Matthew 4:5-7. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city That is, the city Jerusalem, frequently called the holy city in Scripture, see Nehemiah 11:1; Isaiah 52:1; Daniel 9:24; and that with great propriety, as being for ages the place of the special residence of Jehovah. It has been supposed by many, that Satan transported our Lord through the air, but whether he did or not cannot be determined from this passage, the original word, παραλαμβανει , signifying no more than that he took him along with him. And setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple That is, one of the battlements, for it is not to be supposed that our Lord stood on the point of a spire. The roof of the temple, like that of their houses, was flat, and had a kind of balustrade round it, to prevent people falling off, and somewhere on the edge of this we may suppose that Satan placed Christ, in his attacking him with this temptation. This, in some parts of it, and particularly over the porch, was so exceedingly high that one could hardly bear to look down from it. And saith, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down Thereby to show to all the people about the temple, that thou art indeed the Son of God; which they will fully believe when they shall see thee fly without falling, or fall without being hurt. As in the former assault, Satan tempted Christ to distrust the care of divine providence, so he now tries to persuade him to presume upon it, and to expose himself to danger unnecessarily; nay, in effect, to take the direct course to destroy himself, and try whether God would preserve him as his Son. For it is written, &c. In the former temptation the devil did not quote Scripture, but having been repelled in that assault by the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, he here takes up the same weapon. He shall give his angels charge concerning thee As if he had said, Since thou trustest so much in providence as to expect to be sustained by it, even without food, now throw thyself down, to give more undoubted evidence of thy dependance upon it: and, as the miracle will be a full proof that thou art the Son of God, and will undeniably convince the people of it, so thou canst have no room to doubt of thy safety, the Scripture having declared that his angels shall take care of thee. Jerome, and many after him, have well observed here, that though Satan quotes Scripture, he does it falsely. He artfully leaves out the words, In all thy ways. To throw himself down, and fly through the air, was none of our Lord’s ways. He had no call, no warrant, from God, to decline the stairs by which he might go down from the top of the temple, and precipitate himself from the battlements thereof. God had never granted, nor even promised to any, the protection of angels in sinful and forbidden ways; nor adjudged that his special providence should watch over and preserve them, who should voluntarily throw themselves into dangers which they might lawfully avoid. Add to this, that Satan seems to mock our Saviour’s true use of Scripture by this abuse of applying it, not to instruct but to deceive, separating the protection of God’s providence from man’s duty, and extending the promise of the former to those who neglected the latter; and putting God upon working a miracle, to declare that which he had already made sufficiently evident. We learn from our Lord’s example here, that it is never right to expose ourselves to unnecessary danger in expectation of an extraordinary deliverance. And we learn, too, that it is not only necessary that we should take the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, and make ourselves familiarly acquainted with it, that we may be furnished for the combat with the prince of darkness, but that we should enter into the design and meaning of it, in order that, if Satan attempt to draw his artillery from thence, we may be able to guard against that most dangerous stratagem, and to answer perverted passages of Holy Writ by others more justly applicable. Jesus said, It is written again Viz., Deuteronomy 6:16, to prevent the ungrateful abuse of such promises as these, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God By demanding further evidence of what is already made sufficiently plain, as my being the Son of God is, by the miraculous and glorious testimony he has so lately given me. I shall not, therefore, require any more signs to prove it, nor express any doubt of God’s power or goodness toward me; nor shall I act as the Israelites did, when they said, Exodus 17:7, Is the Lord among us or not? when he had given them ample proof that he was present with them, and had taken, and would take care of them, and provide for them. It is to be observed that the above precept, respecting tempting God, does not forbid too much, but too little confidence in God, and the calling in question his presence with, and care over his people. But in the general, to make an undue and unwarrantable trial of God, is to tempt him, whether the trial respect his power or goodness. See Numbers 14:22; Psalms 78:18; Isaiah 7:12; Matthew 16:1.
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