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ridicule. For example, to take one of the very simplest instances, if a man meet with the passage, “ I am become like a bottle in the smoke," or the passage about putting new wine into old bottles, he must go to an external reality to determine its meaning; and if he does not know (as most infidel writers have not known enough even about the Scriptures to know) that bottles were made out of goat-skins, he may, perhaps, like Voltaire or Tom Paine, exercise his wit upon these passages. But if he be a believer, and come for the first time
upon such an illustration, he will say, How delightful is this! I bless God for this ! Now I know the meaning of a passage of which before I was ignorant. And just so, if what is said in the Scriptures in many passages about the temptations of the devil, were perfectly inexplicable to one who had never met with those temptations, and he should for the first time meet the tale of Bunyan's trials, he would say, when he sees such experience, now I know how to interpret those Scriptures; now I see the meaning of things which I did not see before; now I know the meaning of those fiery darts of the Wicked One. Poor Bunyan! His suffering was, as it were, vicarious ; he was tried, that I might be instructed.
Suffer me to illustrate this matter still further, for it is important. Among the difficulties brought against the Scriptures, it had, at one time, often been alleged as an objection to the historical accuracy of the New Testament, that it gave the title of Proconsul to the Governor of Cyprus, (Acts, 13: 7,) when, in strict propriety, he could only
have been styled Prætor of the Province. So strongly did this apparent inaccuracy weigh with Beza, observes Mr. Benson, that he absolutely attempted to remove it by translation ; and our own translators have used the term Deputy, instead of the correct title of Proconsul. Now, it is a fact, that a medal has since then been discovered, on which the very same title is assigned, about the same period, to the governor of the same province, and so that difficulty vanishes forever. But, as Benson well remarks in his “ Scripture Difficulties,” it does not vanish without leaving stronger evidence for the truth. Now, as to these difficulties about Satanic temptations, about the devil, and his agency with the mind, a man may say, it is inexplicable, incredible, not to be taken as strict history, but something figurative, a mythos. But suppose, in a really candid and inquiring frame of mind, this inexperienced man lights upon the personal history of Luther, or upon this thrilling story of Bunyan's temptations, a hundred years afterwards, is it not just as if he had found a medal, struck in the same sacred treasury where the words of scripture were engraven, with the very image of the devil on one side, and the inscription SATANIC TEMPTER above it? And now ought not the difficulty to vanish forever? And are not discoveries like these of incalculable importance to the believer in the evil hour of temptation? Yea, it is like Christian himself hearing a human voice before him in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, where it seemed as if no living creature ever could pass safely.
Now, on this point there is a wonderful coinci
dence between the experience of men recorded in the Word of God, and those out of it; and these two things illustrate each other. Take Job, for example. If a man say, this experience of Bunyan is all a delusion, it is merely his own imagination tormenting him, there never was or could be such a reality. We say, beware; this experience of Bunyan has its original in the Word of God itself; it is countersigned, as it were, in Job's own history. Or if a man say, this experience of Job is figurative; no man ever experienced such dealings in reality; we say, so far from this, other men have experienced such discipline; it is countersigned, as it were, and illustrated, in the experience of a modern Christian. It is true, that in the account of Job, the steps are marked by the Divine Hand; but in the account of Bunyan, also, the steps are just as clear, with that single exception. They are almost as clear as if it had been said, as in the case of Job, There was a man in the land of England whom God would take and prepare for the greatest usefulness of all men living. And Satan said, let me take Bunyan, and I will tempt him from his integrity, and make him curse God, and deny his very being. And God said, let Satan try his uttermost upon this man, and the awful discipline shall only prepare him for greater usefulness and glory. So, Satan went forth, and by the space of two years filled the soul of Bunyan with distresses and temptations, and the fiery darts of the Wicked One. Is not this the very truth of the matter? You may say, that with Job, Satan's temptations were all external, while with Bunyan they were mostly
inward. Yes, but let it be remembered that Job had a bosom companion, a treacherous, unbelieving, discontented wife, who would, in the place of the devil, do all the whisperings, and the blasphemous suggestions that were needed. Yea, while Job was passing through the valley of temptation, this woman was as a fiend at his ear, Curse God and die, to make it as the Valley of the Shadow of Death! Bunyan, on the other hand, had a godly wife, who would do no part of the work of the Tempter, but would shield her husband, and help him on to God. As to many matters the cases are wonderfully similar, especially if in Bunyan's imprisonment likewise you trace the malice of the devil, as assuredly you ought.
Now, if you pass from the Old Testament to the New, the very experience of our blessed Lord at the very outset confirms this view. Before entering on his great work, he was led of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the Devil !
To be tempted of the Devil! And for what cause? What ineffable mystery is this ! Nay, it is indeed a mystery, and yet in part it is so brightly, , so sweetly, so lovingly explained to us, that nothing could be more delightful to the soul than this very fact. Turn, then, in your Bibles, to those precious passages in the Epistle to the Hebrews, which explain our blessed Lord's temptations, and the reason for them, and in some respects the manner of them. They tell us that it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. And, therefore, as the children are partakers of flesh
and blood, he also himself took part in the same, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. Wherefore, in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest, 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. Wherefore, people of God, rejoice! For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Now, is any further explanation needed than such a passage, so full of light, mercy, loveliness, in regard to that other passage, Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil ? And how could he be tempted with evil thoughts in any other way? They could not spring out of his own soul, for he was perfectly sinless. They could not come from his own imagination, for that imagination was invested with the splendors of Heaven. They could not be the ravings of lunacy; for though, because of our Saviour's supremacy of goodness, because of the lightning of his countenance, his life, and his words against sin, and because of his irresistible power in casting out devils, his enemies asserted that he had a devil and was mad, yet no man now would dare the blasphemy. They could only come from the personal suggestions of the Evil One; and thus did