The Lord's Prayer
By Thomas Watson
The Sixth Petition in the Lord's Prayer
"Lead us not into temptation—but deliver us from evil."
This petition consists of two parts:
First, "Lead us not into temptation."
Secondly, "But deliver us from evil."
I. "Lead us not into temptation." Does God
lead into temptation? God tempts no man to sin. "Let no man say when he is
tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither
does he tempt he any man." James 1:13. He permits sin—but does not
promote it. He who is an encourager of holiness cannot be a pattern of
sin. God does not tempt to that to which he has an antipathy. What king will
tempt his subjects to break laws which he himself has established?
But is it not said, God tempted Abraham? Gen 22:1.
Tempting there was no more than testing. He tried
Abraham's faith, as a goldsmith tries gold in the fire; but there is a great
deal of difference between testing his people's grace—and exciting
their corruption. God tries their grace—but does not excite their
corruption. Man's sin cannot be justly fathered on God. God tempts no man to
What then is the meaning of "Lead us not into
The meaning is, that God would not allow us to be
overcome by temptation; that we may not be given up to the power of
temptation, and be drawn into sin.
Where do temptations come from?
(1) Temptations come from within—from ourselves.
The heart is the breeder of all evil. Our own hearts are the greatest
tempters. Everyone is a Satan to himself. "Every man is tempted when
he is drawn away of his own lust." The heart is a perfect bait to
temptation. James 1:14.
(a) Temptations come from without—from Satan.
He is called the Tempter. Matthew 4:3. He lies in ambush to do us harm. The
devil stands girded for battle—he lays a plot of temptation to blow up the
fort of our grace. He is not yet fully cast into prison—but is like a
prisoner under bail. The world is his diocese, where he is sure to be
tempting, whatever we are doing—reading, praying, or meditating. We find him
within—but how he came there we know not; we are sure of his company, though
uncertain how we came by it. "A saint's whole life," says Augustine, "is
temptation." Elijah, who could shut heaven by prayer, could not shut
temptation out of his heart. This is a great molestation to a child of God;
as it is a trouble to a virgin to have her chastity daily assaulted. The
more we are tempted to evil, the more we are hindered from good. We are in
great danger of the "Prince of the air;" and we need often pray, "Lead us
not into temptation." That we may see in what danger we are from Satan's
 Consider Satan's malice in tempting. This
hellish serpent is swelled with the poison of malice. Satan envies man's
happiness. To see a clod of dust so near to God; and himself, once a
glorious angel, cast out of the heavenly paradise—makes him pursue mankind
with inveterate hatred. "The devil is come down unto you, having great
wrath." Rev 12:12. If there is anything this infernal spirit can delight in,
it is to ruin souls, and to bring them into the same damnation as himself.
This malice of Satan in tempting must needs be great, if we consider three
(1) That Satan, though full of torment, should tempt
others. One would think that he would scarcely have a thought but
of his own misery; and yet such is his rage and malice that, while God is
punishing him, he is tempting others!
(2) His malice is great, because he will tempt where he
knows he cannot prevail; he will put forth his sting, though he cannot hurt.
He tempted Christ. "If you be the Son of God." Matthew 4:3. He
knew well enough Christ was God as well as man—yet he would tempt him. Such
was his malice against him that he would put an affront on him, though he
knew he should be conquered by him. He tempts the elect to blasphemy; he
knows he cannot prevail against them; and yet such is his malice, that
though he cannot storm the garrison of their hearts—yet he will shoot his
artillery against them.
(3) His malice is great, because though knowing his
tempting men to sin will increase his own torment in hell, he will not leave
it off. Every temptation makes his chain heavier and his fire
hotter—and yet he will tempt! Therefore being such a malicious revengeful
spirit, we need pray that God will not allow him to prevail by his
temptation. "Lead us not into temptation."
 Consider Satan's DILIGENCE in tempting.
"Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He
prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour!" 1
Peter 5:8. He neglects no time; he who would have us idle—is always busy
himself. This lion of hell, is ever hunting after his prey, he compasses sea
and land to make a proselyte. He prowls around—as a spy; he watches
where he may throw in the fireball of temptation. He is a restless spirit;
if we repulse him, he will not desist—but come again with a new temptation.
Like Marcellus, a Roman captain Hannibal speaks of, whether he conquered or
was conquered, was never quiet. More particularly, Satan's diligence in
tempting is seen in this:
(1) If he gets the least advantage by temptation, he
pursues it to the utmost. If his temptation to sin begins to
take, he follows it closely and presses to the act of sin. When he
tempted Judas to betray Christ, and found him inclinable, and beginning to
bite at the bait of thirty pieces of silver, he hurried hum on, and never
left him until he had foully betrayed his Lord and Master. When he tempted
Spira to renounce his religion, and saw him begin to yield, he followed the
temptation closely, and never left off until he had made him abjure his
faith in Christ.
(2) Satan's diligence in tempting is seen in the variety
of temptations he uses. He does not confine himself to one sort
of temptation; he has more plots than one. If he finds one temptation does
not prevail, he will utilise another. If he cannot tempt to lust, he will
tempt to pride. If temptation to covetousness does not prevail, he will
tempt to extravagance. If he cannot frighten men to despair, he will see if
he cannot draw them to presumption. If he cannot make them profane, he will
see if he cannot make them formalists. If he cannot make them wicked, he
will tempt them to be erroneous. He will tempt them to leave off ordinances;
he will pretend revelations. Error damns as well as vice. Vice pistols,
error poisons. Thus Satan's diligence in tempting is great—he will turn
every stone; he has several tools to work with; if one temptation will not
do he will make use of another. Had we not need then to pray, "Lead us not
 Consider Satan's POWER in tempting. He is
called "the prince of this world" (John 14:30), and the "strong man, fully
armed" (Luke 11:21), and the "great red dragon," who with his tail cast down
the third part of the stars. Rev 12:3, 4. He is full of power, being an
angel. Though he has lost his holiness—yet not his strength. His power in
tempting is seen several ways:
(1) As a spirit he can convey himself into the
IMAGINATION, and poison it with bad thoughts. As the Holy Spirit
casts in good motions—so the devil does bad. He put it into Judas' heart to
betray Christ. John 13:2.
(2) Though Satan cannot compel the WILL, he can present
pleasing objects to the senses, which have great force in them.
He set a "wedge of gold" before Achan, and so enticed him with that golden
(3) He can excite and stir up the corruption within, and
work some inclinableness in the heart to embrace the temptation.
Thus he stirred up corruption in David's heart, and provoked him to number
the people. 1 Chron 21:1. He can blow a spark of lust into a flame.
(4) Being a spirit, he can convey his temptations into
our MINDS—so that we cannot easily discern whether they come from him or
from ourselves. One bird may hatch the egg of another, thinking
it to be her own. Just so, we often hatch the devil's eggs, thinking they
come from our own hearts. When Peter dissuaded Christ from suffering, he
thought it came from the love which he bore to his Master, little thinking
that Satan had a hand in it. Matthew 16:22. Now, if the devil has such power
to instill his temptations, that we hardly know whether they are his or
ours, we are in great danger, and had need pray not to be led into
temptation. Here, some are desirous to move the question: How shall we
perceive when a motion comes from our own hearts, arid when from Satan?
"It is hard," as Bernard says, "to distinguish between
the bite of the serpent and the disease of the mind;" between
those suggestions which come from Satan, and which breed out of our own
hearts. But I conceive there is this threefold difference:
First, such motions to evil as come from our own hearts
spring up more leisurely, and by degrees. Sin is long concocted in the
thoughts, before consent is given; but usually we may know a motion comes
from Satan by its suddenness. Temptation is compared to a dart,
because it is shot suddenly. Eph 6:16. David's numbering the people was a
motion which the devil injected suddenly.
Secondly, the motions to evil which come from our own
hearts are not so terrible. Few are frightened at the sight of their own
children; but motions coming from Satan are more ghastly and frightful, as
motions to blasphemy and self-murder. Hence it is that temptations are
compared to fiery darts, because, as flashes of fire, they startle and
affright the soul. Eph 6:16.
Thirdly, when evil thoughts are thrown into the mind,
when we loathe and have reluctance to them; when we strive against them, and
flee from them, as Moses did from the serpent, it shows they are not the
natural birth of our own heart—but the hand of Joab is in this! 2
Samuel 14:19. Satan has injected these impure motions.
(5) Satan's power in tempting appears by the long
EXPERIENCE he has acquired in the art. He has been a tempter for
as long as he has been a devil. Who are fitter for action than men of
experience? Who is fitter to steer a ship than an old, experienced pilot?
Satan has gained much experience by being so long versed in the trade of
tempting. Having such experience, he knows what are the temptations which
have foiled others, and are most likely to prevail; as the fowler lays those
snares which have caught other birds. Satan having such power in tempting,
increases our danger, and we had need pray, "Lead us not into temptation.
 Consider Satan's SUBTLETY in tempting. The
Greek word to tempt, signifies to deceive. Satan, in tempting,
uses many subtle plots to deceive. We read of the "depths of Satan" (Rev
2:24), of his "devices and stratagems" (2 Cor 2:11), of his "snares and
darts". He is called a lion for his cruelty, and an old serpent
for his subtlety. He has several sorts of subtlety in tempting.
1st subtlety. He observes the natural
temper and constitution of men. He does not know the hearts of men—but
he may feel their pulse, know their temper, and can apply himself
accordingly. As the farmer knows what seed is proper to sow in such a
soil—so Satan, finding out the temper of a man, knows what temptations are
proper to sow in his heart. The same way the tide of a man's constitution
runs, the wind of temptation blows. Satan tempts the ambitious man
with a crown, the lustfull man with beauty, the covetous man with a wedge of
gold. He provides savory food, such as the sinner loves.
2nd subtlety. He chooses the fittest season
to tempt in. As a cunning angler casts in his bait when the fish will
bite best—so the devil knows the best time when temptation is likeliest to
prevail. There are several seasons he tempts in.
1st season. He tempts us in our first initiation and
entrance into true religion, when we have newly given up our names to
Christ. He will never disturb his vassals; but when we have broken out his
prison in conversion, he will pursue us with violent temptations. When
Israel were gotten a little out of Egypt, Pharaoh pursued them. As soon as
Christ was born, Herod sent to destroy him so when the child of grace is
newly born, the devil labors to strangle it with temptation. When the first
buddings and blossoms of grace begin to appear, the devil would nip the
tender buds with the sharp blasts of temptation. At first conversion, grace
is so weak, and temptation so strong, that one wonders how the young convert
escapes with his life. Satan has a spite against the new creature.
2nd season. The devil tempts when he finds us idle.
We do not sow seed in fallow ground; but Satan sows most of his seed in a
person that lies fallow. When the fowler sees a bird sit still and perch
upon the tree, he shoots it. Just so, when Satan observes us sitting still,
he shoots his fiery darts of temptation at us. "While men slept, his enemy
sowed tares;" so, while men sleep in sloth, Satan sows his tares. Matthew
13:25. When David was idly walking on the housetop, the devil set a tempting
object before him, and it prevailed. 2 Samuel 11:2, 3.
3rd season. When a person is reduced to outward needs
and straits, the devil tempts him. When Christ has fasted forty days,
and is hungry, the devil comes and tempts him with the glory of the world.
Matthew 4:8. When provisions grow short, Satan sets in with a temptation.
"What, will you starve rather than steal? reach forth your hand, and pluck
the forbidden fruit!" How often does this temptation prevail? How many do we
see, who, instead of living by faith, live by their shifts, and will steal
the venison—though they lose the blessing.
4th season. Satan tempts after an ordinance. When
we have been hearing the Word, or at prayer, or sacrament, Satan casts in
the hook of temptation. When Christ had been fasting and praying, then came
the tempter. Matthew 4:2, 3.
Why does Satan choose time after an ordinance to tempt?
We should think it to be the most disadvantageous time, when the soul is
raised to a heavenly frame!
(1) Malice puts Satan upon it. The ordinances, which
cause fervor in a saint, cause fury in Satan. He knows in every duty we have
a design against him; in every prayer we put up a suit in heaven against
him; in the Lord's Supper, we take an oath to fight under Christ's banner
against him; therefore he is more enraged, and lays his snares and shoots
his darts against us!
(2) Satan tempts after an ordinance, because he thinks he
will find us more secure. After we have been at the solemn worship of God,
we are apt to grow remiss, and leave off former strictness; like a soldier,
who, after the battle, leaves off his armor. Satan watches his time. He does
as David did to the Amalekites, who, when they had taken the spoil, and were
secure, and they did eat and drink, and dance—David fell upon them, and
smote them. 1 Sam 30:17. When we grow remiss after an ordinance, and indulge
ourselves too much in carnal delights, Satan falls upon us by temptation,
and often foils us. After a full meal, men are apt to grow drowsy; so, after
we have had a full meal at an ordinance, we are apt to slumber and grow
secure, and then Satan shoots his arrow of temptation, and hits us between
the joints of our armor!
5th season. Satan tempts after some discoveries of
God's love. The pirate will attack the richly laden ship. Just so, when
a soul has been laden with spiritual comforts, the devil shoots at him to
rob him of all. He envies a soul feasted with spiritual joy. Joseph's
many-colored coat made his brethren envy him and plot against him. After
David had the good news of the pardon of his sin, which filled him with
consolation, Satan tempted him to a new sin in numbering the people; and so
all his comfort leaked out and was spilt.
6th season. Satan tempts when he sees us weakest.
He breaks over the hedge where it is lowest; as the sons of Jacob came upon
the Shechemites when they were lame, and could make no resistance. Gen
34:25. On two occasions Satan comes upon us in our weakness:
(1) When we are alone; as he came to Eve when her
husband was away, and she the less able to resist his temptation. He has the
policy to give his poison privately—when no one is by to reveal the
treachery. He is like a cunning suitor who woos the daughter when the
parents are from home. When we are alone—the devil comes wooing with a
temptation, and hopes to have the match struck!
(2) When the hour of death approaches. As the
crows peck at the poor sheep, when sick and weak, and can hardly help
itself—so, when a saint is weak on his deathbed, the devil pecks at him with
a temptation. He reserves his most furious assaults until the last. The
people of Israel were never so fiercely assaulted as when they were going to
take possession of the promised land; then all the kings of Canaan combined
their forces against them; so, when the saints are leaving the world and
going to set their foot on the heavenly Canaan, Satan sets upon them by
temptation; he tells them they are hypocrites, and all their evidences are
counterfeit. Like a coward, he strikes the saints when they are down; when
death is striking at the body, he is striking at the soul.
3rd subtlety. Satan, in tempting, baits his
hook with religion. He can tempt to sin under pretenses of piety.
Sometimes he is the white devil, and transforms himself into an angel of
light. Celsus wrote a book full of error, and he entitled it, "The Book of
Truth." So Satan can write the title of religion upon his worst temptation.
He comes to Christ with Scripture in his mouth, "It is written," etc. So he
comes to many and tempts them to sin, under the pretense of religion. He
tempts to evil, that good may come of it; he tempts men to such
unwarrantable actions, that they may be put into a capacity of honoring God
the more. He tempts them to accept of preferment against conscience that
they may be in a condition of doing more good. He put Herod upon killing
John the Baptist, that he might be kept from the violation of his oath. He
tempts many to oppression and extortion, telling them they are bound to
provide for their families. He tempts many to make away with themselves,
that they may live no longer to sin against God. Thus he wraps his poisonous
pills in sugar. Who would suspect him when he comes as a minister, and
quotes Scripture? "And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel
of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants
of righteousness." 2 Corinthians 11:14-15
4th subtlety. Satan tempts to sin gradually.
The old serpent winds himself in by degrees. He tempts first to less
sins, that so he may bring on greater. A small offence may occasion a great
crime; as a little prick of a pin may occasion a mortal gangrene. Satan
first tempted David to an impure glance of the eye to look upon Bathsheba,
and that unclean look occasioned adultery and murder. First he tempts to go
into the company of the wicked, then to twist into a cord of friendship, and
so, by degrees, to be brought into the same condemnation with them. It is a
great subtlety of Satan to tempt to less sins first, for these harden the
heart, and fit men for committing more horrid and tremendous sins.
5th subtlety. Satan's policy is to hand over
temptations to us by those whom we least suspect.
(1) By near friends. He tempts us by those who are near
in blood. He handed over a temptation to Job by his wife. "Do you still
retain your integrity?" Job 2:9. As if he had said, Job, you see how, for
all your piety, God deals with you, his hand is gone out sore against you;
what, and still pray and weep! Cast off all religion, turn atheist! "Curse
God, and die!" Thus Satan made use of Job's wife to do his work. The woman
was made of the rib, and Satan made a bow of this rib, out of which to shoot
the arrow of his temptation. [He aims at the heart through the rib.] The
devil often stands behind the curtain—he will not be seen in the
business—but puts others to do his work. As a man makes use of a sergeant to
arrest another—so Satan makes use of a proxy to tempt; as he crept into a
serpent—so he can creep into a near relation.
(2) He tempts sometimes by religious friends. He keeps
out of sight, that his cloven foot may not be seen. Who would have thought
to have found the devil in Peter? When he would have dissuaded Christ from
suffering, saying, "Master, spare yourself," Christ spied Satan in the
temptation. "Get behind me, Satan!" When our religious friends would
dissuade us from doing our duty, Satan is a lying spirit in their mouths,
and would by them entice us to evil.
6th subtlety. Satan tempts some people more
than others. Some are like wet tinder, who will not so soon take the fire of
temptation as others. Satan tempts most where he thinks his policies will
most easily prevail. Some are fitter to receive the impression of
temptations, as soft wax is fitter to take the stamp of the seal. The
apostle speaks of "vessels fitted to destruction," so there are vessels
fitted for temptation. Romans 9:22. Some, like the sponge, suck in Satan's
temptations. There are five sorts of people that Satan most broods upon by
(1) Ignorant people. The devil can lead these into
any snare. You may lead a blind man anywhere. God made a law that the Jews
should not put a stumbling-block in the way of the blind. Lev 19:14. Satan
knows it is easy to put a temptation in the way of the blind, at which they
shall stumble into hell. When the Syrians were smitten with blindness, the
prophet Elisha could lead them wherever he desired. 2 Kings 6:20. The bird
that is blind is soon shot by the fowler. Satan, the god of this world,
blinds men and then shoots them. An ignorant man cannot see the devil's
snares. Satan tells him such a thing is no sin, or but a little one, and he
will do well enough; it is but repent.
(2) Satan tempts unbelievers. He who, with
Diagoras, doubts a Deity, or with the Photinians, denies hell—what sin may
he not be drawn into! He is like metal that Satan can cast into any mold; he
can dye him of any color. An unbeliever will stick at no sin, be it luxury,
perjury, or injustice. Paul was afraid of none so much as those who did not
believe. "That I may be delivered from those who do not believe in Judea."
(3) Satan tempts proud people: over these he has
more power. None is in greater danger of falling by temptation, than he who
stands high in his own conceit. When David's heart was lifted up in pride,
the devil stirred him up to number the people. 2 Samuel 24:2. [Lofty towers
crash with a heavier fall; and lightning strikes the tops of mountains.]
Horace. Satan made use of Haman's pride to be his shame.
(4) Melancholy people. Melancholy is a black
humor, seated chiefly in the brain. It clothes the mind in sable, and
disturbs reason. Satan works much upon this humor. There are three things in
melancholy which give the devil greet advantage:
 Melancholy unfits for duty, it pulls off the
chariot-wheels; it dispirits a man. Lute strings which are wet, will not
sound. Just so, when the spirit is sad and melancholy, a Christian is out of
tune for spiritual actions.
 Melancholy sides often with Satan against God. The
devil tells such a person God does not love him, there is no mercy for him;
and the melancholy soul is apt to think so, and sets his hand to the devil's
 Melancholy breeds discontent, and discontent is the
cause of many sins, as unthankfulness, impatience, and often it ends in
self-murder. Judge, then, what an advantage Satan has against a melancholy
person, and how easily he may prevail with him by his temptation! A
melancholy person tempts the devil to tempt him!
(5) Idle people. The devil will find work for the
idle to do. Jerome gave his friend this counsel, "To be ever well employed,
that when the tempter came, he might find him working in the vineyard." If
the hands are not working good, the head will be plotting evil. Mic 2:1.
7th subtlety. Satan gives some little respite,
and seems to leave off tempting awhile, that he may come on after with more
advantage; as Israel made as if they were beaten before the men of Al, and
fled; but it was a plot to draw them out of their fenced cities, and ensnare
them by an ambush. Josh 8:15. The devil sometimes raises the siege, and
feigns a flight, that he may the better obtain the victory. He goes away for
a time, that he may return when he sees a better season. "When the unclean
spirit is gone out of a man, he walks through dry places, seeking rest: and
finding none, he says, I will return unto my house, whence I came out." Luke
11:24. Satan, by feigning a flight, and leaving off tempting awhile, causes
security in people; they think they are safe, and are become victors, when,
but suddenly, Satan falls on them and wounds them. As one that is going to
leap, runs back a little, that he may take the greater jump—so Satan seems
to retire and run back a little, that he may come on with a temptation more
furiously and successfully. We need, therefore, always to watch, and have on
our spiritual armor.
8th subtlety. The old serpent either takes men
off from the use of means, or makes them miscarry in the use of them.
(1) He labors to take men off from duty, from praying and
hearing, in order to discourage them; and, to do that, he has two artifices:
He discourages them from duty by suggesting to them their
unworthiness; that they are not worthy to approach to God, or have any signs
of his love and favor. They are sinful, and God is holy—how dare they
presume to bring their impure offering to God? That we should see ourselves
unworthy, is good, and argues humility; but to think we should not approach
God because of unworthiness, is a conclusion of the devil's making. God
says, "Come, though unworthy." By this temptation, the devil takes many off
from coming to the Lord's table. "Oh," says he, "this is a solemn ordinance,
and requires much holiness. How dare you come so unworthily? You will eat
and drink unworthily." Thus, as Saul kept the people from eating honey—so
the devil by this temptation, scares many from this ordinance, which is
sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.
Satan endeavors to discourage from duty by objecting lack
of success. When men have waited upon God in the use of ordinances, and find
not the comfort they desire, Satan disheartens them, and puts them upon
resolves of declining all religion; they begin to say as a wicked king,
"Should I wait for the Lord any longer?" 2 Kings 6:33. When Saul saw God
answered him not by dreams and visions, Satan tempted him to leave his
worship, and seek to the witch of Endor. 1 Sam 28:6. No answer to prayer
comes; therefore, says Satan, leave off praying; who will sow seed where no
crop comes up? Thus the devil by his subtle logic would dispute a poor soul
out of duty. But if he sees he cannot prevail this way, to take men off from
the use of means, then he labors:
(2) To make them miscarry in the use of means. By this
artifice he prevails over multitudes of professors. The devil stands, as he
did at Joshua's right hand, to resist men. Zech 3:1. If he cannot hinder
them from duty, he will be sure to hinder them in duty, two ways:
By causing distraction in the service of God; and
this he does by proposing objects of vanity, or by whispering in men's ears,
that they can scarcely know what they are doing.
He hinders, by putting men upon doing duties in a wrong
 In a dead formal manner, that so they may fail of the
success. Satan knows that duties done superficially, were as good as left
undone. That prayer which does not pierce the heart, will never pierce
 He puts them upon doing duties for wrong ends. [The
end governs the action]; he will make them look asquint, and have by-ends in
duty. "You shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in
the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men." Matthew 6:5.
Prayer is good—but to pray to be seen of men, was a dead fly in the box of
ointment. The oil of vainglory feeds the lamp; sinister aims corrupt
and destroy our holy things. Here is Satan's policy, either to prevent
duty, or pervert it; either to take men off from the use of
means, or make them miscarry in the use of them.
9th subtlety. Satan can color over sin with
the name and pretense of virtue. Alcibiades hung a beautifully embroidered
curtain over a foul picture of satyrs. Just so, Satan can put the curtain of
virtue over the foul picture of sin. He can cheat men with false wares; he
can make them believe that presumption is faith, that intemperate
passion is zeal, revenge is prudence, covetousness is
frugality, and prodigality is good hospitality. "Come, see my zeal
for the Lord," says Jehu. Satan persuaded him it was a fire from heaven,
when it was nothing but the wildfire of his own ambition. This is a subtle
art of Satan, to deceive by tempting, and put men off with the dead child,
instead of the live child; to make men believe that is a grace, which is a
sin; as if one should write balm-water upon a glass of poison. If Satan has
all these subtle artifices in tempting, are we not in great danger from this
prince of the air? Have we not often need to pray, "Lord, allow us not to be
led into temptation"? As the serpent beguiled Eve with his subtlety, let us
not be beguiled by his hellish snares and plots. 2 Cor 11:3.
He has a dexterity in subtle contrivances. He hurts more
as a fox than a lion. His snares are worse than his
darts. "So that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are very familiar
with his evil schemes." 2 Corinthians 2:11
10th subtlety. He labors to ensnare us by
lawful things. More are hurt by lawful things than unlawful, as more are
killed with wine than poison. Gross sins affright us—but how many enticed
and harmed, in using lawful things inordinately. Recreation is lawful,
eating and drinking are lawful—but many offend by excess, and their table is
a snare. Relations are lawful—but how often does Satan tempt to over-love!
How often is the wife and child put in God's place! Excess makes things
lawful become sinful.
11th subtlety. He makes the duties of our
general and particular calling hinder and jostle out one another. Our
general calling is serving God, our particular calling is minding our
employments in the world. It is wisdom to be regular in both these, when the
particular calling does not eat out the time for God's service, nor the
service of God hinder diligence in a calling. The devil's art is to make
Christians defective in one of these two. Some spend all their time in
hearing and reading the Word, and under a pretense of living by faith, do
not live in a vocation. Others Satan takes off from duties of religion;
under a pretense that they must provide for their families, he makes them so
careful for their bodies, that they quite neglect their souls. The subtlety
of the old serpent is to make men negligent in the duties either of the
first table or the second.
12th subtlety. He misrepresents true holiness,
that he may make others despise it. He paints the face of religion full of
scars, and with blemishes, that he may create in the minds of men prejudice
against it. He represents religion as the most melancholy thing, and that he
who embraces it must banish all joy, though the apostle speaks of "joy in
believing." Romans 15:13. Satan suggests that religion exposes men to
danger: he shows them the cross—but hides the crown from them;
he labors to put all the disgrace he can, upon holiness, that he may tempt
them to renounce it. He abuses the good Christian, and gives him a wrong
name. The truly zealous man he calls hot-headed and factious; the
patient man who bears injuries without revenge, he represents as a
coward; the humble man as low-spirited; the heavenly man he
calls a fool. He presents things that are seen, as more important than
things that are not seen; and thus misrepresents religion to the world. As
John Huss, that holy man, was painted with red devils—so Satan paints
holiness with as deformed and misshapen a face as he can, that he may, by
this temptation, draw men off from solid piety, and make them rather scorn
than embrace it. The hand of Joab is in this. Satan is tempting people to
atheism, to cast off all religion.
13th subtlety. Satan draws men off from the
love of the truth, to embrace error. "That they should believe a lie." 2
Thess 2:11. He is called in Scripture not only an unclean spirit—but
a lying spirit. As an unclean spirit he labors to defile the soul
with lust, and as a lying spirit he labors to corrupt the mind with error.
All this is dangerous, because many errors look so like the truth, as gilt
represents true gold. Satan thus beguiles souls. Though the Scripture blames
heretics for being promoters of error—yet it charges Satan with being the
chief contriver of it. They spread the error—but the devil is a lying spirit
in their mouths. Satan's great temptation is to make men believe dangerous
impostures, to be glorious truths. He thus transforms himself into an angel
of light. What is the meaning of Satan's sowing tares in the parable but
sowing error instead of truth? Matthew 13:25. How quickly had the devil
broached false doctrine in the apostles' times? That it was necessary to be
circumcised, that angel worship was lawful, and that Christ was not come in
the flesh. Acts 15:1; Col 2:18; 1 John 4:3. The devil tempts by drawing men
to error, because he knows how deadly the snare is, and the great mischief
it will do.
(1) Error is of a spreading nature; it is compared to
leaven because it permeates, and to a gangrene because it
spreads. Matthew 16:11; 2 Tim 2:17. One error spreads into more, like a
circle in the water that multiplies into more circles; one error seldom goes
alone. Error spreads from one person to another. It is like the plague,
which infects all round about it. Satan by infecting one person with error
infects more! The error of Pelagius spread suddenly to Palestine, Africa,
and Italy. The Arian error was at first but a single spark—but at last it
set almost the whole world on fire.
(2) The devil lays the snare of error, because it brings
divisions into the church; and these bring opprobrium and scandal upon the
ways of God. The devil dances at discord. Division destroys peace,
which was Christ's legacy; and love, which is the bond of perfection. Not
only has Christ's coat been rent—but his body, by the divisions which error
has caused. In churches and families where error creeps in, what animosities
and factions it makes! It sets the father against the son, and the son
against the father. What slaughters and bloodshed have been occasioned by
errors in the church!
(3) The devil's policy in raising errors, is to hinder
reformation. He was never a friend to reformation. In the primitive times,
after the apostles' days, the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood
after the woman, which was a deluge of heresies, that so he might hinder the
progress of the gospel. Rev 12:15.
(4) Satan tempts to error, because error devours
godliness. The Gnostics were not only corrupted in their judgments—but in
their morals; they were loose in their lives. "Ungodly men, turning the
grace of our God into lasciviousness." Jude 4. The Familists afterwards
turned Ranters, and gave themselves over to vices and immoralities; and this
they did while boasting of the Spirit and of perfection.
(5) The devil's design in seducing by error is, that he
knows it is pernicious to souls. Error damns as well as vice; poison
kills as well as a pistol. "Who privily shall bring in damnable
heresies." 2 Peter 2:1. If Satan is thus subtle in laying snares of error to
deceive, had we not need to pray that God would not allow us to be led into
temptation; that he would make us wise to keep out of the snare of error;
or, if we have fallen into it, that he would enable us to recover out of the
snare by repentance?
14th subtlety. Satan bewitches and ensnares
men, by setting pleasing baits before them; as the riches, pleasures, and
honors of the world. "All these things will I give you." Matthew 4:9. How
many does he tempt with this golden apple? Pride, idleness, luxury—are the
three worms which are bred by prosperity. "Those who will be rich fall into
temptation and a snare." 1 Tim 6:9. Satan kills with these silver darts.
Satan kills with these silver darts! How many are ensnared by his
luscious delights! The pleasures of the world are the great engine by which
Satan batters down men's souls. His policy is to tickle them to death—to
damn them with delights! The flesh would gladly be pleased, and Satan
prevails by this temptation; he drowns them in the sweet waters of pleasure.
Such as have abundance of the world, walk in the midst of golden snares. We
had need watch our hearts in prosperity, and pray not to be led into
temptation. We have as much need to be careful that we are not endangered by
prosperity, as a man has to be careful at a feast where there are some
poisoned dishes of food.
15th subtlety. Satan in tempting pleads
necessity. He knows that necessity may in some cases seem to palliate
and excuse a sin. It may seem to make a less evil good, to avoid a greater
evil, as Lot offered to expose his daughters to the Sodomites, and was
willing that they should be defiled, that he might preserve the angel
strangers who were come into his house. Gen 19:8. Doubtless Satan had a hand
in this temptation, and made Lot believe that the necessity of the action
would excuse the sin. The tradesman pleads the necessity of unlawful gain,
or he cannot live; another pleads a necessity of revenge, or his credit
would be impaired. Thus Satan tempts men to sin by the plea of the
necessity. He will quote Scripture to prove that in some extraordinary cases
there may be a necessity of doing that which is not at other times
justifiable. Did not David, in case of necessity, "eat the showbread, which
was not lawful for him—but only the priests"? Matthew 12:4. We do not read
that he was blamed; then says Satan, Why may not you in cases extraordinary
trespass a little and take the forbidden fruit? O beware of this temptation!
Satan's cloven foot is in it. Nothing can warrant a thing, which in its own,
sinful. Necessity will not justify impiety.
16th subtlety. Satan draws men to presumption.
Presumption is a confidence without sufficient ground. It is made up of two
ingredients—audacity and security. This temptation is common. There is a
(1) When men presume that they are better than they are;
that they have grace when they have none. They will not take gold on
trust—but they will take grace upon trust. The foolish virgins
presumed that they had oil in their vessels—when they had none. Here
that rule of Epicharmus is good, "Distrust a fallacious heart."
(2) When men presume on God's mercy. Though they are not
so holy as they should be—yet they presume that God will be merciful to
them. They look upon God's mercy with the broad spectacles of presumption.
Satan soothes men in their sins; he preaches to them, "All hope, no fear;"
and deludes them with golden dreams. "How many with vain hope, go down to
hell." Augustine. Presumption is Satan's drag-net, by which he drags
millions to hell.
By this temptation he often draws the godly to sin. They
presume upon their privileges or graces, and so venture on occasions of sin.
Jehoshaphat joined in a league of amity with king Ahab, presuming that his
grace would be an antidote strong enough against the infection. 2 Chron
18:3. Satan tempted Peter to presume upon his own strength; and when it came
to the trial he was foiled, and came off with shame. We had therefore need
pray, that we may not be led into this temptation; and say with David, "Keep
back your servant from presumptuous sins." Psalm 19:13.
17th subtlety. Satan carries on his evil
designs against us under the highest pretenses of friendship. He puts silver
upon his bait, and dips his poisoned pills in sugar, as some courtiers who
make the greatest pretenses of love, where they have the most deadly hatred.
Satan takes off his lion's skin and comes in sheep's clothing; he pretends
kindness and friendship, and pleads what might be for our good. Thus he came
to Christ, "Command that these stones be made bread." Matthew 4:3. As
if he had said, "I see you are hungry, and there is no table spread for you
in the wilderness; I, therefore, pitying your condition, wish you to get
something to eat; turn stones to bread, that your hunger may be satisfied."
But Christ spied the temptation, and with the sword of the Spirit, wounded
the old serpent!
Thus Satan came to Eve, and tempted her under the
notion of a friend. "Eat," said he, "of the forbidden fruit; for the Lord
knows, that in the day you eat thereof, you shall be as gods." As if he had
said, "I persuade you only to that which will put you into a better
condition than you now are in; eat of this tree, and it will make you
omniscient, you shall be as gods." What a kind deceitful devil was here! But
it was a subtle temptation. She greedily swallowed the bait, and ruined
herself and all her posterity! Let us fear his fallacious flatteries.
18th subtlety. Satan tempts men to sin by
persuading them to keep his counsel. They are like those that have some foul
disease, and will rather die than tell the physician. It were wisdom, in
case of sore temptation, to open one's mind to some experienced Christian,
whose counsel might be an antidote against it. There is danger in concealing
it, as in concealing a distemper that may prove mortal. How had we need
renew the petition, "Lead us not into temptation!"
19th subtlety. Satan makes use of fit tools
for carrying on his work—that is, he makes use of such people as may be the
most likely means to promote his designs. He lays the plot of a temptation,
cuts out the work, and employs others to finish it.
(1) He makes use of such as are in places of dignity,
men of renown. He knows, if he can get these on his side—that they may draw
others into snares. When the princes and heads of the tribes joined with
Korah, they presently drew a multitude into the conspiracy. Numb 16:2, 10.
(2) He carries on his designs by men of wit and
abilities, such as, if it were possible, would deceive the very elect.
He must have a great deal of cunning that persuades a man to be out of love
with his food; but the devil can make use of heretical spirits to persuade
men to be out of love with the ordinances of God, in which they profess to
have found comfort. Many who once seemed to be strict frequenters of the
house of God are persuaded, by Satan's cunning instruments, to leave it off
and to follow the light within them. One great subtlety of the devil
is to make use of such cunning, subtle men as may be fit to carry on his
(3) He makes use of bad company to be instruments
of tempting, especially to draw youth into sin. First they persuade them to
come into their company, then to twist into a cord of friendship, then to
drink with them, and, by degrees, debauch them. These are the devil's
decoys to tempt others.
20th subtlety. Satan strikes at some grace,
more than others. He aims at some people more than others; or at some grace
more than others; and if he can prevail in this, he knows that it will be an
advantage to him. If you ask what grace it is that Satan most strikes at, I
answer, it is the grace of faith. He lays the plot of his temptation
to blow up the fort of our faith. Why did Christ pray more for Peter's
faith than any other grace? Luke 22:32. Because he saw that his faith
was most in danger; the devil was striking at this grace. Satan, in tempting
Eve, labored to weaken her faith. "Yes, has God said, You shall not eat of
every tree of the garden?" Gen 3:1. The devil would persuade her that God
had not spoken truth; and when he had once brought her to distrust, she took
of the tree. It is "the shield of faith." Eph 6:16. Satan, in
tempting, strikes most at our shield, he assaults our faith. Though true
faith cannot be wholly lost, it may suffer a great eclipse. Though the devil
cannot by temptation take away the life of faith—yet he may hinder
its growth. He cannot destroy grace—but he may weaken
Why does Satan in tempting chiefly assault our faith?
"Fight neither with small nor great—but only with the
king." 1 Kings 22:31. Faith is the king of the graces; it is a royal,
princely grace, and puts forth the most majestic and noble acts; therefore
Satan fights chiefly with this grace. I shall show you the devil's policy in
assaulting faith most.
(1) Faith is the grace which does Satan most harm; it
makes the most resistance against him. "Be careful! Watch out for attacks
from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion,
looking for some victim to devour! Resist him, standing firm in the faith."
1 Peter 5:8-9. No grace more bruises the serpent's head—than faith. It is
both a shield and a sword, defensive and offensive. It is a shield to guard
the head and defend the vitals. The shield of faith prevents the fiery darts
of temptation from piercing us through. Faith is a sword which wounds the
How does faith come to be so strong, that it can resist
Satan and put him to flight?
Because it brings the strength of Christ into the soul.
Samson's strength lay in his hair—ours lies in Christ. If a child is
assaulted, it runs and calls to its father for help. Just so, when faith is
assaulted, it runs and calls Christ, and in his strength overcomes. "In
every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to
extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one." Ephesians 6:16
Faith furnishes itself with a store of promises. The
promises are faith's weapons to fight with. As David, by five stones in his
sling, wounded Goliath—so faith puts the promises, as stones, into its
sling. 1 Sam 17:40. "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Heb 13:5. "A
bruised reed shall he not break." Matthew 12:20. "Who will not allow you to
be tempted above that you are able." 1 Cor 10:13. "The God of peace shall
bruise Satan under your feet shortly." Romans 16:20. "No man is able to
pluck them out of my Father's hand." John 10:29. Here are five promises,
like five stones, put into the sling of faith, and with these a believer may
wound the red dragon. Faith being such a grace to resist and wound Satan, he
watches his opportunity to batter our shield, though he cannot break it.
(2) Satan strikes most at our faith, and would weaken and
destroy it, because it has a great influence upon all the other graces, and
sets them to work. Like some rich clothier, that gives out a stock of wool
to the poor, and sets them spinning—so faith gives out a stock to all the
other graces, and sets them to work. It sets love to work. "Faith
which works by love." Gal 5:6. When once the soul believes God's love, its
love is kindled to God. The believing martyrs burned hotter in love than in
fire. Faith sets repentance to work. When the soul believes there is
mercy to be had, it sets the eyes weeping. "Oh," says the soul, "that ever I
should offend such a gracious God!" Repenting tears drop from the eye of
faith. "The father of the child cried out with tears, Lord, I believe."
Mark 9:24. If the devil cannot destroy our faith—yet if he can disturb it,
if he can hinder and stop its actings, he knows all the other graces will be
lame and inactive. If the spring in a watch is stopped, the motion of the
wheels will be hindered. Just so, if faith is hindered, all the other graces
will be at a stand-still.
21st subtlety. Satan encourages those
doctrines that are flesh-pleasing. He knows the flesh loves to be gratified,
that it cries out for ease and liberty, and that it will not endure any
yoke, unless it is lined and made soft. He will be sure, therefore, to lay
his bait of temptation, so as to please and humor the flesh. The Word says,
"Strive as in an agony to enter into glory; crucify the flesh; take the
kingdom of heaven by holy violence!" Satan, to enervate and weaken these
Scriptures, flatters the flesh; tells man there needs no such strictness;
nor so much zeal and violence; a softer pace will serve; sure there is an
easier way to heaven; there needs no breaking the heart for sin. Do but
confess to a priest, or count over a few rosary beads, or say some Ave
Marias—and that will procure you a pardon, and give you admission into
paradise. Or he goes another way to work: if he sees men startle at
Popery—he stirs up flattering Antinomianism, and says, "What is the need of
all this cost? What is the need of repenting tears? These are legal. What is
the need to be so strict in your obedience? Christ has done all for you; you
should make use of your Christian liberty." This temptation draws many away;
it takes them off from strictness of life. He who sells cheapest
shall have most customers, the devil knows that it is a cheap and easy
doctrine which pleases the flesh, and therefore he has the most
22nd subtlety. Satan has his temptations in
reference to holy duties. His policy is either to hinder from duty, or
discourage in duty, or put men too far in duty.
(1) To hinder from duty, as (1 Thess 2:18),
"We would have come once and again—but Satan hindered us." So many duties of
religion would have been performed—but Satan hindered. The hand of Joab
is in this. There are three duties which the devil is an enemy to, and
labors to keep us from.
Meditation. He will let men profess, or pray and hear
in a formal manner, which does him no hurt and them no good. But he opposes
meditation, as being a means to compose the heart and make it serious. He
can stand your small shot, if you do not put in this bullet of meditation.
He cares not how much you hear—but how much you meditate. Meditation is
chewing the cud, it makes the Word digest and turn to nourishment; it is the
bellows of the affections. The devil is an enemy to this. When Christ is
alone in the wilderness, giving himself to divine contemplations, the devil
comes and tempts him, to hinder him. He will thrust in worldly business,
something or other to keep men off from holy meditation.
Mortification. This is as needful as heaven. "Mortify
your members which are upon the earth, uncleanness, inordinate affection."
Col 3:5. Satan will let men be angry with sin, exchange sin, or restrain
sin, which keeps it a prisoner, that cannot break out; but when it comes to
taking away the life of sin, he labors to stop the warrant and hinder the
execution! When sin is being mortified, Satan is being crucified.
Self-examination. "Examine yourselves;" is a metaphor
from metal which is pierced through, to see if there is gold within. 2 Cor
13:5. Self-examination is a spiritual inquisition set up in the soul. Man
must search his heart for sin, as one would search a house for a traitor;
or, as Israel sought for leaven to burn it. Satan, if it is possible, will,
by his temptations, keep men from this duty. He tells them that their estate
is good, and what need they put themselves to the trouble of examination?
Though men will not take their money on trust—yet Satan persuades
them to take their grace on trust. He persuaded the foolish virgins
that they had oil in their lamps. He has another policy, which is to show
men the faults of others, in order to keep them from searching their own. He
will allow them spectacles to see what is amiss in others—but a
microscope to behold their own faces and see what is amiss in
(2) His policy is to discourage in duty. When
anyone has been performing holy duties, Satan tells him that he has played
the hypocrite; that he has served God for money; that he has had sinister
ends; that his duties have been full of distraction and pride; that he has
offered the blind and the lame—so how can he expect a reward from God? He
tells a Christian he has increased his sin by prayer, and endeavors to make
him disparage his duties—so he knows not whether he should pray or not.
(3) If this plot will not work, he labors to put a
Christian on too far in duty. If he cannot keep him from duty, he will run
him on too far in it. Humiliation, or mourning for sin, is a duty—but Satan
will push it too far; he will say, "You are not humbled enough!" Indeed, he
never thinks a man is humbled enough, until he despairs. He would make a
Christian wade so deep in the waters of repentance, that he would get
beyond his depth, and be drowned in the gulf of despair.
He comes thus to the soul, "Your sins have been great,
and your sorrows should be proportionate to your sins. But is it so? Can you
say you have been as great a mourner as you have been a sinner? You did for
many years drive no other trade but sin—and is a drop of sorrow
enough for a sea of sin? No! Your soul must be more humbled, and lie
steeping longer in the brinish waters of repentance!" He would have a
Christian weep himself blind, and in a desperate mood, to throw away the
anchor of hope!
Now, lest any be troubled with this temptation, let me
say that this is a mere fallacy of Satan; for sorrow proportionable to sin
is not attainable in this life, nor does God expect it. It is sufficient for
you, Christian, if you have a gospel-sorrow; if you grieve so far as to see
sin hateful, and Christ precious; if you grieve so as to break off iniquity;
if your remorse ends in divorce. This is to be humbled enough. The gold has
lain long enough in the fire when the dross is purged out. Just so, a
Christian has lain long enough in humiliation when the love of sin is purged
out. This is to be humbled enough for divine acceptance. God, for Christ's
sake, will accept of this sorrow for sin; therefore let not Satan's
temptations drive you to despair.
You see how subtle an enemy he is, to hinder from
duty, or discourage in duty, or put men on too far in duty,
that he may run them upon the rock of despair! Had we not need, then,
who have such a subtle enemy, to pray, "Lord, lead us not into temptation"?
As the serpent beguiled Eve, let us not be beguiled by this hellish
23rd subtlety. Satan tempts to sin, by the
hope of returning out of it by speedy repentance. It is easy for the bird to
fly into the snare—but it is not so easy to get out of it. Is it so easy a
thing to repent? Are there no pangs in the new birth? Is it easy to leap out
of Delilah's lap into Abraham's bosom? How many has Satan flattered into
hell by the policy, that if they sin, they may recover themselves by
repentance! Alas! is repentance in our power? A lock can be easily shut—but
it cannot open without a key. Just so, we can shut ourselves out from
God—but we cannot open to him by repentance, until he who has the key of
David in his hand, opens our heart.
24th subtlety. Satan puts us upon doing that
which is good, unseasonably.
To mourn for sin is a duty; the sacrifices of God are a
broken heart. But there is a time when it may not be so seasonable. Psalm
51:17. After some eminent deliverance, which calls for rejoicing, to have
the spirit dyed of a sad color, and to sit weeping, is not seasonable. There
was a special time at the feast of tabernacles, when God called his people
to cheerfulness. "Seven days shall you keep a solemn feast unto the Lord
your God, you shall surely rejoice." Deut 16:15. Now, if at this time the
Israelites had hung their harps upon the willows, and been disconsolate, it
would have been very unseasonable, like mourning at a wedding. When God, by
his providence, calls us to thanksgiving, and we sit drooping, and, with
Rachel, refuse to be comforted—it is very evil, and savors of ingratitude.
It is Satan's temptation; the hand of Joab is in this!
To rejoice is a duty. "Praise is lovely for the upright."
Psalm 33:1. But when God, by his judgements, calls us to weeping—joy and
mirth is unseasonable. "In that day did the Lord call to weeping, and behold
joy and gladness." Isaiah 22:12, 13. Learned writers think that this was in
the time of King Ahaz, when the signs of God's anger, like a blazing star,
appeared. To be given to mirth at that time, was very unseasonable.
To read the Word is a duty—but Satan sometimes puts men
upon it when it is unseasonable. To read it at home when God's Word is being
preached, or the sacrament administered, is unseasonable, yes, sinful; as
Hushai said, "The counsel is not good at this time." 2 Samuel 17:7. There
was a set time enjoined for the Passover, when the Jews were to bring their
offering to the Lord. Numb 9:2. Had the people been reading the law at home
in the time of the Passover, it had not been in season, and God would have
punished it for a contempt. It is the devil's subtle temptation, either to
keep us from duty, or to put us upon it when it is least in season. Duties
of religion, not well timed, and done in season, are dangerous. Snow and
hail are good for the ground when they come in their season; but in the
harvest, when the corn is ripe, a storm of hail would do hurt.
25th subtlety. Satan persuades men to delay
repenting and turning to God. He says (as Hag 1:2), "The time is not come."
Now youth is budding; or you are but in the flower of your age, it is too
soon to repent: "The time is not come." This temptation is the devil's
draw-net by which he draws millions to hell; it is a dangerous
temptation. "Sin is a sweet poison," Bernard. The longer poison lies in the
body—the more deadly it is. Just so, by delay of repentance, sin
strengthens, and the heart hardens. The longer ice freezes, the harder it is
to be broken. Just so, the longer a man freezes in impenitency, the more
difficult it will be to have his heart broken. When sin has settled
in the heart—it is not easily driven away. Besides, the danger of delaying
repentance appears in this, that life is hazardous, and may suddenly expire.
What security have you, that you shall live another day? Life is made up of
a few flying minutes; it is a candle, which is soon blown out. "What is your
life? It is even a vapor." James 4:14. The body is like a vessel, filled
with a little breath; sickness broaches it, death draws it out. How
dangerous therefore is it to procrastinate and put off turning to God by
repentance! Many now in hell purposed to repent—but death surprised them!
26th subtlety. Satan, in tempting, assaults
and weakens the saints' peace. If he cannot destroy their grace, he
will disturb their peace. He envies the Christian; and if he cannot
keep him from a heaven hereafter, he will keep him from a heaven upon earth.
There is nothing, next to holiness, which a Christian prizes more than peace
and tranquility of mind. It is the cream of life, a bunch of grapes by the
way. Now, Satan's great policy is to shake a Christian's peace; that, if he
will go to heaven, he shall go there through frights, and plenty of tears.
He throws in his fire-balls of temptation, to set the saints' peace on fire.
Of such great concern is spiritual peace, that no wonder if Satan would, by
his intricate subtleties, rob us of that jewel. Spiritual peace is a token
of God's favor. As Joseph had a special testimony of his father's kindness
in the many-colored coat—so have the saints a special token of God's good
will to them, when he gives them the many-colored coat of inward peace. No
wonder then, if Satan rages so much against the saints' peace, and would
tear off this comfortable robe from them. The devil troubles the waters of
the saints' peace because hereby he hopes to have the more advantage of
(1) By perplexing their spirits, he takes off their
chariot wheels; unfits them for the service of God; and puts body and mind
out of temper, as an instrument out of tune. Sadness of spirit prevailing, a
Christian can think of nothing but his troubles; his mind is full of doubts,
fears, surmises—so that he is like a person distracted, and is scarcely
himself; either he neglects the duties of religion, or his mind is taken off
from them while he is doing them. There is one duty especially that
melancholy and sadness of spirit unfits for, and that is thankfulness.
Thankfulness is a tribute due to God. "Let the saints be joyful, let the
high praises of God be in their mouth." Psalm 149:5, 6. But when Satan has
disturbed a Christian's spirit and filled his mind full of black, and almost
despairing thoughts, how can he be thankful? It rejoices Satan to see how
his plot succeeds. By making God's children unquiet, he makes them
(2) By troubling the saints' peace, Satan lays a
stumbling block in the way of others. By this he gets occasion to render the
ways of God unlovely to those who are looking heavenward. He sets before new
beginners—the perplexing thoughts, the tears, the groans of those who are
wounded in spirit, to scare them from all seriousness in religion. He will
object to new beginners: "Do you not see how these sad souls torture
themselves with melancholy thoughts—and will you change the comforts and
pleasures of this life to sit always in the house of mourning? Will you
espouse that religion which makes you a terror to yourselves, and a burden
to others? Can you be in love with a religion that is ready to frighten you
out of your wits?" Thus the devil, by troubling the saints' peace, would
discourage others who are looking towards heaven; he would beat them off
from prayer, and hearing all soul-awakening sermons, by the fear lest they
should fall into this black humor of melancholy, and end their days in
(3) By this subtle policy of Satan, in disturbing the
saints' peace, and making them believe God does not love them, he sometimes
so far prevails as to make them begin to entertain hard thoughts of God.
Through the black spectacles of melancholy, God's dealings look sad
and ghastly. Satan tempts the godly to have strange thoughts of God; to
think he has cast off all pity, and has forgotten to he gracious, and to
make sad conclusions. Psalm 78:7, 8, 9. "He will break all my bones like a
lion; You make an end of me day and night." Isaiah 38:13. The devil, by
melancholy, causes a sad eclipse in the soul—so that it begins to think that
God has shut up the springs of mercy, and there is no hope. Hereupon Satan
gets further advantage of a troubled spirit. Sometimes he puts it upon
sinful wishes and execrations against itself; as Job, who in distemper of
mind, cursed the day of his birth. Job 3:3. Though he did not curse his
God—yet he cursed the day of his birth.
Thus you see what advantages the devil gets by raising
storms and troubling the saints' peace. If the devil is capable of any
delight, it is to see the saints' disquiets. Their groans are his
music. It is a sport to him to see them torture themselves upon the rack of
melancholy, and almost drown themselves in tears. When the godly have unjust
surmises of God, question his love, deny the work of grace, and fall to
wishing they had never been born—Satan is ready to clap his hands, and shout
for a victory.
By what arts and methods does Satan, in tempting, disturb
the saints' peace?
He slyly conveys evil thoughts, and makes a Christian
believe they come from his own heart. The cup was found in Benjamin's
sack—but it was of Joseph's putting there. Just so, a child of God often
finds atheistical and blasphemous thoughts in his mind—but Satan has put
them there. As some lay their children at another's door—so Satan lays his
temptations at our door, and fathers them upon us. We then trouble ourselves
about them, and nurse them, as if they were our own.
Satan disturbs the saints' peace by drawing forth their
sins in the black colors to affright them, and make them ready to give up
the spirit. He is called the accuser of the brethren; not only because he
accuses them to God—but accuses them to themselves. He tells them they are
guilty of certain sins and they are hypocrites; whereas the sins of a
believer only show that his grace is not perfect—but not that he has no
grace. When Satan comes with this temptation, show him that Scripture, "The
blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin." 1 John 1:7.
27th subtlety. Satan, by plausible arguments,
tempts men to commit suicide—to make away with themselves. This temptation
not only crosses the current of Scripture—but it is abhorrent to nature to
be one's own executioner. Yet such are the cunning artifices of
Satan, that he persuades many to lay violent hands upon themselves, as the
obituaries witness. He tempts some to do this in terror of conscience,
telling them, "All the hell they shall have is in their conscience, and
death will give them present ease." He tempts others to make away with
themselves that they may live no longer to sin against God. Others he tempts
to make away with themselves, that they may presently arrive at happiness.
He tells them, the best of the saints desire heaven, and the sooner they are
there the better.
Augustine speaks of Cleombrotus, who hearing Plato read a
lecture on the immortality of the soul, and the joys of the other
world—threw himself down a steep precipice and killed himself. This is
Satan's plot; but we must not break prison by laying violent hands upon
ourselves—but wait until God sends and opens the door. Let us pray "Lead us
not into temptation." Still bear in mind that Scripture, "You shall not
kill." Exod 20:13. If we may not kill another—much less ourselves! And take
heed of discontent, which often opens the door to self-murder.
Thus I have shown you twenty-seven subtleties of Satan in
tempting, that you may the better know them, and avoid them. There is a
story of a Jew who would have poisoned Luther—but a friend sent to Luther
the picture of the Jew, warning him to take heed of such a man when he saw
him; by which means Luther recognized knew the murderer, and escaped his
hands. I have told you the subtle devices of Satan in tempting; I have shown
you the picture of him who would murder you. Being forewarned, I beseech you
to take heed of the murderer!
From the subtlety of Satan in tempting, let me draw three
(1) It may administer matter of wonder to us, how any are
saved. How amazing that Satan, this Abaddon, or angel of the
bottomless pit (Rev 9:11) this Apollyon, this soul-devourer—does not deceive
all mankind! What a wonder that some are preserved, that neither Satan's
hidden snares prevail nor his fiery darts! What a wonder that neither the
head of the serpent, nor the paw of the lion destroys them! Surely it will
be matter of admiration to the saints, when they come to heaven, to think
how astonishing it is, that notwithstanding all the force and fraud, the
power and policy of hell, they should arrive safe at the heavenly port! This
is owing to the safe conduct of Christ, the Captain of our salvation.
Michael is too hard for the dragon!
(2) Is Satan subtle? See what need we have to pray to God
for wisdom to discern the snares of Satan, and strength to resist them.
We cannot of ourselves stand against temptation; if we could, the prayer
were needless, "Lead us not into temptation." Let us not think that we in
ourselves, can be too cunning for the devil, or escape his wiles and darts.
If David and Peter, who were pillars in God's temple, fell by temptation—how
soon would such weak reeds as we are, be blown down—if God would leave us!
Take Christ's advice, "Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation."
(3) See how the end of all Satan's subtleties in tempting
is, that he may be an accuser. He lays the plot, entices men to
sin, and then brings in the indictment; as if one should make another drunk,
and then complain of him to the magistrate for being drunk. The devil is
first a tempter—and then an informer. He is first a liar—and then a
Having shown the subtleties of Satan in tempting, I shall
answer two questions:
Why does God allow his people to be buffeted by Satan's
He does it for many wise and holy ends.
(1) He lets them be tempted to try them. The
Hebrew word signifies both to tempt and to try. Temptation is a
touchstone to try what is in the heart. The devil tempts, that he may
deceive—but God lets us be tempted, to try us. [He who is not tempted is not
Hereby God tries our sincerity. Job's sincerity
was tried by temptation; the devil told God that Job was a hypocrite, and
served him only because God had blessed him. But, said he, "Touch all that
he has (that is, let me tempt him) and he will curse you to your face!" Job
1:11. Well, God did let the devil touch him by temptation, and yet Job
remained holy, he worshiped God, and blessed God; ver 20, 21. Here Job's
sincerity was proved; he had fiery temptations—but he came out of the fire a
golden Christian. Temptation is a touchstone of sincerity.
By temptation. God tries our love. The wife of
Tigranes never showed her chastity and love to her husband, as when she was
tempted by Cyrus—but did not yield. Just so, our love to God is seen when we
can look a temptation in the face, and turn our back upon it. Though the
devil come as a serpent subtly, and offers a golden apple—yet the one who
loves God will not touch the forbidden fruit. When the devil offered Christ
all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, such was Christ's love
to his Father, that he abhorred the temptation. True love will not be
bribed. When the devil's darts are most fiery—a saint's love to God is most
fervent! "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." John 14:15
By temptation God tries our courage. "Ephraim is a
silly dove without heart." Hos 7:11. So it may be said of many, they are
without a heart; they have no heart to resist a temptation. No sooner
does Satan come with his solicitations—but they yield. They are like a
coward, who as soon as the thief approaches, delivers his purse. He is a
valorous Christian, who brandishes the sword of the Spirit against Satan,
and will rather die than yield. The courage of the Romans was never more
seen, than when they were assaulted by the Carthaginians. Just so, the
heroic spirit of a saint is never more seen than in a battle-field, when he
is fighting with the red dragon, and by the power of faith puts the devil to
flight. [The strength of faith can be shaken, not destroyed.] Tertullian.
One reason why God lets his people be tempted is, that their metal may be
tried—their sincerity, love, and magnanimity. When grace is proved, the
gospel is honored.
(2) God allows his children to be tempted, that they may
be kept from pride. Pride crept once into the angels, and into
the apostles, when they disputed which of them should be greatest; and in
Peter, when he said, "Though all men forsake you—yet I will not," as if he
had had more grace than all the apostles. Pride keeps grace low, that it
cannot thrive. As the head swells—the other parts of the body waste away.
Just so, as pride swells—grace wastes away. God resists pride; and, that he
may keep his children humble, he allows them sometimes to fall into
temptation. "To keep me from getting puffed up, I was given a thorn in my
flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from getting proud."
2 Cor 12:7. When Paul was lifted up by revelations, he was in danger of
being lifted up with pride; then came the messenger of Satan to buffet him:
that was some sore temptation to humble him. The thorn in the flesh was to
burst the bubble of pride. Better is the temptation which humbles me—than
the duty which makes me proud. Rather than a Christian should be proud, God
lets him fall into the devil's hands awhile—that he may be cured of his
(3) God lets his people be tempted, that they may be
fitter to comfort others who are in the same distress, and speak
a word in due season to such as are weary. Paul was trained up in the
fencing-school of temptation, and was able to acquaint others with Satan's
wiles and stratagems, 2 Cor 2:11. A man who has ridden over a place where
there are quicksands, is the fittest to guide others through that dangerous
way. Just so, he who has been buffeted by Satan, and has felt the claws of
the roaring lion, is the fittest man to deal with one who is tempted.
(4) God lets his children be tempted, to make them long
more for heaven, where they shall be out of gunshot, and freed from the
hissing of the old serpent. Satan is not yet fully cast into
prison—but like a prisoner who is under bail, he vexes and molests the
saints. He lays his snares, and throws his fireballs! But this only makes
the children of God long to be gone from hence, and pray that they had the
wings of a dove, to fly away and be at rest! God allowed Israel to be vexed
with the Egyptians, that they might long the more to be in Canaan. Heaven is
the place of rest—no bullets of temptation fly there! The eagle that soars
aloft in the air, and sits perching upon the tops of high trees, is not
troubled with the stinging of serpents below. Just so, when believers have
got into the heaven above, they shall not be stung with the old serpent! The
devil is cast out of the heavenly paradise. Heaven is compared to an
exceeding high mountain. Rev 21:10. It is so high, that Satan's fiery darts
cannot reach up to it. "There is no fear of enemies there, no snares of
The temptations here are to make the saints long until
death sounds a retreat, and calls them off the field where the bullets of
temptation fly so thick, that they may receive a victorious crown!
What rocks of support are there, or what comfort is there
for tempted souls?
(1) That it is not our case alone—but has been the case
of God's most eminent saints. "There has no temptation taken you
but such as is common to man," yes, to the holiest men. 1 Cor 10:13.
Christ's lambs, which have had the mark of election upon them, have been set
upon by the world. Elijah, who could shut heaven by prayer, could not
shut his heart from temptation. 1 Kings 19:4. Job was tempted to
curse God, Peter to deny Christ; and hardly ever any saint has got to
heaven—but has met with a lion by the way! [No one escapes the lot which all
the saints suffer.] Nay, Jesus Christ himself, though free from
sin—yet was not free from temptation. We read of his baptism; then he was
"led into the wilderness—to be tempted by the devil." Matthew 4:1. No sooner
was Christ out of the water of baptism—but he was in the fire of temptation!
And if the devil would set upon Christ, no wonder if he set upon us! There
was no sin in Christ—no powder for the devil's fire. Temptation to him was
like a pebble on a crystal glass, which glides off; or like a spark of fire
on a marble pillar, which will not stick—and yet Satan was bold to tempt
him! It is some comfort that those who have been our betters, have
wrestled with temptations.
(2) Another rock of support that may comfort a tempted
soul, is, that temptations (where they are burdens) evidence grace.
Satan does not tempt God's children because they have sin
in them—but because they have grace in them. Had they no grace he
would not disturb them, for where he keeps possession all is in peace. Luke
11:21. His temptations are to rob the saints of their grace. A thief will
not assault an empty house—but only where he thinks there is
treasure. A pirate will not set upon an empty ship—but only one which
is full of spices and jewels. Just so, the devil assaults most the people of
God, because he thinks they have a rich treasure of grace in their hearts,
and he would rob them of it. Why are so many cudgels thrown up into a
tree—but because there is much fruit upon it? The devil throws his
temptations at you, because he sees you have much fruit of grace growing
upon you. Though to be tempted is a trouble—yet to think why
you are tempted—is a comfort.
(3) Another rock of support or comfort is, that Jesus
Christ is near at hand, and stands by us in all our temptations.
Here take notice of two things:
 Christ's SYMPATHY in our temptations. "We do not have
a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities."
Heb 4:15. Jesus Christ sympathizes with us; he is so sensible of our
temptations as if he himself lay under them—and felt them in his own soul.
As in music, when one string is touched, all the rest sound—so when we
suffer Christ's affections sound; we cannot be tempted but he is
touched. If you saw a wolf worry your child, would you not pity your child?
You cannot pity your child—as Christ pities his tempted ones. He had a
fellow feeling when he was upon earth—but much more now that he is in glory.
But how can it compatible with Christ's glory now in
heaven, to have a fellow feeling with our sufferings?
This fellow feeling in Christ arises not from an
infirmity or passion—but from the mystic union between him and his
members. "He who touches you, touches the apple of his eye." Zech 2:8. Every
injury done to a saint—he takes as done to him in heaven.
Every temptation strikes at him, and he is touched with the feeling of them.
 Christ's SUPPORT in temptation. The good Samaritan
first had compassion on the wounded man—there was sympathy. Then he poured
in wine and oil—there was support (Luke 10:34). Just so, when we are wounded
by the red dragon, Christ is first touched with compassion, and then pours
in wine and oil. "In that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able
to support those who are tempted." Heb 2:18. The Greek word for support,
signifies to run speedily to one's help. So fierce is Satan—so
frail is man, that Christ runs speedily to his help. When Peter was
ready to sink, and said, "Lord, save me!" Christ immediately stretched forth
his hand, and caught him! Just so, when a poor soul is tempted, and cries to
heaven for help, "Lord, save me!" Christ comes in with his auxiliary forces.
Our Lord Jesus knows what it is to be tempted, therefore
he is ready to support those who are tempted. It has been observed that
mothers are more pitiful to other women in their pregnancies, than those
women who are barren. Just so, the Lord Jesus having been in travail by
temptations and sufferings—is more ready to pity and support those who are
Concerning Christ's supporting the tempted, consider two
things: his ability to support, and his agility to support.
"He is able to support those who are tempted." Heb 2:18. He is called
Michael, which signifies, "Who is like God." Rev 12:7. Though
the tempted soul is weak—yet he fights under a good Captain—the Lion of the
tribe of Judah! When a tempted soul fights, Christ comes into the field as
his support. Our Michael will be too hard for the dragon. When the
devil lays the siege of a temptation, Christ can quench it when he pleases;
he can beat through the enemy's quarters, and so rout Satan that he shall
never be able to rally his forces any more. Jesus Christ is on the saint's
side, and who would desire a better defense than omnipotence!
As Christ is able to support the tempted—so he
will certainly support them. His power enables him, his love inclines
him, his faithfulness engages him—to support his tempted people. It is a
great comfort to a soul in temptation, to have a supporting Savior. God
supported Israel in the wilderness, when they were among fiery serpents. The
rock sending forth water, the manna, the pillar of cloud, the
brazen serpent—what were these but types of God's supporting poor
souls in the wilderness of temptation, stung by the devil, that fiery
serpent? Alexander being asked how he could sleep so securely, when his
enemies were about him, said, "Antipater is awake, who is always vigilant."
So when our tempting enemy is near us—Jesus Christ is awake, who is a wall
of fire around us.
There is a great deal of support to the tempted in the
names given to Christ. As Satan's names may terrify—so
Christ's names may support. The devil is called Apollyon, the
devourer. Rev 9:11. Christ is called a Savior. The devil is called
the "strong man." Matthew 12:29. Christ is called El Gibbor—the
mighty God. Isaiah 9:6. The devil is called the accuser. Rev
12:10. Christ is called the Advocate. 1 John 2:1. The devil is called
the tempter. Matthew 4:3. Christ is called the Comforter. Luke
2:25. The devil is called the prince of darkness. Christ is called
the Sun of Righteousness. The devil is called the old serpent.
Christ is called the Brazen Serpent who heals. John 3:14. Thus the
very names of Christ have some support in them for tempted souls.
How and in what manner does Christ support those who are
1. He supports them by sending his Spirit—whose
work it is to bring those promises to their mind, which are
fortifying. "He shall bring all things to your remembrance." John 14:26.
The Spirit furnishes us with promises—as so many weapons to fight against
the old serpent. "The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet
shortly." Romans 16:20. "God will not allow you to be tempted above what you
are able." 1 Cor 10:13. "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's
head." Gen 3:15. We are often in times of temptation, like a man who has his
house attacked, and cannot find his weapons, his sword and gun; in which
case Christ sends his Spirit, and brings things to our remembrance, which
help us in our combat. The Spirit of Christ does for the tempted, what Aaron
and Hur did for Moses, when they put a stone under him and held up his
hands, and then Israel prevailed. The Spirit puts the promises under the
hands of faith, and then the Christian overcomes the devil, that spiritual
Amalek. The promise is to the soul—as the anchor to the ship,
which keeps it steady in a storm.
2. Christ supports those who are tempted by "interceding
for them." When the devil is tempting, Christ is praying.
The prayer which Christ put up for Peter when he was tempted, extends to all
his saints. "Father," says Christ, "it is my child who is tempted! Father,
pity him!" Luke 22:32. When a poor soul lies bleeding of the wounds which
the devil has given him, Christ presents his wounds to his Father, and, in
the virtue of those, pleads for mercy. How powerful must his prayer be! He
is heaven's favorite. John 11:42. He is both High Priest and a Son. If God
could forget that Christ were a Priest, he cannot forget that he is a
Son. Besides, Christ prays for nothing but what is agreeable to his
Father's will. If a king's son petitions only for that which his father has
a mind to grant—his suit will not be denied.
3. Christ supports his people, by taking off the tempter.
When the sheep begin to straggle, the shepherd sets the dog
on them to bring them back to the fold, and then calls off the dog. Just
so, God takes off the tempter. He "will with the temptation make a way to
escape;" he will make an outlet. 1 Cor 10:13. He will rebuke the tempter.
"The Lord rebuke you, O Satan!" Zech 3:2. It is no small support, that
Christ supports the tempted. The mother supports the child most, when it is
sick; she sits by its bedside, and brings it cordials. Just so, when a soul
is most assaulted, it shall be most assisted by Jesus.
"But I have dealt unkindly with Christ and sinned against
his love. Surely he will not support me! He will let me perish in the
Christ is a merciful High Priest, and will support you
notwithstanding your failings. Joseph was a type of Christ; his brethren
sold him away, and the "iron entered into his soul;" yet afterwards, when
his brethren were ready to die in the famine—he forgot their injuries, and
supported them with money and grain. "I am," said he, "Joseph your brother!"
So Christ will say to a tempted soul, "I know your unkindnesses, how you
have distrusted my love, grieved my Spirit; but I am Joseph—I am
Jesus—therefore I will support you when you are tempted."
(4) Another rock of support—is that the holiest man may
be most tempted. A rich ship may be violently attacked by
pirates. Just so, he who is rich in faith may have the devil upon him with
his battering-pieces. Job, an eminent saint, was fiercely assaulted. Satan
smote his body that he might tempt him either to question God's providence,
or quarrel with it. Paul was a chosen vessel—but how was this vessel
battered with temptation! 2 Cor 12:7.
Is it not said, "He who is begotten of God, that the
wicked one touches him not"? 1 John 5:18.
It is not meant that the devil does not tempt him—but he
touches him not, that is, with a deadly touch. "There is a sin unto
death." 1 John 5:16. Now, Satan with all his temptations does not make a
child of God sin "a sin unto death." Thus he touches him not.
(5) Another rock of support—is that Satan can go no
further in tempting than God gives him permission. The power of
the tempter is limited. A whole legion of devils could not touch one
swine—until Christ gave them permission. Satan would have sifted Peter until
he sifted out all his grace—but Christ would not allow him. "I have prayed
for you," etc. Christ binds the devil with a chain. Rev 20:1. If Satan's
power were according to his malice—not one soul would be saved;
but he is a chained enemy. It is a comfort that Satan cannot go a
hair's breadth beyond God's permission. If an enemy could not touch a child
further than the father appointed, he would do the child no great harm.
(6) Another rock of support—is that it is not having
a temptation which makes guilty, but giving consent to it.
We cannot hinder a temptation. If we abhor the temptation, it is our
burden—and not our sin. We read in the old law, that if one
forced a virgin, and she cried out, she was reputed innocent. Just so, if
Satan by temptation would commit a rape upon a Christian, and he cries out,
and does not consent, the Lord will charge it upon the devil's score. It is
not laying the bait which hurts the fish—if the fish do not bite.
(7) Another rock of support is—that our being tempted is
no sign of God's hating us. A child of God often thinks God does
not love him because he lets him be haunted by the devil. This is a wrong
conclusion. Was not Christ himself tempted, and yet by a voice from heaven
proclaimed, "This is my beloved Son!" Matthew 3:17. Satan's tempting,
and God's loving—may stand together. The goldsmith loves his gold in the
fire. Just so, God loves a saint, though shot at by fiery darts.
(8) Another rock of support is—that Christ's temptation
was for our consolation. Jesus Christ is to be looked upon as a
public person, as our head and representative; and what he did, he did for
us. His prayer was for us, his suffering was for us; and when
he was tempted, and overcame the temptation, he overcame for us.
Christ's conquering Satan was to show that elect people shall at last be
conquerors over Satan. When Christ overcame Satan's temptation, it was not
only to give us an example of courage—but an assurance of our conquest. We
have overcome Satan already in our covenant head, and we shall at last
(9) Another rock of support is—that the saints'
temptation shall not be above their strength. The harpist will
not stretch the strings of his harp too hard, lest they break. "God is
faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able." 1
Cor 10:13. He will proportion our strength to the stroke. "My grace is
sufficient for you." 2 Cor 12:9. The torch-light of faith shall be kept
burning, though all the winds of temptation are blowing.
(10) Another rock of support—is that these temptations
shall produce much good. They quicken a spirit of prayer in the
saints. They pray more and better. Temptation is the exciter of prayer.
Perhaps before, the saints came to God as cold suitors in prayer—they prayed
as if they prayed not. Temptation is a medicine for security. When Paul had
a messenger of Satan to buffet him, he was more earnest in prayer. "For this
thing I besought the Lord three times." 2 Cor 12:8. The thorn in his
flesh was a spur in his sides to quicken him in prayer. The deer when shot
with the dart, runs faster to the water. Just so, a soul that is shot with
the fiery darts of temptation, runs the faster to the throne of grace; and
is earnest with God, either to take off the tempter, or to support him when
he is tempted.
God makes the temptation to sin—a means to prevent sin.
The more a Christian is tempted, the more he fights against the temptation.
The more a chaste woman is assaulted, the more she abhors the attempt. The
stronger Joseph's temptation was, the stronger was his opposition. The more
the enemy attempts to storm a castle, the more is he repelled and beat back.
A godly man's temptations cause the increase of grace.
"One tempted Christian," says Luther, "is worth a thousand." He grows more
in grace. As the bellows increase the flame—so temptation increases the
flame of grace.
By these temptations God makes way for comfort.
After Christ was tempted, the angels came and ministered unto him. Matthew
4:2. When Abraham had been warring, Melchizedek brought him bread and wine
to revive his spirits. Gen 14:18. So after the saints have been warring with
Satan, God sends his Spirit to comfort them. Luther said that temptations
were Christ's embraces, because he then manifests himself most
sweetly to the soul.
That I may further comfort such as are tempted, let me
speak to two particular cases.
"I have horrid temptations to blasphemy!" say some.
Did not the devil tempt Christ after this manner: "All
these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me"? Matthew
4:9. What greater blasphemy can be imagined than that the God of heaven and
earth, should worship the devil! Yet Christ was tempted to this. If when
blasphemous thoughts are injected, you tremble at them, and are in a
cold sweat—they are not yours—Satan shall answer for them. Let him that
plots the treason suffer.
"But my case is yet worse," say others; "I have
been tempted to such sins, and have yielded! The tempter has overcome me!"
I grant that, through the withdrawing of God's grace, and
the force of temptation—a child of God may be overcome. David was overcome
by temptation in the case of Bathsheba, and in numbering the people. There
is a principle of grace in the heart true to Christ; but sometimes it may be
overcome by corruption, and then a Christian yields. It is sad thus to yield
to the tempter. But yet let not a child of God be wholly discouraged, and
say there is no hope. Let me pour in some balm of Gilead into this
(1) Though a Christian may fall by a temptation—yet the
seed of God is in him. "His seed remains in him." 1 John 3:9. [Grace can
be shaken—but not destroyed.] Augustine. A man may be bruised by a
fall—yet there is life in him. A Christian foiled by Satan may be like the
man going to Jericho, who fell among thieves, and was left "wounded and half
dead;" but still there is a vital principle of grace; his seed remains in
him. Luke 10:30.
(2) Though a child of God may be overcome in a
skirmish—yet not in the war. As an army may be worsted in a
skirmish—but conquer at last. Though Satan may foil a child of God in a
skirmish by a temptation, the believer shall overcome at last. A saint may
be foiled—yet not conquered. He may lose ground—and not
lose the victory.
(3) God does not judge his children by one action—but by
the frame of the heart. As he does not judge a wicked man by one good
action—so neither does God judge a holy man by one bad action. A holy person
may be worsted by a temptation; but God does not measure him by that. Who
measures milk when it seethes and boils up? God does not take the measure of
a saint when the devil has boiled him up in a passion—but he judges of him
by the pulse and temper of his heart. The Christian would fear God; and when
he fails he weeps. God looks which way the bias of his heart stands; if that
is set against sin—God will pardon.
(4) God will make a saint's fall by temptation turn to
his spiritual advantage. He may let a regenerate person fall by a
temptation, to make him more watchful. Perhaps he walked loosely, and was
decoyed into sin; but for the future he will grow more careful and cautious
in his walking. The foiled Christian is a vigilant Christian.
He will take care not to come within the lion's chain any more! He
will be shy and fearful of the occasions of sin. He will not go
abroad without his spiritual armor, and will gird on his armor by prayer.
When a wild beast gets over the hedge and damages the corn—the farmer will
make his fence stronger. Just so, when the devil gets over the fence by
temptation, and foils a Christian—he will be sure to mend his fence, and be
more vigilant against temptation afterwards.
God sometimes lets his children be foiled by temptation,
that they may see their continual dependence on God, and may go to him for
strength. We need not only habitual grace to stand against temptation—but
auxiliary grace; as the boat needs not only the oars—but wind, to carry it
against a strong tide. God lets his children sometimes fall by temptation,
that, seeing their own weakness—they may rest more on Christ and free grace.
By allowing his children to be foiled by a temptation,
God settles them the more in grace. They get strength by their
falls. The poets feign that Antaeus the giant, in wrestling with Hercules,
got strength by every fall to the ground. Just so, a saint, when foiled in
wrestling with Satan, gets more spiritual strength. Peter had never
such strength of faith, as after being foiled in the high priest's hall. How
was he fired with zeal, and steeled with courage! He who before played the
coward before a maid—now dares openly confess Christ before rulers and the
councils. Acts 2:14. As the shaking of the tree settles it the more, God
lets his children be shaken with the wind of temptation, that they may be
more settled in grace afterwards. So let not those Christians whom God has
allowed to be foiled by temptation, cast away their anchor, or give way to
May it not make Christians careless whether they fall
into temptation or not, if God can make the temptation advantageous to them?
We must distinguish between being foiled through
weakness, and foiled through willfulness. If a soldier fights—but
is foiled for lack of strength, the general of the army will pity him, and
bind up his wounds; but if he is willfully foiled, and plays the traitor—he
must expect no favor. Just so, if a Christian fights it out with Satan—but
is foiled for lack of strength, as it was with Peter, God will pity him and
do him good by his being foiled. But if he is foiled willfully, and runs
into temptation, as it was with Judas, God will show him no favor—but
will execute martial law upon him!
The uses remain.
Use 1. See what continual DANGER we are in!
Satan is an exquisite strategist, he lies in ambush to ensnare! He is the
tempter, it is his delight to make the saints sin! He is subtle in
tempting—he has methods and tools to deceive.
(1) He brings a saint into sin, by making him confide in
his graces. He makes him believe he has such a stock of grace as
will secure him against all temptations. Thus he deceived Peter, he made him
trust in his grace. Peter thought that he had such a cable of faith and
strong tacklings, that though the winds of temptation blew ever so fierce,
he could weather the storm. "Though all men forsake you—yet will not I;" as
if he had more grace than all the apostles. Thus he was led into temptation,
and fell in the battle. Men may make an idol of their grace. But
their grace is not sufficient without auxiliary. The boat needs not only
oars—but a gale of wind, to carry it against the tide. Just so, we need not
only our grace—but the gale of the Spirit, to carry us against a strong
(2) Satan tempts to sin by the baits and allurements of
the world. "The gain of money—is the ruin of the soul." One of
Christ's own apostles was caught with a silver bait. Those whom the
devil cannot debauch with vice—he will corrupt with money. "All these things
will I give you," was his last temptation. Matthew 4:9. Achan was deluded by
a wedge of gold. Sylvester II sold his soul to the devil for a popedom.
(3) Satan tempts to sin, under a mask and show of good;
his temptations seem to be gracious motions.
 He tempts men to duties of religion. You
might think it strange that Satan should tempt to duty; but it is so. He
tempts men to duty—out of selfish or sinister ends. Thus he tempted the
Pharisees to pray and give alms—that they might be seen by men.
Matthew 6:5. Prayer is a duty—but to pray out of vainglory, turns prayer
into sin. He tempts to duty when it is not in season. "My offering and my
bread for my sacrifices, shall you offer unto me in their due season." Numb
28:2. Satan tempts to duty when it is out of season; he tempts to read the
Word at home—when we should be hearing the Word. He tempts to one duty, that
he may hinder another. He tempts some to duty, that it may be a cloak for
sin. He tempts them to frequency in duty, that they may sin and be less
suspected. He tempted the Pharisees to make long prayers that, under this
pretense, they might devour widows' houses. Matthew 23:14. Who would suspect
him of false weights—who so often holds a Bible in his hand?
 He tempts men to sin out of a show of love to Christ.
You might think this strange—but there is truth in it. Many a
good heart may think what he does is in love to Christ—and all the while he
may be under temptation. When Christ told Peter he must suffer at Jerusalem,
Peter took him and rebuked him. "Be it far from you, Lord!" as if he had
said, "Lord, you have deserved no such shameful death, and this shall not be
unto you!" Matthew 16:22. Peter did this, as he thought, out of love to
Christ—but he was under temptation. What had become of us if Christ had
hearkened to Peter, and had not suffered! So when Christ washed his
disciples' feet, Peter was so mannerly that he said, "You shall never wash
my feet!" John 13:8. This he did, as he thought, out of love and respect to
Christ. He thought Christ was too good to wash his feet, and therefore would
have put him off—but it was a temptation; the devil put Peter upon this
sinful modesty; he struck at Peter's salvation, insomuch that Christ said,
"Unless I wash you, you have no part with me." So when the Samaritans would
not receive Christ, the disciples James and John said, "Lord, do you want us
to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" Luke 9:54. They
did this, as they thought, out of love to Christ; they wished for fire to
consume his enemies—but they were under temptation; it was not zeal—but the
wild fire of their own passion.
(4) Satan tempts to the sin to which a man's heart is
naturally most inclinable. He will not tempt a civil man to a
gross sin, which is abhorrent to the light of nature. Satan never sets a
dish before men, which they do not love. He will tempt a civil man to pride,
and to trust in his own righteousness, and to make a savior of his civility.
As the spider weaves a web out of her own bowels, the civil man would weave
a web of salvation out of his own righteousness.
See, then, in what danger we are—when Satan is
continually lying in ambush with his temptations!
See man's inability of himself to resist a
temptation! Could he stand of himself against a temptation, the prayer would
be needless, "Lead us not into temptation." No man has power of himself to
resist temptation, any further than God gives him strength. "O Lord, I know
that the way of man is not in himself." Jer 10:23. If Peter, who had
true grace, and Adam, who had perfect grace—could not stand against
temptation, much less can any stand by the power of nature. This confutes
the doctrine of free will. What freedom of will has man, when he cannot
resist the least temptation?
Here is matter for humiliation, that there is in
us such an aptitude and proneness to yield to temptation. We are as ready to
swallow a temptation—as the fish to swallow the bait! If the devil tempts to
pride, lust, envy, revenge—how eagerly do we run into the snares of Satan!
Like a woman who has a suitor, and does not need much wooing—but readily
gives her consent—Satan comes wooing by temptation, and we soon yield. The
devil strikes fire, and we are as dry tinder, which catches fire on the
first spark. He knocks by temptation, and it is sad to think how soon we
open the door to him, which is as if one should open the door to a thief!
See hence that a Christian's life is no easy life. It is
a warfare! He has a Goliath in the field to encounter with, one who
is armed with power and subtlety, and has his wiles and darts! A Christian
must be continually watching and fighting. Satan's designs our destruction!
"Seeking whom he may devour." 1 Peter 5:8. Therefore we had need
always have our weapons in our hand. How few think their life a warfare!
Though they have an enemy in the field, always laying snares, or shooting
darts—yet they do not stand sentinel or get their spiritual artillery ready;
they put on their jewelry—but not their armor. "They take the
timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ," as if they were
rather in a festival, rather than in battle. Job 21:12. Many are asleep in
sloth, when they should be fighting against Satan—and no wonder that the
devil shoots them when he finds them asleep!
Use 2. They are reproved who pray, "Lead us not into
temptation," and yet run of themselves into temptation. Such are
those who go to plays and theaters, and hunt after strange flesh. Some go at
a slower pace to hell—but such as run themselves into temptation go
galloping to hell! We have too many of these in this debauched age, who, as
if they thought they could not sin fast enough—tempt the devil to tempt
Use 3. Let us labor that we be not overcome by
temptation. What means should be used, that Satan's
temptations may not prevail against us?
(1) Avoid solitariness. It is no wisdom, in
fighting with an enemy, to give him the advantage of the ground. We give
Satan advantage of the ground—when we are alone. Eve was foiled in the
absence of her husband. A virgin is not so soon set upon in company. "Two
are better than one." Eccl 4:9. Get into the communion of saints, for that
is a good remedy against temptation.
(2) If you would not be overcome by temptation—beware of
the predominance of melancholy, which is a black humor seated
chiefly in the brain. Melancholy disturbs reason and exposes to
temptation. One calls melancholy, the devil's bath; he bathes himself
with delight in such a person. Melancholy clothes the mind in sable; it
fills it with such dismal apprehensions as often end in self-murder.
(3) If you would not be overcome by temptation—study
sobriety. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary
the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour." 1
Peter 5:8. Sober-mindedness consists in the moderate use of earthly
things. An immoderate desire of these things often brings men into the
snare of the devil. "Those who will be rich fall into a snare." 1 Tim 6:9.
He who loves riches inordinately, will purchase them unjustly. Ahab would
swim to Naboth's vineyard in blood. He who is drunk with the love of the
world, is never free from temptation. He will pull down his soul to build up
an estate. [Oh cursed hunger for gold, to what do you not drive the hearts
of men?] Virgil. Be sober, take heed of being drunk with the love of the
world, lest you fall into temptation.
(4) If you would not be overcome by temptation—be always
upon your guard, watch against Satan's wiles and subtleties. "Be
sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring
lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour." 1 Peter 5:8. A Christian
must keep watch and ward; he must see where Satan labors to make a breach,
see what grace he most strikes at, or what sin he most tempts to. "I say
unto all—Watch!" Mark 13:37. Watch all the senses, the eye, the ear, the
touch; for Satan can creep in by these. Oh, how needful is the spiritual
watch! Shall Satan be watchful—and we drowsy? Does he watch to
devour us—and shall not we watch to save ourselves? Let us see what sin our
heart most naturally inclines to—and watch against it.
(5) If you would not be overcome by temptation—beware of
idleness. Satan sows most of his seed in fallow ground. It
was Jerome's counsel to his friend to be ever busied, that if the devil did
come, he might find him working in the vineyard. Idleness tempts the devil
to tempt us. The bird which sits still, is shot. He who lacks employment,
never lacks temptation. When a man has nothing to do, Satan will bring grist
to the mill, and find him work enough.
(6) If you would not be overcome by temptation—make known
your case to some godly friend. Hiding a serpent in the bosom is
not the way to be safe; when the old serpent has got into your bosom by
temptation, do not hide him there by keeping his counsel. If a spark has
gotten into the thatch, it is not wisdom to conceal it, it may set the house
on fire. Conceal not temptation. Keeping secrets is for familiar friends—be
not so great a friend to Satan as to keep his secrets. Reveal your
temptations, which is the way to procure others' prayers and advice; let all
see that you are not true to Satan's party, because you tell all his plots
and reveal his treasons. Besides, telling your case to some experienced
Christian, will give ease to the soul, and temptation will not so much
(7) If you would not be overcome by temptation—make use
of the Word. This the apostle calls the "sword of the Spirit," a
fit weapon with which to fight against the tempter. Eph 6:17. This "sword of
the Spirit" is a two-edged sword—it wounds carnal lust and it wounds Satan.
He who travels a road where there is robbing, will be sure to ride with his
sword; we are traveling to heaven, and in this road there is a thief who
always besets us in every place where we go. He meets us at church—he does
not miss a sermon! He will be tempting us there; sometimes to drowsiness;
when any sleep at sermon, the devil rocks them. Sometimes he tempts by
distracting the mind in hearing. Sometimes he tempts by questioning the
truth of what is heard. He tempts in the shop to use connivance and deceit.
"The balances of deceit are in his hand." Hos 12:7. Thus we meet with the
tempter everywhere; therefore, this thief being in the road, we had need
ride with a sword; we must have the "sword of the Spirit" with us.
We must have skill to use this sword, and have a
heart to draw it out—and it will put the devil to flight. Thus when
Satan tempted our blessed Savior to distrust and blasphemy, he used a
Scripture weapon, "It is written!" Three times he wounded the old serpent
with this sword! Christ, with his power and authority, could have rebuked
the prince of the air, as he did the winds; but he stopped the devil's mouth
with Scripture, "It is written!" It is not our vows and resolutions which
will do it, it is not the Papist's holy water or charms which will drive
away the devil. Let us bring the Word of God against him—this is an argument
that he cannot answer.
It was a saying of Luther, "I have had great troubles of
mind; but as soon as I laid hold on any place of Scripture, and stayed
myself upon it as upon my chief anchor, straightway my temptations vanished
away." There is no temptation, but we have fit Scripture to answer it. If
Satan tempts to immorality, answer him, "It is written, whoremongers and
adulterers God will judge." If he tempts to carnal fear, say, "It is
written, Fear not those who kill the body, and after that, have no more that
they can do." There is no greater way to confute temptation, as by
Scripture; the arrows we shoot against Satan must be fetched out of this
quiver. Many people lack this sword of the Spirit, they have not a Bible;
others seldom make use of it—but let it rust; they seldom look into it—no
wonder, therefore, they are overcome by temptations. He who is well skilled
in the Word is like one who has a plaster ready to lay upon the wound as
soon as it is made, and so the danger is prevented. O study the Scripture,
and you will be too hard for the devil; he cannot stand against this.
(8) If we would not be overcome by temptation—let us be
careful of our own hearts, that they do not decoy us into sin.
The apostle says, "A man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust,
and enticed." James 1:14. [Everyone is a Satan to himself.] Bernard.
Every man has a tempter in his own bosom. A traitor within the castle
is dangerous. The heart can bring forth a temptation, though Satan
does not midwife it into the world; if Satan were dead and buried, the
heart could draw us to evil. As the ground of all diseases lies in the
humours of the body—so the seed of all sin lies in the original lust. Look
to your hearts!
(9) If you would not be overcome by temptation—flee the
"occasions of sin." Occasions of sin have great force to awaken
lust within. He who would keep himself free from infection, will not come
near an infected house. Just so, if you would be sober, avoid drunken
company. When Joseph was enticed by his mistress, he shunned the occasion;
the text says, "He refused to be with her." Gen 39:10. If you would not be
ensnared with Popery, do not hear the mass. The Nazarite, who was forbidden
wine, might not eat grapes, which might occasion intemperance.
Do not come near the borders of temptation! Suppose any one had a
body made of gunpowder, he would not come near the least spark of fire, lest
he should be blown up. Many pray, "Lead us not into temptation," and yet run
themselves into temptation!
(10) If you would not be overcome by temptation—make use
of faith. "Above all, taking the shield of faith." Eph 6:19.
Faith wards off Satan's fiery darts, that they do not hurt us. "Whom resist,
steadfast in the faith." 1 Peter 5:9. Mariners in a storm flee to their
anchor; flee to your anchor of faith. Faith brings Christ with with them
into the field—and then the devil cannot hurt us. The chick is safe from the
birds of prey, under the wings of the hen; and we are secure from the
tempter, under the wings of the Lord Jesus. Though other graces are of use
to resist the impulses of Satan—yet faith is the conquering grace. It takes
hold of Christ's merits, value and virtue—and so the Christian becomes too
hard for the devil. As the stars vanish when the sun appears—so Satan
vanishes when faith appears.
(11) If you would not be overcome by temptation—be much
in prayer. Such as walk in infectious places, carry antidotes
with them: prayer is the best antidote against temptation. When the apostle
had exhorted, to "put on the whole armor of God," he adds, "Praying with all
prayer." Eph 6:11, 18. Without prayer, all other weapons will do little
good. Christ prescribes this remedy, "Watch and pray, lest you enter into
temptation." Mark 14:38. A Christian fetches down strength from heaven by
prayer. Let us cry to God for help against the tempter, as Samson cried to
heaven for help. "Sovereign Lord, remember me again. O God, please
strengthen me one more time so that I may pay back the Philistines for the
loss of my eyes." Judges 16:28. "And the temple crashed down on the
Philistine leaders and all the people;" ver 30.
Prayer is flagellum diaboli—it whips and torments
the devil. The apostle bids us "pray without ceasing." 1 Thess 5:17. It was
Luther's advice to a lady, when temptation came, to fall upon her knees in
prayer. Prayer assuages the force of temptation. Prayer is the best charm we
can use against the devil. Temptation may bruise our heel—but by prayer we
wound the serpent's head. When Paul had a messenger of Satan to buffet him;
what remedy did he use? He betook himself to prayer. "For this thing I
besought the Lord three tiimes, that it might depart from me." 2 Cor 12:8.
When Satan assaults furiously, let us pray fervently.
(12) If you would not be overcome by temptation—be humble
in your own eyes. They are nearest falling, who presume on their
own strength. When men grow into self-admiration, God lets them fall, to
prick their bubble of pride. O be humble! They are likely to hold out best
in temptation, who have most grace—and God gives more grace to the humble.
James 4:6. Beware of pride! An abscess is not more dangerous in the body
than pride in the soul. The doves, says Pliny, take pride in their feathers,
and in their flying high, until at last they fly so high, that they become a
prey to the hawk. Just so, when men fly high in pride and self-confidence,
they become a prey to the tempter.
(13) If you would not be foiled by temptation—do not
enter into a dispute with Satan. When Eve began to argue the case
with the serpent, the serpent was too hard for her. The devil, by his logic,
disputed her out of paradise. Satan can mince sin, make it small, and
garnish it over, and make it look like virtue. He is too subtle for us to
win an argument with him. Dispute not—but fight! If you enter into a parley
with him, you give him half the victory.
(14) If we would not be overcome by Satan—we must put on
Christian fortitude. We must expect an enemy who is either
shooting darts, or laying snares; therefore let us be armed with courage.
"Act with courage, and may the Lord be with those who do well." 2
Chron 19:11. The coward never won a victory. To animate us in our combat
with Satan, let us think,
 We have a good Captain who marches before us. Christ
is called the Captain of our salvation. Heb 2:10.
 We have good armor. Grace is armor of God's making.
 Satan is beaten already. Christ has given him his
death-wound upon the cross. Col 2:15.
 Satan is a chained enemy, his power is limited! he
cannot force the will. Eve complained that the serpent deceived her,
not constrained her. Gen 3:13. Satan has guile to persuade, not power to
 He is a cursed enemy, and God's curse will blast him:
therefore put on holy gallantry of spirit and magnanimity. Do not fear
Satan. Greater is he who is in you—than he who is against you.
(15) If we would not be overcome by temptation—let us
call in the help of others. If a house is on fire, would you not
call in help? Satan tempts, that he may rob you of your soul; acquaint some
friends with your case, and beg for their counsel and prayers. Who knows but
Satan may be cast out, by the joint prayers of others? In case of
temptation, how exceeding helpful is the communion of saints!
(16) If we would not be overcome by temptation—let us
make use of all the encouragements we can. If Satan is a roaring
lion—Christ is the lion of the tribe of Judah. If Satan tempts—Christ prays.
If Satan is a serpent to sting—Christ is a brazen serpent to heal. If the
conflict is hard, look to the crown. James 1:12. While we are
fighting—Christ will support us. When we overcome—he will crown us. What
makes the soldier endure a bloody fight, but the hope of a golden reward?
Think that shortly God will call us out of the field where the bullets of
temptation fly so fast, and he will set a garland of glory upon our head.
How will the case be altered then! Instead of fighting—singing! Instead of a
helmet—a diadem! Instead of a sword—a palm branch of victory! Instead of
armor—white robes! Instead of Satan's skirmishes—the kisses and embraces of
a Savior! These eternal recompenses should keep us from yielding to
temptation. Who, to gratify a lust—would forfeit a crown!
Use 4. Let such as are tempted, be wise to
make good use of their temptations. As we should labor to improve our
afflictions—so to improve our temptations. We should pick some
good out of temptation, as Samson got honey out of the lion.
What good comes from temptation? Can there be any good in
being set upon by an enemy? Can it be good to have fiery darts shot at us?
Yes! God can make his people get much good by their
temptations. Hereby a Christian sees that corruption in his heart, which he
never saw before. Water in a glass looks pure—but set it on the fire, and
the scum boils up. Just so, in temptation a Christian sees the scum of sin
boil up—which he thought had not been in his heart. Hereby a Christian sees
more of the wiles of Satan, and is better able to withstand them. Paul had
been in the fencing-school of temptation, and grew expert in finding out
Satan's stratagems. "We are not ignorant of his devices." 2 Cor 2:11. Hereby
a Christian grows more humble. God would rather let his children fall into
the devil's hands—than be proud. Temptation strips off the plumes of pride.
"To keep me from getting puffed up, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a
messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from getting proud." 2 Cor
12:7. Better is that temptation that humbles—than that duty which makes us
proud! Thus a Christian may get much good by temptation, which made Luther
say three things make a good Christian—prayer, meditation, and temptation.
Use 5. Some have been under sore temptations and
buffetings of Satan—but God has stood by them, and given them strength to
overcome the tempter.
(1) Let them be very thankful to God. "Thanks
be to God, who gives us the victory." 1 Cor 15:57. Be much in praise. Why
were we kept more than others—from falling into sin? Was it
because temptation was not so strong to us? No, Satan shoots his darts with
all his force. Was it because we are so strong in ourself? No, such a broken
reed could never have conquered Satan's temptations. Know that it was
free grace which beat back the tempter, and brought us off with trophies
of victory! O be thankful to God! Had you been overcome by temptation, you
might have put black spots in the face of religion, and given occasion to
the enemies of God to blaspheme. 2 Samuel 12:14. Had you been overcome, you
might have lain sick of a "wounded spirit" and cried out, with David, of
"broken bones." After David yielded to temptation, he lay for three quarters
of a year in horror of mind; and some think that he never recovered his full
joy to the day of his death. Oh therefore, what cause have they to stand
upon mount Gerizim blessing God, who, in a field of battle have gotten the
better of Satan, and been more than conquerors! Say as the Psalmist,
"Blessed be the Lord, who did not let their teeth tear us apart!" Psalm
124:6. Blessed be God, who has not given us as a prey to Satan, that roaring
(2) You who have been tempted, and come off victors, be
full of sympathy. Pity tempted souls; show your piety in your
pity. Do you see Satan's darts sticking in their sides? Do what you can to
pull them out. Communicate your experiences to them; tell them how you broke
the devil's snare, and your Savior was your deliverer. The apostle speaks of
restoring others "in the spirit of meekness." Gal 6:1. The Greek word for
restore alludes to surgeons, who set bones which were out of joint. Just
so, when we see such as are tempted, and Satan has, as it were, put their
bones out of joint—labor to put them in again, with all love, meekness, and
compassion. A word spoken in season may relieve a soul fainting in
temptation; and you may, as the good Samaritan, drop oil and wine into the
wound. Luke 10:34.
(3) You who have got the conquest over Satan, do not be
carnally secure. Think not, that you shall never more be troubled
with the tempter. He is not like the Syrians, of whom it is said, "The bands
of Syria came no more into the land of Israel" 2 Kings 6:23. Satan is a
restless enemy; if you have beaten him back, he will make a fresh onset.
When Satan was worsted by Christ, he went away—but only
for a season, as if he meant to come again. Luke 4:13. When we have got the
better of Satan, we are apt to grow secure, to lay aside our armor, and
leave off our watch; which, when he perceives this, he comes upon us with a
new temptation and wounds us. He deals with us as David did with the
Amalekites, who, when they had taken the spoil and were secure, "They were
eating and drinking and dancing with joy because of the vast amount of
plunder they had taken." (1 Sam 30:16); then "David and his men rushed in
among them and slaughtered them." ver 17. Therefore, after we have got the
better of the tempter, we must do as the mariners in a calm—mend our
tackling, not knowing how soon another storm may come. Satan for a time may
retreat, that he may afterwards come on more fiercely; he may go away
awhile, and bring other seven spirits with him. Luke 11:26.
Therefore, do not be carnally secure—but stand upon your
watch-tower. Rest with your armor on; always expect a fight. Watch every day
if the tempter shall come. Put yourself into a warlike posture. When Satan
is beaten out of the field, he is not beaten out of the heart; he will come
again. He had little hope to prevail against Christ. Christ gave him three
deadly wounds, and made him retreat; yet he departed "only for a season." If
the devil cannot conquer us—he knows he can molest us. If he
cannot destroy us—he will surely disturb us. If the tempter
does not come as soon as we expect, by putting ourselves in a defensive
posture, we shall have the advantage of being always prepared. "Put on all
of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies
and tricks of the Devil." Ephesians 6:11.
To conclude all: let us often make this prayer, "Lead us
not into temptation." If Satan woos us by a temptation, let us not give
consent. In case a Christian has through weakness, and not out of a design,
yielded to temptation, let him not "cast away his anchor;" but take heed of
despair, which is worse than the fall itself.
Christian, steep your soul in the brinish waters of
repentance, and God will be appeased. Repentance gives the soul a vomit.
Christ loved Peter after his denial of him, and sent the first news of
his resurrection to him—"Go tell the disciples and Peter." It is an
error to think that one act of sin, can destroy the habit of grace. It is a
wrong to God's mercy, and to a Christian's comfort—to make the despairing
conclusion, that after one has fallen by temptation, his estate is
irrecoverable. Therefore, Christian, if you have fallen with Peter,
repent with Peter—and God will be ready to seal your pardon.