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our blessed Lord take part in our temptations ; thus did that spotless being pass through a furnace of blasphemies and hell-born propositions, the very Valley of the Shadow of Death; and thus, at the very commencement of his ministry, did the Captain of our salvation begin to be made perfect through sufferings. Nor is there in all his ministry, nor, I had almost said, even in his death upon the cross, a greater, more wonderful, more affecting proof of his boundless compassion and love. The spotless Son of God consenting, for our sakes, at the very entrance on his ministry, to pass through so revolting, so awful, so hideous an ordeal ; an ordeal ten thousand times worse to an infinitely holy mind than death itself! Consenting to be for forty days alone in the wilderness with Satan as a personal companion, with this blaspheming, daring, polluted, tortured fiend, dragon, devil, belching forth his hellish thoughts, and insulting our blessed Lord with the application even of sacred scripture! All this for us! that he might be in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin! Oh, who can tell the smallest part of the infinite goodness and condescension of our Redeemer?
He was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Now let me say, if you will read the opening of Milton's Paradise Regained, you will find there a marvellously probable and beautiful description of the manner in which Satan would enter on this work of temptation. Nor did his disappointment, and his utter discomfiture in it, prevent him from renewing it on the eminent disciples of our blessed Lord. There
were some of them, that, like Bunyan, were made to know the very "depths of Satan.” There was Peter, of whom our blessed Lord forewarned him, that Satan would try him to the utmost of his malignity and power. Simon, Simon, I say unto thee that Satan hath desired to have thee, that he may sift thee as wheat. Why! this is the very renewal of the scene in the Old Testament in regard to Job. Let me but lay my hand, says this sarcastic and malignant devil, upon this Peter, this disciple so hot and zealous for his Lord and Master, and I will make him blaspheme his very
Saviour. I will make him curse God and die. Yes! and the devil did succeed in making him curse God! Awful, awful truth ! Fearful revelation of the meaning of our Saviour in his warning to Peter, and of the dreadful power of this Tempter of mankind! But he did not succeed in making him die, not in utterly putting out the light of faith and life within him. No, there again was Satan disappointed, and out of evil still was brought forth good. But why, how, by what agency? Ah, how beautiful, how precious is the explanation! Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have thee, that he may sift thee as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not. So thou shalt yet be saved and strengthened, even though thou shalt deny thy Lord; and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren! Ah yes, that was the reason, I HAVE PRAYED FOR THEE. And what saint is there that Christ does not pray for? So, if our trust be in him, we are all safe, but not otherwise. And now, who does not see that in Peter's
case, just as in Bunyan’s, these dreadful storms of temptation were permitted to overwhelm him, that even out of that terrible experience, out of those very “depths of Satan,” the tempted and fallen disciple might gain a strength in the end, through the good Spirit of God, which not another of the brethren, except perhaps Paul, ever manifested. And hence you can trace in Peter's rich instructive epistles, a knowledge of the great adversary, and a warning and a vigilance against him, that sprung from Peter's own dreadful wrestlings with him. Yea those very blasphemies that Satan made Peter utter, turned out to be the most effective weapons, in remembrance, against himself.
And now I should like to ask any man of common sense to contemplate that striking declaration of our Lord to Peter, “Satan hath desired to have thee, that he may sift thee as wheat," and tell me in what possible way he would translate or interpret it, except as a manifest absurdity, without recognising the existence and agency of Fallen Spirits ? How, I say, shall we translate it, supposing it to mean merely an evil thought, impulse, principle of wickedness? Simon, Simon, I say unto thee, the principle of wickedness hath desired to have thee that it may sift thee as wheat! Could any thing be more ineffably absurd, paltering, emasculating, than such a mode of dealing with the Scriptures ? But why desire to resort to such absurdity ? Can any thing be more consistent, steadfast, and definite, than the voice of the whole Bible in regard to the personality and agency of Satan? In the very opening of the Word of God he comes before us in that awful
character, sustained ever since, as the Tempter of mankind, the Tempter, and by his dreadful power the conqueror of the first Adam; and in the opening of the New Testament, the very first thing we see of him again is as the great Tempter of Mankind, in personal conflict with the Son of God, the Second Adam, to be by him thrown as lightning from heaven; and his very weapons are those which he used with Bunyan, a diabolical perversion of the word of God itself, and a suggestion of devilish blasphemies. And then in the closing up of all revelation, the same accursed being comes into view as the Dragon, the Serpent, the Devil and Satan, the Deceiver of the world, the Deceiver of the nations, the Tempter of mankind, the Accuser of our brethren!
I have referred you to the Temptation of our blessed Lord, and to that beautiful work of Milton, in which, with so much veri-similitude, the character and reflections of the devil, in entering on that work of temptation, are drawn before us. that Satan would be likely to make the same reflections, and pursue the same measures, though on a smaller scale, whenever he saw men like Luther or Bunyan in such an attitude, under such a discipline, of such a make, that he might expect great danger to his own kingdom from their efforts. For it is characteristic of Satan, as of all the wicked, never to profit by his own experience; and though all the evil he ever did, recoils, and ever must recoil, upon his own head, still he goes on doing it, providing materials for God to display his own glory, and out of evil still to bring forth
And I say,
good. “Experience like the stern lights of a ship,” only shows Satan the path that has been passed over, and on he goes, committing the same errors in crime again.
Passing, now, in this argument, from our Lord's temptation to our Lord's prayer, we find there a distinct recognition of the Satanic Tempter ; “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the WICKED ONE.” This is one of the few
passages in which our translation of the Scriptures, incomparably excellent though it be, is peculiarly defective, not rendering the power and full meaning of the original. There is another passage, equally unfortunate, where the translation, in the opinion of almost all commentators, ancient and modern, ought to be the Evil One, or the Wicked One, the same word being used as in our Lord's
prayer :“ But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and keep you from the Wicked One.” (2 Thess. 3:3.) And yet another passage in Ephesians, concerning which there cannot be a moment's doubt : “ Above all taking the shield of faith, wherewith
ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the WICKED ONE.” (Ephes. 6:16.) And this is a passage in which the phrase fiery darts is wonderfully expressive and powerful, being taken from the use in war of those slender arrows of cane, to which ignited combustible matter was attached, which, when shot, would set on fire wood-work, tents, whatever there was that would catch fire. Just so are the fiery darts of the WICKED ONE shot into the soul, or shot at the Christian, tipped, as it were, with damnation; and if there be wood, hay, stub