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Christ intimated that He knew who it was that was tempting Him; and so soon as the devil perceived that he was seen through, he judged it good policy to retire for the present.
We are apt to conceive of the devil as omnipresent, but this is a manifest error. There is cnly one being of whom it can be affirmed that his centre is everywhere - God. The devil has a vast number of agents under him, and he may be able to transport himself from place to place with a velocity of which we can form no adequate conception. It does not take the unfallen angels long to come from heaven to earth, and we should fancy that the fallen angels are as swift of wing as they ; but however rapid may be his movements, we may be certain that the devil's presence is limited. If it be demanded—Where is Satan not? We answer-He is not in heaven. Long, long ago, he was expelled from it, and never more will be enter it. It is noteworthy that his encounter with Jesus in the lonely desert had a beginning to an end. When he saw that he was losing time, he left Christ --went in some other direction, and sought lower and easier prey. Creature as he is, the devil is, like ourselves, limited all round. In his mischievous peregrinations, he comes and goes as He may see fit.
There is no essential difference between the devil and ourselves, constitutionally viewed. His character may be worse, but his nature is much the same. We are liable to become discouraged in the use of means, and this is equally true of Satan. He is not unconquerable, and firm resistance causes him to lose heart, and flee. The discovery that, hungry though He was, Jesus was armed at all points, had a discouraging effect; and in this mood he naturally bethought him of flight. We cannot doubt but that he departed with reluctance. Still it was clear to him that there was not the slightest chance of success, and entertaining this idea, he suddenly withdrew. It may be that fear had to do with his drawing off, for with all his boldness he is at bottom a coward. His fighting against God is no proof that God is not with him an object of dread. The apostle James assures us that
the "devils believe (that there is one God) and tremble;" and when he thus expressed bimself, he surely did not mean to exclude the “Prince of this world.” There is such a thing as getting rid of the devil. By steadily resisting him we may so dishearten, and even frighten him, as to make him fee. He must either conquer or run.
Jesus withstood him as the rock the dashing wave; and what happened? He retired from the contest with all possible speed. “ Then the devil leaveth him.” How differently Satan would have acted had Jesus yielded to his malign influence ! He waxes bold in proportion as we yield to him. The leaving of Satan was complimentary to Christ. It showed that the devil felt himself beaten out and out. Had Jesus perceptibly given in had there been the smallest amount of wavering, or even a show of yielding, we may depend on it that Satan would have continued the combat. The least measure of success inspirits him, and leads him to play his best. He left because it was plain that, morally considered, Christ was on his guard and sound to the core. He had extracted the fiercest darts his well stocked quiver contained, and shot them as skilfully as he could, but all was to no purpose. He might as well have aimed them at the sun or the mountain's rocky brow. They fell short of the mark. They glanced off the moral armour in which Jesus stood encased, and dropt harmless at his feet. With the shield of faith held before Him, Christ quenched them utterly, as the sea quenches the sparks that alight upon it from the steam-vessels that plough its surface. There was no course open, therefore, to the hellish archer but to turn round and quit the field. His sharpest, surest arrows had failed, and there was no use in fitting inferior ones to the string. To have emptied his quiver would have rendered his defeat only the more galling. Hence, when Jesus said, “Get thee behind me Satan,” he did as he was bidden, and it is not surprising that he beat an ignominious retreat.
Some of our readers may be ready to ask : “What interest have we in the devil ?” In reply, we have to say : if it does not concern us to know about the devil, how comes he to
have so prominent a place in the Scriptures: Hardly have we turned a page of the Bible, till we are introduced to him; but, letting that pass, have we no interest in knowing that in the encounter between Jesus and the devil, the former came off victor? Is it not most delightful and assuring to think of Jesus as the conqueror of Satan? Which leftthe devil or Jesus ? Let Matthew inform us -" Then the devil,” &c. We might be pitied were the devil the master of the universe. With what cruelty and caprice he would govern! Strong, and cunning, and active, and malignant as the devil is, the friends of Christ have nothing to fear from him. Jesus can bruise him under their feet. He conquered him when on earth for Himself, and he can conquer him for his followers. Suppose that the devil had triumphed when he and Christ came into collision, what then? Mankind would be without a Saviour. The commission of one sin would have incapacitated Jesus for making atonement for the world's guilt; so that the reading of this clause-" Then the devil leaveth Him," should heighten our admiration of Christ, increase our confidence in Him, and thrill us with joy. It is most consoling to realize that when Satan came to Him, he found nothing in Him of which to take hold, or on which to rest an accusation; and let us not forget that it was in our nature that Jesus fought with, and overcame the archapostate. We are prone at times to apologise for the fall of our first parents, and our own falls into sin; and at such moments it is well to bear in mind that when Satan attacked Jesus on his human side, he sustained defeat. Jesus is our example, and when we sin, we should not dream of excusing ourselves. We can drive the devil before us, and we should, in imitation of Christ. “ He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin;" and this is how it should be with
Blame ever attaches to us when the devil gets the advantage of us, else why are we commanded to resist the devil, and certified that if we do, he will flee? I candidly confess, that when I call to mind Christ's victory over the devil in the wilderness, I have no heart to frame excuses for
those who either get into wrong moral states, or do wrong moral acts.
We are sometimes told that in "great attempts it is glorious even to fail.". The devil's attack on Jesus was undoubtedly a“ great attempt," but we question if his experience was this—that it was “glorious to fail.” What a contrast there must have been between his state of mind and that of Christ's at the close of the encounter! Satan gained nothing by it. It did not add to his happiness or renown.
On the contrary, it must have augmented his misery. It were not easy to do justice to the disappointment and the gloom which must have gathered over his spirit. How the thought of failure must have tormented him, and damped for a while his zeal as a doer of evil! The failures of the wicked are always much sadder than the failures of the righteous. But the encounter with the devil was immensely advantageous to Jesus.
It exercised, and consequently strengthened, his virtue. It deepened his joy. How glad He must have been when all was over, that He had repelled the adversary! His gladness must have been heavenly in its nature. Moreover, the devil's departure was the signal for the descent of a troop of ministering angels : “And behold, angels came and ministered unto him.” Or, as Milton puts it
"So Satan fell; and straight a fiery globe
As on a floating couch, through the blithe air.” Apparently none took part in the moral duel between Jesus and the devil except themselves. Alone Christ wrestled with the "antagonist of nature, God, and the universe," and cast him down; but the terrible conflict was beheld by a 6 cloud of witnesses.” God was a spectator of it, and angels were interested spectators of it. Besides the human there are other eyes. Accordingly, as soon as the battle was at an end, Jesus found Himself the centre of a bright circle of jubilant, adoring, and ministering angels. They had seen all
that was going on, and, under divine guidance, they became visible and ministrant at the right time. Their coming was not accidental, but intentional. God sent them to mark his interest in his Only Begotten Son, and express his sympathy with Him in the splendid victory which He had won; and in the angels that were despatched with the needed succour, He would have willing messengers. One sees not how the angels could have helped Christ whilst the encounter lasted, but it is obvious that earlier interference on their part would have detracted from the glory of the victory which, single-handed, Jesus achieved over the devil. Had they congregated round Christ sooner it might have been thought, whether justly or unjustly, that the devil's defeat was due to angelic intervention fully more than to Christ's moral rectitude. What was the number of the angels, or how they acted in relation to Jesus, are points which we cannot determine. Perhaps they
set before him spread
And, from the fount of life, ambrosial drink."
“Sung heavenly anthems of his victory
“And joy'd to crown
The victor's head,
Before his frown." The object of their visit was to do Jesus good; and there were many ways in which they could be of service to Him. The evangelist contents himself with saying that they ministered to Him; and he leaves us to infer what a blessed thing it must be to have angels for our attendants. worth Christ's while to resist the devil. By repelling him, He attracted angels. Elijah was miraculously fed by one angel in the wilderness; but a company of angels waited on Christ, and richly supplied the wants by which He was at the moment pressed. His trust in God had its reward. The