The Combat between Christ and the Devil Displayed:
or A Commentary upon the Temptations of Christ:
Preached in Cambridge by that reverend and judicious divine Master William Perkins
The second edition much enlarged by a more perfect copy, at the request of Master Perkins’s executors, by Thomas Pierson preacher of God’s Word.
“The God of peace shall tread Satan under your feet shortly”—Rom. 16:20. “You are they which have continued with me in my temptations: Therefore I appoint unto you a kingdom, even as my Father hath appointed unto me”—Luke 22:28–29.
Printed by Melchizedek Bradwood for E.E. and are to be sold in Paul’s church-yard at the sign of the Swan. 1606
To the Right Honorable Sir William Russell, Lord Russell, Baron of Thornhaugh, younger son to that most Christian and Honorable Earl, Francis Earl of Bedford, with the virtuous Lady his wife, grace and peace.
Right Honorable, as John the Baptist was in one desert, so our Savior Christ was in another [Matt. 3:1; 4:1]; but as these two differed in their being in the world, so did they not accord in their being in the wilderness. John was with some men, Christ with none; John was with wild men, Christ with wild beasts; John was preaching, Christ praying; John was baptizing, Christ fighting; John was feeding, Christ fasting; John was encountering with devils incarnate, Christ did encounter with the prince of those devils. From John preaching in the desert, we learn diligence in our callings; from Christ tempted in the desert, we see troubles at our calling: “Many are the troubles of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth them out of all” [Ps. 34:19].
If it please you to give these after-lines the reading, you shall see set down that duel or single combat, which was hand to hand between Christ and the devil. And as for Christ Jesus, you shall see Him fasting, fighting, [and] conquering. Fasting and hungry, to show He was man; fighting and encountering, to show He was Messiah; and conquering and triumphing, to show He was God. And as for the devil, you shall see him objecting, answering, [and] flying. Objecting, that Christ might despair [Matt. 4:3]; answering, that He might presume [Matt. 4:6]; and flying, when he could not overcome [Matt. 4:11].
In Christ’s temptations, we see the estate of the church [1 Peter 2:21];
In Satan’s assault, we see his malice to the church [1 Peter 5:8]. Is Christ tempted? Think it not strange if we fall into temptations [John 15:20]. For the grief of the Head, is the grief of the members [1 Cor. 12:26], and the temptations of Christ, show the temptations of Christians [John 15:20]. It is true of Christ, that by many tribulations He did enter into the kingdom of God [Acts 14:22]. Our High Priest was consecrated by afflictions [Heb. 2:10], that so He must suffer and enter into His glory [Luke 24:26].
He is no sooner born into the world, but He is hunted by Herod [Matt. 2:14]; baptized at Jordan, but Satan sets on Him [Matt. 3:16; 4:1]; a preacher for repentance, but the scribes proscribe Him [John 7:1]; to work miracles, but the Pharisees slander Him [Luke 11:15]. He is no sooner to suffer, but the devil assaults Him [John 12:27]; apprehended, but the Jews deliver Him [John 18:28]; delivered, but Herod derides Him [Luke 23:11]; derided, but Pilate condemns Him [Luke 23:24]; condemned, but the soldiers abuse Him [Matt. 27:27]. Is He on the cross? The people will not pity Him [Matt. 27:39]. Is He risen? The high priests will belie Him [Matt. 28:15]. In a word, is He upon earth? He is tempted in His person [Luke 11:16]. Is He in heaven? He is tempted in His members [Acts 9:4]. Thus the life of Christ was a warfare upon earth, and the life of Christians must be a warfare upon earth. We live here in a sea of troubles: the sea is the world, the waves are calamities, the church is the ship, the anchor is hope, the sails are love, the saints are passengers, the haven is heaven, and Christ is our Pilot. When the sea can continue without waves, the ship without tossings, and passengers not be sick upon the water, then shall the church of God be without trials. We begin this voyage so soon as we are born, and we must sail on till our dying day.
We do read in God’s Word of many kinds of temptations:
God, Satan, man, the world, and the flesh, are said to tempt. God tempts man to try his obedience; Satan tempts man to make him disobedient; men do tempt men to try what is in them; and man tempts God, to try what is in Him. The world is a tempter, to keep man from God; and the flesh is a tempter, to bring man to the devil. So God tempted Abraham in the offering of his son [Gen. 22:1]; Satan tempted Job in the loss of his goods [Job 1:18]; a queen tempted Solomon in trying his wisdom [1 Kings 10:1]; men tempted God by distrust in the desert [Ex. 17:3]; the world tempted Demas, when he forsook the apostles [2 Tim. 4:10]; and the flesh tempted David, when he fell by adultery [2 Sam. 11:4].
Does God tempt us? Take heed of hypocrisy. Does Satan tempt us? Take heed of his subtlety. Does man tempt man? Take heed of dissembling. Does man tempt God? Take heed of enquiring. Does the world tempt man? Take heed of apostasy. Does the flesh tempt man? Take heed of carnality. But do we so? Are we wary of these tempters? No, we are not, and therefore we fall. We fall on the right hand, by temptations in prosperity, and we fall on the left, by temptations in adversity. Of the one it may be said, it has slain thousands; of the other, that it has slain ten thousands [1 Sam. 18:7].
When we come and see cities dispeopled, houses defaced, and walls pulled down, we say, “the soldier has been there”; and when we see pride in the rich, discontent in the poor, and sin in all, we may justly say, “the tempter has been there.”
Now of all other temptations, it pleases God to suffer His church to be tempted with afflictions.
It is never free either from the sword of Ishmael, which is a reviling tongue [Gen. 21:9]; or the sword of Esau, a persecuting hand [Gen. 27:41]. Neither was there yet ever [a] Christian man found, who had not his part in the cup of affliction. We must drink of the same cup our Master did [Matt. 20:23]: “the disciple is not above his master” [Matt. 10:24].
The reasons why God does visit us thus with afflictions, are:
1. To humble us.
2. To wean us.
3. To winnow us.
4. To prevent us.
5. To teach us.
6. To enlighten us.
7. To honor us.
8. To cure us.
9. To crown us.
10. To comfort us.
11. To protect us. 1
2. To adopt us.
And last of all, to teach and comfort others.
To humble us, that we be not proud [Eccl. 3:20]; to wean us, that we love not this world [Ps. 119:67]; to winnow us, that we be not chaff [Luke 22:31]; to prevent us, that we do not sin [Ps. 119:71]; to teach us, that we be patient in adversity [Pss. 39:9; 40:1]; to enlighten us, that we see our errors [Gen. 42:21]; to honor us, that our faith may be manifest [James 5:11]; to cure us, that we surfeit not of security [Deut. 32:15]; to crown us, that we may live eternally [2 Tim. 4:8]; to comfort us, that He may send His Spirit [John 16:33]; to protect us, that He may guide us by His angels [Acts 12:7]; to adopt us, that we may be His sons [Heb. 12:7]; and to teach others, that they seeing how sin is punished in us, they may take heed it be not found in them [2 Peter 2:3]; that they seeing our comforts in troubles, may not be discouraged in the like trials [2 Cor. 1:6].
Thus a Christian man’s diet is more sour than sweet; his physic is more aloes than honey; his life is more a pilgrimage than a progress; and his death is more despised than honored. This if men would think of before, afflictions would be as welcome to the soul of man, as afflicted Ruth was to the field of Boaz [Ruth 2:8]. But because we look not for them before they come, think not on God’s doing when they are come, and do desire to be happy both here and hereafter; therefore we can away with the name of Naomi, but in no case would be called “Mara” [Ruth 1:20].
We see the sea, not the whale [Jonah 1:15]; the Egyptian, not the salvation [Ex. 14:11]; the lion’s mouth, not Him that stops the lion’s mouth [Dan. 6:16, 22]. If we could see God in our troubles, as Elisha did in his, then would we say: “There are more with us, than there are against us” [2 Kings 6:16]. But because we do not, therefore at every assault of the Assyrians, we say, as the servant to Elisha did: “Alas master, what shall we do?” [2 Kings 6:15]. And with the disciples: “Carest thou not master that we perish?” [Mark 4:38]. Yet it is good for us to suffer affliction: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” [James 1:12; Job 5:17]. It is commanded by God [Prov. 3:11], practiced by Christ [Matt. 4:2], yielded to by the saints [2 Tim. 3:12], assigned by God’s providence [Ps. 119:71], and good for us each way.
We are God’s trees, we shall grow better by pruning [Ps. 1:3]; God’s pomander, smell better by rubbing; God’s spice, be more profitable by bruising; and God’s conduits, we are the better by running. Let us suffer afflictions, they are momentary in respect of time [2 Cor. 4:17]; [they are] favors, if we respect God’s love [Phil. 1:29], and a means to bring us to the kingdom of God. If they did consume us, we might wish them an end; but they do purge us, let us be content. They are God’s fan, we are God’s wheat [Acts 14:21]; they are God’s bolter, we are God’s meal [1 Peter 1:5]; they are God’s flame, we are God’s bush [Ex. 3:7]; they are God’s cords, we are God’s sacrifice [Gen. 22:9]; they are God’s furnace, we are God’s gold. The wheat will not be good without the fan, nor the meal without the bolter, nor the bush without the flame, nor the sacrifice without the cords, nor the gold without the furnace; they are trials, not punishments, if we be sons; punishments, not trials, if we be slaves.
Let us then bear them, they will have an end [Ps. 37:37]; joy will follow [Ps. 126:5]; they show us our weakness [Isa. 38:10]; they move us to pray [Hos. 5:15]; they show we are in the pathway to heaven [Luke 24:26]; and [they] make us condemn this present world [Eccl. 1:2]. By them we learn to repent us of sin past [2 Sam. 24:17], to take heed of sin present, and to foresee sin to come [Gen. 39:9]. By them we receive God’s Spirit [Acts 2:2]; are like to Christ [Phil. 3:10]; are acquainted with God’s power [Dan. 3:17]; have joy in deliverance [Ex. 15:1]; know [the] benefit of prosperity; made more hardy to suffer; and have cause to practice many excellent virtues [1 Peter 1:6–7]. They cause us (as one says) to seek out God’s promise; the promise to seek faith; faith to seek prayer; and prayer to find God. Seek, and you shall find [Matt. 7:7]; call, and He will answer [Job 21:27]; wait, and He will come [Hab 2:3].
I am to write an epistle, I must not be long. Job’s messengers came not so fast on him [Job 2:11], but Job’s afflictions may come as fast upon us. Has David slain a bear [1 Sam. 17:37]? He shall encounter with a lion. Has he killed a lion? He must fight with Goliath [1 Sam. 17:40]. Has he subdued Goliath? He must make a ride upon the Philistines. Are the Philistines conquered? Saul will assault him [1 Sam. 21]. Remember David’s troubles, and foresee what may be our troubles. The more righteous we are, the more manifold are our troubles; and the better we are, the better we may endure them.
But as our troubles are many, so are our deliverances many:
God will deliver us out of all. He that delivered Noah from the flood [Gen. 7], Lot from Sodom [Gen. 19], Jacob from Esau [Gen. 33], Joseph from Potiphar [Gen. 41], Moses from Pharaoh [Ex. 9], Israel from Egypt [Ex. 12], David from Saul [1 Sam. 19], Elijah from Ahab [1 Kings 21], Elisha from the Syrians [2 Kings 6], Naaman from his leprosy [2 Kings 5], Hezekiah from the plague [Isa. 38], the three children from the fire [Dan. 3], Daniel from the lions [Dan. 6], Joseph from Herod [Matt. 2], the apostles from the Jews [Acts 5], and Christ from the devil [Matt. 4]—He, even He will deliver us from trouble, or comfort us in trouble, or mitigate troubles when they come upon us.
He, He has promised to do it, and He that has promised, is able to do it [Rom. 4:21]. And this He does sometimes by no means, sometimes by small means, sometimes by ordinary means, sometimes by extraordinary [means], sometimes contrary to all means. By no means He cured a cripple at Bethesda [John 5:9]; by small means He fed five thousand in the desert [John 6:12]; by ordinary means He was brought from the pinnacle [Matt. 4:7]; by means extraordinary He was provided for in hunger [Matt. 4:11]; and contrary to all means were the three children preserved in the furnace of fire [Dan. 3].
I have good cause to think of God’s gracious deliverance, being myself delivered from a great trouble. Since the time I was unkindly dismissed from my poor charge, where I would have continued, if malice had not hindered me, I have lived in an end of this city: dangerously in respect of the sickness; poorly, in regard of maintenance; and painfully, in respect of my ministry; yet till this time has the Lord delivered me; and as Paul said, He will deliver me, if that He sees it be best for me [2 Tim. 4:18].
Let man therefore comfort himself in the Lord [1 Sam. 30:6].
After two days He will revive us, and the third day He will raise us up again [Hos. 6:2]; heaviness may endure for a night, but joy will come in the morning [Ps. 30:5]. Doubtless there is a reward for the righteous [Ps. 58:11]; verily, God retains not His wrath forever [Mic. 7:18]. Could He overcome the world, and can He not overcome many troubles in the world? Yea, let one plague follow another, as one quail sings to another; yet as the viper leaped on Paul’s hand, and forthwith leaped off again [Acts 28:3], so one trouble shall leap upon the righteous, and later leap off again. Though he falls, he shall rise again [Ps. 37:24]; the righteous shall not be forsaken forever.
If He has delivered us from the guilt of our sins, He will deliver us from the punishment of our sins. Let us then, therefore, be patient in trouble, constant in hope, rooted in love; let us wait and He will come, call and He will hear, believe and He will perform, repent us of our evil committed against Him, and He will repent of His evils intended against us. He is over us by His providence, about us by His angels, in us by His Spirit, with us by His Word, under us by His power, and upon us by His Son. In Him is our help, from Him is our comfort, by Him is our victory, and for Him is our trouble. “In thee have I trusted,” says a king [Ps. 25:1]; “Whoever was confounded that trusted in the Lord?” said a friend [Job 5]. And as Elkanah was to Hannah instead of many sons [1 Sam. 1:8], so God is to His instead of many comforters.
Of other comforters, we may say as Job did of his friends: “Silly comforters are you all” [Job 16:2]. They will leave us, as mice do a ruinous house, but the Lord (like Ruth to Naomi [Ruth 1:16]) will never leave us, nor forsake us. Especially in the hour of death, which is in remembrance bitter to great men [Ecclesiasticus 41:1]; in that hour of death He will be with us, and command His angels to take charge of our souls [Luke 16:22], the earth to be as a bed for our bodies [Isa. 57:2]; that so the one may go into glory, the other reserved in hope of like glory [Luke 23:43], and be made one day like unto the glorious body of Christ Jesus [Phil. 3:20–21].
Thus, you have seen the righteous in affliction, as Israel was in Babylon [Ps. 137]; and that the Lord like Zerubbabel is ready to deliver them [Zech 4:6]. Though in troubles Christ seems as in the ship to sleep [Matt. 8:24], yet in deliverance He awakes as a man out of sleep, and as a giant refreshed with wine. He will rebuke the waves and winds of troubles and persecution, and they shall fly before Him as Sisera did before Deborah [Judg. 7:4], and the Philistines before Jonathan and his servant [1 Sam. 14]. And as Christ asking the woman of her accuser, she answered: “There was none” [John 8:11]; so in the end ask a Christian of his troubles, and he will say, “There are none.”
He is a buckler for our left hand, and a sword in our right; He is a helmet on our head, and [a] harness for our body. We shall look upon troubles, as Israel did on the Egyptians [Ex. 14], as the Jews did on Goliath [1 Sam. 17:52], and as the Grecians did on Hector, to triumph over them. And as the angel said to Joseph, “They are dead that sought the child’s life” [Matt. 2:20], so the Spirit shall say to the afflicted, “They are dead that did seek your life.” A day of deliverance, a year of jubilee will come, and then Joseph shall be out of prison [Gen. 41], Jacob out of servitude [Gen. 31], and Job shall lie no more in the dust of the earth [Job 42:12]; let us comfort ourselves with these words [1 Thess. 4:18].
I have exceeded an epistle, especially to such a small book.
If the walls seem too great for this city, abundans cautela non nocet. It is usual for students not only to present their own labors, but also other men’s to great personages, especially such works wherein they have been either translators or overseers. It were infinite to instance this point. I am bold to do the like to your Honor at this time. This copy, it was brought unto my hand, I have conferred it with another, I have perused it at the press, I heard divers of the sermons, I have added nothing of mine own; and I desire, that of those many baskets full of most delicate diet [John 6:12], which this worthy man has now left behind him, there may not so much as any one be lost. If any such comes unto my hand, surely they shall not be lost. By his life had I much comfort, and I will seek to honor him after he is dead. I was twenty years acquainted with him; I at his request made the first-fruits of his labors to speak English. And now I am bold to present this his posthume to your patronage. Your honorable nephew, his virtuous Lady, your worthy sister, have heretofore accepted the labors of this man. If it shall please your good Honor to do the like, this preface of mine shall remain as a perpetual testimony of my duty to you; and the book following as fully armed against all such adversaries as shall speak against it. The God of heaven, who has made you honorable in your most honorable progenitors, make you thrice honorable in your future successors; that the memorial of the righteous may be everlasting, when as the name of the wicked shall rot.
London, Saint Martins in the fields, January 12, 1604.
Your Honor’s at commandment,
Fellow of Saint John’s College in Cambridge
William Perkins, 2014, 1, 77–83.