THE TEMPTATIONS OF CHRIST.

In the epistle addressed to the Hebrews, the holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, are exhorted to consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus. In obedience to this injunction, we propose to call the attention of our readers to a few considerations in regard to his perfect qualification to succor his tempted people.

Well did the inspired writer say, “Such an High Priest becomes us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.” - Heb. vii. 26. “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession; for we have not an high priest that cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin.” - Heb. iv. 14, 15. “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham; wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people; for, in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.” - Heb. ii. 16-18.

What amazing condescension is here presented in our holy and immaculate Redeemer, who, being in possession of all riches, for our sake became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich. (2 Cor. viii. 9.) We can conceive of no other reason why he should suffer temptation, or in any other respect; nor does the record of heaven furnish us with any other than that given in these words, “For your sakes.” That is, for the sake of his people, he laid aside, as it were, the bright majesty and transcendent glory which he had with the Father before the world was, and took on him the form of a servant, humbled himself and learned obedience, and in his astonishing humiliation endured the cross, carried our sorrows, and the chastisement of our peace which was laid on him, that with his stripes we should be healed. But in all that he has done or suffered for us, there is nothing that strikes our mind with more surprise and astonishment than that he should have become a subject of temptation, and be made to witness in his own person the very feelings of our infirmities, and under their weight pour out “strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death.” - Heb. v. 7.

“The Son of God in tears,
Angels with wonder see;
Be thou astonished, O my soul,
He shed those tears for thee!”

He who had control of the angels of glory, at whose call legions of the heavenly hosts would have descended to execute his orders; he who could dash ten thousand worlds to dust, or speak them into existence at pleasure, pours out his cries, his tears, his blood, and even his soul is poured out unto death, that he might see his seed, prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord should prosper in his hand, that he might see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied.

But we designed to notice more particularly in this article, some of the temptations which he endured, and to show the tempted saints that the temptations by him endured, were in all points like those which they so often feel. As an example, we will compare the account given in Matthew iv. 1-10, with those to which all the saints are subject. Immediately after the baptism of our Redeemer, in Jordan, on which occasion all reasonable doubts which any intelligent beings might have entertained of the Messiahship and Sonship of Christ, must have been obliterated by the most clear and irrefragable testimony from heaven, the descent of the Holy Ghost in form like a dove, the voice of the Father, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” testimony which we would suppose would settle the question of his Sonship, effectually and forever. Yet the very next account given is that “Then,” at that very time, “was Jesus led up of the Spirit, into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil.” The same blessed Spirit which like a dove had descended from heaven to identify him, and bear testimony that he was the Son of God, now leads him up into the wilderness to encounter the tempter. Jesus was never led by any other spirit than the Holy Ghost. Here let us pause, and inquire whether the saints are not in their experience called to trace the footsteps of their divine Leader, which are here so clearly marked? When God, by his Holy Spirit, has given us the most clear and soul-satisfying evidence of our acceptance in the Beloved, so that we have been made with joy to cry Abba Father, when we have felt that the testimony that we were born of God was so convincing to our mind that we thought we should never doubt it, have we not been led in many instances into a dreary wilderness where we have felt the powerful temptation of the old adversary? As he was thus led by the Spirit, is it not evident that God has appointed for us those trials which are to try our faith? Should we then count it strange when we fall into diverse temptations, as though some strange thing had happened to us? Should we not rather conclude that this is the common lot of all the saints? God has chosen us in a furnace of affliction, he will try us as gold is tried, and when he has tried us, we shall come forth from the furnace like the gold that is seven times tried in the fire. Let us then remember that the same Spirit that witnesses with our spirit, that we are the children of God, bears this testimony not only in its pleasing descent, and doubt-subduing manifestations of our relationship to God, but also in leading us to the battleground, where under the banner of our King, we must fight the good fight of faith, and learn experimentally to know the use of the whole armor of God.

After Jesus had been led into the wilderness, he fasted forty days and forty nights. We presume that for this great length of time our Lord abstained from temporal food, and at the expiration of the forty days and nights, was literally hungry. But may we not also understand that the children of God are sometimes made to fast for many tedious days and nights, when the refreshing manifestations of joy and comfort are withheld, and when the bread of life, which came down from heaven, to satisfy their spiritual hungerings, is withheld from them? And when, like Paul in his perilous voyage, we can say we have neither seen the sun nor stars for many days. Does not this long and tedious abstinence make us to feel afterwards an hungered? Isaiah, in the spirit, said, “Verily, thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Savior.” When, like poor old Job, we have been made to cry out in bitterness of spirit, “O that I knew where I might find him”; or like David, to exclaim, “As the heart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after the living God.” When many days and nights of abstinence have passed, and we have experienced no banqueting seasons with our Lord, is it not common with us that the tempter takes advantage of our destitution and of our famishing state, to attack our faith and confidence in God, and question the reality of our being his children? How striking is the similarity of his present mode of attack, and the manner in which he assailed our Lord and Master. “If thou be the Son of God!” What an if was here! That very devil who so often disputes our evidences that we are the children of God, that God is our Father, dared to question the Sonship of our dear Redeemer. But that was not all, he suggested to him what he so often intimates to us: If ye are really the children of God, why suffer hunger? Use the means, be up and doing? Do you not see the religionists of the world all around you? they have revivals just hen they please, they do not suffer hunger; their eyes stand out with fatness, and they have more than heart can wish. Can you believe that you are children of God when so poor, so weak, so hungry and so destitute? If you are sons or christians, command the stones to be made bread. Christ was able to vanquish the tempter, though he felt the full force of the temptation, but it is not always the case with his children, they will sometimes fall into the temptation of attempting to convert stones into food, they will sometimes try hard to feast on their own works, and to fill themselves with the husks which the swine feed upon, and the prophet says they are like hungry men who dream of feasting, but awake and behold their souls are empty. God will not suffer that which is born of him to be fed or sustained on earthly things. The doctrines of men, and the excitement of animal feelings, will not satisfy the spiritual appetite of the new man, any more than our spiritual enjoyments will satisfy the cravings of the carnal appetite. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; it is earthly, and requires earthly food to sustain it, but that which is born of the Spirit is spiritual, and must have spiritual food; nothing short of the bread that came down from heaven can sustain them; they must eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ, and live by faith on him. But it is Satan’s masterpiece of imposition to tempt God’s dear children to try their hand at converting stones into bread, and to rely on their own works and inventions, instead of looking alone to God, to give them day by day, and hour by hour, their daily and hourly bread. They must live on every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Not only those words of consolation and comfort which proceed from the mouth of God, to strengthen and invigorate the inner man, but every word that proceedeth thence. Some words proceed from the mouth of God for the support of his children, for our admonition, reproof and instruction in righteousness, all of which are as essential to our vitality, as those words of comfort and joy which we feast upon when he brings us to the banqueting-house, where his banner over us is love.

How very apt we are to forget, in the hour of temptation, that we are to live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. We must eat our honeycomb with our honey, and drink our wine with our milk; we must eat our bitter herbs with our passover Lamb, and always bear in mind that, the words which our Lord speaks unto us, they are spirit and they are life, and when we find them, we are to eat them up, for they are all fitly spoken, and like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

But Satan has other temptations for the saints besides those which relate to our food and sustenance. He sometimes puts us upon the pinnacles of the temple, exalts us in the church, or so inflates our old nature with pride, as to lead us to feel that we occupy a place in the temple or church of God, high above our brethren, and then he will tempt us to presumption by so construing the gracious promises of our covenant God, as to tempt us to rashness and presumption: “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.” Or, as the temptation is presented to the child of God, If thou be indeed a christian, unbridle the carnal propensities of nature, gratify the desires of the flesh, and rest assured that thou shalt never perish, neither shalt thou be plucked out of the hand of thy God and Savior. Have not christians who have a strong propensity for some practice which is incompatible with the christian profession, such, for instance, as that of indulging too freely in the use of intoxicating liquors, or intemperate habits of over-eating, or the gratification of their pride and vanity, by extravagant waste of the bounties of a kind providence, had this satanic construction of the assurances of the gospel, whispered in the ear, in such a manner as to tempt them to give loose (to some extent) their carnal lusts? Jesus was in all points tempted as we are, but never was he overcome by the temptation, although tempted as we are, and that, too, in all points; he was yet without sin. But O! how different with us. How often are we prostrated by the tempter; how often do we “tempt the Lord our God.”

Another powerful machination of Satan is, to present to the eye of the saints the glories of the world, to tempt them from the pathway of righteousness. “All these will I give thee, if thou wilt worship me.” And although our Lord did resist and vanquish the tempter, we certainly have cause to acknowledge that the glories of this world present attractions too strong for us to resist successfully without the special interposition of divine power in our behalf. Can the most devout and consistent christian on earth say in truth that the honors, riches, popularity and splendor of this world has no captivating charms for him, or that he has at no time been tempted to omit some christian duty, or neglect some exposure of his sentiments from fear of reproach, or loss of some share in the glories of this vain world? Ask the delinquent who has long entertained a hope in Christ, why he has, from year to year, deferred what has been solemnly impressed on his mind as a duty? Why he has not followed his Lord in the ordinance of baptism? Why he has withheld his name, and place, and gifts from the church of Christ? Are there none of all the long list of such who would be constrained to confess that the fear of sacrificing the glories of this world in some way, or to some extent, has had too much influence over them? Are there no ministers in our ranks, of whom it is to be feared, for the sake of popularity or wealth, have shunned to declare the whole counsel of God? These temptations are common to us all, because we are all in the flesh, and all our fleshly powers are in love with the glories of this world. The temptations of the adversary, when he is permitted to present the glories of the world to allure us, are powerful, and we need to be always on guard, to watch and pray lest we enter into, and lest we be overcome by temptations. To escape the presentation of temptations is impossible, for they are suffered to come upon us, as we have said, for the trial of our faith, and to teach us the inbred corruption of our nature, and to keep us humble before the Lord. But when we are tempted, we are instructed to resist the tempter, and mark the example of our divine Leader, who yielded not to the tempter, either in relinquishing his claim to the relationship of the Son of God, or when that body of flesh in which he vailed his Godhead, was faint or hungry, he could not be drawn by Satan’s temptation to gratify his appetite, with food contrary to the express instructions of the written word. When tempted to cast himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, he remembered that it was written, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” And when all the glories of this world were presented, he could not be allured. What a lesson is this for our encouragement! He endured all this for us; for us he was hungry, and refused to relieve his own sufferings at the expense of that work which he was then prosecuting for us; for us he made himself personally familiar with all the diversified temptations to which we are exposed. He is therefore easily touched with the feelings of our infirmities:

“He knows what sore temptations mean, For he has felt the same.”

Let the example and triumph of our Lord inspire us with zeal and confidence to fight the good fight, and in our trying conflicts remember that, weak as we are in ourselves considered, all the power by which our Lord triumphed over the tempter is engaged in our behalf, and he will certainly make us more than conquerors at last.

When sorely tempted, how apt we are to conclude that no real christian was ever so severely tempted! But the conclusion is far from being right. It is the common lot of all the saints, and not only the lot of all the saints, but our dear Redeemer was also tempted in all points as we are. Count it all joy then, when ye fall into divers temptations. Consider into what company it puts you, and you will be inclined rather to sing,

“Thou givest me the lot
Of those who fear they name;
If endless life be their reward,
I shall possess the same.”

Middletown, N.Y.
February 1, 1857.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 3
Pages 425 - 433