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cellent qualities are the very things which tempt him, and induce him foolishly to wish he, or they, had been made otherwise than they are. For instance; to say nothing of wine, of music, or of beauty; the earth itself must either not have been made, or made unfruitful; or ill-disposed men must have been tempted. "Mankind never contend for estates, or kingdoms, but on account of what they produce. No litigious suits, no unjust or oppressive wars, had ever been commenced for any portion of the world, had the whole been covered with naked rocks, or barren sands. · Let no man therefore say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.'
To dismiss this head, temptations to sin there are, and must be, as long as there are moral beings in the world. Man, in particular, during his state of trial, must expect to find the chief force of these temptations arising from within, out of the miserable corruption of his nature; and cannot hope for happiness, till this corruption is purged out, even by a fierce encounter with these trials, which if he cannot stand, he must come out but the more corrupt and vicious. Silver and gold are seldom or never found in the earth without dross, nor man without a natural inclination to sin; but the fining-pot for silver, and the furnace for gold, and God's trials for the heart of man.'
Since then there is no declining the fiery trial, it is our business carefully to examine the nature of our temptations, and to look out for the best preservatives against their poison, that we may so think and act, as to escape the snares of our enemy, and approve ourselves the faithful servants of God.
We can never rightly understand the nature of our temptations, till we know ourselves; for it is from the corruption of our own hearts and affections, that temptations draw their force. Were we not our own seducers and tempters, and were it not for the fleshly enemy within, the devil and the world could have no power over us. The same may be said of all the other affections and passions, that is said in the Book of Wisdom concerning fear, that each of them is ‘ a betraying of the succours which reason offereth. It is true, a well-informed conscience protests against sin; but our insatiable appetites, our unclean affections, our violent passions, bring a great majority of votes in favour of it. Hence it is, that small temptations can lead us into a course of wickedness; whereas it requires all the force of reason, meditation, faith, and grace, to win us to a life of piety and virtue. If we examine, why we, who are so light and moveable to vice, are so heavy and hard to be stirred towards virtue, we shall find it owing to this corrupt and sinful disposition of our nature. The enemy seizes us by our affections and lusts, and pulls downward; whereas God, laying hold of our consciences, draws upward. The enemy pulls with, and God against, the bent of all our natural corruptions; and it is happy for us, that, as his hand is almighty, he can pull with sufficient strength.
We should be well aware of this, and also carefully consider by what artful steps the enemy makes his approaches to the will, when it is guarded by a watchful conscience. He conceals both himself, and the sin he would tempt us to; and, masking himself sometimes in the business, the riches, the pomps, of the world, he endeavours to steal in by the postern of pride and avarice. At other times concealing himself in poverty, in trouble, and oppression, he does all he can to frighten us from our post. He attacks our loose desires with the smiles of prosperity and pleasure, and our cowardly fears with the frowns of adversity and affilictions; and, now insinuating, now forcing, his way in at our senses, he tries to lodge and intrench himself in our corrupt affections, from whence, artfully undermining our reason, and violently battering our wills, he presses still closer and closer on our souls.
His most successful engine is our love of pleasure. We cannot live without some recreations and amusements. In these, we think, we may safely indulge, as long as we do not exceed the bounds of moderation. But, unhappily, we are not nice enough in distinguishing the line that divides excess from temperance. Innocent pleasures, as they are called, prepare the way for such as are criminal. It is hard for the heart to stop, once it is afloat on a tide of pleasure. He that is fond of innocent enjoyments hath a loose heart, and is a man of pleasure ; and to be a man of pleasure is to
be exposed to the danger of excess in pleasure. That man, who knows not how to deny himself every innocent delight he can enjoy, will not always deny himself those that are sinful.
Our enemy knows this too well; and therefore, that he may not alarm or shock our consciences, he does not all at once tempt us to the blackest acts of sin, such as adultery or murder. No; to prepare us for adultery, he first allures us to intemperance in eating and drinking, especially the latter, which we do not regard as a great sin. Then he melts down our virtue with soft and unclean inclinations, in which we think there is no great harm. After this, it is no difficult matter to give our lustful dispositions a little practice in wanton dalliances, which, proceeding from smaller to greater liberties, fit us for the highest acts of the kind. If he would train us to murder, he contrives to furnish our pride with sufficient provocatives ; and, as the proud is always proportionably resentful, the enemy easily finds those, who will ruffe him into anger; and anger, often stirred, at length burns up into that spirit of revenge and malice, which thirsts for blood. Besides, he frequently leads his unhappy slave from less grievous vices of one kind, to more shocking crimes of another, by proposing the latter as a means to screen, or come at, the former. Thus he that cannot cater for his expenses in women, or strong liquors, by fraud, must do it by robbery, and the punishment of robbery, must be prevented by murder.
The case of David will admirably illustrate and enforce what I have been saying. He had taken a loose luxurious nap, after eating and drinking, in all probability, to the full satisfaction of his appetite; at least, we will take it for granted, he had thus pampered his unclean affections, because the sapposition is agreeable to the story, and natural. In this unhappy disposition he sees the beautiful wife of Uriah bathing. Perhaps his standing, or falling, on this occasion, might have depended on his eating, or not eating beyond a certain quantity, and on his drinking, or not drinking, beyond a certain glass. Here it was easy for him to stop, had he been aware of the consequence. But having passed the bounds of temperance, and stupified his conscience with sleep, his virtue gave way to a loose desire, which, however, had he even then resisted, might have been subdued. But now, having an enemy without, as well as one within, to contend with, his passion seizes bis will, and the temptation must be brought nearer to him: after this his fall into the horrible sin of adultery became inevitable. And now, mark the infernal progress of sin! having wronged the bed of his friend, that friend must die to cloak the shameful injury that had been done him.
We are sensible no temptation, be it ever so violent, can work otherwise than by thought; and that our thoughts of all kinds are at first more easily banished, or changed for other thoughts, than afterward, when they have engaged the imagination, and put the spirits into a violent ferment. This consideration should be present with us when sinful thoughts begin to assault us. We should then keenly consider, that the devil is secretly present in the temptation ; that guilt, shame, and destruction, are behind it; and that the all-seeing eye of God is that moment watching the motions of our hearts. Now is the time to resist with all our might, or to Ay from the snare with our utmost speed. If we dwell a moment longer on the sinful thought, it will be then more difficult to get clear of it; and so in proportion, the longer we indulge it. If we give way, it will, in a very little time, draw to itself the force of some violent passion, some vehement affection, or some inveterate habit. With this assistance, it will easily seize the will; and, being once master of the will, we are then actually guilty of the sin, though the outward opportunity of reducing it to practice should be wanting. Isidore gives us an ingenious state of this progress.
A sinful thought,' says he,‘begets pleasure, pleasure consent, consent action, action babit, habit necessity, and necessity, · death ;' and so man, entangled in these links, is held, as it were, with a chain of vices. It was, probably, on account of this progress, from less to more, in vices, that our first parents were forbidden, not only to eat' but even to touch, the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden,' because touching might increase the tempting to eating.
Herein lies the great art of our enemy, and our most dangerous weakness, that we are not much alarmed at the committal of small sins; and that he easily finds means so to manage a small sin, as to make it a snare, and a temptation
to a greater. Could a very bad man see the progress from intemperance to adultery and murder, such a prospect might set bounds to his appetite. But, while this progress lies hid from the best of mèn, he cannot tell how far his table may be a snare to him. He cannot see the great harm of eating and drinking a little too much, that is, of eating and drinking a little for pleasure, when he hath already sat long enough for nature and necessity, because he cannot see the guilt and misery to which his excess may lead him.
Now, in order to provide preservatives against the poison of temptation, we ought carefully to consider the nature of its progress, as already set forth, that we may know how and when to begin our defence. We see, we feel by our own experience, that every appetite, such as hunger, thirst, concupiscence; and every passion, such as pride, anger, jealousy, is at first a small spark, that may be quenched with ease'; but we perceive, at the same time, that it is a spark among very combustible materials. However, ready as they are to take fire, they are not mere gunpowder, at least not in the generality of men. They give us time, if we are on our guard, to extinguish the kindling mischief, before it rises to a raging fire. If it is asked how we shall do this, St. Paul will tell us : 'Take,' says he, 'the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.' The hope of God's everlasting favour, and the dread of his eternal vengeance, which we build on faith, will quickly cool the heat of our appetites and passions, provided we early enough turn our thoughts, from the yet feeble temptation, to a deep and keen reflection on heaven and hell. .
But, that the fire of sin may have as little fuel to feed it as possible, we must take care to be temperate in all things ;' and, if temperance prove insufficient, we must fast, in order to ' mortify the deeds of the body,' and use our appetites to denial, by often refusing them even the innocent gratifications they call for.
And, that a temptation may never take us unprepared, we must be always on the watch: "For we know not the hour this thief may come. The enemy, when he finds us ready, armed, and resolute, flies from us, and waits for a more unguarded minute. Let him therefore that thinketh yol. II.