This then is, perhaps, a truer view of the consequences of fasting, than is commonly taken. Of course, it is always, under God's grace, a spiritual benefit to our hearts eventually, and improves them,—through Him who worketh all in all; and it often is a sensible benefit to us at the time. Still it is often otherwise; often it but increases the excitability and susceptibility of our hearts; in all cases it is therefore to be viewed, chiefly as an approach to God—an approach to the powers of heaven—yes, and to the powers of hell. And in this point of view there is something very awful in it. For what we know, Christ's temptation is but the fulness of that which, in its degree, and according to our infirmities and corruptions, takes place in all His servants who seek Him. And if so, this surely was a strong reason for the Church's associating our season of humiliation with Christ's sojourn in the wilderness, that we might not be left to our own thoughts, and, as it were, "with the wild beasts," and thereupon despond when we afflict ourselves; but might feel that we are what we really are, not bondmen of Satan, and children of wrath, hopelessly groaning under our burden, confessing it, and crying out, "O wretched man!" but sinners indeed, and sinners afflicting themselves, and doing penance for sin; but withal God's children, in whom repentance is fruitful, and who, while they abase themselves are exalted, and at the very time that they are throwing themselves at the foot of the Cross, are still Christ's soldiers, sword in hand, fighting a generous warfare, and knowing that they have that in them, and upon them, which devils tremble at, and flee.
And this is another point which calls for distinct notice in the history of our Saviour's fasting and temptation, viz. the victory which attended it. He had three temptations, and thrice He conquered,—at the last He said, "Get thee behind Me, Satan;" on which "the devil leaveth Him."