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iceep clear from flagrant and disreputable vices. But whether some gross depravity,some inveterate prejudice, or some leaven of vanity and self-conceit, does not commonly lurk in their hearts, and influence both their opinions and their practices, they who have an extensive acquaintance with the writings and the conduct of that class of men will find no difficulty in deciding. If however this was the decision of man only, the justness of it might be controverted, and the competency of the judge denied. It might be said, that it is unbecoming and presumptuous in any human being to pass severe censures on large bodies of men; and that without being able to look into the heart of man, it is impossible to form a right judgment of his moral character. This we do not deny. But if he who actually has that power of looking into the heart of man, if he who is perfectly well acquainted with human nature, and all the various characters of men; if he has declared that men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil*, who will controvert the truth of that decision? On this authority then we may * John iii. 19.
securely securely rely, and may rest assured, that whatever pretences may be set up for rejecting Revelation, the grand obstacles to it are, indolence* indifference, vice, passion, prejudice, self-conceit, pride, vanity, loveof singularity, a disdain to think with the vulgar, and an ambition to be considered as superior to the rest of mankind in genius, penetration, and discernment. It is by removing these impediments in the first place, that we must prepare men, as St. John did, for embracing the religion of Christ^ These (to make use of prophetic language) are the mountains that must be made low; these the crooked paths that must be made straight; these the rough places that must be made plain. Then all difficulties will be removed, and there will be A Highway For Ouegod, Then there will be a smooth and easy approach for the Gospel to the understanding, as well as to the heart; there will be nothing to oppose its conquest over the soul. The GLory Of The Loud Shall Fully Be Revealed, And All Flesh Shall See It*.
Matthew iv.—former part.
THE fourth chapter of St. Matthew, at which we are now arrived, opens with an account of that most singular and extraordinary transaction, The Temptation Of Christ In The Wilderness. The detail of it is as follows:
"Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil: and when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterwards an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou )be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: Vol. I. G for for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee, and in their hands they shall bear thee. up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again thedevil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold.,angels came and ministered unto him*."
Such is the history given by the Evangelists of our Lord's temptation^ which has been a subject of much discussion among learned men. It is well known in particular that several ancient commentators* as well as many able and pious men of our own times, have thought that this temptation was not a real transaction, but only a vision or prophetic trance, similar to that which Ezekiel describes m the 8th chapter of his prophecy, and to
• —:• •. * Matth. iv. i—it.
that which befel St. Peter when he saw a vessel descending unto him from heaven, and let down to the earth*. And it must be acknowledged that this opinion is supported by many specious arguments, and seems to remove some considerable difficulties. But upon the whole there are I think stronger reasons for adhering to the literal interpretation, than for recurring to a visionary representatibn.
For, in the first place, it is a rule admitted and established by the best and most judicious interpreters, that in explaining the sacred writings we ought never, without the most apparent and most indispensable necessity, allow ourselves the liberty of departing from the plain, obvious, and literal meaning of the words. Now, I conceive that no such necessity can be alleged in the present instance. It is true, that there are in this narrative many difficulties, and many extraordinary, surprising, and miraculous incidents. But the whole history of our Saviour is wonderful and miraculous from beginning to end; and if whenever we meet with a difficulty or a miracle, we may have recourse to figure, metaphor, or vision, we shall
• * Acts x. 10—16;
G 3 soon