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SERMON CXV.

THE SINS OF MEN NOT CHARGEABLE UPON GOD, BUT UPON THEMSELVES.

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.—James i. 13, 14.

WHEN I made entrance upon these words, I told you, that, next to the belief of a God and a providence, nothing is more fundamentally necessary to the practice of a good life than the belief of these two principles—That God is not the author of the sins of men; and that every man’s fault lies at his own door. And both these principles St. James does clearly and fully assert in these words.

First, God tempts no man to sin.

Secondly, Every man is his own greatest tempter.

The first of these I have largely spoken to in my former discourse; and from what I then said, I shall only draw a few useful inferences, before I proceed to the second; viz. these which follow.

First, Let us beware of all such doctrines as do any ways tend to make God the author of sin; either by laying a necessity upon men of sinning, or by laying secret designs to tempt and seduce men to sin. Nothing can be farther from the nature of God than to do any such thing, and nothing can be more dishonourable to him than to imagine any 534such thing of him; “he is of purer eyes than to be hold evil;” and can we think, that he who cannot endure to see it should have any hand in it? We find that the holy men in Scripture are very careful to remove all thought and suspicion of this from God. Elihu, (Job xxxvi. 3.) before he would argue about God’s providence with Job, he resolves, in the first place, to attribute nothing to God that is unworthy of him. “I will (says he,) ascribe righteousness to my Maker.” So likewise St. Paul, (Rom. vii. 7.) “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid.” “Is the law sin?” that is, hath God given men a law to this end, that he might draw them into sin? Far be it from him. (Gal. ii. 17.) “Is Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.”

You see then how tender good men have always been of ascribing any thing to God, that might seem to render him the author of sin. So that we have reason to take heed of all doctrines that are of this tendency: such as are the doctrines of an absolute and irrespective decree to damn the greatest part of mankind; and in order to that, and as a means to it, efficaciously to permit men to sin. For if these things be true, that God hath absolutely decreed to damn the greatest part of men; and, to make good this decree, he permits them to sin, not by a bare permission of leaving them to themselves, but by such a permission as shall be efficacious; that is, he will so permit them to sin as they cannot avoid it: then those who are under this decree of God are under a necessity of sinning, which necessity, since it does not proceed from themselves, but from the decree of God, does by consequence make God the author of sin. And then that other doctrine, which is subservient to this, that God does, by a 535physical and natural influence upon the minds and wills of men, determine them to every action that they do, to bad actions as well ns good. I know they who say so tell us, that God only determines men to the action, but not to the evil of it. For in stance, when Cain killed his brother, God deter mined him (they say) to the natural action of taking away a man’s life, which in many cases may be done without sin. Very true: but if in these circumstances the natural action could not be done with out committing the sin, he that determined him to the natural action determined him likewise to the sin.

I am far from any thought that those that maintain these doctrines had any intention to make God the author of sin: but if this be the necessary consequence of these doctrines, there is reason enough to reject them, how innocent soever the intention be of those who maintain them.

Secondly, Let not us tempt any man to sin. All piety pretends to be an imitation of God; therefore let us endeavour to be like him in this. It is true, indeed, we may be tempted with evil, and therefore we are likely enough to tempt others: but we ought not to do so. It is contrary to holiness and goodness, to the temper and disposition of the most perfect Being in the world. God tempts no man; nay, it is the proper work and employment of the devil, it is his very trade and profession: he goes about seeking whom he may betray into sin and destruction. To this end he walks up and down the earth, waiting all opportunities and advantages upon men to draw them into sin: so that we are his factors and instruments whenever we tempt men to sin.

Let those consider this, who are so active and 536busy to seduce men into any kind of wickedness, and to instruct them in the arts of iniquity; how tempt men into bad company and courses, and take pleasure in debauching a virtuous person, and make it matter of great triumph to make a sober man drunk; as if it were so glorious an action to ruin a soul, and destroy that which is more worth than the whole world. Whenever you go about this work remember whose instruments you are, and whose work you do, and what kind of work it is. Tempting others to sin is in Scripture called murder; for which reason the devil is said to be “a murderer from the beginning,” because he was a tempter. “Whosoever committeth sin is of the devil;” but whosoever tempts others to sin is a sort of devil himself.

Thirdly, Since God tempts no man, let us not tempt him. There is frequent mention in Scripture of men’s tempting God; i. e. trying him, as it were, whether he will do any thing for their sakes, that is misbecoming his goodness, and wisdom, and faithfulness, or any other of his perfections. Thus the Israelites are said to have “tempted God in the wilderness forty years together,” and, in that space, more remarkably ten times. The meaning of which expressions is, that when God had promised Abraham to bring his seed into the land of Canaan, that people, by their great and repeated provocations of God, did often provoke him to have destroyed them, and consequently to have failed of the promise which he made to the fathers. The devil likewise tempted our Saviour to tempt God, by casting himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, in confidence that the angels would take care of him: but our Saviour answers him, “It is written, Thou shalt not 537tempt the Lord thy God.” From which instance it appears, that men are said to tempt God, whenever they expect the protection of his providence in an unwarrantable way. God hath promised to take care of good men, but if they neglect themselves or willingly cast themselves into danger, and expect his providence and protection, they do not trust God, but tempt him; they try whether God’s providence will countenance their rashness, and provide for them, when they neglect themselves; and protect them from those dangers to which they wilfully expose themselves.

So likewise if we be negligent in our callings, whereby we should provide for our families, if we lavish away that which we should lay up for them, and then depend upon the providence of God to supply them, and take care of them, we tempt God to that which is unworthy of him; which is to give approbation to our folly, and countenance our sloth and carelessness. We cannot seduce God, and draw him to do any thing that misbecomes him, but we tempt him in expecting the care and protection of his providence, when we wilfully run ourselves into danger, and neglect the means of providing for our own safety. And thus I have done with the first great principle contained in the text; viz. That God is not the author of the sins of men. I proceed now to the

Second; That every man is his own greatest tempter. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn aside of his own lust, and enticed.” God does not tempt, any man to sin: but every man is then tempted, when by his own lust, his irregular inclination and desire, he is seduced to evil, and enticed; καὶ δελεαζόμενος, is caught, as it were, with a bait, for so the Greek word signifies.

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In which words the apostle gives us a true account of the prevalency and efficacy of temptation upon men. It is not because God has any design to ensnare men in sin; but their own corruption and vicious inclinations seduce them to that which is evil. To instance in the particular temptations the apostle was speaking of, persecution and suffering for the cause of religion, to avoid which, many did then forsake the truth, and apostatize from their Christian profession. The true case of which was not the providence of God, which permitted them to be exposed to those sufferings, but their inordinate love of the good things of this life, and their unreasonable fears of the evils and sufferings of it; they valued the enjoyments of this present life, more than the favour of God, and that eternal happiness which Ire had promised to them in another life; and they feared the persecutions of men more than the threatenings of God, and the dreadful punishments of another world. They had an inordinate affection for the ease and pleasure of this life, and their unwillingness to part with these, was a great temptation to them to quit their religion; by this bait they were caught, when it came to the trial.

And thus it is proportionably in all other sorts of temptations. Men are betrayed by themselves, and the temptation without hath a party within them, with which it holds a secret correspondence, and which is ready to yield and give consent to it; so that it is our own consent, and treachery to ourselves, that makes any temptation master of us, and without that we are not to be overcome; “every man w tempted, when he is drawn aside of his own lust, and enticed.” It is the lust of men complying with the temptations which are offered to us, which renders 539them effectual, and gives them the victory over us.

In the handling of this argument, I shall from these words of the apostle observe to you these two things.

First, That as the apostle doth here acquit God from any hand in tempting men to sin, so he does not ascribe the prevalency of temptation to the devil.

Secondly, That he ascribes the prevalency of temptation to the lust and vicious inclinations of men, which seduce them to a compliance with the temptations that are presented to them; “every man is tempted, when he is drawn aside of his own lust, and enticed.” These two observations shall be the subject of my present discourse.

First, That as the apostle doth here acquit God from any hand in tempting men to sin, so he does not ascribe the prevalency and efficacy of temptation to the devil. That he acquits God, I have shewn, at large, in my former discourse. It is evident, likewise, that he does not ascribe the efficacy and prevalency of temptation to the devil: for the apostle in this discourse of his concerning temptations, makes no express mention of the devil; he supposeth, indeed, that baits are laid for men, “every man is tempted, when he is drawn aside of his own lust, and enticed;” i. e. when he plays with the baits that are laid for him, and swallows them. And the Scripture elsewhere frequently tells us, that the devil is very active and busy to tempt men, and is continually laying baits before them; but their own lusts are the cause why they are caught by them.

And I do the rather insist upon this, because men are apt to lay great load upon the devil, in the business of temptation, hoping thereby either wholly, or at least in a great measure, to excuse themselves; and 540therefore I shall here consider how far the devil by his temptations is the cause of the sins which men, by compliance with those temptations, are drawn into.

First, It is certain that the devil is very active and busy to minister to them the occasion of sin, and temptations to it. For ever since he fell from God, partly out of enmity to him, and partly out of envy and malice to mankind, he hath made it his great business and employment to seduce men to sin; and to this end he walks up and down the earth, and watcheth all occasions and opportunities to tempt men to sin; and so far as his power reacheth, and God permits him, he lays baits and temptations before them in all their ways, presenting them with the occasions and opportunities to sin, and with such baits and allurements as are most suitable to their tempers, and most likely to prevail with their particular inclinations, and, as often as he can, surprising men with these at the easiest time of access, and with such circumstances, as may give his temptations the greatest force and advantage. Of this the Scripture assures us in general, when it tells us of those wiles and devices of Satan, and of the methods of his temptations; so that though we do not particularly discern how and when he doth this, yet we have no reason to doubt of the thing, if we believe that there is such a spirit in the world, as the Scripture particularly tells us there is, that works in the children of disobedience; and that God, from whom nothing is hid, and who sees all the secret engines which are at work in the world, to do us good or harm, hath in mercy to mankind given us particular warning of it, and that we may not be wholly ignorant of our enemies, and their malicious designs 541upon us, that we may be continually upon our guard, aware of our danger, and armed against it.

Secondly, The devil does not only present to men the temptations and occasions of sin; but when he is permitted to make nearer approaches to them, does excite and stir them up to comply with these temptations, and to yield to them. And this he does, not only by employing his instruments, to solicit for him, and draw men to sin by bad counsel and example, which we see frequently done, and probably very often by the devil’s instigation; (those who are very wicked themselves, and consequently more enslaved to the devil, and under his power, being as it were factors for him to seduce others;) but besides this it is not improbable but the devil himself does many times immediately excite men to sin, by working upon the humours of their bodies, or upon their imaginations; and by that means in fusing and suggesting evil motions into them; or by diverting them from those thoughts and considerations, which might check and restrain them from that wickedness to which he is tempting them; or by some other ways and means more secret and unknown to us. For the power of spirits, whether good or bad, and the manner of their operation upon our minds, are things very secret, and of which we can give little or no account; but yet for all that, we have many times reason sufficient to believe a thing to be so, when we are wholly ignorant of the manner of it.

And there is reason, from what is said in Scripture, to believe that the devil, in some cases, hath a more immediate power and influence upon the minds of men, to excite them to sin, and, where he discovers a very bad inclination or resolution, to help it forward, and to keep men to it; as when it is said, 542(John xiii. 27.) that “the devil entered into Judas,” to push him on in that ill design, which he had al ready engaged in, of betraying our Saviour. And (Acts v. 3.) Satan is said to have “filled the heart of Ananias, to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price” for which he had sold his estate; which expressions do seem to intimate to us, some more immediate power and influence which the devil had upon those persons: but then it is very observable, that this power is never ascribed to the devil, but in the case of great and horrid sins, and where men are beforehand notoriously depraved; and either by the actual commission of some former great sin, or by entertaining some very wicked design, have provoked God to permit the devil a nearer access to them. For Judas had first taken counsel how to betray Christ, before it is said the devil entered into him, to push him on to the execution of it. And Ananias’s covetousness had first tempted him to keep back part of his estate, before it is said the devil filled his heart to lie to the Holy Ghost; so that what power the devil hath over men, they first give it him; they consent to his outward temptations, before he can get within thorn. Hence it is that in Scripture great sinners are described, as being more immediately under the government and influence of the devil. Ephes. ii. 1, 2. where the apostle speaking of those, who from heathenism were converted to Christianity, “You (says he) hath he quickened, who were once dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in times past ye walked, according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience, or unbelief;” τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ νῦν ἐνεργοῦντος, “the spirit that still acts and 543inspires the children of unbelief;” that is, those continue in their infidelity, and would not believe and obey the gospel. When men are notoriously wicked and disobedient to the counsels of God, the devil is said to act and inspire them, which certainly signifies some more immediate power and influence which he hath over such persons.

For as it is very probable, that the devil is some times permitted to come near good men so as to tempt them; so, by notorious wickedness and impiety, men do give admission to him, and he is permitted by the just judgment of God to exercise greater dominion over them. By resisting his temptations, we drive him from us. So St. James tells us, (chap. iv. 7.) “Resist the devil, and he will flee from yon: but as we yield to his temptations, he continually makes nearer approaches to us, and gains a greater power over us.

Thirdly, But for all this the devil can force no man to sin; his temptations may move and excite men to sin, but that they are prevalent and effectual, proceeds from our own will and consent; it is our own lusts closing with his temptations that produce sin. The devil hath more or less power over men, according as they give way to him; but never so much as to force their wills, and to compel them to consent to, and comply with his temptations; the grace of God doth hardly offer this violence to men for their good, in order to their salvation; and therefore much less will he permit the devil to have this power over men to their ruin and destruction. God’s commanding us to resist the devil supposeth that his temptations are not irresistible.

Fourthly, From what hath-been said, it appears, that though the devil be frequently accessary to the 544sins of men, yet we ourselves are the authors of them; he tempts us many times to sin, but it is we that commit it. His temptations may sometimes be so violent as to extenuate our fault, but never so forcible as wholly to excuse us; for we are so far guilty of sin, as we give our consent to it: and how powerful soever the temptation be to any kind of evil, there is always enough of our own will in it to render us guilty.

I am far from thinking that the devil tempts men to all the evil that they do. I rather think that the greatest part of the wickedness that is committed in the world, springs from the evil motions of men’s own minds. Men’s own lusts are generally to them the worst devil of the two, and do more strongly incline them to sin, than any devil without them can tempt them to it. It is not to be doubted, that the devil does all the mischief he can to the souls of men, so far as God permits him; and though the number of evil angels be probably very great, yet it is but finite, and every one of them hath a limited power; and though they be very active, yet they can be but one where at once; so that his malice at the utmost does only all the evil that it can, not all that it would; he plies where he has the best custom, where he has the fairest opportunity, and the greatest hopes; he leaves men many times for a season, as (it is said) he did our Saviour, because he despairs of success at that time; and it may be, sometimes when he is gone, these persons grow secure, and through their own security and folly, fall into those sins which the devil, with all his baits and wiles, whilst they were upon their guard, could not tempt them to commit.

Others, after he has made them pure, and put 545them into the way of it, will go on of themselves, and are as mad of sinning, as forward to destroy themselves, as the devil himself could wish; so that he can hardly tempt men to any wickedness, which he does not find them inclined to of themselves. These he can trust with themselves, and leave them to their own inclinations and conduct, finding, by experience, that they will do as ill things of their own motion, as if Satan stood continually at their right hand to prompt them, and put them on, so that he can go into a far country, and employ himself elsewhere, and leave them for a long time; being confident, that in his absence they will not bury their talent, and hide it in a napkin, but will improve it to a great advantage. And I wish that our own age did not afford us too many instances of this kind, of such forward and expert sinners, as need no tempter either to instruct or excite them to that which is evil. Now, in this case, the devil be takes himself to other persons, and removes his snares and baits where he thinks there is more need and occasion for them.

So that we may reasonably conclude, that there is a great deal of wickedness committed in the world, which the devil hath no immediate hand in, though he always rejoiceth in it when it is done; and that there is a great deal more reason to attribute all good to the motions and operations of the Spirit of God, than to ascribe all sin and wickedness in the world to the devil; because the Spirit of God is more powerful, and is always every where, and is more intent upon his design, and as forward to promote it, as the devil can be to carry on his work; nay, I doubt not but he is more active to excite men to good, than the devil can be to tempt them to 546evil. And yet for all this I think there is no great reason to doubt, but that good men do many good actions of their own inclination, without any special and immediate motion from the Spirit of God. They are, indeed, at first regenerate, and sanctified by the Holy Ghost, and are continually afterwards under the conduct of the same Spirit: but where there is a new nature, it is of itself inclinable to that which is good, and will bring forth fruits, and do actions answerable. Much less do I think that the devil tempts every man to all the evil that he does, or the greatest part. When the lusts of men, and the habits of vice are grown strong and confirmed, the devil may spare his temptations in a great measure; for after bad men are wound to such a pitch of impiety, they will go a great while of themselves.

I have done with the first observation; that as the apostle acquits God from having any hand in tempting men to sin, so neither does he ascribe the efficacy and prevalency of temptation to the devil. I proceed to the

Second observation, That he ascribes the efficacy and success of temptation to the lusts and vicious inclinations of men, which seduce them to a consent and compliance with the temptations which are afforded to them. “Every man is tempted when he is drawn aside of his own lust, and enticed.” We have many powerful enemies; but we are much more in danger of treachery from within, than of assaults from without. All the power of our enemies could not destroy us if we were but true to ourselves; so that the apostle had great reason to ascribe the efficacy of temptation, to the irregular desires and vicious inclinations of men, rather than to those temptations which the providence of God permits them 547to be assaulted with, and consequently to lay the blame of men’s sins chiefly upon themselves.

And that chiefly upon these two accounts:

First, Because the lusts of men are in a great measure voluntary.

Secondly, God hath put it in our power to resist those temptations, and overcome them. Now, so far as the lusts of men are voluntary, it is their own fault that they are seduced by them; and if God hath put it in our power to resist and overcome temptations, we may blame ourselves if we be overcome and foiled by them.

First, The lusts of men are in a great measure voluntary. By the lusts of men, I mean their irregular desires and vicious inclinations. I grant that the nature of man is very much corrupted, and degenerated from its primitive integrity and perfection: but we who are Christians, have received that grace in baptism, whereby our natures are so far healed, as, if we be not wanting to ourselves, and do not neglect the means which God hath appointed to us, we may mortify our lusts, and live a new life: so that if our lusts remain unmortified, we ourselves are in fault, much more if they gain new strength, and proceed to habits; for this could not be, if we did not, after we come to age, and are able to discern between and to choose good and evil, voluntarily consent to iniquity, and, by wilful and deliberate practice of known sins, improve the evil inclinations of our nature into vicious habits: but if, instead of mortifying and subduing the evil propensions of our nature (which is no very difficult work to most persons, if they begin it betimes), we will cherish and give new life and power to them, we forfeit the grace which we received in baptism, and bring ourselves 548again under the power and dominion of sin; and no wonder then if our lusts seduce us, and make us ready to comply with the temptations of the world and the devil.

Nay, and after this it is still our own fault if we do not mortify our lusts; for if we would hearken to the counsel of God, and obey his calls to repentance, and sincerely beg his grace and Holy Spirit to this purpose, we might yet recover ourselves, and “by the Spirit mortify the deeds of the flesh;” for though we have left God, he hath not quite forsaken us, but is ready to afford his grace again to us, though we have neglected and abused it, and to give his Holy Spirit to those that ask him, though we have forfeited it; so that though our lusts spring from something which is natural, yet that they live and have dominion over us is voluntary, because we might remedy it if we would, and make use of those means which God in the gospel offers to us.

Secondly, God hath put it in our power to resist these temptations, and overcome them; so that it is our own fault if we yield to them, and be overcome by them.

It is naturally in our power to resist many sorts of temptations; and the grace of God, if we do not neglect it, and be not wanting to ourselves, puts it in our power to resist any temptation that may happen to us.

First, It is naturally in our power to resist many sorts of temptations. If we do but make use of our natural reason, and those considerations which are common and obvious to men, we may easily resist the temptations to a great many sins. Some sins are so horrid in their nature, that when we have the strongest temptations to them, we cannot but have 549a natural aversion from them; as deliberate murder, the danger and guilt whereof are both so great, a make it easy for any considerate man to resist the strongest temptation to it, even that of revenge. A plain act of injustice, whether by great fraud, or by downright oppression, is so base and disgraceful, so odious and abhorred by human nature, that it is not difficult to a man that hath but a common understanding and common inclination to be honest, to overcome the greatest temptation of gain and advantage; nay, he must offer considerable violence to his nature and reason, to bring himself to it at first. Profaneness and contempt of God and religion is so monstrous a fault, and of so dreadful an appearance, that every man that will but use his reason can have no temptation to it, either from gratifying his humour, or pleasing his company, or shewing his wit, that can be of equal force with the arguments which every man’s mind and conscience is apt to suggest to him against it.

Nay, there are many sins much inferior to these, the temptations whereto may, by the ordinary reasons and considerations of prudence and interest, be baffled and put out of countenance. To instance in common swearing, to which I think there is no temptation, either from pleasure or advantage, but only from fashion and custom. Now this temptation is easy to be conquered, by considering that every man that professeth to believe the Bible, must acknowledge it to be a sin; and if any man be convinced that it is a sin, I dare undertake to convince him that he can leave it. He that can choose, at any time, whether he will speak or not (which it is certainly in every man’s power to do) can choose whether he will swear when he speaks. If he says he 550does it by custom and habit, and when he does not think of it; a very little care and resolution will, in a short time, cure any man of that custom; so that it is naturally in every man’s power to break off this sin.

Secondly, The grace of God puts it into our power, if we do not neglect it, and be not wanting” to ourselves, to resist any temptation that may happen to us; and what the grace of God puts into our power, is as truly in our power as what we can do ourselves. God offers his grace to every man under the gospel, for he has promised to “give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him;” and it is naturally in every man’s power to ask it, otherwise the promise signifies nothing; or if no man can ask the Spirit of God till he first have it, then to promise it to them that ask it is to promise it to them who have it already, and then it is needless to ask it. And if God offers his grace to every man, then it is every man’s fault if he have it not; and every man that hath it may, by the ordinary assistance of that grace, resist any ordinary temptation. And if, at any time, God suffers good men to be assaulted, he hath promised in such cases an extraordinary grace and assistance: and that either he will “not suffer us to be tempted above what we are able,” or that with the temptation he will find a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it.

And thus I have done with the second thing I propounded to speak to from these words: That every man is his own greatest tempter. “Every man is tempted when he is drawn aside of his own lust, and enticed.” And now the proper inferences from what I have been all this while discoursing to you are these three:—

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First, Not to think to excuse ourselves by laying the blame of our sins upon the temptation of the devil. That the devil tempts us is not our fault, because we cannot help it; but it is our voluntary compliance with his temptations, our consenting to that evil which he solicits us to, which maketh us guilty, “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn aside of his own lust;” the lusts of our own hearts give the efficacy to the temptations of the devil: men many times sin upon the motions and suggestions of the devil; but though he be guilty of tempting us, we are guilty of consenting to his temptations.

Many times we are not sure that the devil tempts us to such a sin, but we are sure that we commit it, and consequently that we are guilty of it. Nay, it is certain if there were no devil many would be wicked, and, perhaps, not much less wicked than they are. The lusts and vicious inclinations of men would yield to the temptations of the world, though there were none to manage them, and to set them on to the greatest advantage; so that we cannot excuse our faults upon this account, that we are tempted by the devil. If this were a sufficient excuse for us, the devil would take no pleasure in tempting us; the whole design of his temptation being to make us guilty, and by the guilt of sin to make us miserable.

Secondly, From hence we learn what reason we have to pray to God, that he would “not lead us into temptation,” i. e. not permit us to fall into it; for, in the phrase of Scripture, God is many times said to do those things, which his providence permits to be done. The best of us have some remainders of lust, some irregular desires and appetites, 552which will be apt to betray us to sin, when powerful temptations are presented to us; so that it is a great happiness to the best of men to be kept, by the providence of God, out of the way of violent temptations; for our own strength to resist them is but small, and we are apt to be secure, and to neglect our guard; we are easy to be surprised, and in continual danger through our own weakness or carelessness. Our greatest security is, if we be sincere, and heartily desirous to do well, and firmly resolved against sin, and do depend upon God for his grace and assistance, that his providence will not suffer us to fall into the hands of dangerous and violent temptations, which probably would be too hard for us; he who knows what our strength is, “will not suffer us to be tempted above what we are able.”

Thirdly, From hence we may learn the best way to disarm temptations, and to take away the power of them; and that is, by mortifying our lusts, and subduing our vicious inclinations. When this is done (which by the grace of God may be done), temptation hath lost its greatest advantage upon us. It is the conspiracy of our lusts, with the temptations that set upon us, that betrays us into their power. The true reason why men fall into sin, is not because they are tempted, but because there is something within them which inclines and disposes them to comply with the temptation and to yield to it. It is said, when the devil came to our Saviour to tempt him, that “he found nothing in him,” and therefore his temptations had no force upon him. The more we mortify our lusts, the less the devil will find in us, for his temptations to work upon. Every spark is dangerous when it falls upon combustible 553matter; but though sparks fly never so thick there is no danger, so long as there is nothing about us to catch fire.

If we will not be drawn aside and enticed to sin, let us mortify our lusts; for, so far as we are mortified, we are out of the power of temptation.

Men are apt to complain of temptations, that they are too hard for them, and that they are not able to resist them, though they pray to God continually for his grace to that purpose. This, indeed, is one means very proper and necessary to be used; but this is not all that we are to do; we must break off habits of sin, and subdue our lusts, and keep under our inclinations, and then we shall find ourselves able to resist and encounter temptations with more success. And till we do this, in vain do we pray for God’s grace, and depend upon him for strength to overcome the temptations that do assault us; for God’s grace was never designed to countenance the sloth and negligence of men, but to encourage and second our resolutions and endeavours of well doing. If we expect God’s grace and assistance upon other terms, we tempt God, and provoke him to leave us to the power of temptations, to be drawn away and enticed by our own lusts.

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