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other scriptural examples, in which God is said to be tempted. St. Paul, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, has cautioned them against tempting God. He
66 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents;”.
The example which the Apostle here cites to illustrate his meaning in the word tempt, differs, though in a very slight degree, from the case which we have been before considering. It is stated in the Book of Numbers “The soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. .
And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness ? for there is no bread, neither any water, and our soul loatheth this light bread ?;" meaning the manna with
" which they had been fed.
Here, to tempt God, signifies, to be discontented with his dispensations, and to murmur against him, without questioning either his
presence. When they had journeyed long, and it still seemed good to the Lord that they should continue in the wilderness, till he had wrought out his all-wise purposes, their faith began to fail. The remembrance of his deliverances and mercies,
power or his
• Ch. x. ver. 9.
P Numb. xxi. 4, 5.
the sense of their own unworthiness, soon faded away; and, upon the occurrence of difficulty and hardship, they became irritable and fretful, and vented their discontent in unjust and impious reproaches.
66 Wherefore,” said they, “ have ye brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness ?” And not only contumeliously, but falsely, they said, there was neither bread nor water. But had God not fed his people with bread from heaven, though they chose to despise it? had he not brought water out of the hard rock, more yielding than the flinty hearts of his ungrateful children?
As the Psalmist has testified, “Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto the Lord, and he delivered them out of their distress 9.
But notwithstanding their reiterated experience of these mercies, they became discontented, and presumed to utter the most audacious murmurs.
They were quickly made sensible of their folly and wickedness, by its immediate and awful punishment.
But is not their ungrateful conduct continually copied ? Is there not still abundant scope for the Apostle's caution“ Neither
4 Ps.cvii. 5, 6.
let us tempt Christ, as some of them tempted, and were destroyed of serpents ?” Is not discontent always tempting God?
So long as the blessings and enjoyments of life are showered upon men, they are probably not dissatisfied with God's providence and government; but the moment calamity or disappointments meet them, how prone are they to repine and to question the goodness of his dispensations. But let us take instruction upon
this point from Job. “What!” said he, “ shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil ?” It is at the hand of God we receive both. The same wise and merciful Being dispenses both the pleasures and the afflictions of life; and it should be remembered that both, in his hands, may be rendered blessings. What, then, is impatience and discontent, under the latter, but tempting him? What is it but questioning his wisdom or his goodness ; and treating him as though he were unwilling or unable to order all things, and cause them to work together for good ? Let us not thus tempt God, lest we be “ destroyed of the destroyer.”
Another case of tempting God occurs in the fifth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Ananias and Sapphira endeavoured to practise a deception on the Apostles, though they knew them to be extraordinarily inspired with the Holy Ghost.
They imagined, that, because no human eye beheld them, their deeds and intentions were secret. But God knew the thoughts of their hearts, and revealed their deceit to his apostles. The awful penalty which their guilt incurred, and the fearful warning which their death exhibited to all men, is well
, known. Let it be engraved in our hearts. Let the cheat, let the liar, who applauds himself for having deceived his fellows, let him contemplate the fate of Ananias and Sapphira, and then remember, that he is ever under the all-seeing eye of God. Let him not, therefore, tempt God, by acting, as though he thought concealment were possible. Let him rather have God “ always before" him : let him engage in no enterprise, let him habituate himself not to proceed in any pursuit, till he has well impressed upon his mind, that God is privy to all his intentions, motives, and thoughts. And with this impression on his mind, let him honestly, and seriously put it to his conscience, whether what he is about to do is likely, to please God, and not to be detrimental to the work of his salvation. Let no secrecy, no concealment from human penetration, ever induce him to defraud, or de
ceive; because we know that this is to “tempt the Spirit of the Lord'." And Jesus has said, it is written, “ Thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God.”
Finally, of all cases, in which men may be said to tempt the Lord, the most awful is that of obdurate, and impious unbelievers, who fearlessly defy the Majesty of Heaven, and blaspheme his holy name. Many most lamentable, and appalling instances of this are recorded in Scripture. Who,” says the haughty Pharaoh, “ Who is the Lord, that I should obey Him." A series of terrible visitations soon rendered him a convincing answer to his impious question, and taught him how feeble, and contemptible he was, in the sight of the King of kings. But in no recorded instance, in which the long-suffering of God has borne with the perverseness of men, has greater mercy on the one hand, and atrocity on the other, been displayed, than when the infatuated chief priests, and scribes tempted the Saviour on the cross, when they reviled and mocked him; called on him to come down from the cross; and tauntingly exclaimed, “ He saved others, himself he cannot save. This is tempting God in a most perilous manner, and this is not without
• Exod. v. 2.