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; 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.
The manner is, after one hath taken a foil, his courage will fail. The Angel would have been gone, when he saw he could not prevail over Jacob. But it is not so here with the devil; for when he saw that his first temptation would not [512/513] prevail, he trieth another. And even so he played with Job; for when he could do no good upon his first patent, by taking away all he had, he comes and sues for a new commission, that he might 'touch his flesh and bones,' and thereby he giveth us to learn that it is not one foul that can make him give over.
He is one of those, whom a Father saith to have courage above their strength; and of that nature be many in our days, whose daring is above their skill, and have courage to undertake, much more than their ability is to perform. Not like David, who did as much as he undertook in killing Goliath; nor like him of whom Esay speaketh in the seventh verse of his third chapter, that when they would have made him prince he had 'no bread nor clothing,' and therefore refused; but they will take it upon them, though they have not withwithal, and thereby become authors of trouble, wanting ability to go through withal. But as Augustine saith, Is it not all one not to be able to answer, nor to be able to hold their peace? We see here the devil is a great undertaker.
Secondly, he is not only content to take a foil, but even out of the same thing wherewith he was foiled maketh he matter of a new temptation, a new ball of fire. Out of Christ's conquest he makes a new assault; that is, since He will needs trust, he will set Him on trusting, He shall trust as much as He will. As the former tempted Him to diffidence, so this shall tempt Him to prefidence. As before the devil brought him to the waters of Meribah, where the children of Israel did murmur and tempt God, so now he brings Him to the temptation of Massah, that is, to presumption, wantonness, and delicacy; for then with bread they were not content, but they must have 'flesh' and other dainties. As the first might be called the hungry temptation, so this may be called the wanton temptation. That which was in the Old Testament the temptation of Meribah, is here in the New Testament the temptation of the wilderness; and that which was there the temptation of Massah, is here the temptation of the pinnacle.
In the first, by want of things necessary, he thought to drive them to vexation and bitterness of spirit, and to distrust [513/514] God's power and goodness. In the second, by unnecessary matters, he draweth us on to wantonness, and to put God to try what He can do, and to set Him about base services. By the one he driveth us unto unlawful means, by the other he draweth us from the use of things lawful. By the one he brings us to this conceit, that we are so abjected of God that if we trust in Him He will in the end fail us; by the other to think we are so dear in God's eyes, and such darlings as throw ourselves into any danger and He will will not forsake us. By the one he puts us in fear, as Augustine saith, Deum defuturum etiam si promisit; by the other in hope, Deum adfuturum ubi non promisit. By the one he slandereth God unto us, as if He were a God of straw, of base condition, and subject to our beck; by the other as if He were a God of iron, that would not incline, though we requested Him.
Now to the temptation, wherein we are to consider three things: first, the ground the devil chose for the working of this temptation; secondly, the temptation itself, to wit, the devil's speech; thirdly, Christ's answer to it.
In the place, three things are to be noted: first, the place itself, secondly the devil chose it; thirdly, that our Saviour followed him thither.
For a new temptation he makes choice of a new place. Indeed, for a temptation to presumption, the wilderness was not a fit place: first, it was not high enough, and then it was not populous enough. It was a melancholy place: when a man is under the cross in affliction, or in some anguish and sorrow for want, dearth of friends, or otherwise, and generally for all solitary men, the hungry temptation is fitter than this of presumption. As long as Noah was in the ark in the midst of the waters he had in him no presumptuous thought, but sitting under the vine in his vineyard he was overcome therewith. And 'just Lot' in Sodom, had no fit time or, place to be presumptuous; but when he dwelt in the mountain in security, then he committed incest with his daughters, being made drunk by them. David, so long as was persecuted by Saul, and tossed up and down from post to pillar, had no leisure to be presumptuous; but in the top of his turret, when he was at rest in his palace, presumption gave him a blow. So here the wilderness was no fit place, but the pinnacle is [514/515] a very fit place for one to be presumptuous on. It is as good a stage to shew himself upon, to see and be seen.
In the wilderness there was small warrant for one that would be presumptuous; but from the pinnacle he might discern far and near, both the inner court and outward court, and see a whole cloud of witnesses, and have some warrant of example of all estates, high or low, wise or noble. For what abuse soever be in him, be he never so presumptuous, he shall see some as proud, stout, and as high-minded as himself; be his hair never so long, or his ruffs never so great, he shall find some as far gone therein as himself.
If we mark the four gradations that it hath, we shall find it to be a very fit place. At first, before He could come to the pinnacle, He must go out of the wilderness into the city; secondly, not any city, but the holy city; thirdly, into the temple of the city; and fourthly, out of the temple up to the pinnacle.
First, having got Him to leave the wilderness, he brought Him into the city, that there he might say unto Him, You see such and such grave men, how they behave themselves; why should You seek to be holier than they? This was a good civil temptation: he brought Him not Cæsarea or Samaria, but even to Jerusalem, 'the holy city;' for that addition is given it, Matthew the fourth chapter and fifth verse, and Daniel the ninth chapter and twenty-fourth verse. Thirdly, he brought him into the temple, where even the very ground was holy. Fourthly, not to any other place of it, but the very top and pinnacle, which was over the sanctum sanctorum.
Who would not tread hard there, and take upon him, being in such a place? where if a man will be carried away with example, he may see Ananias the high-priest renting his clothes at the hearing of things that sounded like blasphemy, and yet buying his bishopric for money. Who will not be bold to do the like? And Herod a prince, such a one as heard John Baptist preach, yea and with much delight, to commit adultery. Who would dare to do the like? There he may see the Pharisee, under show of great holiness, 'tithe mint and cummin,' and under colour of long prayers 'devour widows' houses;' bringing in by extortion, and sending out by excesses.
[515/516] And so in this city one may see some men, both great frequenters of sermons, and yet great usurers, gentlewomen misshapen in their attire. Seeing this, who will not be as bold as they, the place being so holy? And being thus warranted by example, surely we must needs commend the devil's wit for his choice.
Out of this arise two notes. First, against some fantastical spirits who say, Can that be a holy city where there be 'dumb dogs?' There were so in Jerusalem. Where the 'leaders be blind?' They were so when Judas ministered the Sacrament. Where there is division and debate amongst themselves? Can this, say they, be the holy city? And thereupon they forsake the fellowship. Whereas they, notwithstanding the former abuses, and notwithstanding the eleven tribes were apostates, did yet name it, 'the holy city.'
Secondly, on the other side we are to be instructed, that though a man be on the battlements of the Church, yet hath he no sure footing, or cause to be secure, but rather to fear the more; for even there doth the devil stand at his elbow watching his overthrow. There is no place we see privileged from temptations, no desert so solitary but the devil will seek it out; no pinnacle so high but the devil is a bishop over it, to visit and overlook it.
To conclude, though in Jerusalem sits the 'abomination of desolation' whereof Daniel spake, yet it is 'the holy city' still. And though the place be never so holy, yet is that no cause of privilege, but even there may sit 'the abomination of desolation.' Both are proved out of Matthew, the twenty-fourth chapter and fifteenth verse.
The second thing that we observed in the circumstance of the place is, that the devil assumpted Christ; which, to those that are weak (as Gregory also collecteth) may be offensive, in giving them to think that the devil had such power over Christ as to carry Him whither he listed. But when they shall consider that even the limbs of the devil haled and harrowed him to and fro; from Annas to Caiaphas, from Caiphas to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, and from him back again to Pilate; and how spitefully and contemptuously He was used in all these places, and at last carried to execution; what marvel will it be to see Him, as Augustine speaketh, in montem duci a capite, Qui a membris traditur,&c.
[516/517] These things do indeed, as all other His sufferings set forth the greatness of the love of God towards us. Of God the Father, that He would give His only Son, yea appoint Him this work of our salvation, and give the devil such a 'power' over Him; of God the Son, that He would be content to suffer such indignity, as to be 'obedient to the death of the cross.'
The reason of all these His sufferings, as also that He would be baptized of John a weak and sinful man was, as Himself declareth it, to 'fulfil all righteousness.' So here He was to suffer it, else God's righteousness would not have been fulfilled, nor the work of our salvation. And as He suffered this assumption, so afterwards His second assumption was to go to Jerusalem to suffer; and so at the last He came to His third and last assumption, to be 'received up into glory.' And by the very same steps and degrees must we be assumpted. And this is His assumption of suffering, which brought Him to glorifying.
The third thing is, that our Saviour followed; whereby we are to mark not so much His courage that durst encounter with the devil in any place wheresoever he list to carry Him, and that He was not only the God of the valleys, but a God of the mountains also, contrary to their surmise, the first book of Kings, the twentieth chapter and twenty-third verse. That I say, is not so much to be marked, as that our Saviour would at all stand upon a pinnacle.
There be some that would make us believe, it is a sin to stand upon a pinnacle; but then, if that had been so, Christ would never have stood there. And since Christ stood there, it is no more sin for any man to stand there, than it is to stand in the wilderness; for it is lawful for us to follow His footsteps, and to tread wheresoever He hath trod before us: yet such places be not privileged. For, as it is true that many men's 'table' and wealth is their 'snare,' even so the good gifts and graces of God be turned to 'puff him up' and make his swell. Nay, even that godly sorrow which is so much to be wished for, hath in it matter of temptation, lest men 'be swallowed up with too much heaviness.'
The Scripture themselves we see, are subject to the abuse [517/518] of the devil; whereby it should follow that they are to be refused, if everything to be refused which brings matter of temptation. But as Augustine saith, Non est laus stetisse in pinnaculo, sed stetisse et non cedidisse: in every place to answer the devil is praiseworthy. Indeed it is dangerous for one that hath a light and giddy brain, for such as are drunk, though not with wine, to stand so high. Job could stand there without falling, for he had a more settled brain. Such places are for the wisest and sagest men. St. Paul stood not there, but yet he could have stood there, for he had the trick or skill of it, as himself confesseth: 'I can be abased, and I can abound &c.'
Now come we to the temptation itself, which hath three general heads: first, the ball of wildfire which is to consume His faith; secondly the dart, 'Cast thyself down,' which is to pierce His soul; thirdly, he tempereth the head of his dart with some stronger metal, which Scriptum est.
First, Si Filius Dei es. This is a great mote in the devil's eye, he useth the same term in the former temptation and here he is up with it again. And all is to this end, that by often bringing it into question whether He be the Son of God, he may at last make it out of question whether He be the Son of God, he may at last make it out of question or doubt that we are not the sons of God; that by and from Si sis he may bring it to Ne sis, and so we may be like himself. For to this end is all his 'compassing of sea and land, to make one proselyte' like himself, according to the endeavour of the Pharisees, who did in like sort; and when he is made, 'ye make twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.' As on the other side, Christ would have us the sons of God like Him. But see what a dexterity the devil hath in making things serve for his purpose; he maketh one self-same thing serve for two several, yea contrary purposes. What a goodly grace he hath in the first temptation! He useth it there, to procure us to desperation; he maketh it here, to serve for presumption.
But indeed there be two manner of Si es or Ifs: the one is a questioning or doubting Si as if If Thou be the Son of God, shew us a sign, 'Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me whole;' the other is a plain affirmation, as 'If by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead,' where we are sure he made no doubt thereof, So here the devil [518/519] saith, 'If thou be the Son of God,' as I now grant indeed; I was in some doubt, but now I confess Thou art; I am of the voice's mind, that pronounced Thee so at Thy Baptism.
The devil, in the former temptation, came out like a male-content or a murmurer; here he comes like a flattering parasite, he will pinguare caput Ejus oleo, 'make His head even swim in the oil of ostentation.' But though it be not the same temptation, yet it is the same devil in both places. For both by the one and the other he seeketh the downfall and destruction of man; and though his two Ifs be contrary themselves, yet are they both also contrary to the will and word of God: for He would not in any case we should distrust Him, neither would He that at any time we should cast ourselves down. And therefore hath He caused battlements to be made on every house-top, that none might be slain with falling down. Now he would have Him shew Himself there by to the Son of God, for He is now in the sight of all Jerusalem.
It is said that Christ comes now to put a spark of fire, that is, of faith; and that His will was, it might burn and be maintained. The devil, on the other side, labours by all means possible to quench and put it out; and seeing water would not do it in the former temptation, he goeth now about to see if he can make the very oil itself to put it out, even that thing whereby it was to be maintained: as indeed it will, if we pour out too great a quantity. Or, if he cannot quench it either with water or oil, he will see if he can blow it up with gunpowder. As, seeing the water of distrust will not extinguish His faith, but that He would trust in God, he endeavoureth now by Scriptures (that magnify the providence of God, and the confidence we are to put in Him) to set Him as far gone in the other extreme, by presuming or trusting too much, that so the fire which before he would have quenched may now so flame out as not to keep itself within the chimney, but to set the whole house on fire. This is the ball of wildfire of this second temptation; and so both, we see, tend to the consuming and nullifying of our faith.
II. The dart itself is, 'Cast Thyself down:' which consisteth of two points. First, the casting down, secondly, that He Himself was to cast down Himself.
[519/520] For the first, it is general, the neglect of ordinary means, as here. Whereas the ordinary way was down the stairs, he would have Him leap or throw Himself over the battlement. And here a man may see to what end the devil's exalting cometh; he brings a man up by little and little to some high place, that so he may send him at once with his head down-ward. All the preferments that he bestoweth on a man is not to any other intent but that he may do as the devil himself did, (who being on high did cast himself down) and so be like him; that is, 'from beneath,' not from above; who fell 'from heaven like lightning.' So that howsoever in outward show he may seem to befriend us, yet this is his inward intention and scope. As the Edomites in time of the prosperity of the Israelites pretended great good will to them, but in the day of their calamity they were they that cried, 'Down with them, down with them.'
God's manner is, when He meaneth to exalt a man, He will first humble him, and make him low. The devil's manner is, we see, clean contrary; to lift them up to 'the clouds,' that he may bring them down to the grave, yea, to the 'lowest grave.' He carrieth them the higher, to throw them down with the greater violence. He lifteth up Adam with a conceit to be like God, to the very top of perfection, to the intent he might be 'like the best that perisheth.'
The second hath some matter of comfort: the devil is here a suitor to Him, to do it Himself. Why doth not the devil cast Him down: First, it was not in his power; or, if it had, yet would not that have served his turn: then there had been no sin of presumption of it. There must be two persons that must concur in our downfall; well may the devil induce, and move us to it; but unless we ourselves be consenting, and cast ourselves down, there can be no downfall to hurt us. For as Chrysostom, saith, Nemo læditur nisi a seipso; so Nullum præcipitium nisi voluntarium. The devil did not cram Eve with the forbidden fruit; but when 'she saw it, she took it, and ate it.' So the devil when he entereth into the soul of a man (which he counteth his palace) he doth not break open the door, no nor so much as draw the latch; but 'when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished and so goeth in.' There must therefore be a reaching out of the hand, and an [520/521] opening of the door by ourselves, and so a casting down of thyself, or else though the devil thrust sore at thee that thou mayest fall, the Lord will help thee. In Deuteronomy the twenty-second chapter and eighth verse, God hath caused battlements to be made on every house-top, by which we may stay ourselves. The devil tells God that he made 'a hedge' about Job, so that unless Job step over it or break it down, he is safe.
III. The devil's dart is, 'Cast Thee down;' but he bestoweth some great cost on this. With the self-same armour that Christ bare off the other dart, doth the devil sharpen and harden this: he doth not so in any other of the temptations. Therefore we are to look for some great matter; he bringeth Scripture, that he may be the better credited. He speaks not now after the manner of men, so that it is not he now that speaketh but Scripture as Paul reasoneth there. You see, saith he, I counsel You to nothing but the Psalms will bear you out in.
The devil knew well by his own fall how dangerous the sin of presumption is, it cost him dearly; and so did it David likewise, and therefore of all other he prayeth God to keep him 'from presumptuous sins.' He knew also what it was to abuse 'the goodness, patience, and long-suffering of God.' Therefore he avoucheth it by Scripture; he tells Him it will be long to go down the stairs, and teacheth Him a nearer way, but to jump or to cast Himself down, and to fear no hurt, for the Angels have charge of Him.
And even so he persuadeth men now-a-days; that they need not go down fair and softly, in fear and trembling, but to defer all till their dying hour, and then commend themselves to God, and throw themselves upon God's mercy, and that fiery chariot that took up Elias shall come and fetch up them; or else, and Angel shall carry them up, let them be sure they shall have no harm, for they be God's darlings and God doth so dote on them, that He will not suffer them in any case to receive the least hurt that may be.
If ever the devil came in his likeness, it was here. In the first of Samuel, chapter the twenty-eighth, and fifteenth verse, he came in the guise of a Prophet; so that instead of saying, 'Is Saul among the Prophets?' it might have been [521/522] said, What is the devil among the Prophets? But here he hath used himself so cunningly, that if ever he was 'transformed into an Angel' here it is verified. For he cometh here like a white devil, or like a divine; he comes with a Psalter in his hand, and turns to the place, and shews our Saviour the ninety-first Psalm, the eleventh and twelfth verses. Wherein first we are to note that the devil readeth Psalms as well as we, and hath the words of Scripture in his mouth. And, the first of Samuel, the twenty-eighth chapter, he counterfeited Samuel so right and used the very words that he had used, that they could not know him from Samuel. So here he counterfeited the voice of David.
This will make us shake off security, considering that God doth, for our trial, sometime deliver the adversary the key of armoury, whereby he is able to hold argument with an Archangel, yea with Christ Himself, as we see here. How careful therefore had we need to be, to find out a fit answer for him! For only to assault us, doth he read the Scripture; yea, but not to any good end, but even thereby to deceive the simplicity of men; as here, to make them put their souls in adventure to the last hour.
He hath indeed a grace with some vain youths of the court, and ungodly atheists, to set them a scoffing at the Scripture, as Esay the twenty-eighth chapter and twenty-second verse. But with others that have the Scriptures in more high reverence, he goeth another way to work, making it to them the savour of death.
The words which he useth in the name of Samuel, he useth to make Saul despair; and here he useth David's words to cause presumption, and to make them our bane. And not every Scripture; but if there be any Scripture more full of heavenly comfort than another, that of all other will the devil abuse; as indeed the Psalms are; and of all the Psalms, the ninety-first especially, and in that part, if any one sentence be sweeter than another, that of all other will the devils abuse.
Mark the eleventh verse here cited: 'He shall give His Angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.' These last words the devil leaves out, because they make not for his purpose. 'They shall bear Thee in their hands, that [522/523] Thou dash not Thy foot against a stone.' And we shall see nothing can be spoken more comfortable; as first, in that it is said, that 'the Angels have charge over us in all our ways.' 'Behold I send My Angel before thee, to guide thee in the way;' and to comfort, and confirm us (as when Jacob was in fear of his brother Esau, the Angels 'met him') and to defend us in all dangers, and succour us in all necessities, spreading their wings over us, and pitching their tents about us.
Secondly, this charge not only concerneth our head and principal members, but also our feet; yea, God's providence reacheth even to 'the hairs of our head, for they 'are numbered.'
Thirdly, this charge of theirs is not only to admonish us when danger cometh, but they are actually to help us, as it were putting their hands between the ground and us. They shall take the rubs and offences out of the way.
Fourthly, this do they not of courtesy, as being creatures given by nature to love mankind; but by special mandate and charge they are bound to it, and have a Præcipe for it, yea, the very beasts and stones shall be in league with us.
This Psalm, and these verses, containing such comfort, hath the devil culled to persuade men, that being such sweet children of God they may venture whither and upon what they will; for the Angels attend them at an inch. He bids them put the matter in adventure, and then but whistle for an Angel, and they will come at first. He carrieth them up to the top of the pinnacle, and shews them their own case in Annas and Herod, and tells them God will require no more of them than He did at their hands; and all the way as they go up, he singeth them a Psalm of the mercies of God; he carrieth them up with a song, that 'God's mercy is above all His works.' And with Psalm the one hundred and third, and eighth verse, 'How gracious and long-suffering God is, Who rewardeth us not according to our deserts;' and Psalm one hundred and thirty six, 'that His mercy endureth for ever.' God therefore, being so full of mercy, will take all things in good part. But this mercy the devil tells them of, differeth from the mercy David meant. For the mercy David speaketh of, is coupled with judgment. 'I will sing mercy [523/524] and judgment to Thee, O Lord, and Mercy and truth are met together, justice and peace have kissed each other.' Thus I say, they shall have music all the way, and of any at the height think it a great way down. No saith the devil, you need but a jump from your baptism into heaven, you shall need no stairs at all.