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THE disciples of Jesus, uneasy at his long absence, reason amongst themselves concerning it. Mary also gives vent to her maternal anxiety; in the expression of which she recapitulates many circumstances respecting the birth and early life of her Son.-Satan again meets his infernal council, reports the bad success of his first temptation of our blessed Lord, and calls upon them for counsel and assistance. Belial proposes the tempting of Jesus with women. Satan rebukes Belial for his dissoluteness, charging on him all the profligacy of that kind ascribed by the poets to the heathen gods, and rejects his proposal as in no respect likely to succeed. Satan then suggests other modes of temptation, particularly proposing to avail himself of the circumstance of our Lord's hungering; and, taking a band of chosen spirits with him, returns to resume his enterprise.-Jesus hungers in the desert.-Night comes on; the manner in which our Saviour passes the night is described.-Morning advances.-Satan again appears to Jesus; and, after expressing wonder that he should be so entirely neglected in the wilderness, where others had been miraculously fed, tempts him with a sumptuous banquet of the most luxurious kind. This he rejects, and the banquet vanishes.Satan, finding our Lord not to be assailed on the ground of appetite, tempts him again by offering him riches, as the means of acquiring power: this Jesus also rejects, producing many instances of great actions performed by persons under virtuous poverty, and specifying the danger of riches, and the cares and pains inseparable from power and greatness.
MEANWHILE the new-baptized, who yet remain'd
At Jordan with the Baptist, and had seen
Him whom they heard so late expressly call'd
Jesus, Messiah, Son of God declared,
And on that high authority had believed,
And with him talk'd, and with him lodged; I mean
Andrew and Simon, famous after known,
With others though in Holy Writ not named;
Now missing him, their joy so lately found,
(So lately found, and so abruptly gone)
Began to doubt, and doubted many days,
And, as the days increased, increased their doubt.
Sometimes they thought he might be only shown,
And for a time caught up to God, as once
Moses was in the mount and missing long;
And the great Thisbite, who on fiery wheels
Rode up to heaven, yet once again to come.
16. The great Thisbite. Elijah.
17. Yet once again to come. It hath been the opinion of the church, that
there would be an Elias before Christ's second coming, as well as before his first. Mal. iv. 5; Matt. xvii. 11. But as it was
Therefore, as those young prophets then with care
Sought lost Elijah; so in each place these
Nigh to Bethabara, in Jericho
The city of palms, Enon, and Salem old,
Machærus, and each town or city wall'd
On this side the broad lake Genezaret,
Or in Peræa; but return'd in vain.
Then on the bank of Jordan, by a creek,
Where winds with reeds and osiers whispering play,
Plain fishermen, (no greater men them call)
Close in a cottage low together got,
Their unexpected loss and plaints out breathed:
Alas, from what high hope to what relapse
Unlook'd for are we fallen! our eyes beheld
Messiah certainly now come, so long
Expected of our fathers; we have heard
His words, his wisdom full of grace and truth:
Now, now, for sure, deliverance is at hand;
The kingdom shall to Israel be restored:
Thus we rejoiced, but soon our joy is turn'd
Into perplexity and new amaze:
For whither is he gone? what accident
Hath rapt him from us? will he now retire
After appearance, and again prolong
Our expectation? God of Israel,
Send thy Messiah forth; the time is come!
Behold the kings of the earth, how they oppress
Thy chosen; to what highth their power unjust
They have exalted, and behind them cast
All fear of thee: arise, and vindicate
Thy glory; free thy people from their yoke!
But let us wait; thus far He hath perform'd,
Sent his Anointed, and to us reveal'd him,
By his great prophet, pointed at and shown
In publick, and with him we have conversed:
Let us be glad of this, and all our fears
Lay on his Providence; He will not fail,
Nor will withdraw him now, nor will recall,
Mock us with his blest sight, then snatch him hence;
Soon we shall see our Hope, our Joy, return.
Thus they, out of their plaints, new hope resume
To find whom at the first they found unsought:
But, to his mother Mary, when she saw
not Elias in person, but only in spirit, who appeared before our Saviour's first coming, so it will also be before his second.-NEWTON,
20. Nigh to Bethabara. Our author makes the disciples seek for Jesus first at Bethabara, on the Jordan, a little north of the Dead Sea; thence, going to Enon and Salem, further north, on the west of the Jordan; thence, crossing
over the Jordan, and going through Peræa, on the east side of it, as far down as the town and castle of Machærus, south of Mount Nebo.
44. Kings of the earth. Ps. ii. 2.
60. To his mother. A Latinism, corre sponding to the dative of the remote object, or the dative for the genitive: "within her breast," that is, the breast of Mary.
Others return'd from baptism, not her Son,
Nor left at Jordan, tidings of him none;
Within her breast though calm, her breast though pure,
Motherly cares and fears got head, and raised
Some troubled thoughts, which she in sighs thus clad:
O, what avails me now that honour high
To have conceived of God, or that salute,-
Hail, highly favour'd among women blest!
While I to sorrows am no less advanced,
And fears as eminent, above the lot
Of other women, by the birth I bore;
In such a season born, when scarce a shed
Could be obtain'd to shelter him or me
From the bleak air; a stable was our warmth,
A manger his; yet soon enforced to fly
Thence into Egypt, till the murderous king
Were dead, who sought his life, and missing fill'd
With infant blood the streets of Bethlehem:
From Egypt home returned, in Nazareth
Hath been our dwelling many years; his life
Private, unactive, calm, contemplative,
Little suspicious to any king; but now,
Full grown to man, acknowledged, as I hear,
By John the Baptist, and in publick shown,
Son own'd from heaven by his Father's voice,
I look'd for some great change; to honour? no;
But trouble as old Simeon plain foretold,
That to the fall and rising he should be
Of many in Israel, and to a sign
Spoken against, that through my very soul
A sword shall pierce: this is my favour'd lot,
My exaltation to afflictions high:
Afflicted I may be, it seems, and blest;
I will not argue that, nor will repine.
But where delays he now? some great intent
Conceals him: when twelve years he scarce had seen,
I lost him, but so found, as well I saw
He could not lose himself, but went about
His Father's business: what he meant I mused,
Since understand; much more his absence now
Thus long to some great purpose he obscures.
But I to wait with patience am inured;
My heart hath been a storehouse long of things
And sayings laid up, portending strange events,
Thus Mary, pondering oft, and oft to mind
Recalling what remarkably had pass'd
Since first her salutation heard, with thoughts
Meekly composed awaited the fulfilling:
The while her Son, tracing the desert wild,
Sole, but with holiest meditations fed,
105. Pondering. See Luke ii. 19.
Into himself descended, and at once
All his great work to come before him set;
How to begin, how to accomplish best
His end of being on earth, and mission high:
For Satan, with sly preface to return,
Had left him vacant; and with speed was gone
Up to the middle region of thick air,
Where all his potentates in council sat:
There, without sign of boast, or sign of joy,
Solicitous and blank, he thus began:
Princes, Heaven's ancient sons, ethereal thrones;
Demonian spirits now, from the element
Each of his reign allotted, rightlier call'd
Powers of fire, air, water, and earth beneath!
(So may we hold our place and these mild seats
Without new trouble!) such an enemy
Is risen to invade us, who no less
Threatens than our expulsion down to hell;
I, as I undertook, and with a vote
Consenting in full frequence was impower'd,
Have found him, view'd him, tasted him; but find
Far other labour to be undergone
Than when I dealt with Adam, first of men:
Though Adam by his wife's allurement fell,
However to this man inferiour far,
If he be man, by mother's side at least,
With more than human gifts from Heaven adorn'd,
Perfections absolute, graces divine,
And amplitude of mind to greatest deeds.
Therefore I am return'd, lest confidence
Of my success with Eve in Paradise
Deceive ye to persuasion over-sure
Of like succeeding here: I summon all
Rather to be in readiness, with hand
Or counsel to assist; lest I, who erst
Thought none my equal, now be over-match'd.
So spake the old Serpent, doubting; and from all
With clamour was assured their utmost aid
At his command: when from amidst them rose
Belial, the dissolutest spirit that fell,
The sensualest; and, after Asmodai,
The fleshliest Incubus; and thus advised:
Set women in his eye, and in his walk,
131. Tasted, experienced, made trial of. Ps. xxxiv. 8, "Oh taste and see that the Lord is good."
136. If he be man, &c. Newton has followed here the punctuation of Milton's own edition, with a comma after side; but I prefer that of Mr. Dunster, who places one after man, for the Tempter could have had no doubt of Christ's being a Man by his mother's side. After least
Among daughters of men the fairest found:
Many are in each region passing fair
As the noon sky; more like to goddesses
Than mortal creatures; graceful and discreet;
Expert in amorous arts, enchanting tongues
Persuasive, virgin majesty with mild
And sweet allay'd, yet terrible to approach;
Skill'd to retire, and, in retiring, draw
Hearts after them tangled in amorous nets.
Such object hath the power to soften and tame
Severest temper, smoothe the rugged'st brow,
Enerve, and with voluptuous hope dissolve,
Draw out with credulous desire, and lead
At will the manliest, resolutest breast,
As the magnetick hardest iron draws.
Women, when nothing else, beguiled the heart
Of wisest Solomon, and made him build,
And made him bow to the gods of his wives.
To whom quick answer Satan thus return'd:
Belial, in much uneven scale thou weigh'st
All others by thyself; because of old
Thou thyself doat'dst on womankind, admiring
Their shape, their colour, and attractive grace,
None are, thou think'st, but taken with such toys.
Before the flood thou with thy lusty crew,
False titled sons of God, roaming the earth,
Cast wanton eyes on the daughters of men,
And coupled with them, and begot a race.
Have we not seen, or by relation heard,
In courts and regal chambers how thou lurk'st,
In wood or grove, by mossy fountain side,
In valley or green meadow, to way-lay
Some beauty rare, Calisto, Clymene,
Daphne, or Semele, Antiopa,
Or Amymone, Syrinx, many more
Too long; then lay'st thy scapes on names ador'd,
Apollo, Neptune, Jupiter, or Pan,
Satyr, or Faun, or Sylvan? But these haunts
153. Let women, &c. As this temptation is not mentioned in the Gospels, it could not with any propriety have been proposed to our Saviour: it is much more fitly made the subject of debate among the wicked spirits themselves. All that can be said in praise of the power of beauty, and all that can be alleged to depreciate it, is here summed up with greater force and elegance than I ever remember to have seen in any other author.-NEWTON.
178. False tilled, &c. It is to be lamented that our author has so often adopted the vulgar notion of the angels having commerce with women, founded upon that mistaken text of Scripture, Gen. vi. 2. (See Paradise Lost. iii. 463.) But though