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Several acts of watchfulness against temptation proposed—Watch the heart—What it is to be watched in and about—Of the snares lying in men’s natural tempers—Of peculiar lusts—Of occasions suited to them—Watching to lay in provision against temptation—Directions for watchfulness in the first approaches of temptation—Directions after entering into temptation.
That part of watchfulness against temptation which we have considered regards the outward means, occasions, and advantages of temptation; proceed we now to that which respects the heart itself, which is wrought upon and entangled by temptation. Watching or keeping of the heart, which above all keepings we are obliged unto, comes within the compass of this duty also; for the right performance whereof take these ensuing directions:—
(1.) Let him that would not enter into temptations labour to know his own heart, to be acquainted with his own spirit, his natural frame and temper, his lusts and corruptions, his natural, sinful, or spiritual weaknesses, that, finding where his weakness lies, he may be careful to keep at a distance from all occasions of sin.
Our Saviour tells the disciples that “they knew not what spirit they were of;” which, under a pretence of zeal, betrayed them into ambition and desire of revenge. Had they known it they would have watched over themselves. David tells us, Ps. xviii. 23, that he considered his ways, and “kept himself from his iniquity,” which he was particularly prone unto.
There are advantages for temptations lying oftentimes in men’s natural tempers and constitutions. Some are naturally gentle, facile, easy to be entreated, pliable; which, though it be the noblest temper of nature, and the best and choicest ground, when well 132broken up and fallowed for grace to grow in, yet, if not watched over, will be a means of innumerable surprisals and entanglements in temptation. Others are earthy, froward, morose; so that envy, malice, selfishness, peevishness, harsh thoughts of other, repinings, lie at the very door of their natures, and they can scarce step out but they are in the snare of one or other of them. Others are passionate, and the like. Now, he that would watch that he enter not into temptation, had need be acquainted with his own natural temper, that he may watch over the treacheries that lie in it continually. Take heed lest you have a Jehu in you, that shall make you drive furiously; or a Jonah in you, that will make you ready to repine; or a David, that will make you hasty in your determinations, as he was often, in the warmth and goodness of his natural temper. He who watches not this thoroughly, who is not exactly skilled in the knowledge of himself, will never be disentangled from one temptation or another all his days.
Again: as men have peculiar natural tempers, which, according as they are attended or managed, prove a great fomes of sin, or advantage to the exercise of grace; so men may have peculiar lusts or corruptions, which, either by their natural constitution or education, and other prejudices, have got deep rooting and strength in them. This, also, is to be found out by him who would not enter into temptation. Unless he know it, unless his eyes be always on it, unless he observes its actings, motions, advantages, it will continually be entangling and ensnaring of him. This, then, is our sixth direction in this kind:—Labour to know thine own frame and temper; what spirit thou art of; what associates in thy heart Satan hath; where corruption is strong, where grace is weak; what stronghold lust hath in thy natural constitution, and the like. How many have all their comforts blasted and peace disturbed by their natural passion and peevishness! How many are rendered useless in the world by their frowardness and discontent! How many are disquieted even by their own gentleness and facility! Be acquainted, then, with thine own heart: though it be deep, search it; though it be dark, inquire into it; though it give all its distempers other names than what are their due, believe it not. Were not men utter strangers to themselves,—did they not give flattering titles to their natural distempers,—did they not strive rather to justify, palliate, or excuse the evils of their hearts, that are suited to their natural tempers and constitutions, than to destroy them, and by these means keep themselves off from taking a clear and distinct view of them,—it were impossible that they should all their days hang in the same briers without attempt for deliverance. Uselessness and scandal in professors are branches growing constantly on this root of unacquaintedness with their own frame 133and temper; and how few are there who will either study them themselves or bear with those who would acquaint them with them!
(2.) When thou knowest the state and condition of thy heart as to the particulars mentioned, watch against all such occasions and opportunities, employments, societies, retirements, businesses, as are apt to entangle thy natural temper or provoke thy corruption.
It may be there are some ways, some societies, some businesses, that thou never in thy life escapedst them, but sufferedst by them more or less, through their suitableness to entice or provoke thy corruption; it may be thou art in a state and condition of life that weary thee day by day, on the account of thy ambition, passion, discontent, or the like: if thou hast any love to thy soul, it is time for thee to awake and to deliver thyself as a bird from the evil snare. Peter will not come again in haste to the high priest’s hall; nor would David walk again on the top of his house, when he should have been on the high places of the field. But the particulars of this instance are so various, and of such several natures in respect of several persons, that it is impossible to enumerate them, Prov. iv. 14, 15. Herein lies no small part of that wisdom which consists in our ordering our conversation aright. Seeing we have so little power over our hearts when once they meet with suitable provocations, we are to keep them asunder, as a man would do fire and the combustible parts of the house wherein he dwells.
(3.) Be sure to lay in provision in store against the approaching of any temptation.
This also belongs to our watchfulness over our hearts. You will say, “What provision is intended, and where is it to be laid up?” Our hearts, as our Saviour speaks, are our treasury. There we lay up whatever we have, good or bad; and thence do we draw it for our use, whatever we have, good or bad; and thence do we draw it for our use, Matt. xii. 35. It is the heart, then, wherein provision is to be laid up against temptation. When an enemy draws nigh to a fort or castle to besiege and take it, oftentimes, if he find it well manned and furnished with provision for a siege, and so able to hold out, he withdraws and assaults it not. If Satan, the prince of this world, come and find our hearts fortified against his batteries, and provided to hold out, he not only departs, but, as James says, he flees: “He will flee from us,” James iv. 7. For the provision to be laid up, it is that which is provided in the gospel for us. Gospel provisions will do this work; that is, keep the heart full of a sense of the love of God in Christ. This is the greatest preservative against the power of temptation in the world. Joseph had this; and therefore, on the first appearance of temptation, he cries out, “How can I do this great evil, and sin against God?” and there is an end of the temptation as to him; it lays no hold on him, but departs. He was furnished with such a ready sense of the love 134of God as temptation could not stand before, Gen. xxxix. 9. “The love of Christ constraineth us,” saith the apostle, “to live to him,” 2 Cor. v. 14; and so, consequently, to withstand temptation. A man may, nay, he ought to lay in provisions of the law also,—fear of death, hell, punishment, with the terror of the Lord in them. But these are far more easily conquered than the other; nay, they will never stand alone against a vigorous assault. They are conquered in convinced persons every day; hearts stored with them will struggle for a while, but quickly give over. But store the heart with a sense of the love of God in Christ, and his love in the shedding of it; get a relish of the privileges we have thereby,—our adoption, justification, acceptation with God; fill the heart with thoughts of the beauty of his death;—and thou wilt, in an ordinary course of walking with God, have great peace and security as to the disturbance of temptations. When men can live and plod on in their profession, and not be able to say when they had any living sense of the love of God or of the privileges which we have in the blood of Christ, I know not what they can have to keep them from falling into snares. The apostle tells us that the “peace of God,” φρουρήσει τὰς καρδίας, Phil. iv. 7 “shall keep our hearts.” Φρουρά denotes a military word,—a garrison; and so φρουρήσει is, “shall keep as in a garrison.” Now, a garrison hath two things attending it,—first, That it is exposed to the assaults of its enemies; secondly, That safety lies in it from their attempts. It is so with our souls; they are exposed to temptations, assaulted continually; but if there be a garrison in them, or if they be kept as in a garrison, temptation shall not enter, and consequently we shall not enter into temptation. Now, how is this done? Saith he, “The peace of God shall do it.” What is this “peace of God?” A sense of his love and favour in Jesus Christ. Let this abide in you, and it shall garrison you against all assaults whatever. Besides, there is that, in an especial manner, which is also in all the rest of the directions,—namely, that the thing itself lies in a direct opposition to all the ways and means that temptation can make use of to approach unto our souls. Contending to obtain and keep a sense of the love of God in Christ, in the nature of it, obviates all the workings and insinuations of temptation. Let this be a third direction, then, in our watching against temptation:—Lay in store of gospel provisions, that may make the soul a defenced place against all the assaults thereof.
(4.) In the first approach of any temptation, as we are all tempted, these directions following are also suited to carry on the work of watching, which we are in the pursuit of:—
[1.] Be always awake, that thou mayst have an early discovery 135of thy temptation, that thou mayst know it so to be. Most men perceive not their enemy until they are wounded by him. Yea, others may sometimes see them deeply engaged, whilst themselves are utterly insensible; they sleep without any sense of danger, until others come and awake them by telling them that their house is on fire. Temptation in a neuter sense is not easily discoverable,—namely, as it denotes such a way, or thing, or matter, as is or may be made use of for the ends of temptation. Few take notice of it until it is too late, and they find themselves entangled, if not wounded. Watch, then, to understand betimes the snares that are laid for thee,—to understand the advantages thy enemies have against thee, before they get strength and power, before they are incorporated with thy lusts, and have distilled poison into thy soul.
[2.] Consider the aim and tendency of the temptation, whatever it be, and of all that are concerned in it. Those who have an active concurrence into thy temptation are Satan and thy own lusts. For thine own lust, I have manifested elsewhere what it aims at in all its actings and enticings. It never rises up but its intendment is the worst of evils. Every acting of it would be a formed enmity against God. Hence look upon it in its first attempts, what pretences soever may be made, as thy mortal enemy. “I hate it,” saith the apostle, Rom. vii. 15,—that is, the working of lust in me. “I hate it; it is the greatest enemy I have. Oh, that it were killed and destroyed! Oh, that I were delivered out of the power of it!” Know, then, that in the first attempt or assault in any temptation, the most cursed, sworn enemy is at hand, is setting on thee, and that for thy utter ruin; so that it were the greatest madness in the world to throw thyself into his arms to be destroyed. But of this I have spoken in my discourse of Mortification.
Hath Satan any more friendly aim and intention towards thee, who is a sharer in every temptation? To beguile thee as a serpent, to devour thee as a lion, is the friendship that he owes thee. I shall only add, that the sin he tempts thee to against the law, it is not the thing he aims at; his design lies against thy interest in the gospel. He would make sin but a bridge to get over to a better ground, to assault thee as to thy interest in Christ. He who perhaps will say today, “Thou mayst venture on sin, because thou hast an interest in Christ,” will tomorrow tell thee to the purpose that thou hast none, because thou hast done so.
[3.] Meet thy temptation in its entrance with thoughts of faith concerning Christ on the cross; this will make it sink before thee. Entertain no parley, no dispute with it, if thou wouldst not enter into it. Say, “ ‘It is Christ that died,’—that died for such sins as these.” This is called “taking the shield of faith to quench the fiery 136darts of Satan,” Eph. vi. 16. Faith doth it by laying hold on Christ crucified, his love therein, and what from thence he suffered for sin. Let thy temptation be what it will,—be it unto sin, to fear or doubting for sin, or about thy state and condition,—it is not able to stand before faith lifting up the standard of the cross. We know what means the Papists, who have lost the power of faith, use to keep up the form. They will sign themselves with the sign of the cross, or make aerial crosses; and by virtue of that work done, think to scare away the devil. To act faith on Christ crucified is really to sign ourselves with the sign of the cross, and thereby shall we overcome that wicked one, 1 Pet. v. 9.
[4.] Suppose the soul hath been surprised by temptation, and entangled at unawares, so that now it is too late to resist the first entrances of it, what shall such a soul do that it be not plunged into it, and carried away with the power thereof?
1st. Do as Paul did: beseech God again and again that it may “depart from thee,” 2 Cor. xii. 8. And if thou abidest therein, thou shalt certainly either be speedily delivered out of it, or receive a sufficiency of grace not to be foiled utterly by it. Only, as I said in part before, do not so much employ thy thoughts about the things whereunto thou art tempted, which oftentimes raiseth farther entanglements, but set thyself against the temptation itself. Pray against the temptation that it may depart; and when that is taken away, the things themselves may be more calmly considered.
2dly. Fly to Christ, in a peculiar manner, as he was tempted, and beg of him to give thee succour in this “needful time of trouble.” Heb. iv. 16, the apostle instructs us herein: “In that he hath been tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” This is the meaning of it: “When you are tempted and are ready to faint, when you want succour,—you must have it or you die,—act faith peculiarly on Christ as he was tempted; that is, consider that he was tempted himself,—that he suffered thereby,—that he conquered all temptations, and that not merely on his own account, seeing for our sakes he submitted to be tempted, but for us,” (he conquered in and by himself, but for us.) And draw, yea, expect succour from him, Heb. iv. 15, 16. Lie down at his feet, make thy complaint known to him, beg his assistance, and it will not be in vain.
3dly. Look to Him who hath promised deliverance. Consider that he is faithful, and will not suffer thee to be tempted above what thou art able. Consider that he hath promised a comfortable issue of these trials and temptations. Call all the promises to mind of assistance and deliverance that he hath made; ponder them in thy heart. And rest upon it, that God hath innumerable ways that thou knowest not of to give thee in deliverance; as,—
137(1st.) He can send an affliction that shall mortify thy heart unto the matter of the temptation, whatever it be, that that which was before a sweet morsel under the tongue shall neither have taste or relish in it unto thee,—thy desire to it shall be killed; as was the case with David: or,
(2dly.) He can, by some providence, alter that whole state of things from whence thy temptation doth arise, so taking fuel from the fire, causing it to go out of itself; as it was with the same David in the day of battle: or,
(3dly.) He can tread down Satan under thy feet, that he shall not dare to suggest any thing any more to thy disadvantage (the God of peace shall do it), that thou shalt hear of him no more: or,
(4thly.) He can give thee such supply of grace as that thou mayst be freed, though not from the temptation itself, yet from the tendency and danger of it; as was the case with Paul: or,
(5thly.) He can give thee such a comfortable persuasion of good success in the issue as that thou shalt have refreshment in thy trials, and be kept from the trouble of the temptation; as was the case with the same Paul: or,
(6thly.) He can utterly remove it, and make thee a complete conqueror. And innumerable other ways he hath of keeping thee from entering into temptation, so as to be foiled by it.
4thly. Consider where the temptation wherewith thou art surprised hath made its entrance, and by what means, and with all speed make up the breach. Stop that passage which the waters have made to enter in at. Deal with thy soul like a wise physician. Inquire when, how, by what means, thou fellest into this distemper; and if thou findest negligence, carelessness, want of keeping watch over thyself, to have lain at the bottom of it, fix thy soul there,—bewail that before the Lord,—make up that breach,—and then proceed to the work that lies before thee.
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