelling of truth. Not by outward truth, but by truth m us. A man may have truth in his book, and his book in his pocket. He may have it in his creed, and have it in his brain, and yet not possess one truth that will enable him to conquer a single temptation. Christ repelled temptation by indwelling truth. Christ repelled temptation by a threefold statement: “Man shall not live by bread alone”; “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God”; “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” These words may be summed up--man by God; man for God; man according to God. (Caleb Morris.)

The design of the three temptations

1. To arouse in Jesus a painful sense of the contrast between the abundance due to His Divine greatness and the miserable destitution in which He found Himself.

2. To provoke Him to win universal empire by a sudden exhibition of Divine power rather than by a patient manifestation of the Divine character.

3. To lead Him to presume on the favour and love of which the voice from Heaven had just assured Him. (F. Godet, D. D.)

Tempted like as we are

There is--

I. AN APPEAL TO APPETITE. It is here that temptation first and most strongly besets a youth. The great turning question of life is, “Am I to be the body’s; or is the body to be mine, and mine for God’s?” He only can be truly said to live who, by faith in God’s Word and obedience unto Him, seeks constantly to serve the Lord.

II. AN APPEAL TO AMBITION. The same insidious temptation is, in one form or another, repeated in the case of every man; and for the most part, in the commencement of his career, he has to fight the battle, or to yield himself a captive. God’s way to honour and power and wealth is still steep, and arduous and rugged; and to the man who is wearifully exerting himself to overmaster its difficulties, Satan comes, offering his short and easy road to the summit of his ambition--in how many cases, alas! with the most complete success. Avoid the devil’s short cuts, and make the words of our Lord, “Thou shalt worship,” &c., the motto of your lives. Listen to the words of Havelock when told that there were prejudices against him in certain quarters on account of his religion: “I humbly trust that in that great matter I should not change my opinions and practice, though it rained garters and coronets as the reward of apostasy.”

III. AN APPEAL TO FAITH. This as insidious as the rest. Jesus had already repelled the tempter by expressing His confidence in God, and allegiance to His Father; and to that very principle which had before foiled him, he addresses himself now; as if he had said, “Dost thou trust God? come, and I will place thee in circumstances such as will make manifest to all His guardian care of Thee.” The principle of Christ’s answer is this: We are never to be guilty of tempting Providence by setting either His natural or spiritual laws at defiance. If we are in danger, in God’s service, we may rely that He will be with us. But we have no right to imagine that He will suspend the law of gravitation, whenever we choose to leap over a precipice; or that He will suspend the spiritual laws which regulate the actions of our souls, whenever we put ourselves in the way of temptation. APPLICATION: YOU may overcome every temptation by giving up the fortress of your soul to this same Jesus, who vanquished Satan here. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

The devil’s real character disclosed

We learn much of Satan, our great adversary, from the different ways in which he attempted to lead our Lord astray.

I. THE POVERTY OF SATAN. How little he has to offer Christ--not so much as bread, only stones.

II. HIS IMPUDENCE. Repelled once, he returns to the attack, and asks for adoration to be given him, a lost and fallen angel, by the Lord of heaven and earth.

III. His weakness. He did not cast our Lord down: not even bind Him; no power to force--he can only try to persuade. Sin is not so strong as it is often represented.

IV. HIS CRAFT.

1. He attacks the Lord’s weakness by fasting. As the general surveys the most likely time to raise the siege of a beleaguered city, so the devil always watches his opportunity.

2. He pretends to ask a most simple request, when it is really hard and most difficult.

3. He graduates his temptations. In the first temptation, he places himself before man; then, before an angel; lastly, in the place of God. All sin is graduated.

V. HIS LIES. He promises--

1. That which he has not to give.

2. That which he has no intention of giving.

CONCLUSION:

1. Fear not this devil.

2. Ever watch for him.

3. Meet him boldly, and you will overcome him. (M. Faber.)

The devil the architect of evil

The devil is the great architect of wickedness, as Christ is the Prince of life and righteousness.

The devil the accuser and defamer of God

Here in this chapter the devil doth “strive to put out the very eye of God’s providence,” that he might shake Christ’s faith, as it were, and drive Him to distrust. He accuseth His wisdom in our retirement and secret sins, and that with some scorn: “Tush, God doth not see it: nor is there knowledge in the Most Psalms 73:11). He accuseth His justice, and puts stout words into our mouths when we deny our obedience: “It is in vain to serve the Lord: and what profit is there that we have kept His ordinances?” Malachi 3:14.) He defames His mercy, when, remembering our sins, we fall under them, as a burden too heavy for us (Psalms 38:4), and as if God had “forgotten to be merciful” (Psalms 77:9). He roars loud against His very power in the mouth of a Rabshakeh, and would persuade the Israelites that to say God should deliver them was nothing else but to deliver themselves up to famine and thirst (2 Kings 18:30). He casts his venom upon all the Divine attributes, and makes them the inducements to sin, which are the strongest motives to goodness. He never presents God to us as He is, but in several forms and all such as may drive us from one attribute to run us on another. He presents Him without an eye, that we may do what we list; without a hand, that we may trust in a hand of flesh; without an ear, that our blasphemies may be loud. He makes us favourable interpreters of Him before we sin, and unjust judges of Him when we have sinned. He makes Him a libertine to the presumptuous, and a Novatian to the despairing, sinner; being a liar in all, whose every breath is a defamation. Nulla spud cum tuttis ratio vincendi, as was said of king Philip: “He is not ashamed of any lie that may lead us from the truth.” And as he defameth God unto us, so in every sin almost he accuses us unto ourselves. In the heat of our zeal he accuseth us of madness, that we may be remiss; and in our meekness he chargeth us with folly, that we may learn to be angry. In our justice he calls us tyrants, that we may yield it up unto unnecessary pity; and in our compassion he urgeth the want of justice, that, to put on the new man, we may put off all bowels of mercy. He accuseth our faith to our charity, and persuades us that for all our good works we are none of the faithful; and our charity to our hope, as if it were so cold it could kindle no such virtue within us. From religion he drives us on to superstition, and from the fear of superstition into that gulf of profaneness which will swallow us up. And then, when he hath us in his nets, when he hath by accusing us unto ourselves made us guilty indeed, when by accusing our virtues he hath brought us to sin, he draws his bill of accusation, and for one sin writes down a hundred. (A. Farindon, D. D.)

Why is he called the devil?

The word signifies a slanderer or accuser. And he accuseth--

1. To God;

2. To man.

1. To God he accuseth man; hence called the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:1-17.). And thus he accused Job (Job 2:1-13.).

2. To man. He accuses

(a) After the committing of some grievous sin which he tempted us unto. Before he seemed our friend, and put upon sin a goodly vizor, but now he plucks it off, and urges us to desperation.

(b) In some more grievous trial, and specially at the hour of death.

(c) At the day of judgment.

1. It being the devil’s office to be an accuser or slanderer, let us take heed of doing such ill offices. Let the devil have his own office, let us not go about to take it out of his hands.

2. Since the devil is an accuser, it must make us wary over our ways, as we are wary in our worldly estates of the promoter, of pickthanks, and talebearers. He will accuse falsely when there is no cause, much more then will he accuse when we give him cause by our sins. Howbeit, even here will he be a false accuser and slanderer, by making that to be treason which is but patty larceny, and sins of infirmity to be the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost. (D. Dyke.)

Let us not aid our accuser

Let us then say with Joseph, “’How can I commit this wickedness, and sin against God’ (Genesis 39:9), who would save me? and how can I commit this, and help the devil, my enemy, to accuse me?” In the affairs of this world we are very sly and cautious, and will not give any advantage to those whom we suppose to be no well-willers unto us. Nay, many times we abstain from things not unlawful, in the presence of those we do not love, because we fear whatsoever we do will be misinterpreted, and can expect no better gloss than that which malice will make. And shall we be so confident on the greatest enemy of mankind as to help his malice, and to further and promote the desire which he hath of our ruins? Shall I fill this accuser’s mouth with arguments against myself, and even furbish and whet the sword of my executioner? This is a folly which we cannot but be ashamed of; and yet in every sin we commit, we commit this folly. But yet, in the last place, as St. John saith, “If we sin, we have an Advocate” (1 John 2:1); so say I, If we sin, and the devil put up his bill of accusation against us (as most certainly he will), let us learn to accuse ourselves; and that will make his accusation void, and cancel his bill. From a broken and a contrite heart let us say, “We have sinned,” and he hath nothing to say. Let us confess our sins, and we have put the adversary to silence. (A. Farindon, D. D.)

Why was Christ tempted?

1. That we might see the horrible rage and senseless madness of the devil against God and our salvation.

2. That we should know how fit it is there should be trials of ministers before they enter into their functions.

3. That ministers might know who will be their special adversary they must conflict with in their ministry.

4. That we might see how fit it is that ministers and men of great callings should be fitted and prepared for the good discharge of them by temptation, and by their own experience might learn to relieve others (2 Corinthians 1:4).

5. To give us warning to look to ourselves. If Satan durst set upon Christ, who was as green wood, and had abundance of moisture to quench the heat of his fire, what then will he do to us that are dry, and quickly set on fire?

6. To overcome our temptation with His as He did our death with His. For as death lost his sting lighting on Christ, so also Satan’s temptations, and the foil He gave Satan was for us.

7. That by suffering that which was the desert of our sins, his love towards us might appear the more.

8. That there might be some answering to the Israelites being forty years in the desert in many trials and temptations. A day answering a year, as there was before in Christ’s going into Egypt.

9. That our Lord might the better know how to pity, and tender, and relieve us with comforts, when we are in temptation. They pity us most in our sicknesses, that have felt the same themselves. (D. Dyke.)

Why Christ would submit to be tempted

1. Thus was Christ evidenced to be the second Adam, and the seed of the woman. His being tempted, and in such a manner, doth clearly satisfy us that He was true Prayer of Manasseh 1:2. This was a fair preludium and earnest of that final conquest over Satan, and the breaking down of his power.

3. There was a more peculiar aim in God by these means of temptation to qualify Him with pity and power to help (Hebrews 2:18; Heb_4:15).

4. The consequence of this experimental compassion in Christ was a further reason why He submitted to be tempted, to wit, that we might hare the greater comfort and encouragement in the expectancy of tender dealing from Him.

5. A further end God seemed to have in this, viz., to give a signal and remarkable instance to us of the nature oftemptations; of Satan’s subtlety, his impudency. That neither height of privilege, nor eminency of employment, nor holiness of person, will discourage Satan from tempting, or secure any from his assaults. The best of men in the highest attainments may expect temptations.

Grace itself doth not exempt them.

1. For none of these privileges in us, nor eminencies of grace, want matter to fix a temptation upon. The weaknesses of the best of men are such that a temptation is not rendered improbable, as to the success, by their graces.

2. None of us are beyond the necessity of such exercises. It cannot be said that we need them not, or that there may not be holy ends wherefore God should not permit and order them for our good. Temptations, as they are in God’s disposal, are a necessary spiritual physic. The design of them is to humble us, to prove us, and to do us good in the latter end Deuteronomy 8:16). Nothing will work more of care, watchfulness, diligence, and fear in a gracious heart, than a sense of Satan’s designment against it.

3. The privileges and graces of the children of God do stir up Satan’s pride, revenge, and rage against them. This is also of use to those that are apt to be confident upon their successes against sin through grace. Satan, they may see, will be upon them again; so that they must behave themselves as mariners, who, when they have got the harbour, and are out of the storm, mend their ship and tackling, and prepare again for the sea. That there may be temptations without leaving a touch of guilt or impurity behind them upon the tempted. It is true this is rare with men. The best do seldom go down to the battle, but in their very conquests they receive some wound; and in those temptations that arise from our own hearts, we are never without fault; but in such as do solely arise from Satan, there is a possibility that the upright may so keep himself, that the wicked one may not so touch him as to leave the print of his fingers behind him. But the great difficulty is, How it may be known when temptations are from Satan, and when from ourselves?

To answer this I shall lay down these conclusions:

1. The same sins which our own natures would suggest to us, may also be injected by Satan.

2. There is no sin so vile, but our own heart might possibly produce it without Satan.

3. There are many cases wherein it is very difficult, if not altogether impossible, to determine whether our own heart or Satan gives the first life or breathing to a temptation.

4. Though it be true, which some say, that in most cases it is needless altogether to spend our time in disputing whether the motions of sin in our minds are firstly from ourselves or from Satan, our greatest business being rather to resist them than to difference them; yet there are special eases wherein it is very necessary to find out the true parent of a sinful motion, and these are when tender consciences are wounded and oppressed with violent and great temptations, as blasphemous thoughts, atheistical objections, &c. As Joseph’s steward hid the cup in Benjamin’s sack, that it might be a ground of accusation against him, so doth the devil first oppress them with such thoughts, and then accuseth them of all that villainy and wickedness, the motions whereof he had with such importunity forced upon them; and so apt are the afflicted to comply with accusations against themselves, that they believe it is so, and from thence conclude that they are given up of God, hardened as Pharaoh, that they have sinned against the Holy Ghost, and finally that there is no hope of mercy for them. All this befalls them from their ignorance of Satan’s dealings, and here is their great need to distinguish Satan’s malice from their guilt.

5. We may discover if they proceed from Satan, though not simply from the matter of them, not from the suddenness and independency of them, yet from a due consideration of their nature and manner of proceeding, compared with the present temper and disposition of our heart.

As--

1. When unusual temptations intrude upon us with a high impetuosity and violence, while our thoughts are otherwise concerned and taken up.

2. While such things are borne in upon us, against the actual loathing, strenuous reluctancy, and high complainings of the soul, when the mind is filled with horror and the body with trembling at the presence of such thoughts.

3. Our hearts may bring forth that which is unnatural in itself, and may give rise to a temptation that would be horrid to the thoughts of other men.

4. Much more evident is it that such proceed from Satan, when they are of long continuance and constant trouble.

Application: The consideration of this is of great use to those that suffer under the violent hurries of strange temptations.

1. In that sometime they can justly complain of the affliction of such temptation, when they have no reason to charge it upon themselves as their sin. Satan only barks when he suggests, but he then bites and wounds when he draws us to consent.

2. That not only the sin but the degree also, by just consequence, is to be measured by the consent of the heart. (R. Gilpin.)

The design of Christ’s temptation

1. For faith, that the temptations of Christ have sanctified temptations unto us: that whereas before they were curses, like unto hanging on a tree; now, since Christ hath been both tempted and hanged on a tree, they be no longer signs and pledges of God’s wrath, but favours. A man may be the child of God notwithstanding, and therefore he is not to receive any discouragement by any of them.

2. Besides the sanctifying, it is an abatement, so that now when we are tempted, they have not the force they had before: for now the serpent’s head is bruised, so that he is now nothing so strong (as he was) to cast his darts. Also the head of his darts are blunted. (Bishop Andrewes.)

Tempter and accuser

And therefore if we be wise, let us resist him in the first, give no place to him when he is a tempter, so shall we not fear him, when he is an accuser, nor feel him as a tormenter. (Bishop Cowper.)

The wicked free frets temptation

So Satan troubles not such as are under his power already; such as are empty of grace he desires not to winnow, for what have they in them to be sifted out? The dog barks not at the dumb sticks, but at strangers: when the door is wide open, and there is free ingress and egress, there is no knocking; but if once shut up, then still one or other is rapping and bouncing. The wicked have the doors of their hearts set wide open to Satan, therefore he raps not there by tentation, but at the godlies, that shut and bar up this door against him. They then that brag they were never troubled with Satan’s temptations, do thereby profess their want of grace. If they had any spiritual treasure this thief would be dealing with them. If they had been taken out of the hands of Satan by the power of Christ, he would have raged, and took on, labouring with all his might to recover his prey. A lion scorns to meddle with a mouse, and so doth this roaring lion with thee that hath no booty for him. While Jacob continued under Laban’s tyranny, and would be made his drudge, and his pack-horse, all was well; but when once he began to fly, he makes after him: and so cloth the devil; when any one parts from him to Christ, then he is as a bear robbed of her whelps. (D. Dyke.)

Good Christians tempted most

All good Christians, then, must be tempted. But if any of them be of better graces than other, or calleth forth to higher place and service than other, they are specially eyesores to Satan, they are a fair mark for the arrows of his tentations. (D. Dyke.)

The nature of Satan’s temptation

1. In these temptations, we may note there were external objects as well as insinuated suggestions.

2. These temptations were complex, consisting of many various designs, like a snare of many cords or nooses. When he tempted to turn stones to bread, it was not one single design, but many, that Satan had in prosecution. As distrust on one hand, pride on another, and so in the rest. The more complicated a temptation is, it is the greater.

3. These were also perplexing, entangling temptations. They were dilemmatical, such as might ensnare, either in the doing or refusal.

4. These temptations proceeded upon considerable advantages. His hunger urged a necessity of turning stones into bread.

5. These temptations were accompanied with a greater presence and power of Satan.

6. The matter of these temptations, or the things he tempted Christ to, were great and heinous abominations.

7. All these temptations pretended strongly to the advantage and benefit of Christ, and some of them might seem to be done without any blame; as to turn stones to bread, to fly in the air.

8. Satan urged some of them in a daring, provoking way--“If thou be the Son of God?”

9. These temptations seem to be designed for the engagement of all the natural powers of Christ; His natural appetite in a design of food; His senses in the most beautiful object, the world in its glory; the affections, in that which is most swaying, pride.

10. Some of these warranted as duty, and to supply necessary hunger, others depending upon the security of a promise--“He shall give His angels charge,” &c. (R. Gilpin.)

Satan a tempter

There are three distinct names given to him in these temptations.

1. His name “Satan” shows his malice and fury, which is the ground and fountain whence all that trouble proceeds which we meet with from him.

2. He is styled “the tempter,” and that signifies to us how he puts forth this malice, his way and exercise in the exertion of it.

3. He is called “the devil “ or accuser, expressing thereby the end and issue of all. From this name, then, here given, we may observe:--That it is Satan’s work and employment to tempt men. Implying

1. Temptation is in itself a business and work.

2. Satan gives up himself unto it, is wholly in 2:3. He takes a delight in it, not only from a natural propensity, which his fall put upon him, whereby he cannot but tempt--as an evil tree cannot but bring forth evil fruits--but also from the power of a habit acquired by long exercise, which is accompanied with some kind of pleasure.

4. All other things in Satan, or in his endeavours, have either a subserviency, or some way or other a reference and respect to temptation. His power, wisdom, malice, and other infernal qualifications, render him able to tempt.

5. He cares not how it goes on, so that it go on; as a man that designs to be rich, cares not how he gets it; which shows that tempting is general in his design.

That Satan doth so, I shall evidence by these few notes:

Temptation

1. That ministers of the gospel, and all who have to deal with souls, need temptation. How pre-eminently was Jesus an experimental minister!

2. That when temptation cometh of God, we are all the better of it.

3. That deliverance from temptation equally with the temptation itself, to be a blessing, must be from the Lord. It was not until the devil had ended the temptation, all the temptation, that he departed. But when he had ended it, he did depart. Now, mark what immediately followed, viz., that as the Lord had been “led up” of the Spirit “to be tempted,” so He was “led out” from the temptation. I read (Luke 4:14): “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee.” My friends, there is instruction for us here. We must “abide” under our trial without impatience, without murmuring, without “making haste,” if we would be “led out” as well as “led up.” (A. B. Grosart, LL. D.)

How should the tempter ever have thought of “tempting” with any hope of overcoming the Son of God?

I may reply--

I. The devil was--in the Bible sense--a “fool,” I use the word “fool”--a Bible word--in its deepest and most awful meaning. It seems to me that it is not sufficiently kept in mind that sin had and has the same binding, stupefying effects on Satan that we see it have on bad men. Let a man persist in ungodliness, and see how his very eyes are put out, and how “foolish” he becomes. I should grant the devil’s craft and cleverness, but not his common sense, much less wisdom; and he “cannot see afar off.” There was pride in particular, to give the tempter a very lofty estimate of his own capacity. The tempter knew the effect which the lofty prize of sovereignty for which he had struck had upon his mind, and with his own self-estimate welded impenetrably by pride, he may have reasoned from himself to Christ in the prospect of that immense bribe of empire with which he was to “tempt”; while again, in retrospect, there was the great and very mournful fact, that not one “in the likeness of sinful flesh” assaulted by him, had stood immaculate, i.e., without yielding less or more. The Incarnation, by the very broadness of Him who was “to be tempted,” presented many sides upon which hope of partial success might hang.

II. The devil had grounds to expect success, and motives of a commanding kind. I find in that curse the warrant, if I may so speak, of the temptation of the Lord Jesus. The promise gave power to the serpent to bruise the heel of the woman’s seed. (A. B. Grosart, LL. D.)

The devil a living foe

Here is no fate, law, machinery, impersonality merely, but a living friend and a living foe seeking our souls. I apprehend it should impart a more intense reality to our lives did we habitually grasp this verity of our “ever-living advocate,” and ever-living accuser--both, not one merely. (A. B. Grosart, LL. D.)

Temptation sanctified

O how He hath sanctified temptations, and made them wholesome, which before were rank poison! (Bishop Hacker.)

An example

Christ was tempted, to give us an example how to encounter with the roaring lion, and to win the mastery. As a young learner will observe diligently every ward and thrust that an experienced gladiator makes, so the Holy Ghost hath set down for our advertisement every passage, how Christ did turn and wind the delusions of the serpent. (Bishop Hacker.)

Temptation a corrective

As a little wedge is beaten in sometimes to drive out a greater, so a little temptation is suffered to creep in that a bigger mischief may not enter. The falling into some sins in the best of God’s servants is an anticipation against pride, that they may not be puffed up with their own righteousness. Some errors and offences do rub salt upon a good man’s integrity, that it may not putrify with presumption. (Bishop Hacker.)

Satan a reality

As if the sheep should think wolves were but a tale, there were no such creatures that sought to devour them. (Bishop Hacker.)

Christians tempted

If Beelzebub was busy with the master, what will he be with the servants? (Bishop Hacker.)

Fire in us

To us the devil needs bring but a pair of bellows, for he shall find fire within us; but to Christ he was fain to bring fire too. (Bishop Andrewes.)

Christ’s antipathy against sin

But in Christ there was an antipathy against sin, as in the stomach against some meats, the which the more we are urged to eat of them, the more we loathe them; whereas in other meats that we especially love, the very sight of them is persuasion enough to eat of them. Christ’s heart to Satan’s temptations was as a stone or brass wall to an arrow, repulsing them back presently. Our hearts are as a butt, where they may easily fasten themselves. Ours is a barrel of gunpowder to the fire, Christ’s as water, and therefore He said, “The prince of this world is come, and hath nought in Me” (John 14:30). (D. Dyke.)

Temptations incessant

The more we strive and beat them away, the more, like flies, they come upon us. (D. Dyke.)

And in those days He did eat nothing

Fasting

1. Fasting leads to uninterrupted communion with God. I believe that herein lies the great secret of the often-recurring retirement of our Lord, and of many of His holiest followers. It is a good thing to spend a whole day or days alone with God. It tests a man’s spirituality.

2. Fasting breaks in upon our matter-of-course reception of every-day “mercies.”

3. Fasting is literally necessary to not a few of God’s people.

But now turning from fasting in itself to the fasting of the Lord, I ask your attention to six things in it.

1. The fasting was watched. All through the “days forty and nights forty” the tempter’s eye was upon Jesus.

2. The fasting was supernatural. This lies on the surface of the record.

3. The fasting was preparative. You remember that the Spirit “led up” the Lord “immediately “ (Mark 1:12). The threefold temptation came not until the “forty days” were ended. Clearly that He might be prepared for what awaited Him.

4. The fasting was antitypical. The most cursory reader of Scripture must be struck with the recurrence of certain numbers. I cannot now tarry to dwell upon this. But with reference to “forty,” it surely is noticeable that “forty” days was the Old Testament period allotted for repentance.

5. The fasting was for our learning.

6. The fasting of the “nights” suggests imitation in measure. It is noticeable how much of night, even midnight prayer and praise, “with fasting,” there is in the Psalms and by Jesus. Thus quaintly and racily does John Downame speak, in his “Guide to Godliness,” of the benefit of devotion at bedtime: “Ovens that have been baked in over night are easily heated the next morning. The cask that was well seasoned in the evening will swell the next day. The fire that was well raked up when we went to bed, will be the sooner kindled when we rise. Thus, if in the evening we spend ourselves in the examination of our hearts, how we have spent the time past, and commit ourselves unto the good guidance of God for the time to come, we shall soon find the spiritual warmth thereof making us able and active for all good duties in the morning; and by adding some new fuel to this holy fire, we shall with much facility and comfort cause it to burn and blaze in all Christian and religious duties.” (A. B. Grosart, LL. D.)

Satan invades holy duties

There is no place so holy, nor exercise so good, as can repress his courage, or give a stay to the boldness of his attempts, aa we see (Mark 4:14). (Bishop Andrewes.)

Oil taken from the lamp

Moreover, take away oil from the lamp, and the flame will go out by little and little; and surely hunger and thirst, and afflicting the body, joined with prayer and repentance, shall obtain this mercy, that the violence of voluptuousness and luxury shall be abated in our sinful flesh. (Bishop Hacker.)

Distress favourable to temptation

For as at that time the devil came upon Christ when hunger pinched Him, so where we are in any distress we arc to look for temptations. (Bishop Andrewes.)

Fastings

Fastings there are even still in the kingdom of God upon earth; bodily and spiritual fasts of all kinds; painful and cheerful fasts. Those which are most cheerful are kept in that vernal season of the soul, when in the genial warmth of the risen Sun of Righteousness, it first begins to bring forth fruits meet for repentance; for it now feels the kindness and love b! God our Saviour, which hath appeared unto all men, and it is affianced to the heavenly Bridegroom. The soul now no longer needs self-denial and forbearance to be commanded and enjoined, for it renounces self of its own accord. It flies, as by a new instinct, from scenes of temptation and danger, like a bird from the deadly weapon of the fowler. How can the once lost son, now happily recovered, content himself any longer with the husks I for he has tasted the fruit of the vine that flourished in “the pleasant land,” and of the refreshments of its milk and honey. How can the renewed man still take delight in the timbrel and the dance, or rejoice at the sound of the tabret and pipe, after he has once learnt to raise his holy songs of joy on the harp of David! In opposition to the vanities and follies of this world he sets the certainties which his faith now beholds in the opening glories of heaven; and with the couch of ease and luxury he contrasts the cross whereon He whom his soul loveth was suspended, bleeding and crowned with thorns. Away then at once with every wretched and shadowy joy and every glittering vanity; trouble us not, vain world, with these, for we are keeping a fast to the Lord. How often do we hear it controverted and questioned whether one pleasure or another be compatible with real piety! Only let men become really in earnest about their own salvation, and they will cease from such flimsy casuistry; and will perceive at once what agrees or disagrees with the spirit of true religion; or how far permission and ability to pursue any pleasure may belong to children of God and heirs of the kingdom. Other lastings are incident to a state of grace, which are not joyous, but grievous. These happen when the soul is led away, not from the wild luxuries of the world into the pastures of the good Shepherd, but from these refreshing and invigorating pastures into a seeming wilderness. Oh I it is a bitter change, and we have felt it the more from having enjoyed such unspeakable happiness while leaning on Jesus’ bosom. We then cry out, “Where is the blessedness I knew? Where are now those lively and sweet emotions, those congenial delights and lively enjoyments which we realized in the Lord’s nearness to our souls?” (F. W. Krummacher, D. D.)

Fasting a source of trial

Now in many ways the example of Christ may be made a comfort and encouragement to us at this Lenten season of the year. And, first of all, it will be well to insist on the circumstance, that our Lord did thus retire from the world, as confirming to us the like duty, as far as we can observe it. Next, I observe, that our Saviour’s fast was but introductory to His temptation. He went into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, but before He was tempted He fasted. Nor, as is worth notice, was this a mere preparation for the conflict, but it was the cause of the conflict in good measure. Instead of its simply arming Him against temptation, it is plain, that in the first instance, His retirement and abstinence exposed Him to it. Fasting was the primary occasion of it. “When He had fasted forty days and forty nights He was afterwards an hungered”; and then the tempter came, bidding Him turn the stones into bread. Satan made use of His fast against Himself. And this is singularly the case with Christians now, who endeavour to imitate Him; and it is well they should know it, for else they will be discouraged when they practise abstinences. It is commonly said that fasting is intended to make us better Christians, to sober us, and to bring us more entirely at Christ’s feet in faith and humility. This is true, viewing matters on the whole. On the whole, and at last, this effect will be produced, but it is not at all certain that it will follow at once. On the contrary, such mortifications have at the time very various effects on different persons, and are to be observed, not from their visible benefits, but from faith in the Word of God. Some men, indeed, are subdued by fasting, and brought at once nearer to God; but others find it, however slight, scarcely more than an occasion of temptation. For instance, it is sometimes even made an objection to fasting, as if it were a reason for not practising it that it makes a man irritable and ill-tempered. I confess it often may do this. Again, what very often follows from it is a feebleness which deprives him of his command over his bodily acts, feelings, and expressions. Thus it makes him seem, for instance, to be out of temper when he is not; I mean, because his tongue, his lips, nay his brain, are not in his power. He does not use the words he wishes to use, nor the accent and tone. He seems sharp when he is not; and the consciousness of this, and the reaction of that consciousness upon his mind, is a temptation, and actually makes him irritable, particularly if people misunderstand him, and think him what he is not. Again, weakness of body may deprive him of self-command in other ways; perhaps he cannot help smiling or laughing when he ought to be serious, which is evidently a most distressing and humbling trial; or when wrong thoughts present themselves his mind cannot throw them off any more than if it were some dead thing, and not spirit; but they then make an impression on him which he is not able to resist. Or again, weakness of body often hinders him from fixing his mind on his prayers instead of making him pray more fervently; or again; weakness of body is often attended with langour and listlessness, and strongly tempts a man to sloth. Yet I have not mentioned the most distressing of the effects which may follow from even the moderate exercise of this great Christian duty. It is undeniably a means of temptation, and I say so, lest persons should be surprised, and despond when they find it so. And this is another point which calls for distinct notice in the history of our Saviour’s fasting and temptation, viz., the victory which attended it. He had three temptations, and thrice He conquered--at the last He said, “Get thee behind Me, Satan”; on which “ the devil leaveth Him.” This conflict and victory in the world unseen is intimated in other passages of Scripture. The most remarkable of these is what our Lord says with reference to the demoniac whom His apostles could not cure (Mark 9:29). And I think there is enough evidence, even in what may be known afterwards of the effects of such exercises upon persons now (not to have recourse to history), to show that these exercises are God’s instruments for giving the Christian a high and royal power above and over his fellows. And this is part of the lesson taught us by the long continuance of the Lent fast--that we are not to gain our wishes by one day set apart for humiliation, or by one prayer, however fervent, but by “continuing instant in prayer.” This, too, is signified to us in the account of Jacob’s conflict. He, like our Saviour, was occupied in it through the night. In like manner Moses passed one of his forty days’ fast in confession and intercession for the people who had raised the golden calf (Deuteronomy 9:25-26). An angel came to Daniel upon his fast; so, too, in our Lord’s instance, angels came and ministered unto Him; and so we, too, may well believe, and take comfort in the thought, that even now, angels are especially sent to those who thus seek God. (J. H. Newman, D. D.)

Fasting

And, first, let us beware of the opinion of merit before God: for this conceit makes even good works an abomination to the Lord. There is no place for grace to enter in, where merit hath possession. Secondly, we are to take heed that our fasting be without superstition. Thirdly, that it be not without prayer. Fourthly, let fasting be without ostentation before men.

Our Saviour fasted in secret, in the wilderness. Last of all, let it always be seconded with amendment of life. (Bishop Cowper.)

Reasons for the fast

1. To authorize His doctrine, since He brought it out of the desert, where He had fasted so long a time in solitary retiredness, and not out of the schools and colleges, and that the rather because Moses and Elias, two notable restorers of religion under the law, had done the like. As His fasting could not but be of God, so neither His doctrine, which He thus fasting received.

2. To show the glory of His Godhead in the humiliation of His manhood. As in most of His humiliations, some sparkles of His divinity brake forth as before in His birth and in His baptism.

3. To show how little the belly should be regarded of us Christians in following the businesses of a better life. (Bishop Cowper.)

Temptation associated with sinless inferiority

When the devil spies us weak, in want and necessity, or in any other way disabled to resist him, that is a fit time for him to set upon us. As the enemies will make battery upon the walls where weakest, and every one goes over the hedge where lowest, so Satan, where and when he finds us feeblest, there and then will he be dealing with us. If in such weakness as hunger, how much more then in our deadly sicknesses, and in the very pangs of death. It is but a coward’s trick, but the devil cares not for his honour, so he may hurt us. Again, if natural and sinless infirmities yield Satan an hint for temptation, what then do the unnatural and sinful? If natural hunger after meat, what then that inordinate appetite, and itching desire after gain, glory, and preferment? (D. Dyke.)

Temptations adapted to temperament and condition

The devil fits and shapes his temptations according to our several estates, conditions, and dispositions. As here one temptation for hunger and want. If Christ had been in fulness and abundance He would have had another. He hath temptations on the left hand, and temptations also on the right. When in want, then comes the temptation to distrust, to use shifts and unlawful means. If in discontent, then to be impatient; and if we be of great spirit, then to lay hands on ourselves, as in “Achitophel.” If we be rich, and in great and high places, then he tempts to pride, disdain, and oppression, epicurism, and voluptuousness (Proverbs 3:8-9). Thereafter also as our constitution of body, are his temptations. The sanguine man is tempted to vain lightness and scurrility; the choleric to wrath and fury; the melancholy to dead and unprofitable lumpishness, to strange and idle conceits; the phlegmatic to sloth and drowsiness. Every calling also hath a several temptations. As the judge to be corrupted with bribes, the preacher either with man-pleasing (Ezekiel 13:1-23.), or to self-pleasing, as Augustine complains in Psalms 51:1-19.; the tradesman with deceit, and the serving-man with idleness and gaming. Every age hath its temptations--youth to be overcome with the love of pleasure, and old age with coveteousness. Yea, every gift hath its temptations, as the gift of learning, valour, eloquence, beauty--yea, the saving graces of Christianity and the calling of a Christian. He will not tempt a Christian ordinarily to the grosser and more odious sins of the world, but to the close and more secret--of privy pride, hypocrisy, coldness, negligence, and security.

1. Look, then, to what temptation thou liest most open, and so accordingly arm thyself.

2. Be not over-censorious in condemning others that are of other estate, calling, age, spirit, constitution of body, gifts, than ourselves, for we know not their temptations. And specially should moderation be showed to those of high place, because their temptations are more dangerous.

3. Take heed of that deceitfulness of heart, whereby we promise ourselves great matters of ourselves, if we might but change our estates and callings to our minds. Oh how liberal would the poor man be if he were rich, how upright and just the private man, if he were a magistrate I But they consider not that there are temptations in those estates and callings, and that more dangerous than in their own. (D. Dyke.)


Verse 3

Luke 4:3

If Thou be the Son of God

The devil’s preface

Satan knows how to write prefaces: here is one.
He began the whole series of his temptations by a doubt cast upon our Lord’s Sonship, and a crafty quotation from Scripture. He caught up the echo of the Father’s word at our Lord’s baptism, and began tempting where heavenly witness ended. He knew how to discharge a doubleshotted temptation, and at once to suggest doubt and rebellion--“ If” “command.”

I. THE TEMPTER ASSAILS WITH AN “IF.”

1. Not with point-blank denial. That would be too startling. Doubt serves the Satanic purpose better than heresy.

2. He grafts his “if” on a holy thing. He makes the doubt look like holy anxiety concerning Divine Sonship.

3. He “ifs” a plain Scripture. “Thou art My Son” (Psalms 2:7).

4. He “ifs “ a former manifestation. At His baptism God said, “This is My beloved Son.” Satan contradicts our spiritual experience.

5. He “ifs” a whole life. From the first Jesus had been about His Father’s business; yet after thirty years His Sonship is questioned.

6. He “ifs” inner consciousness. Our Lord knew that He was the Father’s Son; but the evil one is daring.

7. He “ifs” a perfect character. Well may he question us, whose faults are so many.

II. THE TEMPTER AIMS THE “ IF” AT A VITAL PART.

1. At our sonship. In our Lord’s case he attacks His human and Divine Sonship. In our case he would make us doubt our regeneration.

2. At our childlike spirit. He tempts us to cater for ourselves.

3. At our Father’s honour. He tempts us to doubt our Father’s providence, and to blame Him for letting us hunger.

4. At our comfort and strength as members of the heavenly family.

III. THE TEMPTER SUPPORTS THAT “IF” WITH CIRCUMSTANCES.

1. YOU are alone. Would a father desert his child?

2. You are in a desert. Is this the place for God’s Heir?

3. You are with the wild beasts. Wretched company for a Son of God I

4. You are an hungered. How can a loving Father let His perfect Son hunger? Put all these together, and the tempter’s question comes home with awful force to one who is hungry and alone. When we see others thus tried, do we think them brethren? Do we not question their sonship, as Job’s friends questioned him? What wonder if we question ourselves!

IV. WHEN OVERCOME, THE TEMPTER’S “IF” IS HELPFUL.

1. As coming from Satan, it is a certificate of our true descent.

2. As overcome, it may be a quietus to the enemy for years. It takes the sting out of man’s questionings and suspicions; for if we have answered the devil himself we do not fear men.

3. As past, it is usually the prelude to angels coming and ministering to us. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

The force of an “if”

What force there is often in a single monosyllable! What force, for instance, in the monosyllable “if,” with which this artful address begins! It was employed by Satan, for the purpose of insinuating into the Saviour’s mind a doubt of His being in reality the special object of His Father’s care, and it was pronounced by him, as we may well suppose, with a cunning and malignant emphasis. How different is the use which Jesus makes of this word “if” in those lessons of Divine instruction and heavenly consolation, which He so frequently delivered to His disciples when He was on earth l He always employed it to inspire confidence; never to excite distrust. Take a single instance of this: “If God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” What a contrast between this Divine remonstrance and the malicious insinuation of the great enemy of God and man! (Dean Bagot.)

Oh, this word “if”! Oh, that I could tear it out of my heart! O thou poison of all my pleasures! Thou cold icy hand, that touchest me so often, and freezest me with the touch! “If! I!” (Robert Robinson.)

The beginning of temptation

I. The first step towards God is faith in Him and His love. The first step away from Him is doubt. Therefore the devil begins all temptation by seeking to inspire the human soul with doubt. He sought to make Eve doubt God’s loving purpose towards her by his “Yea, hath God said?”

II. 1. How often are we tempted to doubt God’s love! Especially is this the case when we are left for a time without any sensible tokens of His presence.

2. How shall we meet this temptation? By reliance on the Word and the promise of God. Is there not in His Word food for the hungry, solace for the lonely, comfort for the desponding? (Canon Vernon Hutton, M. A.)

That where Satan carries on a main design and end he bestows most of his pains and skill in rendering the means to that end plausible and taking

The end is least in mention, and the means in their fit contrivance takes up most of his art and care. The reasons whereof are these--

First, shipwreck of faith, then of obedience

The devil here seeing Him in great want and hunger, would thereby bring in doubt, that He was not the Son of God, which is not a good argument. For whether we respect the natural tokens of God’s favour, we see they happen not to the wisest and men of best and greatest knowledge, as appeareth in Ecclesiastes 9:11, or the supernatural favour of God. We shall see Abraham forced to fly his country into Egypt for famine (Genesis 10:12). So did Isaac Genesis 26:1). And Jacob likewise was in the same distress Genesis 43:1). Notwithstanding that God was called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, yet were they all three like to be hunger-starved. Yea, not only so, but for their faith many were burned and stoned, of whom the world was not worthy (Hebrews 11:37). So fared it with the apostles; they were hungry, naked, and athirst (1 Corinthians 4:11). (Bishop Andrewes.)

Joy and comfort ruined by doubt

Hope, joy, peace, thankfulness, repentance, obedience, prayer, patience, worship--all these will vanish away like a morning mist before the sun if the devil can make you distrust with such a temptation as this, “If thou,” &c. (Bishop Hacket.)

Certitude of salvation

1. That the Holy Ghost doth beget a true and an humble assurance in many of the faithful touching the remission of their sins in this life.

2. The Holy Ghost doth beget this assurance in them, by causing them to examine what good fruits they have produced already from a lively faith, and do resolve to produce thereafter.

3. This comfortable assurance is not the formal act of justifying faith, but an effect which follows it.

4. This assurance is not alike in all that are regenerate, nor at all times alike.

5. No mortified humble Christian must despair, or afflict his heart, because scruples arise in his mind, so that he cannot attain to a strong confidence or assurance in Christ’s mercies. He that can attain but to a conjectural hope, or some beginnings of gracious comfort, shall be blessed before God, who will not quench the smoking flax. (Bishop Hacket.)

All Christians have not the same degree of assurance

Every tree doth not shoot out its root so far as another, and yet may be firm in the ground, and live as well as that whose root is largest. So every faith streteheth not forth the arms of particular assurance to embrace Christ alike, and yet it may be a true faith, that lives by charity, repentance, and good works; some faith abounds with one sort of fruits, some with another. God is delighted with all that are good, and He will reward them. In all kind of Divine conclusions some are more doubtful spirited than others. (Bishop Hacket.)

Faith assaulted

We see it is the devil’s endeavour to call into question the truth of God’s Word. God had said, “Thou art My Son,” and now he comes with his “If Thou be the Son of God.” In the Word of God there be specially three things--

1. Commandments.

2. Threatenings.

3. Promises.

Secondly, faith is the very life of our lives, and the strength of our souls, without which we are but very drudges and droils in this life. “The Holy Ghost fill you with all joy in believing” (Romans 15:13). “And believing, ye rejoiced with joy glorious and unspeakable” (1 Peter 1:8). Therefore the devil, envying our comfort and our happiness, would rob us of our faith, that he might rob us of our joy. Thirdly, faith is our choicest weapon, even our shield and buckler to fight against him, “whom resist steadfast in the faith” (1 Peter 5:9). Therefore, as the Philistines got away the Israelites’ weapons, so doth Satan, in getting away faith from us, disarm us and make us naked. “For this is our victory whereby we overcome, even our faith” (1 John 5:1-21.). And in this faith apprehending God’s strength lies our strength, as Samson’s in his locks; and, therefore, the devil, knowing this, labours to do to us which Delilah did to Samson, even to cut off our locks. (D. Dyke.)

Affliction no argument against sonship

If any man should be used like a dog, or a bear, yet as long as he sees human shape and discerns the use of human reason in himself, he would still, for all this usage, think himself to be a man. So though the children of God be used here in this world as if they were wicked, yet as long as they feel the work of grace, and the power of God’s Spirit, they must still hold themselves to be God’s children. (D. Dyke.)

This stone bread--

The plea of necessity

That Satan usually endeavours to run his temptations upon the plea of necessity, and from thence to infer a duty. The reasons of this policy are these:

1. He knows that necessity hath a compulsive force, even to things of otherwise greatest abhorrencies.

2. Necessity can do much to the darkening of the understanding, and change of the judgment, by the strong influence it hath upon the affections. Men are apt to form their apprehensions according to the dictates of necessity.

3. Necessity offers an excuse, if not a justification, of the greatest miscarriages.

4. Necessity is a universal plea, and fitted to the conditions of all men in all callings, and under all extravagancies. The tradesman, in his unlawful gains or overreachings, pleads a necessity for it from the hardness of the buyer in other things.

We may observe three cheats in this plea of necessity.

1. Sometimes he puts men upon feigning a necessity where there is none.

2. Sometimes he puts men upon a necessity of their own sinful procurement.

3. Sometimes he stretcheth a necessity further than it ought. This must warn us not to suffer ourselves to be imposed upon by the highest pretences of necessity. (R. Gilpin.)

To open this a little further, I shall add the reasons why Satan strikes in with such an occasion as the want of means to tempt to distrust, which are these:--

1. Such a condition doth usually transport men beside themselves.

2. Sense is a great help to faith. Faith, then, must needs be much hazarded when sense is at a loss or contradicted, as usually it is in straits. That faith doth receive an advantage by sense, cannot be denied. But when out ward usual helps fail us, our sense, being not able to see afar off, is wholly puzzled and overthrown. The very disappearing of probabilities gives so great a shake to our faith that it commonly staggers at it. It is no wonder to see that faith, which usually called sense for a supporter, to fail when it is deprived of its crutch.

3. Though faith can act above sense, and is employed about things not seen, yet every saint at all times doth not act his faith so high.

4. When sense is nonplussed, and faith fails, the soul of man is at a great loss. The other branch of the observation, that from a distrust of providence he endeavours to draw them to an unwarrantable attempt for their relief, is as clear as the former.

That from a distrust men are next put upon unwarrantable attempts, is clear from the following reasons:

1. The affrightment which is bred by such distrusts of providences will not suffer men to be idle. Fear is active, and strongly prompts that something is to be done.

2. Yet such is the confusion of men’s minds in such a ease, that though many things are propounded, in that hurry of thoughts they are deprived usually of a true judgment and deliberation.

3. The despairing grievance of spirit makes them take that which comes next to hand, as a drowning man that grasps a twig or straw, though to no purpose.

4. Being once turned off their rock, and the true stay of the promise of God for help, whatever other course they take must needs be unwarrantable.

5. Satan is so officious in an evil thing, that seeing any in this condition, he will not fail to proffer his help; and in place of God’s providence, to set some unlawful shift before them.

6. And so much the rather do men close in with such overtures, because a sudden fit of passionate fury doth drive them, and out of a bitter kind of despite and crossness--as if they meditated a revenge against God for their disappointment--they take up a hasty wilful resolve to go that way that seems most agreeable to their passion.

Application: Failures or ordinary means should not fill us with distrust, neither then should we run out of God’s way for help. He that would practise this must have these three things which are comprehended in it.

1. He must have full persuasions of the power and promise of God.

2. He that would thus wait upon God had need to have an equal balance of spirit in reference to second causes.

3. There is no waiting upon God, and keeping His way, without a particular trust in God. But let the strait be what it will, we must not forsake duty; for so we go out of God’s way, and do contradict that trust and hope which we are to keep up to God-ward. But there are other cases wherein it is our duty to fix our trust upon the particular mercy or help. I shall name four; and possibly a great many more may be added. As--

1. When mercies are expressly and particularly promised.

2. When God leads us into straits by engaging us in His service.

3. When the things we want are common universal blessings,, and such as we cannot subsist without.

4. When God is eminently engaged for our help, and His honour lies at stake in that very matter. (R. Gilpin.)

Stones turned into bread

How many are there that turn, not stones into bread, but lies, flatteries, base shifts, into silver and gold, yea, jewels and precious stones? Others turn stones, yea, precious stones, and their whole substance into bread, into meats, drinks, and apparel, and wastefully lavish God’s good creatures on idle backs and bellies, using this as a means to procure something their affections want. (D. Dyke.)

How many sins the devil couched and infolded in this one

It teaches us not to measure actions by the outward appearance. What a matter is it to eat bread when one is hungry? but we see what a matter it would have been here in Christ. A little pin, specially being poisoned, may prick mortally, as well as a great sword. Adam’s eating the fruit seems a small matter to flesh and blood, which wonders that so small a pin should wound all mankind to the death. But Adam’s sin was not simply the eating of the apple, but the eating of the apple forbidden by God. There was the deadly poison of that little pin. And there also the devil so handled the matter, that all the commandments were broken in that one action. As the first table in his infidelity, doubting both of God’s truth and goodness, contempt of, and rebellion against God, preferring of Satan before God, and in the profanation of that fruit he ate, which was a sacrament. And for the second table, he broke the fifth commandment, in his unthankfulness to God his Father, that gave him his being, and had bestowed so many blessings upon him. The sixth in the murder of himself and all his posterity, body and soul. The seventh in his intemperancy. The eighth in touching another’s goods against the will of the Lord. The ninth in receiving the devil’s false witness against God. The tenth in being discontent with his estate, and lusting after an higher. Take we heed now of the deceit of sin. It shows little sometimes, but oh the bundle of mischief that is lapped up in that little! (D. Dyke.)

The aim of Satanic temptation not always apparent

Like a waterman, he looks one way and rows another. The special thing he shot at, indeed, was to make Christ call in question the truth of that oracle that sounded at Jordan, to think through unbelief that He was not the Son of God. But yet the words of the temptation seem to import that he sought only the working of the miracle. And yet the devil would rather a great deal He would never work the miracle, so He would doubt Himself not to be the Son of God. For this would have been the greater foil. This discloses to us one of Satan’s mysteries. Sometimes he will tempt us to some sin, to which yet he cares not much whether we yield or no, hoping to get a greater conquest of us by not yielding. As thus, when by not yielding we grow proud, vain-glorious, secure, confident; wherein the devil seems to deal like a cunning gamester, that hides his skill, and loses two or three games at the first, that he may win so much the more afterwards. (D. Dyke.)

God not served for temporal profit

If every good Christian were satisfied at all times with temporal blessings, we should appear to serve God for our own profit, that we might lack nothing which concerned this transitory life. (Bishop Hacker.)

The eye to look to heaven

God doth not suppeditate bread always to him that is His son, that he may loathe this world, and look for a recompense for all this misery, not among these hard-hearted generations of men, but among the habitations of the blessed. (Bishop Hacker.)

Hereafter

It is my turn to want for awhile, I shall be replenished hereafter. (Bishop Hacker.)

Better than bread

Though a good man labour and watch, and cannot earn the bread of his carefulness, yet he shall fill his bosom with better fruits, for occasion is given hereby to the righteous to exercise these three spiritual graces, Prayer, and Patience, and Charity. (Bishop Hacker.)

The devil’s bread

There are others under these, indeed, yet of a most vile condition, that eat their bread by wrongful dealing, when it is grounded with the devil’s millstones; and according to Aristotle, my former director, these may be ranged into three sorts: Such as maintain themselves with no calling, such as use a bad calling, and such as cheat in a good calling. We must eat our bread by prayer to God, and good employment in the world, that is, by the duty of invocation, and by the fruits of our vocation; therefore he that fills up no place or part in a commonwealth to earn his gains must needs take the devil’s counsel to live by unjust means, command that these stones be made bread. (Bishop Hacker.)

Bad bread

By extortion and usury we may make stones into bread, that is the devil’s alchemistry: or haply we may make bread of nothing, when a man gets a thing by another’s oversight (Genesis 43:12). Or else, what and if we can overreach our brother in subtilty, and go beyond him with a trick of wit or cunning t “Let no man defraud or oppress his brother in any matter: for the Lord is avenged of all such” (1 Thessalonians 4:6). The one is called” the bread of violence and oppression” (Proverbs 4:17); the other, “the bread of deceit.” (Bishop Andrewes.)

The first temptation

Though in form sensuous, it is in essence moral or spiritual. What constituted it a temptation-where lay its evil? Christ had to live His personal life

were but a repetition of the earlier temptations; and then, as now, though the agony was deeper, and the darkness more dense, He triumphed by giving Himself into the hands of the Father. (A. M. Fairbairn, D. D.)

The first assault

I. THE SATANIC SUGGESTION. TO have complied with it would have been a violation of what, on reflection, appeared to Jesus to be the Father’s will.

II. THE REPLY OF OUR LORD--“It is written, man shall not live,” &c. This reply--

1. Disposes most effectually of all the arguments which are commonly urged in defence of modern excesses.

2. Points to man’s higher nature as his distinguishing possession.

3. Teaches that man is not dependent on bread or material sustenance even for his lower life, but on the sustaining Word of God. (W. Landels, D. D.)

Life not a necessity

In excuse for some offence against the moral law, it was said to our great English moralist of the last century: “A man must live.” “Sir,” said Dr. Johnson, “I do not see the necessity.” That was the Stoic form of the principle enunciated in our Lord’s reply, but our Lord invests it with an infinitely higher character by expressing it in the gracious tones of the gospel. It was true in the highest sense that a man must live; but his life does not consist in the mere gratification of his bodily cravings, or even the natural desires of his mind and heart, or even in his life here. The essential life of his nature consists in his living and acting in harmony with the will of God. (H. Wace, D. D.)

Appositeness of the temptation

The temptation was shrewdly contrived to meet the peculiar circumstances. Remember that the desert and the Dead Sea, lying in the basin of the barren hills, were a figure of the desolation brought on the world by sin, and that probably our Lord, from the wilderness, looked over this picture of death, and saw in it a figure of the scene of His moral operation. Now Satan steals up to Him, holding out a dead stone, and asks Him to begin His work by transforming that stone. As He is about to make the desert fruitful, and the wilderness blossom as a rose, and the Sea of Death become a lake of living water, let Him begin His work symbolically, with a stone of this district. Very probably the temptation was not to turn the piece of black stone into white wheaten bread, but into the homely, hard rye, black bread, which nourishes, but is no dainty. On the way to Jericho, and, indeed, all around the Dead Sea, are to be found in chalk beds, masses of flint, of rounded shape, which the Arabs suppose to be the olives, apples, melons, and other fruit of the time of Sodom and Gomorrah, which, at the overthrow of the cities, were turned into stone. Some of these stones have the size and shape of loaves, and it is possible that Satan took one of these rounded masses of flint, and, with his undercurrent of bitterness and scorn, offered it to Christ, supposing Him to share the popular superstition about them. If we may expand his words, they ran thus: “See this loaf-like flint stone! No doubt it was once bread in one of the houses of Sodom, but God overthrew the wicked city, and the bread was turned into stone. Now, O Son of God--that is, if you are the Son of God--as you have come to undo the work of destruction wrought by sin, and to bring life into a world subject to death, show your power on this stone, and turn it back into the loaf of bread which it once was.” (S. Baring-Gould, M. A.)

These stones

They were, perhaps, those siliceous accretions, sometimes known under the name of lapides judaici, which assume the exact shape of little loaves of bread, and which were represented in legend as the petrified fruits of the cities of the plain. The pangs of hunger work all the more powerfully when they are stimulated by the added tortures of a quick imagination; and if the conjecture be correct, then the very shape and aspect and traditional origin of these stones would give to the temptation an added force. (Archdeacon Farrar.)

Crystallization

The stones called “Elijah’s melons,” on Mount Carmel, and “the Virgin Mary’s peas,” near Bethlehem, are instances of crystallization well known in limestone formations. They are so called as being the supposed produce of these two plats turned into stone, from the refusal of the owners to supply the wants of the prophet and the saint. (Dean Stanley.)


Verse 4

Luke 4:4

And Jesus answered him saying, It is written, that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God

The armoury of Scripture

In the plague time none will go abroad without some preservative.
None will go forth into the fields, but take at least a staff with them for fear of the worst. Those that travel will not ride without their swords; those that know they have enemies will never go forth unweaponed; and kings always have their guards. Now all of us having Satan’s temptations, and our enemies ready for us at every turn, we had need daily to resort to the armoury of the Scriptures, and there to furnish ourselves; for when this word shall be hid in our hearts, and enter into our souls, then shall we prevail both against the violent man and the flattering woman, that is, against all kind of temptations, whether on the right or on the left hand. “I have hid Thy word,” saith David (
Psalms 119:1-176.), “in mine heart, that I might not sin.” (D. Dyke.)

All need the Scriptures

Cast not off the study of the Scriptures only to the ministers. Though the law be not thy profession, yet thou wilt have so much skill in it, as to hold thy inheritance, and to keep thy land from the caviller. So here, though divinity be not thy profession, yet get so much skill as to keep thy heavenly inheritance against Satan’s cavils. As any is more subject to Satan’s temptations, so hath he greater need of the Scriptures. (D. Dyke.)

The written word

It is written of Augustine, that lying sick on his bed, he caused the seven penitential Psalms to be painted on the wall over against him, in great letters; that if after he should become speechless, yet he might point to every verse when the devil came to tempt him, and so confute him. “Blessed is he that hath his quiver full of such arrows, they shall not be ashamed.” Blessed is he that hath the skill to choose out fit arrows for the purpose, as the fathers speak out of Isaiah 49:2. Christ saith affirmatively of the Scriptures, that “in them is eternal life” (John 5:39). Negatively, that the cause of error is the not knowing of them Mark 12:24). David saith it was that that made him wiser than his enemies, than his teachers, and than the ancients (Psalms 119:98-99; Psa_110:1-7). So the error of the former times was in yielding too far to the devil’s policy, by sealing up the Scriptures, and locking the storehouse and armoury of the people. The like policy we read of (1 Samuel 13:19); when the Philistines had taken away all smiths and armour, then they thought they were safe. So in the time of darkness, the devil might let them do their good works, and what they list, and yet have them still under his lure, that he might offend them at his pleasure, that had no armour to resist him. All the children of God had a right and property in the law of God, as appeareth by Christ’s words (John 10:34). He answered them, that is, the common people, “Is it not written in your law?” As though He should say, The Scripture is yours. (Bishop Andrewes.)

Safety in the Scriptures

We are penned up into the Scriptures as into our sheepfolds, while we contain ourselves within them there we are safe; the wolf may howl, but he cannot bite us. There we are in the tower of David, where we cannot be assaulted; but as David acknowledgeth: “If my delight had not been in Thy law, I should utterly have perished in my trouble.” (Bishop Hacket.)

Grace the life of bread

It is the grace of God which gives meat in due season so that health and comfort go together with it. And heretofore I have used this similitude to give it light. Sometimes when we apply physic for any disease, we are bid to seethe such and such herbs in running water, and then to drink the water. If this help us, we all know it was not the water which did the sick man good, but the decoction of the infusion. So it is not bread nor drink, considered barely in itself, which doth nourish the body, but the blessing of God infused into it. Daniel, and the three children of the captivity that were with him, prospered better with pulse and water than any of the Babylonians with the continual portion of the king’s meat. (Bishop Hacket.)

God better than bread

I am sure this makes it evident that you will neither trust God nor nature unless all the art which luxury and wantonness can excogitate be added unto it. As Elkanah said to Hannah his wife, “Am not I better to thee than ten sons?” So let it run in your mind, as if the Lord spake it to you in your ear, “Am not I better unto thee than all the corn in the fields; than all the cattle upon a thousand hills; than all the cookery in the world that can be sweet upon the palate? What is bread? What is a plentiful table without My benediction?” (Bishop Hacket.)

The best half of man lives not by bread

The better half of man, which is the soul and spirit, lives not by material bread, but by the Word of God. (Bishop Hacket.)

Bread and life

1. Our acceptance of the principle reasserted by Christ that “Man [the man, God-fearing, God-trusting] liveth not by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”

2. Be more anxious to have God’s blessing, with the lowliest and poorest fare, than the richest without it.

3. With reference to the temptation to “turn stones into bread,” let me ask if none of you have been tempted by this very snare?--Beware! Proverbs 20:17).

4. Is there not a great amount of this “living by bread alone”? Are not provision for the wants of the body, and gathering, scraping together of the things of the present life, the all in all with many? (A. B. Grosart, LL. D.)

God and bread

How shall we live? Multitudes of people are asking that question to-day with peculiar earnestness. The text offers an answer. It strikes out, in a sentence, a theory of living. The two theories of living are here squarely confronted. Satan, as the prince of this world, announces his, and tries to win Christ’s assent to it. “Man lives by bread and by bread alone.” Christ replies, “Man lives not by bread, but by God.” Man lives by God’s gifts only, as God is behind them: man’s real support is not in the gifts but in the Giver.

I. WHAT IS COVERED BY THIS WORD “BREAD”? It covers the whole visible economy of life. For what are the mass of men spending their energies? For food and raiment and position--for the abundance and superfluity of these things. Now I am not blind to men’s natural and pardonable anxiety about such things. Food and raiment are parts of God’s own economy of life in this world; and Christ Himself saith, “Your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.” But I am speaking of the false position in which men put these things--of their tendency to separate them from God, and to seek to live by them alone. The gifts are to be sought through the Giver. Men often seek food and raiment without reference to God, and often in ways forbidden by God; whereas Christ says, “Seek God first.”

II. If our Lord had yielded to the temptation, HE WOULD HAVE COMMITTED HIMSELF TO THE BREAD-THEORY AS THE LAW OF HIS KINGDOM, NO LESS THAN OF HIS OWN LIFE. He would have said, by changing the stones into bread, “As I cannot live without bread, so My kingdom cannot thrive so long as men’s worldly needs are unsupplied. My administration must be a turning of stones into bread. It must make men happy by at once miraculously removing all want and suffering from the world, and inaugurating an era of worldly prosperity.” We know that this has not been Christ’s policy. Social prosperity is based on righteousness. Here, then--

III. We have CHRIST’S THEORY OF LIFE, INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIAL. Man lives by God’s gifts, but not by the gifts only. By bread, but not by bread alone. Bread is nothing without God. Bread points away from itself to God. Bread has a part in the Divine economy of society; but it comes in with the Kingdom of God, under its laws, and not as its substitute. The man who lives by bread alone has nothing when bread is gone. The practical working of the two theories is written down in lines which he who runs may read. What is my theory of life? Is it Christ, or Satan? Is it bread alone, or bread with God? (M. R. Vincent, D. D.)

Not by bread alone

With this weapon, taken from the armoury of Deuteronomy, Jesus foiled the first recorded attack of His implacable enemy and ours. It is not the voice of the Church alone that may be heard on this matter to-day.

I. THE WORLD’S GREATEST TEACHERS ARE INVEIGHING AGAINST THE SPIRIT OF THE AGE, WHICH WOULD SACRIFICE MIND TO THE MOLOCH OF LUXURY.

1. “Man shall not live by bread alone,” but by every scientific fact, is the evangel of Science.

2. “Man shall not live by bread alone,” is the burden of Philosophy.

3. “Not by bread alone,” chimes in the voice of Art.

4. “Not by bread alone,” throbs in divinest music from the poet’s lyre. But all these voices declare only half the truth--the negative side of it.

II. THE CHRISTIAN IS THE ONLY MAN WHOSE ANGLE OF VISION TAKES IN THE GREATEST SWEEP OF THE ILLIMITABLE HORIZON OF TRUTH. “Man shall not live by bread alone,” He declares, “but by every word of God.” What is every word of God?

1. Science is a word of God.

2. Philosophy, in so far as she has defined, expressed, and enforced truth, has spoken for God.

3. Have not Art and Culture and Poetry voices for God? or are they merely voices of man? We hold that they are truly prophets of God. So far we have the sympathy of many minds not Christian. They say, “Here end the words of God.” We say.

4. “Here begin the words of God.” Revelation, especially the revelation of the Incarnate Word, is the clearest and noblest word of God, because it is addressed to the soul of man. All others are but echoes of this Incarnate Word. (W. Skinner.)

The true support of human life

The first lesson these words read to us is this.

I. THAT WE ARE NOT DEPENDENT SOLELY ON MATERIAL THINGS FOR THE SUSTENANCE AND NOURISHMENT OF OUR LIFE.

II. They teach us TO REFUSE TO HOLD OR SUPPORT OUR LIFE IN ANY WAY APART FROM GOD’S WORD.

III. They point to the truth that THERE IS A LIFE TO WHICH BREAD DOES NOT MINISTER. (Studens.)

God’s word the bread of man’s life

1. The craving for Divine truth in the souls of men was never so much of an imperious passion as it is at the present day. Men have been imposed upon by fictions long enough. If they are to have true life they must have the very truth and substance of things for their nourishment.

2. Consider also how imperative has become the demand for beauty, and art, and poetry. There may be goodness in the world that is never touched by the beauty of art, and is all unconscious of the inspiration of Divine poetry; but it has not the abundant life which Christ came to bring.

3. Another of those cravings in which our best life is founded is in the personal relations which are so necessary to us. In fellowship lies a great part of the strength and joy of life. We cannot truly live without it.

4. And this brings us to consider the deepest and highest personal relation, which is the great end of our creation and redemption, the relation which we have with Christ and through Him with the Father. This relation is the bread of life to us--the vital nourishment and enrichment of our noblest being. (C. Short, M. A. , D. D.)

The mystery of life

I. TRUTHS INVOLVED IN THIS SAYING.

1. Life is valuable and ought to be preserved. Man is to live; nothing can be compared with life--wealth, honour, reputation, dignity, position, rank--what is all that compared with life? Life is an invaluable boon; it is theday of grace, the day of opportunity, the day of responsibility.

2. Life is sustained by the use of appointed means. We are not to expect life to be sustained by miracle.

3. Life is dependent upon the great power of God. He is the great Author of everything, and Arbiter of the destinies of all.

4. God has a variety of means by which He can support life. When He sees fit, He can and does support life by miraculous agency.

II. ERRORS CORRECTED BY THIS SAYING.

1. It censures the loose opinions of those who hope to live upon pleasure. Christ says, Men are to live upon bread. There is a very serious character about life. To expect any one to liv upon pleasure is like asking a hungry man to a painted banquet; there is the form of food, but it cannot minister to his support.

2. It condemns the conduct of those who toil only for bread. Another world has claims, as well as this.

3. It corrects the doubts and unbelief of many concerning Divine Providence.

4. It suggests the means of life for the higher nature of man. (George Smith.)

Christ’s miracles reserved for others

That to which Satan here challenges the Lord was not sinful in itself, but would have been sinful for Him. To have complied, would have been a defeat of His whole mediatorial work. If on each sharper pressure of the world’s suffering and pain upon Himself, He had fallen back on the power which as Son of God He possessed, and so exempted Himself from the common lot of humanity, where would have been the fellow-man, the overcomer of the world by His human faith, and not by His Divine power? The whole life of faith would have disappeared. At His Incarnation the Lord had merged His lot with the lot of the race; the temptation is, that He should separate Himself from them anew: “ Son of God, put forth Thy power.” When in some besieged and famine-stricken city, when in hard straits during the march through some waterless desert, a captain or commander refuses special exemptions from the lot of his suffering fellow-soldiers, when a Cato pours upon the sands the single draught of water which has been procured in the African desert and brought for his drinking, such a one in his lower sphere acts out what the Lord in the highest sphere of all was acting out now. He who made the water wine, could have made the stones bread; but to that He was solicited by the need of others, to this only by His own. And this abstinence of self-help was the law of His whole life, a life as wonderful in the miracles which it left undone as in those which it wrought. (Archbishop Trench.)

Christ’s reply assumes our immortality

Suppose bread fails. Suppose the body literally starves, and the man dies, as we say. Is Christ’s theory disproved? By no means. Christ’s choice led Him to the cross, and many a follower of His has been forced to choose between the bread-theory and death. When God says that man shall live by His Word, He means by “life,” far more than the little span of human years, with their eating, and drinking, and pleasure, and gain-getting. This utterance of the world’s Redeemer assumes the fact of immortality. To live by the Word of God is to share the eternal life of God. The bread-life is but the prelude and faint type of this. It gets all its real meaning and value from this. Human life is nothing if it does not foreshadow the larger life of eternity: and when the lower physical life fails for lack of bread, the man does not cease to live: he only begins to live, and to prove that if man cannot live by bread alone, he can live by God alone. (Marvin R. Vincent, D. D.)

The rival theories of life tested

The practical working of the two theories is written down in lines which he that runs may read. Before you is the picture of the Man of Sorrows, who had not where to lay His head, reviled and spoken against, walking by His bard road to the garden and to the cross, and yet deliberately choosing to live by God rather than by bread; and you see the choice vindicated by the peace and poise of that life, by the enthusiasm of its faith, by its heavenly joy in its work, by its evergrowing power over the life of the world, by the adoration and love and praise daily wafted towards it from millions of souls: and all this while the worldly dominion He refused has proved a vanished shadow, while the old empires have gone down in ruin, and their pleasures have turned to a corruption which is an offence in the world’s nostrils. The old city which rang with the cry of “Bread and the Circus!” is only a monument now. The tourist wanders over the Palatine, and peers down into the choked vaults of the Caesars’ palaces; and the antiquarian rummages where Nero’s fishponds gleamed, and climbs along the broken tiers of the Coliseum, from which the culture and beauty and fashion of Rome looked down with delight upon Christian martyrs in the fangs of tigers. As you look on this picture, surely you will take fresh heart; surely you will win a new faith in Christ’s theory; surely you will not dare, with the glory of that life before you, to take the baser theory of the prince of this world, to choose the life which is by bread alone! (Marvin R. Vincent, D. D. )

Man lives by the Word of God

The Word. Now what is a word? The human heart is peopled with thoughts and feelings hidden away in its secret lanes and alleys, and what is a word but a silver chariot that rolls out through the portals of the lips bearing some denizen of the palaces and hovels that fill the heart’s hidden courts? What are words but the commerce of mind with mind? Words are ships that go to and fro freighted with thoughts, feelings, affections; and there are silver words like the white-winged sloops and schooners, graceful words like the beautiful yachts, iron words like the steamships, barbed words like the man-of-war: words are sometimes sweet as tossed flowers, sometimes sharp and stinging like a shot arrow; words are the commerce of mind with mind, and yet if one finite mind needs a hundred and fifteen thousand words to express its thoughts, how many words, think you, could alone be adequate to express the infinite mind of the Infinite God? And because the infinite words are so many, and man must live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, and as these words are innumerable, He hath found out a way of summing them all up in one word--the Word of God. It is by this Word only that men can live. (F. C. Ewer, D. D.)

The Word of God in truth and duty

The Word of God includes two notions, one of revelation and one of commandment. Whenever God speaks by any of His voices, it is first to tell us some truth which we did not know before, and second to bid us do something which we have not been doing. Every Word of God includes these two. Truth and duty are always wedded. There is no truth which has not its corresponding duty. And there is no duty which has not its corresponding truth. We are always separating them. We are always trying to learn truths, as if there were no duties belonging to them, as if the knowing of them would make no difference in the way we lived. That is the reason why our hold on the truths we learn is so weak. And we are always trying to do duties as if there were no truths behind them; as if, that is, they were mere arbitrary things which rested on no principles and had no intelligible reasons. That is the reason why we do our duties so superficially and unreliably. When every truth is rounded into its duty, and every duty is deepened into its truth, then we shall have a clearness and consistency and permanence of moral life which we hardly dream of now. (F. C. Ewer, D. D.)

The higher life in man

The temptation of Jesus was not a splendid solitary victory of divinity over human conditions. It was the assertion of the possible victory that waits for every man who, like Christ, has in him the power of divinity. Jesus found in His human consciousness the original purpose of human life. He brought it out clearly. He said, It is not the Divine prerogative alone. Here it is in man--the power to live, not for comfort, but for truth and duty. Here it is in this humanity of Mine, along with all else that is truly human, all My tastes and propensities, all My aches and pains. Here it is in Me, and, no other men have found it in themselves, “It is written,” &c. And men, all the more clearly since Jesus showed it there, are always finding in their own consciousness and in the prolonged consciousness of their race which we call experience or history, this same higher capacity or higher necessity of man. They find it in their own consciousness. What do we make of every strong young man’s discontent with the actual conditions of things before he settles down into the limited contentment, the sense that things are about as good as they are likely to be, which makes up the dull remainder of his life? Question yourself, and see how there is something in you which rebels when the lower expediency of any action is set before you as its sufficient justification, how something rises up in you and tells you that there is a higher expediency, and makes you want to sweep away the worldly maxims which you cannot confute, but which you know are false. Sometimes there comes in all of us a strong, deep craving to give up this endless, complicated search after what it is safe or proper or fashionable to believe, and just to seek what is true; and to get rid of these thousand artificial standards of what a man is expected to do, and, come of it what will, simply do what is right: and when we are simply asking, “What is right?” the answer always comes. (F. C. Ewer, D. D. )

The deeper power in man

There always is this deeper power in man, and men are always finding it there. I think we are amazed not at the rarity, but rather at the abundance, of the power of martyrdom. When a great cause breaks out in war, and needs its champions, how wonderful it is to us, with our low notions of humanity, to see the land with its furrows full of the deserted ploughs from which the men have run to go and die for principle, and save their country. How wonderfully frequent are the stories that we hear of men giving their lives to do their duty. The exception is where the engineer of the railroad train which is rushing into certain ruin deserts his post; not where he stands still and calm, and is found with the iron clenched in his dead hand. No doubt, if he had time to think of it at all, he would be surprised at himself in the terrible instant when his quick resolve was made. He reaches down through the ordinary standards of his life, and takes up the deepest one of all, and says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God; and the Word of God which is my duty now says, ‘Stand and die’; and so I cannot live except by dying.” And in spite of all the men who are sacrificing their convictions to their interests, there are thousands of men who might be at the head of things, and rich and famous, if they would only give up what they think is true for bread. Oh, it is very common I Men find in their own nature necessities which they must submit tot and they do submit to them. We can hear in their submission, though it makes them very poor, something of chat same trumpet-like triumph and exaltation which I think we always feel in those words from the lips of the sick and hungry Jesus, “Not by bread alone, but by the Word of God.” (F. C. Ewer, D. D. )

Rectitude is better than profit

When Mr. Russell Lowell was called as a witness before the Senate Committee to give evidence on International Copyright, he lifted up the whole discussion from the level of interests and expediences into the clear air of duties and moralities. He said, “I myself take the moral view of the question. I believe this is a mere question of morality and justice. One could live a great deal cheaper, undoubtedly, if he could supply himself from other people, without either labour or cost. But at the same time-well, it was not called honest when I was young, and that is all I can say. I cannot help thinking that a book which was, I believe, more read, when I was young than it is now, is quite right when it says, ‘Righteousness exalteth a nation.’ I believe this is a question of righteousness. If I were asked what book is better than a cheap book, I should answer that there is one book, and that one is a book honestly come by.”

Remembering what is written

It is related of the late Lord Ampthill, British Ambassador to the Court of Berlin, that during his mission in Rome he possessed a huge boa constrictor and interested himself in watching its habits. One day the monster escaped from the box where he supposed it was asleep, quietly wound itself around his body, and began gradually to tighten its folds. His position became extremely perilous; but the consummate coolness and self-possession which had enabled him to win many a diplomatic triumph befriended him in this dangerous emergency. He remembered there was a bone in the throat of the serpent which, if he could find and break he would save himself. He was aware that either he or the snake must perish. Not a moment must be lost in hesitation. He deliberately seized the head of the serpent, thrust his hand down its throat, and smashed the vital bone. The coils were relaxed, the victim fell at his feet, and he was free! In all wickedness there is weakness, and it is a grand thing to discern the vulnerable spot and to be ready with the exact truth, fact, promise, which deals death to the foe. This insight and power are given to all who prayerfully study God’s Word. (Christian Journal.)

Man liveth not by bread alone

I. ADAM’S BRIEF LIFE NOT BY BREAD ALONE IN EDEN.

1. The angels living by the Word of God alone without bread. “He maketh His angels spirits; and the highest of their heavenly host, those amongst them that “excel in strength “ live only by” hearkening to the voice of His Word.” The prince of this world in his first estate lived by the Word of

God, but he kept not that Word, for “His Word is truth,” and he “abode not in the truth,” but became “a liar and the father of it.”

2. The ox living by bread alone without the Word of God. To the ox his Creator gave “every green herb for meat,” but without imparting the knowledge of his Maker, or capacity for acquiring it. The beast of the field was formed by the Word of God, and sustained by His power; but with no command either what to eat or from what to abstain, with no consciousness of good or evil, of obedience or transgression, and with no conception of the great Being to whom He owed his life. He ate the grass without sin and without holiness, and lived by grass alone without the Word of God. As he was formed, so he liveth on from generation to generation to the world’s end, “asking no questions.”

3. Adam living by bread with the Word of God. “In the image of God made He man,” and He made him for communion with Himself. He did not evolve him from any beast of the field after its likeness, but fashioned him in His own likeness, “a little lower than the angels,” leaving the ox utterly and for ever incapable of entering into the heart or mind of man; but creating man capable at once of entering into His own thoughts, and of loving and being consciously loved by the invisible God. From the day of man’s creation he lived by bread, but not for one hour by bread alone without the Word of God. Of every tree of the garden he might freely eat; but the liberty was by the Divine Word in express permission, and in so eating man lived.

II. ISRAEL’S CHEQUERED LIFE NOT BY BREAD ALONE IN THE WILDERNESS.

1. Israel redeemed from Egypt and day by day fed by the hand of God. One chief end of the forty years’ travelling through the wilderness was to train Israel to know that man doth not live by bread only, but by the Word of God; showing us both how high a place this lesson takes in the Divine teaching, and how slow men are to learn it.

2. Ransomed men learning to live not by bread alone. When the three thousand converts at Pentecost were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, “they did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God.” It was repentance unto life and deliverance from condemnation that had been granted them from heaven; and they had no care “what they should eat or wherewithal they should be clothed.” But for the first time in their lives they had learned that man does not live by bread only, but by every word of God; the eating of their daily food became part of their higher and everlasting life; and receiving it from the hand of a reconciled Father, they lived not by bread alone, but by bread with the Word of God that sanctified it to them.

III. THE SON OF MAN’S WHOLE LIFE ON EARTH NEVER BY BREAD ALONE. (The Expositor,)

God in means

The very heathen apprehended this point very well; they made their goddess Providence to be the midwife of nature, showing that nature could do nothing without the power of God’s providence. And hence, though the wiser of them acknowledge but one God, yet to every several creature gave they the name of God, as of Ceres to the corn of Bacchus to the wine, of Neptune to the waters, to show that the power of God was in these creatures, and that it was not so much they, but God in them, and with them that wrought. What a shame then for Christians to repose and secure ourselves in these outward means? Oh, when one hath gotten a great living, and great friends, we say, Oh, he is made for ever. God that can break the staff of bread, can break the staff of friends, riches, favour, and all such means as we trust to. As He did the staff of physic to Asa (2 Chronicles 15:1-19.) As He restrained the fire (Daniel 3:1-30.) from hurting and from burning, so can He also from helping and from warming. If we want means, then let us not only seek to them, but to God. And if we have them, though in never such strength and abundance, yet let us as earnestly crave God’s blessing and help, as we would do in our greatest want. For what have we when we have the means? Have we God locked up in the means? No, we have but dead things, unable to help without God. Therefore in the fourth petition, Christ teacheth the greatest princes that swim in wealth, to pray for their daily bread, as the poorest beggar.

2. This teaches us never to use meats, drinks, marriage, physic, recreation, apparel, habitation, or any other of God’s creatures without prayer. This sanctifies them all (1 Timothy 4:4), nor yet otherwise to go about any business. (D. Dyke.)

Living by the Word

In this case the temptation seems to refer to natural hunger, but the answer of our Lord goes deeper, even to the life itself.

I. THE WORDS OF MY TEXT, TAKEN IN THEIR LOWEST SENSE, IN WHICH SATAN PROBABLY UNDERSTOOD THEM, ARE SIMPLY TRUE. Man does not live by bread alone; he needs raiment, shelter, and a thousand other things, not included in bread alone. Man creates nothing. From the grain that springs up after his planting and furnishes “bread to the eater and seed to the sower” to the lightnings of heaven that flash along the lines of His proriding, carrying His messages over continents and under oceans to the uttermost parts of the earth--all, all is of God, the result of His inward thought and His spoken Word, and we are living now, as never before, in all the history of our race, not by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. But man is an intellectual being and--

II. HIS INTELLECTUAL LIFE REQUIRES MORE THAN BREAD. Nothing satisfies human intelligence but the Word, “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” The human mind is so constituted as to recognize every expressed idea of the Divine mind. Take English literature, for instance, and what is there in it that deserves to live and that will live, that does not in some degree express the Divine thought. Take the bad books that are printed--literary garbage, rightly excluded from the mails, and hauled out and dumped with other garbage on waste places. How it shuns the light I Literature can only live, and bless mankind, that has in it the Word of God. Mark the history of our own English literature. It had its rise in the fourteenth century in the translation and publishing of the Holy Scriptures by John Wickliffe. It gathered new life in the times of the English Reformation when the same Word was freely given to the people, and reached its zenith, intellectually considered, in the reign of King James at the hands of Shakespeare and Lord Bacon. Literature lost none of its strength, but became purer in the days of Milton and more religious during the revival period under Whitfield and the Wesleys. Take out of our literature all that is inspired by the Bible and all that expresses the Divine Word in creation, and little would remain worth saving. Yes, man lives by ideas. God’s ideas inscribed, it may be, on the unhewn tables of stone that build up the foundations of the earth, or they may wave in beauty on the green banners that adorn its surface, or shine with resplendent glory in the heavens above us, wherever they exist they are God’s ideas. The scientist in his deepest researches only discovers them. He is engaged in translating an ancient manuscript, and if he dares to say there is no God he is trying to translate a book that has no author. But the meaning of Christ’s answer to the tempter is deeper and broader than this. Man never truly lives until the conditions of his moral nature are met and satisfied. This is a fact too often overlooked by the epicurean and the scientist, and it will remain a fact even after these worthies have exhausted all their resources in trying to prove that man is nothing more than an intellectual brute.

III. MAN’S MORAL LIFE REQUIRES MORE THAN BREAD AND IDEAS. Man is as truly moral as he is intellectual and physical. His moral nature can no more be fed on bread than his physical powers can be sustained by pure thought. If in the Divine word provision has been made for the body and the mind it would be a strange and inexplicable oversight if no word has been spoken of sufficient vitality to meet the wants of man’s moral nature. And this oversight, if it exists, is all the more grievous from the tact that man’s happiness in this life depends absolutely upon his moral condition. (H. O.Cushing.)

Extraordinary means

God is not tied to the second ordinary causes, but He can do that without them which He can do with them. This will appear in these particulars:

1. God sometimes works without the means at all, as in the first creation of the chaos, and in Christ’s healing of many diseases.

2. God some times works by ordinary, but those weak and insufficient, means in the order of nature. As when the bunch of figs healed Hezekiah’s sore (2 Kings 20:1-21.); as when Jacob’s rods laid before the sheep of one colour, and made them conceive, and bring forth parti-coloured ones (Genesis 30:1-43.); when the wind brought the Israelites quails in such abundance (Exodus 16:1-36.); when Gideon’s three hundred soldiers got the victory ( 7:1-25.); and Jonathan and his armour-bearer alone chased away and slew so many of the Philistines (1 Samuel 14:6).

3. God otherwhiles works altogether by unusual and unwonted means: such as was manna in the desert.

4. God sometimes works not only by means diverse from, but quite contrary unto, the ordinary. As the blind man’s eyes are restored with clay and spittle (John 9:1-41.); and Jonah is saved by being in the whale’s belly. (D. Dyke.)

Unlawful means not needed

He needs not His own lawful, much less thy unlawful, means. Unlawful it was under the law to couple an ox and an ass together, how much more to couple God’s holy and just providence, and thine unholy and unrighteous means? (D. Dyke.)


Verse 5

Luke 4:5; Luk_4:8

And the devil, taking Him up into an high mountain, showed unto Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time

Satan a close solicitor

1.
The importunity of Satan: he is upon our Saviour again: “Again the devil taketh Him up.”

2. The variety of his shifts: from the pinacle of the Temple “he taketh Him up to an exceeding high mountain.”

3. Note by what gate or passage he would enter his temptation: by the eye; he shows a goodly object unto Him.

4. The dignity of the object: he shows Him kingdoms.

5. For the amplitude and generality: “All the kingdoms of the world.”

6. In their most amiable and desirable shape he showed them in their glory.

7. Satan showed himself to be an arch juggler, or prestidigitator, as artists call it, for St. Luke adds, that he showed all this “in a moment of time.” A close solicitor, and a diligence worthy to be commended, if it had been in a good cause; but they that are in a wrong way are most zealous in their course, and negotiate for hell more urgently than we do for heaven. (Bishop Hacker.)

Temptation recurrent

But that tyranny is uncessant, the hatred of the devil hath no stint; expect it, be ready for it, and let it not sting your conscience with horror if you find somewhat within you always warring against the Spirit; temptations are not like some diseases, which are not incident to a man above once in his life, escape once and secure for ever, but like hereditary infirmities which are ever recurring to torment the flesh. A quotidian is more like to be cured, if it be well looked to, than an ague whose paroxysms keep longer distance. (Bishop Hacker.)

Principle not place the safeguard

But it is not the shifting to this place or that place that breeds contrary affections in a good man. Where there is an inward principle of goodness, firm and sure under every cope of heaven the mind is unalterable. (Bishop Hacker.)

Reviewed temptation

His mouth was stopped, and he was set non plus in the former temptation, yet how soon doth he begin to open his mouth again? He was repulsed, yet he comes to fight again. He hath many strings to his bow, and many arrows in his quiver. When one way takes not he tries forth with another; yea, he will make proof of all ere he leaves. (Bishop Hacker.)

The eye the portal to the heart

There is nothing so soon enticed and led away as the eye; it is the broker between the heart and all wicked lusts that be in the world. And therefore it was great folly in Hezekiah to show his robes and treasure (Isaiah 39:2), as he was told by the prophet; itstirred up such coals of desire in them that saw them, as could not be quenched till they had fetched away all that he had, and all that his ancestors had laid up, even till that day. It is the wisdom that is used nowadays, when men would have one thing for another, to show the thing they would so exchange; as the buyer showeth his money, and the seller his wares in the best manner that he can, each to entice the ether (by the eye) to the desire of the heart. (Bishop Andrewes.)

Fancy enticed

His power and work upon the fancies of men is none of the least of his ways whereby he advanceth the pleasures of sin. That he hath such a power, hath been discoursed before, and that a fancy raised to a great expectation makes things appear otherwise than what they are, is evident from common experience. The value of most things depends rather upon fancy than the internal worth of them, and men are more engaged to a pursuit of things by the estimation which fancy hath begat in their minds, than by certain principles of knowledge. Children by fancy have a value of their toys, and are so powerfully swayed by it, that things of far greater price cannot stay their designs, nor divert their course. Satan knows that the best of men are sometimes childish, apt to be led about by their conceits, and apt in their conceits to apprehend things far otherwise than what they are in truth. (R. Gilpin.)

The after-claps of sin

We, knowing this craft, must labour in these temptations to see that which the devil hides, and to apprehend the fearful after-claps. Let us labour to see Jael’s nail as well as her milk; Delilah’s scissors as well as her bosom; the snake’s poison as well as her embrace; and the bee’s sting as well as her honey. (D. Dyke.)

True sight after sin

The devil blinds us so that we see not till afterward, as Genesis 3:1-24., “Then were their eyes opened.” (D. Dyke.)

Distance lends enchantment to the view

Put a bit of broken glass, or a shred of worthless mica, in a ploughed field, and let the sun shine upon it, and it sparkles as vividly as that gem which “spills its drop of light” on the finger of beauty. “Afar off,” it is a glory: near, just a bit of broken glass, or shred of mica. My dear friends, beware of the “glory,” the “splendour” that seems to show very substantially at a distance, but which needs only to be approached to prove unreal. I remember very well how, up in the Italian and Styrian Alps, many an apparent sky-kissing range of yet mightier Alps seemed to tower, white and lustrous, over what we had deemed the loftiest peaks. They were but vanishing clouds, climbing higher than the peaks, but with no base--showing fair, glitteringly, astonishingly, unutterably beautiful, but carrying within them the rain that drenches, and the lightning that smites and the blast that loosens the roaring avalanche. “Take heed” to this artifice of the world’s “show” at a distance and from the mountain top. There is delusion and peril in the “splendour.” (A. B. Grosart.)

And the devil taketh Him up into an high mountain

Here the temptation seems eminently gross. Yet devil-worship can assume many forms, and some of these may be most refined. Worship is homage, and homage to a person, real or supposed, representative of certain principles, modes of action, and aims. What it here means seems evident enough. Jesus is recognized as seeking a kingdom, as intending, indeed, to found one. His aims are confessed to be more than Jewish, not national, but universal; not an extension of Israel, but a comprehension of the world. It is known that His purpose is to be the Messiah, not of the Jews, but of man. The only question is as to the nature of His kinghood and kingdom. The kingdom here offered is one not of the Spirit, but “of the world.” And “world” here means not what it may be to the good, but what it is to the bad it and its kingdoms may be won at once, and will be, if Jesus worships the devil, i.e., makes evil His good, uses unholy means to accomplish His ends. It is as if the tempter had said, “Survey the world, and mark what succeeds. Away there in Italy lives and rules the emperor of the world, a selfish, sensual man, whose right is might. Over there in Caesarea sits his red-handed, yet vacillating, procurator. In your own Galilee a treacherous and lustful Herod reigns, its deputy lord. Up in Jerusalem are priests and scribes, great in things external, the fierce fanatics of formalism. Everywhere unholy men rule, unholy means prevail. Worldliness holds the world in fee. By it alone can you conquer. Use the means and the men of Caesar, and your success will be swift and sure. Worship me, and the kingdoms of this world are thine.” The temptation was subtly adapted to the mood and the moment, and was as evil as subtle. Bad means make bad ends. Good ends do not justify evil means; evil means deprave good ends. So a Messianic kingdom, instituted and established by worldliness, had been a worldly kingdom, no better than the coarse and sensuous empire of Rome. And Jesus, while He felt the force, saw the evil of the temptation, and vanquished it by the truth on which His own spiritual and eternal city was to be founded, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God,” &c. (A. M.Fairbairn, D. D.)

The force of this temptation

Could it be other than a temptation to think that He might, if He would, lay a righteous grasp upon the reins of government, leap into the chariot of power, and ride forth conquering and to conquer? Glad visions arose before Him of the prisoner breaking jubilant from the cell of injustice; of the widow lifting up the bowed head before the devouring Pharisee; of weeping children bursting into shouts at the sound of the wheels of the chariot before which oppression and wrong shrunk and withered, behind which sprung the fir-tree instead of the thorn, and the myrtle instead of the briar. Could He not mould the people at His will? Could He not, transfigured in snowy garments, call aloud in the streets of Jerusalem, “Behold your King”? And the fierce warriors of His nation would start at the sound; the ploughshare would be beaten into the sword, and the pruning-hook into the spear. Ah, but when were His garments white as snow? Not when He looked to such a conquest; but when, on a moment like this, He “spake of the decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem.” But how would He, thus conquering, be a servant of Satan: I will not inquire whether such an enterprise could be accomplished without the worship of Satan. But I will ask whether to know better and do not so well, is not a serving of Satan? whether to lead men on in the name of God as towards the best, when the end is not the best, is not a serving of Satan? whether to flatter their pride by making them conquerors of the enemies of their nation instead of their own evils, is not a serving of Satan? Nothing but the obedience of the Son, the obedience unto death, the absolute doing of the will of God because it was the truth, could redeem the prisoner, the widow, the orphan. But it would redeem them by redeeming the conquest-ridden conqueror too, the strife-giving jailor, the unjust judge, the devouring Pharisee. He would not pluck the spreading branches of the tree; He would lay the axe to its root. It would take time; but the tree would be dead at last--dead, and cast into the lake of fire. It would take time; but His Father had time enough and to spare. It would take courage and strength and self-denial and endurance; but His Father could give Him all. The will of God should be done. Man should be free--not merely man as he thinks of himself, but man as God thinks of him. He shall grow into the likeness of the Divine thought, free not in his own fancy, but in absolute Divine fact of being, as in God’s idea.

The great and beautiful and perfect will of God must be done. (George Macdonald, LL. D.)

This was a temptation which every worker for God, weary with the slow progress of goodness, must often feel, and to which even good and earnest men have sometimes given way--to begin at the outside instead of within, to get first a great shell of external conformity to religion, and afterwards fill it with the reality. It was the temptation to which Mahomet yielded when he used the sword to subdue those whom he was afterwards to make religious, and to which the Jesuits yielded when they baptized the heathen first, and evangelized them afterwards. (J. Stalker, M. A.)

This was of all the temptations the most awful and searching. It was the only one of the three in which Satan suggests no doubt of the Divine Sonship and Divine glory of Christ. Could a Divine Son rightly refuse the houour and glory of a son? Could it be anything but a sin to turn His back on the only way that seemed to lead straight up to His throne? Was not this a “tempting” of God? How solemn and heart-searching are the lessons it may teach all those who profess to be servants of God among men; lessons which, perhaps, were never more needed than in the present day.

1. The conversion to Christ of the unconverted, and the evangelization of the masses, absorb the energies and the efforts of the Church. But the intensity of this passion for saving men may itself become a peril to the Church. In its zeal to save souls it may become indifferent to the means by which they are saved.

2. To resort to worldly and carnal methods for the extension of Christ’s kingdom; to lose faith in the power of the gospel of Christ to do its own work, and to win its own way in the world is treason to Christ and to God; it is the worship of the devil. (G. S. Barrett, B. A.)

What would the result have been if Christ had yielded!

There can be little doubt that in one sense Satan would have fulfilled his promise. No cross would have stood at the end of Christ’s earthly life. There would have been louder Hosannas than Jerusalem ever offered Him as its King; there would have been vaster throngs of people proclaiming Him their Messiah and Lord; a more splendid homage from the rich and great, from rulers and Pharisees, would have been laid at His feet; in a word, Christ would have received the crown of worldly dominion and glory. But at what a cost! The great burden of human guilt would have been left still resting on the world; the heart of man would have been still weary and heavyladen; the hope of immortal life would have been left a yearning and a longing, unsatisfied and unfulfilled; and the kingdom of God among men would have been unfounded and unknown. Christ would have lost the kingdom by appearing to gain it. The promise of the devil, like all his promises, would have turned out a black and terrible lie. He would have given the kingdoms of this world and the glory of them to our Lord, but only alter Christ had given Himself to the devil. Satan would have lost nothing of his kingdom, for he would have been king of the world’s King. Appearing to resign his sovereignty for a moment he would have secured it for ever. (G. S. Barrett, B. A. )

The temptation on the mountain

1. The vision was a splendid one, well fitted to appeal even to a mind that was actuated by no vulgar ambition.

2. The desire for power here appealed to is one of which the noblest natures are susceptible.

3. It was not a wrong thing, nor at variance with His mission, that Christ should contemplate the prospect of becoming universal King.

4. The prospect held out to Him was well-fitted to stir the loftiest and holiest ambition.

5. It may well, then, foster our reverence for His character, while it teaches us lessons of the greatest practical importance, that although His universal dominion would lead to such blessed results, He would not procure or hasten it by entering into compromise with, or doing the slightest homage to, wrong.

6. Paying homage to evil with a view to the easier and speedier accomplishment of good is a sin to which the Church has always been powerfully tempted.

7. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. It is neither formed on worldly principles nor furthered by worldly measures. (W. Landels, D. D.)

An high mountain

The “high mountain” is most probably Abarim, with its three peaks of Pisgah, Peer, and Nebo. From the western point, Peer, Balaam overlooked the tents of Israel and blessed them, when brought there by Balak to curse the people. From the northernmost peak, Nebo, above Baal Maon, a complete panorama of the Dead Sea is obtained. Thence it was that She Lord God showed Moses “all the land of Gilead unto Dan, and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim, and all the land of Judah … unto Zion” (Deuteronomy 34:1-4). Now Satan takes Christ to the point where Moses stood to view the Promised Land which he was not to enter. And here again we notice a covert sneer. “O Thou Prophet of the Most High, like unto Moses, who comest to lead the people of God out of bondage into liberty, to restore again the kingdom to Israel! Thou wilt, may be, do what Thou undertakest. But what will be the result to Thyself?. Wilt Thou profit in any way by it? God gave to Moses a hard forty years in the wilderness, and instead of rewarding him with rest at the end, let him see the Promised Land from afar, even from this spot, and let him die without allowing him to set foot on it. That is how God deals with His prophets, and that is how He will deal with Thee! “And as he spake may be the eye of the Son of Man rested on far-off Calvary, which is visible from this spot. Then Satan went on with the contrast: But!--I reward my servants at once. Come, bend the knee to me, and I will give Thee glory, and power, and dominion in the present.” And there rose a mirage of the desert, and in that mirage was a vision of palaces and palm trees, and glittering sheets of water, on which gay barges sailed, apparently very real, but it was only a phantom scene painted in the unwholesome vapours that rose from the Dead Sea, and from the hot bituminous desert sands and rocks. A phantom splendour over desolation and death. That was what Satan offered. And observe likewise the difference between his offers and those of God, offers which he makes quite unabashed, and emphasizes. God gives present pain and future glory; Satan gives present satisfaction and future wretchedness. Only note how he pitches on one half of each offer, and contrasts only the present, say ing nothing of the future. God gives present sadness, Satan present satisfaction; and he utters not a word about the future. The vision was but for a moment. Satan “showed unto Him, in a moment of time, all the kingdoms of the world”; the desert mirage does not last long, but while it lasts it is thoroughly deceptive. So it is with the gifts of Satan; they are but for a moment, and then they vanish away, and leave dust, and ashes, and barrenness, and death behind. (S. Baring.Gould, M. A.)

Satan’s short cut

The devil fits his temptation nicely to his purpose. Christ is about to begin His mission, and to found His kingdom, which is to be universal, to extend throughout the world. Satan shows Him how to make the kingdoms of earth His own instantaneously, by doing homage to himself. No need then for Calvary, no laborious preachings, no persecutions, no martyrdoms, no sowing in tears, no casting of the bread on the waters and patient expectance of the result after many days. The kingdoms of the world will become the kingdoms of Christ at once, if He will conform to the world, and acknowledge the Evil One as supreme--if He will allow the presence of evil, legislate for it, accept it, and not fight against it. But this offer of Satan is an usurpation of power--of God’s power. No compromise with evil. “Get thee behind Me, Satan.” (S. Baring.Gould, M. A. )

Satan’s methods

An illustration of Satan’s method of beguiling to destroy, was one day witnessed by the writer when rambling near Scawfell. His guide said he thought he could find a trout, and stooping down over the grassy bank of a small mountain-stream, remained for a few minutes perfectly quiet, excepting a slight motion of the arm. Presently he brought up a large fish. He knew where it was likely to be; he gently touched its back, drew his hand lightly backwards and for wards, soothed and charmed his victim, then grasped and captured it. So “the devil’s policy is to tickle his victims to death, and damn them with delights” (Newman Hall, LL.B.)

Elation no temptation to Christ

The temper had tried the Son of Man through the power of depression; he now tries him by me power of exaltation. He had sought to vanquish Him by the scourge of poverty; he now seeks to overcome Him by the vision of plenty. He had brought Him down into the valley, and had tempted Him by the dangers of humiliation; he now carries Him up to the mountain and tempts Him by the dangers of elevation. Why was the Son of Man superior to all circumstances? Only because He was superior to all sin. The sinless heart will be free from temptation everywhere. It will neither be reduced by the exigencies of the valley of humiliation, nor by the allurements of the mountain of elevation; it will not turn the stones into bread to avoid the famine; it will not bow the knee to Baal to purchase a crown. (G. Matheson, M. A. , D. D.)


Verse 6-7

Luke 4:6-7

All this power will I give Thee

The devil’s bounty

His bounty is treacherous.
(
D. Dyke.)

Bounty attractive

Bounty in a master is a great attraction to his service. (D. Dyke.)

Satan’s promises

1. That the very desires of abundance and greatness are in themselves unlawful, though we desire them not upon such conditions as here the devil offers them. We are commanded (1 Timothy 6:8) to be content with mere necessaries, for food and raiment.

2. That the devil in these promises deceives us, and that three ways,

3. That all these things he promises are vain and insufficient to give true content. For

4. Meditate of the excellent reward of the life to come. (D. Dyke.)

Toleration not donation

Now the devil turns toleration into donation, connivance and permission into approbation, and that which is done at some times and in some places he makes constant and general. This is the trick of devilish liars thus to piece out things by addition. A little truth shall be enough to face out and colour over many lies. (D. Dyke.)

Mortifying the carnal desires

This being so dangerous and prevailing a temptation that hath wounded so many, it must teach us to strengthen ourselves against it. Which that we may do, two main remedies must be used. The first is the mortification of our fleshly members, the eye and the ear of old Adam. If a man should come to a dead man, and promise him never so many kingdoms, and show him never so much honour and glory, he is nothing moved. Now mortification makes us dead men to the world, as blind men to this goodly sight of the Word, and as deaf adders to the charms of this charmer. (D. Dyke.)

Giving; Divine and Satanic

But, on the other hand, what a difference between all other “I will gives” and the “I will give” of Jesus l After the ringing of changes by good Richard Clerke on the tempter’s “I will give,” let the sweet bell-sounds of the Lord’s promise-words rise and swell through your memories--“Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28); “Ask whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it” (Mark 6:22); I will give you the sure mercies of David” (Acts 13:34); “I will give thee a crown of life”; “I will give him the morning-star” I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely (Revelation 2:10; Rev_2:28; Rev_21:6). Thus is it also in the Old Testament, in historic book and prophecy and Psalm. (A. B. Grosart.)

Satan offering stolen goods

And before whom could he have told this tale, to be taken in a lie so soon, as by driving this bargain with Christ? As if a thief should steal plate, and offer to sell it to the owner; or a plagiary, filtch a great deal out of a book, and rehearse it for his own before the author. So the tempter had robbed Christ of that honour and majesty which was most properly His own (I mean he robbed Him of it by the blasphemy and falsehood of his tongue), and then brings it to Christ to barter it away for other merchandise. (Bishop Hacker.)

Satan’s attempted bribery of Christ

There was, let us remember, nothing coarse or common in the suggestion which Satan here brought before the mind of Christ. He appealed to an attribute of man which, though often misdirected and abused, was originally a heaven-born instinct, designed to lift him above all other earthly creatures, viz., ambition and a desire for power. There is by nature something kingly in each human soul. Man was made for ruling. God set him at the first to be a lord in Eden. And, knowing that Christ had come to establish here upon earth that kingdom which the throne of David but faintly symbolized, the tempter spread before His soul a vision of universal dominion, offered Him the sceptre of worldwide sovereignty, with all the glory belonging thereto, adding this promise, “Everything shall be yours, without the Cross, without the cost of pain, or toil, or sacrifice, if you will only make the very slight and harmless, because secret, acknowledgment of indebtedness to me. All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt bend in reverence to receive them at my hands.” Was that vision a mere dream? Was the offer all a lie?

If so, where was the temptation? There must have been at least some truth in it. Think of the political condition of the world at that time. There were many kingdoms, but over them all spread the one consolidating and ruling power of Rome. Her law reached everywhere. Her empire stretched from the Atlantic to the Euphrates, a distance of more than three thousand miles, and from the Danube on the north, and the friths of Scotland, to the cataracts of the Nile and the African desert. All the tribes and nations inhabiting this immense territory had surrendered their independence and were fused into one political system. Moreover, that empire was tottering towards its fall. It was ready to accept even then a new Leader, even as only a little while later on it did in its helplessness accept the new faith. Can we who know how men have risen from the lowest to the highest worldly positions, doubt the possibility of Christ’s reaching, without supernatural help, the place which Julius Caesar gained? Suppose by skilful management, and by a little concession here and a little there, He had united the three rival factions of Judaea, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Herodians, taking for a basis this last, which was a political party favouring the dominion of Rome. That first step might have led on gradually to the grand result which the tempter showed Him. All this any shrewd and far-discerning man could have thought of as possible. On the other side, and as the only alternative, Christ saw a lonely path, leading through Gethsemane and its terrible agony, and rising, step after step, up to Calvary and its awful Cross. He knows beforehand His rejection and betrayal, the scourging, the mocking, and the borrowed sepulchre. Even now, amid the solitude of the wilderness and its solemn stillness, He hears that bitter, maddened cry, “Away with Him! Crucify Him! We will have a Caesar for our king, and no one else.” That is, He knows that if He now accepts the tempter’s offer, instead of being afterwards rejected by “ His own” nation, He will become their acknowledged king. And beyond those three years of ministry and of conflict which He Himself must endure, He sees at least nineteen centuries during which His Church must fill up that which remains behind of His appointed sufferings, praying meanwhile for the coming of His kingdom. “Save Thyself,” the tempter said, “and spare Thy followers. Take the Crown without the Cross.” It was a proffered bribe. The question was whether Christ should sacrifice principle, or whether He should sacrifice Himself; whether He should reach that end for which He had come into the world by God’s appointed way, or by one easier; in short, whether He should make duty or policy the law of His life. You know the decision and the answer. Nevertheless, let me read it in your ears, for the voice of this very temptation comes often to us all, and therefore the Voice of the Victor is never without its lessons. (E. E. Johnson, M. A.)

Unprincipled success is failure

What looks outwardly like the highest worldly success, may, nevertheless, be the worst kind of failure, because it has been purchased at the price of honesty and principle. It is not so very difficult to gain riches and social position, to secure control over this or that kingdom of earth, provided a man will bend all his energies towards that particular end, and at the same time crush down every conscientious scruple that rises to protest in God’s name against the unrighteousness of the methods he is using. Christ would not march to His kingdom except by a king’s highway, and along an unswerving path of loyal integrity. In the worship and also in the service of God, that is to say, both by making Him supreme, and then, instead of folding our hands, using every power we have in the work to which He calls us, we too can resist the power of him who comes whispering with honeyed, sympathetic voice, “Peer, weary, unsuccessful one let me show you an easier way.” (E. E. Johnson, M. A.)

The temptation to doubt God’s present government of the world

While we maintain most firmly the simple and literal truth of the facts of the temptation as recorded by the evangelist, utterly renouncing the scepticism that would resolve them into oriental imagery; yet we see in them some thing far beyond the mere facts, the absolute truth of which we nevertheless maintain. They are symbols full of meaning, symbols of what was going on all through the human life of the Redeemer, and of the struggle which all must maintain who would follow in His steps. The very order in which they are related is expressive. Beginning, as they did, with a suggestion that He should abuse the high powers with which He was endued, by providing through them for the gratification of appetite now sharpened by long fasting--passing on, when He had triumphed easily over this coarser temptation, to the more ensnaring and alluring bait of promised success through a compromise with evil; and when this also had been thrust aside, seeking to lift up into presumption that most holy soul--what is this but the history of man’s temptation, first amidst the passions of youth, then in the scheming worldliness of middle life, and last of all in the self-confident elation which has caused the fall of many who had hitherto run well?

1. Many have believed, from his audacious taunt and the silence with which Christ dismissed it, that Satan has, to a great degree, the power to which he here lays claim; they secretly admit, in their suspicions at least, that he does bestow the good things of this life; that in this sense, rather than as being the tyrant over the faction of earthly and wicked hearts, he is “ the prince of this world.”

2. Concluding applications of this truth.

The devil’s bargain

As it was proposed to Christ at the opening of His ministry, so mostly is it offered to men’s acceptance in the opening of their youth. Practically it was the same bargain that was made with our first parents in the garden.

I. A TEMPTING BARGAIN.

II. A DECEITFUL BARGAIN.

1. In the quantity.

2. In the quality of the article purchased.

III. A DEAD BARGAIN. Consider--

1. The sin of it.

2. The humiliation of it. (T. Whitelaw, M. A.)

Satan’s offer

Are men and women ever tempted in this way, and in our day? I think so.

1. There is the danger generally of pursuing legitimate ends by unlawful and unrighteous means.

2. The temptation to pious frauds, the suppression, misrepresentation, or obscuring of the truth in the supposed interests of religion.

3. With regard to our own personal salvation, the idea that there is some royal road into the glories and blessedness of the eternal kingdom. (Gordon Calthrop, M. A.)

Two mountain scenes

The offer was empire, and the price was worship. Jesus Christ said “No,” and came down from the mountain as poor as He was when He was taken up. So much, you say, for throwing away the great opportunities of life. But read again Matthew 28:16-18, “The disciples went away into Galilee into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them … And Jesus came and spake unto them saying, All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.” Put these two mountain scenes together. (J. Parker, D. D.)

A plausible lie

“For that is delivered unto me.” One of the additions made by Luke to our knowledge of the temptations is the monstrous assumption of power and royalty on the part of the tempter. There is something fearful in the language which he uses--God had never given over the power to Satan. “Thine,” we truly confess in our prayer to our Father in heaven, “is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.” It was a lie, such as might have been expected to proceed from the “ father of lies.” Yet there was sufficient appearance of truth to make the lie plausible. Anybody looking upon the world would say, especially at the time of the Temptation, that the power and glory were acknowledged by general consent to belong to the prince of evil. Thank God that it is not so, and thank God that Jesus Christ came into the world to prove how false Satan’s words were, and to claim the power and the glory wholly for God His Father. (Bishop Harvey Goodwin.)

The bait of worldly prosperity

A literary angler in the lochs of Scotland was wont to catch trout in a singularly suggestive fashion. The bait consisted of a pellet made of chloroform paste. No sooner had a trout taken one of these pellets into his mouth, than it fell into a sweet sleep. All efforts at escape were prevented; it could instantly be drawn to the shore. Prosperity acts similarly upon many. They are lulled to spiritual slumber, and easily become Satan’s prey. If that is a man’s peril, what worse can happen to him than so-called success? (G. T. Coster.)

Satanic fascinations

Not unlike this is the experience sometimes of many Christian brethren. Those who are of a fervid temperament and lively imagination, can tell of similar fascinations. The adversary is the readier to practise them upon persons of this description, because their natural love of excitement and the vividness of their sensations seem to promise him a surer triumph; indeed, he is often far too successful in bearing their spirits up to his enchanting heights. For this purpose he commonly employs some outward means. These he will gather, for instance, from the fine arts, as they are everywhere abused to worldliness and the pleasures of sin. Thus at one time it is a beautiful picture, at another the witcheries of poetry, at another, the sweetness of melody, or the sublimity of musical composition, whereby he dissolves their spiritual firmness. Sometimes, if only some sweet mazy melody softly undulating from a distance, be listened to, as one sits musing in the solitary chamber, his sorcery may prove successful. (Dr. Krummacher.)

The world possessed by Satan

Who can number the hundreds of millions whose souls he secures in his manifold chains, in the bands of sin and ignorance, in countless spiritual prisons and cells, under Mohammedan imposture, or in pagan idolatry; in the strong delusions of the Talmud, or under the dogmas of the seven hills; in heaven-defying rationalism, pantheism, or atheism. Surely, without any arrogant claim, Satan might say, “All this is mine!” For the little which is not his, the “lodge in the garden of cucumbers,” the “worm Jacob,” the despised handful of Israel, is, as compared to the giant domains of this prince of fallen angels, but as a drop to the ocean. What is there in the whole world that the devil has not usurped for the extension and establishment of his kingdom, and made subservient, especially in the present age, to his infernal plans? Are not most of our pulpits and professional chairs still his? May not the same be said of the greater part of our public journals and newspapers? Are not our assemblies, associations, and clubs chiefly devoted to his service? And which of the sciences or of the fine arts is exempt from perversion to his interests? Almost everything in the world has he contrived to draw by little and little into subservience to his cause. Who deals out poetry in that deluge of romance and comedy which inundates the world with millions of infidel falsehoods and unholy ideas? Who is the invisible manager and conductor of those sensual operas, elysian concerts, and other entertainments, whereby music, that gift bestowed to praise withal the perfections of Jehovah, stands prominent as the destroyer of souls, because it is now made to breathe subtle poison into human hearts? Who is it that has stationed his camp behind the ramparts of modern philosophy, and aims from thence to inflict the most wicked and deadly blows on the gospel of peace? Who is it that has schemed and palmed upon Christendom that fashionable modern religion sweetened with effeminate taste, and spiced with lax and godless morality, which lulls people into a deep spiritual slumber, from which but too late the thunder of judgment will awaken them? From whom does all this originally proceed but from the father of lies, the old serpent, the dragon of the bottomless pit? Nor let us be surprised that he even speaks of “giving” what is certainly within the compass of his power. (Dr. Krummacher.)

The flesh and Spirit in conflict

“God made all things,” saith Lactantius, “to set two armies in array”--the flesh and the Spirit; sense and reason; man whom He made after His own image, and the prince of this world. And therefore He hath mixed, as it were, an appearance of good with that which is evil, various and delectable pleasantness in the things of this world, that by those fair allurements in show there may be a possibility of inducement into that evil which is not seen: and He hath blended an apparency of evil with that which is good, that, by those sorrows and labours which are distasteful to the eye, there may be a possibility in us of refusing that good which is covered with such horror. But the present pleasure He checketh with fear of punishment, and the present horror and sharpness He sweetens with hope of reward; that we may see more with our mind than with our eye; that when our sense would join with evil because of its colour, our reason may fly from it because of its smart; and when the flesh declines goodness because it is irksome, the spirit may embrace it because it hath the promise of a reward; that when the devil speaketh fair, we may shut our ears, because we know his words are as swords; and when God nails us to the cross, we may bless His name, because He means to crown us. (A. Farindon, D. D.)

Gifts Satanical

There are gifts Satanical as well as gifts Divine; and the world has always abounded with persons who have owed their enjoyments, treasures, honours, titles, and rank, to Satanical ministration or superintendence. For our great adversary has always his pay and his prize-money in readiness for any who will follow his banner, and he has various methods of handsomely remunerating their zeal in his service. (Dr. Krummacher.)

To be right is to be rich

How, then, as to the truth of the doctrine that to be right is to be rich? To test that doctrine ye; must get into the very heart of the sufferer himself. He will show you the compensations of a righteous life; he will tell you how sweet is the bread eaten in secret, how holy and all-comforting is the approval of a good conscience, and how infinite is the independence of the soul whose trust is in God. In such a case the poverty is wholly on the outside; the soul is clothed in more than purple and fine linen, and is rich with more than gold. Outside, things are rough enough undoubtedly; the storm does not spare the roof, nor do the rags keep away the biting wind, yet somehow the man who is right has a quiet and thorough mastery over the circumstances which fret and vex the mere surface of his life. The king is within. The fountain of his joy is not dependent on the clouds, but on “the river of God, which is full of water.” “The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.” (J. Parker, D. D.)

Satan’s bid for the soul

A story is told of Rowland Hill, the eccentric preacher. Lady Ann Erskine was passing by in her carriage, and she asked her coachman who that was that was drawing such a large assembly. He replied that it was Rowland Hill. “I have heard a good deal about him,” she said; “drive up near the crowd.” Mr. Hill soon saw her, and saw that she belonged to the aristocracy. He all at once stopped in the midst of Ms discourse and said, “My friends, I have something for sale.” This astonished his hearers. “Yes, I have something for sale; it is the soul of Lady Ann Erskine. Is there any one here that will bid for her soul? Ah, do I hear a bid? Who bids? Satan bids. Satan, what will you give for her soul? ‘I will give riches, honour, and pleasure.’ But stop. Do I hear another bid? Yes, Jesus Christ bids. Jesus, what will you give for her soul? ‘I will give eternal life.’ Lady Ann Erskine, you have heard the two bids--which will you take?” And Lady Ann fell down on her knees, and cried out, “I will have Jesus.” The devil lies when he promises, but Christ always keeps His word.

Sold to the devil

Laura Phillips, “a pretty and well-educated young woman,” committed suicide in Omaha the other day. She took blood from her own veins, and wrote with it the following note, which was found on her pillow: “I, Laura Phillips, hereby sell my soul to the devil, in consideration for which he agrees to give me wealth, beauty, and the power to overcome all my enemies.” She left a comfortable home in Iowa three years ago, and went step by step into the slough of degradation. (Newspaper.)

The soul sometimes sold for the smallest things

It does not require a devil to tempt you. The smallest thing can tempt. As poor John Bunyan said once, something kept tempting him to sell Christ. If he stooped to pick up a pin the voice said, “Sell Him for that! sell Him for that!” And men sell their honour for things as cheap. A pin will do it; a sweet smile; a fair face; the ruby wine; the love of money. All, for what has not a man sold his soul! (George Dawson.)

Satan a tyrant though he may seem a parasite

When we are once sure, Satan is a tyrant; till then, he is a parasite. There can be no safety if we do not view as well the back as the face of temptation. (A. B. Grosart.)

Wrong moral conditions cannot be productive of happiness

Look at the price required for the supremacy offered to Christ--“If Thou wilt fall down and worship me”! But consider what it is to worship at the wrong altar! It is to debase the affections, to bring the best energies of the soul under malign influence, and to forfeit the power to enjoy the very things which it is supposed to purchase. Worship expresses, though it may be feebly, the worshipper’s supreme ideal of life; if, therefore, it be offered to an evil spirit, the whole substance and course of life will be deeply affected by the error. What if the very act of false worship disqualify the soul for relishing any supposed or undoubted joy? Offer a man long draughts of the choicest wines if he will first drench his mouth with a strong solution of alum, and what are the choicest wines to him then? They cannot penetrate to the palate, they are absolutely without taste, and they mock the appetite they were meant to gratify. So, if a man put his moral nature under false conditions, and create anarchy between himself and the principle of eternal righteousness, no matter what fortune or honour may accrue to him, his power of serene enjoyment is gone, and he becomes burdened and plagued by his very successes. This will be the first point insisted upon by the moralist; in the plainest words he will say, “The promise is very great, but it is a lie to begin with, and the man who sells his soul to get it will soon find that he is neither more nor less than a dupe of the devil.” (J. Parker, D. D.)


Verse 8

Luke 4:8

Get thee behind Me, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.
--The necessity of a quick and speedy rejection of a sinful motion is, then, beyond dispute, and there needs no more to be said for the explanation of this direction, but an account of what is implied in a speedy denial. It contains these four things:--

1. That it must issue from a fixed determination against sin.

2. This positive denial must be also wisely jealous of Satan, in motions that are unlikely, or that may seem light, little, and not directly intended.

3. The refusal must be so quick, that it may be ready to take the temptation by the throat.

4. When this is done, we must endeavour to maintain and stick to our first disallowance. (R. Gilpin.)

Service joined to worship

Dr. Thomas Taylor similarly, but in his own original way, observes:--“God must not only be worshipped, but also served. The distinction is easily observed. For a man may in heart and gesture honour another to whom he owes but little service. And this word in the Hebrew is taken from servants, who, besides inward reverence and outward worship, owe to their masters their strength, labour, and service, yea, frank and cheerful obedience. And suppose any man have a servant who will be very complimental, and give his master cap and knee and very good words, yet when his master commands him anything, he will not do it--here is honour, but no service; and denying service, he plainly showsthat his honour is but dissembled and hypocritical. So as this service to God, as to earthly masters, stands--

1. These two, God in the Scriptures hath everywhere joined together; and therefore no man may separate them. ‘Oh that there were in them such an heart to “fear” his, and to keep My commandments!’ (Deuteronomy 5:29). ‘Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in uprightness, else choose you: for I and my house will serve the Lord’ (Joshua 24:14-15). ‘Let us hear the end of all, Fear God and keep His commandments’ Ecclesiastes 12:13), which is all one with ‘fear God and serve him.’

2. This service is a fruit of fear, and a true testimony of it, for fear of God is expressed in service; and if a man would make true trial of his fear he may do it by his service.” (A. B. Grosart.)

Temptation firmly rejected

The nature of temptations, as dangerous or infectious, doth sufficiently enforce a necessity of their speedy removal. Things of danger require a sudden stop. If poison be taken into the body, we speedily labour to cast it up, or to overcome it by antidotes. We labour to stay the spreading of a gangrene presently. Who thinks it fit to delay when fire hath taken hold upon a house? The very opportunity of help is in the speediness of the endeavour. It is too late to bring water when the house is consumed, too late to apply a remedy when the disease hath conquered. They that consider what a temptation is will see no reason to move slowly in opposing. (R. Gilpin.)

The devil quotes Deuteronomy

The Law (we know) is a great cooler to presumption. (Bishop Audrewes.)

True worship: The essentials of true worship

I. THE OBJECT: The Lord God.

II. THE CHARACTERISTICS:

1. Meditation;

2. Realization;

3. Personal communion. (A. F. Barfield.)

The service of God

I. HE HAS THE RIGHT TO CLAIM OUR SERVICE. His right is threefold. He is--

1. Our Creator.

2. Our Preserver.

3. Our Redeemer.

II. HIS CLAIM UPON US IS FOR OUR UNDIVIDED AND WHOLE-HEARTED SERVICE. “Him only.” You cannot serve Him and anything else that is contrary to Him. Our “reasonable service “ is the presentation of ourselves.

III. HIS SERVICE CONFERS THE HIGHEST HONOUR UPON THOSE WHO UNDERTAKE IT. To serve self and sin is to sink always deeper into the depths of degradation. To serve God is to be exalted to the position of fellow-labourer with Him in the accomplishment of His purposes.

IV. HIS SERVICE IS THE ONLY SERVICE WHICH IS FREEDOM. “I will walk at liberty, for I seek Thy precepts.”

V. THE SERVICE WHICH HE HAS A RIGHT TO DEMAND HE YET CONDESCENDS TO ENTREAT. He seeks for no compulsory obedience. The only service acceptable in His sight is that which springs from love. “My son, give Me thy heart.” (J. R. Bailey.)

Satan cannot stand a text

“What’s wrang wi’ ye nee? I thocht ye were a’ richt,” said a ragged boy, himself rejoicing in the Saviour, to another, who a few nights before professed to be able to trust Jesus, but who had again begun to doubt. “What’s wrung wi’ ye nee? Man, I’m no richt yet,” replied the other, “for Satan’s aye tempting me.” “And what dae ye then?” asked his friend. “I try,” said he, “to sing a hymn.” “And does that no send him away?” “No; I am as bad as ever.” “Weel,” said the other, “when he tempts ye again, try him wi’ a text; he canna staun then.”

Unflinching fidelity to God

Be not in haste to be rich or to be famous or to be admired. “Make haste slowly,” says the proverb, and it means just this--Make haste in God’s way; take everything you can get from God, take nothing from the devil. Most powerfully was this illustrated in the life of the noble Havelock. For many years in the army he struggled against the arbitrary character of official patronage, and the odious abuses of the purchase system; and he, who in the end was the redeemer of the Indian Empire, was for a dreary while only a lieutenant. Yet how did he bear himself under it? As a Christian soldier, after the pattern of the Lord here, he placed the worship of the Lord first, and that he would not renounce for anything that man could name. Hear his words, and they are worthy of being written in letters of gold; yea, the spirit which utters them manifests a nobler courage than that which won so many fights and rescued the forlorn garrison at Lucknow. Here they are: “Let me ask you, my good friend, what you mean by prejudices against me. Tell me plainly. I am not aware of any. Old and others used to tell me that it was believed at the Horse Guards and in other quarters that I professed to fear God, as well as to honour the Queen, and that Lord Hill and others had made up their minds that a man could not be at once a saint and a soldier. Now, I dare say any such authorities must be right, notwithstanding the example of Colonel Gardiner, Cromwell, and Gustavus Adolphus. But, if so, all I can say is, that their bit of red ribbon was very ill bestowed upon me; for I humbly trust that in that great matter I should not change my opinions and practice, though it rained garters and coronets as the reward of apostasy.” (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Motto for the tempted

There is in the south of France, on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, a huge tower, forming part of the fortifications by which St. Louis secured his embarkation for his troops for the last crusade. It is called the Tower of Constance, and in it were imprisoned during the reign of Louis XIV., Protestant women who would not renounce their faith at the request of the great king. In this lonely tower there is a gloomy chamber in which these women passed their lives, and there carved with some rude instrument on the pavement of the prison this one word, “ Resist.” It is ascribed to Marie Duran, who, for being sister to a French pastor, was there confined for more than forty years. She found her great resource, her great consolation, in carving out this word for any one who should hereafter come to read it there. (Dean Stanley.)


Verse 9

Luke 4:9; Luk_4:13

And he brought Him to Jerusalem, and set Him on a pinnacle of the Temple, and said unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down from hence

It is Satan’s policy in tempting to run from one extreme to another

Reasons of this policy are--

1.
The avoiding of one extreme gives the soul such a swing, if care be not used to prevent it, that they are cast more than half way upon the other.

2. While men avoid one extreme by running into another, they carry with them such strong impressions of the evil they would avoid, and such fierce prejudices, that it is not an ordinary conviction will bring them right, but they are apt to be confident of the goodness of the way they take, and so are the more bold and fixed in their miscarriage. That as distrust on the one hand, so presumption on the other, is one of his grand designs.

Show what presumption is. It is in the general a confidence without a ground.

1. It is made up of audacity--which is a bold and daring undertaking of a thing--and security.

2. The ground of it is an error of judgment. A blind or a misled judgment doth always nourish it.

3. In its way of working it is directly opposite to distrust, and is a kind of excessive though irregular hope.

1. Then it is presumption, when from external or subordinate means men expect that for which they were never designed nor appointed of God.

2. When men do expect those fruits and effects from anything unto which it is appointed, in neglect or opposition to the supreme cause, without whose concurrent influence they cannot reach their proper ends--that is, our hopes are wholly centred upon means, when in the meantime our eye is not upon God.

3. It is a presumption to expect things above the reach of our present state and condition.

4. When men expect things contrary to the rules that God hath set for His dispensations of mercy, they boldly presume upon His will.

5. It is also a presumption to expect any mercy, though common and usual, without the ordinary means by which God in providence hath settled the usual dispensations of such favours.

6. When ordinary or extraordinary mercies are expected for an unlawful end.

Having thus proved that presumption is one of the great things he aims at, I shall next discover the reasons of his earnestness and industry in his design, which are these--

1. It is a sin very natural, in which he hath the advantage of our own readiness and inclination.

2. As it is easy for Satan’s attempt, so it is remote from conviction, and not rooted out without great difficulty.

3. The greatness of the sin when it is committed, is another reason of his diligence in the pursuit of it.

4. The dangerous issues and consequences of this way of tinning, do not a little animate Satan to tempt to it. It was no small piece of Satan’s craft to take this advantage, while the impression of trust in the want of outward means was warm upon the heart of Christ. He hoped thereby the more easily to draw Him to an excess. For he knows that a zealous earnestness to avoid a sin, and to keep to a duty, doth often too much incline us to an extreme, and he well hoped that when Christ had declared Himself so positively to depend upon God, he might have prevailed to have stretched that dependence beyond its due bounds, taking the opportunity of His sway that way, which, as a ship before wind and tide, might soon be over-driven. (R. Gilpin.)

Satan watches the wind

They admire how it comes to pass that their temptations should so suddenly alter, that when Satan seems to be so intent upon one design, he should so quickly change, and urge them presently to a different or contrary thing; but they may know that the devil watcheth the wind, and spreads his sail according to the advantage which ariseth from our answer or repulse. So that if we would but plough with our own heifer, and observe our frame of spirit, we should easily find out this riddle. For as it is in disputings and arguings of men, replies beget new matter for answer, and so do they multiply one another; thus are temptations altered and multiplied, and out of the ashes of one assault repelled, another doth quickly spring up. (R. Gilpin.)

The influence of place in temptation

As long as Noah was in the ark in the midst of the waters, he had in him no presumptuous thought; but sitting under the vine in his vineyard, he was overcome therewith. And just Lot 2 Peter 2:8) in Sodom, had no fit time or place to be presumptuous; but when he dwelt in the mountain in security, then he committed incest with his daughters, being made drunk by them. David, so long as he was persecuted by Saul, tossed up and down from post to pillar, had no leisure to be presumptuous; but in the top of his turret, when he was at rest in his palace. (Bishop Andrewes.)

The same devil

But though it be not the same temptation, yet it is the same devil in both places. (Bishop Andrewes.)

Pride seeks the pinnacle

All other sins keep out of the way, as well as they can, but pride is not ashamed to be manifested, nay, it loves to have witnesses of its folly and insolency. (Bishop Hacker.)

Satan loves open sins

This is that itch which Satan hath rubbed upon self-admiring pride, sometime to be gazed upon at one place, sometime at another, by the court, by the theatre, by the congregation assembled to praise God, by the whole city, if it be possible, as it was purposed in this temptation. But the more publication pride makes of itself, the more scandal is given, the more scandal the more guiltiness, and the more guiltiness the greater condemnation. Satan loves these open, these flaming sins, that weak ones may run to them like moths to the light of a candle, and be touched and scorched with coming near them. (Bishop Andrewes.)

The holy Temple defiled

And above all places on earth if he make us his instruments to defile the holy Temple, God’s glory is put to the greatest scandal and reproach. And this is brought to pass so many ways, that it is plain to see there hath been a most witty complotter in the treachery.

1. When any prelate is so puffed up that he thinks himself too great to be a doorkeeper in God’s house, but will be higher than all the Church, and set on the top of the pinnacle, who, sitting in the Temple of God, exalts himself above all that is called God.

2. The temple is defiled by setting up idols in the courts of our heavenly King, even in the midst of thee, O thou sanctuary of the Lord.

3. By offering up unclean sacrifice, either false doctrine, or impious prayers, or superstitious worship, or corrupted sacraments.

4. When men set their foot within the sacred tabernacle with carnal thoughts, with worldly imaginations, with no zeal or attention.

5. To bring any profane work, any secular business within those walls which are consecrated to the name of the Lord. (Bishop Andrewes.)

Satan not discouraged by failure

The manner is, after one hath taken a foil, his courage will fail. The angel would have been gone, when he saw he could not prevail over Jacob (Genesis 32:26). But it is not so here with the devil. For when he saw that his first temptation would not prevail he trieth another. (Bishop Andrewes.)

A new assault made out of vanquished temptation

He is not only content to take a foil, but even out of the same thing wherewith he was foiled maketh he matter of a new temptation, a new ball of fire. Out of Christ’s conquest, he makes a new assault; that is, since he will needs trust, he will set him on trusting; he shall trust as much as he will. As the former tempted him to diffidence, so this shall tempt him to precedence. (Bishop Andrewes)

1. It is a favourite snare of the tempter to “take “ men, ay, Christian men, to “pinnacles.”

2. It is to “tempt” God, to do anything wrong on the plea of imagined or intended good to others.

3. Too many make the same mis-use of the Bible that the devil did.

4. The believer must appropriate to himself the Bible promises and commandments.

5. Obedience must be kept abidingly in mind.

6. We must never sunder means from ends.

7. Let the tempted realize the great protecting hands. (A. B.Grosart.)

A pinnacle of the Temple

The “pinnacle” is properly the wing of the temple-buildings, not of the main building itself. The pinnacle has been supposed to be the pediment of the three-storied royal hall, which Herod had erected at the southern corner of the temple area, and which reached to the mouth of the Tyropoeon, and stood high above the ravine of Cedron, where it turns into the Valley of Hinnom. Josephus thus describes it. “It was an astonishing work of art, the like of which was nowhere else to be seen, for the valley was so deep, that when any one standing on the top looked down into it, he lost his head. Above this, Herod erected a portico of four storeys of pillars, of such extraordinary height, that when any one ascended to the parapet, so as to look down from the roof on the entire depth of building and natural precipice, he stood a chance of becoming giddy before his eyes reached the bottom of the abyss.” The parapet here, no doubt, formed a low pediment, such as is common to the gables of Grecian temples. On the top of this pediment stood Jesus, with Satan by Him. A great commotion, and, indeed, a riot was caused in Jerusalem, by the erection of a golden Roman eagle, on the Temple gate, as crowning the pediment, by Herod the Great, about 4 B.C. The eagle was torn down and broken in pieces by the rioters. It was a symbol both of Roman power and of Jupiter, the king of the gods. Now--perhaps in covert reference to this incident-Satan plants the Lord on the apex of the pediment of Herod’s great four-storied hall, or, possibly on the entrance gate, on the very pedestal from which the golden eagle had been thrown down. (S. Baring-Gould, M. A.)

The devil where least expected

During the past week I had a nosegay of flowers brought me. I handled them, and they passed through the hands of my household. They had been in the house four-and-twenty hours, when, going into the room where they were, I observed a serpent issuing from among the flowers. When I approached it darted about the room, shooting out its poisoned fangs. I thought, “How like the ‘old serpent the devil,’ coming to us hidden in those beautiful flowers, where we least expected to find anything so dangerous!(J. Stuchbery.)

Christ in the pinnacle

Looking down from that dizzy height, He could see the marble pavement and the people walking upon it. “Cast Thyself down from hence.” He could have done it. Sustained by angel hands, kept secure by His own inherent power, He could have descended without harm into the midst of the people. No doubt it would have brought Him great applause from the idle and wonder-mongering crowd, but whose tears would it have wiped away, whose aching heart would it have comforted, whose sickness would it have healed? Never, never, would the Lord of love put forth His power for such a useless, fruitless, purpose as that; and He kept his Divine resources in all their virgin freshness and fulness. He kept them untouched till presently the lepers crossed His path and He could cleanse them, till presently the dying were within His reach and He could lift them into life again, till the broken-hearted were by His side, and He could dry up the fountain of their woe and make their broken hearts to be whole again. (C. Vince.)

Satan busy during spiritual exercises

To the “holy city,” to the holiest place in the holy city, the Temple, is the Lord Jesus “ taken” by the tempter, and there afresh tempted. Whither then will not the tempter enter? What “ light-flaming battlement” will be not over-leap? My dear friends, we must be “vigilant” everywhere; at all times, and in all places: in the house of God; at the family altar; within our closets; beside our opened Bible. I would even say that most of all must we “watch unto prayer” in these holy scenes and seasons. For it is with the “roaring lion,” who ever “goes about seeking whom he may devour,” as with the beasts of prey in the forest. I remember once, when camped on the shores of one of the great lakes of America, that in the stillness of the pine-forest, within whose shadows our camp-fire was lit, it was a sight to see the wild beasts stealthily stealing to their watering-places. It so chanced that in the tangled jungle opposite us, there was one of their lurking-places; and as the moonlight streamed its wan radiance over it, I could see the fierce creatures couched behind a shattered pine. Why there? Because from beneath its roots, gushing from out the ferns, was a spring of water. Thither the “ flocks and herds,” came, and just as they lapped their refreshing draught, out sprang at a bound the wehr-wolf or other terrible beast. It is precisely so with us. While the believer is quenching his soul’s longings and thirstings at the well of salvation, the adversary crouches to make his fatal spring. Alas, alas l that so many “of the flock” are borne way. (A. B. Grosart, D. D.)

1. The tempter comes a second time with an “if.” Doubt is to potent a thing to be lightly or readily abandoned.

2. The tempter goes from extreme to extreme. This seems to be a favourite device of the evil one.

3. The tempter is very successful in tempting professing Christians with his “If [=since] son thou be of God, cast Thyself beneath.” Everyday observation will satisfy that there are two classes who fall before this snare. There is first of all the man who has newly proved the power of the “gift” of “faith” to produce absolute trust. Strong in that trust, there is the danger of thinking of and relying more upon the gift than the Giver; and of acting upon the grace in possession as semi-independent, instead of looking to Him who holds all grace in His own hands. Presumption inevitably comes out of that; self-confidence, rashness, “high thoughts,” and all under the guise of an unquestioning faith. My dear friends, search and see if you are not liable to presume upon your Christian character, and to run risks such as you should else shrink from.

4. The tempter seeks first to lead into sin, and then to justify the sin by Scripture.

5. The tempter can only persuade, never compel. “Satan can tempt and persuade us, but he cannot force us to sin, or he cannot cast thee down unless thou ‘ cast thyself down.’” (A. B. Grosart, D. D.)

What was the evil in this suggested act?

It was twofold, evil alike on the Godward and on the manward side.

1. In the first aspect it meant that God should be forced to do for Him what He had before refused to do for Himself--make Him an object of supernatural care, exempted from obedience to natural law, a child of miracle, exceptional in His very physical relations to God and Nature.

2. In the second aspect it meant that He was to be a Son of wonder, clothed with marvels, living a life that struck the senses and dazzled the fancies of the poor vulgar crowd. In the one case it had been fatal to Himself, in the other, to His mission. Special as were His relations to God, He did not presume on these, but, with Divine self-command, lived, though the supernatural Son, like the natural child of the Eternal Father. His human life was as real as it was ideal. The Divine did not supersede the human, nor seek to transcend its limits, physical and spiritual. And His fidelity to our nature has been its pre-eminent blessing. No man who knows the spirit of Christ will presume either on the providence or the mercy of God, because certain that there remains, even in their highest achievements, the dutiful servants of Divine wisdom and righteousness. He who came to show us the Father, showed Him not as a visible guardian, not as an arbitrary, mechanical providence, but as an invisible presence about our spirits, about our ways, source of our holiest thoughts, our tenderest feelings, our wisest actions. The Only-begotten lived as one of many brethren, though as the only one conscious of His Sonship. And, perhaps, His self-sacrifice reached here its sublimest point. He would not, and He did not, tempt the Lord His God, but lived His beautiful and perfect life within the terms of the human, yet penetrated and possessed by the Divine. (A. M. Fairbairn, D. D.)

The temptation to presumption

“If God is to be so trusted, try Him. Show thyself His darling. Here is the word itself for it. Take Him at His word.” Again, with a written word, the Lord meets him. And He does not quote Scripture for logical purposes--to confute Satan intellectually, but as given even Satan the reason of His conduct. If the Father told Him to cast Himself down, that moment the pinnacle pointed naked to the sky. If the devil threw Him down, let God send His angels; or, if better, allow Him to be dashed in pieces in the valley below. But never will He forestall the Divine will. The Father shall order what comes next. The Son will obey. In the path of His work He will turn aside for no stone. There let the angels bear Him in their hands if need be. But He will not choose the path because there is a stone in it. He will not choose at all. He will go where the Spirit leads him. (George Macdonald, LL. D.)

The temptation of display

I. THE ATTACK.

1. It was a temptation to presumption.

2. The object o! this presumption was display.

3. The temptation was presented with an excuse in Scripture.

II. THE REPULSE.

1. Our Lord again quotes Scripture, partly

(a) for the same reason as formerly, for that which is good when rightly handled must not be abandoned because evil persons abuse it; and partly

(b) because Scripture is best interpreted and balanced by Scripture.

2. The words quoted by our Lord show that He regarded the act of presumption suggested by Satan as an insult to God. (W. F. Adeney, M. A.)

Illustrations

Walker was treated less respectfully. William thought him a busybody, who had been properly punished for running into danger without any call of duty, and expressed that feeling, with characteristic bluntness on the field of battle. “Sir,” said an attendant, “the Bishop of Derry has been killed by a shot at the ford.” “What took him there?” growled the king. (Macaulay’s History of England.)

Wellington, of an officer killed: “What business had he lurking there? Shall not mention him in my despatch.”

Trusting and tempting providence

You may rely upon God for protection, solace, help, but not if you are foolhardy. No miracle will do for you what you can do for yourself. Jesus might have come down by the staircase; there was no need to get down the other way--tempt providence, and providence will fail you to a certainty. If you are idle and feckless, no philosopher’s stone will turn your dross into gold. If you have weak lungs and expose yourself recklessly to chill, God’s icy wind will slay you in spite of your prayers. If you neglect the laws of health and live fast, you will soon sink from the heaven of health into the hell of disease. If, from the pinnacle of desire, you leap into the pit of lust, you shall die mangled. If, from the pinnacle of greed, you plunge into the gulf of peculation, you fall crushed. The moral order of the universe will not be suspended for you--“Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” (H. R.Haweis, M. A.)

Pinnacle of the Temple

Some places are as dangerous for our souls as the pinnacle of the Temple was for the body. (D. Dyke.)

Cast Thyself down from hence

Humility employed in the service of pride

That He might fall down bodily, and be proud spiritually, and so he thrust together a frivolous presumption, and a dangerous descension. How much is humility abused when pride will wear the colours of that great virtue to deceive the world. There was gross ambition in Absalom’s stooping to steal the hearts of the people. As a kite will sweep the earth with his wings, that he may truss the prey in his talons, and fly aloft to devour it, so all the crouches and submissions which an ambitious man makes are to get somewhat what he seeks for, and to clamber to promotion. This is observed, because Satan impels Christ to cast Himself down, not for true humility’s sake, but upon vainglory to flutter in the air, that all Jerusalem might take notice how precious He was to the care and custody of all the angels. (Bishop Hacket.)

Election no reason for presumption

I see now who is the author of that fallacy which, I fear, hath cost many a soul the loss of eternal life, that such as assure themselves they are elect ones, they are the sons of God, may make bold with their Father’s mercy, may rely upon it, and now and then transgress His commandments for their pleasure, or profit, or some other fleshly consideration; there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus; God sees no sin in the righteous-though they fall they shall rise again; and many more such deluding axioms as they apply them, which I beseech you return back again to hell with him that invented them. (Bishop Hacket.)

Trusting too much

As, seeing the water of distrust will not extinguish His faith, but that He would trust in God, he endeavoureth now by Scriptures (that magnify the providence of God, and the confidence we are to put in Him) to set Him as far gone in the other extreme, by presuming or trusting too much, that so the fire, which before he would have quenched, may now so flame out as not to keep itself within the chimney, but to set the whole house on fire. (Bishop Andrewes.)

Vice coloured with virtue

The devil sees that against God’s children oftentimes he can have no other advantage, than that which they had against Daniel (Daniel 6:1-28.) in the law of his God, in the graces of God’s Spirit, and therefore he dyes his bad clothes in good colours, and paints the foul faces of sin with the colours of graces and virtues to deceive us; as here he presents presumption to Christ under the colour and in the habit of faith; and so now covetousness, of frugality and good husbandry; drunkenness and carousing of healths, of good fellowship; sottish sloth, of quietness (Ecclesiastes 4:3), unlawful sports both in regard of the nature of the games, as dice. What need have we not to be carried away with everything that hath a show of goodness, or of indifferency, but to bring these painted strumpets of the devil to the light, yea, and to the heat of the Word of God, and then their painting shall melt away, and we shall see their beauty came only out of the devil’s box? (D. Dyke.)

For it is written, He shall give His angels charge over thee

Satan quoting the Psalms

A man would have thought Satan would have skipped the Book of the Psalms though he had searched over all the Scripture beside. It is the volume of joy, of consolation, of alacrity, the very songs of angels. “Is any man merry, let him sing psalms,” says St. James. Is there any use of that sweet harmony for him that lives in perpetual torment? (Bishop Hacket.)

Scripture not defiled by Satanic uses

I will not put myself to the task to go any further in this reckoning; for all schisms and heresies, and almost all sins, will shroud under the patronage of the Word of God. Yet such is the pureness of that fountain, that it is not puddled, though dirty swine do wallow in it; nay, though the devil himself run headlong into it, as he did into the sea. Here he tumbles about in this psalm to cast dirt upon it, yet the psalm is no whit less sacred and venerable than it was before. (Ibid.)

Misuse of Scripture no argument against its use

It is no disgrace nor disparagement to the Scriptures to proceed from Satan, nor any occasion to make us leave cur hold; for Christ answereth again, and striketh with the same weapon wherewith He was stricken, showing us that it is lawful to use a text well, against them that do abuse a text; and if Christ’s example be our precedent, then we may allege Scripture against depraved Scripture. For the bee may gather honey on the same stalk that the spider doth poison. And though a swashbuckler kill a man with his weapon, yet a soldier may lawfully knit a sword to his side; and though there be many piracies committed on the sea, yet may the merchants traffic; or though some surfeit by gluttony, yet may others use their temperate diet. And if the devil change himself into an angel of light, shall therefore the angels lose their light?

Misquoted Scripture

“In the ways” all is safe. Out of the ways all is perilous.

Satanic use of Scripture

I shall show to what base designs he makes it subserve.

1. He useth this artifice to beget and propagate erroneous doctrines. Hence no opinion is so vile, but pretends to Scripture as its patron.

2. He makes abused Scripture to encourage sinful actions.

3. By this imitation of the commands and promises of God, he doth strangely engage such as he can thus delude unto desperate undertakings.

4. He sometimes procures groundless peace and assurance in the hearts of careless ones by Scripture misapplied. Lastly: This way of Satan’s setting home scriptures proves sadly effectual to beget or heighten the inward distresses and fears of the children of God. It is a wonder to hear some dispute against themselves, so nimble they be to object a scripture against their peace, above their reading or ability, that you would easily conclude there is one at hand that prompts them, and suggests these things to their own prejudice. And sometime a scripture will be set so cross or edgeway to their good and comfort, that many pleadings, much time, prayers, and discourses cannot remove it. I have known some that have seriously professed scriptures have been thrown into their hearts like arrows, and have with such violence fixed a false apprehension upon their minds, as that God had cut them off, that they were reprobate, damned, &c., that they have borne the tedious, restless affrightments of it for many days, and yet the thing itself, as well as the issue of it, doth declare that this was not the fruit of the Spirit of God, which is a spirit of truth, and cannot suggest a falsehood, but of Satan, who hath been a liar from the beginning. (R. Gilpin.)

Scripture falsely cited

Another point of Satan’s unfaithful dealing with Scripture is his false citation of it. It is nothing with him to alter, change, or leave out such a part as may make against him. If he urge promises upon men, in order to their security and negligence, he conceals the condition of them, and banisheth the threatening far from their minds, representing the mercy of God in a false glass, as if He had promised to save and bring to heaven every man upon the common and easy terms of being called a Christian. If it be his purpose to disquiet the hearts of God’s children, to promote their fears, or to lead them to despair, then he sets home the commands and threatenings, but hides the promises that might relieve them, and, which is remarkable, he hath so puzzled some by setting on their hearts a piece of Scripture, that when the next words, or next verse, might have eased them of their fears, and answered the sad objections which they raised against themselves from thence, as if their eyes had been holden, or as if a mist had been cast over them, they have not for a long time been able to consider the relief which they might have had. This hiding of Scripture from their eyes, setting aside what God may do for the just chastisement of His children’s folly, is effected by the strong impression which Satan sets upon their hearts, and by holding their minds down to a fixed meditation of the dreadful inferences which he presents to them from thence, not suffering them to divert their thoughts by his incessant clamours against them. (R. Gilpin.)

The Word of God

Now, brethren, I would have you remember two things throughout, in our Lord’s use of Scripture, in this sore contest. First: As towards Himself and His own human, and therefore, it might be supposed, infirm heart. It is, you see, the sole argument which He uses, the sole guide which He takes, the sole source of strength on which He throws Himself. You see nothing added to it, no consideration from any other quarter, of reason, or convenience, or ultimate gain; no calculations of any kind called in to give it fresh power, or an influence not properly its own. It is thrust boldly, nakedly, solitarily forward, by its own strength alone sustained. Secondly: It is clearly implied that the powerful spirit who was tempting Him, was quite as well aware as He Himself that God’s word was immutable and unconquerable; and that it contained within itself all that faith needed to resist his utmost assaults. He knew full well that all spiritual strength and comfort was contained in it; nay, a clothing of the soul that rested on it with the very power of Him who spake it in His truth and holiness, and victory to tread all sin and temptation under foot. With all his subtlety, therefore, and devices of a bad wisdom, he has nothing to reply to the bold and straightforward declaration of God’s will. He is struck dumb. It seems, after this, useless before Christians, to give any reasons why it should be so, seeing that we have such a witness to it; but one or two immediately occur to every thoughtful person, which I will just suggest.

1. Almighty God is the very truth itself, and it is no more possible for Him to utter what is false than for the glorious and blessed sun to shoot forth darkness instead of light.

2. He is all-powerful, as well as all true, and therefore, if He be bent upon executing His will, whatever it be, it is impossible to resist it.

3. He is all good, and gracious, and loving, and hath poured the riches of His mercy into the book which He has given unto us; and so far from dreading these perfections of His nature, which make all that He has said unchangeable, and grieving that it cannot be blotted out--herein is our joy, as sons of God by adoption and grace, that “it is written” that heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one tittle of that blessed writing! And now, only turn for a moment to what it is in this temptation of Satan of which our Lord affirmed that it was the Word of God, and found strength whereby, in the hour of His great need, to vanquish the tempter, and bring down angels out of heaven to minister to Him! For you may be sure, that the sinless Lamb of God, who took our nature upon Him, that we might be raised to the purity of His, seeing that He was flesh and blood in all things, sin only excepted, hath recorded His own temptations, because He knew full well, by the wisdom that was in Him, that the very same would assault us!

Look well, dear brethren, to this!

1. Though it be true, that we must all labour in the” station to which God has called us, and by the sweat of our brow must eat bread, yet that is not the first thing; that is not the great, the one thing needful. “The kingdom of God is not meat, or drink, but righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” “My meat,” saith our Lord, and therefore ours, “is to do the will of My Father which is in heaven!” “Thou shalt not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” “Look at the lilies of the field, how they grow I they toil not, neither do they spin I and yet your heavenly Father clotheth them I Shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” In one word, “It is written,” and it cannot be changed. Again--look at this: Do you never tempt the Lord your God? that is, presume upon His aiding and protecting you, where He has not promised to do so, but the contrary, and so bring a curse upon the soul, and not a blessing I But, you may say, can we trust God too much P or throw our whole souls with too unreserved a love and confidence upon His fatherly care? But to presume on His love when our heart is elsewhere, and when we refuse to obey His evident commandments, is death to us! Again, it is written, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” Thirdly: Do we fall down and worship Satan? “It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve!” Finally: Before we part, let me once more impress upon you, that all this, and much more of the like import, is written, and that to tell you so is the same thing as to tell you that it will all come to pass, as sure as man is sinful and ignorant, and God wise, holy, and true. And in more than one sense it is thus written: for first of all--you find it in the holy book! There it is, and fire cannot burn it out, nor water wash it out, nor all the wishes and struggles of ungodly men make it less, even by a single letter. It is written, therefore, not only in a book, but in the eternal counsels of God, out of the depths of which, in the fulness of time, it hath all issued forth to us. It has been written from everlasting to everlasting, that thus it shall be. But there is one more book, dear brethren, in which this blessed, and eternal, and unchangeable word must be written, if we would be the better or the more blessed for it. In our own hearts--in our souls, in the fleshly tablets within us, and not on stone tables, or paper books, must the Word of God be engraven by the Spirit. So long as it remains an outward thing, merely spoken or merely written, it is only condemnation; it hath a sword in its hand, and killeth. (J. Garbett, M. A.)

The devil quoting Scripture

The failure of the tempter has not deterred mankind from venturing on the same appeal, with no very unlike design. Among the crowd of pilgrims who throng the pages of his allegory, Bunyan depicts one Mr. Selfwill, who holds that a man may follow the vices as well as the virtues of pilgrims. “But what ground has he for so saying?” is Mr. Greatheart’s query. And old Mr. Honesty replies: “Why, he said he had Scripture for his warrant.”

“The devil can quote Scripture for his purpose;

An evil soul producing holy witness

Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,

A goodly apple rotten at the core.”

Such is Antonio’s stricture on Shylock’s appeal to Jacob’s practice; and there is a parallel passage to it in the next act, where Bassanio is the speaker:--

“In religion,

What damned error, but some sober brow

Will bless it and approve it, with a text

Hiding the grossness with fair ornament.”

Shakespeare embodies in Richard of Gloucester a type of the political intriguer; as where the usurper thus answers the gulled associates who urge him to be avenged on the opposite faction:--

“But then I sigh, and with a piece of Scripture

Tell them that God bids us do good for evil.

And thus I clothe my naked villainy

With old odd ends, stolen forth of holy writ;

And seem a saint when most I play the devil.”

An unmitigated scoundrel in one of Mr. Dickens’s books is represented as openly grudging his old father the scant remnant of his days (on the ground that “Three-score and ten’s the Bible-mark”); whereupon the author interposes this parenthetical comment: “Is any one surprised at Mr. Jonas making such a reference to such a book for such a purpose? Does any one doubt the old saw that the devil quotes Scripture for his own ends? If he will take the trouble to look about him, he may find a greater number of confirmations of the fact in the occurrences of a single day than the steam-gun can discharge balls in a minute.” (F. Jacox.)

The religious devil

But what is this I see? Satan himself with a Bible under his arm, with a text in his mouth? No devil is so dangerous as the religious devil.” So writes Bishop Hall, speaking of the temptation of Christ. There are two classes of devils, the religious and the irreligious--both in reality irreligious--and the former more so than the latter; but these make no show or pretence of religion, whereas those do. St. Paul had to contend with them. Speaking of false apostles, he wrote: “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light,” &c. The religious devil has often been enthroned as the head of the Church on earth; he has at one time or another enjoyed the emoluments of every bishopric in Europe; there is scarcely a monastery of which he has not been abbot; there are not many pulpits from which he has not preached, for he is to be found in every denomination. A religious devil has been known to join a Church, and go from one Church to another, from one denomination to another, in order to secure customers in the congregation. (H. S. Brown.)

Satan’s many disguises

No player hath so many several dresses to come in upon the stage as the devil hath forms of temptation; but he is most dangerous when he appears in Samuel’s mantle, and silvers his foul tongue with fair language. (Gurnall.)

The Word of God the end of controversy

To dispatch this out of hand, the misconstruing the Word of God is the beginning of all strife; the true allegation of it is the end of a controversy. (Bishop Hacket.)

Satan God’s ape

That the Scripture is alleged in a perverse apish imitation, because Christ had alleged Scripture before. Thus hath the devil always been God’s ape, as in sacrifices, washings, tithes, priests, altars, oracles of the heathen, all which he did apishly imitate, and counterfeit the like to those in the Church of God, thinking by this means to disgrace the ordinances of God. (D. Dyke.)

The abuse of Scripture

That the abuse of the Scriptures must not take away the use of it. Christ doth not give over alleging Scripture because the devil abused it. The honest traveller doth so much the more wear his weapon and his sword because the thief useth the same weapon. (D. Dyke.)

And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God

Faith distinguished from presumption

Thou shalt not tempt, &e. Is there any law which can be laid down which will serve in all cases to distinguish faith from presumption, which will warn us when we are no longer honouring God by our trust, but dishonouring Him by our unbelief?

There is, and it is as follows

The moment trust in God presumes to break any one, even the least, of the laws of God, and then expects God to save it from the consequences of its disobedience, it is not trust, but unbelief; it is not faith, but presumption; it is not honouring, it is tempting, God. (G. S. Barrett, B.A.)

Our Lord’s quotations from the Scriptures

The words of all the three answers to the tempter come from two chapters of Deuteronomy, one of which (chapter 6.) supplied one of the passages for the phylacteries or frontiers worn by devout Jews. The fact is in every way suggestive. A prominence was thus given to that portion of the book which made it an essential part of the education of every Israelite, The words which our Lord now uses had, we must believe, been familiar to Him from His childhood, and He had read their meaning rightly. With them He may have sustained the faith of others in the struggles of the Nazareth home with poverty and want. And now He finds in them a truth which belongs to His high calling as well as to His life of lowliness. (Dean Plumptre.)

The inductive study of the Scriptures

What the Saviour did here was to fill out and complete the interpretation of the passage which Satan had repeated, and He did that by showing from various passages the conditions within which alone the former could be rationally and intelligently accepted. Now the procedure of the Lord in this instance plainly implies that one portion or saying of Scripture is to be read in connection with all other portions of it, and is to be understood and interpreted only in that sense which is in harmony with every other utterance of the sacred oracles. What Nature is to the physical philosopher, Scripture is to the theologian. In prosecuting a systematic examination of the Scriptures there are three things in reference to which we must be always on our guard.

1. We must see to it that all the passages brought together have a real bearing on the subject in hand.

2. We must see to it that we give to each passage its own legitimate weight--no more, no less.

3. We must see to it that our induction of passages is complete. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Spiritual acuteness

There is a story of a limner, that to show his art, drew a white line so small that it could hardly be discerned; another, to show that he could excel him, drew a black line through the middle of it. It required an acute sight to detect either. But our Saviour at first view immediately discerned the black line of temptation to run through the plausible advice that Satan gave Him. (White.)

Tempting God

And surely one principal and notorious offence is committed when a man exposeth his life to unnecessary dangers, upon an ill-grounded confidence that God will bring him off with safety.

2. The Lord is tempted when we will not believe Him, unless we see signs and wonders, and provoke Him to let us see some print of His omnipotence, or we will fall out, and trust Him no more.

3. There is another crooked branch, much like unto the former, growing out of the same root; not simply by declining natural means, but by declining all means; having no calling, using no labour, cashiering all providence, and yet expecting to live and thrive as well as they that eat the bread of carefulness by the sweat of their brows.

4. Then they shall stand for the fourth, that make holy vows, and bind themselves in a perpetual obligation, where God hath given no promise of assistance, that they shall be able to perform them.

5. Fifthly, to use such things again, which either always or for the most part have been unto us an occasion of sinning, is to tempt the Lord, whether He will let those things prevail against our souls which so often have proved unto us an occasion of falling.

6. And sixthly, this smells of a most audacious spirit, provoking wrath, and urging, the patient God to indignation, when you make slight of all the terrors and miacies in the law, as if they were high words; but do what you will they shall never fall upon you. This was the first imposture that Satan put upon our first parents. (Bishop Hacket.)

Tempting Providence

To go into any peril, however great, at the call of duty, trusting that God will protect, is faith. To go into any peril, when there is no call of duty, trusting that God will protect, is presumption. Every one can see that, as a general principle, presumption is not faith. Both are trust in God; but faith is reasonable trust, presumption is unreasonable trust. Faith is trusting God, where He has told us and because He has told us to trust Him. Presumption is trusting that God will do what would suit us, though He has never said He would. I know that the two trusts shade off into each other; and it is difficult, in some cases, to say whether to trust that God will provide, will order, will protect, is faith or presumption. Many virtues have a black shadow that keeps near them, a corresponding vice into which they melt by imperceptible gradations. Who will say exactly where courage ends and foolhardiness begins; where tact ends and trickery begins? But then it is just here that each man’s own conscience and common sense must guide him. We read in the history of that same great king who has already been named of a case in which the tempting of God’s providence brought instant and awful consequence. During a battle in Flanders, King William was giving his orders under a shower of bullets, when he saw with surprise and anger among the officers of his staff, one Michael Godfrey, a mercantile man, the Deputy-Governor of the Bank of England. A foolhardy curiosity to see real war had brought him there. The king said, sharply, “Sir, you ought not to run these hazards; you are not a soldier; you can be of no use to us here.” “Sir,” answered Godfrey, “I run no more hazard than your Majesty.” “Not so,” said William; “I am where it is my duty to be; and I may without presumption commit my life to God’s keeping; but you” The sentence was never finished; at that moment a cannon-ball laid Godfrey dead at the king’s feet. I do not venture to talk of judgments. But here the man’s death was beyond all question the consequence of his temerity. Now that we have thought of the general truth set forth in the text, I wish to show you its application to certain particular cases, with which we are all quite familiar.

I. The text tells us, if it tells us anything, THAT WE OUGHT NOT, NEEDLESSLY, TO GO IN THE WAY OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE. Well, there are some people who, if they would not fail of their duty, must just trust in God’s providence, and run that risk. This is part of their vocation; to this they are called of God. To them the promise is, that His angels will keep them; for here is their way, the way God has set them; and in that way God has said He will protect His people, heartily doing their appointed work. The doctor, fulfilling his noble calling; the nurse; the minister. It is no tempting of Providence if such as have been named be near the sick, even where sickness is most malignant. But there it ends. To go, when you are not needed; when you can do no good; when you may carry away fatal infection to others: that is doing what Christ in my text forbids.

II. There is another familiar instance in which my text is disregarded, which one constantly hears named as a singular folly and eccentricity, but which, in the light of the word of our Master, looks something more serious than folly. There are many men, as we all know, whose business, and daily work, lies upon the sea, fishermen and sailors; and there are others also who are many times called to be upon the sea. Now, God has made us so, and made the waters so, that if we fall into deep water and sink beneath its surface, we must soon die; two minutes, and, as a rule, life is gone. But God has made us so, and made the waters so, that in two or three weeks we may each acquire a simple art, that needs no machinery, no tools, nothing but the limbs God gave us, and skill to use them, and courage got in their use; and then, this simple art acquired, we may fall into deep water, and be just as safe and as much at our ease as on dry land. Now, strange to say, a great many of those men whose work is on the waters will not take the trouble of learning this simple art, the knowledge of which, the exercise of which for five or six minutes, may some day just decide the question, Whether or not their poor children shall or shall not be left fatherless little paupers.

III. And now let us think of a third case in which the warning in my text should be laid to heart by all of us. THIS IS AS CONCERNS THOUGHT AND FORESIGHT IN THE MATTER OF OUR WORLDLY MEANS the laying by in prosperous times against the rainy day which may come; the provision to be diligently made by the head of every family, while health and strength last, for the support of wife and children after he is taken away. The Savings Bank and the Life Insurance Company are sacred institutions as much as any institutions can be. It is tempting Providence when a workingman, earning large wages, does not try to lay by something which may be a stay should sickness come, or work fail. He ought to go to the Savings Bank as regularly as he goes to the church. Then it is tempting Providence, in another walk of life, when a professional man, earning a considerable income, spends it all, though knowing it must cease with his life, never caring what is to become of his wife and children if he dies.

IV. Surely it is a tempting of God’s providence IF WE NO NOT TAKE EVERY MEANS TO PREVENT THE CHOLERA FROM COMING, AND TO PREPARE FOR IT SHOULD IT COME. He has put within our reach means that conduce to the health of the community. We know that impure air, and impure water, and filthy dwellings, and drunkenness, are direct invitations to the cholera; and though no authority, however stringent and searching, can compel individuals to be clean and sober, yet an enlightened, efficient magistracy has great power. We know that it is tempting Providence to pray without working, and yet that all our work will go for nothing without God’s blessing sought by prayer. All through my discourse I have been pointing out to you what you are bound, as reasonable creatures, to do for yourselves. Do it; but after all is done you must still pray for God’s blessing on it; you must still trust in His providence. True faith in Him will do its own best as though it could do all; and then remember that without His blessing it can do nothing. That is our way, and by God’s grace we shall go on in it. By God’s grace. (A. H. K. Boyd, D. D.)

Presumption

1. In a way of distrust.

2. In a way of presumption; so we tempt God when, without any warrant, we presume of God’s power and providence.

The heinousness of the sin.

1. Because it is a great arrogancy when we seek thus to subject the Lord to our direction, will, and carnal affections.

2. It is great unbelief, or a calling into question God’s power, mercy, and goodness to us.

3. It looseneth the bonds of all obedience, because we set up new laws of commerce between God and us; for when we suspect God’s fidelity to us, unless He do such things as we fancy, we suspect our fidelity to Him.

4. It is wantonness, rather than want, puts us upon tempting of God.

5. It argues impatiency--“They soon forgat His works; they waited not for His counsel, but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert” (Psalms 106:13-14).

6. The greatness of the sin is seen by the punishments of it. One is mentioned--“Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents” (1 Corinthians 10:9). (T. Manton, D. D.)

He departed from Him for a season

The devil leaveth Him

He had run out his line, and tried all his strength, our Saviour stood it out till His enemy tilted the very dregs of his gall, and drew them out. He that undertakes an ill cause cannot except, but the hearing of it was very fair, if he may plead out his matter till he can say no more; so the tempter cannot say he was cut off before he came to a period, he was provided of better arguments, but he was stopped from proceeding, he could not make these cavils for shame, for his departure was not commanded until he ended all his temptation. (Bishop Hacket.)

Satan ashamed

Another reason why he fled from the presence of Christ is, he was so beaten out of all falsehoods and inventions by the evidence of truth, that he was ashamed to appear any longer before the face of the Conqueror. (Bishop Hacket.)

Breathing time

The use of it shall come home to ourselves thus: The Lord sometimes takes off our foe from us and gives us breathing time after temptations, it is but for a season, not to flatter ourselves with quietness and security, but to repair our ruins to keep out the batteries that will ensue. It is but a refreshing after the fit of an ague, the sick day is coming again. Like a calm upon the sea, while a sweet gale blows what sensible man will not have all things ready for a tempest. Remember the parable, Luke 11:1-54. And what the unclean spirit said, “I will return into my house from whence I came.” (Bishop Hacket.)

A feigned departure

A fox will stretch himself for dead that poultry may come into his reach and never fear him; yet if they do stalk towards him, they shall find to their cost he is not past doing mischief. So the tempter will give back, as if he were fled for ever, but he departs only for a more seasonable opportunity, and will return again with seven spirits worse than himself, when you are worse prepared. (Bishop Hacket.)

The life of temptation

The circle of attack had been exhausted. All possible temptation had been summed up, and had failed. Creation, providence, redemption, had each furnished the ground of attack. Body, soul, and spirit had each been assailed. But in vain. The triumphant Lord had been “tempted in all points, like as we are, yet without sin.” But the words which immediately follow are of dark and ominous significance: “ He departed from Him for a season.” What do these words mean? To what further and future conflicts do they point? Can we discover in the after narrative of the Gospels any light on these mysterious words? Yes, four or five times at least in our Lord’s after-life did specific temptation occur.

1. The first of these renewed assaults occurs in John 6:15. The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand had just taken place and had made a profound impression on the multitude. They resolved at once to proclaim Jesus as their Messianic King. Once more the former temptation was repeated. How did Christ meet it? Withdrew into a mountain to pray.

2. A little later on a still more remarkable repetition of the same temptation in which the tempter was none other than one of Christ’s own disciples, is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. Christ had been unfolding to His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things, &c. Matthew 16:21, &c.). Simon Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him, saying, Be it far from Thee, Lord. In these words another than Peter had spoken to Christ. Satan had come again. The Lord turned and said unto Peter, almost repeating the very words He had spoken to Satan, “Get thee behind Me, Satan,” &e. And then follow the words, so solemn and piercing, which told the disciples that the only way to the kingdom of God on earth is the way of the cross: “Whosoever would save his life,” &c.

3. The third recurrence of this temptation took place nearly at the close of Christ’s earthly life, and just before the anguish of Gethsemane. Multitude crying Hosanna (Mark 11:9-10). Once more the earthly crown seemed within our Lord’s grasp. The conflict, however, did not fully begin until the day but one after this triumphal entry. Certain Greeks had desired to see Jesus. In them Christ sees the first fruits of His redeeming work among the Gentiles. “The hour is come,” He says, “that the Son of Man should be glorified.” But the mention of His own glorification at once suggests the dark and sorrowful way through which alone it could be reached. For one moment there was a human shrinking from the cup. “Father,” He cried, “save Me from this hour.” The next words check the natural shrinking--“But for this cause came I unto this hour.” And the answer quickly came. Voice from heaven spake of which we only read at the great crises of His life. The victory was once more won, and with new and triumphant joy Jesus cries, “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out,” &c.

4. One final crisis in the life of Jesus is recorded in the Gospels. Hitherto each successive assault had been beaten back, and now the time of conflict was drawing to a close. Gethsemane still intervened between the struggle in the upper room and the crucifixion, and it is in Gethsemane that the last conflict takes place. The last damning act of ingratitude is consummated in the traitor’s kiss, but as Jesus is betrayed into the hands of men, the last words He utters in the garden disclose the presence of a vaster hostility than even the hatred of the son of perdition: “This is your hour, and the power of darkness,” &c. (Luke 22:53).

5. Possibly during the crucifixion there was a recurrence of another of these three wilderness temptations. The very words that Satan used challenging Christ to prove His Divine Sonship by a miracle, are again heard in the scornful mockery of the crowd beneath the cross, “If Thou art the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:42). But Christ’s triumph in the wilderness over Satan was only augmented in the voluntary obedience of the eternal Son to death, even the death of the cross. He had come to save others, and Himself He would not save.

6. It is impossible to believe that the instances of temptations which we have been considering were all the temptations which Christ endured subsequently to His temptation in the wilderness. His life, from first to last, was a tempted life. Was there no temptation to our Lord

7. The life of temptation was also a life of uninterrupted victory. It is in this light that the sinlessness of Jesus becomes amazing. It is idle to imagine that it is possible to get rid of the supernatural in the Gospels by blotting out the miracles wrought by Jesus. The miracle of Jesus remains--the miracle of a will ceaselessly assaulted, but as ceaselessly victorious; the miracle of a goodness touching, like the sunlight, the darkest and most festering pollutions of this world and remaining as untainted as the sunlight by contact with impurity. (G. S. Barrett, B. A.)

How to vanquish temptation

In his charge to the newly-ordained ministers Dr. Pope, when ex-President, referred to a certain teacher of the Church who, on one occasion, asked his pupils by what means they sought to vanquish the temptation to worldly lusts, One answered “By prayer I” Another, “By endeavouring to realize what the punishment of transgression will be!” The third, however, replied, “When the tempter comes I simply say, The place is occupied pass on!” The best way to keep tares out of a bushel,” says an old writer, “is to fill it with wheat.”

Christ the devil’s master

Timms had a very wicked master, whose ridicule of all religion was sad to hear. Coming up to his old servant one flay, he said, “Timms, I hear you’re converted.” “Yes, master, praise the Lord” “Can you tell me who’s the devil’s father?” said the master. “I dinno as I can, but I can tell ‘e who’s ‘is master, and that’s the Lord Jesus Christ; He clean licked him when He had the fight with him; and, master, I can tell ‘e who’s the devil’s servant. You be, master, and accordin’ to my knowledge of him you be servin’ a bad master.” (Sword and Trowel.)

Angelic ministry after temptation

That God maketh use of the ministry of angels in supporting and comforting His afflicted servants. Why doth God make use of the ministry of angels? and how far?

1. To manifest unto them the greatness and glory of His work in the recovering mankind, flint their delight in the love and wisdom of God may be increased.

2. To maintain a society and communion between all the parts of the family of God.

3. To preserve His people from many dangers and casualties, which fall not within the foresight of man, God employeth “the watchers,” as they are called in the Book of Daniel, Daniel 4:13; Dan_4:17, for He is tender of His people, and doth all things by proper means. Now the angels having a larger foresight than we, they are appointed to be guardians.

4. Because they are witnesses of the obedience and fidelity of Christ’s disciples, and, so far as God permitteth, they cannot but assist them in their conflicts. Thus Paul; “We are made a spectacle unto the world, and--angels and to men” (1 Corinthians 4:9). (T. Manton, D. D.)

Resisting Satan

I. THE KIND OF RESISTANCE.

1. It must not be faint and cold. Some kind of resistance may be made by general and common graces; the light of nature will rise up in defiance of many sins, especially at first, before men have sinned away natural light; or else the resistance at least is in some cold way. But it must be earnest and vehement, as against the enemy of God and our souls.

2. It must be a thorough resistance of all sin, “ take the little foxes,” dash “Babylon’s brats against the stones.” Lesser sticks set the great ones on fire. The devil cannot hope to prevail for great things presently.

3. It must not be for a while, but continued; not only to stand out against the first assault, but a long siege.

II. ARGUMENTS TO PERSUADE IT.

1. Because he cannot overcome you without your own consent.

2. The sweetness of victory will recompense the trouble of resistance. It is much more pleasing to deny a temptation than to yield to it; the pleasure of sin is short-lived, but the pleasure of self-denial is eternal.

3. Grace, the more it is tried and exercised, the more it is evidenced to be right and sincere (Romans 5:3-5).

4. Grace is strengthened when it hath stood out against a trial; as a tree shaken with fierce winds is more fruitful, its roots being loosened. Satan is a loser and you a gainer by temptations wherein you have approved your fidelity to God; as a man holdeth a stick the faster when another seeketh to wrest it out of his hands.

5. The more we resist Satan, the greater will our reward be (2 Timothy 4:7-8). The danger of the battle will increase the joy of the victory, as the dangers of the way make home the sweeter.

7. The Lord’s grace is promised to him that resisteth. God keepeth us from the evil one, but it is by our watchfulness and resistance; His power maketh it effectual.

III. WHAT ARE THE GRACES THAT ENABLE US IN THIS RESISTANCE? I answer, the three fundamental graces, faith, hope, and love. (T. Manton, D. D.)


Verse 13

Luke 4:9; Luk_4:13

And he brought Him to Jerusalem, and set Him on a pinnacle of the Temple, and said unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down from hence

It is Satan’s policy in tempting to run from one extreme to another

Reasons of this policy are--

1.
The avoiding of one extreme gives the soul such a swing, if care be not used to prevent it, that they are cast more than half way upon the other.

2. While men avoid one extreme by running into another, they carry with them such strong impressions of the evil they would avoid, and such fierce prejudices, that it is not an ordinary conviction will bring them right, but they are apt to be confident of the goodness of the way they take, and so are the more bold and fixed in their miscarriage. That as distrust on the one hand, so presumption on the other, is one of his grand designs.

Show what presumption is. It is in the general a confidence without a ground.

1. It is made up of audacity--which is a bold and daring undertaking of a thing--and security.

2. The ground of it is an error of judgment. A blind or a misled judgment doth always nourish it.

3. In its way of working it is directly opposite to distrust, and is a kind of excessive though irregular hope.

1. Then it is presumption, when from external or subordinate means men expect that for which they were never designed nor appointed of God.

2. When men do expect those fruits and effects from anything unto which it is appointed, in neglect or opposition to the supreme cause, without whose concurrent influence they cannot reach their proper ends--that is, our hopes are wholly centred upon means, when in the meantime our eye is not upon God.

3. It is a presumption to expect things above the reach of our present state and condition.

4. When men expect things contrary to the rules that God hath set for His dispensations of mercy, they boldly presume upon His will.

5. It is also a presumption to expect any mercy, though common and usual, without the ordinary means by which God in providence hath settled the usual dispensations of such favours.

6. When ordinary or extraordinary mercies are expected for an unlawful end.

Having thus proved that presumption is one of the great things he aims at, I shall next discover the reasons of his earnestness and industry in his design, which are these--

1. It is a sin very natural, in which he hath the advantage of our own readiness and inclination.

2. As it is easy for Satan’s attempt, so it is remote from conviction, and not rooted out without great difficulty.

3. The greatness of the sin when it is committed, is another reason of his diligence in the pursuit of it.

4. The dangerous issues and consequences of this way of tinning, do not a little animate Satan to tempt to it. It was no small piece of Satan’s craft to take this advantage, while the impression of trust in the want of outward means was warm upon the heart of Christ. He hoped thereby the more easily to draw Him to an excess. For he knows that a zealous earnestness to avoid a sin, and to keep to a duty, doth often too much incline us to an extreme, and he well hoped that when Christ had declared Himself so positively to depend upon God, he might have prevailed to have stretched that dependence beyond its due bounds, taking the opportunity of His sway that way, which, as a ship before wind and tide, might soon be over-driven. (R. Gilpin.)

Satan watches the wind

They admire how it comes to pass that their temptations should so suddenly alter, that when Satan seems to be so intent upon one design, he should so quickly change, and urge them presently to a different or contrary thing; but they may know that the devil watcheth the wind, and spreads his sail according to the advantage which ariseth from our answer or repulse. So that if we would but plough with our own heifer, and observe our frame of spirit, we should easily find out this riddle. For as it is in disputings and arguings of men, replies beget new matter for answer, and so do they multiply one another; thus are temptations altered and multiplied, and out of the ashes of one assault repelled, another doth quickly spring up. (R. Gilpin.)

The influence of place in temptation

As long as Noah was in the ark in the midst of the waters, he had in him no presumptuous thought; but sitting under the vine in his vineyard, he was overcome therewith. And just Lot 2 Peter 2:8) in Sodom, had no fit time or place to be presumptuous; but when he dwelt in the mountain in security, then he committed incest with his daughters, being made drunk by them. David, so long as he was persecuted by Saul, tossed up and down from post to pillar, had no leisure to be presumptuous; but in the top of his turret, when he was at rest in his palace. (Bishop Andrewes.)

The same devil

But though it be not the same temptation, yet it is the same devil in both places. (Bishop Andrewes.)

Pride seeks the pinnacle

All other sins keep out of the way, as well as they can, but pride is not ashamed to be manifested, nay, it loves to have witnesses of its folly and insolency. (Bishop Hacker.)

Satan loves open sins

This is that itch which Satan hath rubbed upon self-admiring pride, sometime to be gazed upon at one place, sometime at another, by the court, by the theatre, by the congregation assembled to praise God, by the whole city, if it be possible, as it was purposed in this temptation. But the more publication pride makes of itself, the more scandal is given, the more scandal the more guiltiness, and the more guiltiness the greater condemnation. Satan loves these open, these flaming sins, that weak ones may run to them like moths to the light of a candle, and be touched and scorched with coming near them. (Bishop Andrewes.)

The holy Temple defiled

And above all places on earth if he make us his instruments to defile the holy Temple, God’s glory is put to the greatest scandal and reproach. And this is brought to pass so many ways, that it is plain to see there hath been a most witty complotter in the treachery.

1. When any prelate is so puffed up that he thinks himself too great to be a doorkeeper in God’s house, but will be higher than all the Church, and set on the top of the pinnacle, who, sitting in the Temple of God, exalts himself above all that is called God.

2. The temple is defiled by setting up idols in the courts of our heavenly King, even in the midst of thee, O thou sanctuary of the Lord.

3. By offering up unclean sacrifice, either false doctrine, or impious prayers, or superstitious worship, or corrupted sacraments.

4. When men set their foot within the sacred tabernacle with carnal thoughts, with worldly imaginations, with no zeal or attention.

5. To bring any profane work, any secular business within those walls which are consecrated to the name of the Lord. (Bishop Andrewes.)

Satan not discouraged by failure

The manner is, after one hath taken a foil, his courage will fail. The angel would have been gone, when he saw he could not prevail over Jacob (Genesis 32:26). But it is not so here with the devil. For when he saw that his first temptation would not prevail he trieth another. (Bishop Andrewes.)

A new assault made out of vanquished temptation

He is not only content to take a foil, but even out of the same thing wherewith he was foiled maketh he matter of a new temptation, a new ball of fire. Out of Christ’s conquest, he makes a new assault; that is, since he will needs trust, he will set him on trusting; he shall trust as much as he will. As the former tempted him to diffidence, so this shall tempt him to precedence. (Bishop Andrewes)

1. It is a favourite snare of the tempter to “take “ men, ay, Christian men, to “pinnacles.”

2. It is to “tempt” God, to do anything wrong on the plea of imagined or intended good to others.

3. Too many make the same mis-use of the Bible that the devil did.

4. The believer must appropriate to himself the Bible promises and commandments.

5. Obedience must be kept abidingly in mind.

6. We must never sunder means from ends.

7. Let the tempted realize the great protecting hands. (A. B.Grosart.)

A pinnacle of the Temple

The “pinnacle” is properly the wing of the temple-buildings, not of the main building itself. The pinnacle has been supposed to be the pediment of the three-storied royal hall, which Herod had erected at the southern corner of the temple area, and which reached to the mouth of the Tyropoeon, and stood high above the ravine of Cedron, where it turns into the Valley of Hinnom. Josephus thus describes it. “It was an astonishing work of art, the like of which was nowhere else to be seen, for the valley was so deep, that when any one standing on the top looked down into it, he lost his head. Above this, Herod erected a portico of four storeys of pillars, of such extraordinary height, that when any one ascended to the parapet, so as to look down from the roof on the entire depth of building and natural precipice, he stood a chance of becoming giddy before his eyes reached the bottom of the abyss.” The parapet here, no doubt, formed a low pediment, such as is common to the gables of Grecian temples. On the top of this pediment stood Jesus, with Satan by Him. A great commotion, and, indeed, a riot was caused in Jerusalem, by the erection of a golden Roman eagle, on the Temple gate, as crowning the pediment, by Herod the Great, about 4 B.C. The eagle was torn down and broken in pieces by the rioters. It was a symbol both of Roman power and of Jupiter, the king of the gods. Now--perhaps in covert reference to this incident-Satan plants the Lord on the apex of the pediment of Herod’s great four-storied hall, or, possibly on the entrance gate, on the very pedestal from which the golden eagle had been thrown down. (S. Baring-Gould, M. A.)

The devil where least expected

During the past week I had a nosegay of flowers brought me. I handled them, and they passed through the hands of my household. They had been in the house four-and-twenty hours, when, going into the room where they were, I observed a serpent issuing from among the flowers. When I approached it darted about the room, shooting out its poisoned fangs. I thought, “How like the ‘old serpent the devil,’ coming to us hidden in those beautiful flowers, where we least expected to find anything so dangerous!(J. Stuchbery.)

Christ in the pinnacle

Looking down from that dizzy height, He could see the marble pavement and the people walking upon it. “Cast Thyself down from hence.” He could have done it. Sustained by angel hands, kept secure by His own inherent power, He could have descended without harm into the midst of the people. No doubt it would have brought Him great applause from the idle and wonder-mongering crowd, but whose tears would it have wiped away, whose aching heart would it have comforted, whose sickness would it have healed? Never, never, would the Lord of love put forth His power for such a useless, fruitless, purpose as that; and He kept his Divine resources in all their virgin freshness and fulness. He kept them untouched till presently the lepers crossed His path and He could cleanse them, till presently the dying were within His reach and He could lift them into life again, till the broken-hearted were by His side, and He could dry up the fountain of their woe and make their broken hearts to be whole again. (C. Vince.)

Satan busy during spiritual exercises

To the “holy city,” to the holiest place in the holy city, the Temple, is the Lord Jesus “ taken” by the tempter, and there afresh tempted. Whither then will not the tempter enter? What “ light-flaming battlement” will be not over-leap? My dear friends, we must be “vigilant” everywhere; at all times, and in all places: in the house of God; at the family altar; within our closets; beside our opened Bible. I would even say that most of all must we “watch unto prayer” in these holy scenes and seasons. For it is with the “roaring lion,” who ever “goes about seeking whom he may devour,” as with the beasts of prey in the forest. I remember once, when camped on the shores of one of the great lakes of America, that in the stillness of the pine-forest, within whose shadows our camp-fire was lit, it was a sight to see the wild beasts stealthily stealing to their watering-places. It so chanced that in the tangled jungle opposite us, there was one of their lurking-places; and as the moonlight streamed its wan radiance over it, I could see the fierce creatures couched behind a shattered pine. Why there? Because from beneath its roots, gushing from out the ferns, was a spring of water. Thither the “ flocks and herds,” came, and just as they lapped their refreshing draught, out sprang at a bound the wehr-wolf or other terrible beast. It is precisely so with us. While the believer is quenching his soul’s longings and thirstings at the well of salvation, the adversary crouches to make his fatal spring. Alas, alas l that so many “of the flock” are borne way. (A. B. Grosart, D. D.)

1. The tempter comes a second time with an “if.” Doubt is to potent a thing to be lightly or readily abandoned.

2. The tempter goes from extreme to extreme. This seems to be a favourite device of the evil one.

3. The tempter is very successful in tempting professing Christians with his “If [=since] son thou be of God, cast Thyself beneath.” Everyday observation will satisfy that there are two classes who fall before this snare. There is first of all the man who has newly proved the power of the “gift” of “faith” to produce absolute trust. Strong in that trust, there is the danger of thinking of and relying more upon the gift than the Giver; and of acting upon the grace in possession as semi-independent, instead of looking to Him who holds all grace in His own hands. Presumption inevitably comes out of that; self-confidence, rashness, “high thoughts,” and all under the guise of an unquestioning faith. My dear friends, search and see if you are not liable to presume upon your Christian character, and to run risks such as you should else shrink from.

4. The tempter seeks first to lead into sin, and then to justify the sin by Scripture.

5. The tempter can only persuade, never compel. “Satan can tempt and persuade us, but he cannot force us to sin, or he cannot cast thee down unless thou ‘ cast thyself down.’” (A. B. Grosart, D. D.)

What was the evil in this suggested act?

It was twofold, evil alike on the Godward and on the manward side.

1. In the first aspect it meant that God should be forced to do for Him what He had before refused to do for Himself--make Him an object of supernatural care, exempted from obedience to natural law, a child of miracle, exceptional in His very physical relations to God and Nature.

2. In the second aspect it meant that He was to be a Son of wonder, clothed with marvels, living a life that struck the senses and dazzled the fancies of the poor vulgar crowd. In the one case it had been fatal to Himself, in the other, to His mission. Special as were His relations to God, He did not presume on these, but, with Divine self-command, lived, though the supernatural Son, like the natural child of the Eternal Father. His human life was as real as it was ideal. The Divine did not supersede the human, nor seek to transcend its limits, physical and spiritual. And His fidelity to our nature has been its pre-eminent blessing. No man who knows the spirit of Christ will presume either on the providence or the mercy of God, because certain that there remains, even in their highest achievements, the dutiful servants of Divine wisdom and righteousness. He who came to show us the Father, showed Him not as a visible guardian, not as an arbitrary, mechanical providence, but as an invisible presence about our spirits, about our ways, source of our holiest thoughts, our tenderest feelings, our wisest actions. The Only-begotten lived as one of many brethren, though as the only one conscious of His Sonship. And, perhaps, His self-sacrifice reached here its sublimest point. He would not, and He did not, tempt the Lord His God, but lived His beautiful and perfect life within the terms of the human, yet penetrated and possessed by the Divine. (A. M. Fairbairn, D. D.)

The temptation to presumption

“If God is to be so trusted, try Him. Show thyself His darling. Here is the word itself for it. Take Him at His word.” Again, with a written word, the Lord meets him. And He does not quote Scripture for logical purposes--to confute Satan intellectually, but as given even Satan the reason of His conduct. If the Father told Him to cast Himself down, that moment the pinnacle pointed naked to the sky. If the devil threw Him down, let God send His angels; or, if better, allow Him to be dashed in pieces in the valley below. But never will He forestall the Divine will. The Father shall order what comes next. The Son will obey. In the path of His work He will turn aside for no stone. There let the angels bear Him in their hands if need be. But He will not choose the path because there is a stone in it. He will not choose at all. He will go where the Spirit leads him. (George Macdonald, LL. D.)

The temptation of display

I. THE ATTACK.

1. It was a temptation to presumption.

2. The object o! this presumption was display.

3. The temptation was presented with an excuse in Scripture.

II. THE REPULSE.

1. Our Lord again quotes Scripture, partly

(a) for the same reason as formerly, for that which is good when rightly handled must not be abandoned because evil persons abuse it; and partly

(b) because Scripture is best interpreted and balanced by Scripture.

2. The words quoted by our Lord show that He regarded the act of presumption suggested by Satan as an insult to God. (W. F. Adeney, M. A.)

Illustrations

Walker was treated less respectfully. William thought him a busybody, who had been properly punished for running into danger without any call of duty, and expressed that feeling, with characteristic bluntness on the field of battle. “Sir,” said an attendant, “the Bishop of Derry has been killed by a shot at the ford.” “What took him there?” growled the king. (Macaulay’s History of England.)

Wellington, of an officer killed: “What business had he lurking there? Shall not mention him in my despatch.”

Trusting and tempting providence

You may rely upon God for protection, solace, help, but not if you are foolhardy. No miracle will do for you what you can do for yourself. Jesus might have come down by the staircase; there was no need to get down the other way--tempt providence, and providence will fail you to a certainty. If you are idle and feckless, no philosopher’s stone will turn your dross into gold. If you have weak lungs and expose yourself recklessly to chill, God’s icy wind will slay you in spite of your prayers. If you neglect the laws of health and live fast, you will soon sink from the heaven of health into the hell of disease. If, from the pinnacle of desire, you leap into the pit of lust, you shall die mangled. If, from the pinnacle of greed, you plunge into the gulf of peculation, you fall crushed. The moral order of the universe will not be suspended for you--“Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” (H. R.Haweis, M. A.)

Pinnacle of the Temple

Some places are as dangerous for our souls as the pinnacle of the Temple was for the body. (D. Dyke.)

Cast Thyself down from hence

Humility employed in the service of pride

That He might fall down bodily, and be proud spiritually, and so he thrust together a frivolous presumption, and a dangerous descension. How much is humility abused when pride will wear the colours of that great virtue to deceive the world. There was gross ambition in Absalom’s stooping to steal the hearts of the people. As a kite will sweep the earth with his wings, that he may truss the prey in his talons, and fly aloft to devour it, so all the crouches and submissions which an ambitious man makes are to get somewhat what he seeks for, and to clamber to promotion. This is observed, because Satan impels Christ to cast Himself down, not for true humility’s sake, but upon vainglory to flutter in the air, that all Jerusalem might take notice how precious He was to the care and custody of all the angels. (Bishop Hacket.)

Election no reason for presumption

I see now who is the author of that fallacy which, I fear, hath cost many a soul the loss of eternal life, that such as assure themselves they are elect ones, they are the sons of God, may make bold with their Father’s mercy, may rely upon it, and now and then transgress His commandments for their pleasure, or profit, or some other fleshly consideration; there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus; God sees no sin in the righteous-though they fall they shall rise again; and many more such deluding axioms as they apply them, which I beseech you return back again to hell with him that invented them. (Bishop Hacket.)

Trusting too much

As, seeing the water of distrust will not extinguish His faith, but that He would trust in God, he endeavoureth now by Scriptures (that magnify the providence of God, and the confidence we are to put in Him) to set Him as far gone in the other extreme, by presuming or trusting too much, that so the fire, which before he would have quenched, may now so flame out as not to keep itself within the chimney, but to set the whole house on fire. (Bishop Andrewes.)

Vice coloured with virtue

The devil sees that against God’s children oftentimes he can have no other advantage, than that which they had against Daniel (Daniel 6:1-28.) in the law of his God, in the graces of God’s Spirit, and therefore he dyes his bad clothes in good colours, and paints the foul faces of sin with the colours of graces and virtues to deceive us; as here he presents presumption to Christ under the colour and in the habit of faith; and so now covetousness, of frugality and good husbandry; drunkenness and carousing of healths, of good fellowship; sottish sloth, of quietness (Ecclesiastes 4:3), unlawful sports both in regard of the nature of the games, as dice. What need have we not to be carried away with everything that hath a show of goodness, or of indifferency, but to bring these painted strumpets of the devil to the light, yea, and to the heat of the Word of God, and then their painting shall melt away, and we shall see their beauty came only out of the devil’s box? (D. Dyke.)

For it is written, He shall give His angels charge over thee

Satan quoting the Psalms

A man would have thought Satan would have skipped the Book of the Psalms though he had searched over all the Scripture beside. It is the volume of joy, of consolation, of alacrity, the very songs of angels. “Is any man merry, let him sing psalms,” says St. James. Is there any use of that sweet harmony for him that lives in perpetual torment? (Bishop Hacket.)

Scripture not defiled by Satanic uses

I will not put myself to the task to go any further in this reckoning; for all schisms and heresies, and almost all sins, will shroud under the patronage of the Word of God. Yet such is the pureness of that fountain, that it is not puddled, though dirty swine do wallow in it; nay, though the devil himself run headlong into it, as he did into the sea. Here he tumbles about in this psalm to cast dirt upon it, yet the psalm is no whit less sacred and venerable than it was before. (Ibid.)

Misuse of Scripture no argument against its use

It is no disgrace nor disparagement to the Scriptures to proceed from Satan, nor any occasion to make us leave cur hold; for Christ answereth again, and striketh with the same weapon wherewith He was stricken, showing us that it is lawful to use a text well, against them that do abuse a text; and if Christ’s example be our precedent, then we may allege Scripture against depraved Scripture. For the bee may gather honey on the same stalk that the spider doth poison. And though a swashbuckler kill a man with his weapon, yet a soldier may lawfully knit a sword to his side; and though there be many piracies committed on the sea, yet may the merchants traffic; or though some surfeit by gluttony, yet may others use their temperate diet. And if the devil change himself into an angel of light, shall therefore the angels lose their light?

Misquoted Scripture

“In the ways” all is safe. Out of the ways all is perilous.

Satanic use of Scripture

I shall show to what base designs he makes it subserve.

1. He useth this artifice to beget and propagate erroneous doctrines. Hence no opinion is so vile, but pretends to Scripture as its patron.

2. He makes abused Scripture to encourage sinful actions.

3. By this imitation of the commands and promises of God, he doth strangely engage such as he can thus delude unto desperate undertakings.

4. He sometimes procures groundless peace and assurance in the hearts of careless ones by Scripture misapplied. Lastly: This way of Satan’s setting home scriptures proves sadly effectual to beget or heighten the inward distresses and fears of the children of God. It is a wonder to hear some dispute against themselves, so nimble they be to object a scripture against their peace, above their reading or ability, that you would easily conclude there is one at hand that prompts them, and suggests these things to their own prejudice. And sometime a scripture will be set so cross or edgeway to their good and comfort, that many pleadings, much time, prayers, and discourses cannot remove it. I have known some that have seriously professed scriptures have been thrown into their hearts like arrows, and have with such violence fixed a false apprehension upon their minds, as that God had cut them off, that they were reprobate, damned, &c., that they have borne the tedious, restless affrightments of it for many days, and yet the thing itself, as well as the issue of it, doth declare that this was not the fruit of the Spirit of God, which is a spirit of truth, and cannot suggest a falsehood, but of Satan, who hath been a liar from the beginning. (R. Gilpin.)

Scripture falsely cited

Another point of Satan’s unfaithful dealing with Scripture is his false citation of it. It is nothing with him to alter, change, or leave out such a part as may make against him. If he urge promises upon men, in order to their security and negligence, he conceals the condition of them, and banisheth the threatening far from their minds, representing the mercy of God in a false glass, as if He had promised to save and bring to heaven every man upon the common and easy terms of being called a Christian. If it be his purpose to disquiet the hearts of God’s children, to promote their fears, or to lead them to despair, then he sets home the commands and threatenings, but hides the promises that might relieve them, and, which is remarkable, he hath so puzzled some by setting on their hearts a piece of Scripture, that when the next words, or next verse, might have eased them of their fears, and answered the sad objections which they raised against themselves from thence, as if their eyes had been holden, or as if a mist had been cast over them, they have not for a long time been able to consider the relief which they might have had. This hiding of Scripture from their eyes, setting aside what God may do for the just chastisement of His children’s folly, is effected by the strong impression which Satan sets upon their hearts, and by holding their minds down to a fixed meditation of the dreadful inferences which he presents to them from thence, not suffering them to divert their thoughts by his incessant clamours against them. (R. Gilpin.)

The Word of God

Now, brethren, I would have you remember two things throughout, in our Lord’s use of Scripture, in this sore contest. First: As towards Himself and His own human, and therefore, it might be supposed, infirm heart. It is, you see, the sole argument which He uses, the sole guide which He takes, the sole source of strength on which He throws Himself. You see nothing added to it, no consideration from any other quarter, of reason, or convenience, or ultimate gain; no calculations of any kind called in to give it fresh power, or an influence not properly its own. It is thrust boldly, nakedly, solitarily forward, by its own strength alone sustained. Secondly: It is clearly implied that the powerful spirit who was tempting Him, was quite as well aware as He Himself that God’s word was immutable and unconquerable; and that it contained within itself all that faith needed to resist his utmost assaults. He knew full well that all spiritual strength and comfort was contained in it; nay, a clothing of the soul that rested on it with the very power of Him who spake it in His truth and holiness, and victory to tread all sin and temptation under foot. With all his subtlety, therefore, and devices of a bad wisdom, he has nothing to reply to the bold and straightforward declaration of God’s will. He is struck dumb. It seems, after this, useless before Christians, to give any reasons why it should be so, seeing that we have such a witness to it; but one or two immediately occur to every thoughtful person, which I will just suggest.

1. Almighty God is the very truth itself, and it is no more possible for Him to utter what is false than for the glorious and blessed sun to shoot forth darkness instead of light.

2. He is all-powerful, as well as all true, and therefore, if He be bent upon executing His will, whatever it be, it is impossible to resist it.

3. He is all good, and gracious, and loving, and hath poured the riches of His mercy into the book which He has given unto us; and so far from dreading these perfections of His nature, which make all that He has said unchangeable, and grieving that it cannot be blotted out--herein is our joy, as sons of God by adoption and grace, that “it is written” that heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one tittle of that blessed writing! And now, only turn for a moment to what it is in this temptation of Satan of which our Lord affirmed that it was the Word of God, and found strength whereby, in the hour of His great need, to vanquish the tempter, and bring down angels out of heaven to minister to Him! For you may be sure, that the sinless Lamb of God, who took our nature upon Him, that we might be raised to the purity of His, seeing that He was flesh and blood in all things, sin only excepted, hath recorded His own temptations, because He knew full well, by the wisdom that was in Him, that the very same would assault us!

Look well, dear brethren, to this!

1. Though it be true, that we must all labour in the” station to which God has called us, and by the sweat of our brow must eat bread, yet that is not the first thing; that is not the great, the one thing needful. “The kingdom of God is not meat, or drink, but righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” “My meat,” saith our Lord, and therefore ours, “is to do the will of My Father which is in heaven!” “Thou shalt not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” “Look at the lilies of the field, how they grow I they toil not, neither do they spin I and yet your heavenly Father clotheth them I Shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” In one word, “It is written,” and it cannot be changed. Again--look at this: Do you never tempt the Lord your God? that is, presume upon His aiding and protecting you, where He has not promised to do so, but the contrary, and so bring a curse upon the soul, and not a blessing I But, you may say, can we trust God too much P or throw our whole souls with too unreserved a love and confidence upon His fatherly care? But to presume on His love when our heart is elsewhere, and when we refuse to obey His evident commandments, is death to us! Again, it is written, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” Thirdly: Do we fall down and worship Satan? “It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve!” Finally: Before we part, let me once more impress upon you, that all this, and much more of the like import, is written, and that to tell you so is the same thing as to tell you that it will all come to pass, as sure as man is sinful and ignorant, and God wise, holy, and true. And in more than one sense it is thus written: for first of all--you find it in the holy book! There it is, and fire cannot burn it out, nor water wash it out, nor all the wishes and struggles of ungodly men make it less, even by a single letter. It is written, therefore, not only in a book, but in the eternal counsels of God, out of the depths of which, in the fulness of time, it hath all issued forth to us. It has been written from everlasting to everlasting, that thus it shall be. But there is one more book, dear brethren, in which this blessed, and eternal, and unchangeable word must be written, if we would be the better or the more blessed for it. In our own hearts--in our souls, in the fleshly tablets within us, and not on stone tables, or paper books, must the Word of God be engraven by the Spirit. So long as it remains an outward thing, merely spoken or merely written, it is only condemnation; it hath a sword in its hand, and killeth. (J. Garbett, M. A.)

The devil quoting Scripture

The failure of the tempter has not deterred mankind from venturing on the same appeal, with no very unlike design. Among the crowd of pilgrims who throng the pages of his allegory, Bunyan depicts one Mr. Selfwill, who holds that a man may follow the vices as well as the virtues of pilgrims. “But what ground has he for so saying?” is Mr. Greatheart’s query. And old Mr. Honesty replies: “Why, he said he had Scripture for his warrant.”

“The devil can quote Scripture for his purpose;

An evil soul producing holy witness

Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,

A goodly apple rotten at the core.”

Such is Antonio’s stricture on Shylock’s appeal to Jacob’s practice; and there is a parallel passage to it in the next act, where Bassanio is the speaker:--

“In religion,

What damned error, but some sober brow

Will bless it and approve it, with a text

Hiding the grossness with fair ornament.”

Shakespeare embodies in Richard of Gloucester a type of the political intriguer; as where the usurper thus answers the gulled associates who urge him to be avenged on the opposite faction:--

“But then I sigh, and with a piece of Scripture

Tell them that God bids us do good for evil.

And thus I clothe my naked villainy

With old odd ends, stolen forth of holy writ;

And seem a saint when most I play the devil.”

An unmitigated scoundrel in one of Mr. Dickens’s books is represented as openly grudging his old father the scant remnant of his days (on the ground that “Three-score and ten’s the Bible-mark”); whereupon the author interposes this parenthetical comment: “Is any one surprised at Mr. Jonas making such a reference to such a book for such a purpose? Does any one doubt the old saw that the devil quotes Scripture for his own ends? If he will take the trouble to look about him, he may find a greater number of confirmations of the fact in the occurrences of a single day than the steam-gun can discharge balls in a minute.” (F. Jacox.)

The religious devil

But what is this I see? Satan himself with a Bible under his arm, with a text in his mouth? No devil is so dangerous as the religious devil.” So writes Bishop Hall, speaking of the temptation of Christ. There are two classes of devils, the religious and the irreligious--both in reality irreligious--and the former more so than the latter; but these make no show or pretence of religion, whereas those do. St. Paul had to contend with them. Speaking of false apostles, he wrote: “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light,” &c. The religious devil has often been enthroned as the head of the Church on earth; he has at one time or another enjoyed the emoluments of every bishopric in Europe; there is scarcely a monastery of which he has not been abbot; there are not many pulpits from which he has not preached, for he is to be found in every denomination. A religious devil has been known to join a Church, and go from one Church to another, from one denomination to another, in order to secure customers in the congregation. (H. S. Brown.)

Satan’s many disguises

No player hath so many several dresses to come in upon the stage as the devil hath forms of temptation; but he is most dangerous when he appears in Samuel’s mantle, and silvers his foul tongue with fair language. (Gurnall.)

The Word of God the end of controversy

To dispatch this out of hand, the misconstruing the Word of God is the beginning of all strife; the true allegation of it is the end of a controversy. (Bishop Hacket.)

Satan God’s ape

That the Scripture is alleged in a perverse apish imitation, because Christ had alleged Scripture before. Thus hath the devil always been God’s ape, as in sacrifices, washings, tithes, priests, altars, oracles of the heathen, all which he did apishly imitate, and counterfeit the like to those in the Church of God, thinking by this means to disgrace the ordinances of God. (D. Dyke.)

The abuse of Scripture

That the abuse of the Scriptures must not take away the use of it. Christ doth not give over alleging Scripture because the devil abused it. The honest traveller doth so much the more wear his weapon and his sword because the thief useth the same weapon. (D. Dyke.)

And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God

Faith distinguished from presumption

Thou shalt not tempt, &e. Is there any law which can be laid down which will serve in all cases to distinguish faith from presumption, which will warn us when we are no longer honouring God by our trust, but dishonouring Him by our unbelief?

There is, and it is as follows

The moment trust in God presumes to break any one, even the least, of the laws of God, and then expects God to save it from the consequences of its disobedience, it is not trust, but unbelief; it is not faith, but presumption; it is not honouring, it is tempting, God. (G. S. Barrett, B.A.)

Our Lord’s quotations from the Scriptures

The words of all the three answers to the tempter come from two chapters of Deuteronomy, one of which (chapter 6.) supplied one of the passages for the phylacteries or frontiers worn by devout Jews. The fact is in every way suggestive. A prominence was thus given to that portion of the book which made it an essential part of the education of every Israelite, The words which our Lord now uses had, we must believe, been familiar to Him from His childhood, and He had read their meaning rightly. With them He may have sustained the faith of others in the struggles of the Nazareth home with poverty and want. And now He finds in them a truth which belongs to His high calling as well as to His life of lowliness. (Dean Plumptre.)

The inductive study of the Scriptures

What the Saviour did here was to fill out and complete the interpretation of the passage which Satan had repeated, and He did that by showing from various passages the conditions within which alone the former could be rationally and intelligently accepted. Now the procedure of the Lord in this instance plainly implies that one portion or saying of Scripture is to be read in connection with all other portions of it, and is to be understood and interpreted only in that sense which is in harmony with every other utterance of the sacred oracles. What Nature is to the physical philosopher, Scripture is to the theologian. In prosecuting a systematic examination of the Scriptures there are three things in reference to which we must be always on our guard.

1. We must see to it that all the passages brought together have a real bearing on the subject in hand.

2. We must see to it that we give to each passage its own legitimate weight--no more, no less.

3. We must see to it that our induction of passages is complete. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Spiritual acuteness

There is a story of a limner, that to show his art, drew a white line so small that it could hardly be discerned; another, to show that he could excel him, drew a black line through the middle of it. It required an acute sight to detect either. But our Saviour at first view immediately discerned the black line of temptation to run through the plausible advice that Satan gave Him. (White.)

Tempting God

And surely one principal and notorious offence is committed when a man exposeth his life to unnecessary dangers, upon an ill-grounded confidence that God will bring him off with safety.

2. The Lord is tempted when we will not believe Him, unless we see signs and wonders, and provoke Him to let us see some print of His omnipotence, or we will fall out, and trust Him no more.

3. There is another crooked branch, much like unto the former, growing out of the same root; not simply by declining natural means, but by declining all means; having no calling, using no labour, cashiering all providence, and yet expecting to live and thrive as well as they that eat the bread of carefulness by the sweat of their brows.

4. Then they shall stand for the fourth, that make holy vows, and bind themselves in a perpetual obligation, where God hath given no promise of assistance, that they shall be able to perform them.

5. Fifthly, to use such things again, which either always or for the most part have been unto us an occasion of sinning, is to tempt the Lord, whether He will let those things prevail against our souls which so often have proved unto us an occasion of falling.

6. And sixthly, this smells of a most audacious spirit, provoking wrath, and urging, the patient God to indignation, when you make slight of all the terrors and miacies in the law, as if they were high words; but do what you will they shall never fall upon you. This was the first imposture that Satan put upon our first parents. (Bishop Hacket.)

Tempting Providence

To go into any peril, however great, at the call of duty, trusting that God will protect, is faith. To go into any peril, when there is no call of duty, trusting that God will protect, is presumption. Every one can see that, as a general principle, presumption is not faith. Both are trust in God; but faith is reasonable trust, presumption is unreasonable trust. Faith is trusting God, where He has told us and because He has told us to trust Him. Presumption is trusting that God will do what would suit us, though He has never said He would. I know that the two trusts shade off into each other; and it is difficult, in some cases, to say whether to trust that God will provide, will order, will protect, is faith or presumption. Many virtues have a black shadow that keeps near them, a corresponding vice into which they melt by imperceptible gradations. Who will say exactly where courage ends and foolhardiness begins; where tact ends and trickery begins? But then it is just here that each man’s own conscience and common sense must guide him. We read in the history of that same great king who has already been named of a case in which the tempting of God’s providence brought instant and awful consequence. During a battle in Flanders, King William was giving his orders under a shower of bullets, when he saw with surprise and anger among the officers of his staff, one Michael Godfrey, a mercantile man, the Deputy-Governor of the Bank of England. A foolhardy curiosity to see real war had brought him there. The king said, sharply, “Sir, you ought not to run these hazards; you are not a soldier; you can be of no use to us here.” “Sir,” answered Godfrey, “I run no more hazard than your Majesty.” “Not so,” said William; “I am where it is my duty to be; and I may without presumption commit my life to God’s keeping; but you” The sentence was never finished; at that moment a cannon-ball laid Godfrey dead at the king’s feet. I do not venture to talk of judgments. But here the man’s death was beyond all question the consequence of his temerity. Now that we have thought of the general truth set forth in the text, I wish to show you its application to certain particular cases, with which we are all quite familiar.

I. The text tells us, if it tells us anything, THAT WE OUGHT NOT, NEEDLESSLY, TO GO IN THE WAY OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE. Well, there are some people who, if they would not fail of their duty, must just trust in God’s providence, and run that risk. This is part of their vocation; to this they are called of God. To them the promise is, that His angels will keep them; for here is their way, the way God has set them; and in that way God has said He will protect His people, heartily doing their appointed work. The doctor, fulfilling his noble calling; the nurse; the minister. It is no tempting of Providence if such as have been named be near the sick, even where sickness is most malignant. But there it ends. To go, when you are not needed; when you can do no good; when you may carry away fatal infection to others: that is doing what Christ in my text forbids.

II. There is another familiar instance in which my text is disregarded, which one constantly hears named as a singular folly and eccentricity, but which, in the light of the word of our Master, looks something more serious than folly. There are many men, as we all know, whose business, and daily work, lies upon the sea, fishermen and sailors; and there are others also who are many times called to be upon the sea. Now, God has made us so, and made the waters so, that if we fall into deep water and sink beneath its surface, we must soon die; two minutes, and, as a rule, life is gone. But God has made us so, and made the waters so, that in two or three weeks we may each acquire a simple art, that needs no machinery, no tools, nothing but the limbs God gave us, and skill to use them, and courage got in their use; and then, this simple art acquired, we may fall into deep water, and be just as safe and as much at our ease as on dry land. Now, strange to say, a great many of those men whose work is on the waters will not take the trouble of learning this simple art, the knowledge of which, the exercise of which for five or six minutes, may some day just decide the question, Whether or not their poor children shall or shall not be left fatherless little paupers.

III. And now let us think of a third case in which the warning in my text should be laid to heart by all of us. THIS IS AS CONCERNS THOUGHT AND FORESIGHT IN THE MATTER OF OUR WORLDLY MEANS the laying by in prosperous times against the rainy day which may come; the provision to be diligently made by the head of every family, while health and strength last, for the support of wife and children after he is taken away. The Savings Bank and the Life Insurance Company are sacred institutions as much as any institutions can be. It is tempting Providence when a workingman, earning large wages, does not try to lay by something which may be a stay should sickness come, or work fail. He ought to go to the Savings Bank as regularly as he goes to the church. Then it is tempting Providence, in another walk of life, when a professional man, earning a considerable income, spends it all, though knowing it must cease with his life, never caring what is to become of his wife and children if he dies.

IV. Surely it is a tempting of God’s providence IF WE NO NOT TAKE EVERY MEANS TO PREVENT THE CHOLERA FROM COMING, AND TO PREPARE FOR IT SHOULD IT COME. He has put within our reach means that conduce to the health of the community. We know that impure air, and impure water, and filthy dwellings, and drunkenness, are direct invitations to the cholera; and though no authority, however stringent and searching, can compel individuals to be clean and sober, yet an enlightened, efficient magistracy has great power. We know that it is tempting Providence to pray without working, and yet that all our work will go for nothing without God’s blessing sought by prayer. All through my discourse I have been pointing out to you what you are bound, as reasonable creatures, to do for yourselves. Do it; but after all is done you must still pray for God’s blessing on it; you must still trust in His providence. True faith in Him will do its own best as though it could do all; and then remember that without His blessing it can do nothing. That is our way, and by God’s grace we shall go on in it. By God’s grace. (A. H. K. Boyd, D. D.)

Presumption

1. In a way of distrust.

2. In a way of presumption; so we tempt God when, without any warrant, we presume of God’s power and providence.

The heinousness of the sin.

1. Because it is a great arrogancy when we seek thus to subject the Lord to our direction, will, and carnal affections.

2. It is great unbelief, or a calling into question God’s power, mercy, and goodness to us.

3. It looseneth the bonds of all obedience, because we set up new laws of commerce between God and us; for when we suspect God’s fidelity to us, unless He do such things as we fancy, we suspect our fidelity to Him.

4. It is wantonness, rather than want, puts us upon tempting of God.

5. It argues impatiency--“They soon forgat His works; they waited not for His counsel, but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert” (Psalms 106:13-14).

6. The greatness of the sin is seen by the punishments of it. One is mentioned--“Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents” (1 Corinthians 10:9). (T. Manton, D. D.)

He departed from Him for a season

The devil leaveth Him

He had run out his line, and tried all his strength, our Saviour stood it out till His enemy tilted the very dregs of his gall, and drew them out. He that undertakes an ill cause cannot except, but the hearing of it was very fair, if he may plead out his matter till he can say no more; so the tempter cannot say he was cut off before he came to a period, he was provided of better arguments, but he was stopped from proceeding, he could not make these cavils for shame, for his departure was not commanded until he ended all his temptation. (Bishop Hacket.)

Satan ashamed

Another reason why he fled from the presence of Christ is, he was so beaten out of all falsehoods and inventions by the evidence of truth, that he was ashamed to appear any longer before the face of the Conqueror. (Bishop Hacket.)

Breathing time

The use of it shall come home to ourselves thus: The Lord sometimes takes off our foe from us and gives us breathing time after temptations, it is but for a season, not to flatter ourselves with quietness and security, but to repair our ruins to keep out the batteries that will ensue. It is but a refreshing after the fit of an ague, the sick day is coming again. Like a calm upon the sea, while a sweet gale blows what sensible man will not have all things ready for a tempest. Remember the parable, Luke 11:1-54. And what the unclean spirit said, “I will return into my house from whence I came.” (Bishop Hacket.)

A feigned departure

A fox will stretch himself for dead that poultry may come into his reach and never fear him; yet if they do stalk towards him, they shall find to their cost he is not past doing mischief. So the tempter will give back, as if he were fled for ever, but he departs only for a more seasonable opportunity, and will return again with seven spirits worse than himself, when you are worse prepared. (Bishop Hacket.)

The life of temptation

The circle of attack had been exhausted. All possible temptation had been summed up, and had failed. Creation, providence, redemption, had each furnished the ground of attack. Body, soul, and spirit had each been assailed. But in vain. The triumphant Lord had been “tempted in all points, like as we are, yet without sin.” But the words which immediately follow are of dark and ominous significance: “ He departed from Him for a season.” What do these words mean? To what further and future conflicts do they point? Can we discover in the after narrative of the Gospels any light on these mysterious words? Yes, four or five times at least in our Lord’s after-life did specific temptation occur.

1. The first of these renewed assaults occurs in John 6:15. The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand had just taken place and had made a profound impression on the multitude. They resolved at once to proclaim Jesus as their Messianic King. Once more the former temptation was repeated. How did Christ meet it? Withdrew into a mountain to pray.

2. A little later on a still more remarkable repetition of the same temptation in which the tempter was none other than one of Christ’s own disciples, is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. Christ had been unfolding to His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things, &c. Matthew 16:21, &c.). Simon Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him, saying, Be it far from Thee, Lord. In these words another than Peter had spoken to Christ. Satan had come again. The Lord turned and said unto Peter, almost repeating the very words He had spoken to Satan, “Get thee behind Me, Satan,” &e. And then follow the words, so solemn and piercing, which told the disciples that the only way to the kingdom of God on earth is the way of the cross: “Whosoever would save his life,” &c.

3. The third recurrence of this temptation took place nearly at the close of Christ’s earthly life, and just before the anguish of Gethsemane. Multitude crying Hosanna (Mark 11:9-10). Once more the earthly crown seemed within our Lord’s grasp. The conflict, however, did not fully begin until the day but one after this triumphal entry. Certain Greeks had desired to see Jesus. In them Christ sees the first fruits of His redeeming work among the Gentiles. “The hour is come,” He says, “that the Son of Man should be glorified.” But the mention of His own glorification at once suggests the dark and sorrowful way through which alone it could be reached. For one moment there was a human shrinking from the cup. “Father,” He cried, “save Me from this hour.” The next words check the natural shrinking--“But for this cause came I unto this hour.” And the answer quickly came. Voice from heaven spake of which we only read at the great crises of His life. The victory was once more won, and with new and triumphant joy Jesus cries, “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out,” &c.

4. One final crisis in the life of Jesus is recorded in the Gospels. Hitherto each successive assault had been beaten back, and now the time of conflict was drawing to a close. Gethsemane still intervened between the struggle in the upper room and the crucifixion, and it is in Gethsemane that the last conflict takes place. The last damning act of ingratitude is consummated in the traitor’s kiss, but as Jesus is betrayed into the hands of men, the last words He utters in the garden disclose the presence of a vaster hostility than even the hatred of the son of perdition: “This is your hour, and the power of darkness,” &c. (Luke 22:53).

5. Possibly during the crucifixion there was a recurrence of another of these three wilderness temptations. The very words that Satan used challenging Christ to prove His Divine Sonship by a miracle, are again heard in the scornful mockery of the crowd beneath the cross, “If Thou art the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:42). But Christ’s triumph in the wilderness over Satan was only augmented in the voluntary obedience of the eternal Son to death, even the death of the cross. He had come to save others, and Himself He would not save.

6. It is impossible to believe that the instances of temptations which we have been considering were all the temptations which Christ endured subsequently to His temptation in the wilderness. His life, from first to last, was a tempted life. Was there no temptation to our Lord

7. The life of temptation was also a life of uninterrupted victory. It is in this light that the sinlessness of Jesus becomes amazing. It is idle to imagine that it is possible to get rid of the supernatural in the Gospels by blotting out the miracles wrought by Jesus. The miracle of Jesus remains--the miracle of a will ceaselessly assaulted, but as ceaselessly victorious; the miracle of a goodness touching, like the sunlight, the darkest and most festering pollutions of this world and remaining as untainted as the sunlight by contact with impurity. (G. S. Barrett, B. A.)

How to vanquish temptation

In his charge to the newly-ordained ministers Dr. Pope, when ex-President, referred to a certain teacher of the Church who, on one occasion, asked his pupils by what means they sought to vanquish the temptation to worldly lusts, One answered “By prayer I” Another, “By endeavouring to realize what the punishment of transgression will be!” The third, however, replied, “When the tempter comes I simply say, The place is occupied pass on!” The best way to keep tares out of a bushel,” says an old writer, “is to fill it with wheat.”

Christ the devil’s master

Timms had a very wicked master, whose ridicule of all religion was sad to hear. Coming up to his old servant one flay, he said, “Timms, I hear you’re converted.” “Yes, master, praise the Lord” “Can you tell me who’s the devil’s father?” said the master. “I dinno as I can, but I can tell ‘e who’s ‘is master, and that’s the Lord Jesus Christ; He clean licked him when He had the fight with him; and, master, I can tell ‘e who’s the devil’s servant. You be, master, and accordin’ to my knowledge of him you be servin’ a bad master.” (Sword and Trowel.)

Angelic ministry after temptation

That God maketh use of the ministry of angels in supporting and comforting His afflicted servants. Why doth God make use of the ministry of angels? and how far?

1. To manifest unto them the greatness and glory of His work in the recovering mankind, flint their delight in the love and wisdom of God may be increased.

2. To maintain a society and communion between all the parts of the family of God.

3. To preserve His people from many dangers and casualties, which fall not within the foresight of man, God employeth “the watchers,” as they are called in the Book of Daniel, Daniel 4:13; Dan_4:17, for He is tender of His people, and doth all things by proper means. Now the angels having a larger foresight than we, they are appointed to be guardians.

4. Because they are witnesses of the obedience and fidelity of Christ’s disciples, and, so far as God permitteth, they cannot but assist them in their conflicts. Thus Paul; “We are made a spectacle unto the world, and--angels and to men” (1 Corinthians 4:9). (T. Manton, D. D.)

Resisting Satan

I. THE KIND OF RESISTANCE.

1. It must not be faint and cold. Some kind of resistance may be made by general and common graces; the light of nature will rise up in defiance of many sins, especially at first, before men have sinned away natural light; or else the resistance at least is in some cold way. But it must be earnest and vehement, as against the enemy of God and our souls.

2. It must be a thorough resistance of all sin, “ take the little foxes,” dash “Babylon’s brats against the stones.” Lesser sticks set the great ones on fire. The devil cannot hope to prevail for great things presently.

3. It must not be for a while, but continued; not only to stand out against the first assault, but a long siege.

II. ARGUMENTS TO PERSUADE IT.

1. Because he cannot overcome you without your own consent.

2. The sweetness of victory will recompense the trouble of resistance. It is much more pleasing to deny a temptation than to yield to it; the pleasure of sin is short-lived, but the pleasure of self-denial is eternal.

3. Grace, the more it is tried and exercised, the more it is evidenced to be right and sincere (Romans 5:3-5).

4. Grace is strengthened when it hath stood out against a trial; as a tree shaken with fierce winds is more fruitful, its roots being loosened. Satan is a loser and you a gainer by temptations wherein you have approved your fidelity to God; as a man holdeth a stick the faster when another seeketh to wrest it out of his hands.

5. The more we resist Satan, the greater will our reward be (2 Timothy 4:7-8). The danger of the battle will increase the joy of the victory, as the dangers of the way make home the sweeter.

7. The Lord’s grace is promised to him that resisteth. God keepeth us from the evil one, but it is by our watchfulness and resistance; His power maketh it effectual.

III. WHAT ARE THE GRACES THAT ENABLE US IN THIS RESISTANCE? I answer, the three fundamental graces, faith, hope, and love. (T. Manton, D. D.)


Verse 14-15

Luke 4:14-15

And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee

The higher spiritual life

Jesus returns to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.
This is full of interest in every way.

1. As bringing up the question of Christ’s Divinity. Can One who is Divine receive augmented powers? Especially can He from another co-equal Spirit? To this inquiry it may be replied that Christ’s life on earth was the Divine circumscribed. The power of the Spirit that rested upon Christ brought forth no new elements, but it brought out the Divine element previously existing.

2. Interesting as a study of the life of Christ, it becomes even more so in its connection with ourselves--with the whole sphere and operation and possibilities of the human mind. A like experience will be traced in the apostles’ lives. At the time of His death they were very little advanced, except in personal affection for Him, beyond Nicodemus, or other devout and spiritually-minded Jews. He had told them to stay in Jerusalem until some great change should come upon them. And He declared what that change should be--power from on high; the power of the Holy Ghost. And then came the Pentecostal experience.

3. We find traces in the early Church to show that there were those who received this special power over and above mere ordinary endowments.

4. In every age there have been those to whom these disclosures have been made, pre-eminently the case with John Wesley, who laboured years, as he regarded it, in bondage, and at last came out in the power of the Spirit.

5. Lastly, many now living are distinctly conscious that this same impulse, this same clothing of extraordinary power remains on earth. Men’s faculties are telescopic. Used in their lower state they are, as it were, undrawn cut. They are capable of being brought to a condition in which they will be a hundred times more than in their ordinary condition. The consciousness of this transcends all other evidences of the Divine life. APPLICATION: Many of you are longing for the renewal of life. Here is the instrument of your power. This is what you need; this is what we all need--that higher life which comes by the Spirit of God. (H. W. Beecher.)

The power of the Holy Ghost

There was no great natural capacity in Harlan Page; and yet he was an apostle; and his life has quickened the lives of tens of thousands since he has been gone. Being dead, he yet speaks. But he had the Holy Ghost rising upon him. There are men who say but little; and yet they give you anew ideal. They shine as stars in the heavens. And there can be no accounting for it, except on the ground of the dynamic influence of spiritual life and spiritual power in this world. There are men who stand in the centre of circles, and all rise up and call them blessed; and nobody can tell why, except that they bring heaven near, and bring invisible things near, and gain faith, and strengthen their moral tendencies, and see God, and have the power to reflect what they see upon other persons. It is these men who have the higher region of their soul enlightened by the Spirit of God, that do the most for other men; that set aside scepticism, that convince the unconvinced, that penetrate the unconverted through with a new and eternal sense, both of their lacks and of their possibilities and hopes. It is these men who are joined together, and who receive their power of life and of working from God, that, after all, are the lights of the world. (H. W. Beecher.)

Effects of the indwelling of the Spirit

Dr. Daniel Steele says, “ Soon after Dr. Finney’s conversion he received a wonderful baptism of the Spirit which was followed by marvellous effects. His words uttered in private conversation, and forgotten by himself, fell like live coals on the hearts of men, and awakened a sense of guilt which would not let them rest till the blood of sprinkling was applied. At his presence, before he opened his lips, the operatives in a mill began to fall on their knees and cry for mercy, smitten by the invisible currents of Divine power which went forth from him. When, like a flame of fire, he was traversing western and central New York, he came to the village of Rome in a time of spiritual slumber. He had not been in the house of the pastor an hour before he had conversed with all the family, the pastor, children, boarders, and servants, and brought them all to their knees seeking pardon, or the fulness of the Spirit. In a few days almost every man and woman in the village and vicinity was converted, and the work ceased from lack of material to transform, and the evangelist passed on to other fields, to behold new triumphs of the gospel through his instrumentality.” (Lightning Flashes.)

Spiritual power

Dr. Steele mentions another case, not, however, so well known in this country as that of Professor Finney. He says, “Another rare instance of extraordinary spiritual power is that of Father Carpenter, of New Jersey, a Presbyterian layman of a past generation. A cipher in the Church, till anointed of the Holy Ghost, he immediately became a man of wonderful spiritual power, though of ordinary intellect, and very limited education. In personal effort, hardened sinners melted under his appeals and yielded to Christ. Once in a stage-coach going from Newark to New York, he found six unconverted men and one believer his fellow-passengers. He began to present the claims of Jesus, and so powerfully did the Spirit attend the truth, that four were converted in the coach, and the other two after reaching New York. At his death it was stated that by a very careful inquiry it had been ascertained that more than ten thousand souls had been converted through his direct instrumentality. (Lightning Flashes.)


Verses 14-29

Verse 16

Luke 4:16

And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day

The tides of the Spirit

The moment was overcharged with a certain sad intensity.
Since last He stood upon that spot, a change had passed upon Him; a light, long struggling with the clouds, and often drowned in a golden haze of mystery, had cleared itself within Him; He was no longer at His own disposal, nor free to rest upon the trodden paths; but the sacred dove was ever on the wing before Him; and now alighted on the synagogue of Nazareth, and there, where He naturally fell into the attitude of docility, left Him to speak the word of supernatural power. Never is it so hard to follow and trust a higher inspiration, as amid the crowd of customary things. If ever Jesus could yield to misgivings of what was committed to Him it would be in that place. There, in the presence of those at whose feet He used to sit--there, where He first heard and pondered Israel’s hope, and watched a holy light on other faces, not knowing that it was reflected from His own--how could He stand up and draw the great words of Isaiah upon Himself, and say aloud, “This is the hour. Lo! it is I.” But He had emerged from the desert that lay between the old life and the new. The very Spirit of God had driven Him thither to hear what could be said against itself. And now, He was no longer His own. No flitting of the Spirit, off and on. It rested with Him now. And so He could bear those native scenes again, for they lay in another light; the hills of Nazareth were transfigured before Him; from all things round the chill and weary aspect had fled, that makes them press with the weight of usage; and He stood amid the well-known groups, as some immortal friend might return and look in among us here, with unabated love, but with saintly insight into meanings hid from us. Lifted then into the full power of the Spirit, whither, as least congenial, does He take His heavenly point of view? To the village synagogue, on the stated day of rest; nothing newer, nothing higher; but just the place and time which had been sacred to the fathers. The first thing which He did, under freshest inspiration, was to resume the dear old ways, to fall in with the well-known season, to unroll the same venerable page; only to find a new meaning in words that had long carried their rhythm to His heart. We are sustained then by the sympathy of the highest inspiration, when we make it our “custom,” too, to illuminate in our calendar some holy day, and to raise near every cluster of our dwellings a house where “prayer is wont to be made.” Against the Christian habit of
seasonal and local worship the truth is often urged that God is a Spirit, eternal and omniscient, abiding neither in “this mountain” nor in that “Jerusalem,” and bearing equal relation into every mind and moment. In the occasionalism of piety I see, however, not its shame but its distinctive glory. For of all God’s agencies and manifestations, it is the lowest that are least mutable, and most remain the same from first to last; whilst the highest have ever a tidal ebb and flow--moving in waves of time, and surprising hidden inlets of space with their flood. Be assured then that in your ancient usages of seasonal and local worship, in seeking here to meet at intervals the high tides of God’s Spirit, you are in harmony with His sublimest providence--with a law of variation transcending any physical uniformity over which “it sweeps. Reverence the holy custom, shelter from heedless slight the living impulse that week by week calls you hither to remember, to aspire, to pray. Bring only the pure, lowly, childlike hearts, tender to everything except the sins you must confess--full of hope for the world and trust in God; spread out an eager and a gentle spirit for the dropping of fruitful seeds from Holy Writ and saintly hymn; freshen the fading vow of self-sacrificing love; and your worship here will not only resemble His who, in fulness of the Spirit, “went as His custom was,” &c., but prepare for a higher communion where “your life is hid with Him in God.” (J. Martineau, LL. D.)

Synagogue worship

The Jewish synagogues were open every day for three services, but as those of the afternoon and evening were always joined, there were, in reality, only two. It was the duty of every godly Jew to go to each service, for so sacred was daily attendance that the Rabbis taught that “he who practised it saved Israel from the heathen.” The two market days, Monday and Thursday, when the country people came into town, and when the courts were held, and the Sabbaths, were the special times of public worship. Feast days and fasts were also marked by similar sacredness. (Dr. Geikie.)

A good example in attending public worship

Of good Archbishop Leighton it is said, that the Sabbath was his delight, and no slight hindrance could detain him from the house of prayer. Upon one occasion, when he was indisposed, the day being stormy, his friends urged him, on account of his health, not to venture to church. “Were the weather fair,” was the reply, “I would stay at home but since it is otherwise, I must go, lest I be thought to countenance by my example, the irreligious practice of allowing trivial hindrances to keep me back from public worship.” (Life of Leighton.)

Evil of neglecting public worship

Of the late venerable Dr. Waugh, his biographer records that, in his ministerial visitations, his nationality was often strongly displayed, and this with most beneficial effect, both in sentiment and language. When, without any adequate cause, any of his hearers had failed to attend public ordinances so regularly as he could have wished, and would plead their distance from the chapel as an excuse, he would exclaim in the emphatic northern dialect, which he used on familiar occasions to employ, “What, you from Scotland! from Melrose! from Gala Water! from Selkirk! and it’s a hard matter to walk a mile or two to serve your Maker one day in the week! How many miles did you walk at Selkirk?” “Five.” “Five!” “And can ye no walk twa here? Man!your father walked ten or twal (twelve) out, and as many hame, every Sunday i’ the year; and your mither too, aften. I’ve seen a hunder folk and muir, that aye walked six or seven--men, women, and bairns too: and at the sacraments folk walked fifteen, and some twenty miles. How far will you walk the morn to mak’ half-a-crown? Fie! fie I But ye’ll be out wi’ a’ your household next Sabbath, I ken. O my man, mind the bairns I If you love their souls, dinna let them get into the habit of biding awa’ In the kirk. All the evils among young folk in London arise from their not attending God’s house.” Such remonstrances, it may easily be imagined, were not often urged in vain. (Baxendale’s Anecdotes.)

The synagogue service

The order of service was certainly fixed and invariable in the time of Christ. The supreme moment of the service was that of the reading of the law, for the great end of meeting was to hear and study the law. Prayer preceded this exercise, and the reading of a passage chosen from the prophets, followed by the benediction, closed the service. In the opening prayer there were several distinct portions. It began with the recitation of the Shema (three passages of the law, viz., Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deu_11:13-21; Numbers 15:37-41). Then came the eighteen blessings. During this solemn recitation, the people remained standing with their faces turned towards Jerusalem and the Holy Place. The reciter stood before the chest containing the manuscripts. Any member of the assembly could be called on by the president to perform this important duty. Minors alone were excepted, and Christ may have very likely taken His turn in these introductory prayers, both at Nazareth and at Capernaum. The people responded with a loud Amen at the close of each prayer. The reading of the law followed. The Chazzan took the sacred scroll out of the chest, removed its case, and placed it before the first reader. The seven members who had been chosen, rose, and read in turn at least three verses each. The first reader before beginning used a short formula of benediction, which he repeated also at the end. The Torah was divided into one hundred and fifty-three sections. In three years the whole was read through. Subsequently these sections were made three times as long, and the whole law was read through in one year. The Chazzan remained all the time close to the reader, and watched that he made no mistake, and read nothing unsuitable for a general audience. To the reading and its translation was always added a commentary, a sort of homily, to which great importance came to be attached in the Christian Churches, and which subsequently developed into the sermon. The reading of the law being over, the one who had recited the opening prayer read a portion from one of the prophets. This was called the closing lesson, because it completed the service. The reader was chosen by the head of the synagogue. He read three verses in succession, and then translated them (into Aramaic). Christ one day read one of these closing lessons in the synagogue at Nazareth. It is possible, however, that He may have chosen the passage Himself. We notice that it consists of only two verses. This was allowable, because He proposed to make some comment on it. The final benediction was then pronounced, and the assembly broke up. (E. Stapfer, D. D.)

Jesus of Nazareth admired but rejected

If we were to single out one place as illustrating more perhaps than any other place St. John’s remark, “He came to His own and His own received Him not,” that place would surely be Nazareth.

I. Observe THE VALUE WHICH THE LORD PUTS UPON THE PUBLIC MEANS OF GRACE--“As His custom was.” Although there was very little life or spirituality in the synagogue services, yet Jesus was a habitual worshipper there. What a lesson for those who excuse themselves on such grounds as that--

1. They can pray as well at home. Do they?

2. The service is not quite to their mind (Hebrews 10:25).

II. THE ACCOUNT WHICH CHRIST GAVE AT NAZARETH OF HIS OWN OFFICE AND MINISTRY.

III. THE EFFECT PRODUCED BY OUR OUR’S DISCOURSE AT NAZARETH,

1. Admiration and astonishment.

2. But, mingled with this, contempt.

3. And so Christ and His salvation are rejected. (G. T.Harding, M. A.)

An inaugural discourse

The first sermon of Jesus at Nazareth, a standard for the minister of the gospel at the beginning of His work. The narrative imparts to the minister of the gospel pregnant suggestions.

I. In reference to the POINT OF VIEW from which he is to consider his work.

1. Origin.

2. Matter.

3. Object of preaching.

II. In relation to the MANNER in which he must perform his work. His preaching must be, as here--

1. Grounded on Scripture.

2. Accommodated to the necessity of the hearers.

3. Presented in an attractive manner.

III. In relation to the FRUIT upon which he can reckon in this labour. Nazareth shows us--

1. That blossoms are as yet no certain signs of fruit.

2. That this fruit may be blasted by the most unhappy causes.

3. That the harvest may turn out yet better than at the beginning it appears (there in the synagogue were Mary, and also the “Lord’s brethren,” who afterwards believed; and if the Saviour did not work many miracles at Nazareth, He yet wrought some) (Matthew 13:58).

IV. In relation to the TEMPER in which he is to begin a new work.

1. With thankful recollections of the past.

2. With holy spiritual might for the present.

3. With joyful hope for the future.

Happy the teacher who is permitted to begin his preaching under more favourable presages than Jesus began His in the city where He was brought up. (J. J. Van Oosterzee, D. D.)

View of Nazareth

Sheets of smooth rock; fields of hinge boulders, between which, at times, there was scarcely room to pass; acres of loose stones of all sizes, no path or track visible--parts so steep that to hold on to the horse’s mane was a help--everything unspeakably rough and difficult--such was the way up the face of the rocks to get to the tableland on which Nazareth stands. After a time spots of green appeared on the wide, unearthly desolation, and some lean cattle were to be seen picking up poor mouthfuls among the stones. Further on was a larger, but still very small, spot of green. Goats and sheep alone could find sustenance in such a weird place. After an hour’s ride, during which we passed both camels and donkeys toiling up the face of the hill with heavy loads, we came to a spring at the wayside, now running, but dry in summer. At last, all at once, a small valley opened below, set round with hills, and a pleasant little town appeared to the west. Its straggling houses, of white, soft limestone, and mostly new, rose row over row up “the steep slope. A fine large building, with slender cypresses growing around it, stood nearest to us; a minaret looked down a little to the rear. Fig-trees, single and in clumps, were growing here and there in the valley, which was covered with crops of grain, lentils, and beans. Above the town the hills were steep and high, with thin pasture, sheets of rock, fig-trees, and now and then an enclosed spot. The small domed tomb-shrine of a Mahommedan saint crowned the upper end of the western slope. Such was Nazareth, the home of our Lord Numerous hills, not grassy like those of England, but bare, white, and rocky, though here and there faintly green, shut in Nazareth from the outer world; the last heights of Galilee, as they melt away into the plain of Esdraelon. Their long, rounded tops have no wild beauty, and there are no ravines or shady woods to make’ them romantic or picturesque; indeed, so far as the eye reaches, they are treeless, or very nearly so … The water of Nazareth is mainly derived from rain-cisterns, for there is only one spring, and in autumn its supply is precarious. A momentous interest, however, gathers around this single fountain, for it has been in use for immemorial ages, and, no doubt, often saw the Virgin and her Divine Child among those who frequented it morning and evening, as the mothers of the town, many with children at their side, do now. The water comes through spouts in a stone wall, under an arched recess built for shelter, and falls into a trough at which a dozen persons can stand side by side. Thence it runs into a square stone tank at the side, against which gossips at all hours delight to lean. The water that flows over the top of the trough below the spouts makes a small pool immediately beneath them, and there women wash their linen, and even their children; standing in the water, ankle-deep, their baggy trousers--striped pink or green--tucked between their knees, while those coming for water are continually passing and repassing with their jars, empty or full, on their heads. The spring lies under the town, and as the Nazareth of ancient times, as shown by old cisterns and tombs, was rather higher up the hill than at present, the fountain must in those days have been still farther away from the houses. (C. Geikie, D. D.)

The synagogue

A synagogue generally stood on the highest piece of ground in a city, or near it; it was oblong, and the end opposite to the entrance pointed towards Jerusalem. There were the seats of the elders, and in the midst, at this end, was the ark with a lamp always burning before it, in which was preserved the roll of the Law. Before it also was an eight-branched candlestick, lighted on the highest festivals. A little way down was a raised platform, on which several persons could stand at once, and in the middle rose a pulpit, in which the reader stood to read those lessons which were not from the books of Moses. The roll of the Law was taken with great solemnity out of the ark, and unrolled by the Rabbi, so that the congregation might not look on the writing. The lessons from Moses were so arranged that the books of the Law were read through once in three years. Much less ceremony was shown about the second lesson, which was taken from the prophets and historical books. On week-days, not less than twenty-one verses were read; on the Sabbath, not more than three, five, or seven. After this lesson followed the exposition, or interpretation. The Scriptures were read in Hebrew, but the Hebrew was unintelligible to the Jews after their return from the Babylonish captivity, consequently the interpreter translated or expounded what he had read in the Aramaic or Syro-Chaldee tongue. The reader stood when reading the prophets, but was allowed to sit or stand for the historical books. Originally the prophets and historical books had not been read in the synagogue service, but when Antiochus Epiphanes forbade the reading of the Law, in the services of the Sabbath, the prophets and other books had been substituted for those of Moses, and when this restriction was withdrawn the Jews continued reading the prophets, but read the Law as well, as of old, in the place of honour. (S. Baring. Gould, M. A.)

Christ’s mission

I. THE GREAT DISTINCTION IN WHICH OUR LORD EXALTED--“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me.” As this was what distinguished the Lord, so it ought to distinguish His Church.

II. THE GREAT MESSAGE OUR LORD HAD TO DELIVER--“TO preach the gospel to the poor,” &c.

III. THE GREAT WORK OUR LORD HAD TO ACCOMPLISH--“To heal the broken-hearted,” &c. (J. P. Chown.)

The Christ as a preacher

Christ read the appointed lesson for the day (which happened to be the day of Atonement), but not the whole of it. He had not come to proclaim the day of the vengeance of our God. The gospel is primarily a deliverance shadowed by the year of Jubilee; it embraces the physical and social ills of men, and their spiritual ills. The inextricableness with which they are united in the words of Christ suggests the profound mystery of body and spirit, mind and matter, environment and spiritual history. In these words we find a theology and a life, a doctrine and a practice, and that the two are inseparable. Pass now to this preaching of Christ.

I. ITS SUBSTANCE. Without doubt we have here the key-note to His entire teaching. It is the peculiarity of Christ’s preaching that He pierces at once to the centre of His great delivering system, and plants His ministry upon it. The peculiar feature of this quotation from Isaiah, which Christ makes His own, is its doubleness: poor, captives, blind, bruised physically and morally, but chiefly morally. Let no man think that there is any gospel of deliverance or helpfulness for him, except as it is grounded in a cure of whatever evil there may be in him--evil habits, or selfish aims, or a worldly spirit.

II. ITS PHILOSOPHY. Suppose some questioner had arisen in that synagogue of Nazareth and asked Jesus, not as to the substance of His preaching, for that was plain enough, but what was the ground of it, on what ultimate fact or reason it rested. I think the answer would have been of this sort: “ I am making in this gospel a revelation of God, showing you His very heart. This is what God feels for you; this is how He loves and pities you; this is what God proposes to do for you, to cheer you with good news, and open your blind eyes, and free your bruised souls and bodies from the captivity of evil.”

III. ITS POWER. In one sense its power lay in its substance; m another, in the philosophy or ground of it; but there was more than come from these; there was the power that resided in Him who spoke these truths. In what lay the commanding power which made them wonder at His words? Not in any impressiveness of manner, or felicity of presentation. These are elements of power, but they do not constitute power. The main element of power in one who speaks is, an entire, or the largest possible comprehension of the subject. Here we have the key to the power with which Christ preached. He saw the meaning of the Jewish system. He knew what the acceptable year of the Lord meant. He pierced the whole symbolism to its centre, and drew out its significance. He saw that God was a deliverer from first to last, and measured the significance of the fact. The whole heart and mind of God were open to Him. This was the power of Christ’s preaching; He saw God; He understood God; He knew what God had done, and would do; the whole purpose and plan of deliverance and redemption lay before Him as an open page. We cannot measure this knowledge of the Christ, we can but faintly conceive it. But the measure of our conception of it is the measure of our spiritual power over others. ( T. T. Munger.)

Jesus at Nazareth

Observe

I. THE PLACE SPECIFIED IN THE TEXT.

1. The obscurity of Christ’s private life.

2. We see in it God’s estimation of the world’s pomp and glory.

3. We see honest industry honoured by the Saviour.

II. WHAT JESUS DID ON HIS VISIT TO NAZARETH.

1. The place to which He resorted. “The synagogue.”

2. This place was identified with former associations. “As His custom was.”

3. The time when Christ went into the synagogue was the Sabbath.

4. What Jesus did in the synagogue.

5. The portion of the Sacred Scriptures which HE read.

Application:

1. Give especial heed, &c., to the Holy Scriptures.

2. Let Scripture be the test of all your views and doctrines, &c.

3. The rule of your life, &c. (J. Burns, D. D.)

Christ’s first sermon

I. THE ACCOUNT WHICH JESUS GAVE OF HIS MISSION.

1. He refers to His Divine qualification.

2. He refers to the fulfilment of a striking prophecy. Every word of God is pure, true, unalterable.

3. He declares the character of His work.

The very reverse of their former state, made known the joyful sound of peace and plenty, of rest and festivity. The gospel era is emphatically “the acceptable year of the Lord.”

II. THE EFFECT IT PRODUCED UPON HIS AUDITORY.

1. They listened with marked attention. This was proper, necessary, pleasing. Some have their eyes closed in sleep, some gaze about, some look into their Bibles and hymn books; but they fixed their eyes upon the speaker.

2. They were filled with astonishment and wonder. No doubt at His wisdom, but equally so at the tenderness, condescension, and love with which He spake.

3. They were spell-bound, however, by prejudice.

4. They attempted to murder the Son of God. Truth flashed upon their minds, but they hated it; it exasperated them, and they tried to cast the messenger of mercy headlong down the hill, &c.

Application:

1. To you Jesus has come with the message of life.

2. You stand in need of the blessings He bestows.

3. Do not allow prejudice to make Christ a stone of stumbling and rock of offence.

4. Embrace the message, and live.

5. Put on Christ, and profess Him to the world. (J. Burns, D. D.)

Jesus at Nazareth

Let us notice the chief points of interest connected with Christ’s first appearance as the Messiah, proclaiming the gospel in the home of His childhood.

I. THE PLACE. He was ready to preach where He had been known all His life. Many resolve to become disciples of Christ as soon as they get away among strangers. They say they have not courage to follow Him amongst their own friends. Every one knows their past sins. Their friends would laugh at them. Their changed lives would attract general attention. But, the greater the change, the more reason for showing it at home. Jesus had no past sins laid to His charge when He went back to His own home to preach glad tidings. If your past character has been upright, the remembrance of it will give weight to your testimony as a disciple of Christ. If your past life has been evil, no one will be so moved by the genuineness of the change in you as those who knew you before your conversion.

II. THE ASSOCIATIONS. He preached in the synagogue. It was His custom to attend there. He always worked through the regularly organized channels for religious labour, and among those who professed to be religious. There are those who profess to be followers of Christ, who stand apart from the Churches because of the imperfections of Christians. They cannot work with or enter into fellowship with Christians. But they find no warrant for this in the example of Jesus. The Jewish Church was corrupt; yet He worked in and with and through it, till they cast Him out.

III. THE TIME. He preached on the Sabbath. He used holy time for holy work. His work was always holy, always appropriate to time and place. But He honoured the Sabbath in its true meaning as the day of worship.

IV. THE SUBJECT. It was a text from the Bible. No one ever expounded the Scriptures as He did. He was Himself the Word. God had spoken through the prophets. His Word of old had been the revelation of Himself. Now the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. The living speech and living speaker revealed the mind of God. His words were spirit and life. But they never thrust into the background what had been already spoken. Those who would follow Christ will love the Bible, and will grow holy by receiving and obeying it, and will persuade others through it to believe on Jesus Christ. Without it we are defenceless against the attacks of the adversary.

V. THE SOURCE OF THE PREACHER’S POWER. The Spirit of the Lord was upon Him. It empowered Him to make known the gracious message of salvation, and Himself the Saviour. Before leaving the world He bestowed this Divine gift on His disciples, and it is promised to every one who believes on Christ and seeks it. He is ready to anoint every believer for service. Whoever empties himself of pride, self-seeking, all sin, and asks for that gift simply that he may glorify God, will receive it.

VI. THE SERMON. He was Himself the explanation of His text. His presence spoke and made His words luminous.

VII. THE RECEPTION OF THE SERMON. His hearers lacked the sense of the Divine presence. They were filled with worldliness and pride, and could not appreciate the heavenly gifts which Christ brought. With no consciousness of inner want, they sought only outward things. They judged Him first by His personal appearance and manner, and the graciousness of His words; they were pleased. Then they remembered His humble position in society, and their impression began to change. Then they recalled the fame of His miracles, and they began to desire to be entertained by wonders. Then they saw that He was exposing their prevailing sins, and they were enraged. But the truth which He presented they could not discern, and they saw the frame not the picture; the vessel, not the contents. They sought entertainment, flattery, agreement with themselves, not truth. They thrust for ever salvation and their Saviour, with murder in their hearts.

VIII. THE ESCAPE. The only wonder which they would be likely to remember was that by which He separated Himself from them for ever. A mob is always unreasoning. Some sudden feeling or event may change its purpose as quickly as it was started. Many times the courage and firmness of a single man has dispersed enraged multitudes. When Marius, once the honoured consul of Rome, was being dragged to execution by a yelling, cursing crowd, he fixed his eye on the man who came forward to kill him, with the words, “Slave I dost thou dare to kill Marius?” The soldier dropped his sword and fled, and with him the panic-stricken mob. When Napoleon came back to France from exile, and met the troops sent to oppose him, they, at the sight of him, changed their purpose, and welcomed him as their commander. Jesus, with the majesty of grace and truth, so awed His enemies, that their rage was restrained, and He passed through them unharmed. But oh i had they welcomed the Prince of Peace, even at that last moment, how different their destiny would have been. (A. E. Dunning.)

The new teacher

Jesus emerged from the desert to enter on His great career. The season was the spring. And within as without all was springtime. He “returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee,” and Galilee felt and owned the Spirit and the power. In the homes of its peasantry and the hamlets of its fishermen, on the shores of its beautiful sea, in the towns and villages that stood on its banks, and were mirrored in its waves, He preached His gospel. Only His own Nazareth refused to hear Him. Thither, indeed, He had gone, had entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, as His custom was, and had stood up to read. To Him the place was full of sacred associations. He had there, as boy and youth and man, listened for hours and days to the voice of God. But others had their associations as well as He, and theirs were not always as sacred as His. The synagogue was often the scene of strife. The conflict of opinion was not unknown there. The men of Nazareth had their personal rivalries and spites, and when One whom they knew, so far as the senses can know, rose and read, and applied to Himself the prophetic words, they received His gracious speech with incredulous wonder. But when He proceeded to speak with authority, to rebuke their unbelief, to quote against them their own proverbs, then they “were filled with wrath,” &c. And He went His way, and found elsewhere men who heard gladly His words of power. The strange thing about the new Teacher was not His having been untaught and a carpenter. The great creative spirits of Israel had never been the sons of a school. The Rabbi was qualified rather than disqualified for his office by a handicraft. But the strange thing was the new Teacher Himself. He stood distinguished from all the Rabbis who had been, or then were, in Israel. Of the points that made Him pre-eminent and unique, three may be here specified.

1. The relation between His person and His word. The Teacher made the truth He taught. His teaching was His articulated person, His person His incorporated teaching.

2. The consciousness He had of Himself and His truth; its authority and creative energy.

3. His knowledge of His truth and mission, throughout perfect and self-consistent. His first word revealed His purpose, expressed His aim. “Had Christ at first a plan?” is a question often discussed. “Plan” is a word too mechanical and pragmatic. Christ had at the beginning the idea He meant to realize. The evidence lives in the phrase most frequent on His lips, “the kingdom of heaven.” (A. M. Fairbairn, D. D.)

The gospel for the Gentiles

If I read this narrative for the first time I should pause at the words, “glorified of all,” knowing that there would be a thunderstorm before long. Here is Christ, with more wisdom in Him than all the world besides; and yet, “as His custom was, He went into the synagogue,” &c. What did He go there for? They could teach Him nothing. Men and women now, on the plea that they learn nothing, that there is nothing fresh to hear or know or learn at church, very seldom come. And many of you who come to hear me, come not to worship God. So I turn and read this history of how Christ, who was the fountain of life, the wisest of the wise, went, “as His custom was,” &c. “He stood up for to read.” Here stands a teacher from whose teaching men shall date for all time, and He is about to choose a text. What it was you know. Who could wonder that the eyes of all were fastened upon Him. They had never heard the words read as He read them. “They wondered at the gracious words,” &c. They found them gracious, and they said, some of them honestly, some of them meanly, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” Now watch for the storm. He tells them a terrible truth which they don’t like. As long as they thought He was going to preach all these things to the Jewish nation it was all right, but the moment they hear that these things are to be done to the Gentiles, oh! then the storm comes. You know what they had heard--that God’s love was big enough to reach Sarepta. These people had sound right views. Think of that! And what did Christ do to anger them? He told them that God’s love reached even to Sidon; that His heart was deep enough to take in the leprous Naaman. What shocking things to tell the people, weren’t they? And what effect did they have? They were proud of Him ten minutes ago; but now they are going to throw Him headlong over the brow of the hill. Has there ever been any picture like that?--the sunny morning; the welcome Christ; the teacher kissed; the teacher thrown down the precipice. And what brought it about? He discussed of the largeness of God’s love. I often see these things. It does not belong to this history only. (George Dawson, M. A.)

Habit and holiness

Here, in our text, is one case of Jesus conforming to a good common custom--perhaps not only following the custom, but getting help from it to promote His own spiritual life. From this one well-authenticated custom of Jesus in regard to Sabbath observance, I purpose, in connection with the text, to set before you the value and use of habit, as an aid to holy life and character, placed by God’s providence within our reach, and which we are bound, as wise men, to turn to account. The capacity of forming habits is a very valuable part of human nature, as originally framed by God. By doing a thing often, we come to do it easily, and even to contract a liking and craving to do it. Sometimes this facility and inclination grow up before we are aware of it, in matters where we did not intend it. Moreover, it is a power as ready for bad uses as for good, so that it requires observation and guidance. It is by habit and use that workroom in the various arts and trades learn to manipulate skilfully the various tools and materials which they employ. Similarly, by gradual training, both animal and vegetable natures may be wonderfully modified-by more or less light, water, warmth, food, or motion. It is the alteration of these conditions that determines life and death, beauty and deformity, success and failure. Many of the evils that give us the greatest annoyance in society are largely the result of neglected or misdirected habits or customs. It is no new thing to employ the force of habit in connection with piety; it has already been done very systematically in past ages. In fact, it is only in comparatively recent times, and in connection with Protestant Churches especially, that the power of habit has been neglected. Under the Romish system there was both great use and abuse of habit and custom. At present we are in the midst of a reaction and protest against former abuses. All the details of rule and discipline, as laid down for monks and nuns, had for their aim the utilizing of habit on the side of virtue and holiness. But, in many cases, this was carried to excess, and rules became ridiculous when emphasized as important in themselves, whereas they were only means to an end. Such rules applied to dress, to hours of devotion, to repeating certain formulae, to the period of sleep, to regulation of diet. When this was pushed beyond reasonable bounds, the system was open to ridicule, as an attempt to make virtue by machinery. But these ancient extravagances of certain branches of the Christian Church are no reason why habit should not be studied and utilized for the same purposes within proper limits. Habit, in excess, is formalism or routine, and is near of kin to hypocrisy. This was the besetting sin of the old Pharisees. In the same way, habit or custom, in excess, becomes a system of ceremony, or ritualism, which is just old Pharisaism renewing its youth, but in adaptation to the Christian System. Warned by these errors--but mindful that there is also in habit a mighty power for good--let us consider a few of those matters in which habit is desirable.

1. The instance in the text applicable to Jesus--the custom of being present at public worship every Sabbath. How great an aid is this to everything that is good I It puts us in the way of the chief means of grace; it puts us in the way of the best human companionship.

2. A habit of prayer. The prayer to which I refer specially at present is family and personal prayer. Public or common prayer is implied in Sunday observance and churchgoing. If there is no habit of family prayer, the prayer is not likely to be made at all. All the details of family worship imply arrangement--a certain hour--a fixed place--books at hand--a person responsible for conducting the service. Family worship thus becomes one of the most beautiful features of domestic order in every house where it is duly attended to. Its omission becomes at once a mark and cause of disorder. Personal prayer no less depends on habit and custom for its maintenance.

3. Labour may be the subject of another of those good habits, in a religious point of view. At first sight it might seem as if a habit of labour, while good and useful in itself, had little to do with religion. These idle, aimless existences are the most unhappy condition possible for reasonable beings. Far better is it for a man to hold on steadily in his work to the end, and nobly wear out, than rust wearily and unprofitably. It is a calamity when a man cannot work by reason of old age or sickness. The man who has acquired the habit of labour has got possession of that honest power which will advance him alike in a worldly and moral point of view, and which will keep him out of many temptations.

4. A habit of learning may well form the sequel to a habit of labour. It is in always aiming to learn something new that we secure for ourselves real improvement and progress, carrying the purposes of youth and early manhood into advanced years. There are various ways in which this habit of learning may develop itself. The simplest, perhaps, is obser-ration for one’s self; and the next in simplicity, conversation with one’s neighbours, so as to add their observation or information to one’s own. But far more valuable are books and professed teachers, who have made a specialty of some subject. A habit of spending leisure time in careful, definite reading on matters useful in ordinary life, is one of the most noble exercises in which a man can train himself.

5. The last matter that I shall at present name as a fit subject for a good habit is charity. A custom of this noble sort could not be formed or maintained save by very deliberate effort and self-sacrifice. Thus have we considered the place and utility of habit from a Christian point of view. (J. Rankin, D. D.)

Our Lord’s visit to Nazareth

I. HIS ARRIVAL AT NAZARETH. “He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up.” A man of reflection and feeling piety will always be affected when he comes to the place where he was brought up.

1. What was Nazareth? It was a small town of the Zebu-lonites, in Galilee, seventy-two miles north of Jerusalem, and west of Mount Tamar. “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”

2. How came He to be brought up here?

3. How was He brought up there?

4. How came He to Nazareth, since He was there brought up? Because He had been absent from the place: He had been to the baptism of John. For a considerable time He visited other places, where He performed His first miracles; and having thus gained a well-deserved renown, this would serve to favour His introduction to His townsmen and His relations: and thus He came to Nazareth where He had been brought up.

II. HIS PRIVATE ENGAGEMENTS THERE BEFORE HE PREACHED--“And, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.”

1. The time was the Sabbath.

2. The place was the synagogue. Synagogues were scattered all over Judea, and were in every country where the Jews lived. They were places sacred to devotion and instruction. They were not expressly of Divine appointment, like the Temple, but they arose from the moral exigencies of the people; and were peculiarly serviceable in maintaining and perpetuating the knowledge of Moses and the prophets. They are supposed to have originated in the days of Ezra.

3. The action--“He stood up for to read.” Bless God that you have the Scriptures in your own hand, and in your own language; and that you are allowed to read them, and that you are commanded to read them.

III. This brings us to HIS PREACHING. “And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias; and when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor, He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”

1. This was the text.

2. But observe the attention of the audience--“ And He closed the book, and gave it again to the minister, and sat down: and the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on Him.” It is very desirable to see an audience attentive, as the mind follows the eye, and the eye affecteth the heart.

3. Then observe the sermon itself--“And He began to say, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.”

IV. WHAT WAS THE EFFECT OF THE SERMON? They were struck with admiration; but admiration seems to have been all that they felt--“And they wondered at the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth; and they said, Is not this Joseph’s son?” What reception does Jesus Christ meet with from us? (W. Jay.)


Verses 18-22

Luke 4:18-22

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor

The acceptable year of the Lord

Every Christian would wish to know what were the first words spoken by Jesus as a preacher of good tidings.
Two of the evangelists seem to gratify this natural curiosity. According to Matthew the Beatitudes were the inaugural utterances of the Galilean gospel; according to the third evangelist, not the sermon on the mount, but the sermon in the synagogue of Nazareth. There is reason to believe that neither of the sermons occupied the place of an inaugural discourse. Luke himself knows of things previously done, and we may assume
said also, in Capernaum (verse 23). Why then does he introduce this scene at so early a place in the narrative? He has selected it to be the frontispiece of his Gospel, showing by sample the salient features of its contents. Probable that for St. Luke’s own mind the emblematic significance of the scene lay chiefly in these two features: the gracious character of Christ’s discourse, and the indication in the close of the universal destination of the gospel.

These were things sure to interest the Pauline evangelist. It is a worthy frontispiece, in respect both of the grace and of the universality of the gospel.

1. In the first place the text of Christ’s discourse was a most gracious one; none more so could have been found within the range of Old Testament prophecy. Made more gracious than in the original by the omission of the reference to the day of vengeance, and by the addition of a clause to make the Messiah’s blessed work as many-sided and complete as possible.

2. If Christ’s text was full of grace, His sermon appears to have been not less so. That this was so the evangelist indicates when he makes use of the phrase “words of grace” to denote its general character. That phrase, indeed, he reckoned the fittest to characterize Christ’s whole teaching as recorded in his Gospel, and on that very account it is that he introduces it here.

3. In respect of the universal destination of the gospel, the scene is also sufficiently significant. The attempt on the life of Jesus foreshadows the tragic event through which the Prophet of Nazareth hoped to draw to Himself the expectant eyes of all men. The departure of Jesus from His own town is a portent of Christianity leaving the sacred soil of Judea, and setting forth into the wide world in quest of a new home.

4. The two features most prominent in this frontispiece are just the salient characteristics of the Christian era. It is the era of grace, and of grace free to all mankind. And on these accounts it is the acceptable year of the Lord. It is acceptable to God. It should be acceptable to us. (A. B. Bruce, D. D.)

The interrupted sermon

In the course of His first preaching tour Jesus came to Nazareth. It was the Sabbath. He entered the synagogue “according to His custom.” Observe--for the greatest revolutionist the world had ever seen the current forms and church services of the day sufficed. He was even willing to pour the new wine into the old bottles till the old bottles burst. He enters the village synagogue--His parish church. He offers to read the lesson; He ascends the pulpit; the clerk hands up a roll of the prophet Isaiah; before Him are a curious medley of faces--the eastern women veiled behind lattice-work on one side, the men of the village with a sprinkling of the tradesfolk and gentry on the other. He unrolls the scroll and finds the place, Isaiah 61:1. I wish our clergywould always take care to find the right place--the suitable text--the passage in season. In this case it was actually the lesson for the day. So out of routine the Lord brings life. He reads, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me.” Ah, without that spiritual concentration in the pulpit as well as in the pew, priest may preach and people may hear in vain: “He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.” Yes, you neglected, suffering people, the Saviour of the world places you on a level with the favoured of the earth. The permanent and the spiritual belongs to you as much as to them; the same Father; the same love revealed; the same heaven beyond--are for you. “To heal the broken-hearted.” What a lift there is for the sorrowful in the sympathy of God, that steals like summer light into the darkened room; no despair can ever quite keep it out. “Recovery of sight to the blind.” The mists of passion, the clouds of prejudice, the veil of selfishness, the pall of spiritual ignorance, lo, at a touch the scales fall off, you see yourselves as others see you, you know as you are known, your heart grows pure, you see God. “To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” There He stopped. The next words of Isaiah are, “The day of vengeance of our God.” He would not break into that new train of thought which might clash with the spirit of His sermon. The last words of the text should be words of peace, though the end was to be tumult. “He closed the book, and sat down” to deliver His sermon. We shall never know what the sermon was. It began with a searching application; no beating about the bush. “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” It ended with that fierce storm of invective which was the Lord’s dauntless reply to the rage of an envenomed minority. He has fascinated the majority. They “wondered at the gracious words,” &c.; but the conceited gentry could not bear to be lectured by “a Carpenter,” and they soon let Him know it. “Enough of that,” they cried. “A sign! a sign! you can do wonders at Capernaum; give us a taste of your quality here. A miracle is worth all this talk--unwholesome, democratic talk about the poor, and a message for all men, and pray what is to become of us if we are to be mixed up with the rabble?” It was all over with the sermon. The knot of malcontents expressed their dissent loudly, and were resolved to break up the meeting. So Christ cast His bread upon the waters. The last words maddened His adversaries, but they struck the second key-note of His ministry. The first was “peace on earth; goodwill towards men.” A gospel of healing, liberty, illumination, and comfort for all, beginning with the lowest of the people. The second key-note was an implacable opposition to bigotry, heartlessness, and formalism. “You want a sign? You shall have one. My signs are the seals of my teaching. Those who accept my teaching get my signs. You will have none of my message, you shall have none of my miracles. You are no better than your fathers, who persecuted the prophets. Were they not outcasts and rejected wanderers? There were many widows in Israel, but Elias only healed the Gentile’s son at Sarepta. There were many lepers in those days, but Eliseus only healed Naaman the Syrian. Syrian lepers and Gentiles go into the kingdom before you.” They would hear no more; they rose in their fury, hustled Him out of the building, hurried Him up the steep, rocky path to the summit of the hill, and would have cast Him down, but His friends, doubtless some of those sturdy Galilean fishermen, rallied around Him and got Him clear of the village. In one way or another He passed through the crowd, on His way back to Capernaum and the Galilean shore. He left Nazareth, never apparently to return. The secluded mountain village had indeed cast Him out--the world received Him. (H. R. Haweis, M. A.)

The matter of Christ’s preaching

I. I preach that the great atonement for sin has been offered.

II. I preach that the guilty may be forgiven.

III. I preach that the slave may be emancipated.

IV. I preach that the lost inheritance may be regained. (G. Brooks.)

The Gospel and the poor

That our Lord’s ministry was eminently a ministry for the poor is a commonplace which need not be insisted on. His relations were poor people, with the associations, the habits, the feelings of the poor. He passed among men as the carpenter’s Son. He spoke, it would appear, in a provincial north-country dialect, at least commonly. His language, His illustrations, His entire method of approaching the understandings and hearts of men, were suited to the apprehension of the uneducated. When He spoke the common people heard Him gladly. When He was asked by what signs He could prove His claims, He replied, among other things, “The poor have the gospel preached to them.” His first disciples were poor men. As they looked back upon it, the grace of His example was felt by His disciples and servants to consist pre-eminently in this:--“That, though He was rich,” &c.

1. Notice the marked connection, in this and other passages, between the preaching of the gospel to the poor, and the gift of the Eternal Spirit.

2. The work of preaching the gospel to the poor is far from being either commonplace or easy. Notice two mistakes which have been made in undertaking it.

3. These considerations, then, may lead us to reflect that the connection implied in the text between the presence of the Spirit and the task of evangelizing the poor, is not, after all, so surprising. To be sympathetic, yet sincere; true to the message which has come from heaven, yet alive to the difficulties of conveying it to untutored minds and hearts; sensible of the facilities which a few unauthorized additions or mutilations would lend to the work in hand, yet resolved to decline them--this is not easy. For such a work something higher is needed than natural quickness of wit or strength of will, even His aid who taught the peasants of Galilee in the upper chamber to speak as with tongues of fire, and in languages which men of many nations could understand. And the effort for which He thus equipped them continues still; and His aid, adapted to new circumstances, is present with us as it was with them. (Canon Liddon.)

Ministry for the poor

To awaken a spiritual interest in the poor is my object.

1. The outward condition of the poor is a hard one, and deserving of our sympathy--though not necessarily wretched. Give them the Christian spirit, and they would find in their lot the chief elements of good.

2. The condition of the poor is unfriendly to the action and unfolding of the intellect--a sore calamity to a rational being.

3. I proceed to another evil of poverty--its disastrous influence on the domestic affections.

4. Another unhappy influence exerted by poverty is that it tends to breed discontent, envy, and hatred--hence crime.

5. I pass on to another sore trial of the poor--the temptation to make up for their anxieties and privations by resorting to debasing gratifications--drink, &c. Yet--

6. The highest culture is in reach of the poor, and is sometimes attained by them. The great idea on which human cultivation especially depends is that of God.

7. We are solemnly bound, therefore, to cherish and manifest a strong moral and religious interest in the poor. Every man whom God has prospered is bound to contribute to this work. The Christian ministry is a blessing to all, but above all to the poor. If there be an office worthy of angels, it is that of teaching Christian truth. The Son of God hallowed it by sustaining it in His own person. (W. E. Channing, D. D.)

Christ the great Harmonizer

The gospel is the great harmonizer of all the conflicting interests of human society. It alone can elevate the “masses”; it alone can reclaim the fallen. Dr. Alexander M’Leod, in his “Christus Consolator,” says that “when Orsted first exhibited to Frederika Bremer the beautiful and now familiar experiment of sand-grains upon a glass plate arranging themselves, under the influence of a musical note, in symmetrical and harmonious figures, this reflection passed through the mind of the lady: ‘A human hand made the stroke that produced the note. But when the stroke is made by the hand of the Almighty, will not the note then produced bring into exquisitely harmonious form those sand:grains which are human beings, communities, nations? It will arrange the world in beauty, and there shall be no discord, and no lamentation any more.’” This is right. That divinely musical note is the preaching of the glorious gospel of Christ.

The power of Christ’s sympathy

Some time ago, a Christian young lady was visiting a lunatic asylum, and her soul was filled with sadness and pity with the sights she saw. By and by she was led into a room where there was but one patient, a young girl of the same age as herself. She was standing in the corner of the room, her face almost touching the wall. IN stony hopelessness she stood, immobile and rigid as a statue. She neither looked nor spoke. She might have been as dead as the statue she represented but that she still stood on. It was a heart-breaking spectacle. “Will you speak to her?” asked the doctor, “we can do nothing with her. She has been thus for days; but one like yourself might move her.” The young lady, trembling with emotion, with one upward cry to heaven for help, stepped forward, gently laid her hand on the listless form and, with tears in her eyes, spoke one sentence of yearning sympathy and compassion. The poor patient turned, gazed for one moment, her form quivered, and she burst into tears! The doctor exclaimed, “Thank God, she may be saved!” The visitor could never recall the words she had used; but they had done their work. This poor, wrecked girl, who thought that nobody knew or cared for her, had felt the heart that pitied her, the hand stretched our to help her. O the power of tears! the magic of sympathy I It is the sympathy of Christ that calls a mad, despairing world to itself--to its better self. (Christian Journal.)

The cold comfort of worldly philosophy

Some years ago (says Dr. M’Cosh) I had a call at my house in Ireland by a young nobleman with whom I was at that time intimate, and who has since risen to eminence as a statesman (I mean Earl Dufferin), who introduced to me his friend Lord Ashburton. The nobleman introduced took me aside and said, “You know that I have lately lost my dear wife, who was a great friend of Mr. Carlyle’s; and I have applied to Mr. Carlyle to tell me what I should do to have peace, and make me what I should be. On my making this request he simply bade me read Goethe’s ‘Wilhelm Meister.’ I did so, and did not find anything there fitted to improve me. I went back to Mr. Carlyle, asking him what precise lesson he meant me to gather from the book; and he said, ‘Read “Wilhelm Meister” a second time.’ I have done so carefully, but I confess I am unable to find anything there to met my anxiety; and I wish you to explain, if you can, what Mr. Carlyle could mean.” I told him that I was not the man to explain Carlyle’s meaning--if, indeed, he had any definite meaning. I told him plainly that neither Goethe nor Carlyle, though men of eminently literary genius, could supply the balm which his wounded spirit needed; and I remarked that Goethe’s work contained not a little that was sensual. I did my best to point to a better way, and to the deliverance promised and secured in the gospel. I do not know the issue, but I got an eager listener. Carlyle wished to persuade his mother, a woman of simple but devoted piety, that his advanced faith was the same as that which she held firmly, and so much to her comfort, only in a somewhat different form. But, in fact, the mother’s faith was crushed in the form in which the son put it, when it became a skeleton, as different from the life which sustained her as the bones in our museums are from the living animal. (Dr. M’Cosh’s “Certitude, Providence, and Prayer.”)

Prayer helps emancipation

This instructive anecdote relating to President Finney is characteristic. A brother who had fallen into darkness and discouragement was staying at the same house with Dr. Finney over night. He was lamenting his condition, and Dr. F., after listening to his narrative, turned to him with his peculiar earnest look, and with a voice that sent a thrill through his soul, said, “You don’t pray: that is what’s the matter with you. Pray--pray four times as much as ever you did in your life, and you will come out.” He immediately went down to the parlour, and taking the Bible, he made a serious business of it, stirring up his soul to seek God as did Daniel, and thus he spent the night. It was not in vain. As the morning dawned he felt the light of the Sun of Righteousness shine upon his soul. His captivity was broken; and ever since he has felt that the greatest difficulty in the way of men being emancipated from their bondage, is that they “don’t pray.” The bonds cannot be broken by finite strength. We must take our case to Him who is mighty to save. Our eyes are blinded to Christ the Deliverer. He came to preach deliverance to the captive, to break the power of habit; and herein is the rising of a great hope for us.

Christ the Emancipator

A doctrine with which the hearts of men are universally in sympathy. Men want the restrictions and limitations around them to be destroyed. It is not merely the few who are actually in dungeons that want it. Thousands are in dungeons, around whom no stone wall is reared. Men in general have a consciousness of being prisoners, without actually being under military rule and ward. Men are bearing bonds, and are bruised, who are not in the actual relation of service; the consciousness of circumscription, of limitation, and of suffering under various forms of bondage, is universal.

1. The first blow which Christ strikes for the enlargement of men’s liberty wears the appearance of the opposite; it is at the tyranny of sense and sensuousness in the individual. Man cannot run away from himself. Christ emancipates him from this bondage by introducing him into the higher course of nature; into that sphere in which, in his relations to God, he is acted upon precisely as in a family children are acted upon by the living presence and power of a good father and mother. Then the Divine influence becomes more active in him than the flesh, and he achieves a victory over himself--the nobler nature having gained ascendancy over the lower.

2. Christ delivers us from our bondage to secular conditions. The light and life that we receive by faith make us superior to our circumstances, so that we can maintain our manhood, not only in spite of adverse surroundings, but even by reason of them; working out through adversity and trouble what men in prosperity and joy fail to find.

3. Christ is an Emancipator in another way also. There is a power given to men through faith in Him, to set themselves free from the great source of those cares, infirmities, and annoyances which chiefly afflict life. If pride be essential to a noble character-and it is; if the love of praise be one of the civilizing elements--and it is; if both of these influences conjoined under right directions and inspirations tend to ennoble, to soften, to sweeten, and to beautify human nature--and they do: on the other hand, pride and vanity in their corrupt forms tend to bring upon men in the most acute ways many sufferings which afflict them--for our troubles are mainly of our own making. He who is nervously sensitive to praise is in great distress when he fears the withdrawal of praise or popularity. He who has an intense consciousness of his own excellence and desert is continually harried and annoyed and irritated by a lack of that respect and appreciation of which he has himself so supreme a sense. All the world are over-proud, or over-vain, or both; but he who has subdued his pride, and, by the love of God shed abroad in his heart, has turned it to higher and nobler uses; he who, lacking nothing of sensibility to praise, yet believes in the presence of God, wants praise only for supernal things, and disdains the offering of praise for things meagre and mean and low and vile; because he sets his standard, not according to the current ideas of human society, and not according to the ways of men who are unillumined, but according to that higher and nobler manhood which was revealed in Jesus Christ--he is emancipated from this universal bondage.

4. Christ emancipates from the bondage which comes through ignorance and superstition. It is for men to choose whether they will govern themselves or be governed. It must be one or the other. (H. W. Beecher.)

Christ’s method of emancipation

How strangely Christ comported Himself! The Jewish people were at that time living under one of the worst forms of Roman despotism, and there was a universal desire all over Palestine that the land should be emancipated; yet He never said one word to that effect, or performed one act towards that purpose. The prisons of Judea were crowded, to be emptied by the executioner, and hundreds of thousands were lying in hopeless darkness; yet we do not hear of Him taking up a single case. There was slavery, with all its cursed attendant influences, spread through the civilized world; yet in all our Lord’s discourses we do not find a single word of reference to this condition of affairs. When He died there was not one prison less in the land, nor one prisoner; there had been no casting away of chains or manacles, and the black darkness of the people had not been lightened. Nor did His apostles, when they took up His work after Him, disturb the order of society, or revolutionize government by the sword. On the contrary, they enjoin most explicitly, “ Obey the magistrates; obey the powers that be; obey the laws that are meant for good, however badly they may be administered.” And so men sometimes say that Christ did nothing at all, that He came on a fool’s errand. But, remember, there are different ways of doing the same thing. Christ came to raise the human race, to develop it one step higher, to construct kingdoms, establish arts, rear manufactories, elevate knowledge--to make men happier, truer, more perfect everywhere. He came to dothis, not by working outwardly, but by working inwardly. He did not come to found new institutions, or to overturn old institutions. He came to produce such a state of heart in man throughout the whole race, that the unavoidable outworkings of this new power would be Ultimately to change all institutions and redeem the world from animalism, crime, and oppression. Look at this internal working of Christ. He deals with men, not in the mass, but one by one; and He deals with the moral sentiments, subjecting all the others to them. The whole order inside a man is changed by the influence of Christianity from lower to higher, from flesh-man to spirit-man. The sovereign and central force employed in this transformation is love. Christ undertakes to reconstruct the dispositions of men by bringing into supreme agency this transcendent love.

1. Christ’s gospel was a more perfect disclosure of the great natural law as applied to men than had ever been understood, or is understood to-day. There is an unused principle in the human soul which, brought out by the stimulus of the Divine afflatus, can cleanse the whole lower nature of man and deaden the passions, not by direct attack, but by giving principle and authority to their opposites, and shape to the inspiration-the central principle--love. It was there before Christ came, only men did not know it; and so, until brought out by Christ, it was a dead thing. He has put life into it, and through it into men.

2. Christianity never has been, and never can be, contained wholly in the New Testament. The gospel is only a hint and a guide to a higher nature, which needs to be developed. If I take a handful of wheat from my granary, there is a promise of a hundred bushels in it--only a promise, however. It must be sown before the promise can be realized. So with the gospel. Everything of knowledge that tends to the elevation of the human family is an unfolding of Christianity. If there is anything good for man, capable of reconstructing his nature, it is part and parcel of that human nature which is broader than the earth and deeper than eternity; it is part of that Divine nature by which a man is raised up to the glorious florescence of manhood and carried up to the angels; and I hold and rejoice in everything that develops man, and assists in the building of the new world.

3. The progress of this new kingdom has been very much hindered by the materializing influences of man.

4. The road to liberty is a very simple one. Once change the unit and you change the sum; begin with changing individuals, and you transform local public sentiment. Laws, customs, and institutions must take on the same form. No royal road to liberty, largeness, and freedom, except that which comes from the perfection and exaltation of human nature; no true nobility until mankind touch mankind, neighbourhood neighbourhood, nation nation. We are scattered here and there. When are we to collect in communities like bands of Christian graces all attuned to each other, working out a visible result? When that time comes men will say, “Human nature never was so beautiful before as it is here.” That is gospel. It appeals to, and changes, the heart. (H. W. Beecher.)

The slavery of unrest

We do not require to be delivered from Egyptian bondage, or Grecian cruelty, or the Roman yoke; but we have lust, and we have passion, and we have the restlessness of care, and we have the fears of anxiety, and we have vanity and ambition, and a thousand other incendiaries and tyrants which abuse our bosom while yet under the bondage of sinful nature, and which still abuse the peace and welfare of all who have not been emancipated by the Cross of Christ. The captivity of sin seems no captivity to many. There are sleeping draughts of pleasure with which tim devil serves his servants. There are vain shows of pride, and castle-buildings of ambition, and dreams of wealth, by which the spirits of people are charmed away from the thought of their condition. But it is a miserable trick played off on the immortal soul, and at every instant it is liable to a fearful exposure. It is a fabric of grandeur built over a horrid sepulchre, on which it totters and shakes, and at length falls on the ambitious wight who trusted thereto. It is a wretched bondage to be captive to sin, though you were at large without any on the earth to make you afraid. It is not the narrowness of the dungeon, or of his knowledge, wealth, or power, that makes a man a slave; it is the disrepose, the unrest of the mind, the coveting the things we cannot have, the fearing of things we cannot avoid, the meeting of things we cannot brook, the hoping for things we cannot have, the enjoying of things we cannot keep. Thus to be, is to be in slavery; and not to be thus, is to be free What unchristian man is there who is not thus? There is a discord between our spiritual man and this our earthly habitation, which nothing but the religion of Jesus can appease. (E. Irving, M. A.)

The acceptable year of the Lord: Jubilee year

If you turn to Leviticus

25. you will see what the arrangements of the Jewish jubilee were. It wasintended to cure four great political evils which oppressed that nation, and which have oppressed many nations since--viz., slavery, debt, chronic pauperism, and alienation of the land from the people. The Jewish jubilee was a system intended to abolish by anticipation all these four great evils. Every fiftieth year every man who had been a slave was set free; he could not be kept in slavery after that year of jubilee. Every one was then restored to freedom; the nation took a fresh start of freedom. Men became slaves for various reasons; they might have been captured in war, they might have sold themselves into slavery in the payment of debts, or in several other ways--but in the year of jubilee all were set free. There might have been an accumulation of debts which they were unable to pay off altogether, but at this jubilee debts were all cancelled. Chronic pauperism was to be cured by making certain provisions every seventh year and fiftieth year, by which those who had sunk through incapacity, or illness, or intemperance, or from whatever cause it might be--at this time they had an opportunity of starting again. It was not possible for any family to part with its hereditary property irrecoverably: at the year of jubilee all went back to its original owners. Such was the system; but there is no proof that it was ever carried out. Neither the Old Testament nor any other history affords the slightest evidence that these laws were ever observed as a whole. When they are examined, one can see such difficulties that it would require strong evidence to convince us that such laws had worked at all. Still they remained on the statute-book, and therefore formed the ideal and the hope of the people; but the ideal never came. Why did it not come? Because these laves presupposed a condition of morality, of brotherliness, of good feeling among the people, which never existed. When laws are pitched in too high a key they become as it were dead laws. The laws do not precede morality; they follow it, they perpetuate, they register it. A nation tins to raise its standard of morality; then the laws can be made which will perpetuate that morality; but you cannot make the laws first. It would be of no use for any Government now to make some law far above the standard of existing morality, because the law could not be worked. That was the case in Judah. It would presuppose a willingness to part with their property, a willingness to give up their slavery; it would presuppose willing industry again on the part of the people, and a greater level of mental and moral equality among them than ever existed; and so the law remained simply a dead letter. (J. M. Wilson, M. A.)

The jubilee spirit in Christianity

The Jewish jubilee was a legislation which never worked. Let us see what Christianity has done instead in the way of social reform.

1. Christianity has abolished slavery. Not by preaching direct political action, but by preaching the equality of all men as children of God. It has given men a new interest in one another, and a new relationship to one another, secretly transforming human character, so that slavery became impossible and melted away as ice--which will not melt under blows--melts before the sun.

2. If, again, you consider how cruelly debtors were oppressed, you will see how wonderfully that has been changed by the influence of Christ. Some of the best Romans that ever lived complacently consigned their debtors to slavery; and in other countries debtors were imprisoned and their lives rendered hopelessly miserable; but Christianity has greatly altered such things, and has compelled mankind to treat debtors with humanity.

3. The evil of chronic pauperism still faces us, and we can see no conceivable method of getting rid of it, except by a wider spread of true Christian feeling among the whole population. What else can we look to? Legislation? How can legislation do it? Legislation will not make people industrious, and skilful, and self-restraining. Nothing else but Christian principles of love and virtue will do that.

4. Alienation of land. Legislation could not completely get rid of this evil, for the simple reason that the nation is not yet good enough. If to-day there were three acres and a cow given to every man in England, before ten years, or even one year, had elapsed there would be some with thirty acres and ten cows, and the rest with none. The nation has not sufficiently advanced in morality, industry, and self-control for such an equality to exist, and the attempt to force it would only produce idleness. But reform will come in the way Christ indicated: it will come from the inner spirit. When men become better, then happiness and prosperity will naturally follow. There is no cure for the evils of this world--its competition, and crushing, and failure--except this inner reform of the spirit, the faith in Christ, and the love of God and of man. Like all God’s laws, it works slowly; but it is sure, and in the end it will bring about that for which it was framed. (J. M. Wilson, M. A. )

The joy of acquiring liberty

In the dark days of American slavery, a very fine Mulatto woman and her nearly white boy were raffled for. Two kind men paid a share each for the woman and her boy, so that they might have two chances for their freedom. After all the others who had a share in that lottery had thrown the dice, the poor woman was so overpowered by hopes, fears, and solicitude, that she could not throw for herself. Her boy, therefore, threw for her, and was unsuccessful. Then the boy had to throw for himself, and there many hopes and prayers that he might win. And he did, and the joy of the mother and son, on acquiring their liberty, was indescribable. So Jewish parents and their children rejoiced in the year of jubilee as they went forth from bondage to liberty, and from poverty to posseses the inheritance of their fathers. But, when “Christ makes us free,” by “the truth,” from spiritual ignorance, sin, Satan, and evils, into “the glorious liberty of the children of God,” with its precious and eternal heritage of blessings, we then feel--

“A day, an hour of virtuous liberty,

Is worth a whole eternity of bondage.”

(Henry R. Burton.)

Nazareth and its good news

The Lord here, quoting Isaiah, states His mission to be the preaching of the acceptable year of Jehovah. Let us inquire what the acceptable year of the Lord is, and how He preached it.

I. THE ACCEPTABLE YEAR OF THE LORD. This expression corresponds to that of Paul, “the accepted time,” “the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2); and means that there is a time when God accepts or shows favour to the sinner. It is what Ezekiel calls “the time of love”; what our Lord calls “the time of visitation” (Luke 19:44); and what we usually call “the day of grace.” Every era has its character, and the character of this is “grace.” In it the long-suffering of God gets full vent to itself, and His almighty love is pouring itself down upon an unworthy world.

II. How CHRIST PREACHED THIS ACCEPTABLE YEAR. This preaching of the acceptable year was to run through His whole life and ministry.

1. In His person He preached it; for His mere presence upon earth among sinful men was an announcement of it. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

2. He preached it by what He did. He went about healing all manner of sicknesses, and all manner of diseases.

3. He preached it by what He did not do. He did no deeds of terror, and wrought no miracles of wrath or woe.

4. He preached it by what He said. His words were all of grace; and even the sharp rebukes against scribes and Pharisees were the warnings of grace, not of wrath. (H. Bonar, D. D.)

The work of Christ

I. OUR FIRST INQUIRY SHALL BE RESPECTING THE CHARACTER OR CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE PERSONS DESCRIBED IN MY TEXT.

It seems clear that this whole passage is metaphorical! for, allowing that a literal sense may be applied to parts of it with propriety, yet there are other parts which will not bear that sense. These images serve only to present, under different aspects, the sad state of those whom Christ came to deliver, and the blessed effects of that deliverance.

1. Their actual condition is represented as very deplorable; for what image can express greater misery than that of captives treated with the barbarous rigour of those times; immured in dungeons; loaded with fetters; bruised with stripes; perhaps like Zedekiah, the unfortunate king of Judah, deprived of sight as well as liberty. Yet this is a very just image of every man’s condition who is under the power of sin.

2. Yet it is possible that there may be this state of sin, comprehending all these awful circumstances of misery and danger, without any concern about it, or even any distinct perception of it. This, however, is by no means the case with the persons here represented. They are not only captives, but they are broken-hearted in their bondage. All such expressions denote the true Christian temper, that which our Lord inculcated under the names of humility and poverty of spirit; and which both Christ and His apostles meant by the more significant word, “repentance.” It includes a consciousness of demerit; a due sense of the evil of sin. This frame of mind may comprehend different degrees, or even kinds, of uneasiness, on account of sin. The metaphors which are here used illustrate these. It is one kind of distress to feel the pressure of poverty; it is another to endure the yoke of bondage; and a third, to lose the organ of sight.

II. BLESSED BE GOD, HOWEVER, THERE ARE SOME WHO KNOW THEIR UNWORTHINESS, AND ARE HUMBLED ON ACCOUNT OF IT. These are the persons intended in my text, and such will gladly hear the gracious office which the Redeemer sustains to save them. This office is here delineated under several views. Is the state of sinners described as a state of great suffering? Christ brings them deliverance. As a state of bondage? He grants them liberty. Under the image of a broken heart? He communicates peace and consolation. Or under that of poverty? He tells them of recovered birthrights, and of a glorious inheritance above. Let us briefly consider these several offices.

1. Christ takes away the sin of those who truly repent and apply to Him by faith.

2. They are freed also from the power of sin.

3. It is the office of the Saviour to impart peace to the soul.

4. The title to a glorious inheritance is also conferred by Him upon those that believe. As in the year of jubilee every inheritance which had been sold reverted to its original owners; as every debt was cancelled and every captive set free--in the same way does the gospel proclaim a jubilee to repenting sinners. It institutes a new order of things for them; with new resources, and hopes, and privileges, and prospects. (J. Venn, M. A.)

The gospel jubilee

Such is the tendency of Christianity; such are the gifts of the Holy Ghost poured out upon the Church; and such is the spiritual jubilee; such the acceptable year of the Lord which Christianity proclaims to the world and the misery thereof.

I. CONSIDER THE JUBILEE OF THE GOSPEL AS REGARDS THE FIRST PROMULGATION by Christ and His apostles.

II. THE PROGRESSIVE CONVERSION OF MANKIND.

III. THE MISERY AND SORROW THIS DISPENSATION HAS BEEN INSTRUMENTAL FROM TIME TO TIME IN RELIEVING. The tendency of Christianity and the gospel is to infuse, in proportion as it is understood, brotherly love, and sympathy with every effort which is made for the relief of individual suffering, as well as for the emancipation of the world. It is directly opposed to oppression and cruelty; it abstains from questions of earthly politics and disputes about particular forms of government; it avoids all factious and dangerous innovations, and goes to the support of existing order, which, although it may in some cases be defective, is infinitely better than the wild disorder of uncontrolled passion and fierce self-love. It therefore enjoins obedience to the magistrates, and calls upon its followers to “fear God and honour the king,” giving thanks always for all things unto God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And I apprehend the union of these two points shows the tendency of Christianity to dispose all governors, propagators of laws, and all in authority, towards all measures of relief, justice, equity, and the consideration of the poor. It is the means of communicating every blessing to society, and insensibly tends to break every yoke, and set right every disorder. (Bishop Daniel Wilson.)

Preaching the gospel

I. Let us notice that JESUS CHRIST BEGAN HIS WORK IN NAZARETH WITH A QUOTATION FROM THE BIBLE. The source of all Christian power is in “preaching the Word.”

II. It is well to keep in mind that WE HAVE A MUCH LARGER BIBLE THAN JESUS HAD. We have the New Testament as well as the Old Testament: what He spoke as well as what He expounded. It is not what we say about the truth that helps and saves souls, but the truth.

III. When people come to us for help, the thing to do is simply to FIND SOMETHING IN THE WORD FOR THEM.

IV. CURIOUS AND DIFFICULT QUESTIONS THAT CHRISTIANS ASK HAVE THE SIMPLEST SORT OF ANSWERS IN THE WORD. AS to grounding our hope firmly, Matthew 7:24 is better than anything we can say ourselves. To encourage a man who fears ridicule, Mark 10:48 is excellent and effective. Exodus 2:1-10 is a far better illustration of God’s care for children than that stock story of the “little child in the corn-field.” Once a member of our Church came to me to ask what she ought to try to look at when she shut her eyes in prayer. And all I could think of was to read her two or three verses about Bartimaeus. A smile ran over her whole face as she rose suddenly, and said, “Good morning.” Then I asked whether her question had got the answer. “Oh, yes”! she replied, gratefully; “I ought to see what the blind man did before his eyes were opened; he saw he was blind, and he seemed to see Jesus there waiting to be prayed to.”

V. WE MUST BE EXCEEDINGLY FAMILIAR WITH GOD’S WORD in order to use it skilfully. The times arrive often very suddenly in which we are called to make answer or to give advice; and to work powerfully one must work ingeniously. The gifted authoress of “English Hands and Hearts” once saw a man close by the brink of a river, and believed he was going to commit suicide. It seemed perfectly clear to her that if she should appear to suspect his purpose, he would avoid her, and wait till she passed out of sight. So she quietly kept on her walk, but, as it approached the spot where he was watching, she said aloud, as if just to herself, Psalms 46:4. It was all she could do. Two years afterwards a speaker in Exeter Hall related the incident in his own sad life, and told how the text saved him and converted him, and now he added the wish that he might some time know the Christian woman who had done him the favour. So they met and clasped hands, and thanked God together. But how did she happen to know the right verse, then? Such a thing did not happen: that lady knew her Bible thoroughly.

VI. We should be PATIENT ANY HELPFUL IS INSTRUCTING OTHERS how and where to find the proper passages for Christian effort.

VII. We can find here the EXPLANATION WE SEEK FOR SOME FAILURES that appear so mysterious, AND FOR SOME SUCCESSES that are so admirable. Those Christians have done most service who have in every instance trusted the Word for the power of the truth in it. Dr. James W. Alexander put in one of his letters, near the end of his career, the statement that, if he were to live his public life over again, he would dwell more upon the familiar parts and passages of the Bible, like the story of the ark, the draught of fishes, or the parable of the prodigal son. That is, he would preach more of the Word of God in its pure, clear utterances of truth for souls. When the saintly Dr. Cutler of Brooklyn died, the Sunday School remembered that he used to come in every now and then during the years of his history and repeat just a single verse from the superintendent’s desk; and the next Lord’s Day after the funeral they marched up in front of it in a long line, and each scholar quoted any of the texts that he could recollect. The grown people positively sat there and wept, as they saw how much there was of the Bible in the hearts of their children which this one pastor had planted. Yet he was a very timid and old-fashioned man; he said he had no gift at talking to children; he could only repeat God’s Word. Is there anybody now who is ready to say that was not enough for some good? (C. S.Robinson, D. D.)

Christ the fulfilment of prophecy

On an artist’s table some colours are lying. You glance at them, and that is all, for to you they have no meaning. A month after you come in, and you are attracted by a beautiful picture. The picture has been painted with the colours you saw before, but how different is it now when they are harmoniously blended. So Jesus Christ gathers into harmony in Himself the before ill-understood prophecies and types of the Old Testament; only then we see what they fully mean. It is like the children’s picture-block puzzles. Take the pieces from the box, and you have a number of blocks of all sizes, colours, and shapes. Build them back, carefully fitting them into each other, and when each is in its proper place, you find you have a complete picture. So the types and prophecies are only understood when they are fitted into Christ. Jesus, then, takes some pictures from the Book of Isaiah, and declares that these show forth His mission. The first picture is that of a messenger bringing good news to the poor--news of a kingdom prepared for them; the next shows a message of consolation brought to those in sorrow; the third is the picture of one promising liberty to some men shut up in a narrow cell; in the fourth a blind man is receiving his sight at the healing touch of a prophet; in the fifth the bonds are being struck from the feet of men whose limbs have been bruised by the irons; and the sixth shows the open gate of heaven. (Sunday School Times.)

A full text

When we have once measured these words, we shall be reminded of the tent of the Arab chief: when folded it could be carried in his hand, but when spread it was wide enough to shelter his whole tribe. A study of the incident under which they were spoken in the synagogue of Nazareth is peculiarly rewarding, because it looks off in so many directions; into remote Jewish history, into present customs, to the nature of the gospel, to its manifold methods of working, to the heart of Gad, to the inspiration of Christ; and, finally, it discloses the weakness and evil of human nature when its prejudices and traditional thoughts are assaulted. It is as rich in material and association that a book could legitimately be made from it. It would be a book historical, ecclesiastical, political, theological, ethical, psychological, and the treatment would not be forced. (T. T.Munger.)

Deliverance both physical and moral

The peculiar feature of this quotation from Isaiah, which Christ makes His own, is its doubleness. “The poor”--but men are poor in condition and in spirit. “The captives”--but men may be in bondage under masters or circumstances, and also under their own sin. “The blind”--but men may be blind of eye and also in spiritual vision. “The bruised”--but men are bruised in the struggles of this rough world, and also by the havoc of their own evil passions. Which did Christ mean? Both, but chiefly the moral, for He always struck through the external forms of evil to the moral root, from which it springs, and of whose condition it is the general exponent. And He always passed on to the spiritual end to which external betterment points. He was no reformer playing about the outward forms of evil--hunger, poverty, disease, oppression--giving ease and relief for the moment. He does indeed deal with these, but He puts under His work a moral foundation, and crowns it with a spiritual consummation. Dealing with these, He was all the while inserting the spiritual principle which He calls “faith.” Unless He can do this He is nearly indifferent whether He works or not. If you cannot heal a man’s spirit, it is a small thing to heal his body. It you cannot make a man rich in his heart and thought, it is a slight matter to relieve his poverty. At the same time, Christ will not separate the two, for they are the two sides of one evil thing. Poverty and disease and misery mostly spring out of moral evil. They are not the limitations of the finite nature, but are the fangs of the serpent of sin And so Christ sets Himself as the Deliverer from each, the origin and the result, the sin at the root, and the misery which is its fruitage. (T. T. Munger.)

Christ the true Liberator and Enlightener of the world

Bartholdi’s gigantic statue of “Liberty Enlightening the World” occupies a fine position on Bedloes Island, which commands the approach to New York Harbour. It holds up a torch, which is to be lit at night by an immense electric light. The statue was cast in portions in Paris. The separate pieces were very different in appearance, and, taken apart, of uncouth shape. It was only when all were brought together, each in its right place, that the complete design was apparent. Then the omission of any one would have left the work imperfect. In this it was an emblem of Holy Scripture. We do not always see the object of different portions; nevertheless each has its place, and the whole is a magnificent statue of Jesus Christ, who is the true “Liberty enlightening the world,” casting illuminating rays across the dark rocky ocean of time, and guiding anxious souls to the desired haven. (Freeman.)

Christ alone can heal the brokenhearted

I could build a Corlears engine, I could paint a Raphael’s “Madonna,” I could play a Beethoven’s “Heroic Symphony” as easily as this world can comfort a broken heart. And yet you have been comforted. How was it done? Did Christ come to you and say: “Get your mind off this; go and breathe the fresh air; plunge deeper into business”? No. There was a minute when He came to you, perhaps in the watches of the night--perhaps in your place of business, perhaps along the street--and He breathed something into your soul that gave peace, rest, infinite quiet, so that you could take out the photograph of the departed one and look into the eyes and face of the dear one and say: “It is all right; she is better off; I would not call her back. Lord, I thank Thee that Thou hast comforted my poor heart. I thought I should go crazy for a while, but the rough sea has become the smooth harbour. Oh, how hard it was for me to give her up, and I shall never be the “man that I was before; but the Lord gave and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” There are Christian parents here to-night who are willing to testify to the power of this gospel to comfort. Your son had just graduated and was going into business, and the Lord took him. Or your daughter had just left the young ladies’ seminary, and you thought she was going to be a useful woman and of long life; but the Lord took her, and you were tempted to say: “All this culture for nothing.” Or the little child came home from school with the hot fever that stopped not for the agonized prayer, or for the skilful physician, and the little child was taken. Or the babe was lifted out of your arms by some quick epidemic, and you stood wondering why God ever gave you that child at all, if so soon He was to take it away. And yet you are not repining, you are not fretful, you are not fighting against God. What has enabled you to stand all the trial? “Oh,” you say, “I took the medicine that God gave my sick soul; in my distress I threw myself at the feet of a sympathising Saviour, and when I was too weak to pray, or to look up, He breathed into me a peace that I think must be the foretaste of that heaven where there is neither tear, nor a farewell, nor a grave.” Come, all ye who have been out to the grave to weep there--come, all ye comforted souls, get up off your knees. Is there power in this gospel to soothe the heart? Is there power in this religion to quiet the worst paroxysm of grief? Tell me. There comes up an answer to comforted widowhood, and orphanage, and childlessness, saying: “Ay, ay, we are witnesses!” (Dr. Talmage.)

Christ the Healer of the broken-hearted

I. THE CONDITION OF THE PERSONS SPOKEN OF IN THE TEXT is one of extreme distress and misery. They are broken-hearted. All their happiness is gone. All their hopes are blasted. Nothing is left to them but wretchedness and despair.

1. It implies that they have a sorrowful consciousness of the existence of this evil within them.

2. They are also dissatisfied with their condition, and earnestly desire deliverance from it. Like men oppressed with sickness, they are not in a state in which they can be at ease.

3. They are sensible likewise of the deadly nature of the disease under which they are suffering. They know that it is a mortal disease; not merely painful and loathsome, but dangerous and fatal.

4. To this sorrowful consciousness of their sinfulness, this dissatisfaction with their condition, and this dread of futurity, is added a despair of healing their spiritual diseases by any means of their own.

II. But why does the Physician of souls thus deal with us? Why cannot He apply His healing balm at once to our wounds? WHY MUST WE BE BROUGHT INTO SO DISCONSOLATE A STATE, BEFORE WE ARE MADE ACQUAINTED WITH PARDON AND PEACE?

1. In answer to this inquiry we may observe, that God thus afflicts His penitent children, in order that sin may be embittered to them; that they may have a heartfelt knowledge of the misery and shame which it is able to produce, and thus learn to regard it with hatred and fear.

2. The sinner is made broken-hearted, that he may be willing to be healed by Christ in His way and on His terms.

3. A further reason why the returning sinner is thus torn and smitten, may be, that the deliverance vouchsafed to him may be more highly valued.

4. It may also be the will of God to give the penitent a deep sense of his wretchedness, in order that the great Physician of his soul may be more warmly loved.

III. Let us proceed to consider THE ENCOURAGEMENT WHICH THE DECLARATION BEFORE US IS CALCULATED TO AFFORD TO EVERY BROKENHEARTED MOURNER.

1. It plainly implies that it is the will of God that the brokenhearted should be healed. He has sent a Messenger from heaven to bring peace to them.

2. The declaration in the text teaches us also, that God has given to Christ authority and power to heal the broken-hearted.

3. The declaration before us assures us, too, that Christ is willing to heal all the broken-hearted who apply for His aid; that He is ready to exercise the authority and power which He has received. Here, then, is a rich source of encouragement to every mourner. The God against whom he has sinned, has sent a Messenger from heaven to heal him; and He whom He has sent, rejoices to bind up the broken-hearted. He has infinite compassion to pity, as well as infinite power to relieve. A review of our subject points out to us, first, the persons to whom the ministers of the gospel are to administer comfort.

2. The text affords us, secondly, a test by which we may try our spiritual comfort.

3. We may infer also from the text, that true contrition of heart is one of the greatest blessings which God can bestow on man.

4. The text reminds us, lastly, of the sin and folly of despair. (C. Bradley, M. A.)


Verses 22-24

Luke 4:22-24

Ye will surely say unto Me this proverb, Physician, heal Thyself

The treatment of Christ by the Nazarenes

1.
No man should be undervalued on account of humble parentage. If a man behave well himself, even the sins of his parents ought not to be imputed to him as a fault, much less ought their lowly condition in life. Indeed, the greater the obscurity from which a man has emerged, and the more numerous and formidable the difficulties with which he has had to struggle, the more praise is due to him for aiming at honourable distinction. Let us be ready to acknowledge ability, and to esteem worth, wherever found. And let not those who have risen in life be ashamed of their humble parentage, or undervalue or forget their kindred and early friends.

2. We should not neglect the lessons taught in the proverb, “No prophet is accepted in his own country, or of his own kindred.” Honourable exceptions there may be to this; but it states what is generally the case among men.

3. The sinfulness of objecting to the more extensive diffusion of religious privileges, and of refusing to rejoice in the good of other countries, under the pretence that all our exertions should be limited to our own country. Home has the first, but not the only claim. We ought not to shut our hearts against any call to attend to the spiritual welfare of men. There is a tide in the affairs of men and of the Church--a tide, not of chance, but of providential influence and arrangement; that tide of favourable circumstances we cannot command; it is our duty, therefore, to avail ourselves of its flow, lest it ebb away, and the opportunity be lost. And as neither at Nazareth, nor at Capernaum, was the ministry of our Lord without some success, so may we hope that no Scriptural attempts, whether at a distance or at our own door, will ultimately prove altogether in vain.

4. Let us beware of resembling in any way the Nazarenes in their more violent hatred of Christ, and of the truth, here described; and beware also of the causes which led to that hatred. They began by cavilling at His plans, and ended by raging and setting themselves against the Lord and His anointed. They were too proud to submit to the righteousness of God. This spirit is rife still. Let us remember we have no “rights” with respect to God; let us gladly fall in with His plans, and thankfully accept of His offered mercy. Submission to free grace is the only way of safety, and of holiness and comfort; it changes the slavish and mercenary spirit into the spirit of the freedman and child; and the obedience of the life will be secured as the cheerful homage of the reconciled and grateful heart. (James Foote, M. A.)

The preaching of Christ a pattern for His ministers

I. THE CHARM OF CHRIST’S PREACHING.

1. He was not simply a human teacher. Hence the tone of authority which He alone might assume.

2. Preaching was in His hands altogether a new thing.

3. A singular gracefulness in His manner.

4. Popular style of discourse.

5. Evangelical doctrine, suited to men’s needs. He spoke of those Divine truths which are the hope of guilty captives, and the balm of the brokenhearted; He brought tidings of great joy, messages of mercy suited to their nature as intelligent, immortal, responsible creatures, and at the same time to their circumstances as lost sinners.

II. Some of the chief QUALITIES REQUISITE TO SECURE SUCCESS to a human ministry.

1. It should give a prominent exhibition to the great peculiarities of the gospel. Redemption through the Cross of Christ must be the preacher’s constant theme.

2. This prominent exhibition of the Cross should always be combined with a tender solicitude for the salvation of souls. Eternal consequences are at stake. With all earnestness the message, therefore, must be urged.

3. Simplicity of style. Brilliant images and pompous language may excite wonder, but will not instruct or convince. Plain truths should be con veyed in plain words. Illustrations may be used, but only such as add clearness to the discourse.

III. BY WHAT MEANS SUCH A MINISTRY MAY BE FORMED AND SUSTAINED.

1. A profound acquaintance with the gospel, in its adaptation to all the varieties of human character and condition.

2. Entire consecration to the ministerial office.

3. Eminence in personal piety.

4. The habitual recognition of scriptural encouragements and motives, and especially the anticipation of the final results of the ministry, wilt not fail to exert a beneficial influence on the mind of the minister. (E. Steane.)

The rejection of God’s prophets and its results

I. 1. The spirit of detraction is the surest sign of a small and vulgar soul.

2. Jesus goes on to anticipate the objection with which His opponents will meet this announcement of Himself, and in which they will demand a miracle as proof of His claim. To such a spirit He could vouchsafe no sign; indeed, miracles would have been no sign to such.

3. At the same time He would warn them that God ever finds work for His prophets to do. If their own countrymen will not receive them, there are others who will. The widows and the lepers of Israel may not care to be comforted or healed by them, but there are widows in Sarepta and lepers in Syria who enter upon the blessings which are despised by the children of the kingdom.

4. The passive rejection of the Christ cannot for long remain passive. They who reject Him passively are miserably conscious that it is He who is rejecting them. Roused to anger (which is, in reality, terror), they actively rebel against Him, and seek to destroy Him.

II. Not infrequently we are conscious that the voice of God is speaking to us through one whom we have known familiarly, who, it may be, is inferior to us in age or worldly position, or whom in past years we ourselves have patronized. There is a temptation to weaken the force of the call by depreciating the instrument through which it comes. (Canon Vernon Hutton, M. A.)

Self-healing

In one of his familiar epistles to Rome’s greatest orator, then dejected at the loss of Tullia, Sulpicius made this appeal: “Do not forget that you are Cicero; one who has been used always to prescribe for and give advice to others; do not imitate those paltry physicians who pretend to cure other people’s diseases, yet are not able to cure their own; but suggest rather to yourself the same lesson which you would give in the same case.” Dr. South asks in one of his sermons, adverting to the study of physic, “Do not many shorten their days, and lose their own health, while they are learning to restore it to others?” But the proverb invites to a larger than merely professional application. Selden, in his Table-talk, says, “Preachers say, Do as I say, not as I do. But if a physician had the same disease upon him that I have, and he should bid me do one thing, and he do quite another, could I believe him?” The practice of men, says Sir Thomas Browne, in his “Religio Medici,” holds not an equal part with, yea, often runs contrary to, their theory: “we naturally know what is good, but naturally pursue what is evil; the rhetoric wherewith I persuade another cannot persuade myself.” Byron chuckled crowingly over Beccaria, when he was told in Italy of that philosopher, who had published “ such admirable things against the punishment of death,” that as soon as his book was out, his servant, “having read it, I presume,” stole his watch, and the master while correcting the proofs of a second edition, did all he could to have the man hanged. Angelo, in “Measure for Measure,” with all his fair show in the flesh, of superiority to it, was no such perfect practitioner. Rather he was to be consigned to the category of those “ungracious pastors” of whom Ophelia spoke, when she thanked Laertes for his excellent counsel and hoped withal he would abide by it in his own life and conversation.

“But, good my brother,

Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,

Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven;

Whilst, like a puff’d and reckless libertine,

Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,

And recks not his own read.”

(Francis Jacox.)

The art of healing

Our Lord’s choice of this proverb in reference to Himself was peculiarly appropriate, when we remember how large a portion of his work consisted of healing the sick. It is probable that already His fame had gone abroad, not only as a teacher but as a healer, and that the wonderful cures which He had effected caused His name to be in all men’s mouths, and led to the expectation in Nazareth to which He referred, that He would do in His own home what He had already been doing elsewhere. All through His career He represents Himself as the great physician. He is the wise physician who can combine with his knowledge of the body the more subtle knowledge of the soul. Few men depend for effective work more upon their character than doctors. Perhaps the only class of persons whose labour becomes useless when character is departed, to a more marked degree than that of physicians, is that of ministers of religion. Of course there have been cases, well-known to fame, of physicians failing utterly in the moral side of their nature, and yet, by reason of a peculiar genius and indomitable energy, still gaining a name, and becoming wealthy and influential. But such persons are rather the marks and beacons whereby we must direct our way, and avoid the dangerous places where we may become utterly wrecked. As a general, almost universal rule, the reputation of the physician must be spotless. He must know no fear and be subject to no reproach. Where can be found a better strength and inspiration for such noble life than in the religion of Jesus Christ? (D. D. Bevan, LL. D.)

The proverb applied to our relation to foreign missions

Is it not a fact, and is not the slow progress of mission-work among the heathen to be accounted for, to some extent, by the fact, that we, add other so-called Christian nations supply in our relations to heathen peoples, and in the aspect which much of our own national and social life presents to them, the very worst commentary imaginable upon the truths which our missionaries teach them? Can we expect to be able to win the world for Christ so long as it is evident that we have not submitted ourselves to His gracious yoke, and do not carry into practice the precepts He enjoined? Have not many of these heathen nations a right to turn round upon us, when we send them missionaries, attack their systems of religion, and make long prayers for their conversion, and to address us in the words of our text, “Physician, heal thyself”?

1. Take first the figure we cut in the matter of our international relations.

2. Are we as a mercantile community possessed of clean hands in the matter of the fabrics we send out into the markets which these people’s necessities provide.

3. What do Chinese, and Hindoos, and Japanese, find among us, in our own land, when they visit us? Should we have any right to resent the taunt, if, when we bid them embrace our religion, they should point the finger of scorn at us, and say, “Physician, heal thyself”?

4. But it may be said, “It is a merely nominal Christian nation or society which exhibits these wide and gross departures from the spirit and practice of the Christian religion. It is the Christian Church which sends out missionaries to the heathen. Well, what is likely to be the feeling with which intelligent heathens regard the attempts of the Christian Church to convert them? Are they not sure to smile at our efforts, and to say to us, “Heal yourselves before you undertake to cure us. Apply the knife to the cancer which festers at the heart of your own society, before you undertake the amelioration of the condition of ours; convert your own countrymen first and then shall you have free access to ours; then will you prove to us, in the most convincing way, that your religion is all that you profess it to be”?

5. Have not our denominational rivalries been often transplanted, and set in operation among peoples who cannot understand the merits of our disputes, or the grounds of our contending polities; and have they not inclined them, confused and confounded as they must be by distinctions and claims which are to them incomprehensible, to wash their hands of the responsibility of deciding between so many conflicting opinions, and to say to us, “Learn to agree among yourselves as to what your religion is: learn, above all, to manifest more of its spirit in your relations to one another, before bringing it to is, and trying to persuade us to accept it”?

6. What, then, is the practical outcome of all this? Not that we should withdrawn single missionary from his work, or relax a single aggressive endeavour, or reduce by a single penny the amount of our contributions to the missionary cause, No! let us rather redouble our zeal and multiply our gifts. But above all let us see to it, that as a people, as Churches, as members of Christ’s Church, we no longer belie our teachings and profession by our example and our life. (J. R. Bailey.)

To the inconsistent Christian

I. BY WHOM ARE THE INCONSISTENCIES OF CHRISTIANS CHIEFLY DENOUNCED?

1. By infidels.

2. By rationalizing believers.

3. By eminent Christians.

II. FOR WHAT PURPOSE ARE THE INCONSISTENCIES OF CHRISTIANS DENOUNCED?

1. TO invalidate the evidence of the Divine origin of Christianity.

2. To bring discredit on evangelical religion.

3. To elevate the standard of Christian attainment.

III. CHRISTIANS ARE NOT SO INCONSISTENT AS THEY ARE REPRESENTED TO BE.

1. All are not Christians who usurp the name.

2. All Christians are not responsible for the shortcomings even of genuine Christians.

3. All Christians are men, and in trying them by the standard of their religion, the same allowance must be made for them as for other men.

4. Christians should be judged by their general conduct, and not by individual actions.

5. Christians should be compared with men who are their peers in everything except their religion.

IV. THE INCONSISTENCIES OF CHRISTIANS FURNISH NO VALID OBJECTION AGAINST THE DIVINE ORIGIN OF CHRISTIANITY.

1. It does not recommend, or palliate, or defend them.

2. It makes ample provision for their removal by the doctrines it teaches, by the precepts it delivers, by the motives it presents, by the spiritual influence it promises.

3. It has produced many of the finest specimens of human character the world, throughout the whole course of its history, has ever witnessed.

4. It has exercised an indirect influence, of a most elevating description, on multitudes who are strangers to its saving power.

5. It has exercised on its most inconsistent disciples an ameliorating efficacy, to which no system of philosophy or religion can adduce parallels.

V. THE INCONSISTENCIES OF CHRISTIANS FURNISH NO VALID OBJECTION TO THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE, AS THEY ARE CALLED.

1. These doctrines leave all the usual arguments for a holy life untouched.

2. They remove that invincible obstruction to a holy life which arises from a sense of guilt, and from a self-righteous and superstitious attempt to earn, by personal merit, pardon and acceptance.

3. They furnish, in the love of God in Christ, the most powerful motive to a holy life that has ever been urged.

4. They secure an adequate supply of the influence of the Holy

Spirit.

VI. THE GRIEF WHICH THE INCONSISTENCIES OF CHRISTIANS SHOULD AWAKEN IN FELLOW-CHRISTIANS.

1. Because inconsistent professors bring dishonour on the names of God and of the Saviour.

2. Because inconsistent professors lower the general standard of Christian attainment.

3. Because inconsistent professors hang as a dead weight on the energies of the Church.

4. Because inconsistent professors are little likely to be brought to a saving acquaintance with Christ.

VII. THE DUTIES WHICH THE INCONSISTENCIES OF CHRISTIANS IMPOSE ON THE FRIENDS OF CHRIST.

1. A habitual watchfulness over their conduct.

2. A conscientious discharge of relative duty.

3. A foregoing of certain rights and privileges for the good of others.

4. Thorough adoption of the great principles of Christianity.

5. Prayer.

VIII. REAL INCONSISTENCIES OF CHRISTIANS.

1. It is inconsistent to live in the wilful and habitual practice of known sin.

2. It is inconsistent to pursue a doubtful course of action, without seeking to ascertain whether it is right or wrong.

3. It is inconsistent to conform to worldly habits of thinking and acting.

4. It is inconsistent to be chargeable with vices which respectable men of the world abhor.

5. It is inconsistent to be indifferent to the progress and prosperity of the cause of Christ. (G. Brooks.)


Verse 26

Luke 4:26

Save unto Sarepta

Description of Sarepta

The ruins of Sarepta are scattered over the plain, at intervals, for more than a mile: one group is on the coast, and may be the remains of the ancient harbour.
These lie on a tongue of land which forms a small bay, and pleasantly varies the monotony of the otherwise unbroken coast line. Fine crops brighten part of the plain around, though only the small village of Surafend, the modern representative of the ancient town, is actually surrounded by green. Sarepta was famous for its wine in the early Christian centuries, but it got its name in the Hebrew Bible--Zarpath--from its being in still older days a chief centre of the glass works of Phoenicia--the word meaning “melting-houses.” It belonged to the territory of Sidon, and must have been a large place, if we may judge from the number of rock-tombs at the foot of the hills. Its supreme interest, however, to all Bible readers lies in its connection with the great Prophet Elijah. A place is still shown at the old harbour where a Christian Church once stood, on the alleged site of the widow’s house in which the prophet lived. But no value is to be attached to such a localization, though the spot is still called “The Grave of Eliiah,” in the belief that he finally died there. During the reign of the Crusaders, Sarepta was strongly fortified, and made the seat of a bishop, who was subject to the Archbishop of Sidon; but as early as the end of the thirteenth century it had sunk into utter desolation. Legend has tried to identify it with the home of the Syrophcenician woman whose daughter Christ healed, but there is no ground for this fancy. Its fame must always rest, for Christians, on the noble lesson of faith in God taught by the prophet on the one hand, and by the great-hearted widow on the other
. (C. Geikie, D. D.)

All men are thought of by God

There is a place in each mother’s heart for every child that is given her, and do you not suppose there is a place in God’s heart for every child that He has created? Do you not suppose that all men stand before Him plain, and individual, and distinct? Yes, you stand before God as if there were not another man in the universe. As men stand before us without mistake of identity, and as all that we think and feel of them we think and feel of them as individuals, so we stand before God, and all that He thinks and feels of us He thinks and feels of us as individuals. He calls every one of us by name, and He does it a great deal more than we know. How much does the child know of the thoughts of the mother who sings and rocks its cradle while it sleeps, and breathes its name? When the child is gone from home for a visit or for school, how much does it know of the thoughts that are beaded and strung, pearl-like, before God, on its account, or of the frequency with which its name is uttered? If the child could follow its father’s and mother’s voice, in the closet and elsewhere, how often would it hear its own sweet name sounding all the way up to heaven! And if this is so with earthly parents, may we not suppose, when we remember the boundlessness of God’s love, that there is not a child of His on which He does not bestow special thought and attention? (H. W.Beecher.)


Verse 28

Luke 4:28; Luk_4:31

And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath

Nazareth; or, Jesus rejected by His friends

I.
WHO WERE THESE REJECTORS OF CHRIST? They have their types and representatives now.

1. They were those who were nearest related to the Saviour. They were the people of His own town.

2. They were those who knew most about Christ. The whole story of the wondrous Child was known to them.

3. They were people who supposed that they had a claim upon Christ. They no doubt argued, “He is a Nazareth man, and of course He is in duty bound to help Nazareth.”

II. WHY THEY THUS REJECT THE MESSIAH.

1. I should not wonder but what the groundwork of their dissatisfaction was laid in the fact that they did not feel themselves to be the persons to whom the Saviour claimed to have a commission. Observe, He said, in the eighteenth verse, that He was “ anointed to preach the gospel to the poor.” Now, the poorest ones in the synagogue may have felt pleased at that word; but as it was almost a maxim with the Jewish doctors that it did not signify what became of the poor--for few but the rich could enter heaven--the very announcement of a gospel for the poor must have sounded tothem awfully democratical and extreme, and must have laid in their minds the foundation of a prejudice. Did not some of them say, “We have worn our phylacteries, and made broad the borders of our garments; we have not eaten except with washen hands; we have strained out all gnats from our wine; we have kept the fasts, and the feasts, and we have made long prayers, why should we feel any poverty of spirit? “ Hence they felt there was nothing in Christ’s mission for them. When He next mentioned the broken-hearted, they were not at all conscious of any need of a broken heart. They felt heart-whole, self-satisfied, perfectly content. What is the acceptable year of the Lord to us, if it is only for bruised captive ones? We are not such. At a glance you perceive, my brethren, the reason why in these days Jesus Christ is rejected by so many church-going and chapel-going people.

2. I entertain little doubt but what the men of Nazareth were angry with Christ because of His exceeding high claims. He said, “The spirit of Jehovah is upon Me.” They started at that. And so men now reject Christ because He sets Himself too high, and asks more of them than they are willing to give.

3. Another reason might be found in the fact that they were not for receiving Christ until He had exhibited some great wonder. They craved for miracles. Their minds were in a sickly state. A young man yonder has said to himself, “If I had a dream, as I hear So-and-so had, or if there should happen to me some very remarkable event in providence, which should just meet my taste; or if I could feel to-day some sudden shock of I know not what, then I would believe.” Thus you dream that my Lord and Master is to be dictated to by you! You are beggars at His gate, asking for mercy, and you must needs draw up rules and regulations as to how He shall give that mercy.

4. Again, and perhaps this time I may hit the head of the nail in some cases, though I suppose not in many in this place, part of the irritation which existed in the minds of the men of Nazareth was caused by the peculiar doctrine which the Saviour preached upon the subject of election. He laid it down that God had a right to dispense His favours just as He pleased, and that in doing so He often selected the most unlikely objects. They did not like this. The doctrine of free grace to the needy is ever a stumbling-block to men.

5. They loved not such plain personal speaking as the Saviour gave them.

6. They could not bear to hear Him hint that He meant to bless the Gentiles.

III. And now, WHAT CAME OF IT?

1. They thrust the Saviour out of the synagogue, and then they tried to hurl Him down the brow of the hill. These were His friends, good, respectable people: who would have believed it of them? You saw that goodly company in the synagogue who sang so sweetly, and listened so attentively, would you have guessed that there was a murderer inside every one of their coats? It only needed the opportunity to bring the murderer out; for there they are all trying to throw Jesus down the hill. We do not know how much devil there is inside any one of us; if we are not renewed and changed by grace, we are heirs of wrath even as others.

2. But what came of it? Why, though they thus thrust Him out, they could not hurt the Saviour. The hurt was all their own. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Men seldom see the great in what is about them

We ride without eyes under Greylock, and go to the White Mountains for sublimity. The moon in Venice, and the sky in Naples, have more charm than here at home. The weeds of other climates become our flowers, and our flowers seem to us but weeds. There is little heroism, little devotion and nobility on our square mile; there are no epics or lyrics of human deed and feeling sung in our streets; the great, the beautiful, the excellent, is at a distance. Why we think thus it may be hard to tell, unless it is from instinctive reverence on the one hand, and on the other because the realization of greatness makes us aware of our own littleness, and so provokes us to every danger. So that what we read of here is no strange history, but only an illustration of a daily fact: a great spirit rejected by friends and neighbours; it is only the carpenter’s Son, the boy who grew up in the midst of us, and now, forsooth, claiming to be a prophet! And so they drive Him out of their city. (T. T. Munger.)

Cause of the Nazarenes’ wrath

What was actually the cause of the sudden upboil of these men’s wrath? It was that their selfesteem was wounded. Christ declared that only the humble and meek would be able to receive Him. Elijah was persecuted, and received only by one poor widow. Naaman was unworthy to be healed till he humbled himself to dip in despised Jordan. The men of Nazareth understood the inference. It was not flattering to their pride; they could not be fed and healed unless they became humble, and submitted to the Lord’s Christ. This they would not do--and they cast Him out of their city. As with Christ, so with His Church, and with His messengers. As long as they preach a gospel which does not touch man’s pride and lower his selfesteem, they wonder at the graciousness of the gospel; but the moment it bids them not to be wise in their own conceits, insists on submission of body, soul, and reason to Christ, and calls to a lowly walk and self-abasement, then men rise up against the Church, and its ministers, and against the true gospel of Christ, and would, if they could, cast it out of their city, and hurl it from their thoughts. (J. Baring. Gould, M. A.)

Capernaum

It lay on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, and was, in Christ’s day, a thriving, busy town. The highway to the sea, from Damascus to Ptolemais--now Acre--ran through it, bringing no little local traffic, and also opening the markets of the coast to the rich yield of the neighbouring farms, orchards, and vineyards, and the abundant returns of the fisheries of the lake. The townsfolk thus, as a rule, enjoyed the comfort and plenty we see in the homes of Peter and Matthew, and were even open to the charge of being “winebibbers and gluttonous,” which implied generous entertainments They were proud of their town, and counted on its steady growth and unbounded prosperity, little dreaming of the ruin which would one day make even its site a question. (Dr. Geikie.)

Dr. Robinson, Captain Conder, and others place the site of Capernaum at Khan Mingeh, a spot of unique interest and beauty. Captain Conder certainly adduces strong reasons in favour of this hypothesis. (L. Oliphant.)

Not far from the banks of the Jordan stands Capernaum (now Tell. Hum), and here we find ourselves in the very centre of the Lord’s Galilean ministry. It was at Capernaum that He dwelt. This was the “startingpoint of His journeys, and to this He returned after going about from place to place doing good. (E. Stapfer, D. D.)

Blindness of prejudice

A lady who excelled in making wax flowers and fruit was often criticised severely by her friends, and her work decried, as she thought, unjustly. She convicted them by showing an apple, which they as usual found fault with, one as to the shape, another as to colour, and so on. When they had finished, the lady cut the apple and ate it. (Baxendale’s Anecdotes.)

Overawed by the Spirit

The Rev. Charles G. Finney gives, in the words following, an account of the effects of a Christian look on a certain occasion:--“I once preached, for the first time, in a manufacturing village. The next morning I went into a manufacturing establishment to view its operations. As I passed into the weaving department, I beheld a great company of young women, some of whom, I observed, were looking at me and then at each other, in a manner that indicated a trifling spirit, and that they knew me. I, however, knew none of them. As I approached nearer to those who had recognized me, they seemed to increase in their manifestation of lightness of mind. Their levity made a peculiar impression upon me; I felt it to my very heart. I stopped short and looked at them, I know not how, as my whole mind was absorbed with their guilt and danger. As I settled my countenance upon them, I observed that one of them became very much agitated. A thread broke. She attempted to mend it; but her hands trembled in such a manner that she could not do it. I immediately observed that the sensation was spreading, and had become universal among that class of triflers. I looked steadily at them, until one after another gave up, and paid no more attention to their looms. They fell on their knees, and the influence spread throughout the whole room. I had not spoken a word, as the noise of the looms would have prevented my being heard if I had. In a few minutes all work was abandoned, and tears and lamentations filled the room. At this moment the owner of the factory, who was himself an unconverted man, came in, accompanied, I believe, by the superintendent, who was a professed Christian. When the owner saw the state of things, he said to the superintendent, ‘Stop the mill.’ What he saw seemed to pierce him to the heart. ‘It is more important,’ he hurriedly remarked, ‘that these souls should be saved than that this mill should run.’ As soon as the noise of the machinery had ceased, the owner inquired, ‘What shall we do? We must have a place to meet where we can receive instruction.’ The superintendent replied, ‘The mule-room will do.’ The mules were run up out of the way, and all the hands were notified, and assembled in that room. We had a marvellous meeting. I prayed with them, and gave them such instructions as at the time they could bear. The Word was with power; and within a few days, as I was informed, nearly every hand in that great establishment, together with the owner, had hope in Christ.” (Bate’s Influence of Mind on Mind.)

Remarkable change in the conduct of a mob

A missionary who had been sent to a strange land to proclaim the “gospel of the kingdom of God” and who had passed through many hardships and was often in danger of losing his life, through the persecutions excited against him, came to a place where he had often before, at no small risk, preached Christ crucified. About fifty people who had received good impressions from the Word of God, assembled: he began his discourse; and after he had preached about thirty minutes, an outrageous mob surrounded the house, armed with different instruments of death, and breathing the most sanguinary purposes. The preacher then addressed his little flock to this effect, “These outrageous people seek not you but me, if I continue in the house, they will soon pull it down and we shall be all buried in its ruins, I will therefore in the name of God go out to them and you will be safe. As soon as the preacher made his appearance the savages became instantly as silent and as still as night: he walked forward and they divided to the right and to the left, leaving a passage about four feet wide for himself and a young man who followed him to walk in. The narrator who was present on the occasion goes on to say, This was one of the most affecting spectacles I ever witnessed, an infuriated mob without any visible cause (for the preacher spoke not one word) became in a moment as calm as lambs. They seemed struck with amazement bordering on stupefaction; they stared and stood speechless, and after they had fallen back to right and left to leave him a free passage, they were as motionless as statues. They assembled with the full purpose to destroy the man who came to show them the way of salvation, but he, passing through the midst of them, went his way. (Dr. Adam Clarke.)


Verses 30-44

Verse 31

Luke 4:28; Luk_4:31

And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath

Nazareth; or, Jesus rejected by His friends

I.
WHO WERE THESE REJECTORS OF CHRIST? They have their types and representatives now.

1. They were those who were nearest related to the Saviour. They were the people of His own town.

2. They were those who knew most about Christ. The whole story of the wondrous Child was known to them.

3. They were people who supposed that they had a claim upon Christ. They no doubt argued, “He is a Nazareth man, and of course He is in duty bound to help Nazareth.”

II. WHY THEY THUS REJECT THE MESSIAH.

1. I should not wonder but what the groundwork of their dissatisfaction was laid in the fact that they did not feel themselves to be the persons to whom the Saviour claimed to have a commission. Observe, He said, in the eighteenth verse, that He was “ anointed to preach the gospel to the poor.” Now, the poorest ones in the synagogue may have felt pleased at that word; but as it was almost a maxim with the Jewish doctors that it did not signify what became of the poor--for few but the rich could enter heaven--the very announcement of a gospel for the poor must have sounded tothem awfully democratical and extreme, and must have laid in their minds the foundation of a prejudice. Did not some of them say, “We have worn our phylacteries, and made broad the borders of our garments; we have not eaten except with washen hands; we have strained out all gnats from our wine; we have kept the fasts, and the feasts, and we have made long prayers, why should we feel any poverty of spirit? “ Hence they felt there was nothing in Christ’s mission for them. When He next mentioned the broken-hearted, they were not at all conscious of any need of a broken heart. They felt heart-whole, self-satisfied, perfectly content. What is the acceptable year of the Lord to us, if it is only for bruised captive ones? We are not such. At a glance you perceive, my brethren, the reason why in these days Jesus Christ is rejected by so many church-going and chapel-going people.

2. I entertain little doubt but what the men of Nazareth were angry with Christ because of His exceeding high claims. He said, “The spirit of Jehovah is upon Me.” They started at that. And so men now reject Christ because He sets Himself too high, and asks more of them than they are willing to give.

3. Another reason might be found in the fact that they were not for receiving Christ until He had exhibited some great wonder. They craved for miracles. Their minds were in a sickly state. A young man yonder has said to himself, “If I had a dream, as I hear So-and-so had, or if there should happen to me some very remarkable event in providence, which should just meet my taste; or if I could feel to-day some sudden shock of I know not what, then I would believe.” Thus you dream that my Lord and Master is to be dictated to by you! You are beggars at His gate, asking for mercy, and you must needs draw up rules and regulations as to how He shall give that mercy.

4. Again, and perhaps this time I may hit the head of the nail in some cases, though I suppose not in many in this place, part of the irritation which existed in the minds of the men of Nazareth was caused by the peculiar doctrine which the Saviour preached upon the subject of election. He laid it down that God had a right to dispense His favours just as He pleased, and that in doing so He often selected the most unlikely objects. They did not like this. The doctrine of free grace to the needy is ever a stumbling-block to men.

5. They loved not such plain personal speaking as the Saviour gave them.

6. They could not bear to hear Him hint that He meant to bless the Gentiles.

III. And now, WHAT CAME OF IT?

1. They thrust the Saviour out of the synagogue, and then they tried to hurl Him down the brow of the hill. These were His friends, good, respectable people: who would have believed it of them? You saw that goodly company in the synagogue who sang so sweetly, and listened so attentively, would you have guessed that there was a murderer inside every one of their coats? It only needed the opportunity to bring the murderer out; for there they are all trying to throw Jesus down the hill. We do not know how much devil there is inside any one of us; if we are not renewed and changed by grace, we are heirs of wrath even as others.

2. But what came of it? Why, though they thus thrust Him out, they could not hurt the Saviour. The hurt was all their own. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Men seldom see the great in what is about them

We ride without eyes under Greylock, and go to the White Mountains for sublimity. The moon in Venice, and the sky in Naples, have more charm than here at home. The weeds of other climates become our flowers, and our flowers seem to us but weeds. There is little heroism, little devotion and nobility on our square mile; there are no epics or lyrics of human deed and feeling sung in our streets; the great, the beautiful, the excellent, is at a distance. Why we think thus it may be hard to tell, unless it is from instinctive reverence on the one hand, and on the other because the realization of greatness makes us aware of our own littleness, and so provokes us to every danger. So that what we read of here is no strange history, but only an illustration of a daily fact: a great spirit rejected by friends and neighbours; it is only the carpenter’s Son, the boy who grew up in the midst of us, and now, forsooth, claiming to be a prophet! And so they drive Him out of their city. (T. T. Munger.)

Cause of the Nazarenes’ wrath

What was actually the cause of the sudden upboil of these men’s wrath? It was that their selfesteem was wounded. Christ declared that only the humble and meek would be able to receive Him. Elijah was persecuted, and received only by one poor widow. Naaman was unworthy to be healed till he humbled himself to dip in despised Jordan. The men of Nazareth understood the inference. It was not flattering to their pride; they could not be fed and healed unless they became humble, and submitted to the Lord’s Christ. This they would not do--and they cast Him out of their city. As with Christ, so with His Church, and with His messengers. As long as they preach a gospel which does not touch man’s pride and lower his selfesteem, they wonder at the graciousness of the gospel; but the moment it bids them not to be wise in their own conceits, insists on submission of body, soul, and reason to Christ, and calls to a lowly walk and self-abasement, then men rise up against the Church, and its ministers, and against the true gospel of Christ, and would, if they could, cast it out of their city, and hurl it from their thoughts. (J. Baring. Gould, M. A.)

Capernaum

It lay on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, and was, in Christ’s day, a thriving, busy town. The highway to the sea, from Damascus to Ptolemais--now Acre--ran through it, bringing no little local traffic, and also opening the markets of the coast to the rich yield of the neighbouring farms, orchards, and vineyards, and the abundant returns of the fisheries of the lake. The townsfolk thus, as a rule, enjoyed the comfort and plenty we see in the homes of Peter and Matthew, and were even open to the charge of being “winebibbers and gluttonous,” which implied generous entertainments They were proud of their town, and counted on its steady growth and unbounded prosperity, little dreaming of the ruin which would one day make even its site a question. (Dr. Geikie.)

Dr. Robinson, Captain Conder, and others place the site of Capernaum at Khan Mingeh, a spot of unique interest and beauty. Captain Conder certainly adduces strong reasons in favour of this hypothesis. (L. Oliphant.)

Not far from the banks of the Jordan stands Capernaum (now Tell. Hum), and here we find ourselves in the very centre of the Lord’s Galilean ministry. It was at Capernaum that He dwelt. This was the “startingpoint of His journeys, and to this He returned after going about from place to place doing good. (E. Stapfer, D. D.)

Blindness of prejudice

A lady who excelled in making wax flowers and fruit was often criticised severely by her friends, and her work decried, as she thought, unjustly. She convicted them by showing an apple, which they as usual found fault with, one as to the shape, another as to colour, and so on. When they had finished, the lady cut the apple and ate it. (Baxendale’s Anecdotes.)

Overawed by the Spirit

The Rev. Charles G. Finney gives, in the words following, an account of the effects of a Christian look on a certain occasion:--“I once preached, for the first time, in a manufacturing village. The next morning I went into a manufacturing establishment to view its operations. As I passed into the weaving department, I beheld a great company of young women, some of whom, I observed, were looking at me and then at each other, in a manner that indicated a trifling spirit, and that they knew me. I, however, knew none of them. As I approached nearer to those who had recognized me, they seemed to increase in their manifestation of lightness of mind. Their levity made a peculiar impression upon me; I felt it to my very heart. I stopped short and looked at them, I know not how, as my whole mind was absorbed with their guilt and danger. As I settled my countenance upon them, I observed that one of them became very much agitated. A thread broke. She attempted to mend it; but her hands trembled in such a manner that she could not do it. I immediately observed that the sensation was spreading, and had become universal among that class of triflers. I looked steadily at them, until one after another gave up, and paid no more attention to their looms. They fell on their knees, and the influence spread throughout the whole room. I had not spoken a word, as the noise of the looms would have prevented my being heard if I had. In a few minutes all work was abandoned, and tears and lamentations filled the room. At this moment the owner of the factory, who was himself an unconverted man, came in, accompanied, I believe, by the superintendent, who was a professed Christian. When the owner saw the state of things, he said to the superintendent, ‘Stop the mill.’ What he saw seemed to pierce him to the heart. ‘It is more important,’ he hurriedly remarked, ‘that these souls should be saved than that this mill should run.’ As soon as the noise of the machinery had ceased, the owner inquired, ‘What shall we do? We must have a place to meet where we can receive instruction.’ The superintendent replied, ‘The mule-room will do.’ The mules were run up out of the way, and all the hands were notified, and assembled in that room. We had a marvellous meeting. I prayed with them, and gave them such instructions as at the time they could bear. The Word was with power; and within a few days, as I was informed, nearly every hand in that great establishment, together with the owner, had hope in Christ.” (Bate’s Influence of Mind on Mind.)

Remarkable change in the conduct of a mob

A missionary who had been sent to a strange land to proclaim the “gospel of the kingdom of God” and who had passed through many hardships and was often in danger of losing his life, through the persecutions excited against him, came to a place where he had often before, at no small risk, preached Christ crucified. About fifty people who had received good impressions from the Word of God, assembled: he began his discourse; and after he had preached about thirty minutes, an outrageous mob surrounded the house, armed with different instruments of death, and breathing the most sanguinary purposes. The preacher then addressed his little flock to this effect, “These outrageous people seek not you but me, if I continue in the house, they will soon pull it down and we shall be all buried in its ruins, I will therefore in the name of God go out to them and you will be safe. As soon as the preacher made his appearance the savages became instantly as silent and as still as night: he walked forward and they divided to the right and to the left, leaving a passage about four feet wide for himself and a young man who followed him to walk in. The narrator who was present on the occasion goes on to say, This was one of the most affecting spectacles I ever witnessed, an infuriated mob without any visible cause (for the preacher spoke not one word) became in a moment as calm as lambs. They seemed struck with amazement bordering on stupefaction; they stared and stood speechless, and after they had fallen back to right and left to leave him a free passage, they were as motionless as statues. They assembled with the full purpose to destroy the man who came to show them the way of salvation, but he, passing through the midst of them, went his way. (Dr. Adam Clarke.)


Verse 32

Luke 4:32

For His word was with power

The word and power

Witness the ministry of Chalmers.
It is said that Professor Young, who occupied the chair of Greek in the university, on one occasion “was so electrified that he leaped up from his seat upon the bench near the pulpit, and stood, breathless and motionless, gazing at the preacher, until the burst was over, the tears all the while rolling down his cheeks.” Dr. Wardlaw describes one scene he witnessed as follows:--“It was a transcendently grand, a glorious burst. The energy of the Doctor’s action corresponded. Intense emotion beamed from his countenance. I cannot describe the appearance of his face better than by saying, as Foster said of Hall’s, it was ‘lighted up almost into a glare.’ The congregation--in so far as the spell under which I was allowed me to observe them--were intensely excited, leaning forward in the pews like a forest bent under the power of the hurricane, looking steadfastly at the preacher and listening in breathless wonderment. One young man, apparently by his dress a sailor, started to his feet and stood till it was over. As soon as it was concluded there was (as invariably was the case at the close of the Doctor’s bursts) a deep sigh, or rather a gasp for breath, accompanied by a movement through the whole audience.” (
Bishop Simpson.)

His word was with power

We remember having heard a departed friend tell how, when a boy, he was taken by his father, one still, summer evening across the Northamptonshire fields--I believe it was to the little village of Thrapstone--to hear Robert Hall. It was one of those old village chapels, with the square galleries. As in the instance of Chalmers, the place was crowded with plain farmer folk and a sprinkling of intelligent ministers and gentry from the neighbourhood. The minister came m, a simple, heavy, but still impressive-looking man, one whose presence compelled you to look at him. In due course he announced his text, “The end of all things is at hand; be sober and watch.” Quite unlike Chalmers, his voice was not shattering, but thin and weak. There was no action at all, or only a kind of nervous twitching of the fingers; more especially as the hand moved and rested upon the lower part of the back, where the speaker was suffering almost incessant pain. As he went on, beneath the deepening evening shades falling through the windows of the old chapel, his voice first chained and then charmed and fascinated his hearers one after another; the whole place seemed as if beneath a great spell. As he talked about “the end,” the spell upon the people seemed to begin to work itself out into an awful, fearful restlessness; first one, then another, rose from their seats, and stood stretching forward with a kind of fright and wonder. Still there was no action, only the following on of that thin voice, with a marvellous witchery of apt and melodious words, but through them “the end of all things” sounded like some warning bell. More people rose, stretching forward. Many of those who rose first, as if they felt some strange power upon them, they knew not what, got up and stood upon their seats until, when the great master ceased, dosing his passionate and pathetic accents, the whole audience was upon its feet, intensely alive with interest, as if each one had heard in the distance the presages and preludes of the coming end, and felt that it was time to prepare. My friend used to speak of that never-forgotten moment, that summer evening in the old chapel as one of the most memorable of his life. (E. Paxton Hood.)

Spiritual power known only by its effects

Nor is it the only exhibition of power. Consider the chemical affinity that draws together the acids and alkalies. Think of the magnetic power which makes the steel filings, though in the midst of dust and rubbish and clippings of tin and brass, leave them all and fly up and kiss the magnet. It touches the pivoted needle, and men and treasures are secure upon the stormy ocean by its unerring guidance. The winds blow ever so fiercely; the waves roll ever so furiously; the vessel pitches as though it would founder; and yet that strange influence, unseen, unheard, unfelt, holds the needle in its place. Who can tell what is power? We see it in its effects; we measure it in its results. (Bishop Simpson.)

The presence of Christ a source of power

There is a beautiful legend of St. Chrysostom. He had been educated carefully; was a man of culture, and devoted to his calling; and yet in his earlier ministry he was not remarkable for his success. At one time he had what seemed to be a vision. He thought he was in the pulpit, and in the chancel and round about him were holy angels. In the midst of them and directly before him was the Lord Jesus; and he was to preach to the congregation assembled beyond. The vision or the reverie deeply affected his spirit.. The next day he ascended the pulpit he felt the impression of the scene. He thought of the holy angels as if gathered around him; of the blessed Saviour as directly before him--as listening to His words, and beholding His Spirit. He became intensely earnest; and from that day forward a wonderful power attended his ministrations. Multitudes gathered around him wherever he preached. Though he had the simple name of John while he lived, the ages have called him Chrysostom, the “golden-mouthed.” (Bishop Simpson.)

The causes considered that made our Lord’s word with power

I shall endeavour to show, therefore, that the word of our blessed Lord was always attended with power--

I. From the truth and disinterestedness of His doctrines, and the superior excellence of His sentiments.

II. From the gracious manner in which those sentiments were delivered.

III. From the openness and sincerity of His reproof; and--

IV. From His example. (J. Hewlett, D. D.)


Verses 33-36

Verses 33-37

Luke 4:33-37

And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil

The expulsion of the unclean spirit

I.
Observe THE CONFESSION THE UNCLEAN SPIRIT MADE concerning the Redeemer. Here Christ’s righteousness and purity are admitted.

1. He is declared to be “the Holy One of God.”

2. This confession was bold and public.

3. It was deprecatory. The language of dread. The demons knew their time was limited, their power circumscribed, and that their hellish rule and dominion was to be overthrown by the Son of God.

II. Observe THE COURSE CHRIST ADOPTED.

1. Rebuke.

2. Expulsion.

III. Notice THE RESULTS WHICH FOLLOWED.

1. The unclean spirit gives a last struggle to injure his victim.

2. He came out of the man.

3. The people gave homage and glory to Christ.

4. The fame of Christ was spread abroad.

Application:

1. The unrenewed mind is under the power of the unclean spirit.

2. Those who are thus influenced are in circumstances of misery and peril.

3. Christ alone has power to save and deliver.

4. In the gospel this deliverance is proclaimed. (Jabez Burns, D. D.)

Demoniacal possession

Should the possessed mentioned by the evangelists be regarded simply as persons afflicted after the same manner as our lunatics, whose derangement was attributed by Jewish and heathen superstition to supernatural influence? Or did God really permit, at this extraordinary epoch in history, an exceptional display of diabolical power? Or, lastly, should certain morbid conditions, now existing, which medical science attributes to purely natural causes, either physical or psychical, be put down, at the present day also, to the action of higher causes? These are the three hypotheses which present themselves to the mind. Several of the demoniacs healed by Jesus certainly exhibit symptoms very like those which are observed at the present day in those who are simply afflicted; e.g., the epileptic child (Luke 9:37). These strange conditions in every case, therefore, were based on a real disorder, either physical or physicopsychical. The evangelists are so far from being ignorant of this, that they constantly class the demoniacs under the category of the sick, never under that of the vicious. The possessed have nothing in common with the “children of the devil.” Nevertheless these afflicted persons are constantly made a class by themselves. On what does this distinction rest? On this leading fact, that those who are simply sick enjoy their own personal consciousness, and are in possession of their own will; while in the possessed these faculties are, as it were, confiscated to a foreign power, with which the sick person identifies himself. How is this peculiar system to be explained? Josephus, under Hellenic influence, thought that it should be attributed to the souls of wicked men who came after death seeking a domicile in the living. In the eyes of the people the strange guest was a demon, a fallen angel. This latter opinion Jesus must have shared. Strictly speaking, His colloquies with the demoniacs might be explained by an accommodation to popular prejudice, and the sentiments of those who were thus afflicted; but in His private conversations with His disciples, He must, whatever was true, have disclosed His real thoughts, and sought to enlighten them. But He does nothing of the kind; on the contrary, He gives the apostles and disciples power to “cast out devils” (Luke 9:1), and to tread on “all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19). In Mark 9:29 He distinguishes a certain class of demons that can only be driven out by prayer and fasting. In Luke 11:21 He explains the facility with which He casts out demons by the personal victory which He had achieved over Satan at the beginning. He therefore admitted the intervention of this being in these mysterious conditions. If this is so, is it not natural to admit that He who exercised over this, as over all other kinds of maladies, such absolute power, best understood its nature, and that therefore His views upon the point should determine ours? Are there not times when God permits a superior evil power to invade humanity? Just as God sent Jesus at a period in history when moral and social evil had reached its culminating point, did not He also permit an extraordinary manifestation of diabolical power to take place at the same time? By this means Jesus could be proclaimed externally and visibly as the conqueror of the enemy of men, as He who came to “destroy the works of the devil” in the moral sense of the expression. As to the present state of things, it must not be compared with the times of Jesus. Not only might the latter have been of an exceptional character; but the beneficent influence which the gospel has exercised in restoring man to Himself, and bringing his conscience under the power of the holy and true God, may have brought about a complete change in the spiritual world. Lastly, apart from all this, is there nothing mysterious, from a scientific point of view, in certain cases of mental derangement, particularly in those conditions in which the will is, as it were, confiscated to, and paralyzed by, an unknown power? And after deduction has been made for all those forms of mental maladies which a discriminating analysis can explain by moral and physical relations, will not an impartial physician agree that there is a residuum of cases respecting which he must say: Non liquet? Possession is a caricature of inspiration. The latter, attaching itself to the moral essence of a man, confirms him for ever in the possession of his true self; the former, while profoundly opposed to the nature of the subject, takes advantage of its state of morbid passivity, and leads to the forfeiture of personality. The one is the highest work of God; the other, of the devil. (F. Coder, D. D.)

The demoniac in the synagogue

Strange men in strange places I Think of a devil being in the synagogue! It is the same to-day. The sanctuary draws into itself all sorts of human character; not only the rich and the poor, but the best and the worst are there. Evil knows good and hates it. Evil is not so powerful in reality as goodness, though apparently much mightier. Jesus is greater than all evil spirits. “Art Thou come to destroy us?” is a significant inquiry. “For this purpose was He manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” (J. Parker, D. D.)

The King casting out evil spirits

The superstition which connects demons with a wilderness has been used to explain our Lord’s temptation. That explanation has nothing to do with the story given us by the evangelists. They describe the encounter of the Spirit of Christ with the spirit of evil; the test of their veracity lies in the experience of human beings in cities as much as in deserts, in one period as much as another. It seems to me, then, most reasonable, not only for the sake of anything which may have been peculiar to that time, but for the sake of every time, that the evangelist should give these victories over demons a prominent place in the history of Redemption. The impression produced in the synagogue of Capernaum is the simplest testimony to the nature of such a sign. “What a word is this? “ they said. There was the sense of One who did not charm ‘away evils by a look or a touch. The calm Divine energy with which He declared that the kingdom of God was indeed among men--that God’s power was manifesting itself as of old in breaking fetters, insetting captives free--this came forth in the command that the unclean spirit should depart. The evil spirit was not the man’s lord. The kingdoms of this world and the glory of them were not his. Holiness was mightier. (F. D. Maurice.)

Possessed by the devil

An affecting case was that of William Pope, of Bolton, in Lancashire. At this place there is a considerable number of deistical persons, who assemble together on Sundays to confirm each other in their infidelity. The oaths and imprecations that arc uttered in that meeting are too horrible to relate, while they toss the Word of God upon the floor, kick it round the house, and tread it under their feet. This William Pope, who had been a steady Methodist for some years, became at length a professed Deist, and joined himself to this hellish crew. After he had been an associate of this company some time, he was taken ill, and the nature of his complaint was such, that he confessed the hand of God was upon him, and he declared he longed to die, that he might go to hell, many times praying earnestly for damnation. Two of the Methodist preachers, Messrs. Rhodes and Barrowclough, were sent for to talk to and pray with the unhappy man. But he was so far from being thankful for their advice and assistance, that he spit in their faces, threw at them whatever he could lay his hands upon, struck one of them upon the head with all his might, and often cried out, when they were praying, “Lord, do not hear their prayers!” If they said, “Lord, save his scull” he cried, “Lord, damn my scull” often adding, “My damnation is sealed, and I long to be in hell!” In this way he continued, sometimes better and sometimes worse, till he died. He was frequently visited by his deistical brethren during his illness, who would fain have persuaded the public he was out of his senses, which was by no means the ease. The writer of this account saw the unhappy man once, but never desired to see him again. Mr. Rhodes justly said he was as full of the devil as- he could hold. (Simpson’s “Plea for religion.”)

The testimony of the evil spirit to Christ, and His refusal to accept it

Earth has not recognized her King; but heaven has borne witness to Him, and now hell must bear its witness too. But what could have been the motive to this testimony, thus borne? It is strange that the evil spirit should, without compulsion, proclaim to the world the presence in the midst of it of the Holy One of God, of Him who should thus bring all the unholy, on which he battened, and by which he lived, to an end. Might we not rather expect that he should have denied, or sought to obscure, the glory of Christ’s person? It cannot be replied that this was an unwilling confession to the truth, forcibly extorted by Christ’s superior power, seeing that it displeased Him in whose favour it professed to be borne, and this so much that He at once stopped the mouth of the utterer. It remains, then, either to understand this as the cry of abject and servile fear, that with fawning and flatteries would fain avert from itself the doom which, with Christ’s presence in the world, must evidently be near; or else to regard this testimony as intended only to injure the estimation of Him in whose behalf it was rendered. There was hope that the truth itself might be brought into suspicion and discredit, thus receiving attestation from the spirit of lies; and these confessions of Jesus as the Christ may have been meant to traverse and mar His work. The fact that Christ would not allow the testimony goes some way to make this the preferable explanation. Observe it is not here as elsewhere, “The Lord rebuke thee,” but He rebukes in His own name and by His own authority. (Archbishop Trench.)

Christ at Capernaum

I. HIS PREACHING--“He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the Sabbath days. And they were astonished at His doctrine: for His Word was with power.”

1. Observe the place--Capernaum.

2. The season--“The Sabbath days.” Not that He forebore on other days; His lips always “dropped like an honey-comb.”

3. Then the impression.

II. LET US PASS FROM HIS TEACHING TO HIS MIRACLE.

1. Let us glance at the subject of this miracle. It was “a man who was possessed of a spirit of an unclean devil.” Satan has much to do in the synagogue--much more than in many other places. In Macgowan’s “Dialogues of Devils” there is this relation. Two infernal spirits having met, one of them very warm and weary, and the other cool and lively; after a little explanation it was found that he who was cool and lively, had been at the playhouse where he had nothing to do, where they were all with him, where they were all of one mind, all doing his work: whereas the other who was warm and weary, said, “I have been at a place of worship, and I had much to do there; to make some sleep; to induce some to hear for others instead of themselves; to lead the thoughts of some, like the fool’s eye, unto the ends of the earth; to pick up as fast as I could the seed which was sown in the heart; and to turn away the point of the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, lest it should pierce even to the dividing of soul and body, and of the joints and marrow, and be a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” I hope, none of you employ him thus.

Here, you see, the devil not only believed much, but talked well.

2. Let us look at the Author of this miracle, and we shall see how the enemy of souls is under the dominion of the Lord Jesus; that though an adversary, yet he is restrained, he is chained.

3. Then, as to the spectators--“ They were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a Word is this l for with authority and power He commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out.” Oh! if they had but improved as well as admired!

III. THEN HERE IS HIS FALSE--“And the fame of Him went out into every place of the country round about.” Who does not rejoice in this spread of His fame? Who does not wish His fame everywhere spread abroad? Gratitude requires you to be thus employed. For benevolence requires you to be thus employed, Many are perishing; and they are perishing for lack of knowledge, and the knowledge of Him; for “to know Him is eternal life.” (W. Jay.)


Verse 37

Luke 4:37

And the fame of Him went out into every place of the country round about

The fame of Jesus

I.
Now, you will plainly perceive that my drift is as usual this morning. I want all my time, and strength, and power to spread the fame of Jesus in every place throughout the country. Well, then, WE WILL NOTICE THREE OR FOUR THINGS IN WHICH HE IS AND MUST BE FAMED. First of all, His fame is spread abroad with regard to the majesty of His Person. Moreover, He is famed for the offices which He sustains. Here a multitude will rush on my attention, but I will limit myself to the three which are well known and constantly dwelt upon. He is far-famed as a Prophet. And is He not famed as a Priest? Moreover, He is far-famed in His office as a Potentate. But we hasten on just to mark that our precious Christ is famed in the relative ties which He condescends to own. He is not ashamed to call His Church brethren. But let me just touch upon the extraordinary works which seem to have been the cause of the expression--“ His fame was spread in every place of that country round about.” What had He done? He had cast out devils, He had raised the dead, He had restored Simon’s wife’s mother from the fever, He had removed the uncleanness of those who were possessed by an unclean spirit, He had wrought prodigies and miracles; and yet, though He had done so many mighty works among them, the enemies believed not on Him. And yet this caused Him to be far-famed. Moreover, His fame was not only to be published on account of the mighty works which He had done, but they were only typical, though real in their instances, of the greater work pertaining to His errand upon earth. And here I must limit myself to three things He does for sinners, that has spread His fame down to this hour, and shall do it while I have a voice to utter it, and to all eternity. He has redeemed sinners, He has rescued sinners, and He has received sinners, and all these acts publish his fame.

II. Now LET US GLANCE, IN THE SECOND PLACE, AT THE AGENTS EMPLOYED TO SPREAD HIS FAME. I cannot help mentioning, in the first place, His kindred, when He was sought for among His kinsfolks, and could not be found. And so in many other instances of His literal history which we now pass over to come to the point spiritually. It is His kindred that publish His fame. That is, those who are allied to Him by grace. Moreover, I beseech you to mark that no partaker of life Divine can consider it a matter of little importance in his life, that the fame of Jesus should be spread by him. And if you are doing nothing or saying nothing to spread the fame of Jesus, do not tell me you are related to Him. Bat not only do His kindred spread His fame; even His enemies must do it. I put this in contrast. You will recollect the Apostle Paul rejoiced in this: “There are some that preach Christ of good-will, and some that preach Christ out of envy and strife.” Further, mark that this precious, glorious, far-famed Jesus is exalted, and His fame is spread by the objects of His attention, for whom He wrought so much.

III. But I must hasten to a close with A WORD OR TWO RELATIVE TO THE RESULTS. And I will only mention two--the results among the wicked surrounding Him, and the results among the objects of the Father’s love given to Him. (J. Irons.)


Verse 38-39

Luke 4:38-39

And He arose out of the synagogue and entered into Simon’s house

Simon’s wife’s mother

Suffering is to be found everywhere, in the public synagogue and in the private house.
Even Peter’s house was not exempt. The chosen ones are tried as by fire, and the rod proves their election
. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Simon’s house

How came Peter to have a house at Capernaum? Poor fishermen do not often have two houses, May it not be that, finding the Lord Jesus was frequently at Capernaum, Peter thought it best to have a dwelling there, that he might be always present when the Master was preaching, and that he might do his best to entertain Him between whiles? I like to think that the servant changed his place of abode for the Master’s sake. Would it not be well if many Christian people had some little consideration when they are choosing a house, as to whether it will be convenient for the hearing of the Word? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Sickness produces seriousness

Professor Henry Drummond, the author of “Natural Law in the Spiritual World,” has been very earnestly at work in the revival in the Edinburgh University. His addresses have been intensely evangelical, and have been wondrously powerful in their effects on the students. One anecdote seemed to have touched them deeply. Substantially it was to this effect:--Some years ago, in the University, there was a fine, manly fellow, a medical student, a very Hercules in strength, but as gentle and lovable as he was strong. He was immensely popular, the captain of the football club, and not a cricket match was considered complete without him. He was a man of good intellectual gifts as well. He caught typhoid fever while attending the Royal Infirmary, and soon he lay dying in a private ward. One of the house physicians, an earnest Christian and successful soul-winner, spoke to him about God and eternity. The dear fellow listened, became anxious, and eagerly heard the story of redeeming love. “Will you give yourself to Jesus?” asked the doctor. He did not answer for a space, and then, earnestly regarding the man of God, he said, “But don’t you think it would be awful mean just to make it up now, at my last gasp, with One I have rejected all my life?” “Yes, it would be mean; but, dear fellow, it would be far meaner not to do it. He wants you to do it now, for He has made you willing, and it would be doubly mean to reject a love that is pursuing you even to death.” The dying man saw the point, and apprehending the greatness of that exceeding love, he cast himself upon the Eternal Heart of Mercy and passed away in sweet peace and blessedness.

Blessed results of sickness

When God would rescue a man from that unreal world of names and mere knowledge, He does what He did with Job--He strips him of his flocks, and his herds, and his wealth; or else, whatis the equivalent, of the power of enjoying them--the desire of his eyes falls from him at a stroke. Things become real then. Trial brings man face to face with God--God and he touch; and the flimsy veil of bright cloud that hung between him and the sky is blown away; he feels that he is standing outside the earth with nothing between him and the Eternal Infinite. Oh I there is something in the sick-bed, and the aching heart, and the restlessness and the languor of shattered health, and the sorrow of affections withered, and the stream of life poisoned at its fountain, and the cold, lonely feeling of utter rawness of heart which is felt when God strikes home in earnest that forces a man to feel what is real and what is not. This is the blessing of affliction to those who will lie still and not struggle in a cowardly or a resentful way. It is God speaking to Job out of the whirlwind, and saying: “ In the sunshine and the warmth you cannot meet Me; but in the hurricane and the darkness, when wave after wave has swept down and across the soul, you shall see My Form, and hear My Voice, and know that your Redeemer liveth.” (F. W. Robertson.)

The ministry of gratitude

I. The fact that this restored woman began at once to minister to Christ and to His disciples proves THE CERTAINTY OF HER CURE and there are no better ways of proving the thoroughness of our conversion than by conduct similar to hers. Suppose the patient had lain there and had begun to talk about how she felt, how much better she was, what a strange sensation passed through her when the Saviour rebuked the disease, and how strangely well she felt; yet if she had not risen up, but had lain there still, there would have been no evidence of her restoration, at any rate none that you or I could judge of. So when persons tell us that they have felt great changes of heart, we must see their outward ministerings for Christ. If their actions be holy, if their lives be purified, then shall we know, but not till then, that their nature is renewed. Suppose this good woman, still lying upon her bed, had begun to say, “Well, I hope I am healed,” and had begun to express some feeble expectation that one day she would be able to exercise the functions of health, we could not have known that she was restored. Something more was wanted than mere hopes and expectations. Note the nature of the acts which this restored woman performed, because they are symbolical of the best form of actions by which to judge of a person being renewed.

1. Her duties were humble ones. She was probably the head of the household, and she began at once to discharge the duties of a housewife: duties unostentatious and commonplace. Attention to humble duties is a better sign of grace than an ambition for lofty and elevated works.

2. Remember, too, that this good woman attended to home duties. She did not go down the street a hundred yards off to glorify Christ; she, I daresay, did that afterwards; but she began at home: charity begins there, and so should piety. That is the best religion which is most at home at home. Grace which smiles around the family hearth is grace indeed.

3. She attended to suitable duties, duties consistent with her sex and condition. She did not try to be what God had not made her, but did what she could.

4. One other point before leaving this; these things become a conclusive proof of grace in the heart, when they are voluntarily rendered as this good woman’s ministry was. I do not read that she was asked to do anything for Christ, but it suggested itself to her at once, without command or request. Her work was done promptly, for “immediately she arose” and did it. Promptness is the soul of obedience.

II. This woman’s ministry showed THE PERFECTION OF HER CURE. And, beloved, it is one mark of a work of grace in the soul when the converted man becomes at once a servant of Christ. The human theory of moral reformations makes time a great element in its operations. If you are to reclaim a great offender you must win him from one vice first, and then from another; you must put him through a process of education by which he gradually perceives that what he has been accustomed to do is bad for himself, and wakes up to the conviction that honesty and sobriety will be the best for his own profit. Time is required by the moral reformer, or he cannot develop his plans. He ridicules the idea of effecting anything in an hour or two.

III. Peter’s wife’s mother, in ministering to Christ proved HER OWN GRATITUDE. Her acts of hospitality were an exhibition of her thankfulness. Brethren, if we want to evidence our gratitude to Christ we had better do it in the same way as she did.

IV. This woman’s ministering to Christ proved THE CONDESCENSION OF THE PHYSICIAN. He who healed her of the fever did not need her to minister to Him; He who had power to heal diseases had certainly power to subsist without human ministry. If Christ could raise her up, He must be omnipotent and Divine; what need, then, had He of a woman’s service? Yet He condescended to accept it. What condescension that He should accept ministry from His own creatures; what gentleness that He so often chose woman’s ministry. He came to earth, and the first garments of His infancy were wrapped about Him by a woman’s hands, and here He dwelt till at last He died, and holy women bound Him up in the cerements of the tomb and laid Him in the sepulchre. It seems easy enough to believe that the Blessed Virgin and Mary Magdalene and other holy women were honoured of God; but that you, dear sister, should be allowed to take a part in His service--is not this marvellous? Will you not bless Him, and minister with the utmost cheerfulness because you feel it to be so great a grace? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

All may minister for God

On our birthdays our little children love to give their father something, if it is only a bunch of flowers out of the garden, or a fourpenny piece with a hole in it; they like to do it to show their love; and wise parents will be sure to let their children do such things for them. So is it with our great Father in heaven. What are our Sunday-school teachings and our preachings, and all that, but these cracked fourpenny pieces? Just nothing at all; but the Lord allows us to do His work for His own love’s sake. His love to us finds a sweetness in our love to Him. I am most thankful that in the Church there is room for such a variety of ministries. Some brethren are so queerly constituted that I cannot tell what they were made for; but I believe if they are God’s people there is a place for them in His spiritual temple. A man who was accustomed to buy timber and work it up, on one occasion found a very crooked stick of wood in his bargain, and said to his son as he put it aside. “I cannot tell, John, whatever I shall do with it; it is the ugliest shaped piece I ever bought in my life”; but it so happened while building a barn that he wanted a timber exactly of that shape, and it fitted in so thoroughly well that he said, “It really seems as if that tree grew on purpose for that corner.” So our gracious Lord has arranged His Church, so that every crooked stick will fit in somewhere or other, if it be only a tree of His own right hand planting: He has made it with a purpose, and knows when it will answer that purpose. How this ought to rebuke any who say, “I do not see what I can do.” Dear friend, there is a peculiar work for you; find it out--and methinks it will not be far off: the exercise of a little reflection will soon enable you to discover it. Be grateful that this is a certain fact, without exception, that every child of God who has been healed has some ministry which he can render to Christ, and which he ought to render at once. Bless God, dear brother, that He counts you worthy to suffer for His name’s sake. You know the old story of Sir Walter Raleigh. When Queen Elizabeth, one day, came to a miry place in the road, he took off his cloak for her to walk upon. Did he regret it? No, he was delighted at it, and half the court wished for another muddy place that they might be able to do the same. Oh, you that love your Lord, be willing to lie down for Christ’s sake, and pave the miry parts of the way by being despised for His name’s sake. This honour you should covet, and should not shun. Arise and minister, ye healed ones; and as for you who are not healed, may you believe in Him who is able to restore you with His touch. He is mighty to save. Believe in Him and you shall live. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

A sympathetic physician

The pious, good-natured Dr. Helm had no time, as he was wont to say, “to get ill.” Always busy, ever pleased to visit the cottage of the poorest as the mansions of the rich, all classes of Berlin joined to do honour to the good old man on the jubilee of his fiftieth year of service. The festivities lasted three days. The constant noise and excitement had made the doctor more than usually tired. Late at night a poor woman came to beg him to visit her child, who was taken suddenly ill. The servants had orders to send all applications away, as the doctor felt he needed rest; but the woman, knowing the house, managed to get to the doctor’s private room to plead her cause. Still Dr. Heim said he could not go. After all had retired to rest Madame Heim said to her husband, “What is the matter with you, doctor? Why don’t you sleep?” “Because I can’t,” he said; “it’s a curious thing with my conscience; I must go and see that child.” He rang the bell, and forgetting his fatigue, ran to the sick child, whom he was the means of restoring to health. After the visit he returned and slept soundly. (Baxendale’s Anecdotes.)


Verse 40

Luke 4:40; Luk_4:42

Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick

Now when the sun was setting

When the sun set another sun arose.
The eventide of nature brought the morning of restoration. Nature perishes: Grace is eternal. Come to Christ when you can--early in the day, or in the shades of evening--He is ever ready. In
Luke 4:42 mark an attempt to localise Christ. This is often done even now. But He is not to be parochially or congregationally shut in. He is the light of every life. He must gather His sheep from every hill, and call His own from unexpected places. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The miracles of healing at Capernaum

These words form a very vivid contrast with what is recorded in the former part of this chapter. In Nazareth He did no mighty works. Could not, not would not. It was not because the people there didn’t want help. It was as bad to be sick up there as in Capernaum. But it was because of their unbelief. Then in wonderful contrast comes this story of Capernaum. That contrast we can still make. We may have this Nazareth, Jesus in the midst with all His healing power, and yet our hearts unblessed; or it may be to us Capernaum, and Jesus moving in and out amongst us, laying His hands on every one of us and making us whole.

I. THE SCENE HERE PICTURED. The sun was setting; the mountains were lifting up their heads into the golden crimson, and the lake was bathed in the sunset hues. Across the rocky paths came wearied ones from the inland villages with withered limbs; blind men groping their way and asking piteously if they were right; deaf men trying to read the signs of His coming in everybody’s face; and, across the lake, boat-loads of sick ones, the glassy surface of the lake just broken by the ripple of the oar; and thus they came, until what a sight it was about the gate of the city!

II. FOLLOW THE MASTER THROUGH THE WARDS OF HIS HOSPITAL. NOW the whisper runs through the crowd, “He comes.” He comes--those eyes of His all filled with compassion; and moving about amongst them, “ He laid His hands on every one of them.” No poor woman was thrust away outside; no poor little child was forgotten.

1. Notice that the power of the Lord is a healing power--“not to condemn the world.” And

2. See how the Lord uses this power--with what gentleness.

3. Notice how the Lord deals with men in their individuality--“every one of them.”

III. Look AT THE SICK ONES. First, here is a heathen woman. Here stands a sturdy Roman soldier who has been maimed in some fight, &c. In Christ’s hospital every case is peculiar. (New Outlines of Sermons on New Testament.)

God’s Kingdom

Which kingdom? There is

But none of these is the kingdom I am going to talk about. There is another kingdom, the kingdom of His grace, the kingdom in the hearts of men, called the kingdom of God in my text.

I. THIS KINGDOM IS ONE THE KINGDOMS OF THE EARTH ARE MANY. The kingdom of God does not resemble any of these. It is a spiritual kingdom.

II. THE KINGDOMS OF THIS WORLD ARE NOT HAPPY, THE KINGDOM OF GRACE IS.

III. THE KINGDOMS OF EARTH ARE MAINTAINED BY FORCE THE THRONE OF GOD’S KINGDOM IS ESTABLISHED IN THE AFFECTIONS OF ITS SUBJECTS.

III. THE KINGDOMS OF EARTH DECAY THE KINGDOM OF GOD NEVER.

IV. Practical questions:

1. Are we members of this kingdom?

2. If not, are we willing to become members? (E. G. Gange.)

Imposition of hands

This rite is a symbol of any kind of transmission, whether of a gift or an office (Moses and Joshua, Deuteronomy 34:9), or of a blessing (the patriarchal blessings), or of a duty (the transfer to the Levites of the natural functions of the eldest son in every family), or of guilt (the guilty Israelite laying his hands on the head of the victim), or of the sound, vital strength enjoyed by the person who imparts it (cures). It is not certainly that Jesus could not have worked a cure by His mere word, or even by a simple act of volition. But, in the first place, there is something profoundly human in this act of laying the hand on the head of any one whom one desires to benefit. It is a gesture of tenderness, a sign of beneficial communication such as the heart craves. Then this symbol might be morally necessary. Whenever Jesus avails Himself of any material means to work a cure--whether it be the sound of His voice, or clay made of His spittle--His aim is to establish in the form best adapted to the particular case, a personal tie between the sick person and Himself; for He desires not only to heal, but to effect a restoration to God, by creating in the consciousness of the sick a sense of union with Himself, the organ of Divine grace in the midst of mankind. This moral aim explains the variety of the means employed. Had they been curative means (of the nature of magnetic passes, for example) they could not have varied so much. But as they were addressed to the sick person’s soul, Jesus chose them in such a way that His action was adapted to its character or position. In the case of a deaf mute, He puts His fingers into his ears; He anointed the eyes of a blind man with His spittle, &c. Thus their healing appeared as an emanation from His person, and attached them to Him by an indissoluble tie. Their restored life was felt to be dependent on His. (F. Godet, D. D.)

The Great Physician

We have here a picture of Jesus as the Great Physician of soul and body, the Divine restorer of health to both body and mind. It is never to be forgotten how He thus met the sufferings of humanity, and brought effective deliverance as none other ever could or ever will bring, to a world ever groaning and travailing in pain. And what He did then, He is doing still. We cannot now see His earthly Form, nor do we look for miracles to be wrought upon us; but each of us has his own peculiar care or trouble, and needs the Divine Physician to relieve his distress.

1. True, there are earthly reliefs, and it is our duty to make proper use of them; but they are all more or less temporary and fleeting.

2. True also, that if present relief is not to be had, we may still be buoyed up by earthly hope. But alas! how often is this but “hope deferred,” which “makes the heart sick”; and how often is the miserable and weary sufferer brought to such a state that the only earthly hope left him is the hope that he may soon be done with earth altogether, and his poor pained body be laid to rest in the grave! Oh, how vain are all earthly hopes, and how doomed to disappointment are those who trust in them. But, thank God! our Christian philosophy is not so cold. We have more than this.

I. A PRESENT HELP. We have learned that present, earthly, personal comfort is not such a grand object after all; that there are higher things, and better things, within our reach. What are these? Growing better, being sanctified, making this life not an end but a beginning and preparation for a higher and better life. Not only so, but we can go to Jesus as truly as could the friends at Capernaum, and help to take our sufferers there. Nor have we far to go. He is always at hand, and always accessible. Moreover, He is unchangeable; not like earthly friends and comforts, but always the same; the truest help in any and every kind of suffering--whether of mind, body, or estate, as many a soul has proved, in sickness, poverty, anxiety, loneliness.

II. A FUTURE HOPE. If, in spite of every aid, the burdens of life press heavily on us, we have more than the silence of the grave to look for; we know that while our body sleeps, our soul is with Christ in paradise, and that one day there will be a happy reunion. Conclusion: Let us first find the way ourselves to this present help and future hope, and then we shall be able to point our friends to it and to Jesus who is indeed our only help and our only hope. And then, one word more for our comfort. You will remember that our blessed Lord was not done with the sufferers when He laid His hands upon them and conferred present relief in trouble. They might go home with glad hearts, and enjoy the blessing of God, but a time would come when they might again suffer in body or in mind, and when they would at last have to give up all hope of earthly remedy. But Jesus was not forgetting them. Tired and wearied as He was, He rose up a great while before day, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. He was blessing them even more in His absence than while with them in bodily presence. Even so is it still with the sufferers and with the healed. Jesus is not only ever blessing us with divine comfort and strength, but He is pleading for us with the Father. He knows the pain of each heart, and He will bless us and it for our good if we will but go to Him. (George Low, M. A.)


Verse 40

Luke 4:40; Luk_4:42

Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick

Now when the sun was setting

When the sun set another sun arose.
The eventide of nature brought the morning of restoration. Nature perishes: Grace is eternal. Come to Christ when you can--early in the day, or in the shades of evening--He is ever ready. In
Luke 4:42 mark an attempt to localise Christ. This is often done even now. But He is not to be parochially or congregationally shut in. He is the light of every life. He must gather His sheep from every hill, and call His own from unexpected places. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The miracles of healing at Capernaum

These words form a very vivid contrast with what is recorded in the former part of this chapter. In Nazareth He did no mighty works. Could not, not would not. It was not because the people there didn’t want help. It was as bad to be sick up there as in Capernaum. But it was because of their unbelief. Then in wonderful contrast comes this story of Capernaum. That contrast we can still make. We may have this Nazareth, Jesus in the midst with all His healing power, and yet our hearts unblessed; or it may be to us Capernaum, and Jesus moving in and out amongst us, laying His hands on every one of us and making us whole.

I. THE SCENE HERE PICTURED. The sun was setting; the mountains were lifting up their heads into the golden crimson, and the lake was bathed in the sunset hues. Across the rocky paths came wearied ones from the inland villages with withered limbs; blind men groping their way and asking piteously if they were right; deaf men trying to read the signs of His coming in everybody’s face; and, across the lake, boat-loads of sick ones, the glassy surface of the lake just broken by the ripple of the oar; and thus they came, until what a sight it was about the gate of the city!

II. FOLLOW THE MASTER THROUGH THE WARDS OF HIS HOSPITAL. NOW the whisper runs through the crowd, “He comes.” He comes--those eyes of His all filled with compassion; and moving about amongst them, “ He laid His hands on every one of them.” No poor woman was thrust away outside; no poor little child was forgotten.

1. Notice that the power of the Lord is a healing power--“not to condemn the world.” And

2. See how the Lord uses this power--with what gentleness.

3. Notice how the Lord deals with men in their individuality--“every one of them.”

III. Look AT THE SICK ONES. First, here is a heathen woman. Here stands a sturdy Roman soldier who has been maimed in some fight, &c. In Christ’s hospital every case is peculiar. (New Outlines of Sermons on New Testament.)

God’s Kingdom

Which kingdom? There is

But none of these is the kingdom I am going to talk about. There is another kingdom, the kingdom of His grace, the kingdom in the hearts of men, called the kingdom of God in my text.

I. THIS KINGDOM IS ONE THE KINGDOMS OF THE EARTH ARE MANY. The kingdom of God does not resemble any of these. It is a spiritual kingdom.

II. THE KINGDOMS OF THIS WORLD ARE NOT HAPPY, THE KINGDOM OF GRACE IS.

III. THE KINGDOMS OF EARTH ARE MAINTAINED BY FORCE THE THRONE OF GOD’S KINGDOM IS ESTABLISHED IN THE AFFECTIONS OF ITS SUBJECTS.

III. THE KINGDOMS OF EARTH DECAY THE KINGDOM OF GOD NEVER.

IV. Practical questions:

1. Are we members of this kingdom?

2. If not, are we willing to become members? (E. G. Gange.)

Imposition of hands

This rite is a symbol of any kind of transmission, whether of a gift or an office (Moses and Joshua, Deuteronomy 34:9), or of a blessing (the patriarchal blessings), or of a duty (the transfer to the Levites of the natural functions of the eldest son in every family), or of guilt (the guilty Israelite laying his hands on the head of the victim), or of the sound, vital strength enjoyed by the person who imparts it (cures). It is not certainly that Jesus could not have worked a cure by His mere word, or even by a simple act of volition. But, in the first place, there is something profoundly human in this act of laying the hand on the head of any one whom one desires to benefit. It is a gesture of tenderness, a sign of beneficial communication such as the heart craves. Then this symbol might be morally necessary. Whenever Jesus avails Himself of any material means to work a cure--whether it be the sound of His voice, or clay made of His spittle--His aim is to establish in the form best adapted to the particular case, a personal tie between the sick person and Himself; for He desires not only to heal, but to effect a restoration to God, by creating in the consciousness of the sick a sense of union with Himself, the organ of Divine grace in the midst of mankind. This moral aim explains the variety of the means employed. Had they been curative means (of the nature of magnetic passes, for example) they could not have varied so much. But as they were addressed to the sick person’s soul, Jesus chose them in such a way that His action was adapted to its character or position. In the case of a deaf mute, He puts His fingers into his ears; He anointed the eyes of a blind man with His spittle, &c. Thus their healing appeared as an emanation from His person, and attached them to Him by an indissoluble tie. Their restored life was felt to be dependent on His. (F. Godet, D. D.)

The Great Physician

We have here a picture of Jesus as the Great Physician of soul and body, the Divine restorer of health to both body and mind. It is never to be forgotten how He thus met the sufferings of humanity, and brought effective deliverance as none other ever could or ever will bring, to a world ever groaning and travailing in pain. And what He did then, He is doing still. We cannot now see His earthly Form, nor do we look for miracles to be wrought upon us; but each of us has his own peculiar care or trouble, and needs the Divine Physician to relieve his distress.

1. True, there are earthly reliefs, and it is our duty to make proper use of them; but they are all more or less temporary and fleeting.

2. True also, that if present relief is not to be had, we may still be buoyed up by earthly hope. But alas! how often is this but “hope deferred,” which “makes the heart sick”; and how often is the miserable and weary sufferer brought to such a state that the only earthly hope left him is the hope that he may soon be done with earth altogether, and his poor pained body be laid to rest in the grave! Oh, how vain are all earthly hopes, and how doomed to disappointment are those who trust in them. But, thank God! our Christian philosophy is not so cold. We have more than this.

I. A PRESENT HELP. We have learned that present, earthly, personal comfort is not such a grand object after all; that there are higher things, and better things, within our reach. What are these? Growing better, being sanctified, making this life not an end but a beginning and preparation for a higher and better life. Not only so, but we can go to Jesus as truly as could the friends at Capernaum, and help to take our sufferers there. Nor have we far to go. He is always at hand, and always accessible. Moreover, He is unchangeable; not like earthly friends and comforts, but always the same; the truest help in any and every kind of suffering--whether of mind, body, or estate, as many a soul has proved, in sickness, poverty, anxiety, loneliness.

II. A FUTURE HOPE. If, in spite of every aid, the burdens of life press heavily on us, we have more than the silence of the grave to look for; we know that while our body sleeps, our soul is with Christ in paradise, and that one day there will be a happy reunion. Conclusion: Let us first find the way ourselves to this present help and future hope, and then we shall be able to point our friends to it and to Jesus who is indeed our only help and our only hope. And then, one word more for our comfort. You will remember that our blessed Lord was not done with the sufferers when He laid His hands upon them and conferred present relief in trouble. They might go home with glad hearts, and enjoy the blessing of God, but a time would come when they might again suffer in body or in mind, and when they would at last have to give up all hope of earthly remedy. But Jesus was not forgetting them. Tired and wearied as He was, He rose up a great while before day, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. He was blessing them even more in His absence than while with them in bodily presence. Even so is it still with the sufferers and with the healed. Jesus is not only ever blessing us with divine comfort and strength, but He is pleading for us with the Father. He knows the pain of each heart, and He will bless us and it for our good if we will but go to Him. (George Low, M. A.)


Verse 42

Luke 4:42

That He would not depart from them

How to prolong the gracious visits of Christ

I.
WHAT MEANS SHOULD BE EMPLOYED TO PROLONG THE GRACIOUS VISITS OF CHRIST? I answer, generally, we must endeavour to render His continuance with us agreeable to Himself; and to avoid or banish from among us everything which tends to render it otherwise. When we wish to induce an earthly friend to reside with us as long as possible, we naturally endeavour to render his residence with us agreeable; for no person will voluntarily continue long in a disagreeable place, or in unpleasant society. But more particularly; if we would prolong our Saviour’s gracious visits, either to ourselves, to our habitations, or to the place in which we reside, we must show Him that we greatly desire and highly value His presence. No person will consent to stay long with those by whom his presence is not desired. Least of all will those consent to this who are sensible of their own worth, and who know that there are other places where they would be more welcome. Now our blessed Saviour is perfectly sensible of His own worth. He knows that, great and powerful as He is, He can confer no favour upon a Church or upon individuals more valuable than His gracious presence. He, therefore, justly expects that we should prize it accordingly, and consider everything else as nothing in comparison with this. The fact is, that, when we prefer any object to Christ, we make an idol of that object, and set up that idol in His presence. And can we expect that He will continue long with those who prefer an idol before Him?

1. The more He seems to depart from us, the more earnestly must we follow Him with our prayers and supplications, saying, with Jacob, We will not let Thee go, except Thou bless us; and, like the persons mentioned in our text, staying Him that He may not forsake us.

2. With prayer we must unite penitence. Especially must we repent of those sins which have been the probable cause of His beginning to withdraw. Without this, even prayer will not avail, as is evident from the case of Joshua, when his army was repulsed before Ai.

3. If we would prevent the Saviour from depriving us of His gracious visits, we must receive them with profound humility and a deep sense of our unworthiness of such a favour.

4. H we would prevent the Saviour from leaving us, we must assign sufficient reasons why He should prolong His stay. The glory of His Father, the honour of His great name, the welfare of His people, the prosperity of His cause, are each of them reasons of sufficient weight to influence His conduct; and while either of these reasons requires His stay we may be sure that He will not leave us.

5. If we would prevent Christ from leaving us, we must furnish Him with employments, and with such kind of employments as are suited to His character. Now the ruling passion of our Saviour is the love of doing good. “My meat,” says He, “is to do the will of My Father and to finish His work.” And again He says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Agreeably, we find that, when on earth, He went about doing good, and, where He found opportunities of doing the most good, there He always made the longest stay.

II. SOME OF THE REASONS WHICH SHOULD INDUCE US TO EMPLOY THESE MEANS.

1. We ought to employ these means, because a neglect of them will infallibly grieve and offend our Redeemer.

2. The blessed effects which result from the gracious visits of Christ, furnish another reason why we should employ all proper means and make every possible exertion to induce Him to prolong them.

3. Another reason which should induce us to employ these means, may be found in the evils which result from the Saviour’s departure. These evils are in full proportion to the benefits which result from His presence.

4. The conduct of impenitent sinners affords another reason why we should do this. (E. Payson, D. D.)


Verse 42-43

Verse 43

Luke 4:43

I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities--

A precedent for preachers

Christ thus admired and desired to stay in Capernaum, would not so do, as having an eye to His ease or conveniency there, but must be at the pains to preach elsewhere.
Teaching us that we must not measure our services from ourselves or conveniences, nor in them seek our own ease or acceptance among men; but so carry them as may be most for God’s glory and our own sound comfort. Our Saviour Christ admitted not their motion, but made them this answer in the words of the text, “Surely I must also preach.” Wherein consider five points.

1. The work which Christ must do--He must “preach.”

2. The necessity of it--“I must.”

3. The matter what He must preach--“the kingdom of God.”

4. The object or people to whom--“to other cities also.”

5. The bond of this necessity--“ For therefore I am sent.”

I. THE WORK IS PREACHING. Thus preaching is called the setting out of the mystery of Christ, and a publishing of the mystery of the gospel, and the revealing of a mystery hid since the world began. Hence observe the greatness of the work of preaching, and the great estimation of it, for which end the Son of God Himself came from heaven. The great work of God considered in the means seems vile and base, and nothing more stunneth the minds of carnal men than the baseness of the means, compared with the magnificence of the effects. It might seem ridiculous to the men of Jericho that the blast of rams’ horns and sound of trumpets should batter down stone walls, and no marvel but that they smiled at such unlikely means; but yet it was so: so this work of preaching in the eye of a carnal man is but foolishness, as 1 Corinthians 1:21, but yet “to them that are called, it is the power of God to salvation.” Here behold weakness encountering and overmastering strength, simplicity overreaching policy, and God’s power prevailing in His own weak means.

II. The second part of the text is THE NECESSITY OF PREACHING--“ I must preach.” It depends not upon His will, or left to His discretion; but He must do it. Now, much more necessity lieth on us His ministers. Now if we be bound to preach, ye are bound to hear; if we be bound to deliver the Word, ye are bound to receive the Word, not as the word of man; but as it is indeed the Word of God, with all reverence, duty, and piety.

III. The third point is THE MATTER OF THIS PREACHING: the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is twofold.

1. Of grace.

2. Of glory.

In the former God reigneth in us. In the latter we reign with God. The former is in this life, the latter in the life to come. The one issuing into the other, and both of them becoming one: for we read not of God’s kingdoms in the plural, but of His kingdom, which is but one. This is that tabernacle of God which is with men. To this kingdom God calleth us by preaching, and here it must be begun by righteousness, repentance, mortification, and shall have fulness hereafter. All men desire to partake in the kingdom of Christ and glory, but few will be subject to his Father in the kingdom of grace. We to whom God hath committed the preaching of His Word must have care to further this kingdom and bring in many to be subjects of it, expecting that glorious recompense of shining as the stars in the firmament for ever and ever.

IV. THE PERSONS TO WHOM CHRIST MUST PREACH--“to other cities.” As the sun compasseth the world and stayeth in no one part, so Christ the Sun of Righteousness never settleth in any one place, but seeketh to disperse everywhere His blessed light. It had been in Christ’s power Himself to have kept one place always, and have sent His disciples to all other, but He would not: that we should by His example learn not to shun labour, but employ our pains and diligence in building the kingdom of God, and in seeking and saving that which is lost. Thus was Christ as a compassionate Physician, who not being sent for, offereth His care and pains, as willing to save such as are in danger.

V. The bond of this necessity--“for therefore am I sent.” He should betray the end of His coming if He should not preach. The point we must here learn is that every man must serve the end and use that he is called unto, and carefully discharge the trust committed unto him (Romans 12:7-8). The heathen held it as shameful and dangerous to fail in matter of trust, as if the party had committed theft. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Luke 4:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/luke-4.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 29th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
ADVERTISEMENT
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology