Abraham Coles.

The life and teachings of Our Lord in verse, being a complete harmonized exposition of the four Gospels, with original notes, textual index, etc online

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Online LibraryAbraham ColesThe life and teachings of Our Lord in verse, being a complete harmonized exposition of the four Gospels, with original notes, textual index, etc → online text (page 12 of 48)
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To be there tempted of the Devil. Good



[Matth. iv : i. Then was Jesus measure unto Him] into the wilder-
led up of the Spirit [John iii : 34. ness to be tempted of the devil.*
For God giveth not the Spirit by sAnd when he had fasted forty days

*After the Baptism the Temptation. Now the newly inaugurated Christ
begins to do the work His Father gave Him to do, and to save mankind.
The first step taken there is no power can prevent or delay the second.
Nature is not more sequent and immediate. With the paternal voice
speaking out of the excellent glory still sounding in His ears, testifying,
" Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee : " and again, " Thou
art a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec," "A minister of the
sanctuary and the true tabernacle [the temple of His body] which the
Lord pitched [now again in the wilderness] and not man," " Jesus was
led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil." He
who taught us to pray, " Lead us not into temptation," was Himself led
into it. It would seem that thus early, " It pleased the Lord to bruise Him
and put Him to grief." Mark uses still stronger language : " And imme-
diately the Spirit driveth [^■/c/3a/l?.ef=casts, thrusts outj Him into the
wilderness." Not that He went unwillingly ; for His was not " a fugitive



THE TEMPTATION. I43

In righteousness invincible he stood ;

Was with wild beasts — such awe hath innocence —

Nor ate nor hungered, plunged in thouglit intense,

For forty days ; these ended, felt at last

The sharpness of the pangs of His long fast.

Now Satan, ply thine arts, stand not aloof!
He doth defy thee ; put Him to the proof!



and forty nights, he was afterward Mark i : 12. And immediately

an hungred, the Spirit driveth [i KiSu/i-Xec] him



and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sahies out
and seeks his adversary." But He went freely, as goes the athlete — ^i/asi
athleta sponte procedeiis — for lofty discipline ; to train and exercise Himself;
to struggle, to wrestle, and to prevail ; to silence and trample, after brief
contest, under His victorious feet, Satan, the Arch Foe and Accuser of
mankind ; going into the wilderness, not to fly temptation, but to put to
flight the Tempter ; not to dwell there, but to return. His purpose accom-
plished, after a short stay.

The Spirit compelled as the heart compels. The power was not from
without but from within. It was the push of the pulse — a divine vis a
ter^oMxgmg Him forward. It was that necessity of His being which led
Him to say: "I must be about My Father's business. My meat and
drink is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work. I
have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be
accomplished." This drove Him forth. It was not because, like Paul,
He needed Satanic buffetings to humble Him, " lest He should be exalted
above measure through the abundance of the revelations," for He was
never otherwise than " meek and lowly in heart."

" Being full of the Holy Ghost," consequent on a divine cataclysm and
a new baptism, what time "all the fountains of the great deep [of His
being] were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened," the
Ark of our Deliverance, emergent and afloat, "went upon the face of the
waters" of the deluge of His overflowing Divinity ; "and the flood was



144 THE EVANGEL.

His calm, untroubled heart, without affright,

Hath heard thy stealthy footsteps through the
night ;

And known thee near, both sleeping and awake ;

Perceived thy hiss in the envenomed snake ;

Housed in wild beasts thy roarings vex the air;

Thy hellish malice in their eyeballs glare.

This is thy hour: make good thy boasts ! display

Thy craft and cunning in the light of day !



into the wilderness. And he was tempted of Satan, and was with the
there in the wilderness forty days, wild beasts.



forty days upon the earth," Gen, vii : ii, 17, "And in those days he did
eat nothing," not feeling the need of food. He fasted without hunger.
Exceptional but not solitary, for Moses and Elijah fasted forty days like-
wise, this long fast was not necessarily miraculous, but only proved the
intensity and entireness of His spiritual preoccupation. The fastin g formed
no part of the trial. It was merely incidental. It was like the fast ot
fever, unaccompanied by desire. It had not the merit of self-denial.
Fasting is only then meritorious when it is used as a means to an end.
Christ was no ascetic. Hunger overtook Him, He did not go in pursuit
of it.

Behold ! the promised Man is here — He that was to restore the Paradise
that was lost, and bruise the Serpent's head. Adam is again on trial, but
the scene of it is no longer the Garden of Delight and Innocence, but out
in the cursed and desolate places of the earth, whence when man fell he
had been driven :

" Infamous hills and sandy perilous wilds,"

with its savage tenantry of wild beasts, the reputed haunt of demons,
where satyrs dance and cry to each other, and unclean spirits roam, seek-
ing rest and finding none. It is not known whether the wilderness spoken



THE TEMPTATION. I45

And when the Tempter came to Him, he said :
•* If Son of God, command these stones be bread! "

But Jesus answered, " Nay! of old 'twas shown,.
Man shall not live by bread, or bread alone :
But by each word that from God's mouth proceeds,.
Tied to no means to satisfy his needs.
When Israel hungered, God a table spread



Luke iv : i. And Jesus being full Jordan, and was led by the Spirit
of the Holy Ghost returned from into the wilderness. 2 Being forty



of was the Quaranfania, near Jericho, this side of the Jordan ; or the
mountains of Moab, Nebo or Pisgah, on the other side ; or Sinaitic soli-
tudes, the old sites of the Israelitish encampments during the forty years'
wanderings in the desert. Nor is the point material.

We are ignorant likewise what form Satan assumed, but are accustomed
to take it for granted that it was human. Certainly the character of the
temptations does no discredit to his ancient reputation for consummate
craft. There is nothing gross in them ; nothing to startle ; but are spe-
ciously religious. The evil is lurking and latent, and, at first sight, does
not seem to be evil. He onl}'' says : "If Son of God, be what you are !
Act in character ! Justify your claim ! It is right you should. Self-pre-
servation is the first law of nature. Throwing yourself from a height is
but throwing yourself into the arms of God. I promise to give you the
throne of the Cesars, and I ask nothing in return but acknowledgment
and thanks." The answer to each artful suggestion is ready, and the
infernal sophism is demohshed at a word. The victory seems easy, but
is not easy, for it is the painful outcome of " prayers and supplications
offered up with strong crying and tears."

The Son of God is also the Son of Man. Christ's priestly sympathy
has the sure basis of consanguinity. He is our Kinsman and Elder
Brother. He is none the less Man because He is God. " He was in all
points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." His Godhood was perfect
from the beginning : His Manhood was made perfect. " Though He were



146 THE EVANGEL.

Far in the desert where there was no bread ,
Quotidian manna graciously did give,
Something that was not bread, yet did he live.
In God we live, and out of Him we die,
And bread were stones unless He life supply.

" Shall I distrust My Heavenly Father's care,
And filch by miracle My hungry share ?



days tempted of the devil. And in when they were ended, he afterward
those days he did eat nothing ; and hungered.



a Son yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered." The
higher nature or life did not abolish the lower ; but overtopped it, and
informed it by a voluntary descent and influx, constituting the life of the
life. From supernal heights and eternal fountains flowed that River of
God. While His humanity touched the heavens, His divinity pierced it
and passed out of sight into the heaven of heavens.

This vital fact of two natures united but not confounded, although mi-
raculous is not monstrous. Admitting it transcends physiology, still
physiological analogies are not wanting. Life in man, and even in brutes,
stands for lives which are in a sense distinct and independent. There is
the organic life, the life of the organs, cell-life, which from being common
to both vegetables and animals may be called vegeto-animal life. Rising
from this lowest floor of life is sentient life, the life of relation with the
outer world, known as animal life. Above this still, is the life distinctively
human, the unshared hfe of the immortal mind or spirit, bounded by cor-
poreal shores but open to the infinite, whence come quickenings and inspi-
rations from God, making us sons of a new birth, and " partakers of the
divine nature."

Over these several lives dominates the will, the lord of the body and all
its parts, with power to isolate one part or faculty, and employ it to the
exclusion of the rest, or bring into play many or all at once. There are
stories and walls of partition which divide but do not destroy the unity of
the household. Upon the voluntary opening or the shutting of a door how



THE TEMPTATION. 147

Let thirst consume Me, and let hunger gnaw ;
'T were better thus, than violate the law
Of My subjection ; better far to starve,
Than with unlawful instruments to carve.

*' The life is more than meat. The menial part
Must be subservient to the mind and heart.
Ungoverned appetite makes man a beast,



Luke iv : 3. And the devil said command this stone that it be made
unto him, If thou be the Son of God, bread. 4And Jesus answered him



much depends ? What is so easy as the hfting or closing of the eye-lids ?
and yet while one reveals the universe the other blots it. It was meant,
that the highernature should descend into the lower, to humanize and ele-
vate the bestial, to cast out the unclean, and make all chaste and holy. It
is voluntary with us whether this shall take place. It is as the will deter-
mines whether the beast or the man shall assert itself; whether the
devilish or the godhke. This faculty, mediating between the two lives,
responsive to pleadings and appeals from the animal nature addressed to
the human, is able to maintain the body's chastity and keep it under.

So, we conceive, in Christ, high above the human was the divine, the
two blended into one personality or self, but each, in a sense, distinct from
the other, with a mediating will connecting and directing, separately or
conjointly, their appropriate activities — the divine answering the cries of the
human in the dreadful hour of temptation and trial, but not otherwise than
in the ordinary normal manner, so as not to affect the reality of the proba-
tion, making it truly and absolutely human, in order that the merit might
be human. This isolating power for independent action, so to speak, of
the strictly human self, apart from the divine, comparable in a degree to
the familiar power we all possess of segregating one part of the body from
all the other parts ; of employing, for example, the little finger separate
from the rest of the hand in lifting a weight — made it possible for Him to
render an obedience which being essentially man's should redound to



148 THE EVANGEL.

A swinish feeder at an unblest feast.
Who Hves to pleasure, ne'er to live begins,
But is all dead in trespasses and sins.

" To eat is not to live. The life of man
Is an eternal life, and only can
Be nourished by that bread which is not bread,
But the renewing word of God instead."



saying, It is written that man shall every word of God.

not live by bread alone, but by [Matth. iv : 3, And when the



man's advantage. It being man that was on trial, from first to last in all
that concerned Himself He acted and suffered as a man.

Although He was " the Word made flesh;" and " in Him dwelt all the
fulness of the Godhead bodily," nothing can be clearer than that the
whole stress and strain of the trial were borne by the human half, while
the divine was held strictly in abeyance. He who a few days after changed
water into wine, certainly did not want power to make the stones bread ;
but in complying with the temptation to do so to satisfy His personal
needs, He would have abdicated His humanity, overridden it and cast it
aside, and so nullified His mission. The second Adam would have failed
like the first, and there would have been to a lapsed race no new

" Eden raised in the waste wilderness."

It was indispensable, however severe the trial, that He should never take
refuge in the exercise of extraordinary powers ; accordingly we find that
while He wrought miracles for others. He wrought none on His own ac-
count. " He saved others. Himself He could not save."

It is a great mistake to suppose that the possession of divine attributes
made the task He came to perform less difficult. So far from this, it was
an infinite enhancement of the severity of the ordeal, inasmuch as it
imposed on humanity the duty of a stupendous self-abnegation— nothing
short of this : To possess all power and not to use it ; to be consciously



THE TEMPTATION. I49

The Devil then, his first temptation vain,
Running the hazard of defeat again,
Him took into the Holy City, fair
Jerusalem, and gave Him footing there
The Temple's giddy pinnacle upon,
The perilous edge of its ' pterygion.'
And said :

" If Son of God, cast Thyself down !
I give Thee chance Thy filial trust to crown



tempter came to him, he said, If that these stones be made bread
thou be the Son of God, command [aproi = loaves of bread]. *But he



God, and yet voluntarily man ; to stagger under the w^eight of man's sins,
to bear his griefs and carry his sorrows and endure his stripes.

He, who being in the form [//op^^v] of God — representing and person-
ating God — thought it no robbery — no usurpation, no appropriation of
prerogatives which did not belong to Him — to claim equality with God,
had laid aside no attribute of Divinity when He shrouded Himself in
human flesh. He was no less omnipotent when He tabernacled with us
than when His spoken fiat " made every thing that was made." It was
not so much before as after Ho came, and then only when acting in the
capacity of man's substitute, that He voluntarily, it was His own act,
momentarily and incessantly emptied or stripped Himself, put off the
vestments of divine sovereignty and rule to assume the form, represent
the character, wear the distinctive badge and garb, endure the contradic-
tion, and all the injurious and base belongings pertaining to the part
of a servant — girded to wait and minister, an underling to underlings.
Made in the likeness of sinful flesh (it was only " likeness " in this respect
for He Himself was sinless), and found in the true guise and habit of a
man. He accepted human conditions ; humbled Himself to unjust author-
ity — still voluntarily, for ten legions of angels were at His beck ; submitted
to be bound and led away ; ' ' gave His back to the smiters, and His cheek



ISO THE EVANGEL.

By highest act. 'Tis surely safe : why fear ?

For it is written positive and clear,

He'll give His angels charge concerning Thee,

To keep Thee in entire security ;

And they'll upbear Thee, tender of each bone,

Lest Thou should'st dash Thy foot against a stone.

This Holy Place, all conscious too of Thee,

Ground shall be soft, and air shall buoyant be ;



answered, It is written, Man shall word that proceedeth out of the
not live by bread alone, but by every mouth of God.]



to them that plucked off the hair, and hid not His face from shame and
spitting;" and, finally, " delivered by the determinate counsel and fore-
knowledge of God," and condemned by a wicked decree, "became obe-
dient unto death, even the death of the cross." The right hand of His
Godhead might have prevented but did not. He yielded His life, no man
took it. His own words are clear and explicit : " I lay down My own life.
No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to
lay it down, and I have power to take it again." Had it been wrested
from Him in His own despite, the merit of His death, unhke His life,
would not have been His own, nor by imputation ours. Death was not
defeat. He descended into the grave bearing in His hands " the keys of
hell and of death." Even before His own resurrection, at the grave of
Lazarus He had vindicated His right to say: "I am the Resurrection
and the Life ! " It is wonderful to see how a latent omnipotence under-
lying His voluntary helplessness, made that divine which else were human ;
so that when most man, He was most God,

That Jesus was, even up to the time of His baptism, mainly ignorant
of Himself; that it was not until His human consciousness had reached
its full development that He gained the absolute knowledge of His divinity,
seems to us to be a most arbitrary and unscriptural hypothesis, worthy
only of the humanitarian school : and yet it is that view which many,
otherwise orthodox, favor. We confess to a great disHke to it. It chills



THE TEMPTATION. I5I

And those below, who witness Thy descent,
Will think Thou art from heaven directly sent."

'' How true it is," said Jesus in reply,
'' One half God's truth is but the Devil's lie.
It is thus written, but 'tis writ again,
In language no less positive and plain,
' Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God ! ' No ! No !

Luke iv : 9. And he brought him nacle [to nregvyiov = the wing] of
to Jerusalem, and set him on a pin- the temple, and said unto him, If



and offends us. The animus is wanting, otherwise we should almost feel
that to such an enormous truncation of consciousness there attached the
guilt of a spiritual mayhem. If corporeal maiming is a crime, how much
more the mutilation and dismemberment of Christ's perfect humanity.
Between the Divine and the Human we must beheve there was from the
first a true marriage. The twain became one. Assuredly the Divine
Bridegroom did not wed defect and deformity, but a Bride humanly com-
plete and without blemish. Nor were there any jealous withholdings or
postponements of confidence, but an immediate beginning of divine
endearments and communications of the divine. It is not too much to
say, that all the while the growing germ of the Word made flesh lay in
pre-natal sleep in the loving arms of the enfolding Godhead, there were
not wanting thriUing organic recognitions and exultations of the flesh—
for even the unborn forerunner had as much, as shown by his leaping in
his mother's womb for joy, that moment the two mothers met. And if
before birth we have a right to assume there were fond automatic clasp-
ings and embracings, responsive to the bosom intimacies of whispered
love, can we suppose that the New-born, as He lay in the manger, with
His eyes and ears open to earthly sights and sounds, saw not in kneehng
posture of commanded worship " all the angels of God;" and heard not
the voices of the heavenly host singing the " Gloria in excelsis " in honor



152 THE EVANGEL.

To tempt is not to trust ; distrust they show.
Who must first try before they will confide ;
To trust God truly is to trust untried.
Subject the counterfeit to chemic test,
But not Heaven's mintage properly imprest

" God's adamantine laws, on nature writ.
Are scarcely safe against the sponge of wit.



thou be the Son of God, cast thyself ten, He shall give his angels charge
down from hence : i" For it is writ- over thee to keep thee [in all thy



of His advent? Was His consciousness a blank, when it is said even of
us:

" Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God, who is our home ;
Heaven lies about us in our infancy."

The poet, to be sure, makes this the special privilege of childhood, and
goes on to say :

" The youth who daily from the east
Must travel, still is Nature's priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on the way attended :
At length the man perceives it die away,
And fade into the common light of day,"

But in regard to Him, this distinction was confined to no period, but be-
longed to all periods. His native Nazareth was not more familiar to Him
than His native Heaven. It was about Him forever. It was only for the
sake of others that there were occasional riftings of the concealing veil.
He needed it not, " that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man
which is in heaven," John iii : 13 ; whose eye and thought ranging through
eternity, far above the ken and knowledge of angels, were conversant with
the secrets of His Father's bosom, that He might dupHcate Him in all



THE TEMPTATION. I53

I come not law to break, but to fulfil :
For what is law but the Lawgiver's will ?
Shall the commanded dare to command Him,
And make Omnipotence the slave of whim ?
The law is certain, all beyond is hid :
We know what is forbidden is forbid.

■** Satanic ' ifs * of atheistic doubt
Declare the Devil, plainly point him out.

'And is it so? And has He spoken this?'
The very sound betrays the Serpent's hiss :



ways]: I'And in their hands they thou dash thy foot against a stone,
shall bear thee up, lest at any time 12 And Jesus answering said unto



things, " do whatsoever things He doeth : for the Father loveth the Son
and sheweth Him all things that He Himself doeth. . . . That all men
should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father," John v : 19, 20, 23.
The bare statement is the all-sufficient proof that the consciousness of
His two-fold nature was never absent from Him : a single moment's
divorce would have made that moment worthless to man's salvation ; for
it was the Divine in conscious association with the Human that gave to
the obedience of the latter its unspeakable value. Assuredly that aphor-
ism of Greek wisdom, "Know Thyself,'' was not unfulfilled in Him,
That He did not parade and publish this knowledge is no proof that he
did not possess it. That He possessed it when He was twelve years old
is incidentally set forth in a way which shows that it was not something to
which He had just attained, but something which He always had. It
preceded His official invesdture. The anointing of the Holy Ghost at
His baptism had nothing to do with the fact nor the consciousness of the
fact of His dual Selfhood. It seems to us a strange and preposterous
notion, that the revelation of Himself to Himself needed to be delayed



154 THE EVANGEL.

A liar from the first, he puts his * Nay *
Against Jehovah's ' Everlasting Yea : '
The stale old trick by which he cheated Eve,
I know too well to let it Me deceive."

Twice baffled, all unmasked, against him turned
His every weapon, silenced, shamed and spurned,
The Devil, that invincible high Fort
Once more attempting, Him did then transport
To some clear Pisgah's visionary top,



him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt [Matth. iv : 5. Then the devil

the Lord thy God, taketh him up into the holy city, and



until His human nature should be strengthened to bear it ; and that it was
necessary to wait thirty years for this. No good reason can be given why
a child's receptivity, and tolerance too, of any form of divine disclosure
should not be equal to a man's: indeed, we know that "things hidden
from the wise and prudent are revealed imto babes."

We hold firmly, that Christ's consciousness of the fact, that He was both
God and Man, ran parallel with the fact itself, beginning at the beginning ;
that the two natures were so adjusted the one to the other as not to trench
on each other's proper freedom and independence ; that while there were
not two wills but only one will, that will, in things human was human, and
in things divine was divine. It was inevitable that there should be limita-
tions to the human, else it would not be human, but while these limitations
really existed they were, we insist, voluntary, self-imposed, capable of
being set aside or transcended. That they never were transcended a hair's
breadth in matters pertaining to the law of His subjection, stands to the
glory of His free obedience, which being perfect, " brought in everlasting
righteousness." And as this abstention involved a strenuous holding back
of a present omnipotence, forming a miracle of restraint full of moral
sublimity, it is easy to see how immensely the merit of that obedience was



THE TEMPTATION. 15$

High as if heaven's supremest mountain prop,
And showed Him thence, as on a map unfurled.
The far outstretching kingdoms of the world :
Their numbers, riches, glory, power and might,



Online LibraryAbraham ColesThe life and teachings of Our Lord in verse, being a complete harmonized exposition of the four Gospels, with original notes, textual index, etc → online text (page 12 of 48)