« PreviousContinue »
5. As soon as ever the Saviour of the world was baptized, had opened the heavens, which yet never had been opened to man, and was declared the Son of God, “ Jesus was, by the Spirit, driven into the wilderness," not by an unnatural violence, but by the efficacies of inspiration, and a supernatural inclination and activity of resolution ; for it was the Holy Spirit that bare him thither; he was led by the good Spirit to be tempted by the evil: whither also he was pleased to retire, to make demonstration, that even in an active life, such as he was designed to and intended, some recesses and temporary demissions of the world are most expedient, for such persons especially, whose office is prophetical, and for institution of others, that, by such vacancies in prayer and contemplation, they may be better enabled to teach others, when they have in such retirements conversed with God.
6. In the desert, which was four miles from the place of his baptism, and about twenty miles from Jerusalem, as the common computations are, he did abide “ forty days and forty nights," where he was perpetually disturbed and assaulted with evil spirits, in the midst of wild beasts, in a continual fast, without eating bread or drinking water; “ and the angels ministered to him," being messengers of comfort and sustentation, sent from his Father, for the support and service of his humanity, and employed in resisting and discountenancing the assaults and temporal hostilities of the spirits of darkness.
7. Whether the devils appeared in any horrid and affrighting shapes, is not certain ; but it is more likely, to a person of so great sanctity and high designation, they would appear more angelical and immaterial, in representments intellectual, in words and ideas, temptations and enticements, because Jesus was not a person of those low weaknesses to be affrighted or troubled with an ugly phantasm, which can do nothing but abuse the weak and imperfect conceptions of persons nothing extraordinary. And this was the way, which Satan, or the prince of the devils, took, whose temptations were reserved for the last assault, and the great day of trial; for at the expiration of his forty days, Jesus being hungry, the tempter invited him only to eat bread of his own providing, which might refresh his humanity, and prove his Divinity, hoping that his hunger, and the desire of convincing the
devil, might tempt him to eat before the time appointed. “ But Jesus answered, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word, that proceeds out of the mouth of God:” meaning, that in every word of God, whether the commandment be general or special, a promise is either expressed or implied of the supply of all provisions necessary for him, that is doing the work of God; and that was the present case of Jesus, who was then doing his Father's work, and promoting our interest, and therefore was sure to be provided for: and therefore so are we.
8. The devil, having failed in this assault, tries him again, requiring but a demonstration of his being the Son of God. He" sets him upon the battlement of the temple k," and invites him to throw himself down, upon a pretence that God would send his angels to keep his Son, and quotes Scripture for it. But Jesus understood it well; and though he was secured of God's protection, yet he would not tempt God, nor solicit his providence to a dereliction, by tempting him to an unnecessary conservation. This assault was silly and weak. But at last he unites all his power of stratagem, and places the holy Jesus upon an exceeding high mountain, and, by an angelical power, draws into one centre species and ideas from all the kingdoms and glories of the world', and makes an admirable map of beauties, and represents it to the eyes of Jesus, saying, that all that was put into his power to give, and he “would give it him, if he would fall down and worship him.” But then the holy Lamb was angry as a provoked lion, and commanded him away, when his temptations were violent, and his demands impudent and blasphemous. “ Then the devil leaveth him, and the angels came and ministered unto him,” bringing such things as his necessities required, after he had, by a forty days' fast, done penance for our sins, and consigned to his church the doctrine and discipline of fasting in order to a contemplative life, and the resisting and overcoming all the temptations and allurements of the devil, and all our ghostly enemies.
Κ Πτερύγιον, ακρωτήριον, το επάνω των ναών ανατιθέμενον ζώδιον.
Ad SECTION IX.
Considerations upon the Baptizing, Fasting, and Temptation
of the Holy Jesus by the Devil. 1. When the day did break, and the Baptist was busy in his offices, the Sun of Righteousness soon entered upon our hemisphere; and after he had lived a life of darkness and silence for thirty years together, yet now that he came to do the greatest work in the world, and to minister in the most honourable embassy, he would do nothing of singularity, but fulfil all righteousness, and satisfy all commands, and join in the common rites and sacraments, which all people, innocent or penitent, did undergo, either as deleteries of sin or instruments of grace. For so he would needs be baptized by his servant; and though he was of purity sufficient to do it, and did actually, by his baptism, purify the purifier, and sanctify that and all other streams to a holy ministry and effect, yet he went in, bowing his head like a sinner, unclothing himself like an imperfect person, and craving to be washed, as if he had been crusted with an impure leprosy; thereby teaching us to submit ourselves to all those rites which he would institute; and although some of them be, like the baptism of John, joined with confession of sins, and publication of our infirmities, yet it were better for us to lay by our loads, and wash our ulcers, than by concealing them, out of vainer desires of impertinent reputation, cover our disease till we are heart-sick and die. But when so holy a person does all the pious ministries of the more imperfect, it is a demonstration to us, that a life common and ordinary, without affectation or singularity, is the most prudent and safe. Every great change, every violence of fortune, all eminences and unevennesses whatsoever, whether of person, or accident, or circumstance, puts us to a new trouble, requires a distinct care, creates new dangers, objects more temptations, marks us out the objects of envy, makes our standing more insecure, and our fall more contemptible and ridiculous. But an even life, spent with as much rigour of duty to God as ought to be, yet in the same manner of devotions, in the susception of ordinary offices, in bearing
public burdens, frequenting public assemblies, performing offices of civility, receiving all the rites of an established religion, complying with national customs, and hereditary solemnities of a people; in nothing disquieting public peace, or disrelishing the great instruments of an innocent communion, or dissolving the circumstantial ligaments of charity, or breaking laws, and the great relations and necessitudes of the world, out of fancy or singularity, is the best way to live holily, and safely, and happily; safer from sin and envy, and more removed from trouble and temptation.
2. When Jesus came to John to be baptized, John, out of humility and modesty, refused him; but when Jesus, by reduplication of his desire, fortifying it with a command, made it in the Baptist to become a duty, then he obeyed. And so also did the primitive clerks refuse to do offices of great dignity and highest ministry; looking through the honour upon the danger, and, passing by the dignity, they considered the charge of the cure, and knew that the eminence of the office was in all senses insecure to the person, till, by command and peremptory injunction of their superiors, it was put past a dispute, and became necessary, and that either they must perish instantly in the ruins and precipices of disobedience, or put it to the hazard and a fair venture, for a brighter crown or a bigger damnation. I wish also this care were entailed, and did descend upon all ages of the church; for the ambitious seeking of dignities and prelacies ecclesiastical, is grown the pest of the church, and corrupts the salt itself, and extinguishes the lights, and gives too apparent evidences to the world, that neither the end is pure, nor the intention sanctified, nor the person innocent, but the purpose ambitious or covetous, and the person vicious; and the very entrance into church-offices is with an impure torch, and a foul hand, or a heart empty of the affections of religion, or thoughts of doing God's work. I do not think the present age is to be treated with, concerning denying to accept rich prelacies and pompous dignities; but it were but reasonable that the main intention and intellectual design should be, to appreciate and esteem the office and employment to be of greatest consideration. It is lawful to desire a bishoprick; neither can the unwillingness to accept it be, in a prudent account, adjudged the aptest disposition to receive it, (especially if done in
ceremony", just in the instant of their entertainment of it, and possibly after a long ambition :) but yet it were well if we remember, that such desires must be sanctified with holy care and diligence in the office; for the honey is guarded with thousands of little sharp stings and dangers; and it will be a sad account, if we be called to audit for the crimes of our diocese, after our own tallies are made even; and he that believes his own load to be big enough, and trembles at the apprehension of the horrors of dooms-day, is not very wise, if he takes up those burdens, which he sees have crushed their bearers, and presses his own shoulders till the bones crack, only because the bundles are wrapped in white linen, and bound with silken cords. “ He that desires the office of a bishop, desires a good work," saith St. Paul: and therefore we must not look on it for the fair-spreading sails and the beauteous streamers, which the favour of princes hath put to it, to make it sail fairer and more secure against the dangers of secular discomforts; but upon the burden it bears. Prelacy is a good work, and a good work well done is very honourable, and shall be rewarded; but he that considers the infinite dangers of miscarrying, and that the loss of the ship will be imputed to the pilot, may think it many times the safest course, to put God or his superiors to the charge of a command, before he undertakes such great ministries : and he that enters in by the force of authority, as he himself receives a testimony of his worth and aptness to the employment, so he gives the world another, that his search for it was not criminal, nor his person immodest; and by his weighty apprehension of his dangers he will consider his work, and obtain a grace to do it diligently, and to be accepted graciously. And this was the modesty and prudence of the Baptist.
3. “When Jesus was baptized, he prayed, and the heavens were opened.” External rites of Divine institution, receive benediction and energy from above, but it is by the mediation of prayerb; for there is nothing ritual, but it is also joined with something moral, and required, on our part, in all persons capable of the use of reason, that we may understand,
a In Pontifical. Rom.
• 1 Cor. x. 1, 2, 3. Gal. iii. 14, 27. 1 Pet. iii. 21. Matth. iii. 2,6.
1 Cor. xii, 7, 13.