The beginning of Ephraim Peabody's sermon on:
"TEMPTATION OF CHRIST
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Matthew iv. i.
The lesson for the day contains an account of the temptation of our Lord. This event in our Saviour's history has filled commentators with perplexity. For myself, I see nothing in the literal account, as such, so far, I mean, as the idea of spiritual agency is concerned, to give any special embarrassment to my faith. I am not satisfied with the reasoning of those, who imagine that they have discovered the absurdity of believing in the existence of wicked spirits invisible to the mortal eye. It seems to me a surprising stretch of presumption for an unimportant creature like man, lodged on this unimportant planet, to imagine that he is the only creature in the universe, excepting God ; and it seems quite as absurd for us to imagine that we, who do not understand more than the surface of natural laws, who only penetrate into the suburbs of visible nature, are competent to speak loudly of the mysteries and laws and relations of the spiritual world. I judge not for others, but for myself. I do not suppose that the interval between man and the Almighty is a blank and lifeless void, but that planets, and suns, and stars, and the immeasurable spaces of the heavens, are peopled with living creatures. I find no difficulty in supposing that beings with higher faculties than ours, have, within such limits as God appoints, and in harmony with the laws of the human mind, the ability to act on us, to awaken thoughts, and to help our purposes. And that this is not the case is, I think, more than any logic or philosophy ever yet has proved. I do not mean to say that the pictures of Dante, or of Milton, give just ideas of the invisible world; but the mere fact that the greatest minds, when stirred and roused to the highest action, are so impelled to soar into these unseen realms, and to hold communion with unseen beings, would suggest at least the possibility, that there are realities that correspond to these constitutional tendencies of the intellect. And when, throughout the world, I find that good men, struggling with evil, have not only been impelled to believe that they might look for the helping influences of Providence, but have also felt that in the persistent and returning temptations that beset the will, there were besieging powers of evil, external to themselves, I am slow to brand these convictions with absurdity. As to the how, and the when, and the what, revelation only could inform us ; and in regard to these subjects, revelation says little. It leaves us very much as it found us,—with a vague human consciousness and persuasion that we live, but a veil between, on the borders of an invisible world. Sometimes, through that momentarily rent veil, a gleam of light, sufficient to disclose the brightness beyond, but not to disclose what is there, seems to break in on our darkness. And there I would leave it—one of the great mysteries which encompass our mortal being, which associate our destiny with the great order and agencies of Providence, and give dignity to this poor earthly lot, by connecting it with what is above the earth."