« ZurückWeiter »
Heb. ii. :S.
The Method taken for repelling those Attempts upon his Virtue ; and the Comforts that foilowed thereupon: All conspire to teach us the Nature of, to put us upon our guard against, to animate and support us under, those Tryals, which daily, hourly exercise us. It must needs therefore be of mighty Consequence, for every Man to reflect upon, and attain to a right understanding of these things.
I begin with the Ends, for which our Blessed Lord suffered himself to be Tempted, and of Them these Three that follow, seem chiefly to deserve our notice.
First, One great Design of our Lord's Temptation seems to have been, the Encouragement of all good Christians, under the like Circumstances. This is the Account given of it by St. Paul, In that he himsilf bath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted. This is the Captain of our Salvation, who came to fight our Battels; and fit it was, that he should first engage, and try the utmost Strength of the Enemy of Souls. But as he fought, so did he conquer likewise, not for himself, but for those, whose Duty it is to fight under him. And what can be more effectual to animate such, in all their Spiritual Encounters, than the Contemplation of their victorious Leader? This gives them a sensible Proof, that their Adversary, fierce and subtle, great and powerful though he be, is not invincible; that a Man, of like natural Passions and Infirmities with themselves, hath vanquished him to their hand, and that they march againit a Foe, already routed shamefully, and forced to quit the Field.
I'am sensible, it may be objected against this Argument, That our Saviour's Cafe and Ours are far from being the faine: That He indeed had the true Human Nature, and all those Frailties, which are the neceffary Appendages and Incumbrances of it: But then,
that Human was inseparably united to his own Divine Nature. This must render it Impregnable, and, by the same reason, render the Conquests gained by a Person, who was God as well as Man, very unfit to be drawn into Consequence, by Them, who are but Men, weak and sinful Men: not guarded by that Armour, which in Him was impenetrable.
To this it may be answered, That, although our Lord's Divinity did indeed set him far above the utmoft Opposition of any created Power ; yet did not that Divinity exert it self upon all Occasions, but suspended its Operations, and was withdrawn, as God faw fit. That thus it ceased to act at the time of our Lord's Pallion, seems very evident; not only from the History of his Sufferings and Death, but even from his own Words, when telling them, that came to apprehend him in the Garden ; When I was daily with you in the
Temple, ye stretched forth no hands against Luke xxii. 53.
me, but this is your Hour, and the power of darkness. And, as these Checks, and voluntary Suspensions of his Divine Glory and Strength, were thought expedient, after numberless and undeniable manifestations of them to the World : So there is no appearance of those Perfections manifesting themselves at all, till he entered upon the publick Exercise of his Prophetick Office. This hath been generally thought the Case of our Lord's Temptation in particular. In which his Divine Perfections lying by, as it were, and forbearing to engage ; He is to be considered abstractedly, as a Man, though much more perfect, than any other Man. And then the Inference arising from hence is properly this: that, though his being Godand Man both made it imposible for him to Sin, when he was tempted; Yet, in regard he was attack'd as Man only, this Example shews, that it is posible for us not to fin, when We are tempted.
But then the Consideration of his Divine Nature is a mighty Support under our Difficulties, because it assureth us of his Ability to relieve us ; by supplying our Weaknesses and our Wants, by pouring in those Recruits of Grace and Supernatural Strength from above, which none but God can give ; and without which we are not in a Condition to stand our Ground, or make Head against the very nightest Assaults of that Foe, which labours our Destruction. And thus the Contemplation of our Blessed Lord is doubly useful to us. For, as Man, his Example proves a Victory over Temptation possible to be attained ; and, as God, his Almighty Power is our Security for those Spiritual AMiftances, upon the seasonable Acceslions whereof that Possibility, in the present State of things, does entirely depend.
Secondly, Another excellent Design, for which our Saviour was tempted, is, hereby to convince us of his Compassion and Readiness to help us. This also is the Apostle's Inference, We have not an High-priest, that cannot be touched with a feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted as We are, yet without sin. By partaking of our Nature, he hath also taken part in all the innocent Affections of it. Among which This is One, to be moved with more than ordinary Tenderness, and apply our selves with greater Zeal to succour our Brethren, where Their Calamities are the same, or very near to those, which We have, in our own Perso":s, formerly felt the weight of.
This presently aw.kens the Remembrances of our past Sorrows, makes us feel them afresh in Theirs, and endeavour their Relief with a degree of Compassion, which they, who never had any Experience, how needful and how welcome it was in the like Circumstances, seldom are sensible, scarce indeed capable of. Now it is Our unspeakable Advantage, not only, that our Lord is of the
Heb. iv. 15.
fame Constitution and Disposition, by virtue of his Humane Nature ; but that the utmost we do or can endure, cannot exceed, cannot come up to the Hardships, he condescended to suffer in that Nature. So that, as the Former Particular proved his Ability, This proves his Disposition and Forwardness, to help us. And upon this it is, that the Apostle grounds that Confidence, with which he ought to be addressed to in all our Straits and Exigencies. For so it follows there: Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of Grace, that we may
obtain mercy, and find Grace to help in time
Heb. iv, 16.
very useful Design, served by our Lord's being tempted, is that of instructing us, that not any, even the best and most exalted degree of Virtue, fets Men above Temptation. 'Tis true, What Jesus suffered of this kind was an Instance of Choice and voluntary Condescension ; but so was his taking that Human Nature, which alone could render him capable of suffering it. With Us the Matter is far otherwise. As we are altogether passive in receiving this Nature ; fo must we be content with the Difficulties, to which the Condition of it exposes us of course. And such, to be sure, are Temptations (as will appear more fully by and by.)
And with These too we have reason to be
well contented, because, tho' they be occasions of Vice, yet are they also Exercises of Virtue ; and, as they may become instrumental to our Punishment and Misery, fo may they, to our Happiness and Reward. Hence that of St. James, My
brethren count it all joy, when ye fall into James i. 2.
diverstemptations ; And therefore just matter of Joy, because, as he goes on, these are Trials of our Faith, and such repeated Trials contribute to our Perfection. When we find the Christian's Life so often compared to a Warfare, we have fair warning, what we must expect. Frequent Action, and continual Dan
ger, are the Lot of Soldiers. Experience of these is so necessary to their excelling in this Art, that all the Discipline in the World will not suffice to make Them Masters of it, who never were engaged. Valour is confirmed, and Presence of Mind acquired, by those things, which Nature uses to dread, becoming familiar. So that, could these spiritual Soldiers never be brought into the Field, it were to their disadvantage. This would still keep them raw, and defeat the End of listing them under Christ's Banner. As for Those among them, who have already learnt their Trade, and eminently distinguished themselves heretofore, to be excused from Action, would be an Injury and a Blemish upon such. It would hinder their Promotion, and rob their Prince of the Glory their Gallantry would bring to him. By this scriptural Allusion so pursued, 'tis easy to discern, that no Man must, that Good Men least of any should, fatter themselves with freedom from Temptations. That to do so is in effect every whit as absurd, as to look for profound Peace in the Field of Battel. Since our whole Life is unavoidably, professedly, a State of War; and Temptations are the Stratagems of that Enemy of Souls, who is perpetually labouring to overcome us.
II. This may receive some farther Illustration by the Second thing I mentioned, as observable here, The Time of our Lord's Temptation. Which, if we look back to the Conclusion of the Third Chapter, and attend to the Continuation of the History, expressed by the Word Then, at the beginning of This Chapter, will evidently appear, to have followed close upon his Baptism, and the Descent of the Holy Ghost upon him, immediately consequent to it.
Now the Use, we shall do well to make of This, is, I conceive, to form a right Judgment concerning the Sacraments of the Christian Religion, and the Advantages to be expected from them. A thing the more ne