THE path to the kingdom of heaven is, with most of the family of grace, attended with much darkness and many temptations. All the children of God have not the same measure of darkness, nor are they in the same way and manner tempted by Satan, though there is a great similarity in many of their sufferings and soul conflicts. It may often occur that some of the Lord's family are discouraged because they have been, and still are, more tenderly dealt with than many of their brethren. They have not had those deep and dreadful sensations from views of their fallen state as many they have heard or read of; nor have they been assaulted with atheistical and blasphemous thoughts like many; and the easy and comfortable way they seem to walk in is to them a fearful sign that they are at ease in Zion. Hence their trouble is because they seem to have none. Perhaps the tempter, too, may have a hand in this trial; for he is ever active, and labors to stir up unbelieving fears in our minds, which greatly dishonor God; and he seems to say to such, "O ye of little faith, wherefore do ye doubt?" Why art thou cast down? Has the Lord done nothing for you? Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no kind physician who knows both the cause and nature of thy spiritual disease? No eye to pity thee, a poor outcast among the unclean? O yes! Jesus is the Person. He is just such a Physician as thy case demands. He is both able and willing to give relief to broken hearts and contrite spirits, to needy and burdened sinners: "For we have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." How keen to his holy Person must have been the temptations of Satan; how violent the attacks of the enemy, when, amongst the rest of his temptations, he threw that hellish suggestion: "If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down;" which may be construed, not as a plain denial of the Saviour's eternal Sonship, but rather an acknowledgment of it; for in Matt. 4:3 the Saviour foiled the enemy on that ground; and now Satan takes another method, to drive the Saviour to presumption; and this he attempted to do by misapplying the promise in Ps. 91:11. See how ready Satan was with the scripture, and he is so to this day, and as ready to corrupt it, and so, if possible, to render the word ineffectual. Satan's object is, no doubt, to deprive the believer of his peace, and render his life miserable, let him attack the believer by this or by that temptation. Satan has much more to do with God's children than they are aware of. He can transform himself into an angel of light, and become a pleader for holiness to suit his turn. He could speak by the mouth of Peter, and Peter did not know it, but thought it was himself speaking, till Christ discovered it by saying, "Get thee behind me, Satan." Satan often speaks by good men and by bad, and neither may know who is their prompter. Satan is the real author of many of the saints' speeches, and he will receive the just reward of his doings. Satan is an impostor, he imposes his wares on the saints, and covers his base metal with that which appears like gold. By one temptation Satan may so shake a child of God that he may be as weak in his confidence as Samson was in body when his locks were cut. O what reason have we constantly to put up this prayer: "Lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil."
There is certainly a great difference to be observed between Satan's temptations and our sins. The commission of sin does not stand in being tempted to it by Satan. To be tempted by Satan is not our sin until we make it ours by falling in with the temptation, which, alas! is too frequented the case; till we are broken "as in the place of dragons, and covered as with the shadow of death." In this condition the believer thinks he is quite alone. He is solitary indeed, and he laments with bitter anguish over his broken frames, as well as on account of his vile, deceitful heart, which has made him start aside like a broken bow in the day of battle. This is no new thing in Zion, although it may seem so to the tempted soul: "There hath no temptation taken you but such is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." (1 Cor. 10:13) Thus the members are partakers of the sufferings of the Head. He suffered by temptation, and we suffer by temptation. He was tried in all points, and so are we in our measure. The world and the powers of darkness were against Christ, and the same enemies are against us. It is true we have enemies within, and Christ had none; for he was holy and without spot; yet as he took our nature, and took our sin upon him, he is thus in a capacity to feel for and sympathize with us in and under the heaviest troubles we are called to pass through, and will most assuredly succour us in every trial and temptation. Christ, to be a merciful and faithful High Priest, must be made like unto his brethren to make atonement for their sins. To know our infirmities, and be well qualified to administer relief, he must take our infirmities. He must not only be a man, but "a man of sorrows." O the wondrous love of his heart, who (though eternally rich in and with the Father) laid aside and veiled his excellence, or rather made a display of it by his unparalleled humility and submission. Why has he thus condescended? What does it argue? What are we to conclude from it? Why this,--his heart was set upon us. He was determined to rescue the captive from the curse of the law, and from the power of sin, the devil, and from death, at the expense of his own precious life! The heart of Christ is upon his people now, in all their sorrows and most desperate temptations; he is not less attentive to his people now he is at the right hand of the Father than he was when with them on earth. How often has Christ verified his word to us in our most fiery temptations: "When the enemy shall come in like a flood." He has succoured us by his power, by his promises, and by his love tokens.
"Saints who pass through tribulation,
Let your eyes your Master view;
He who is your whole salvation,
Pass'd through fiery trials too.
Now enthroned in bliss above,
Still his heart is full of love.
"Trust him, trust him, weak believer;
Well he knows your trying path;
He is true, and no deceiver,
And his love is strong as death.
Sure himself he'll not deny,
But will succour and supply."