From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 1),
edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914
Christian and Catholic
IT is easy to imagine a reader now saying, you have surrounded Christ with a divine halo, but in doing so you have taken Him away from me. I have been drawn to Him by the attractions of His crystalline character, the inspirations of His exalted teaching, and His wondrous, never-exhausted sympathy. He would, I feel sure, know my case, the baffling impotences of my mental powers, the tortuous ways of my self-deceiving heart. His invitation was world wide, "Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you," and "Whosoever cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out."
But if He was divine how was it possible for Him to be tried and tempted? If temptation was only like a dart thrown against some invulnerable shield, how can He know what it is? How sympathize with us, round whom, from youth to age, temptation's "poisoned arrows hurtle," changing with advancing years, but ever present. How know of
That dreary sickness of the soul;
When all the generations of mankind,
With all their purposes, their hopes and fears,
Seem nothing truer than those wandering shapes
Cast by a trick of light upon the wall.
How know of those fierce contentions between clamorous desire and exacting duty, the lassitude of weakness and the necessity of exertion; the enticing influences of affection and the calls to self-sacrifice; the anger-arousing exasperations of false accusations and the law of Christian charity?
How can He be an example to us if it was impossible for Him to know our strain of trial? Yet on the other hand, if He was divine, how can He be tempted? There is no root nor tendency to lawlessness in any portion of His nature, as there is in us, to which temptation can appeal. So we are seemingly shut up in this' trying dilemma. Either He could be tempted and thus was not divine, or He could not be tempted and therefore He is no example for us.
In addressing ourselves to the solution of this problem, we must first say that it is revealed truth that Christ was tempted. "He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Therefore, of the reality of His temptations there can be no doubt. They are a ground of our supplication in the litany. We not only plead by Christ's priceless Cross and Passion, but by His temptation. "By thy Baptism, Fasting, and Temptation, good Lord, deliver us."
How, then, can we reconcile His temptation with His absolute sinlessness? How can one who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, be tempted? We must admit that the mere presentation of a temptation would not satisfy the conditions of the case. Yet it is in this way that some theologians have stated it. To be in a real and true sense a temptation there must not only be something placed before the will, but a conscious strain between conflicting desires requiring a choice.
There were three kinds of temptations to which our Lord while being perfectly sinless was perpetually exposed. First, He was bound to be true to the human nature He had assumed. Human nature in its struggle for righteousness had been defeated. It bore the marks of its defeat upon it in its obvious weakness to rectify itself. Christ came on behalf of man to fight over his lost battle and to reverse his defeat. Therefore, He took upon Himself that nature, and became man. He became thus the second Adam, or new Head of a new race. As temptation is a necessity of a progressive life, affecting angels and men, Christ as the second Adam had to be tried.
The first source of trial would be in our composite nature. He had, like us, to suffer from hunger, thirst, and weariness. There is no sin in experiencing any of these natural desires, and they may be severe. We know our Lord was an hungered after His great forty days' fast. It left Him a wan and emaciated figure. We see how weary He was when the Apostles took Him as He was into the boat, or when He sat so tired at Samaria's well. But the unrelaxing calls of duty ever triumphed over the feebleness of the flesh.
The peculiarity of our Lord's temptations arises from the fact that he possessed a divine power by which all bodily pains could be set aside. This was a second and a persistent source of temptation. It was the temptation to use His divine power for the relief or the support of His human nature. Now this was the very thing He was not to do. He had assumed our nature and identified Himself with it to retrieve its defeat. He was to present to God human nature as perfectly obedient to the divine will. Thus He was to fulfil the original conception of God in creating a creature endowed with free will, who should reflect His image. It would therefore have violated the very purpose for which He came, if He had used His divine power to protect or defend Himself. In Him humanity was to triumph. It was to rise to the height God had designed for it. It was to be victorious in the necessary strife. His humanity might be aided by the Holy Spirit, as His followers may be. But He must not draw on the resources of His divinity to aid Him in the struggle. He may indeed do so in aid of others. He may work miracles for others' benefit. He may multiply the loaves to feed the famishing multitude. But He must not turn the stones into bread to save His own life. He may assuage the pains of the diseased, open the eyes of the blind, raise the dead, but not for a moment may He use that divine power for His own deliverance. It is true that when His enemies take up stones to kill Him He hides Himself and goes out of the temple, but this is not in the spirit of shunning death, but of saving Himself for that more cruel death to which He was appointed.
Again, a third source of temptation arose from the fact that the plan of the world's redemption had been laid down for Him. He found in Holy Scripture His Redeeming life-work traced out. This explains how frequently it is said "that the scripture might be fulfilled." He cast His human mind into its mould. He will not take the offered anaesthetic at the Crucifixion, that the Word of God might be kept. He was obedient from childhood to this rule, which governed His whole life. He was to fulfil every prophecy and every type of the promised Messiah. He will not descend, before the assembled worshippers in the temple, from its pinnacle and so gain their adherence. He will not take the kingdoms of the earth from Satan, by doing homage, because He is to win the kingdom by a victory over him. That victory was to be won on the battle-field of the cross. It had been ordained that the feet that should press the eternal stairway should be marked by the nail-prints, and the hand that should grasp the royal sceptre should be a pierced hand.
Our Lord was therefore under a perpetual strain, first by reason of the composite human nature assumed, and next by a more trying one through union of that human nature with His divinity; and also by virtue of the plan ordained for man's redemption to which He was to conform.
These causes led at special times and crises to more severely felt trials. When, for example, He was so exhausted after His first prolonged fast. Try and think what condition His body was in after that terrifically weakening mortification. Painters have loved to delineate the Christ in a form of exceeding grace and beauty. But He began His ministry in this emaciated condition, and His three years' labors, having no place wherein to lay His head, and having at times to supply His bodily wants with the raw ears of corn, left Him so worn that at the crucifixion His enemies stand jeering at Him.
But why did He, unlike a human teacher who knows His life is a valuable one, so begin His ministry? One reason undoubtedly was that as has been stated He came to identify Himself with us and fight over again for us our lost battle. So He took His stand beside us, where our sins had placed us, not in paradise, but in the wilderness. He places Himself without the gates kept by the flaming Cherubim to win for man an entrance into the tree of life. But another reason was that by taking on Himself the results of sickness He might be in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. He made His body to feel weakness and racking pain, that no sufferer but should know He had felt the same. Then when His bodily nature has been so reduced, as we may say to its last gasp, He is assailed by a most subtle temptation. The temptation to satisfy nature in order to save His life for the sake of others. To exert His rightful divine power and turn the stones into bread. Why not? What withheld Him? This: He was to be true to the nature He had assumed. If for one moment He had ever failed in being true to the conditions of His humanity, His work for man's redemption had been undone.
We are apt to think that only on the one occasion of the wilderness was our Lord tempted. It was indeed a special trial. So it was when, in more subtle ways than Satan's argument, there came from a loved disciple the insinuating plea, "Be it far from Thee, O Lord." The strength of the rebuke to Peter tells us of the strength of the appeal he made to Christ. Satan left Him, we know, for a season only, for He said to His Apostles, "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations."
It is therefore for us to realize that our Lord was under constant fire and a perpetual strain. In this His trial differed from that of the angels and of man. God placed before the angels their trial, but it was only one. He made it short. The obedient, humble, and faithful rose by their choice of God into the enfolding protection of the Divine Light. He gave to the first Adam one simple test of obedience, by which he might secure his proffered supernatural reward. But the second Adam had no such brief probation. It lasted from infancy to the end.
It affected and tried all portions of His human nature. So it was with the test presented to the first Adam. Adam was to abstain from the forbidden fruit. This was a discipline, however slight, of the body. He was to remember the particular tree and the Lord's command, and this was a discipline of the memory. He was to obey the injunction not to eat, and this involved the submission of the reason and the will. The tree became thereby his offering, by which he offered himself. It tested all portions of his nature. So it was with Christ. He came and passed through all the stages of our mortal life. He came not as the first Adam did, in the fulness of His powers. Christ lay first of all a helpless infant in the arms of His Blessed Mother. He is to sanctify every human stage and is to be true to its conditions. He joined our human nature to His divine nature in His one personality. So He who lies in Mary's arms is God. But He must, to redeem us, be true to the conditions of infancy. Neither His Mother's loving caress nor threatened danger must lead Him to break the law of infancy by word or sign. He is God bound, so far as this exercise of His omnipotence is concerned, in swaddling bands. His mental powers undergo the same discipline. He is subject to earthly parents, though He knows how mistaken they often are in their judgments. He obeys S. Joseph in the carpenter's shop, though assured that the directions he gives are far from the most scientific and correct. He submits His human reason to God's will as revealed for Him in the Holy Scriptures. He follows and keeps it as His rule of life. He surrenders also His soul to the Holy Spirit, and is led in all things by Him.
He comes not to do His own will or speak His own message. "As I hear, so I speak." "The Word is not mine, but His that sent me." In all ways He was to be tempted like ourselves. As He was to subordinate His reason to revelation, so was He to suppress and discipline a rightful mental curiosity. Of all things that we may suppose Him most anxious to know was the time when the kingdom would be consummated by His return in glory. Yet of that day and that hour He said, "knoweth no man but my Father only." His human mind could have known it at any time, for it was united with His divine nature. It enjoyed perpetually what we call the beatific vision. He had but to look into it and this knowledge would have been His. But it was part of His discipline not to know. He must keep the curtain drawn down over that source of information. He must undergo the temptation that besets our curiosity and impatient desire to know what has not been revealed, or seek to be wise above that which is fitting. What a help to us in learning to be content with our partial knowledge, and to walk by the light of faith. So also was Christ tried in His affections. There has been no human relation so radiantly beautiful with love as that which bound Jesus and His Blessed Mother.
"Two were they, yet in heart and purpose one. Two like the brain whose halves ne'er think apart, But beat and answer to one loving heart."
How marvellous must have been that intercourse for thirty years, where every word was freighted with divine inspiration, and every kiss a sacrament of grace. The wonderful degree of Mary's sanctity is seen in her sublime standing in perfect faith and self-surrendering restraint and co-operation with Him at the foot of the cross. How were their hearts not united to one another by divine grace. Can we not think it was an inexpressible pain to our Lord when the hour came that He must separate Himself from her and go forth to His work? It was a trying ordeal to leave her who had no other support, and to abandon her to God's providential care. Such in smaller way it may be known to souls who leave father and mother, husband and wife, and go forth at duty's call. Our hearts almost break under the struggle. But He would be tempted in all points like as we are, and teach us how no earthly love should hold us back from obeying the call of God.
So too was His heart pierced and tried, with Pharisees and scribes, with the hardness of their hearts, with their exasperating contentions, and the rejection by His own people. Is there a more heartrending scene than when our Lord is beheld looking with His divine tenderness into all that lay before Jerusalem? We see Him, the strong Man, breaking down in tears over it. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"
No portion of our Lord's nature escaped its trial. His moral nature as well as His intellectual one and His affections. To see this we must follow Him step by step through the indignities of trial. See how His persecutors blindfolded Him, hustled Him about the room, jeered at Him, mocked Him, how one with terrible energy inflicted a blow, and another spat in His face. We know how indignant we should feel if we saw a friend subjected to such insults. We know what feelings of anger would arise within us if we were the subject of such outrages. And this feeling would not in itself be wrong. Anger at what is wrong, said the great Butler, is but a reflection of the righteous wrath of God. It is right for us to feel indignant at cruelty and wickedness, and we are wanting if it is not so. Now our Lord knew who He was and what was due to Himself. He was God, whom angels and saints adore. He might for our sakes lay aside His glory, but He could not lay aside the dignity of His royal person. And beyond our conception of it, He felt the wrong that was done Him. God, we must remember, does not feel less because He is so great, but the refinement of His moral nature causes Him to feel more. Christ felt the insults. But why does He not resent them? Why not utter some word of condemnation? Because it had been ordained for Him that He was to be both priest and victim. He was to be the Lamb of God who before His shearers was not to open His mouth. There was thus the righteous indignation, repressed by the duty of His being the victim.
If He is tried in His moral, so is He in His spiritual nature. He had lived all His human life with His soul in union with God and in the enjoyment of the beatific vision. It gave Him that majestic calmness and inward peace that neither inquisitorial questions nor the howlings of the maddened mob could disturb. His soul, like some moon-lit lake, was ever reflecting the face of His Father. But there came a time when the awful vision of the world's sins and sinfulness passed before His soul. He had, to save it, identified Himself with a lost race. He had been baptized, sinless as He was in Himself, with the baptism of repentance. He had come to be the representative penitent, and to do penance on humanity's behalf. We see Him doing this, bent beneath the olive trees of Geth-semane. He beholds the sins of the race, and, as if it were some filthy garment taken from a leper's dead body, He wraps it about Himself. He feels that wretchedness of heart and wrong done to God our Father by our wrongdoings. Rather, as if He were the guilty one, for our sins, which He makes His own, He weeps repentant tears of blood. We shall never learn how to repent as we should till we kneel beside Him there. Then was His soul, that had been so full of gladness, sorrowful even unto death. And so there came a conflict we cannot measure, but a real one, ensuing in "not my will but Thine be done."
No less terrible is that trial which awaits Him on Calvary. Souls, Christian souls, often experience the trial, and with it the temptations, of spiritual desolation. They feel as though God had forsaken them. Their hearts are withered and dry. They are in the darkness and the great desolation. But did He not pass that way too? Did He not, beyond what we can measure, feel that loss? In those saddest moments of the world's history, the Divine Sufferer exclaims, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" It reveals a spiritual trial. It reveals also a victory of faith.
Thus in all portions of His being and in all His relations to God and man was He tried. It was a persistent series of temptations, every one of which resulted in a victory and every victory in the development of a virtue. For He was not only to win our lost battle, but to be the source of new virtues to the race. Therefore, well may we, having His numberless victories in mind, adoringly sing, "Crown Him, crown Him with many crowns."
He not only can sympathize with us in all our trials, but by His temptations borne for our sake He shows His love towards us. We are often baffled by the mystery of pain. The child cries out in its suffering to His Heavenly Father, " Why did Thou make us thus?" We in part understand this plague and torment by seeing that it develops character. Without it there could be no manly heroism, no friendly sympathy. The common danger and suffering binds comrades together more closely than any bond of gold. It has been said no parents know how much they love each other till they stand by the grave of their child. For pain borne for another is love's highest expression. We may manifest our love for each other by words that burn in poets' brains. We may show our love by gifts most costly and rare. But love finds its most perfect expression in suffering. "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend." Therefore it was that God so came to us. It contented not the divine heart to tell us by inspired prophets of His love. It satisfied Him not to surround us with blessings and gifts. The highest expression of love can alone satisfy His love. He must come and die for us. How this comes home to us as we think of Christ's temptations on the cross. He hangs there through all those hours of excruciating bodily pain. And this is the peculiarity of His trial, that separates it from that of the saints and martyrs. At any moment, by a single wish, a single exertion of His divine power He could have freed Himself. Not only could he have come down from the cross, but remaining there, have dismissed the pain. Try and think of any severe pain you have endured, and ask yourself what you would have done if by a single act of will you could have been free from it. What was it that withheld the Divine Sufferer from the exercise of His power? It was love. It was not the nails that held Him to the cross, but love. His love for men and their salvation was greater than the pain. It was divine love, love for sinners, love for the guilty, love for the lost that held Him there. It was love for you and me.
You have, perchance, sometime been in some solitary place and, all alone, watched the coming day. Little by little the smaller stars faded from sight, night's shades began to pass, the welcome heralds of the dawn began to glimmer in the east, the broad oriflammes of the day unfolded in majestic beauty, the piercing sun's rays shone above the horizon, and at last, gladdening the earth with its brightness, rose the sun in its strength. As you have watched the transformation you could but have felt that if indeed you were all alone, and the only human being upon the planet, all the grand machinery of stars and sun and revolving earth must go on, that little you might live.
So sometimes as you recall, and recall it well you may on your knees, earth's greatest tragedy, and look up at the Divine Sufferer, crucified for love, you may come to know the truth, that if you were the only human being in existence, the only living sinner, just as truly as that sun must rise if you are to live, so must Christ the Lord come and suffer and die, that you may be saved. Out of Christ's temptations consummated on the cross we need to gain this truth and make it a home truth. "He loved me, and gave Himself for me." Then as true love always must make its response, and as far as it can a like return, our response will be self-surrender to His love. It must be love for love and life for life. As Thou gavest Thyself,
Blessed Lord, to me, so, poor and weak and imperfect as I am, I give myself to Thee,
"Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come."