The place of Christ’s temptation was “the wilderness.” Our Lord was already upon the border of the wilderness of Judea: but it was necessary that He should be led deeper into its remoteness and solitude-a depth so profound and desolate, that one of the Evangelists records the fact that He was “with the wild beasts,” far removed from the abode and intercourse of man. The Son of God herding, as it were, with the brute creation-the companion of the untamed denizens of the forest!-O Thou glorious tempted One! to what abasement did Thou not submit, that, thus trained in the school of temptation, Thou might be one with Thy saints in theirs!
Whereof the Holy Spirit also is a witness to us. Hebrews 10:15
THIS is sometimes a sudden work of the Spirit. A soul may be so deeply sealed in conversion—may receive such a vivid impression of Divine grace—such an enlarged communication of the Divine Spirit, as it never afterwards loses. It is sealed “unto the day of redemption;” and that, too, in the most simple way: in the hearing of a single sermon, the reading of a single chapter of God’s word, some promise brought with the power of the Holy Spirit and sealed upon the heart; in a moment the soul is brought into the full assurance of understanding and of faith.
Take for example that one precious promise which the Spirit has sealed, never to be effaced, upon many a poor sinner’s softened heart—”him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out.” Oh, what a sealing is this! God speaking to a poor, distressed, and disconsolate soul, assuring it of a cordial welcome and of a free pardon—that though no tongue can express its vileness and poverty, and no imagination conceive its deep sorrow, yet, coming to Jesus just as it is, it shall in no wise be cast out! Is not this an impression of the seal in the hands of the great Sealer, which is unto the day of redemption?
Sometimes it is as the Holy Spirit unfolds to the anxious soul that great truth, that Christ is the Savior of a sinner. You have been long waiting for some reward, some gift, some price with which to come—long lingering on the margin of the fountain, waiting for some preparation to enter—in other words, for it amounts to this, waiting to feel less vile, less unworthy, in order that you may be more welcome. And now the blessed Spirit opens to your mind that great and precious truth, that “Christ died for the ungodly,”—that He is the mighty and the willing Savior of a sinner—that no gift, no price, is asked—no previous fitness or self-preparation is necessary—that the more vile and unworthy, the more fit and the more welcome.
Oh, what an impression of the seal is this upon a wounded heart! When the glorious announcement is brought home to the soul—a full and free pardon for a poor sinner—the blood of Jesus cleansing from all sin—is it any marvel that no change of time or circumstance can ever obliterate the impression or the remembrance of that moment from the mind? It was a sealing of pardon upon a heart which God had made soft, and which was the sure prelude to, yes, the beginning of, eternal glory.
But, in most cases, the sealing of the Spirit is a more gradual work. It is a work of time. The soul is placed in the school of deep experience—is led on step by step, stage by stage. The knowledge of self and of Christ increases—deeper views of indwelling sin are discovered—the heart’s treachery is more acutely felt—the devices of Satan are better known—the mystery of God’s gracious and providential dealings with His children more clearly unfolded and better understood—and all this, it may be, arrived at through a process of deep and painful, yet sanctified, discipline of the covenant—so that years may elapse before a child of the covenant attains to the full sealing of the Spirit.
And yet, blessed be God, the work of regeneration is so perfect in itself—the blotting out of all a believer’s sins so complete, and his justification so entire—that a saint of God dying in the first stages of the Divine life is safe forever. May we not refer to the thief upon the cross, as an example illustrating and confirming this?
“Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” Romans 5:9
What forms the great security of the believer? what, but the atoning blood? This, and this only. The Father, beholding His child in His beloved Son, washed and clothed, pardoned and justified, can “rest in His love, and joy over Him with singing.” The atonement guarantees his eternal safety.
What formed the security of Noah and his family, when the deluge of God’s wrath descended upon an ungodly world?—the ark in which God had shut him in. What formed the security of the children of Israel in Egypt, when the destroying angel passed through the camp, waving in his hand the weapon of death?—the blood of the paschal lamb, sprinkled on the lintel and door-posts of their dwellings; and where this sacred sign was seen, into that house he dared not enter, but passed on to do the work of death where no blood was found. Exactly what the ark was to Noah, and the blood of the lamb was to the children of Israel, is the atoning blood of Christ to the believing soul. It forms his eternal security.
Reader, is that blood applied to you? Are you washed in it? Is it upon you at this moment? Precious blood! precious Savior who shed it! precious faith that leads to it! how it washes away all sin—how it lightens the conscience of its burden—heals the heart of its wound—dispels the mist, and brings down the unclouded sunshine of God’s reconciled countenance in the soul! Oh, adore the love and admire the grace that opened the fountain, and led you to bathe, all guilty, polluted, and helpless as you were, beneath its cleansing stream! and with Cowper let us sing,
“E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Your flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be until I die.”
Surely the Christian will ever strive to live near this fountain—the only spot where his soul shall flourish. As the gentle flower which blooms unseen by the side of some veiled spring is, from the constant moisture it receives, always beautiful and fragrant, so is that believing soul the most fruitful, holy, spiritual, and devoted, who daily dwells by the side, yes, in the “fountain opened for sin and uncleanness.”
We see not how a child of God can be fruitful otherwise. A sweet and abiding consciousness of pardon and acceptance is essential to spiritual fruitfulness. The great impelling motive to all gospel obedience is the love of Christ in the heart. David acknowledged this principle when he prayed, “I will run the way of Your commandments, when You shall enlarge my heart.” The apostle admits it when he says, “the love of Christ constrains us.” In order to walk as an obedient child, to bear the daily cross, to delight in the precepts as in the doctrines of God’s truth, the atoning blood must be realized. How easy and how sweet will then become the commandments of the Lord: duties will be viewed as privileges, and the yoke felt to be no yoke, and the cross to be no cross.
No believer can advance in the divine life, wage a daily war with the innumerable foes that oppose him, and be fruitful in every good work, who is perpetually in search of evidence of his adoption. We need all our time, all our energies, all our means, in order to vanquish the spiritual Philistines who obstruct our way to the heavenly Canaan: we have none to send in search of evidences, lest while they have gone the Bridegroom comes.
Oh, then, to know that all is right; the thick cloud blotted out—the soul wrapped in the robe of righteousness—ready to enter in to the marriage supper of the Lamb. To die will be quite enough; to face and grapple with the king of terrors will be sufficient employment for the spirit struggling to be free: no time, no strength, no energy then to search for evidences.
Let not the professor of Christ leave the “sealing” of his pardon and acceptance to that fearful hour; but let him earnestly seek it now, that when he comes to die he may have nothing to do but to die; and that will be quite enough.
“This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Matthew 26:28
The atoning blood of Christ possesses a pardoning efficacy. Through this blood, God, the holy God—the God against whom you have sinned, and whose wrath you justly dread, can pardon all your sins, blot out all your transgressions, and take from you the terror of a guilty conscience.
Oh what news is this! Do you doubt it? We know it is an amazing fact, that God should pardon sin, and that He should pardon it, too, through the blood of His dear Son, yet take His own word as a full confirmation of this stupendous fact, and doubt no more—”The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
Oh yes—blessed declaration! it cleanses us from all sin—”all manner of sin.” We ask not how heavy the weight of guilt that rests upon you; we ask not how wide the territory over which your sins have extended; we inquire not how many their number, or how aggravated their nature, or how deep their dye; we meet you, just as you are, with God’s own declaration, “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin.”
Many there are who can testify to this truth. “Such were some of you,” says the apostle, when writing to the Corinthian converts, who had been fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners; “such were some of you, but you are washed.” In what had they washed?—where were they cleansed? They washed in the “fountain opened to the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and uncleanness.”
To this fountain they came, guilty, vile, black as they were, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleansed them from all sin. Mourning soul, look up—the fountain yet is open, and open too for you. Satan will seek to close it—unbelief will seek to close it—yet it is ever running, ever overflowing, ever free. Thousands have plunged in it, and emerged washed, sanctified, and saved.
To this fountain David, and Manasseh, and Saul, and Peter, and Mary Magdalene, and the dying thief, and millions more, came, washed, and were saved; and yet it has lost nothing of its sin-pardoning, sin-cleansing efficacy—sovereign and free as ever! Oh say not that you are too vile, say not that you are too unworthy! You may stand afar from its brink, looking at your unfitness, looking at your poverty, but listen while we declare that, led as you have been by the Holy Spirit to feel your vileness, for just such this precious blood was shed, this costly fountain was opened.
This “blood of the new testament” is peace-speaking blood. It not only procured peace, but when applied by the Holy Spirit to the conscience, it produces peace—it gives peace to the soul. It imparts a sense of reconciliation: it removes all slavish fear of God, all dread of condemnation, and enables the soul to look up to God, not as “a consuming fire,” but as a reconciled God—a God in covenant.
Precious peace-speaking blood, flowing from the “Prince of Peace!” Applied to your heart, penitent reader, riven asunder as it may be with godly sorrow, it shall be as a balm to the wound. Sprinkled on your conscience, burdened as it is with a sense of guilt, you shall have “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”
It is through simply believing that the blood of Christ thus seals pardon and peace upon the conscience. Do not forget this. “Only believe,” is all that is required; and this faith is the free gift of God. And what is faith? “It is looking unto Jesus;” it is simply going out of yourself, and taking up your rest in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ—this is faith. Christ has said, that “He saves to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him;” that He died for sinners, and that He saves sinners as sinners: the Holy Spirit working faith in the heart, lifting the eye off the wound, and fixing it on the Lamb of God, pardon and peace flow like a river in the soul.
Oh, stay not then from the gospel-feast, because you are poor, penniless, and unworthy. See the provision, how full! see the invitation, how free! see the guests—the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind! Come then to Jesus just as you are. We stake our all on the assertion, that He will welcome you, that He will save you.
There is too much efficacy in His blood, too much compassion in His heart for poor sinners, to reject you, suing at His feet for mercy. Then look up, believer, and you shall be saved; and all heaven will resound with hallelujahs over a sinner saved by grace!
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not.” 1 John 3:1
IT is not strange that the fact of his adoption should meet with much misgiving in the Christian’s mind, seeing that it is a truth so spiritual, flows from a source so concealed, and has its seat in the profound recesses of the soul. The very stupendousness of the relationship staggers our belief. To be fully assured of our divine adoption demands other than the testimony either of our own feelings, or the opinion of men.
Our feelings—sometimes excited and visionary—may mislead; the opinion of others—often fond and partial—may deceive us. The grand, the divine, and only safe testimony is “the Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit.” There exists a strong combination of evil, tending to shake the Christian’s confidence in the belief of his sonship.
Satan is ever on the watch to insinuate the doubt. He tried the experiment with our Lord: “If You be the Son of God.” In no instance would it appear that he actually denied the truth of Christ’s Divine Sonship; the utmost that his temerity permitted was the suggestion to the mind of a doubt; leaving it there to its own working. Our blessed Lord thus assailed, it is no marvel that His disciples should be exposed to a like assault.
The world, too, presumes to call it in question. “The world knows us not, because it knew Him not.” Ignorant of the Divine Original, how can it recognize the Divine lineaments in the faint and imperfect copy? It has no vocabulary by which it can decipher the “new name written in the white stone.” The sons of God are in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, illumining it with their light, and preserving it by their grace, yet disguised from its knowledge, and hidden from its view.
But the strongest doubts touching the validity of his adoption are those engender in the believer’s own mind. Oh! there is much there to generate and foster the painful misgiving. We have said that the very greatness of the favor, the stupendousness of the relationship, startles the mind, and staggers our faith. “What! to be a child of God! God my Father! can I be the subject of a change so great, of a relationship so exalted? Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that You should exalt me to be a King’s son? Is this the manner of men, O Lord God?”
And then, there crowd upon the believer’s mind thoughts of his own sinfulness and unworthiness of so distinguished a blessing. “Can it be? with such a depravity of heart, such carnality of mind, such rebellion of will, such a propensity to evil each moment, and in everything such backslidings and flaws, does there yet exist within me a nature that links me with the Divine? It seems impossible!”
And when to all this are added the varied dispensations of his Heavenly Father, often wearing a rough garb, assuming an aspect somber, threatening, and crushing, oh, it is no marvel that, staggered by a discipline so severe, the fact of God’s love to him, and of his close and tender relation to God, should sometimes be a matter of painful doubt; that thus he should reason—”If His child, reposing in His heart, and sealed upon His arm, why is it thus? Would He not have spared me this heavy stroke? Would not this cup have passed my lips? Would He have asked me to slay my Isaac, to resign my Benjamin? All these things are against me.”
And thus are the children of God constantly tempted to question the fact of their adoption.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12
Let us inquire what is that which Satan desires to assault? It is the work of God in the soul. Against his own kingdom not a weapon is raised. It is his aim and his policy to keep all there undisturbed and peaceful. But against the work of the Holy Spirit in the renewed mind, his artillery is brought to bear; not a part of this work escapes him. Every grace comes in for its share of malignant attack; but especially the grace of faith. When, for example, a repentant and believing soul approaches Christ with lowliness and hesitancy, and with the tremulous hand of faith attempts to touch the border of His garment, or with a tearful eye looks up to His cross, then comes the assault upon faith in the form of a suggestive doubt of Christ’s power and willingness to save. “Is Jesus able to save me? Has He power to rescue my soul from hell? Can He blot out my transgressions, and redeem my life from destruction? Will He receive a sinner, so vile, so unworthy, so poor as I? Has He compassion, has He love, has He mercy sufficient to meet my case?”
In this way Satan assails the earliest and the feeblest exercises of faith in the soul. Does this page address itself to any such? It is Satan’s great effort to keep you from Jesus. By holding up to your view a false picture of His character, from which everything loving, winning, inviting, and attractive is excluded, by suggesting wrong views of His work, in which everything gloomy, contracted, and repulsive is foisted upon the mind; by assailing the atonement, questioning the compassion, and limiting the grace of Christ, he would persuade you that in that heart which bled on Calvary there is no room for you, and that upon that work which received the Father’s seal there is not breadth sufficient for you to stand. All his endeavors are directed, and all his assaults are shaped, with a view to keep your soul back from Christ. It is thus he seeks to vent his wrath upon the Savior, and his malignity upon you.
Nor does he less assail the more matured faith of the believer. Not infrequently the sharpest attacks and the fiercest onsets are made, and made successfully, upon the strongest believers. Seizing upon powerful corruptions, taking advantage of dark providences, and sometimes of bright ones, and never allowing any position of influence, any usefulness, gift, or grace, that would give force, success, and brilliance to his exploit, to escape his notice, he is perpetually on the alert to sift and winnow God’s precious wheat.
His implacable hatred of God, the deep revenge he cherishes against Jesus, his malignant opposition to the Holy Spirit, fit him for any dark design and work implicating the holiness and happiness of the believer. Therefore we find that the histories of the most eminent saints of God, as written by the faithful pen of the Holy Spirit, are histories of the severest temptations of faith, in the most of which there was a temporary triumph of the enemy; the giant oak bending before the storm. And even in instances where there was no defeat of faith, there yet was the sharp trial of faith.
The case of Joseph, and that of his illustrious antitype, the Lord Jesus, present examples of this. Fearful was the assault upon the faith of both, sharp the conflict through which both passed, yet both left the battlefield victorious. But still faith was not the less really or severely sifted.
“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” Luke 22:31
That faith should be more frequently and severely assailed than any other grace of the Holy Spirit, will cease to create surprise as we become acquainted with the rank and position it occupies in the renewed soul. Placed in the very front of the battle, itself the strongest, the most determined and successful foe of the assailing powers of darkness and of sin, in effecting its overthrow all their force, skill, and malignity are marshaled and directed.
But who is its chief and most formidable assailant? It is Satan, the accuser of the brethren, the tempter, the sworn enemy of God and man. It is he, the master-spirit of darkness and woe, who, without possessing a single attribute of Deity, yet approaches so near in resemblance to the Divine, that in every place and at each moment of time He is present, closely watching, closely studying, and incessantly working to deceive, and to overthrow, were it possible, the faith of the very elect.
By what power or agency he is enabled to prosecute the dark designs of his gloomy intellect, and to effect the malignant purposes of his depraved heart, we cannot now venture at any length to premise. Whether with the subtlety and velocity which belong to the light, there is an incessant expansion of thought, imparting a kind of personal omnipresence, to the ruling mind of the infernal empire; or, whether, without being personally present, we may account for the extent of his agency, operating alike in every place, and at the same moment, by supposing intelligence communicated to, and commands issued from, him through the medium of the innumerable host of myrmidons who compose those “principalities and powers,” over which Jesus triumphed, “making a show of them openly,” must, however strong the presumption, still remain points involved in much doubt and obscurity.
But there is one fact respecting which we are not left to conjecture. I allude to the eager and restless machinations of Satan, to weaken, dishonor, and destroy the faith of God’s elect. “Satan has desired to have you.” Observe here the limitation of Satanic power in reference to the believer. This is its utmost extent. He has no power or control over the redeemed, but that which God permits. He can but desire, and long, and plot; not a hand can He lay upon them, by not a single temptation can He assail them, not a hair of their head can he touch, until God bids Him. “Satan has desired to have you”; there stood the arch-foe waiting permission, as in the case of Job, to destroy the apostle of Christ.
Dear reader, how consolatory is this truth to the believing mind. You have often trembled at the power of Satan, and perhaps well-near as often have been the involuntary object of his implacable hatred and deep devices. But press now this animating thought to your trembling heart– he has no control nor influence nor power over a redeemed soul but that which God permits, and which Christ allows. “Thus far shall you go, and no further,” are words which reveal His inferiority, prescribe his limits, and arrest the progress of the proud fiend.
“My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” Matthew 26:38
The spiritual troubles which encompass the Christian are the deepest and the severest of all his trials. What, in comparison, are others? Our Lord keenly felt this when He uttered that affecting exclamation, “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour but for this cause came I unto this hour.” What to Him- galling and agonizing as they were- what to Him the smiting, and the scourging, and the spitting, and the excruciating torture, compared with the sword which was now entering His soul- the mental conflict and spiritual sorrow which, in the hour of atonement, amazed, staggered, and overwhelmed Him?
Listen again to His affecting cry: “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” Then, withdrawing Himself from His disciples- for the human sympathy upon which He had relied in anticipation of the hour of suffering failed Him now- retiring from man, He flung Himself upon the bosom of God, and kneeling down, He prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me!” Such, my soul, was the conflict which your Savior endured for you!
Partakers of Christ’s sufferings, all true believers are in a measure acquainted with some of those soul troubles which thus overwhelmed the Son of God. The suspensions of Divine consolation- the hidings of God’s countenance- the assaults of Satan- the contact and conflict with sin- are bitter ingredients in that cup of spiritual sorrow of which they are sometimes called deeply to drink.
Are you, beloved, walking in the midst of trouble? Think not that you are alone. May your eye of faith be “anointed with fresh eye-salve,” to see One walking side by side with you, the same who walked with the three children through the fiery furnace, “whose form is like the Son of God.” Yes! Jesus is with you in your trial. Christ is with you in your trouble.
The path, however strait, is not so narrow that your Lord cannot tread it with you, side by side. Your way is not so intricate that He cannot enable you to thread your steps through the labyrinth. There is room enough for you and Christ to walk together. He is with you; though, like the two disciples journeying in mournful communion one with the other to Emmaus, your eyes may be so blurred that you see Him not, yet is He traveling with you along that sad and mournful, that lone and pensive path.
Christ is in your adversity- Christ is in your cross- Christ is in your burden- Christ is in your suffering- Christ is in your persecution- Christ is m your sickness- yes, Christ is at your side every step you take, and He will conduct you safely to your Father’s house.
Though you walk in the midst of trouble, He will revive you.
“Above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” Ephesians 6:16
Few of the children of God are ignorant, more or less, of Satan’s devices. But few are exempt from the “fiery darts ” of the adversary; our Lord Himself was not.
Many, peculiar, and great are their temptations. They are often those which touch the very vitals of the gospel, which go to undermine the believer’s faith in the fundamentals of Christianity, and which affect his own personal interest in the covenant of grace. Satan is the sworn enemy of the believer- his constant, unwearied foe. There is, too, a subtlety, a malignity, which does not mark not the other and numerous enemies of the soul.
The Holy Spirit speaks of the “depths of Satan.” There are “depths” in his malice, in his subtlety, in his sagacity, which many of the beloved of the Lord are made in some degree to fathom. The Lord may allow them to go down into those “depths,” just to convince those who are there are depths in His wisdom, love, power, and grace, which can out-fathom the “depths of Satan.”
But what are some of the devices of the wicked one? What are some of his fiery darts?
Sometimes he fills the mind of the believer with the most blasphemous and atheistical thoughts, threatening the utter destruction of his peace and confidence. Sometimes he takes advantage of periods of weakness, trial, and perplexity to stir up the corruptions of his nature, bringing the soul back as into captivity to the law of sin and death. Sometimes he suggests unbelieving doubts respecting his adoption, beguiling him into the belief that his professed conversion is all a delusion, that his religion is all hypocrisy, and that what he had thought was the work of grace is but the work of nature.
But by far the greatest and most general controversy which Satan has with the saint of God is, to lead him to doubt the ability and the willingness of Christ to save a poor sinner. The anchor of his soul removed from this truth he is driven out upon a rough sea of doubt and anguish, and is at the mercy of every wind of doctrine and every billow of unbelief that may assail his storm-tossed bark.
But in the midst of it all, where does the comfort and the victory of the tempted believer come from? From the promise which assures him that “when the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” And what is the standard which the Spirit, the Comforter, lifts up to stem this flood? A dying, risen, ascended, exalted, and ever-living Savior. This is the standard that strikes terror into the foe; this is the gate that shuts out the flood. So the disciples proved.
This is their testimony: “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Your name.” Immanuel is that name which puts to flight every spiritual foe. And the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, leads the tempted soul to this name, to shelter itself beneath it, to plead it with God, and to battle with it against the enemy.
Dear reader, are you a target against which the fiery darts of the devil are leveled? Are you sorely tempted? Do not be astonished as though some strange thing had happened unto you. The holiest of God’s saints have suffered as you are now suffering; yes, even your blessed Lord, your Master, your Pattern, your Example, and He in whose name you shall be more than conqueror; was once assailed as you are, and by the same enemy.
And let the reflection console you, that temptations only leave the traces of guilt upon the conscience, and are only regarded as sins by God, as they are yielded to. The mere suggestion of the adversary, the mere presentation of a temptation, is no sin, so long as, in the strength that is in Christ Jesus, the believer firmly and resolutely resists it. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Jesus has already fought and conquered for you. He knew well what the conflict with Satan was.
And He remembers, too, what it is. Lift up your head, dear tempted soul! You shall obtain the victory. The seed of the woman has bruised the serpent’s head; yes, has crushed him, never to obtain his supremacy over you again.
He may harass, annoy, and distress you; but pluck you from the hollow of the hand that was pierced for you, he never can.
“For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to support those who are tempted.” Hebrews 2:18
DO YOU THINK, my reader, was it no humiliation for the Son of God to be thus assailed by the prince of darkness? Was it no degradation, that His dignity should be questioned, His authority disputed, His reverence for and allegiance to, His Father assailed, and His very purity tampered with by a fallen and corrupt spirit whom He had ejected from heaven? Ah! how deeply and keenly He must have felt it to be so, the first moment He was brought in contact with this arch-fiend and subtle foe of God and man! But, oh, what glory beams from beneath this dark veil of Christ’s humiliation! How lovely and precious an object does He appear to saints and angels in this wondrous transaction! What holy sympathies and fond affections are kindled in the heart, and rise towards Him, as the eye surveys each particular—the appalling nature of the onset—the shock which His humanity sustained—the mighty power by which He was upheld—the signal victory which He achieved—the Divine consolation and comfort which flowed into His soul as His vanquished enemy retired from the conflict, leaving Him more than conqueror—and above all, the close and tender sympathy into which He was now brought with a tempted Church! These are features replete with thrilling interest and rich instruction, on which the renewed mind delights to dwell.
But our Lord’s humiliation went deeper still than this! The clouds now gathering around Him grew darker and more portentous as He advanced towards the final conflict. We must consider the first step of His bearing sin, the painful consciousness of which increased as the hour of its atonement drew on, as forming one of the most overwhelming demonstrations of that voluntary abasement to which He had stooped, and through which He was now passing. In the following passages this great truth of the Gospel is explicitly and emphatically stated. And let it be borne in mind, that when the Holy Spirit represents our Lord as bearing sin, the statement is not to receive a figurative, but a perfectly literal interpretation, as asserting a solemn and momentous fact. He bore not the appearance of sin, or the punishment merely of sin, but the sin itself.
Thus does the Holy Spirit declare it: “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities.” “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” “He shall bear their iniquities.” “He bare the sin of many.” “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” “He has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin.” There stood the eternal God, in the closest proximity to the evil one. Never did two extremes, so opposite to each other, meet in such near contiguity and collision. Essential sin, essential holiness; essential darkness, essential light; essential hatred, essential love; man’s deadliest foe, man’s dearest friend. What an hour of seeming power and triumph was this to the grand adversary of God and man! what an hour of deepening gloom and humiliation and defeat to God’s beloved Son! How would this Lucifer of the morning exult, as with the swellings of pride he placed his foot upon incarnate Deity! And how keenly and powerfully conscious would Jesus be, at that moment, of the deep abasement and degradation to which He had now sunk!
But behold how this great transaction contributed to the deep humiliation of the Son of God. What must have been the revulsion of moral feeling, what the shrinking of His holy soul, the first instant it came in personal contact with sin! What a mighty convulsion must have rocked His human nature, pure and sinless as it was! Saint of God! what composes your bitterest cup, and what constitutes your keenest, deepest sorrow? Has a tender Father blown upon your blessings, removed your mercies, lessened your comforts, darkened your bright landscape, dried up your sweet spring? Is this the cause of your shaded brow, your anxious look, your tearful eye, your troubled and disconsolate spirit? “Ah, no!” you perhaps exclaim; “rid me of this body of sin, and you chase the cloud from my brow, the tear from my eye, and the sorrow from my heart. It is the sin that dwells in me.” Do you think, then, what the spotless Lamb of God must have felt, and how deeply must it have entered into His humiliation—the existence of an all-absorbing, ever present, and ever painful and humiliating consciousness of bearing upon His holy soul iniquity, transgression, and sin!