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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 the devil 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 in the 8th chapter of his prophecy, and to
. * Matth. iv. 1-11.
that which befel St. Peter when he saw a vesa sel 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 representation.
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.
soon reduce a great part of the sacred writings to nothing else. Besides, these difficulties will several of them admit of a fair solution; and where they do not, as they affect no article of faith or practice, they must be left among those inscrutable mysteries which it is natural to expect in a revelation from heaven. This we must after all be content to do, even if we adopt the idea of vision ; for even thut does not remove every difficulty, and it creates some that do not attach to the literal interpretation.
2. In the next place, I cannot find in any part of this narrative of the temptation the slightest or most distant intimation that it is nothing more than a vision. The very first words with which it commences seem to imply, the direct contrary. “ Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil.” Does not this say in the most express terms that our Lord was led, not in a dream, or trance, or vision, but was actually and literally led by the Spirit into the wilderness of Judea? There is, I know, an interpretation which explains away this obvious meaning. But that interpretation rests solely
on the doubtful signification of a single Greek particle, which is surely much too slender a ground to justify a departuré from the plain and literal sense of the passage. Certain it is, that if any one had meant to describe a real transaction, he could not have selected any expressions betteradapted to that purpose than those actually made use of by the Evangelist ; and I believe no one at his first reading of our Lord's temptation everentertained the slightest idea of its being a visionary representation.
3. There is an observation which has been made, and which has great weight in this question. It is this: All the prophets of the Old Testament, except Moses, saw visions, and dreamed dreams; and the prophets of the New did the same. St. Peter had a vision, St. John saw visions, St. Paul had visions and dreams : but Christ himself neither saw visions nor dreamed dreams. He had an intiinate and immediate communication with the Father; and he, and no one else in his days, had seen the Father. The case was the same with Moses; he saw God face to face. "If there be a propbet among you, says God to Aaron and Miriam, I the Lord will make myself
known to him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all my house; with him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold*.” Now Moses we all know was a type of Christ; and the resem, blance holds between them in this instance as well as in many others. They neither of them had visions or dreams, but had both an immediate communication with God. They both « saw God face to faceti" This was a dis, tinction and a mark of dignity peculiar to those two only, to the great legislator of the Jews, and the great legislator of the Chris, tians. It is therefore inconsistent with this high privilege, this mark of superior eminence, to suppose that our Lord was tempted in a vision, when we see no other instance of a vision in the whole course of his ministry.
4. There is still another consideration which militates strongly against the supposition of a visionary temptation. It was in itselfextremely probable that there should be a real and personal conflict between Christ and Satan, when . * Num. xii. 6-8. Exod. xxxiii. 11.