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.
The answering of this temptation, if some had had the answering of it, would have been facto, 'by the doing' of the thing that the devil required; and not in words, standing upon terms in disputation. Insomuch, as they would never have cared for a cushion to kneel on, but have fallen down straight on their very faces, and have thanked him too.
[549/550] If Balak should say unto one of them, 'I will promote thee to great honour,' an Angel standing in the way should not hinder him from going. The manner of flesh and blood is, in case of preferment, to respect nothing that may bring them out of their conceived hope or desire thereof; and therefore whatsoever it is that stands in their way, be it never so holy, down it shall for haste to make the way nearest.
In regard of this, one brother respects not another. When Joseph had had a 'dream' of his brethren, and 'told it,' them, all brotherly affection was laid aside. The son and subject Absalom forgetteth his duty as to his father, and allegiance as to his prince, seeking his life. 'The mother of Ahaziah, Athaliah, when she saw her son dead,' makes no more ado but 'destroys all the king's seed.' Jehu makes no bones, nor is abashed at the sight of 'heaps' of dead men's heads, of the king's sons that he had caused to be slain, but adds more murders to them. What's a basketful of heads to a kingdom? And Herod stuck not to kill all the male-born children in Bethlehem. So that Gregory might well say, Ambitio est vita cui etiam innocentes nocent: such is the vehement desire of a kingdom.
So that a great many would have made no scruple at the matter, neither would they have counted it a temptation, but good counsel. Neither would so have cut up Peter as Christ did, to bid him go behind Him, and turn their backs on him; but they would rather 'have turned their backs' to God, and their faces 'after Satan.' And indeed it must needs be, that either our Savour was unwise in refusing so good an offer, or else the world in these days is in a wrong bias.
Our Saviour, we see, doth not only refuse the thing, but also gives him hard words for making the offer and motion. For He doth not only confute him here by saying Scriptum est; but He adds words of bitter reprehension, saying 'Avoid Satan!' He might have given fair words, as He did before; but here He seemeth to have left His patience. The reason why He was more hot in this than in the former is, for that this toucheth the glory of God, and the redemption of mankind: the former temptations touched but Himself in particular, as the turning of stones into bread, but for a miracle; and the casting Himself down was but to try God what care He [550/551] had of Him. But this so much toucheth the glory of God, as He can hold no longer. Also His longing to redeem man caused the same. Neither did He only answer the devil so, but when His blessed Apostle who meant friendly to Him moved Him to the like matter, He rebuked him sharply.
Two causes there are wherein Christ is very earnest: one in counsel ministered to Him, tending to the impairing of God's glory; the other in practices tending to the impairing of God's Church: there He was not only vehement in words, but made a whip to scourge them out. And so in the Old Testament it is said of Moses, that 'he was a meek man, above all the men of the earth;' yet when he came to a case of idolatry, it is said, 'he threw the tables out of his hands, and brake them.' And so far did he lose his natural affection to his people and countrymen, that he caused a great number of them to be slain.
And so in a case of the Church, when Korah rebelled, then Moses waxed very angry; 'for Glory be to God on high, and peace on earth,' is the Angels' song and joy, and the devil's grief; as on the other side, the dishonour of God, and dissension of the Church, is the devil's joy, and grief of the Angels.
Now, besides that He doth in words rebuke him sharply, He doth no less in gesture also; as by turning His back upon Him (as it is most like He did in saying 'Avoid, Satan') which is such a despiteful disgrace, as if that one should offer us the like, we would take it in very great disdain. Which is to us an instruction, that as there is a time when we are to keep the devil before us, and to have our eye still upon him, and his weapon or temptation, for fear lest unawares he might do us some hurt, so is there a place, a time, and a sin, that we are to turn our backs on, and not once to look at his temptation.
In affliction, patience is to be tried; there 'resist the devil,' stand to him, 'and he will fly from ye.' Here we are to set the devil before us. But in a case of lust, or filthy desire, then do ye fly from him. So in the second Epistle to Timothy, the second chapter and twenty-second verse, we are exhorted to 'fly from the lusts of youth, and to follow justice;' there is no standing to gaze back on the devil and his temptations.
Now to the answer, Scriptum est.
The disputing or deciding of the devil's title, that is, [551/552] whether the kingdoms of the earth were his to give or no, Christ stands not upon; nor upon this, whether the devil were a man of his words or no. Indeed, it might well have been doubted, whether the devil be as good as his word; his promises are not, 'Yea and Amen' as the promises of God are. We may take example by Eve, to whom he promised, that if, they did eat of the forbidden fruit, that they should be like gods, but were they so indeed, after they had eaten? No, but like the beasts that perish. And as true it is that the kingdoms are his.
If the kingdom of Israel had been at his disposition, we may be sure David should never have been king; as well appeareth by the troubles he raises against him. No, nor Hezekiah neither, of all other he would never choose such. We may see his good will in Job; he could not only be content to spoil him of all that he had, but also he must afflict his body: and so upon the Gergesenes' hogs.
The kingdoms are none of his, but they are committed to him in some sort to dispose, as himself saith, Luke the fourth chapter and sixth verse. He hath, as it were, and advowson of them, to present unto them; but yet, not as he there saith, to give to whom he list, but to whom he is permitted.
God must first put all that Job hath in his hands, or else he can do nothing. Abimlech and Herod came to their kingdoms by the devil's patent, they be the devil's officers. So we see daily in our days, that he bestows offices, and presents to Churches. So that, as Brentius saith, many have panem quotidianum that cannot come by Da nobis, they come not to it by God's gift; yet all the interest that the devil hath, is but to present pro hâc vitâ tantum. As therefore it may be true, that in some sort they may be given him, so yet not to dispose as he will.
It is God only that can say so, for His only they are absolutely. 'The earth is the Lord's, and all the fulness thereof, the round world and all that dwell therein.' It is he, 'the most high God, That divided to the nations their inheritance.' 'By Him kings reign, and princes have dominion.' He brought Nebuchadnezzar to know that 'the most high God bare rule over the kingdoms of men.' He indeed may well say [552/553] Cui voluero, do ea; and to whomsoever God giveth, 'He giveth liberally, and reproacheth no man.'
The devil, we see, exacteth more than the thing is worth, and restraineth the benefit of his grant with unjust covenants. But Christ goes not about to answer the devil that way, but by flying to the Scriptures as to His surest hold. Therefore David prays that his mind may be inclined to God's law, 'and not to covetousness.'
For there is a medicine for every disease, and power as well against this temptation of covetousness as against the former; the law of God can as well keep a man from covetousness, as from desperation; 'Heaven and earth shall pass, but not one jot' of this. Let therefore Hæc omnia give place to Scriptum est: marry, Omnia illa, which both we now enjoy, and which are laid up for us hereafter, are come to by Scriptum est. So that omnia hæc is not all we must care for; there be things to come, besides these things which we lay hands on, far more precious. Though here be all the kingdoms of the earth, yet they are said to be shewed in the twinkling of an eye; so cannot the other kingdom of exceeding glory. All the power of all the princes on the earth have not power over one silly soul to destroy it. All the glory of them is called but a great big fan, or 'pomp.' Solomon was the most glorious prince that ever was, yet he was not clothed like a lily. Not all the lilies in the field, nor stars in heaven, nor the sun and moon itself, are comparable to one soul.
The Scripture whereby Christ answereth the devil, is in Deuteronomy the sixth chapter and thirteenth verse, 'Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God and serve Him.' If any fantastical spirit oppose itself against Moses, let it be accursed.
There is in this answer two things set down, worship and service, both which are due to God only. Covetousness endeth in idolatry, and fitly is so termed: if Christ had been covetously minded, then He must needs have fallen down and worshipped the devil, for covetousness and idolatry being joined together, we would not have parted from so great a benefit.
Christ hath here changed a word which the Septuagint translator hath; which signifieth a service with an open testimony. So that, will ye know if a man do believe? 'He believeth unto righteousness with the heart, that with the [553/554] mouth confesseth to salvation.' Such as glorify God, as well in their members as in their spirits. As St. James saith of faith 'Shew me thy faith by thy works,' so may it be said of fear. You say you have fear, can you shew me your fear? If it be not a dead fear, it is to be seen; as Daniel the third chapter, and seventh verse, it must be shewed by falling down and worshipping.
The servant that feared 'fell down' and besought his master. Do you fear? then where is the outward reverence? Then inward affection must appear by the outward action: religion is outward as well as inward.
There be two ways whereby we may have traffic with the devil, either of both will serve his turn: first, homage, secondly, service of the body; and both these doth God require, even when we are 'in the dark' or in our chamber. Indeed, might the devil say, this mountain is very open; but how say ye? will ye be content closely in a corner to worship me? If ye will not wear my cognisance on your forehead, yet ye may take my mark in your hand; then shutting your hand, nobody can perceive it. If ye will not take 'the mark,' yet take 'the number of the beast's name,' that is 'six hundred threescore and six.' Will ye do none of these? What then? will ye 'serve me?' Thus ye see what glorious terms he useth; but if one should seem to do one of these on courtesy, he will not be content till he do it of duty.
Now let us see first what it is to worship. It is that which Cornelius did to Peter; he 'met him, fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.' And that which John did to the Angel; that is, he 'fell down before his feet to worship him.' It is when one on the knees doth a bodily worship. I will shew it you in David's words, for I cannot tell it ye better. When Michal scoffed at David for being bare-headed before the ark, he saith, 'I will be more vile than thus, and will be low in mine own sight.' A man can never be too reverent to God; we think it a great disgrace, and debasing of ourselves, if we use any bodily worship to God. It may be said to them as it was to him that feared to do too much reverence to Cæsar, Hic homo timet timere Cæsarem. Our religion and cultus must be uncovererd, and a bare-faced religion; we would not use to come before a mean prince, as we do before [554/555] the King of kings, and Lord of lords, even the God of heaven and earth.
'The four and twenty elders fell down before Him That sat on the throne, and worshipped Him That liveth for ever, and cast their crowns before His throne.'
The wandering eye must learn to be 'fastened on Him' and 'the work of justice and peace.' The worship of the 'knees to bow' and 'kneel before the Lord their Maker.' Our feet are 'to come before His face; for the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.' Jacob, though he were not able to stand or kneel, yet, because he would use some corporal service, 'leaned upon his staff, and worshipped' God, as appeareth from Genesis the forty seventh chapter and thirty-first and Hebrews the eleventh chapter and twenty-first verse. This must be done as duty due unto God, and in regard of those that be strangers.
Secondly, what it is to 'serve.' This is to bow the soul, as the other is to bow the body. For the king 'to serve and speak kindly to the people,' that they may 'serve him for ever after,' is not the service he meaneth, nor to do all that the king commands. For God must be above all; and 'of whomsoever a man is overcome, to him he is in bondage.' We must serve God with our sacrifices, but not with our sins, nor weary Him with our iniquities. We may not make a dung-cart of Him, to load Him with our sin and filth; and when He comes again to have as much more for Him.
'Only.' The devil himself would grant, that God is to be served; his meaning was, that a man might serve God and him too: but Christ saith 'God only.' But it may be said, this word 'only' is not in the scripture whence Christ citeth this sentence, and so Christ hath added to the word of God. Indeed, in Deuteronomy the sixth chapter and thirteenth verse 'Alone' is not; but in the next verse it is said, 'Do not follow after other gods' which is in effect, 'God only.'
The Papists ask where we find 'only' in justification by faith? Indeed we do not find it, but we do find that 'by faith' and nothing else we are 'justified,' and so we may well collect it by faith only. 'By grace we are saved through faith; and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.' And [555/556] on this warrant have many of the ancient Fathers been bold to add the word 'only;' as Origen upon Romans the third chapter and twenty-eighth verse. Hilary upon Matthew the ninth chapter and divers other say, 'Faith only justifieth.'
God is only to be worshipped and served, and none besides Him. Zephaniah prophesieth against them 'that serve the host of heaven upon the house-top, and swear by Malcham.' But 'Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac:' and it is said 'they feared of the Lord, and served their idols also.'
It is the property of Aaron's rod, that being turned into a serpent, if the magicians turn theirs also into serpents, Aaron's will devour the rest. Bring the ark into the temple of Dagon, Dagon will fall down and break his face; and though it were lifted up again, yet it fell down again. The stories bear witness that the gods of the Hebrews would not come into Pantho. Samuel bade the people, 'If they were come again to the Lord with all their hearts, to put away their strange gods from amongst them.' If there were any other beside Him that were able to help us, we might have some reason to serve other; but since it is He That must help us in all necessities, we must worship Him alone.
Otherwise, when we pray to Him, He may send us, to 'the gods which we have chosen' to serve, for our help. If we could find an equal, or a better than God, we had some reason to make him a partner in His worship; but if none be worthy once to be named with Him (so far is all beneath Him we shall offer Him too much disgrace and injury in so doing).
It is an embasing of gold to have any other metal joined with it, yea though it be silver. 'The son,' saith Malachi, 'honoureth his father, and the servant his lord: if I be your Father, where is the honour which ye do Me: if your Lord, where is your reverence?' Whether we account of God as of our Lord and Master [a man can have but one Lord and Master;] or whether we take Him for a Father, a man can have but one father except he be a bastard and so be filius populi if for a 'husband' not two husbands, for He is a jealous God, and cannot abide that. 'No man can serve two masters, but he must love the one, and despise the other; no man can love God and Mammon.'
[556/557] 'Then the devil left Him.' 'Blessed is the man,' saith St. James, 'that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life.' Christ hath endured the temptation: now follows the blessing. Jacob would not let the Angel depart (with whom he strove) before he had 'blessed' him. Job after his affliction received his twofold blessing. The woman of Canaan first heard herself accounted a dog, but at last she heard Fiat tibi. Paul was first buffeted by the prick of the flesh, and after heard, 'My grace is sufficient for thee.'
So here at last, when the devil saw it was bootless to stay any longer, there was no good by him to be done, he leaves our Saviour; but yet he went not away willingly of himself, but was sent away with an Avaunt. Which is a comfort to us, to think we stand not at the devil's courtesy, and that he shall not attempt us so long as he list; for God hath the devil on a chain, and will not suffer him 'to tempt us above our strength. For the rod of the wicked shall not rest on the lot of the righteous, lest the righteous put forth their hand to wickedness.' To have the devil not come to us, is a great favour; but to have him come and go away conquered, is exceeding mercy. 'For tribulation brings patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope makes not ashamed.' As God said of Job, Hast thou marked My servant Job, whom keepeth still his integrity?'
'And behold the Angels came and ministered unto Him.' And as Luke saith, 'There is joy with the Angels in heaven, upon the conversion of every sinner.' 'For we are made a spectacle unto me and angels.' Before God are said to stand, 'ten thousand Angels, and to minister before Him.' He hath a greater pre-eminence 'but we are also herein partakers of the Divine nature;' either because we are fed by Angels as Elias was, or defended by them, or watched by them.
But saith Esay, 'He that believeth makes not haste.' Christ was not hasty, but stayed God's good time; He would not make His own bread, but stayed till the 'Angels ministered unto Him.' Then 'there appeared an Angel to comfort Him.'
This wisdom must we learn by holding our tongue: otherwise one of these two extremes shall we come to; either [557/558] Extremum luctûs gaudium occupat, or Extrema gaudii luctus occupat saith Bernard.
The world is like Jael who meets Sisera and entertains him at first very friendly; she allures him to her, and give him drink, and lays him down; but so soon as he was asleep, she smites a nail into his temples. The world begins with milk, and ends with a hammer. But our Saviour's meaning is clean contrary. The world first uttereth 'good wine, and when men have well drunk then that which is worst.' But Christ 'hath kept back the good wine till now.' As Matthew saith 'The Son of Man shall send forth His angels and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire, where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the just shine as the sun, in the Kingdom of their Father.' Our Saviour's method is, to give bitter first, and sweet afterward. Wherefore we are to wish, that here we may suffer affliction, that we may after be crowned by Him.