« PreviousContinue »
shall receive greater power and eternal glory from God. By disdaining to receive any dominion under him, he shall shortly reign over him, be appointed as one of his judges, and shall see him trodden under his feet.
XXX. When the mind is prepared against these three sources of temptation, the world, the flesh, and the Devil, it is instructed in the way of righteous
But let no man think himself safe because he hath escaped one or two of them. He that hath brought the flesh into subjection, may be ensnared by covetousness and vain glory: and he that hath overcome the world and the flesh, may fall into spiritual pride and the condemnation of the Devil*. To every particular caution, this general one must be added Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall. For as the Devil, after his defeat, departed from Christ only for a season, with full purpose to make a farther attempt upon him in his sufferings: so is the follower of Christ to expect trials and dangers from the same quarter, till he hath given up the ghost, and is entered into that rest, where the wicked cease from troubling. So critical is his condition, so subtle, vis gilant, and persevering is his adversary, that he ca.not be secure, till he is out of the reach of temptation. Whence it is rightly said"Be thou faith- , “ ful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of
“ life t."
XXXI. On a review of this subject, these are the principal matters which occur to us. Christ hath been tempted for our sakes; and we must follow him to glory through the way of temptation. Our baptism prepares us for the trials and dangers of a wilderness. The Israelites were not brought to Canaan, without being proved by hunger and thirst, by the allurements of idolatry, by the spiritual gainsayings of Corah, by the power of formidable enemies, and by an evil report of the spies concerning that country to which they were going. We have their example to give us warning, and the example of our master to give us encouragement. Both are necessary: the one to save us from carelessness, and the other from despair. Neither the love of pleasure, nor the fear of danger, should provoke us to think scorn of that pleasant land which lieth before us; where temporary tribulation shall terminate in perpetual enjoyment. If we are but wise enough to consider the issue of things, and compare their ends with their beginnings, we shall have a short rule of prudence, which by the grace of God will direct us safely through all the perils of this life, and shield us against all the assaults of the Devil. Sin betrays men, as Jael betrayed Sisera. She meets him, and entertains him friendly; she invites him, gives him drink, and lays him to sleep: but in the midst of his security, she strikes him through the brain, and fastens him to the earth. Every temptation begins with milk, but ends with an instrument of death: allurement comes first, and vengeance followeth after. But God observes a contrary course; placing the evening before the morning in a moral sense, as at the natural creation. The ordinary custom is, to give good wine at the first, and when men have well drunk and have lost their judgment, then that which is worse : but Christ, as at the marriage in Cana, reserveth that which is best to come last in order. The Devil begins in a high strain of encouragement-Ye shall be as Gods—but, in the event, brings us to a level with the beasts that perish.
1 Tim. iii. 6.
f Rev. ii. 10.
Religion, on the other hand, saith—mortify, and ye shall live—take a yoke, and ye shall find rest—be content with obscurity, and ye shall shine as the Sun in the kingdom of your Father. Therefore, Blessed is the man, who endureth Temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the Crown of life.
XXXII. A general remark may be made on this subject, which may serve to rectify a specious error adopted of late years by many persons; who pay small regard to the spirit of christianity, as thinking it our chief duty to avoid offences against society. A good life, they pretend, is the best orthodoxy, and such as will recommend us to God better than modes of faith and devotion : and by a good life, they mean a course of moral justice betwixt man and man. But whatever value the Scripture may have ascribed to good works, it would contradict its own design, and oppose common sense, if it were to prefer them in an independent state: for they cannot exist but in a state of relation. Principle is the root of practice; and if we would make the fruit good, we must make the tree good. But to talk of practice independent of principle, is to expect grapes from a tree which hath no root.
The man, who can believe that God is either regardless of his condition in life, or envious of his liberty and happiness, will provide for any of these by evading human laws, and transgressing the divine precepts, as often as they stand in the way of his pleasure'or interest. He who worships Satan in his heart for the sake of worldly advancement, will practice lying, robbery, treason, murders, and all other evil arts which may conduce to the transferring of power and property from other hands to his own. What fightings and perjuries have arisen from a lust of power! What persecution and cruelty hath been practised by idolaters against the servants of the true God! Spiritual pride and self-elevation amongst Christians will be followed by the same fatal effects. Let a man think himself a saint of an higher class, and separate himself with a pharisaical spirit, and then he will assume a right to bind kings in chains, and nobles with links of iron: he will snatch property from the hands of those, who in his opinion are less worthy of it than himself,, and will attempt to do God serrice by oppressing and destroying those who are displeased with his innovations.
When these things are considered, it will seem neither strange nor improper, that no one of the sins to which Christ was tempted by the Devil, were sins against society. We hear nothing about murder, adultery, theft, false witness, or any other sin against our neighbour; the temptation being conversant about such sins only as pass between God and a man's own heart. The first of them is a want of faith in God, as the preserver of men; the second is spiritual pride; the third idolatry. How few are there now, who make a proper account of them! A man may distrust the providence of God, despise his church, confound Jupiter with Jehovah, sell his conscience in a reputable way to the Devil; and yet find those who shall think him a very rational, decent, good sort of a Christian. When the Serpent explained to Eve the grounds of the divine prohibition, he said, God doth knowo, &c, and we may say on the other hand, with all that truth which his explanation wanted, “The “ Devil doth know, that in the day when he can per" suade us to commit these sins we shall make no
scruple about the rest:" for these are mother-sins, big with the whole race of offences against civil so
ciety. By these therefore all the purposes of his temptations are more cheaply and effectually answered. He succeeds better by sapping the foundation of morality, than by making a partial breach in the walls : and many who are armed against the open assaults of gross wickedness, may be ruined by that which is more refined, and of which they do not as yet foresee the natural consequences: but, according to the proverb of the ancients, wickedness proceedeth from the wicked*; wickedness of the manners from the wickedness of the mind; so that if the enemy can debauch the mind, his temptation is accomplished; because such a mind will never fail to corrupt the
* i Sam. xxiv. 13.