The Temptation -- By: Lemuel S. Potwin

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 022:85 (Jan 1865)
Article: The Temptation
Author: Lemuel S. Potwin


The Temptation

Lemuel S. Potwin

“Thou hast had much to say of Paradise lost,” said Thomas Ellwood to Milton, but what hast thou to say of Paradise found? “The poet soon found something to say. The title of his poem was “Paradise Regained,” but his real theme was the Temptation of Christ.

“I, who ere while the happy garden sung
By one man’s disobedience lost, now sing
Recovered paradise to all mankind,
By one man’s firm obedience, fully tried
Through all temptation, and the tempter foiled
In all his wiles, defeated and repulsed,
And Eden raised in the waste wilderness.” — Bk. I.

According to this poem the primary design of Satan was to ascertain whether Jesus was in a pre-eminent sense the Son of God:

“Then hear, O Son of David, virgin-born, —
For Son of God to me is yet in doubt:
Of the Messiah I had heard, foretold
By all the prophets; of thy birth, at length
Announced by Gabriel, with the first I knew,
And of the angelic song, in Bethlehem field,
On thy birth-night, that sung thee Saviour born.
From that time seldom have I ceased to eye
Thy infancy, thy childhood, and thy youth,
Thy manhood last, though yet in private bred;
Till, at the ford of Jordan, whither all
Flock to the Baptist, I, among the rest
(Though not to be baptized), by voice from heaven,
Heard thee pronounced the Son of God beloved.
Thenceforth I thought thee worth my nearer view
And narrower scrutiny, that I might learn
In what degree or meaning thou art called
The Son of God, which bears no single sense:

The Son of God I also am, or was;
And if I was, I am— relation stands :
All men are sons of God; yet thee I thought
In some respect far higher so declared;
Therefore I watched thy footsteps from that hour,
And followed thee still on to this waste wild.” — Bk. IV.

To accomplish his object Satan subjects Jesus to a twofold series of tests, the one designed to try his human virtue, the other to try his absolute divinity. In the first temptation, unable to learn his divinity (the miracle of turning stones to bread being declined), the tempter assails the appetite of Jesus with “pompous delicacies”:

“Alas, how simple, to these cates compared,
Was that crude apple that diverted Eve!”

He then tempts him with the offer of riches :

“Get riches first, get wealth, and treasure heap;
Not difficult, if thou hearken to me.”

Then he tries to awaken a love of glory:

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