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AND BRING US NOT INTO TEMPTATION BUT
DELIVER US FROM EVIL
And bring us not into Temptation but deliver us from Evil. In Luke the words but deliver us from Evil are omitted. Assuming that the Savior does not command us to pray for the impossible, it appears to me to deserve consideration in what sense we are bidden to pray not to enter into temptation when all human life on earth is a test.
In that on earth we are beset by the flesh which wars against the spirit and whose intent is emnity to God as it is by no means capable of being subject to the law of God, we are in temptation. That all human life on earth is a trial we have learned from Job in the words: Is not the life of men on earth a trial, and the same thing is made plain from the seventeenth psalm in the words: In you will I be delivered from trial. Paul, too, writing to the Corinthians says that God bestows not freedom from temptation but freedom from temptation beyond one’s power.
More than human temptation has not possessed you, and God is to be trusted not to let you be tempted beyond your power but to make the temptation be accompanied by the outlet of power to endure it. Whether our wrestling is with the flesh that lusts or wars against the spirit, or with the soul of all flesh—in other words the ruling faculty, called the heart, of the body in which it resides—as is the wrestling of those who are tempted with human temptations, or, as advanced and maturer athletes, who no longer wrestle with blood and flesh nor are reviewed in the human temptations which they have already trampled down, our struggles are with the principalities and authorities and world-rulers of His darkness and the Spiritual forces of evil, we have no release from temptation.
In what sense then does the Savior bid us pray not to enter into temptation, when God in some sense tempts all men? Think you, says Judith, not only to the elders of that day but also to all readers of her writing, of all that He did with Abraham and all His temptations of Isaac and all that befell Jacob in Mesopotania of Syria while he shepherded the flocks of Laban, his mother’s brother. For it is not that whereas He tested them by fire for the proving of their hearts, the Lord who, for their admonishment, scourges those who approach Him, now wreaks vengeance upon us.
And David declares as a general truth concerning all righteous men that Many are the afflictions of the righteous, while in the acts the Apostle says: because it is through many afflictions that we must enter into the kingdom of God. And if we failed to understand what escapes most men in reference to prayer that we enter not into temptation, we would at this point say that the apostles were not heard in their prayers since throughout their whole time they endured countless sufferings: in toils more abundantly, in blows more abundantly, in prisons above measure, in deaths often, while Paul in particular: five times received forty stripes save one at the hands of Jews, thrice was beaten with rods, once was stoned, thrice was shipwrecked, passed a night and a day in the deep, a man in every way afflicted, in straits, persecuted, cast down, confessing: Until the present hour we have hungered, thirsted, gone naked, been buffeted, lacked rest, toiled at work with our own hands. Reviled, we have blessed; persecuted, we have borne up; slandered, we have exhorted.
When the apostles have failed in prayer, we might ask what hope there is for any of their inferiors to obtain God’s hearing when one prays? One ignorant of the true meaning of the Savior’s command will have reason to suppose that the words in the twenty-fifth psalm, Test me, O Lord, and try me; assay my reins and my heart with fire, are in opposition to our Lord’s teaching about prayer. And when has anyone ever believed that those of whom he had complete knowledge were free of temptations?
And what time can be conceived during which a man could be lighthearted as though he did not struggle to avoid sinning? Is a man poor? Let him beware lest one day he steal and forswear by the name of God. Again, is he rich? Let him not be lighthearted, for he may become completely false and say in exaltation, “Who sees me?” Even Paul, for all his riches, in all manner of discourse and in all manner of knowledge, is not released from the danger of sinning on their account through excessive exaltation, but needs a stake of Satan to buffet him in order that he may not be excessively exalted. Even though a man may have a comparatively good conscience and fly up in alarm from things evil, let him read what is said in the second book of the Chronicles of Hezekiah, who is said to have fallen from the elevation of his heart.
And if, because I have not dwelt on the case of the poor, someone is lighthearted—as though poverty involved no temptation—he must know that the Plotter plots to cast down the needy and the poor, especially since according to Solomon, the needy endure no threats. And what need is there to tell how many, because of their material riches which they had failed to manage rightly, have found a place in punishment along with the rich man in the Gospel? And how many, because they bore poverty ignobly, with behavior more servile and base than was seemly in Saints, have fallen away from their heavenly hope? Even they who are midway between these extremes of riches and poverty are not by any means released from sinning according to their possession, moderate though it be.
Again, one who is in bodily health and well being imagines that by virtue of his mere health and well being he is outside of all temptation. And yet, whose sin it is, apart from those in well being and in health, to corrupt the temple of God, no one will venture to say because the meaning of the passage is clear to everyone. And who in sickness has escaped the incitements to corrupt the temple of God, having leisure at such time and readily admitting thoughts of unclean things, not to speak of all the others things beside these which trouble him unless he guards his heart with all vigilance?
Many a man, overcome by troubles and incapable of bearing sickness manfully, has been shown to be suffering at the time from sickness rather of the soul than of the body, and many another, ashamed to bear the name of Christ nobly, has, through shunning disrepute, fallen into eternal shame. Again, a man may think that he has respite from temptation when he is in honor among men. Yet is not the Lord’s saying, They have their reward from men, proclaimed to those who are elated over their popularity? Do not the words strike dismay: How can you have come to believe, when you have received glory from one another, and seek not the glory which is from God alone?
And what need is there for me to recount the crimes done in pride by the reputed noble, and the fawning submission of the so-called low born towards the reputed noble by reason of their ignorance, a submission which separates from God men who are devoid of genuine friendliness but feign that fairest of human possessions—love. The whole life of man on earth is therefore a trial, as has already been said. Let us for that reason pray for deliverance from trial not through being exempt from it—that is an utter impossibility for beings on earth—but through not succumbing under it.
It is when a man succumbs in the moment of tempting, I take it, that he enters into temptation, being held in its nets. Into those nets the Savior entered for the sake of those who had already been caught in them, and in the words of the Song of Songs, looking out through the meshwork makes answer to those who have been already caught by them and have entered into temptation, and says to those who form His bride: Arise, my dear one, my fair one, my dove. To bring home the fact that every time is one of temptation on earth, I will add that even he who meditates upon the law of God day and night and makes a practice of carrying out the saying, A righteous man’s mouth shall meditate on wisdom, has no release from being tempted. How many in their devotion to the examination of the divine Scriptures have, through misunderstanding the messages contained in Law and Prophets, devoted themselves to godless and impious or to foolish and ridiculous opinions?
What need is there for me to answer, when there are countless examples of such mistakes among those who do not seem to be open to the charge of righteousness in their reading? The same fate has also overtaken many in their reading of the Apostles and Gospels inasmuch as, through their own lack of discernment, they fashion in imagination a Son or a Father other than the One divinely conceived and truly recognized by Holy Writ. For one who fails to have true thoughts of God or His Christ has fallen away from the true God and from His Only Begotten, and his worship of the imaginary Father and Son, fashioned by his lack of discernment, is no real worship. Such is his fate through having failed to recognize the temptation present in the reading of Holy Writ to arm himself and take a stand as for a struggle already upon him.
We ought therefore to pray, not that we be not tempted—that is impossible—but that we be not encompassed by temptation, the fate of those who are open to it and are overcome. Now since, outside of the Lord’s Prayer, it is written Pray that you enter not into temptation, the force of which may perhaps be clear from what has already been said, whereas in the Lord’s prayer we ought to say to God our Father, Bring us not into Temptation, it is worth seeing in what sense we ought to think of God as leading one who does not pray or is not heard into temptation. If entering into temptation means being overcome, it is manifestly out of the question to think that God leads anyone into temptation as though He delivered him to be overcome.
The same difficulty awaits one no matter in what sense one may interpret the words Pray that you enter not into temptation, for if it is an evil to fall into temptation, which we pray may not be our fate, must it not be out of place to think of the Good God, who is incapable of bearing evil fruits, as encompassing anyone with evils? It is of service to cite in this connection what Paul has said in the Epistle to Romans—thus: Claiming to be wise they became foolish and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of an image of corruptible man and of winged and four footed and creeping things. Wherefore God delivered them in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves; and shortly after:
Therefore God delivered them unto passions of dishonor: for both their females changed the natural use into the unnatural, and the males likewise setting aside the natural use of the female, were consumed . . . and so on. And again shortly after: And as they proved not to have God in full knowledge, God delivered them unto a reprobate mind to do the unseemly.
We may simply confront dividers of the Godhead with all these passages and put these questions to them since they hold that the good Father of Our Lord is distinct from the God of the law. Is it the good God who leads into temptation one who fails in prayer? Is it the Father of the Lord who delivers in the lusts of their hearts those who have already done some sin unto uncleanness to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves?
Is it He who, as they themselves say, is free from judging and punishing, who delivers unto passions of dishonor and unto a reprobate mind to do the unseemly men who would not have fallen into the lusts of their hearts had they not been delivered to them by God, who would not have succumbed to passions of dishonor had they not been delivered to them by God, and who would not have lapsed into a reprobate mind but for the fact that the so condemned had been delivered to it by God.
I am well aware that these passages will trouble such thinkers exceedingly. Indeed they have fashioned in imagination a God other than the Maker of heaven and earth, because they find many such passages in the Law and the Prophets and have been offended by the author of such utterances as not good. But I on my part, for the sake of that question, raised in connection with the words Bring us not into Temptation, which led to my citation of the apostle’s words also, must now consider whether I in turn find a solution of apparent contradictions worth considering. Well, it is my belief that God rules over each rational soul, having regard to its everlasting life, in such a way that it is always in possession of free will and is itself responsible alike for being, in the better way, in progress towards the perfection of goodness, or otherwise for descending as the result of heedlessness to this or that degree of aggravation of vice.
Accordingly, since a swift and somewhat short cure gives rise in some men to a contempt for the disease into which they have fallen, with the possible result of their incurring it a second time, He will in such other cases with good reason allow the vice to increase to a certain extent, suffering it even to be aggravated in them to the verge of incurableness, in order that they may be sated through long continuance in the evil and through surfeit of the sin for which they lust, and may be brought to a sense of their injury, and, having learned to hate what formerly they welcomed, may be enabled when cured to enjoy more steadfastly the health which their cure has brought to their souls. So it was that the mixed throng among the Children of Israel, once fell into lust.
Sitting down they and the Children of Israel cried out saying, “Who will give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish we used to eat freely in Egypt, and the cucumbers and melons and leeks and onions and garlic, but now is our soul parched; our eyes are on nothing save the manna.” Then, shortly after, it is said: And Moses heard them crying in their tribes; each was at his door. And again shortly after the Lord says to Moses: And you shall say to the people, “Sanctify yourselves for the morrow, and eat flesh, because you have cried before the Lord saying, ‘Who will give us flesh to eat, because it was well with us in Egypt,’ and the Lord shall give you flesh to eat. So eat flesh! Eat it not one nor two nor five days, not ten nor twenty days; for a month of days eat till it issue from your nostrils, and it shall make you ill, because you have disobeyed the Lord who is among you, and have cried before Him, ‘Wherefore have we left Egypt?’” Let us therefore see whether the narrative I have laid before you as a parallel is of help towards a solution of the apparent contradiction in the clause Bring us not into temptation and in the words of the apostle. Having fallen into lust, the mixed throng among the Children of Israel cried and the Children of Israel with them.
Plainly so long as they were without the objects of their lust, they were not able to be sated with them or cease their passion. In fact, it was the will of the benevolent and good God, in giving them the object of their lust, not to give it in such a way that any lust should be left in them. For that reason He tells them to eat the flesh not one day—for had they partaken of the flesh a short time their passion would have remained in their soul which would have been kindled and set ablaze by it—nor does He give them the object of their lust for two days.
It being His will to make it excessive for them, He utters what is, to one who can understand, a threat rather than a promise of their apparent gratification, saying, “Neither shall you pass five days eating the flesh nor twofold those, nor yet twofold those again, but eat flesh for a whole mouth, until such time as your imagined good shall issue from your nostrils with choleric affection, and with it your culpable and base lust for it. So shall I set you free from all further lust of living, that when you have come out in such condition you may be pure from lust and may remember all the troubles through which you were set free from it.
Thus you shall be enabled either not to fall into it again, or, should that ever happen through forgetfulness during the long lapse of time of your sufferings on account of lust, if you take no heed to yourselves and not appropriate the Word that completely frees you from every passion, if you fall into evil and at a later time, through having come to lust again for creation, require a second time to obtain the objects of your lust—in hatred of that object revert again to the good and heavenly nourishment through despising that which you longed for the most.”
The like fate, accordingly, will overtake those who have changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of an image of corruptible man and of winged and four-footed and creeping things, and who are forsaken of God and thereby delivered in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness to the dishonoring of their bodies as men who have brought down to soulless insensible matter the name of Him who has bestowed upon all sentient rational beings not only sense but even rational sense, and to some indeed a complete and excellent sense and intelligence. Such men are reasonably delivered to passion of dishonor by the God whom they have forsaken, being forsaken by Him in return, receiving the requital of error through which they came to love the itch for pleasure.
For it is more of a requital of their error for them to be delivered to passions of dishonor than to be cleansed by the fire of Wisdom and to have each of their debts exacted from them in prison to the last farthing. For in being delivered to passions of dishonor which are not only natural but many of the unnatural, they are debased and hardened by the flesh and become as though they had no soul or intelligence any longer but were flesh entirely, whereas in fire and prison they receive not requital of their error but benefaction for the cleansing of the evil contracted in their error, along with salutary sufferings attendant in the pleasure-loving and are thereby set free from all stain and blood in whose defilement and pollution they had to their own undoing been unable even to think of being saved.
So their God shall wash away the stain of the sons and daughters of Zion and shall cleanse away the blood from their midst with a spirit of judgment and a spirit of burning: for He comes in as the fire of a furnace and as soap, washing and cleansing those who are in need of such remedies because it has not been their clear desire to have knowledge of God. After being delivered to these remedies they will of their own accord hate the reprobate mind, for it is God’s will that a man acquire goodness not as under necessity but of his own accord. Some, it may well be, will have had difficulty in perceiving the baseness of evil as the result of long familiarity with it, but then turning away from it as falsely taken to be good.
Consider too, whether God’s reason for hardening the heart of Pharaoh also is that he may, because hardened, be unable to say, as in fact he did, “The Lord is righteous, but I and my people are impious.” Rather it is that he needs more and more to be hardened and to undergo certain sufferings, in order that he may not, as the result of a too speedy end to the hardening, despise hardening as an evil and frequently again deserve to be hardened.
If their nets are not wrongfully stretched for birds, according to the statement in the Proverbs, but God rightly leads men into the snare, as one has said, You led us into the snare, and if not even a sparrow, cheapest of birds, falls into the snare without the counsel of the Father, its fall into the snare being due to the failure to use aright its control of its wings given to it to soar, let us pray to do nothing to deserve being brought into temptation by the righteous judgment of God, as in the case with everyone who is delivered by God in the lusts of his own heart unto uncleanness, or delivered unto passions of dishonor, or as not having proved to have God in full knowledge, is delivered unto a reprobate mind to do the unseemly. The use of temptation is somewhat as follows. Through temptations the content of our soul, which is a secret to all except God, ourselves included, becomes manifest, in order that it may no longer be a secret to us what manner of men we are but that we may have fuller knowledge of ourselves and realize, if we choose, our own evils and be thankful for the blessings manifested to us through temptations. That the temptations which befall us take place for the revealing of our true nature or the discerning of what is hidden in our heart, is set forth by the Lord’s saying in Job and by the scripture in Deuteronomy, which runs thus: Think you that I have uttered speech to you for any reason other than that you may be revealed as righteous?
And in Deuteronomy: He afflicted you and starved you and gave you manna to eat, and He led you about in the wilderness where biting serpents and scorpions and thirst are, that the things in your heart might be discerned. And if we desire references to plain history, it is matter of knowledge that Eve’s readiness to be deceived and unsoundness of thought did not originate when in disobedience to God she hearkened to the serpent, but had already been betrayed, the reason for the serpent’s having engaged her being that with its peculiar wisdom it had perceived her weakness.
Nor was it the beginning of evil in Cain where he slew his brother, for already the heart-knowing God had little regard for Cain and his sacrifices. It was simply that his wickedness became manifest when he took Abel’s life. Had Noah not drunk of the wine that he cultivated and become intoxicated and uncovered himself, neither Ham’s indiscretion and irreverence towards his father nor his brother’s reverence and modesty towards their parent would have been revealed.
Though Esau’s plot against Jacob seemed to have provided an excuse for his being deprived of the blessing, his soul even before that had roots of fornication and profanity. And we should never have known of the splendor of Joseph’s self-control, prepared as he was against falling a victim to any lust, had his master’s wife not fallen in love with him. Let us therefore, in the intervals between the succession of temptations, make a stand against the impending trial, and prepare ourselves for all possible contingencies—in order that, come what may, we may not be convicted of unreadiness but may be shown to have braced ourselves with the utmost care. For when we have carried out all our part, the deficiency caused by human weakness will be filled up by God who cooperates for good in all things with those who love Him, and whose future growth has been foreseen according to His unerring knowledge.
In the words Bring us not into Temptation Luke seems to me to have virtually taught Deliver us from Evil also. In any case it is natural that the Lord should have addressed the briefer form to the disciple as he had already been helped, but the more explicit to the many who were in need of clearer teaching. God delivers us from Evil, not when the enemy does not engage us at all in conflict through any of his own wiles or those of the ministers of his will, but when we make a manful stand against contingencies and are victorious.
In that sense I have also taken the words: Many are the afflictions of the righteous: and He delivers them from them all. For God delivers us from afflictions not when afflictions are no more—and surely Paul’s expression in everything afflicted implies that affliction had never yet ceased—but when, by God’s help, under affliction we are not straitened.
According to a usage native to Hebrews, ‘affliction’ denotes misfortune that happens without reference to a human will, whereas ‘straitening’ refers to the will overcome by affliction and surrendered to it: hence Paul well says: in everything afflicted but not impoverished. And I consider the words in Psalms In affliction you set me at large to be similar, for by ‘setting at large’ is meant the joyousness and cheerfulness of temper which comes to us from God in the season of misfortune through the cooperation and presence of God’s encouraging and saving Word. We are accordingly to understand deliverance from evil in the same way. God delivered Job, not through the Devil’s failure to receive authority to beset him with certain temptations—for he did receive it—but through his own avoidance of sin in the sight of God amidst all that befell him and through the exhibition of his righteousness.
Thus he who had said: Does Job revere God for nothing? Have you not fenced about with a circle his goods without and his goods within the house and the goods of all who are his, and blessed his work and made his flocks and herds to abound on the earth? But send forth your hand, and touch all that he has, and surely he will curse you to your face, was put to shame as having thereby spoken falsely against Job, for he, after all his suffering, did not, as the Adversary said, curse God to His face, but even when delivered to the tempter he continued steadfastly blessing God, reproving his wife for saying Speak you some word against God and die, and rebuking her in the words: As one of the senseless women have you spoken.
If we have accepted the good from the Lord’s hand, shall we not endure the evil? And a second time concerning Job the Devil said to the Lord: Skin for skin; all that the man has he will pay for his soul. Nay but send forth your hand and touch his bones and his flesh, and surely he will curse you to your face. But he is overcome by the champion of virtue and shown to be a liar, for Job inspite of the severest sufferings stood firm committing no sin with his lips in the sight of God. Two falls did Job wrestle and conquer, but no third such struggle did he undergo, for the threefold wrestling had to be reserved for the Savior, as it is recorded in the three Gospels, when the Savior known in human form thrice conquered the Enemy. In order therefore to ask of God intelligently that we enter not into temptation and that we be delivered from Evil, let us consider these things and investigate them in our own minds more carefully. Through hearkening unto God let us become worthy to be heard by Him, and let our entreaty be that when tempted we may not be brought to death, and that when assailed by flaming darts of evil, we may not be set on fire by them.
All whose hearts are (as one of the Twelve Prophets says, as an ember-pan) are set on fire by them, but not so they who with the shield of faith quench all the flaming darts aimed at them by the Evil One, since they have within themselves rivers of water springing up into life eternal which do not let the fire of the Evil One prevail but readily undo it with the flood of their inspired and saving thought that is impressed by contemplation of the truth upon the soul of him whose study is to be spiritual.
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