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respects according to the similitude of our “ nature and circumstances ;" that is, with the same passions and appetites to be exercised, and with like matter administered to them by the Tempter.
The utility therefore of a subject, which hath so near a relation to ourselves, need not be insisted on; and I should think, a transaction so curious as a deliberate contest betwixt the Son of God and the Prince of the Devils, the Saviour and the Destroyer, might invite any thinking reader of the Scripture to an examination of all the particulars relating
However, I do not mean to hold it up merely as an object of curiosity, but rather to propose it as a lesson necessary to be understood by every Christian in his militant ştate: to weigh the circumstances attentively, compare them carefully with the Scripture, and draw some moral improvement from them; which should be the scope of all our researches in divinity.
I. Before we descend to the particulars of the temptation itself, we should enquire into the reasons, why Christ was tempted. He who had Glory with God before the world began, could want no merit to bring him
back to that inheritance, of which he was in 1 V possession before all time. So that this temp
tation must have befallen him for our sake: He was to conquer temptation, because man had been conquered by it. We cannot well account for the actions of the second Adam, but by looking back to the history of the First. Adam, in his primitive state, appears to us as the most excellent as well as the last of those works, all of which were pronounced to be very good. Thus pure and perfect, he was placed in the garden of Paradise, where the Power, Wisdom, and Goodness of God had conspired to pour out the riches of the Creation. Yet he was placed in a state of trial: capable of ensuring to himself and improving the good he was possessed of, by means of the Tree of Life, the Sacrament of the first Covenant; or of falling into evil, by means of the Tree of Knowledge, the instrument of Temptation; as his own choice should determine. The Tempter, under the name of the Serpent, and with all his evil properties of subtilty, venom, insinuation, and duplicity of tongue, was permitted to offer his reasons, and put the fidelity of our first parents to the trial by the force of his artifices; who, on the other hand, had the VOL. III,
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express declaration of their Maker to direct and support them. He began with persuading them to eat; and the inducements he proposed for the committing of this act, applied themselves in such a manner to all the appetites, that this original temptation seems to have included every other. In the constitution of man, there are but three kinds of lust to be satisfied; and they are reckoned up in few words by St. John, where he means to give us a summary of all that is in opposition to the love of the Father-the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life", The first of these, the “lust of the flesh," was to be indulged by eating for the gratification of the flesh, The second was applied to, by an object pleasant to the eyes, fair, flattering, and beautiful to look upon. These are qualities which give birth to covetousness; a vice seated in the heart; but which finds its way thither through the eyes. The pride of life, is that impatient desire of distinction, which is daily transporting one half of the world out of that sphere in which the provis dence of God hath placed them. In vulgar minds, the love of outward appearance is the
prevailing principle; but the desire of intellectual superiority is much more active and extravagant; and differs from the other as an evil spirit differs from a bad man. To this passion the tempter applied himself, with that insinuation—" Ye shall be as Gods, knowing * good and evil :” and it was accordingly believed, that the Tree of Knowledge was a tree to be desired to make one wise.
Let us observe the method of the deceiver. God had revealed his will with regard to this matter ; he had expressly affirmed, " In the " day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely “ die.” The words were so categorical, that nothing but private judgment, imposing a sense of its own, and commenting with views opposite to the will of God, could possibly render them ambiguous. The instrument of the temptation was called, the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil: from which denomination, the Devil thus argued; that as it was a tree of Knowledge, they would certainly know something more than they know as yet, by partaking of it. Then he suggested, that the knowledge of good and evil, was a superior wisdom, the same in kind with the wisdom of God; "
your eyes (said he) shall be opened, and ye shall be as Gods, knowing
good and evil.” That the tree had its appellation from God, and that the sentence, ye shall surely die, was the sentence of God, he did not deny; but he put his own sense upon them. He and his children have been at the same work ever since: they allow (or seem to allow) the Bible to be the word of God; but use it only as the vehicle of some private doctrines, borrowed from the stores of reason and philosophy, antecedently to an examination of the Scripture; and these doctrines they impose on the simple with the sanction of a divine authority. Therefore let us take heed how we hear : every person who takes the Bible into his hand, is not fit to preach the word of God from it; and especially he, who brings to it a mind already vitiated with human principles, or diabolical intentions. The world was first ruined by a lying orator, perverting the terms of divine Revelation; which, if they needed any exposition, might have been safely and surely expounded by comparing them with one another. When a foreign unnatural interpretation was admitted, man who was in honour abode not, but became like the beasts that perish. He was driven out from the presence of God into this wide world, there to struggle with pain and labour, and 5