Second part of Sermon XXII. for the First Sunday in Lent.
2 Cor. vi. 1-10. St. Matt. iv.
"We then, as workers together with
Him, beseech you also,
that ye receive not the grace of
God in vain."
— II COR.
THE season of Lent is introduced to
us by our Lord’s fast of forty days, the subject of the Gospel for today. This,
with His temptation in the wilderness, took place before He entered upon His
ministry; and in the Epistle for today St. Paul describes what the ministers of
Christ endured as such...(for the first part, on the Epistle.)
...Such a series of contrasts, such a
contradiction, such a mystery to the world, is the true Christian. And thus in
[St. Paul] are fully obtained and realized in substance and truth all those
things which Satan falsely offered in the Temptation. Stones have to him become
as bread, and the wilderness a fruitful field. In possessing all things he has
“the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them” for his own; the true riches
whereby he makes many rich; he is sustained by angels, and borne aloof by them
safe from all harm unto the bosom of God.
Then was Jesus led up of the
Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
Then did the Holy Spirit which descended upon Him in Baptism lead Him forth to
that great trial which was to be the likeness of our own, as the Spirit had led
before the children of Israel into the wilderness for their probation. He was
led by the good Spirit, for, ‘‘as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are
the sons of God.” [Rom. viii. 14.] “He goes to overcome for us, clothed in
our weakness without, full of His own divine strength within.” [Quesnel on St.
Matt.] And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward
an hungred. “He fasted,” as an example to ourselves of that armour by which
we are to prepare ourselves fot trial, weakening the power of the flesh against
the Spirit. “He hungred” as Israel in the wilderness, as Elijah hungred in the
trials of faith; for that hunger is sustained of God by spiritual food. And
when the tempter came to Him, he said, If Thou be the Son of God, command that
these stones be made bread. If it be, as I lately heard the voice from
Heaven to declare, that Thou art the Son of God, then surely as the children of
God were miraculously supported by bread in the wilderness, Thou art able to do
the same for Thyself. Every temptation is to make ourselves independent of
God. But He answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread
alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. He took
“the shield of faith, to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” one, and “the
sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” [Eph. vi. 16, 17.] as an
example to ourselves in the like trials. The tempter’s allusion is to Israel in
the wilderness, and from that our Lord’s answer is given. “He humbled thee,”
said Moses, “and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, that He might
make thee to know that man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that
proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord.” [Deut. viii. 3.] That supernatural
bread was given, not so much to nourish the body as the soul itself, by faith in
God. The manna itself was given in order to teach them this trust, as a pledge
of that better “Bread” which the “Father giveth.” Thus, as the first Adam
doubted God’s word, the second Adam takes no other protection. The first Adam
was in a garden, in abundance of all things; the second Adam in a wilderness,
and “an hungered.” The first Adam sinned against a positive command; the,
second Adam chose the better part, where no command was given. The first Adam
doubted God’s love, as if He could withhold from him that which was good; and
God’s truth also, as if he might eat and not die. But the second Adam has
taught us by His example, that our meat should be to do His will. [St. John iv.
34.] The blessed Son of God well knew, and the tempter well knew, that almost
all evil among men arose from their seeking good for themselves instead of
waiting upon God; of seeking good, not in, but out of God. And here this
fountain of evil in our nature was stopped. For the seeds of all subsequent
sins were in the fall of the first Adam, sensuality, pride, curiosity; their
remedies all in the New Man, mortification, humility, faith.
Then the devil taketh Him up into
the Holy City, and setteth Him on a pinnacle of the temple. He
that so emptied Himself of all His glory as to suffer indignities from evil men,
to be kissed by Judas, to be dragged as a criminal to Pilate, now, for our
sakes, in His exceeding humility, yields Himself to be carried by the evil one.
For to suffer external violence from him is not sin. And now the tempter, who
is ever wont to lift up in order that he may cast down, as an angel of light,
with feigned hypocrisy himself quotes Scripture, and that Psalm which he knew to
be written of the Christ Who was to come. And he saith unto Him, If Thou be
the Son of God, cast Thyself down; for it is written, He shall give His angels
charge concerning Thee: and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any
time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone. The tempter seems to say, so you
trust altogether in God, in this confidence you have obtained the victory over
self, for you rely upon His written word. For Satan well knew that when men
have overcome the temptations of the flesh, they are then apt to fall from
spiritual pride; and that presumptuous, self-confidence is founded in unbelief,
as much as that distrust, which he had before suggested. Thus some, presuming
on their privileges, as sons of God, throw themselves down, as it were thinking
that God will hold them up, and that they are safe. For many sins are connected
with false confidences. It is true that God will keep those that trust in Him,
as the Psalm promises, but there is one point which the devil omitted to
mention, it is, “He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all
thy ways.” [Ps. xci. 11.] In the ordered and appointed “ways” they will keep
him. When Scripture is quoted, we should look and see whether it is the whole
of Scripture on that point.
Jesus said unto him, It is written
again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
Thus did our Lord submit, in infinite lowliness, to that humble nature which He
had assumed as a creature dependent upon God, and presumed not beyond the state
which is suitable for fallen man. And, mindful of this, it may be, and of the
secret misgivings of God with which it is connected, “He sighed deeply in
spirit,” when the Jews of that adulterous generation sought for a sign.
Again, the devil taketh Him up
into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth Him all the kingdoms of the world,
and the glory of them; and saith unto Him, All these things will I give Thee, if
Thou wilt fall down and worship me.
Now we may, at first, be surprised that such an offer as this should be made at
all to Him Who, as God, possessed all things. But the tempter did not, it
appears, at this time, know Him to be God, nor, as God, could He have been
tempted at all, but, as perfect man, He might have desired to have all that this
world could give. In the Scriptures of God, we are given thoroughly to
understand and know that such a wish would be to put something else in the place
of God, and is incompatible with that entire love of Him which becomes a
creature. God is the rest, the life, the happiness of the soul; whatever,
therefore, the soul makes its rest and happiness, it makes its God, and
worships. Add to which, as the tempter says, in St. Luke’s account, “for that
is delivered unto me,” this is in one sense true, that the world has fallen away
from God, and therefore on that account no object of desire for a good man.
Then said Jesus unto him, Get thee
hence, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him
only shalt thou serve.
Here, again, the tempter is not answered with human arguments, there is no
stopping to converse with him, as our first parents did, but the Scripture which
is open to the humblest believer is all that Wisdom requires. They that are
tempted may flee into this as a tower of refuge, and are safe. And blessed are
they who thus answer the tempter by the language of their lives, whose only wish
is to avoid these his manifold insinuations, in whatever shape they occur, and
to worship and serve God only.
Then the devil leaveth Him, and
behold, angels came and ministered unto Him.
He refused to relieve His own wants, and waited patiently upon God; and God, in
His own good time, ministers by angels to His wants; fulfilling truly what the
Psalm had said, that He should give His angels charge to keep Him in His ways
and bear Him up. They minister unto Him, and His foot fell not on that
stumbling-block which the tempter had devised.
Now, as our Lord’s Temptation is of
all things in the world the matter of greatest concern to us, so is there
nothing more worthy of our deep consideration, for it is calculated to impress
upon us beyond anything the reality of our own state of probation, as connected
with the fall of our first parents, of that enemy with whom we have to contend,
and of our restoration in Christ. And further, as the declaration of His
Sonship from Heaven, preceding His Temptation, seems to say to us all who
partake of His Baptism, “My son, if thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy
soul for temptation:” [Ecclus. ii. 1.] so we may observe, that fasting is the
best means of preparation, and our only safety under temptation is a strict
obedience to God’s Word.