The third conflict: Matthew 4:8–10
“Again the devil took him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and said unto him, all these will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me: then said Jesus unto him, avoid Satan, for it is written, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (vv. 8–10).
These words contain the third conflict between our Savior Christ and Satan; wherein consider three points: first, Satan’s preparation (v. 8); secondly, Satan’s assault upon Christ (v. 9); thirdly, Christ’s answer thereto (v. 10).
For the first, before we come to the handling of it in particular, we are to consider that unto every assault the devil prepares himself afresh, which should teach us to labor to furnish our hearts every day afresh to be able to repulse his new assaults.
Now particularly, this preparation has two parts: first, “Satan takes Christ into an exceeding high mountain”;
Secondly, “he shows him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them all.”
For the first, it may be demanded what way Satan took up Christ into this high mountain?
Answer. He might do it two ways; either by vision, or by real and local transportation of His body from the temple to some high mountain. Some think this was done by vision only in Christ’s mind, as Ezekiel was carried by the Lord from Babylon to an exceeding high mountain in the land of Israel [Ezek. 40:2]. But I rather think that Christ was really and locally transported by the devil in body from the temple to some high mountain; for Christ’s temptations were not imaginary, but true and real. Again, the words import a true and real transportation without any mention of a vision.
The reasons why the devil carries Christ to a high mountain may be these: first, the devil has a great desire to imitate God in His glorious works, that so he may disgrace the works of God, yea and God Himself as much as he can. Now we read that God took up Moses into Mount Nebo, from whence He showed him all the land of Canaan [Deut. 13:14]; so Satan, that he might seem to go beyond God, takes up Christ into an exceeding high mountain to show Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. Secondly, he did it for the furtherance of this last assault wherewith he tempted Christ, for he meant to entice Christ with the glory of the world, and therefore brings Him where He might take the fairest view thereof.
Now in that Satan transports the body of our Savior Christ this second time, we see that by God’s permission, Satan may have power over the bodies of God’s children, to transport the same from place to place, or otherwise to vex them, and that not once only, but sundry times. This we must observe, and remember carefully as a stay and prop against distrust and despair, if God should suffer Satan to vex us, by such transporting of our bodies from place to place, or by any outward calamity; and that not once or twice but divers times; for that which befell the Head Christ Jesus, may well befall any of His members.
The second part of the devil’s preparation is this:
“he shows unto Christ all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.” This he could not do actually, for there is no mountain so high in all the world, whereon if a man were placed, he could see one half or one-quarter of the kingdoms of the world, as they are seated and placed upon the face of the earth; nay if a man were set in the sun, and from thence could look unto the earth, yet he could not see past the half thereof. And therefore we must know that the devil did this in a counterfeit vision, for herein he can frame an imitation of God.
Now the devil’s visions be of two sorts; either in outward senses, or in the mind and understanding. His visions in the outward senses be delusions, whereby he makes men believe they see that which indeed they do not see; this might easily be proved by manifold examples recorded in the histories of all times, but that one shall suffice, of his counterfeit resemblance of Samuel’s form and attire to the witch of Endor for the deluding of Saul [1 Sam. 28:14]; when as indeed Samuel’s true body was in the grave, and his soul with the Lord.
Secondly the devil has visions whereby he deludes the understanding. The Lord says hereof, “the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision” (Zech. 13:4). These visions the devil shows to men sometimes sleeping, and sometimes waking; even as the Lord does show His visions to His own servants. The visions of Satan shown to men sleeping are called dreams: “the false prophet hath his dream” (Deut. 13:1). His visions shown to men waking, are to such as have crazed brains, whom he persuades strange things of themselves, as some, that they are kings or princes; others, that they are Christ, John the Baptist, and such like; examples hereof in all ages are many.
Now touching this vision of Satan to Christ, some think it was inward in Christ’s mind; but I rather take it to have been in His outward senses only, as the words of the text do import; the devil by his art did cunningly set forth and represent unto the eyes of Christ a notable show and representation of all the kingdoms of the earth, and the glory of them.
Herein the devil shows great power and skill in that he can represent unto the eye in his counterfeit visions such strange and admirable sights. And it teaches us, that the practices of sorcerers and magicians, undertaking to represent unto the eye, partly in the air, and partly in glasses, either the persons of men that lived long since, or actions done in far countries, or long before, are not mere fancies as some think, who deny altogether that such things can be shown. For the devil can resemble things done long since and a far off; for if he could set such a sight before the eye of our Savior Christ in vision, as the view of the whole world, and the glory thereof, then much more can he represent unto the eye of man strange and marvelous things.
The devil’s drift in this resemblance unto Christ is this:
Hereby he intended most cunningly to insinuate himself into the heart of our Savior Christ. For before he propounds this third assault, he shows unto Christ all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, that Christ might take a liking of them, and so desire them, and at length accept of them upon Satan’s offer. Thus he dealt with our first parents; upon their first communication he shows unto Eve the outward beauty of the forbidden fruit, “that it was fair to look upon” [Gen. 3:6], and tells her of the good estate they should attain unto by eating of it, and so at length brings her to yield to his temptation.
Hence we must learn to have special care in the good ordering of all the outward senses of our bodies, specially the two senses of learning, seeing and hearing; for by them the devil can cunningly convey his temptations into our hearts. The senses (specially these two) are the windows of the heart and soul, and if we keep them not well, Satan will be sure to convey some evil into us. We must therefore obey Solomon’s counsel, “keep thy heart above all watch and ward” [Prov. 4:23]; this we cannot do unless we look well to our outward senses, for they are the doors of the heart. This made David to pray, “Lord turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity” [Ps. 119:37], and Job to make a covenant with his eyes [Job 31:1]. And so must we make conscience of hearing and looking, lest hereby we give advantage to the tempter.
Further, in this sight observe the deep policy of the devil; there are in the kingdoms of the world besides glory and dignity, many troubles, hurliburlies and vexations; now these the devil conceals from Christ, and shows Him only the glory, pomp, wealth and dignity of the world, that so he might the more easily wind his temptation into the heart of our Savior Christ. And this same course he still observes in tempting men to sin; he hides from their eyes all the miseries, plagues and punishments which are due to sin and that will follow upon it; and shows them only all the profits and delights that they may reap thereby. Thus he sugars over the poison of his temptations, that men never feel the bitterness of them, till their souls be thereby deadly infected, but then he takes a clean contrary course, and shows to the wounded soul all the woes and terrors of God’s wrath, that if it be possible he may bring a man to despair. And therefore we must be most watchful of being ensnared with the deceitfulness of sins in false show of profit and pleasure.
Secondly, the devil’s policy does notably appear in reserving this temptation for the last place; for he knows full well how forcible with man be the temptations of profits, pleasures and honors. From whence we may also learn, that temptations fetched on the right hand from honor, pleasure and commodity, are the most dangerous and do soonest creep into the heart of man, prevailing far more than temptations on the left hand, which are taken from adversity. The devil foiled David worse in the time of peace and ease than ever he could do during the time of Saul’s grievous persecution against him [2 Sam. 11:2]. And he prevailed more against the church by errors and heresies under Constantine and other Christian emperors than he could do by most bloody persecution for the space of three hundred years before. Yea in these our days worldly hopes have drawn those from the sincerity of religion, whom outward violence could not move; prosperity is a slippery path, wherein a man does soon catch a fall, and therefore we must learn to be most watchful over our own hearts when we have fairest weather with the world.
Lastly, Saint Luke adds this circumstance of time, that the devil showed all these things unto Christ in as short a time as might be, even in a moment or point of time [Luke 4:5]; whereby we may perceive the devil’s great celerity87 and speed in doing anything he takes in hand, herein he goes beyond all men in the world; for being a spirit he is able to work wonders, and though he cannot go beyond the strength and compass of nature, because his power is finite, yet by reason of his agility and speed he can go beyond the ordinary course of nature in the manner of working the things he takes in hand. And this exceeding quick speed the devil here uses, to stir up in Christ a more eager desire after those strange and goodly things whereof He had but as it were a glimpse, that so by degrees he might work in Christ a liking of them; for the nature of man does more eagerly affect strange things when they be sudden, and the eye of man does more wistly88 behold them. And this also, as the former, must make us watchful against all Satan’s crafty wiles, that we be not beguiled by him. Thus much for Satan’s preparation.
The second point in this conflict, is the temptation itself, in these words, “And said unto him, all these will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (v. 9).
The drift of Satan in this assault (which we must carefully observe) is to draw Christ to commit idolatry by the hope of worldly kingdoms and the glory of them; herewith he proves Him when he could neither weaken His faith by his first temptation, nor work presumption in Him by his second. And look how he deals here with Christ, so does he commonly in the world; many a one’s conscience and religion does he quite overthrow by worldly hopes of riches, pleasures and preferments. Hereby not only ordinary professors, but ministers and preachers of the gospel have been drawn to abjure and renounce that truth which formerly they have taught, and to betake themselves as the pope’s vassals to profess and maintain his blasphemous idolatries. Hereby also Protestant merchants are drawn to become very serviceable to the popish churches, by transporting among them wax and such like merchandise, which serve as necessary helps and furtherances to their idolatrous service. And what else is it that makes the people generally to change religion with the times and states, but because they would still enjoy their worldly commodities? And the more men do possess in the world, ordinarily the less courage and resolution they have for the religion of God, as experience in Queen Mary’s days has shown; which in general may admonish us how dangerous an enemy the world is to the power of true religion.
This temptation has two parts:
A promise made to Christ; and the condition thereof.
The promise in these words, “All these will I give thee.” He says not, I will procure God to give them unto Thee, but I will give Thee them; where we may see that Satan’s drift is to cause Christ to take him for His Lord, to depend and wait on him for His kingdom, and to acknowledge him to be the giver thereof, which notably bewrays his egregious boldness, that dares thus challenge to himself the Lord’s own right, even in the presence of Him who was true Lord and King of heaven and earth. Let no man therefore think that Satan will lose ought for want of adventure, but in regard thereof be better armed against him.
Now that which the devil aimed at in Christ does he commonly effect in the world; he makes men believe that he is the giver of all things and so brings many a one to rely upon him. Indeed with their lips men will confess that God gives them their daily bread, even all things they have; but their dealings and practices speak aloud that the devil is governor and giver of all. For how do many men get their livings? Is it not by lying, fraud, and oppression? Do not most men hereby seek to enrich themselves? Well, the just Lord never approves such means; the devil sets such courses afloat, and him they serve, and on him they rely that walk therein.
Secondly, note a further reach of Satan in this promise of these earthly kingdoms, even to overthrow Christ’s spiritual kingdom. Satan knew well that if Christ were the true Messiah He should be a King, and have a kingdom, though not earthly, yet spiritual in the hearts and consciences of men, which should be the ruin of his kingdom; and therefore he labors with Christ to entertain an earthly kingdom, that so His spiritual kingdom might not be looked after. And look as he seeks to deal with Christ the Head, so he perseveres against the church which is His body; for God’s church has its ministry, which in its nature is a sovereignty, to be exercised in the dispensation of the Word. Now the devil has labored by all means to bring this ministry wherein the church’s spiritual sovereignty does consist, to become an earthly lordship and dominion, that by this means he might overturn it, and make it fruitless in the building and upholding of Christ’s spiritual kingdom. And how he has prevailed this way the Church of Rome does show to all the world.
Thirdly, observe the largeness of the devil’s promise: “he will give to Christ, all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them”; but this is more than he meant to our Savior Christ, at leastwise more than he could perform, for all these were not in his power. Now because in all things we must be as unlike the devil as may be, hence we must learn to be wary and watchful to our promises, that therein we be not like unto Satan, promising that which we never mean to perform, or never can perform though we meant it. In all our promises, therefore, we must look to two things:
first, whether the thing we promise be in our power;
secondly, whether it be lawful for us to perform; and thus making promises we must endeavor always to make good the same. This fidelity in keeping promise is a fruit of the Spirit, called by the apostle, “faith” (Gal. 5:25), and a property of him that must “rest in God’s holy mountain” (Ps. 15:4), not to change from a man’s lawful oath or promise, though the performance of it tends to his great hindrance.
Fourthly, in this promise of Satan we may observe that he knows all the kingdoms of the world, else he could not have shown them to Him which here he offers to give; yea his offering of them, with the glory of them all, which he could so speedily represent, does show unto us that he is most expert in the policies and regiments of states and kingdoms; he goes not to and fro for naught compassing the earth (Job 1:7).
And his promise of them to Christ, was made to enflame His heart with ambition after those kingdoms and glories, that He might enjoy some of them at the least. Wherein we may note that one special practice of the devil is to overturn states and kingdoms, by putting ambition into men’s hearts after earthly kingdoms and glories. His study is to do mischief, and in the ruin of kingdoms he overthrows many, and therefore hereunto he endeavors himself with might and main. Hence come insurrections and rebellions in kingdoms, which no time nor age could ever escape. Look as he stirred up the Chaldeans and Sabeans to enrich themselves by spoiling of Job [Job 1:15–17], so deals he by ambitious and covetous persons in all estates, as true records of times do fully testify.
We may see the truth hereof in our own land, in the manifold complots and treasons both at home and abroad that have been conspired and attempted against our prince and state, by profane men stirred up by the devil through ambition and discontent; howsoever by God’s mercy themselves have been taken in the snare that they laid for others. In regard whereof we are all bound to yield all praise and glory to God for His gracious preservation and defense both of our prince and state; and to show forth our thankfulness by all holy obedience unto that God who has brought to naught the devilish conspiracies and treacheries of the ambitious instruments of Satan.
Secondly, we must pray unto God continually for the preservation of our prince and state, crying aloud unto God as the people did at the coronation of Solomon [1 Kings 1:39], for the safety of our prince: yea we must daily entreat the Lord to bring to naught the counsel of Ahithophels [2 Sam. 17], and of all that think evil against the Lord’s anointed among us.
Question. But how comes it to pass that any prince or state can stand, if the devil has such malice against them?
Answer. Through the good providence of God, who gives His good angels charge to guard and defend, not only His children in particular, but also whole kingdoms and states. And one part of their office is for the good of God’s church to repel the rage of Satan and his instruments, yea to stand with God’s church in the execution of judgments upon the enemies thereof. In the siege of Jericho a heavenly captain of the Lord of Hosts came to help Joshua [Josh. 5:14]; and when the king of Syria sent a mighty host to take the prophet Elisha that was in Dothan, the Lord sent for his defense “horses and chariots of fire which filled the mountains” [2 Kings 6:17]. And in the days of Hezekiah, for his comfort, and the joy of God’s people, an angel of the Lord slew in the host of Sennacherib, that came against Jerusalem, “an hundred fourscore and five thousand in one night” [Isa. 37:36]. And we want not sure testimony of this good providence of God, in the strange discoveries of many devilish conspiracies.
Fifthly, Satan says, “all these will I give thee.” This is the voice of the great red dragon; and the same is the voice of the pope of Rome, both registered in their canons and daily attempted in practice, to dispose of all the kingdoms of the earth; whereby he shows evidently, that he is that “beast coming out of the earth having two horns like the lamb, but he spake like the dragon” [Rev. 13:11]. For the lamb’s horns he shows in calling himself the servant of servants; and the voice of the dragon, that is, of the devil, in taking upon him to dispose of the sovereignties of these earthly kingdoms.
Lastly, Saint Luke records a reason, which the devil adds to his promise, to prevent all conceit of impossibility in him to perform the same; to wit, for that “the power and glory of all the kingdoms of the world is delivered to him, and to whomsoever he will he gives it” [Luke 4:6]. Wherein observe in Satan two notorious sins: first, a gross lie; for Daniel says, that it is “Jehovah, the most high God, who beareth rule over all the kingdoms of men, and giveth them to whomsoever he will” [Dan. 4:21]. Secondly, arrogant and shameless boasting, to vaunt himself even to the Lord’s own face, as though he were sovereign Lord of that which belongs to God alone. The consideration whereof must move us, who in all godly conversation must be contrary to Satan, to renounce all lying, and to make conscience to speak the truth from our hearts. And also to abandon all vain boasting of ourselves what we are, or what we can do, yea rather to speak basely of ourselves that so God in all good things we do may have glory. Lying and bragging are the properties of Satan, and therefore cannot beseem the tongue and heart of the children of God.
The second point in this temptation is the hard condition which Satan would have Christ to yield unto for this gift:
“If thou wilt fall down and worship me”; even to commit most abominable idolatry in worshipping the devil himself. Herein we may observe sundry things.
First, that it is a principal part of the devil’s endeavors against God’s church, to seek the overthrow of true religion, and the pure worship of God, by sowing therein the seeds of heresies and idolatries; for if he dares be thus bold with Christ the Head, as to seek to draw Him from the worship of His Father to such abominable idolatry, what will he not attempt with silly and sinful men?
The Scriptures are plentiful in showing his endeavors this way.
“Micaiah saw in vision an evil spirit” offering himself unto God, to become a lying spirit in the mouth of “all Ahab’s prophets,” even four hundred at one time [1 Kings 22:22].
When Joshua the high priest stood before the Lord, “Satan stood at his right hand to resist him” [Zech. 3:1]; he sought to hinder the building and worship of the material temple. Much more therefore will he seek to hinder the building of the spiritual temple, even the work of the ministry in conversion of souls whereby they are pulled out of Satan’s kingdom, and made pillars in the temple of the living God. Satan is that “envious man that soweth tares” [Matt. 13:39] of errors and heresies in the church of God which is the field of the good husbandman.
He hindered Paul from coming to the Thessalonians, whereby it appears, that he did his endeavor to hinder the course of the apostolic ministry [1 Thess. 2:18]. In the church of Smyrna, “he cast some into prison” [Rev. 2:10], stirring up wicked men so to do, thereby to hinder the embracing of the gospel.
“John saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet” [Rev. 16:13–14]. These are spirits of devils, “working miracles, and going to the kings of the earth”: thither they go for the stoppage of the gospel; for if kings oppose themselves they become greatest hinderers to the gospel of all other. And these frogs, by the common consent of catholic expositors, are the rabble of popish friars, priests, and Jesuits, who seek the infection of states through all the world. By all which, the devil’s enmity against the church is most apparent.
First, this shows what care and diligence God’s ministers should show for the building of God’s church and the furtherance of the gospel, for they should seek to the uttermost of their power to countervail the envious practice of Satan against the church. Secondly, every Christian must hence learn to pray not only for their own good estate, but also for the welfare of God’s church everywhere, in the free passage of the gospel, in the establishing of true doctrine, and in the continuance of constant obedience thereunto. For Satan’s endeavor is to subvert and corrupt the truth, and to draw men from obedience; and unto him God’s children must ever oppose themselves, the rather because their welfare stands in the good of God’s church.
Secondly, in this condition of Satan’s offer to Christ we may observe that his endeavor is to bring men to worship him; for if he durst attempt a demand hereof at the hands of Christ, who shall think to escape this assault when opportunity serves him? And howsoever men think it impossible, that Satan should thus far prevail with any, as to bring them to worship him; yet doubtless (though he could not prevail with Christ) herein he attains his purpose in the world, and that with the greatest part thereof: for the three religions of the Jew, Turk, and papist, do at this day overspread the greatest part of the face of the earth, and in them all, such a worship of God is propounded unto men, wherein God is not worshipped but the devil.
For the evidence whereof mark these two rules: first, that all doctrines devised by man in the matter of religion, which either directly or by just consequence oppugn95 the Word of God, are doctrines of devils (1 Tim. 4:1, 3). Doctrines repugnant to the Word, touching marriage and meats, are doctrines of devils; and so by proportion are all such like. Secondly, all devised worship of God by man, against God’s Word, is no worship of God, but of the devil: “The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice unto devils and not unto God” (1 Cor. 10:20). Doubtless, the Gentiles intended to worship God in their images, but because that worship was not according to God’s will, the apostle respects not their intent, as a thing that could nothing avail in this case, but says peremptorily, their worship was done unto the devil. And in reason it must be so, for why should we think, that God should accept that for His worship which is not agreeable to His will, but devised by man according to the will of the devil?
From these two rules it will follow, that the best of the three forenamed religions is no worship of God, but of the devil; for all of them have such worship as is devised by man, and not of God. The Jew worships God out of Christ; and so does the Turk; yea and the papists worship God, but yet outside of the true Christ; for (as has been shown elsewhere) the Christ of the papists is a counterfeit Christ. And in many other points of their religion, there is apparent repugnancy to the Word of God; yea of their sacrifice of the Mass, we may as truly say as the apostle did of heathen idol worship, that they sacrifice not unto God, but to the devil, for therein is as vile, accursed and abominable idolatry, as ever was devised by man. So that it is plain the devil does mightily prevail in causing men to worship him. Yea he prevails thus not only in the world, but in God’s church; for all such as (notwithstanding their outward profession) have their hearts set upon the world, more eagerly affecting the honors, profits and pleasures thereof than God and His Word, do in deed and truth worship the devil. For he is “the god of this world” [2 Cor. 4:4], ruling in the heart of the children of disobedience; by the baits of honor, profit and pleasure he steals men’s hearts from God, and so herein they doing the will of the devil, must needs worship him; for look whereon a man sets his heart, that he makes his God.
Thirdly, here observe that the devil would fain make a covenant with Christ; for worship at Christ’s hands, he will give Christ the glory and riches of the world; hereto is nothing wanting but Christ’s consent. Whereby we see that it may be true which sundry times we hear of, and many histories do record, to wit, that some persons do make a league with the devil, wherein the devil covenants to be serviceable unto them in procuring them honor, riches, pleasures, or great renown for some strange activities, whereto he will enable them, upon condition that they for their part give unto him, their bodies, their souls, or their blood. Some indeed are of mind, that such things are mere forgeries and delusions of the devil, and that no league can be made between him and man; but they are deceived, for he attempted in effect such a thing with Christ, what will he not therefore do with silly and sinful men, especially when he finds them cast down with discontents? And thus much for the devil’s assault.
The third point in this conflict is Christ’s answer, “Then Jesus said unto him, Avoid Satan; for it is written, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (v. 10). This I will handle as the words do lie in order.
Before His answer He propounds a speech of indignation and detestation both of the devil and his offer, “Avoid Satan”; as if He should say, I have heard you Satan speak injuriously against My Father’s Word, and against Myself; and now again, you utter blasphemy against My Father, wherein you go about to dishonor Him greatly; but I abhor you Satan, and these your temptations, therefore hence, avoid, and have no more to do with Me.
In this detestation of Christ towards Satan, for uttering blasphemy against His Father, in his challenge to have power to dispose of all the kingdoms of the world as being his own, we are taught, not only to grieve at such blasphemies as we shall hear uttered against God, but to testify our detestation and indignation towards them. The world is full of black-mouthed Rabshakehs, who will not spare to blaspheme the glorious name of our God, and to scoff and deride His sacred Word. Now when we meet with such, we must not be like stoics without affection, but in Christian wisdom from bleeding hearts for the reproach of God, show forth godly zeal and indignation for the rescue of His glory.
The hypocritical practice of wicked Jezebel in proclaiming a fast upon the false accusation of Naboth’s blasphemy against God and the king [1 Kings 21:2, 10], may teach God’s church to be zealous indeed against all blasphemers. When Rabshakeh railed on the God of Israel, good King Hezekiah “rent his clothes,” and humbled himself in great measure for that reproach against his God [2 Kings 19:1]. “Tears were David’s meat day and night” [Ps. 42:3], while the heathen among whom he was constrained to live, “said unto him, where is thy God?” “And just Lot vexed his righteous soul from day to day with the unlawful deeds of the filthy Sodomites, living among them” [2 Peter 2:8].
The practice of these godly men must be a precedent for us to follow, that we hear no blasphemy against God without detestation. And as all God’s children must practice this duty, so especially masters of families; David would not suffer “a liar” or “a slanderer to come in his sight, or abide in his house” [Ps. 101:7], much less would he have endured a blasphemer of God, or a slanderer of His Word. The Law commanded that the “blasphemer should be stoned to death” [Lev. 24:14], who wittingly and willingly spoke a word against God, and no doubt this law is perpetual. Let a man but speak a word of disgrace against an earthly prince, and it costs him his life, and that justly; how much more then should he die the death though he had a thousand lives, that shall blaspheme the King of kings? Shall one that has been baptized into the name of Christ say there is no God, and that the Scriptures are but a device of man, and yet live? God forbid. For this hellish sin defiles a kingdom. And therefore the magistrate with the sword of justice must cry out against such wretches, “Away from us, blasphemers.”
Secondly, in this Avant of Christ given to Satan, we learn how to behave ourselves against enticers from religion and the obedience of God; we must hold them as limbs of the devil, and in that regard have nothing to do with them, but with Christ bid them avoid from us. The Lord commanded that in this case, “Parents should not spare their own children; nor children spare their parents, if they were enticers to idolatry, but their own hands must be first upon them to put them to death” [Deut. 13:6, 9]. Our Savior Christ would not spare Peter when he gave Him bad counsel, to spare Himself from suffering that which God has ordained for Him, but says unto him, “get behind me, Satan” [Matt. 16:23]. So that we are without excuse if we shall reject this counsel of Solomon, “Hear no more the instruction, that causeth to err from the words of knowledge” [Prov. 19:27].
Thirdly, hereby we also learn how to behave ourselves towards Satan when he is violent and importunate in his temptations, to wit, that howsoever we may reply to them out of God’s Word when they are more mild, yet when Satan begins therein to show his force and violence we must not reason with him; for Christ would not endure his blasphemy, though He answered his temptations. In schools of learning it is counted a simple part to hold always to the conclusion; but in the school of Christ when the conscience is to deal with Satan, the safest way is by both hands of faith to lay fast hold of the conclusion. Cleave fast to Christ, let the devil say what he will, be not drawn thence one jot.
After Christ has shown His detestation to Satan’s blasphemy He answers his temptation, saying, “It is written, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, etc.” And whereas He says the third time, “it is written,” taking His answer from the Scripture, it teaches us that Scripture of itself is of power sufficient to vanquish the devil. This the Church of Rome will not admit, for they make Scripture to be of two kinds: inward and outward. By inward Scripture they mean the universal consent of all Catholics in all ages. And by outward Scripture, they understand the written Word contained in the Bible. Now they say, inward Scripture is the more excellent, for the outward Scripture they call a dead letter, of little or no power; and they make general councils equal with them for substance of doctrine. If this were true, Christ would not have alleged outward Scripture, as they call it; but He knew the written Word was the powerful weapon, sufficient to vanquish the devil. And therefore herein they do shamefully blaspheme the truth of God, and so God Himself.
Secondly, this allegation of Christ teaches us how to behave ourselves against all enemies of the truth that would allure us to heresy, as to popery, Anabaptism or such like; namely to stick fast to the text of Scripture, and not to suffer ourselves by any means to be drawn from it. It may be you are unlearned and your adversary both learned and eloquent; yet here is your refuge, cleave the faster to this written Word, and if you have one text for your truth, make more account thereof than of all the testimonies of councils, fathers, or men whatsoever. This instruction is needful, for it may be God will suffer seducers to try His children, and then, unless they keep sure this ground of faith, they shall surely be seduced.
The text which Christ alleges for His answer is taken out of Deuteronomy 6:13, where the words are thus read, “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him.” At the first, it may seem that Christ misalleges that text, and corrupts it, for where Moses says, “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God,” Christ says, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God”; and to the latter part Christ adds the word “only,” saying, “him only shalt thou serve,” for that which Moses says, “and serve him.” But the truth is, here is no corruption, but a most worthy allegation, as we shall plainly see, if we consider two things:
First, that Christ and His apostles in alleging the Scriptures of the Old Testament, did not so much respect the words as the true and proper meaning of the place.
Secondly, that they oft expound the places which they allege, and thereupon do sometimes vary in word, but still retain the true sense and meaning. So it is in this text alleged: Moses says, “thou shalt fear the Lord thy God,” understanding by “fear,” religious awe and reverence, and Christ saying, “thou shalt worship or adore the Lord thy God,” understands by worship outward adoration in bowing of the body, whereby we testify the inward awe and reverence of the heart, as when we humble ourselves to call upon God by prayer. And this change of words by Christ, serves for excellent use in this place, to wit, to let us more clearly see what this fear of God is. To fear God in that place is from a reverent awe of the heart towards God to humble a man’s self in prostrating his body before the Lord, either to praise God for benefits received, or to pray unto Him for gifts and graces needful.
Again, for the word which He adds, therein is no fault at all, for the full sense and true meaning of Moses’ text must needs include so much, as the prohibition annexed in the verse following does plainly show, for saying, “thou shalt fear the Lord thy God and serve him” [v. 13], and adding, “Thou shalt not walk after other gods” (v. 14), is it not all one, as if he had said, “thou shalt serve him only”? So that we have just cause to bless God for the true and plain explaining of the words, and not to surmise the least corruption in the alleging of them.
Now then for our further instruction in this text alleged, consider two points:
First, what worship and service is;
Secondly, to whom it belongs.
First, worship in general betokens the exhibiting and giving of reverence and honor to another. This worship is two-fold: civil or divine. Civil worship is that outward reverence and honor which one man gives to another, as by prostrating the body, bowing the knee, etc. The end of civil worship is to testify and acknowledge superiority and preeminence in another, either for authority and office, as the subject worships his king and governor; or for gifts and graces, or for old age, as inferiors in gifts and younger in age by due reverence must acknowledge. In this civil manner did “Jacob bow himself seven times to his brother Esau,” thereby acknowledging him for his superior and better (Gen. 33:3). Thus also did “Abraham bow himself before the Hittites” (Gen. 23:7). And “Lot unto the angels that came into Sodom,” taking them to be but men (Gen. 19:1). And in this civil manner it is lawful to kneel before kings and princes, to testify our subjection unto them, and loyal acknowledgement of their preeminence over us under God.
Divine worship is the ascribing of divinity to the thing we honor, whereby we make it unto us some divine thing above the order of any creature. A man may ascribe divinity unto a thing four ways:
First, by attributing the Godhead unto it, or giving unto it such honor, whereby he acknowledges the same to be God.
Secondly, by ascribing unto it the attributes of God, as omnipresence, omnipotence, to be most just, to know all things, etc.
Thirdly, by accepting and acknowledging it to be the Creator and Governor of all things. Fourthly, by acknowledging it to be the Giver of all good things, the Defender and Deliverer from all evil. And to whatsoever thing in worship a man ascribes any of these, to the same does he ascribe divinity. This divine worship does principally consist in religion and piety; for by religion, which indeed is God’s worship, and by piety, do men ascribe unto a thing divine and religious honor.
Divine worship is twofold: inward in the mind; or outward in the body.
Inward divine worship is when a man gives his heart and soul to anything, devoting thereto the affections of his heart, as love, fear, joy, hope, faith and confidence, and that because he conceives it to be God, having divine properties, as omnipotence, infinite wisdom, justice, mercy, etc., or being the Creator and Governor of all; or the Giver of all good things unto him, and his Preserver from all evil. This devoting of the heart and soul unto God with the faculties and affections thereof, is the ground and substance of all divine worship, and indeed can be given to nothing but to that which is God, or conceived of as God.
Outward divine worship is when a man shall any way bow, prostrate, or cast down his body to anything, thereby to testify, that his mind and heart are devoted to it; as that he holds it to be God, to be omnipotent, etc., Creator and Governor, and his Preserver, and therefore he does repose his trust and affiance therein, set his love, joy, and fear thereon above all other things. And here we may observe a difference between civil worship and divine. By outward civil worship we only acknowledge preeminence and superiority in another, in regard of authority, of gifts, age or such like. But by outward divine worship we acknowledge divinity to be in the thing whereto we bow or prostrate ourselves. Again, we must here also remember, that outward divine worship serves only to testify the inward, even to make known what thing it is which we conceive to be God, and whereto we have devoted the affections of our hearts.
Thus we see what worship is, and the kinds thereof. And here we must understand our Savior Christ to mean outward divine worship, as if He should say, You shall religiously submit, bow, or prostrate your body unto God in prayer and thanksgiving, thereby testifying that you have devoted your heart and soul unto Him, not only conceiving Him to be the divine essence, omnipotent, infinite, etc., but also that you do rest and rely on Him as on your Creator, who does bless you with all good things and preserve you from all evil.
Besides this worship, God does mention a serving of God, which being distinguished from worship must needs import some other thing. Service in general, is nothing else but the giving and performing of obedience to the commandment of another.
This service is twofold: absolute, or in part.
Absolute service is when a man obeys the commandment of another without any condition or exception, and that not only in body outwardly, but in soul and conscience, in thought, will and affection. And this absolute service is proper to God alone, for we must never call His commandments into question, but look what God commands and as He commands it, so must we simply and absolutely yield obedience thereto, not only outwardly in body, but inwardly in soul and spirit with the powers and faculties thereof, and in all the affections of our hearts.
Service in part is that which is due to governors and superiors from their inferiors in the Lord; for God has given power to magistrates here on earth to make laws for the good of civil estates, in yielding obedience whereunto their inferiors must do them service; yet not absolutely, but with restraint, to wit, in the Lord, so far forth as their commands agree with the will of God, and cross not His command. Again our obedience unto them is in body and outward conversation; indeed we must from the heart yield service and obedience unto them, but yet the conscience properly cannot be bound by men’s laws; they only concern the outward man in speech, gesture and behavior. Now of these two kinds of service, our Savior Christ speaks here, of simple and absolute service, whereby both soul and body with all the powers and parts thereof yield absolute obedience and subjection to the will and commandment of God.
We see what worship and service is here required; now we must observe the person to whom the same is to be given,
In these words: “The Lord thy God”; divine worship whether inward or outward, and absolute service of the whole man, must be given to no creature, angel or man, be they never so excellent, but to the true God alone. The scope and drift of the first and second commandments is to bind every man to give so much to his God, and to beware of giving the same to any other besides the Lord. And the practice of the good angel that talked with John does show the same thing, for when John fell before his feet to worship him, the angel said, “see thou do it not:—worship God” [Rev. 19:10]. Where we see the good angels do strive for the furtherance of God’s right in these duties, howsoever this wicked spirit tempting Christ, does herein seek God’s great disgrace. And thus we may perceive that Christ’s applying of this text against Satan’s temptation is most pregnant; for Satan requiring of Christ the prostrating of His body before the devil, in token that He did worship him as the giver of those kingdoms which he offered unto Christ, is justly repulsed by this text, which binds every man to give outward divine worship, whereby the inward worship of the heart is signified, to God alone, and not to any creature.
Here then we may learn that it is not lawful to give to saint or angel, or any creature whatsoever, outward divine worship or adoration, whereby the inward devotion of the heart is testified.
This text is plain to the contrary, and the reason we have heard, because divine prostrating of the body to anything is a testification that we ascribe divinity unto it some way; which without the guilt of idolatry cannot be done to any creature. For let a man worship saint or angel by prayer or thanksgiving, and therein he does ascribe unto them some property of the divine nature, as, to know the heart, to be able to hear, to help or such like.
The papists here say, they do not think the saints to whom they pray to be God, neither do they worship them as God. But this will help them little; for the devil moving Christ to yield unto him outward divine worship, never meant that Christ should adore him for God, but only desired, that by this outward adoration of prostrating His body before him, Christ would acknowledge him to be the giver of these kingdoms (for he durst not be so bold as absolutely to desire to be worshipped for God), and yet Christ tells him, that outward divine worship even in respect of the acknowledgement of such a gift is proper to God alone. And yet the Church of Rome does give unto saints that which the devil demands and Christ denies by appropriating it unto God; for they make several saints deliverers and protectors from several diseases and dangers, as the Virgin Mary from shipwreck; Saint Roch from the pestilence; Raphael from sore eyes; Apollonia from the toothache; and Catharine for all manner of afflictions.
Yea they make them patrons and protectors of whole countries and kingdoms, as Saint James for Spain; Saint Denis for France; Saint Patrick for Ireland, etc. Now since many a one may give a kingdom that cannot defend it, let all men judge whether they do not give more unto saints than Satan demanded to be acknowledged unto him by our Savior Christ; yea they make them intercessors for the procuring of the favor of God and life everlasting; they call the Virgin Mary, “the Queen of Heaven,” and pray to her, that by the authority of a mother, she would command her son to hear their prayers; which is to make Christ a puny and underling unto her, which are greater matters than the disposing of earthly kingdoms.
Here they say, that they may do that to the glorious saints in heaven, which is done to earthly princes; for men adore them and in their absence fall down before their chair of estate.
Answer. The adoration given to princes, is but a civil acknowledgement of their preeminence: and kneeling before their chair of estate, is only a testimony of loyalty and subjection; it is not directed to the prince’s person being absent, but only serves to testify his subjection to that authority and power which is set over him in the Lord; there is no divine propriety ascribed by either of these unto the person or authority of the prince. But now in bowing down to pray to saints, there is religious adoration given them, for therein be ascribed unto them these divine properties, that they can know the heart, hear and help afar off, pray for them in particular, and such like; by all which God is robbed of His honor.
And though we condemn the papists for giving to saints divine worship, yet we must beware of despising the saints of God in heaven, for there is due unto them a threefold honor: first, thanksgiving to God for them, who enabled them by His gifts and graces to be in their times, special instruments of good unto God’s church.
Secondly, we are to carry a reverent estimation of them being now in heaven, as of the friends of God and temples of His Holy Spirit.
Thirdly, we are to follow the example of their godly conversations in the duties of godliness, but from giving unto them divine worship we must carefully abstain.
Again, if the divine worship of saints be here condemned, then much more is the worshipping of their relics;
Then also is their instituting and observing fasting days and holy days unto their saints here justly reproved. Neither can our church herein be condemned with them, though we retain the names of such days among us, because it is for another end; our fasts are merely civil on such days; and our holy days turned from the adoration of saints to the service of God, whereon also our conscience knows her liberty given of God for honest labor in a lawful calling as need requires.
Further, observe how Christ here joins the worship of God and the service of God together, teaching us not to content ourselves with doing the duties of God’s worship, but withal we must yield unto Him absolute service and obedience.
Men commonly think they have done enough, if on days appointed they come to the church and there perform outward worship unto God in hearing the Word, in prayer, and receiving the sacraments; these, I confess, be worthy works if they be well performed; but herein is the common error, that when they have performed this outward worship they make no conscience of absolute service, the thing which Christ here joins to worship. They think that in their callings they may live as they list, either idly or unjustly, by fraud and dissembling, but sever not your service from worship, which Christ has joined together, lest God say unto you for your worship as He did once to the Jews, “My soul hateth your new moons and your appointed feasts, they are a burden unto me, etc.” [Isa. 1:14–15].
What, does God hate that worship Himself appointed? No, but He hates the severing of it from service and obedience wherein they should show forth to their brethren love, justice and mercy; He rejects all service at their hands, because “their hands were full of blood” (v. 15). Read Micah 6:6–8. The offering of sacrifice was a special part of worship under the Law, and yet though a man should bring for his sacrifice “thousands of rams, or ten thousand rivers of oil,” nay, though he brought “his firstborn, the fruit of his body for the sin of his soul,” yet all is nothing without “justice, mercy, humbling himself and walking with his God” (v. 8). Let us therefore serve God sincerely in our conversations, as we seem to honor Him in duties of religion. Let us show the fear of God in our lives; for worship without service, is like the “cutting off of a dog’s head, or offering swine’s flesh, etc.” (Isa. 66:3), which is an abomination to the Lord.
Thirdly, observe that Christ adds “only” to Moses’ words, for the better clearing of Moses’ meaning, which may serve for our just defense against the papists. They blame us greatly for teaching that a man is justified by faith only, saying the word “only,” is not in any place ascribed to justification by faith.
We answer, in all the Old Testament this word “only” is not joined to this command, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and serve him,” and yet Christ says, “it is written, him only shalt thou serve,” because the restraint and inhibition annexed, from giving this worship and service to any other, does in effect include only; even so, though in letters and syllables we do not find this word “only” adjoined to this sentence, “man is justified by faith,” yet because of the exclusion of works usually annexed to that phrase, as that, “we are justified by faith without the works of the law” (Rom. 3:28), and “are justified freely by his grace” (Rom. 3:24), and “that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith” (Gal. 2:16), hereupon I say we may hold and teach, and that truly, according to the true sense thereof, following Christ’s example in this place, that the Scripture says, “a man is justified by faith only.”
Lastly, from this commandment we must learn our duty touching God’s service: in word we will all acknowledge ourselves to be His servants, but if herein we will approve ourselves to be His servants, we must resolve and labor to yield unto Him absolute obedience, as well in heart, mind, will, and affection, as in outward conversation. The end of the ministry of the Word is not only to reform the outward man, but “to cast down” the inward “holds” of sin in the imagination, “and to bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” [2 Cor. 10:4–5]. And this is done when after true repentance a man endeavors to yield unto God total obedience, and that from the whole man in soul and body and spirit, not for a time, but continually.
William Perkins, 1606, 1, 138–157.