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The Sixth Petition in the Lord’s Prayer
‘And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ Matt 6: 13.
This petition consists of two parts. First, Deprecatory, ‘Lead us not into temptation.’ Secondly, Petitionary, ‘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 tempteth 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 trying. He tried Abraham’s faith, as a goldsmith tries gold in the fire; but there is a great deal of difference between trying his people’s grace and exciting their corruption; he tries their grace, but does not excite their corruption. Man’s sin cannot be justly fathered on God. God tempts no man.
What then is the meaning of ‘Lead us not into temptation’?
The meaning is, that God would not suffer us to be overcome by temptation; that we may not be given up to the power of temptation, and be drawn into sin.
Whence do temptations come?
(1) Ab intra [From within], from ourselves. The heart is fomes peccati [the kindling of sin], the breeder of all evil. Our own hearts are the greatest tempters: quisque sibi Satan est [everyone is Satan to himself]. ‘Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust.’ The heart is a perfect decoy. James 1: 14.
(a) Temptations come ab extra [from without], from Satan. He is called the Tempter. Matt 4: 3. He lies in ambush to do us mischief: stat in procinctu diabolus [the devil stands girded for battle], the devil lays a train 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 found, 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. Elias, who could shut heaven by prayer, could not shut his heart from temptation. 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 temptations:
Consider,  His 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 be anything this infernal spirit can delight in, it is to ruin souls, and to bring them into the same condemnation with himself. This malice of Satan in tempting must needs be great, if we consider three things:
(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 thou be the Son of God.’ Matt 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 plant his pieces of ordnance 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 suffer him to prevail by his temptation. ‘Lead us not into temptation.’
 Consider Satan’s diligence in tempting. He ‘walketh about.’ 1 Pet 5: 8. He neglects no time; he who would have us idle is himself always busy. This lion is ever hunting after his prey, he compasses sea and land to make a proselyte; he walks about — he walks not as a pilgrim, but 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 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 motion to sin begins to take, he follows it close 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 till he had betrayed his Lord and Master. When he tempted Spira to renounce his religion, and saw him begin to yield, he followed the temptation close, and never left off till he had made him go to the legate at Venice, and there 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 have another; if he cannot tempt to lust, he will tempt to pride; if temptation to covetousness does not prevail, he will tempt to profuseness; 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 vicious, 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: the one pistols, the other 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 into temptation’?
 Consider Satan’s power in tempting. He is called ‘the prince of this world’ (John 14: 30), and the ’strong man’ (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 fancy, and poison it with bad thoughts. As the Holy Ghost casts in good motions, so the devil does bad. He put it into Judas’s 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 bait. (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: so we often hatch the devil’s motions, thinking they come from our own hearts. When Peter dissuaded Christ from suffering, he thought it came from the good affection which he bore to his Master, little thinking that Satan had a hand in it. Matt 16: 22. Now, if the devil has such power to instil 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 inter morsum serpentis et morbum mentis [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, ere consent be 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 well nigh as long as he has been an angel. 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 bowler 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 policies 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. Omnium discutit mores [He attacks the character of all]. He does not know the hearts of men, but he may feel their pulse, know their temper, and can apply himself accordingly. As the husbandman knows what seed is proper to sow in such a soil, so Satan, finding out the temper, knows what temptations are proper to sow in such a 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 sanguine man with beauty, the covetous man with a wedge of gold. He provides savoury meat, such as the sinner loves.
2nd subtlety. He chooses the fittest season to tempt in. As a cunning angler casts in his angle when the fish will bite best, so the devil can hit the very joint of 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 religion, when we have newly given up our names to Christ. He will never disturb his vassals; but when we have broken his prison in conversion, he will pursue us with violent temptations. Solet inter primordia conversionis acrius insurgere [He is wont to attack more sharply at the first signs of conversion]. Bernard. When Israel were got a little out of Egypt, Pharaoh pursued them. Soon as Christ was born, Herod sent to destroy him so when the child of grace is newly born, the devil labours 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 unemployed. 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; 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. Matt 13: 25. When David was walking on the housetop unemployed, 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 wants 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. Matt 4: 8. When provisions grow short, Satan sets in with a temptation; What, wilt thou starve rather than steal? reach forth thy 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 angle of temptation. When Christ had been fasting and praying, then came the tempter. Matt 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 fervour 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 bathe, leaves off his armour. 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, 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 armour.
5th season. Satan tempts after some discoveries of God’s love. Like a pirate who sets on a ship that is richly laden, 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 party-coloured coat made his brethren envy him and plot against him. After David had the good news of the pardon of his sin, which must needs fill 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 sore, 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 discover the treachery. Like a cunning suitor who wooes the daughter when the parents are from home; when alone and none near, the devil comes wooing with a temptation, and hopes to have the match struck up. (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 till 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 hang out Christ’s colours and tempt to sin under pretences 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, Liber Veritatis, 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,’ &c. So he comes to many and tempts them to sin, under the pretence 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 honouring 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 divine, and quotes Scripture?
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 an artery 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 tempted Job by a proxy, he handed over a temptation to him by his wife. ‘Dost thou still retain thine integrity?’ Job 2: 9. As if he had said, Job, thou seest how, for all thy religion, God deals with thee, his hand is gone out sore against thee; 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. Per costam petit cor [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 thyself,’ Christ spied Satan in the temptation. ‘Get thee 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 persons 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. Rom 9: 22. Some, like the sponge, suck in Satan’s temptations. There are five sorts of persons that Satan most broods upon by his temptations.
(1) Ignorant persons. The devil can lead these into any snare. You may lead a blind man any whither. 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 whither he would into the enemy’s country. 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 mould; he can dye him of any colour. 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 them that do not believe in Judaea.’ Rom 15: 31.
(3) Satan tempts proud persons: 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. Celsae graviore casu decidunt turres, feriuntque summos fulmina montes [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 persons. Melancholy is atra bilis, a black humour, seated chiefly in the brain. It clothes the mind in sable, and disturbs reason. Satan works much upon this humour. There are three things in melancholy which give the devil greet advantage:  It unfits for duty, it pulls off the chariot-wheels; it dispirits a man. Lute strings that are wet, will not sound; 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 too, and sets his hand to the devil’s lies.  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 persons. 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 be 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 policy 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 walketh through dry places, seeking rest: and finding none, he saith, 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 persons; they think they are safe, and are become victors, when, on a sudden, Satan falls on 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 armour.
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 labours 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 signals of his love and favour. 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 darest thou so unworthily come? 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 endeavours to discourage from duty by objecting want 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, ‘What 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 labours:
(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 manner.  In a dead formal manner, that so they may fail of the success. Satan knows duties done superficially were as good as left undone. That prayer which does not pierce the heart, will never pierce heaven.  He puts them upon doing duties for wrong ends. Finis specificat actionem [The end governs the action]; he will make them look asquint, and have by-ends in duty. ‘Thou shalt not be as the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.’ Matt 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 flyblow 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 colour over sin with the name and pretence of virtue. Alcibiades hung a curtain curiously embroidered over a foul picture of satyrs; so Satan can put the image 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; it was not zeal, but state policy. 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, suffer 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 policies. 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. ‘We are not ignorant of his devices.’ 2 Cor 2: 1.
10th subtlety. He labours to ensnare us by lawful things, in licitis perimus omnes [we all perish through lawful things]. More are hurt by lawful things than unlawful, as more are killed with wine than poison. Gross sins affright but how many take a surfeit and die, 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 overlove! How often is the wife and child laid in God’s room! 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, reading, and under a pretence of living by faith, do not live in a calling; others Satan takes off from duties of religion, under a pretence 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 out of love with it. He paints the face of religion full of scars, and with seeming 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 out of his diocese, though the apostle speaks of ‘joy in believing.’ Rom 15: 13. Satan suggests that religion exposes men to danger: he shows them the cross, but hides the crown from them; he labours 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 that bears injuries without revenge, he represents as a coward; the humble man as low-spirited; the heavenly man he calls a fool. He lets things that are seen go for 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 persons 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 labours to defile the soul with lust, and as a lying spirit he labours 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? Matt 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 sours, and to a gangrene because it spreads. Matt 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 on a sudden 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, as Epiphanius observes, were not only corrupted in their judgements, 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. It damns as well as vice; poison kills as well as a pistol. ‘Who privily shall bring in damnable heresies.’ 2 Pet 2: 1. If Satan be thus subtle in laying snares of error to deceive, had we not need to pray that God would not suffer 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 honours of the world. ‘All these things will I give thee.’ Matt 4: 9. How many does he tempt with this golden apple? Pride, idleness, luxury, are the three worms which are bred by plenty. ‘They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare.’ 1 Tim 6: 9. Satan kills with these silver darts. How many surfeit on 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 fain 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 meat.
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, 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 that 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 shewbread, which was not lawful for him, but only the priests’? Matt 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 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 twofold presumption: (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; that though they are not so good as they should be, yet God is merciful. 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. Quam multi cum vana spe descendant ad inferos [How many with vain hope go down to hell]. Augustine. Presumption is Satan’s draw-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 his grace would he 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 thy servant from presumptuous sins.’ Psa 19: 13.
17th subtlety. Satan carries on his designs against us under the highest pretences of friendship. He puts silver upon his bait, and dips his poisoned pills in sugar, as some courtiers who make the greatest pretences of love where they have the most deadly hatred. Satan puts off his lion’s skin and comes in sheep’s clothing; he pretends kindness and friendship, and would consult what might be for our good. Thus he came to Christ, ‘Command that these stones be made bread.’ Matt 4: 3. As if he had said, ‘I see thou art hungry, and here there is no table spread for thee in the wilderness; I, therefore, pitying thy condition, wish thee to get something to eat; turn stones to bread, that thy 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 ye eat thereof, ye 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, ‘Ye shall be as gods.’ What a kind 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. Timeo Danaos et done farentes [I distrust the Greeks even when they bring gifts].
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 and engines for carrying on his work — that is, he makes use of such persons 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, 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 parts, such as, if it were possible, should 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 an ignis fatuus, the light within them. One great subtlety of the devil is to make use of such cunning, subtle-paled men as may be fit to carry on his tempting designs.
(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 persons more than others; or at some grace more than others; and if he can prevail in this, he knows 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 train of his temptation to blow up the fort of our faith. Fidei scutum percutit [He strikes the shield of 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, laboured to weaken her faith. ‘Yea, has God said, Ye 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 called scutum fidei, ‘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 gratiam diruere [destroy grace], but he may debilitare [weaken it].
Why does Satan in tempting chiefly assault our faith?
‘Fight neither with small nor great, save 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) It is the grace that does Satan most mischief; it makes the most resistance against him. ‘Whom resist, stedfast in faith.’ 1 Pet 5: 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 that wounds the red dragon.
How comes faith 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 be assaulted, it runs and calls to its father for help: when faith is assaulted, it runs and calls Christ, and in his strength overcomes.
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 thee nor forsake thee.’ Heb 13: 5. ‘A bruised reed shall he not break.’ Matt 12: 20. ‘Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.’ 1 Cor 10: 13. ‘The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.’ Rom 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, faith gives out a stock to all the other graces, and sets them to work. It sets love to work. ‘Faith which worketh 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 be stopped, the motion of the wheels will be hindered: so if faith be down, all the other graces will be at a stand.
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 be lined and made soft. He will be sure, therefore, to lay his bait of temptation so as to please and humour 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 tell over a few 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 needs all this cost? what needs repenting tears? these are legal; what 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 he doubts not but he shall have customers enough.
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 labours 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. He cares not how much you hear or how little 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 labours to stop the warrant and hinder the execution. When sin is mortifying, Satan is being crucified.
Self-examination. ‘Examine yourselves:’ a metaphor from metal that is pierced through, to see if there be 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 be possible, will, by his temptations, keep men from this duty. He tells them their estate is good, and what need they put themselves to the trouble of examination? Though men will not take their money on trust, but will examine it by the touchstone, 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 not a looking-glass to behold their own faces and see what is amiss in themselves.
(2) His policy is to discourage in duty. When any one has been performing holy duties, he tells him he has played the hypocrite; he has served God for money, he has had sinister ends: his duties have been full of distraction they have been fly-blown with pride: he has offered the blind and the lame and how can he expect a reward from God? He tells a Christian he has increased his sin by prayer, and endeavours to make him out of conceit with his duties, so he knows not whether he had better pray or not.
(3) If this plot will not take, he labours 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, Thou art not humbled enough; and, indeed, he never thinks a man is humbled enough till he despairs. He would make a Christian wade so far in the waters of repentance, that he should get beyond his depth, and be drowned in the gulf of despair. He comes thus to the soul, Thy sins have been great, and thy sorrows should be proportionate to thy sins. But is it so? Canst thou say thou hast been as great a mourner as thou hast been a sinner? Thou didst for many years drive no other trade but sin — and is a drop of sorrow enough for a sea of sin? No; thy 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 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 thee, Christian, if thou hast a gospel-sorrow; if thou grievest so far as to see sin hateful, and Christ precious; if thou grievest so as to break off iniquity; if thy remorse end in divorce. This is to be humbled enough. The gold has lain long enough in the fire when the dross is purged out; 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 acceptation. God, for Christ’s sake, will accept of this sorrow for sin; therefore let not Satan’s temptations drive thee 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 Machiavelli.
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 springlock can shut of itself, but it cannot open without a key; so we can shut ourselves out from God, but we cannot open to him by repentance, till he opens our heart who has the key of David in his hand.
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. Psa 51: 17. After some eminent deliverance, which calls for rejoicing, to have the spirit dyed of a sad colour, 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 shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the Lord thy God, thou shalt surely rejoice.’ Deut 16: 15. Now, if at this time the Israelites had hung their harps upon the willows, and been disconsolate, it had 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 savours of ingratitude. It is Satan’s temptation; the hand of Joab is in this.
To rejoice is a duty. ‘Praise is comely for the upright.’ Psa 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.’ Isa 22: 12, 13. Oecolampadius, and other learned writers, think it 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, yea, 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 dulce venenum (a sweet poison). Bernard. The longer poison lies in the body, the more mortal; so, by delay of repentance, sin strengthens, and the heart hardens. The longer ice freezes, the harder it is to be broken; so the longer a man freezes in impenitency, the more difficult it will be to have his heart broken. When sin has gotten a haunt, it is not easily driven away. Besides, the danger of delaying repentance appears in this, that life is hazardous, and may on a sudden expire. What security have you that you shall live another day? Life is made up of a few flying minutes; it is a taper soon blown out. ‘What is your life? It is even a vapour.’ James 4: 14. The body is like a vessel, tunned 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 his good day; 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, a Christian prizes more than peace and tranquillity 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 thither 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 favour. As Joseph had a special testimony of his father’s kindness in the party-coloured coat, so have the saints a special token of God’s good will to them, when he gives them the party-coloured 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 them.
(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 or quit-rent due to God. ‘Let the saints be joyful, let the high praises of God be in their mouth.’ Psa 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 takes. By making God’s children unquiet, he makes them unthankful.
(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 he in dove with a religion that is ready to fright 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 humour of melancholy, and end their days in despair.
(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. Psa 78: 7, 8, 9. ‘I reckoned, that as a lion, so will he break all my bones: from day even to night, wilt thou make an end of me.’ Isa 38: 13. The devil, by melancholy, causes a sad eclipse in the soul, so that it begins to think 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 his birthday. Job 3: 3. Though he did not curse his God, yet he cursed his birthday. 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 slily 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; 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 colours to affright them, and make them ready to give up the ghost. 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 grace is not perfect, not that he has no grace. When Satan comes with this temptation, show him that Scripture, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.’ 1 John 1: 7.
27th subtlety. Satan, by plausible arguments, tempts men to commit felo de se, 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 bills of mortality 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, se in praecipitium dejecit, threw himself down a steep precipice, or rock, and killed himself. This is Satan’s plot; but we must not break prison by laying violent hands upon ourselves, but stay till God sends and opens the door. Let us pray ‘Lead us not into temptation.’ Still bear in mind that Scripture, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Exod 20: 13. Clamitat in caelum vox sanguinis [The voice of blood cries to heaven]. 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 he 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 that would murder you. Being forewarned, I beseech you take heed of the murderer.
From the subtlety of Satan in tempting, let me draw three inferences.
(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 win all mankind! What a wonder that some are preserved, that neither Satan’s hidden snares prevail nor his fiery darts: 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 strangely they came thither; 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,’ &c. Let us not think we 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 should such weak reeds as we are be blown down, if God should leave us! Take Christ’s advice, ‘Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.’ Matt 26: 41.
(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: first a liar and then a murderer.
Having shown the subtleties of Satan in tempting, I shall answer two questions:
Why does God suffer his saints to be buffeted by Satan’s temptations?
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. Qui non tentatur, non probatur [He who is not tempted is not tested]. Augustine.
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 for a livery; but, said he, ‘Touch all that he has (that is, let me tempt him) and he will curse thee to thy face!’ Job 1: 11. Well, God did let the devil touch him by temptation, and yet Job remained holy, he worshipped 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; 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 he will not touch the forbidden fruit. When the devil showed 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.
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 excordes, without a heart; they have no heart to resist a temptation; no sooner does Satan come with his solicitations, but they yield; like a coward, who as soon as the thief approaches, delivers his purse. He is a valorous Christian that 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; 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. Fidei robur potest esse concussum, non excussum [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 honoured.
(2) God suffers his children to be tempted, that they may be kept from pride. Quos non gula superavit [Those whom greed has not overcome]. Cyprian. 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 thee, 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 spleen swells, so the other parts of the body consume; as pride grows, so grace consumes. God resists pride; and, that he may keep his children humble, he suffers them sometimes to fall into temptation. ‘Lest I should be exalted, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me.’ 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 prick the bladder of pride. Better is the temptation that humbles me than the duty that 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 swelling.
(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 that has ridden over a place where there are quicksands, is the fittest to guide others through that dangerous way; 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 that 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, throws his fireballs, but it only makes the people 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 suffered Israel to be vexed with the Egyptians, that they might long the more to be in Canaan. Heaven is the centrum, a place of rest, centrum quietativum: 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; 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. Nullus ibi hostium metes, nullae insidiae daemonum [There is no fear of enemies there, no snares of devils]. Bernard.
The temptations here are to make the saints long till death sound a retreat, and call 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 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,’ yea, to the best 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, that 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. Sortem quam omnes sancti patiuntur nemo recusat [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 of the devil.’ Matt 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 burr 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 such as 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 where he thinks there is treasure; a pirate will not set upon an empty ship, but one that is full of spices and jewels; 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 at 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. Nobis compatitur Christus [Christ suffers with us]. ‘We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.’ Heb 4: 15. Jesus Christ sympathises with us; he is so sensible of our temptations as if he himself lay under them, and did feel them in his own soul. As in music, when one string is touched, all the rest sound, so when we suffer Christ’s bowels sound; we cannot be tempted but he is touched. If you saw a wolf worry your child, would you not pity it? You cannot pity it as Christ does tempted ones. He had a fellow feeling when upon earth, much more now in glory.
But how can it consist 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 that toucheth you, toucheth 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 succour in temptation. As the good Samaritan first had compassion on the wounded man, there was sympathy; then he poured in wine and oil, there was succour (Luke 10: 34); 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 succour them that are tempted.’ Heb 2: 18. The Greek word for succour (boethesia) signifies to run speedily to one’s help; so fierce is Satan, so frail is man, that Christ, who is God-man, runs speedily to his help. When Peter was ready to sink, and said, ‘Lord, save me,’ Christ presently stretched forth his hand, and caught him; so when a poor soul is tempted, and cries to heaven for help, ‘Lord, save me,’ Christ comes in with his auxiliary forces. Noscit Christus, our Lord Jesus knows what it is to be tempted, therefore he is ready to succour such as are tempted. It has been observed that child-bearing women are more pitiful to others in their travails than such as are barren; so the Lord Jesus having been in travail by temptations and sufferings, is more ready to pity and succour such as are tempted.
Concerning Christ’s succouring the tempted, consider two things: his ability, and his agility to succour. ‘He is able to succour them that 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 second. Michael will be too hard for the dragon. When the devil lays the siege of a temptation, Christ can raise 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 lifeguard than omnipotence? As Christ is able to succour the tempted, so he will certainly succour them. His power enables him, his love inclines him, his faithfulness engages him to succour tempted souls. It is a great comfort to a soul in temptation to have a succouring Saviour. God succoured Israel in the wilderness 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 succouring 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 succour to the tempted in the names given to Christ. As Satan’s names may terrify, so Christ’s may succour. The devil is called Apollyon, the devourer. Rev 9: 11. Christ is called a Saviour. The devil is called the ’strong man.’ Matt 12: 29. Christ is called El Gibbor, the mighty God. Isa 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. Matt 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 that heals. John 3: 14. Thus the very names of Christ have some succour in them for tempted souls.
How and in what manner does Christ succour them that are tempted?
He succours 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.’ Rom 16: 20. ‘God will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye 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, as a man that has his house beset, and cannot find his weapons, his sword and gun, in which case Christ sends his Spirit, and brings things to our remembrance that 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 hand 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.
Christ succours them that 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. Lord, said Christ, it is my child that is tempted; Father, pity him. Luke 22: 32. When a poor soul lies bleeding of the wounds 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 a favourite. 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.
Christ succours 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; 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 thee, O Satan.’ Zech 3: 2. It is no small support, that Christ succours the tempted. The mother succours the child most when it is sick; she sits by its bedside, brings it cordials; so, when a soul is most assaulted, it shall be most assisted.
I have dealt unkindly with Christ and sinned against his love, and surely he will nor succour me, but let me perish in the battle!
Christ is a merciful High Priest, and will succour thee notwithstanding thy failings. Joseph was a type of Christ; his brethren sold him away, and the ‘irons entered into his soul;’ yet afterwards, when his brethren were ready to die in the famine, he forgot their injuries, and succoured them with money and corn. ‘I am,’ said he, ‘Joseph your brother.’ So Christ will say to a tempted soul, ‘I know thy unkindnesses, how thou hast distrusted my love, grieved my Spirit; but I am Joseph, I am Jesus, therefore I will succour thee when thou art tempted.’
(4) Another rock of support is that the best man may be most tempted. A rich ship may be violently set upon by pirates; 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 that is begotten of God, that wicked one toucheth him not’? 1 John 5: 18.
It is not meant that the devil does not tempt him, but he toucheth hint not, that is, tactu lethali, Cajetan, 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 leave. The power of the tempter is limited. A whole legion of devils could not touch one swine till Christ gave them leave. Satan would have sifted Peter till he sifted out all his grace, but Christ would not suffer him. ‘I have prayed for thee,’ &c. Christ binds the devil in a chain. Rev 20: 1. If Satan’s power were according to his malice, not one soul should 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 hurt.
(6) Another rock of support is that it is not having a temptation that makes guilty, but giving consent to it. We cannot hinder a temptation. If we abhor the temptation, it is our burden, not our sin. We read in the old law, that if one forced a virgin, and she cried out, she was reputed innocent; 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 that 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. Non sequitur, this is a wrong conclusion. Was not Christ himself tempted, and yet by a voice from heaven proclaimed, ‘This is my beloved Son’? Matt 3: 17. Satan’s tempting and God’s loving may stand together. The goldsmith loves his gold in the fire; and God loves a saint, though shot at by fiery darts.
(8) Another rock of support is that Christ’s temptation was for our consolation, aqua ignis [water to fire]. 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; when he was tempted, and overcame the temptation, he overcame for us. Christ’s conquering Satan was to show that elect persons 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 conquest. We have overcome Satan already in our covenant head, and we shall at last perfectly overcome.
(9)Another rock of support is that the saints’ temptation shall not be above their strength. The harper will not stretch the strings of his harp too hard, lest they break. ‘God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.’ 1 Cor 10: 13. He will proportion our strength to the stroke. ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’ 2 Cor 12: 9. The torchlight 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 orationis flabellum [fan], 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 thrice.’ 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; 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 stand by him when he is tempted.
God makes the temptation to sin a means to prevent it. 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. Unus Christianus temptatus mille; ‘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. Matt 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 amplexus Christi, 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 thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me’? Matt 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 party of grace in the heart true to Christ; but sometimes it may be overvoted 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 wounded soul.
(1) Though a Christian may fall by a temptation, yet the seed of God is in him. ‘His seed remaineth in him.’ 1 John 3: 9. Gratia concutitur, non excutitur [Grace is shaken, 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 praelio, in a skirmish, yet not in bello, in the main battle; 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 a godly 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. He would fear God; and when he fails he weeps. God looks which way the bias of his heart stands; if that be 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 curious 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 occasion of sin; he will not go abroad without his spiritual armour, and will gird on his armour by prayer. When a wild beast gets over the hedge and hurts the corn, the farther will make his fence stronger; 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. Cant 8: 5.
By suffering 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; 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 was dashed out of countenance by the voice of 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. Let not those Christians whom God has suffered to be foiled by temptation, cast away their anchor, or give way to despairing thoughts.
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 through wilfulness. If a soldier fights, but is foiled for want of strength, the general of the army will pity him, and bind up his wounds; but if he be wilfully foiled, and proves treacherous, he must expect no favour; so, if a Christian fight it out with Satan, but is foiled for want of strength, as it was with Peter, God will pity him and do him good by his being foiled; but if he be foiled wilfully and runs into temptation, as it was with Judas, God will show him no favour, but will execute martial law upon him.
The uses remain.
Use 1. See in what continual danger we are. Satan is an exquisite artist, a deep headpiece, he lies in ambush to ensnare; he is the tempter, it is his delight to make the saints sin; and he is subtle in tempting, he has ways and methods to deceive.
(1) He brings a saint into sin, by making him confide in his habitual 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; he had such a cable of faith and strong tacklings, that though the winds of temptation blew ever so fierce, he could weather the point. ‘Though all men forsake thee, 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. Man may make an idol of grace. Habitual grace is not sufficient without auxiliary. The boat needs not only oars, but a gale of wind, to carry it against the tide; so we need not only habitual grace, but the gale of the Spirit, to carry us against a strong temptation.
(2) Satan tempts to sin by the baits and allurements of the world. Faenus pecuniae funus animae [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 thee,’ was his last temptation. Matt 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, sub specie boni, under a mask and show of good; his temptations seem 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 sinister ends. Thus he tempted the Pharisees to pray and give alms, that they might be seen of men. Matt 6: 5. Prayer is a duty, but to look asquint in prayer, to do it for vainglory, turns prayer into sin. He tempts to duty when it is not in season. ‘My offering and my bread for my sacrifices, shall ye 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 pretence, they might devour widows’ houses. Matt 23: 14. Who would suspect him of false weights that 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 thee, Lord,’ as if he had said, Lord, thou hast deserved no such shameful death, and this shall not be unto thee. Matt 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, ‘Thou shalt 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, ‘If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.’ So when the Samaritans would not receive Christ, the disciples James and John said, ‘Lord, wilt thou that we 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. ‘Ye know not,’ saith Christ, ‘what manner of spirit ye are or.
(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 that they do not love. He will tempt a civil man to pride, and to trust in his own righteousness, and to make a Saviour 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 were needless, ‘Lead us not into temptation:’ no man has power of himself to resist temptation, 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, which 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 tempt to pride, lust, envy, revenge, how do we symbolise with Satan and embrace his snares! Like a woman that has a suitor, and does not need much wooing, but readily gives her consent, Satan comes wooing by temptation, and we soon yield; he strikes fire, and we are as dry tinder dial catches 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 military: he has a Goliath in the field to encounter with, one that is armed with power and subtlety, and has his wiles and darts. A Christian must be continually watching and fighting. Satan’s designs carry death in the front. ‘Seeking whom he may devour.’ I Pet 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 jewels, but not their armour. ‘They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ,’ as if they were rather in music than in battle. Job 21: 12. Many are asleep in sloth, when they should be fighting against Satan; and no wonder 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 they who go to plays and masquerades, and hunt after strange flesh. Some go a slower pace to hell, but such as run themselves into temptation go galloping thither. 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 them.
Use 3. Let us labour 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 atra bilis, a black humour seated chiefly in the brain. Melancholy disturbs reason and exposes to temptation. One calls melancholy balneum diaboli, 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, because your adversary walketh about.’ I Pet 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. ‘They that 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. Quid non mortalia pectora cogis, auri sacra fames? [Oh cursed hunger for gold, to what dost thou not drive the hearts of men?] Virgil. Be sober, take heed of being drunk with the love of the world, lest ye fall into temptation.
(4) Be always upon your guard, watch against Satan’s wiles and subtleties. ‘Be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walketh about.’ I Pet 5: 8. A Christian must excubias agere, keep watch and ward; he must see where Satan labours 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) 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. The bird that sits still is shot. He that wants employment never wants temptation. When a man has nothing to do, Satan will bring grist to the mill, and find him work enough.
(6) Make known thy 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 be got 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, is the way to have ease; as the opening of a vein gives ease, so the opening of your case to a friend will give ease to the soul, and temptation will not so much inflame.
(7) 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 gladius anceps, 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 travelling 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 collusion 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’ about 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 Saviour 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 that will do it, it is not the Papist’s holy water or charms that will drive away the devil; but 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 so 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 Sabbath-breaking, answer him, ‘“It is written, Remember to keep the Sabbath day holy.”’ If he tempts to uncleanness, answer him, ‘“It is written, whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”’ If he tempts to carnal fear, say, ‘“It is written, Fear not them that kill the body, and after that, have no more that they can do.”’ No such way to confute temptation as by Scripture; the arrows we shoot against Satan must be fetched out of this quiver. Many people want 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 plaister 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) Let us be careful of our own hearts, that they do not decoy us into sin. The apostle says, ‘A man is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.’ James 1: 14. Quisque sibi Satan est [Everyone is 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 do 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 that would keep himself free from infection will not come near an infected house; so if you would be sober, avoid drunken company. When Joseph was enticed by his mistress, he shunned the occasion; the text says, ‘He hearkened not unto her to be with her.’ Gen 39: 10. If you would not be ensnared with Popery, do not hear the mass. The Nazarite, who was forbid wine, might not eat grapes, which might occasion intemperance. Come not 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. ‘Whom resist, stedfast in the faith.’ 1 Pet 5: 9. Mariners in a storm flee to their anchor; flee to your anchor of faith. Faith brings Christ with it. Duellers bring their seconds with them into the field; so faith brings Christ for its second. It puts us into Christ, and then the devil cannot hurt us. The chicken 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 about them: prayer is the best antidote against temptation. When the apostle had exhorted, to ‘put on the whole armour of God,’ he adds, ‘Praying with all prayer.’ Eph 6: 11, 18. Without this, reliqua arma parum prosunt. Zanchius. All other weapons will do little good. Christ prescribes this remedy, ‘Watch and pray, lest ye 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. ‘O Lord God, remember me and strengthen me, I pray thee, that I may be avenged of the Philistines.’ Judges 16: 28. ‘The house fell upon the lords and upon 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. It is the best charm or spell 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 thrice, 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. Pendleton said his fat flesh should melt in the fire; but instead of his fat melting, his heart melted, and he turned from the truth. When men grow into big conceit God lets them fall, to prick the bladder of pride. O be humble! They are likely to hold best out in temptation who have most grace; but 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, till at last they fly so high, that they become a prey to the hawk; 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 a sophister for us to hold 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. ‘Deal courageously, and the Lord shall be with the good.’ 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 that marches before us. Christ is called the Captain of our salvation. Heb 2: 10.  We have good armour. Grace is armour of God’s making. Eph 6: 11.  Satan is beaten in part 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 astutiam suadendi [guile to persuade], not potentiam cogendi [power to compel]; he may persuade, not compel.  He is a cursed enemy, and God’s curse will blast him: therefore put on holy gallantry of spirit and magnanimity. Fear not Satan. Greater is he that is in you than he that is against you.
(15) If we would not be overcome by temptation, let us call in the help of others. If a house be 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 hopeful 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 be a roaring lion, Christ is the lion of the tribe of Judah. If Satan tempts, Christ prays. If Satan be a serpent to sting, Christ is a brazen serpent to heal. If the conflict be hard, look to the crown. James 1: 12. Whilst we are fighting, Christ will succour us; and when we overcome, he will crown us. What makes the soldier endure a bloody fight but the hope of a golden harvest? 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 armour, white robes; instead of Satan’s skirmishes, the kisses and embraces of a Saviour. These eternal recompenses should keep us from yielding to temptation. Who, to gratify a lust, would lose a crown?
Use 4. Let such as are tempted be wise to make good use of their temptations. As we should labour 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; so in temptation a Christian sees the scum of sin boil up, of passion and distrust of God, 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 makes the plumes of pride fall. ‘Lest I should be exalted above measure, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh.’ 2 Cor 41: 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 divine, prayer, meditation, and temptation.
Use 5. Some have been under sore temptations and buffetings of Satan, to lust, revenge, self-murder, 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, which giveth us the victory.’ 1 Cor 15: 57. Be much in doxology. Why were we kept more than others from falling into sin? Was it because temptation was not so strong? No, Satan shoots his darts with all his force. Was the cause in our will? No, such a broken shield would never have conquered Satan’s temptations. Know that it was free grace that 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 divines think 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 got the better of Satan, and been more than conquerors! Say as the Psalmist, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us as a prey to their teeth:’ blessed be God, who has not given us as a prey to Satan, that roaring lion. Psa 124: 6. When God puts mercy in the premises, we must put praise in the conclusion.
(2) You that 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 Saviour was your succourer. 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 out of joint; so when we see such as are tempted, and Satan has, as it were, put their bones out of joint, labour 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. Vir spiritualis consilia magis quam convicia meditatur [The spiritual man thinks over advice rather than reproaches]. Augustine.
(3) You that have got the conquest over Satan, be not secure. Think not that you shall never be troubled with the tempter more. 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. If a cock be once made to run away, it will fight no more; but it is not so with Satan. He is a restless enemy; if you have beaten him back, he will make a fresh onset. Hannibal said of Marcellus, a Roman captain, that whether he beat or was beaten, he was never quiet.
When Satan was worsted by Christ, he went away, but ad tempos, 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 armour, and leave off our watch; which, when he perceives, 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 spread upon the earth eating, and drinking, and dancing’ (1 Sam 30: 16); then ‘David smote them, and there escaped not a man of 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, be not secure, but stand upon your watch-tower; lie in your armour; always expect a fight. As he that has a short respite from an ague says, I look every day when my fit shall come, so say, I look every day when the tempter shall come; I will put myself 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; therefore we must, with the pilot, have our compass ready, and be able to turn our needle to any point where temptation shall blow. If the tempter come not so soon as we expect, by putting ourselves in a defensive posture, we shall have the advantage of being always prepared.
To conclude all: let us often make this prayer, ‘Lead us not into temptation.’ If Satan woo 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 thy 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 thou hast fallen with Peter, repent with Peter, and God will be ready to seal thy pardon.
II. ‘Deliver us from evil.’ There is more in this petition than is expressed. The thing expressed is, that we may be kept from evil: the thing further intended is, that we may make progress in piety. ‘Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts;’ there is being delivered from evil; ‘we should live soberly, righteously, and godly;’ there is progress in piety. Titus 2: 12.
 In general, when we pray, ‘Deliver us from evil,’ we pray to be delivered from the evil of sin. Not that we pray to be delivered immediately from the presence and inbeing of sin, for that cannot be in this life, we cannot shake off this viper, but we pray that God would deliver us more and more from the power and practice, from the scandalous acts of sin which cast a reflection upon the gospel. Sin is the deadly evil we pray against. With what pencil shall I be able to draw the deformed face of sin? The devil would baptise sin with the name of virtue. It is easy to lay fair colours on a black face. I shall endeavour to show you what a prodigious monster sin is, and that there is great reason we should pray, ‘Deliver us from evil.’
Sin, as the apostle says, is exceeding sinful. Rom 7: 13. It is the very spirits of mischief distilled; it is called ‘an accursed thing.’ Josh 7: 13. That sin is the most execrable evil, appears several ways: (1) Look upon sin in its origin. (2) Look upon sin in its nature. (3) Look upon sin in the judgement and opinion of the godly. (4) Look upon sin by comparison. (1) Look upon sin in the manner of its cure. (6) Look upon sin in its direful effects. When you have seen all these, you will apprehend what a horrid evil sin is, and what great reason we have to pray, ‘Deliver us from evil.’
(1) Look upon sin in its origin. It fetches its pedigree from hell. It is of the devil. John 8: 44. It calls the devil father. It is serpentis venenum, as Augustine says; it is the poison which the old serpent has spit into our virgin nature.
(2) Look upon sin in its nature, and it is evil. See what the Scripture compares it to. It has got a bad name. It is compared to the vomit of dogs (2 Pet 2: 22); to a menstruous cloth (Isa 30: 22); which, as Jerome says, was the most unclean thing under the law; it is compared to the plague (1 Kings 8: 38); and to a gangrene (2 Tim 2: 17). Persons under these diseases we should be loth to eat and drink with.
Sin is evil in its nature, because it is transgression against God. It is a breach of his royal law. ‘Sin is the transgression of the law.’ 1 John 3: 4. It is crimen laesae majestatis, high treason against heaven. What greater injury can be offered to a prince than to trample upon his royal edicts? ‘They cast thy law behind their backs.’ Neh 9: 26. Sin is an affront to God, as it is walking contrary to him. Lev 26: 40. The Hebrew word for sin signifies rebellion. It flies in the face of God. ‘He stretcheth out his hand against God.’ Job 15: 25. We ought not to lift up a thought against God, much less to lift up a hand against him; but the sinner does both. Sin is deicidium [the killing of God]; it would not only unthrone God, but ungod him; if sin could help it, God should no longer be God.
Sin is an act of high ingratitude to God. He feeds a sinner, screens off many evils from him; and yet he not only forgets his mercies, but abuses them. ‘I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver, which they prepared for Baal.’ Hos 2: 8. God may say, I gave thee wit, health, riches, which thou hast employed against me. A sinner makes an arrow of God’s mercies, and shoots at him. ‘Is this thy kindness to thy friend?’ 2 Samuel 16: 17. Did God give thee life to sin? Did he give thee wages to serve the devil? Oh, what an ungrateful thing is sin! Ingratitude forfeits mercy, as the merchant forfeits his goods by not paying custom.
Sin is evil in its nature, because it is a foolish thing. ‘Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.’ Luke 12: 20. Is it not foolish to prefer a short lease before an inheritance? A sinner prefers the pleasures of sin for a season before those pleasures which are at God’s right hand for evermore. Is it not folly to gratify an enemy? Sin gratifies Satan. Mortalium errores epulae sunt daemonum; men’s sins feast the devil. Is it not folly for a man to be felo de se, guilty of his own destruction, to give himself poison? A sinner has a hand in his own death. ‘They lay wait for their own blood.’ Prov 1: 18. No creature did ever willingly kill itself but man.
Sin is a polluting thing. It is not only a defection, but a pollution; it is as rust to gold, as a stain to beauty. It is called ‘filthiness of flesh and spirit.’ 2 Cor 7: 1. It makes the soul red with guilt and black with filth. Quanta foeditas vitiosae mentis! [How great is the foulness of a corrupt mind!] Cicero. This filth of sin is inward. A spot in the face may easily be wiped off, but to have the liver and lungs tainted is far worse. Sin has got into the conscience. Titus 1: 15. It defiles all the faculties — the mind, memory, affections, as if the whole mass of blood were corrupted. It pollutes and fly-blows our holy things. If the leper under the law had touched the altar, the altar would not cleanse him, but he would pollute the altar, which is an emblem of sin’s leprosy spotting our holy things.
Sin is a debasing thing, it degrades us of our honour. ‘In his estate shall stand up a vile person.’ Dan 11: 21. This was spoken of Antiochus Epiphanes, who was a king, and whose name signifies illustrious; but sin made him vile. Sin blots a man’s name. Nothing so turns a man’s glory into shame as sin. It makes a man like a beast. Psa 49: 20. It is worse to be like a beast than to be a beast; it is no shame to be a beast, but it is a shame for a man to be like a beast. Lust makes a man brutish, and wrath makes him devilish.
Sin is an enslaving thing. A sinner is a slave when he sins most freely. Grave servitutis jugum [Heavy is the yoke of slavery]. Cicero. Sin makes men the devil’s servants. Satan bids them sin, and they do it. He bid Judas betray Christ, and he did it; he bid Ananias tell a lie, and he did it. Acts 5: 3. When a man commits sin, he is the devil’s lackey and runs on his errand. They who serve Satan have such a bad master that they will be afraid to receive their wages.
Sin is an unsavoury thing. ‘They are all together become filthy;’ in the Hebrew, they are become stinking. Psa 14: 3. Sin is very offensive to God. If he who worships in God’s house lives in the sin of uncleanness, though he be perfumed with all the spices of Arabia, his prayers are unsavoury. ‘Incense is an abomination to me’ (Isa 1: 13); therefore ‘the proud he knoweth afar off.’ Psa 138: 6. He will not come near the dunghill sinner that has such offensive vapours coming from him.
Sin is a painful thing, it costs men much labour and pains to accomplish their wicked designs. ‘They weary themselves to commit iniquity.’ Jer 9: 5. Peccatum est sui ipsius poena [Sin is its own punishment]. What pains did Judas take to bring about his treason! He goes to the high priest, then to the band of soldiers, and then back again to the garden! What pains did the powder-traitors take in digging through a thick stone wall! What pains in laying their barrels of powder, and then covering them with crows of iron! How they tired themselves out in sin’s drudgery! Chrysostom says virtue is easier than vice. It is easier to be sober than intemperate; it is easier to serve God than to follow sin. A wicked man sweats at the devil’s plough, and is at great pains to damn himself.
Sin is a disturbing thing. Whatever defiles disturbs. Sin breaks the peace of the soul. ‘No peace to the wicked.’ Isa 57: 21. When a man sins presumptuously, he stuffs his pillow with thorns, and his head will lie very uneasy when he comes to die. Sin causes a trembling at the heart. When Spira had sinned, he had a hell in his conscience; he was in such horror that he confessed he envied Cain and Judas. Charles IX, who was guilty of a massacre in Paris, was afterwards a terror to himself; he was frightened at every noise, and could not endure to be awaked out of his sleep without music. Sin breaks the peace of the soul. Cain in killing Abel stabbed half the world at a blow, but could not kill the worm of his own conscience. Thus you see what an evil sin is in the nature of it, and what need we have to pray, ‘Deliver us from evil.’
(3) Look upon sin in the judgement and opinion of the godly, and it will appear to be the most prodigious evil.
It is so great an evil that the godly will rather do anything than sin. Moses chose ‘rather to suffer with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin.’ Heb 11: 24. The primitive Christians said, ad leonem potius quam lenonem [to the lion rather than to the bawdy house], they chose rather to be devoured by lions without than lusts within. Irenaeus was carried to a place where a cross was on one side and an idol on the other, and he was put to his choice either to bow to the idol or suffer on the cross, and he chose the latter. A wise man will choose rather to have a rent in his coat than in his flesh; and the godly will rather endure outward sufferings than a rent in their conscience. So great an evil is sin that the godly will not sin for the greatest gain; they will not sin though they might purchase an estate by it — nay, though they were sure to promote God’s glory by it.
The godly testify sin to be a great evil, in that they desire to die upon no account more than this, that they may be rid of sin. They are desirous to put off the clothing of the flesh, that they may be unclothed of sin. It is their greatest grief that they are troubled with such inmates as the stirrings of pride, lust, and envy. It was a cruel torment of Mezentius who tied a dead man to a living. Thus a child of God has corruption joined with grace; a dead man tied to a living. So hateful is this, that a believer desires to die for no reason more than this, that death shall free him from sin. Sin brought death into the world, and death shall carry sin out of the world.
(4) Judge of sin by comparison, and it will appear to be the most deadly evil. Compare what you will with it — afflictions, death, or hell, and still sin is worse.
First compare sin with affliction. There is more evil in a drop of sin than in a sea of affliction.
 Sin is the cause of affliction, and the cause is more than the effect. Sin brings all mischief: it has sickness, sword, famine, and all judgements in its womb. It rots the name, consumes the estate, and wastes the body. As the poets feigned of Pandora’s box, that when opened it filled the world full of diseases, so when Adam broke the box of original righteousness, it caused all the penal evils in the world. Sin is the Phaeton that sets the world on fire. It turned the angels out of heaven, and Adam out of paradise. It causes mutinies, divisions, and massacres. ‘O thou sword of the Lord, how long will it be ere thou be quiet?’ Jer 47: 6. The sword of God’s justice lies quietly in the scabbard till sin draws it out and whets it against a nation. So that sin is worse than affliction, being the cause of it: and the cause is more than the effect.
 God is the author of affliction. ‘Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord has not done it?’ Amos 3: 6. It is meant of the evil of affliction. God has a hand in affliction, but no hand in sin. He is the cause of every action, so far as it is natural, but not as it is sinful. He who makes an instrument of iron is not the cause of the rust and canker which corrupts it; so God made the instrument of our souls, but not the rust and canker of sin which corrupts them. Peccatum Deus non fecit [God is not the author of sin]. Augustine. God can no more act evil than the sun can darken. In this sense sin is worse than affliction. God has a hand in affliction, but disclaims having any hand in sin.
 Affliction reaches the body only, and makes that miserable, but sin makes the soul miserable. The soul is the most noble part. It is a diamond set in a ring of clay; it is excellent in its essence, a spiritual, immortal substance; excellent in the price paid for it, redeemed with the blood of God. Acts 20: 28. It is of more worth than a world. The world is of a coarser make, the soul of a finer spinning: in the world we see the finger of God, in the soul the image of God. To have the precious soul endangered is far worse than to have the body endangered. Sin wrongs the soul. Prov 8: 36. It casts the jewel of the soul overboard. Affliction is but skin-deep, it can but take away the life, but sin takes away the soul. Luke 12: 20. The loss of the soul is an unparalleled loss, it can never be made up again. ‘God,’ says Chrysostom, ‘has given thee two eyes, if thou losest one, thou hast another; but thou hast but one soul, and if that be lost, it can never be repaired.’ Thus sin is worse than affliction; the one can reach the body only, the other ruins the soul. Is there not great reason, then, that we should often put up this petition, ‘Deliver us from evil’?
 Afflictions are good for us. ‘It is good for me that I have been afflicted.’ Psa 119: 71. Many can bless God for affliction. Affliction humbles. ‘Remembering mine affliction, the wormwood and the gall, my soul has them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.’ Lam 3: 19. Afflictions are compared to thorns; these thorns are to prick the bladder of pride. Hos 2: 6. Affliction is the school of repentance. ‘Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised; I repented.’ Jer 31: 18, 19. The fire being put under the distillery, makes the water drop from the roses; so the fire of affliction makes the water of repentance drop from the eyes. Affliction brings us nearer to God. The loadstone of mercy does not draw us so near to God as the cords of affliction. When the prodigal was pinched with want, he said, ‘I will arise, and go to my Father.’ Luke 15: 18. Afflictions prepare for glory. ‘Light affliction worketh for us an eternal weight of glory.’ 2 Cor 4: 17. The painter lays his gold upon dark colours; so God lays first the dark colours of affliction, and then the golden colour of glory. Thus affliction is for our good; but sin is not for our good; it keeps good things from us. ‘Your sins have withholden good things from you.’ Jer 5: 25. Sin stops the current of God’s mercy; it precipitates men to ruin. Manasseh’s affliction brought him to humiliation; but that of Judas brought him to desperation.
 A man may be afflicted, and his conscience be quiet. Paul’s feet were in the stocks, yet he had the witness of his conscience. 2 Cor 1: 12. The head may ache, yet the heart may be well; the outward man may be afflicted, yet the soul may dwell at ease. Psa 25: 13. The hail may beat upon the tiles of the house when there is music within. In the midst of outward pain there may be inward peace. Thus, in affliction, conscience may be quiet; but when a man commits a presumptuous, scandalous sin, conscience is troubled. By defiling the purity of conscience we lose the peace of conscience. When Spira had sinned and abjured the faith, he was a terror to himself; he had a hell within. Tiberius the emperor felt such a sting in his conscience, that he told the senate, he suffered death daily.
 In affliction we may have the love of God. Afflictions are love tokens. ‘As many as I love I rebuke.’ Rev 3: 19. Afflictions are sharp arrows, but shot from the hand of a loving Father. If a man should throw a bag of money at another, and it should bruise him a little, and raise the skin, he would not be offended, but take it as a fruit of love; so, when God bruises us with affliction, it is to enrich us with the golden graces of his Spirit, and all is in love; but when we commit sin God withdraws his love; it is the sun overcast with a cloud; nothing appears but anger and displeasure. When David had sinned in the matter of Uriah, ‘the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.’ 2 Samuel 11: 27.
 There are many encouragements to suffer affliction. God himself suffers with us. ‘In all their affliction he was afflicted.’ Isa 63: 9. God will strengthen us in our sufferings. ‘He is their strength in the time of trouble.’ Psa 37: 39. Either God makes our burden lighter, or our faith stronger. He will compensate and recompense our sufferings. ‘Every one that has forsaken houses or lands for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and inherit everlasting life.’ Matt 19: 29. Here are encouragements to suffer affliction, but there is no encouragement to sin. God has brandished a flaming sword of threatenings to deter us from sin. ‘God shall wound the hairy scalp of such an one as goeth on still in his trespasses.’ Psa 68: 21. A flying-roll of curses enters into the house of a sinner. Zech 5: 4. If a man sin, be it at his peril. ‘I will make mine arrows drunk with blood.’ Deut 32: 42. God will make men weary of their sins, or he will make them weary of their lives. Thus sin is worse than affliction. There are encouragements to suffer affliction, but no encouragement to sin.
 When a person is afflicted, he suffers alone; but by sinning openly he hurts others. He does hurt to the unconverted. One man’s sin may lay a stone in another man’s way, at which he may stumble and fall into hell. Oh, the evil of scandalous sin! Some are discouraged, others hardened. Thy sinning may be the cause of another’s damning. The priests going wrong caused others to stumble. Mal 2: 7, 8. He does hurt to the converted. By an open scandalous sin he offends weak believers, and so sins against Christ. 1 Cor 8: 12. Thus sin is worse than affliction, because it does hurt to others.
 In affliction the saints may rejoice. ‘Ye received the word in much affliction, with joy.’ 1 Thess 1: 6. ‘Ye took joyfully the spoiling of your goods.’ Heb 10: 34. Aristotle speaks of a bird that lives among thorns, and yet sings sweetly; so a child of God can rejoice in afflictions. Paul had his prison songs. ‘We glory in tribulations.’ Rom 5: 3. The Greek word signifies an exuberancy of joy, a joy with boasting and triumph. God often pours in those divine consolations that cause the saints to rejoice in afflictions, so that they had rather have their afflictions than be without their comforts. God candies their wormwood with sugar. Rom 5: 5. You have seen the sunshine when it rains: the saints have had the shinings of God’s face when afflictions have rained and dropped upon them. Thus we may rejoice in affliction, but we cannot rejoice in sin. ‘Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as other people, for thou hast gone a whoring from thy God.’ Hos 9: 1. Sin is matter of shame and grief, not of joy. David having sinned in numbering the people, his ‘heart smote him.’ 2 Samuel 24: 10. As pricking a vein lets out the blood, so, when sin has pricked the conscience, it lets out the joy.
 Affliction magnifies a person. ‘What is man that thou shouldest magnify him, and visit him every morning?’ Job 7: 17, 18. That is, visit him with affliction.
How do addictions magnify us?
(1) As they are signs of sonship. ‘If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons.’ Heb 12: 7. Every print of the rod is a badge of honour. (2) As the sufferings of the godly have raised their fame and renown in the world. The zeal and constancy of the martyrs in their sufferings have eternalized their name. Oh, how eminent was Job for his patience! ‘Ye have heard of the patience of Job.’ James 5: 2: Job the sufferer was more renowned than Alexander the conqueror. Thus afflictions magnify a person; but sin does not magnify, but vilifies him. When Eli’s sons had sinned and profaned their priesthood, they turned their glory into shame; the text says they ‘made themselves vile.’ 1 Sam 3: 13. Sin casts an indelible blot on a man’s name. ‘whoso committeth adultery with a woman, a wound and dishonour shall he get, and his reproach shall not be wiped away.’ Prov 6: 32, 33.
 A man by suffering affliction may bring honour to religion. Paul’s iron chain made the gospel wear a gold chain. Suffering credits and propagates the gospel; but committing sin brings dishonour and scandal upon the ways of God. Cyprian says, when in the primitive times a virgin, who vowed herself to religion, had defiled her chastity, totem ecclesiae coetum erubescere, shame and grief filled the face of the whole congregation. When scandalous sins are committed by a few, they bring a reproach upon many; as three or four brass shillings in a sum of money make all the rest suspected.
 When a man’s afflictions are upon a good account, when he suffers for Christ, he has the prayers of God’s people. It is no small privilege to have a stock of prayer going; it is like a merchant that has a part in several ships: and suffering saints have a large share in the prayers of others. ‘Peter was in prison; but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.’ Acts 12: 5. What greater happiness than to have God’s promises and the saints’ prayers! But when a man sins presumptuously and scandalously, he has the saints’ bitter tears and just censures; he is a burden to all that know him, as David speaks in another case, ‘They that did see me without fled from me.’ Psa 31: 2. So the people of God flee from a scandalous sinner; he is like an infected person, everyone shuns and avoids him.
 Affliction can hurt a man only while he is living, but sin hurts him when he is dead. As a man’s virtues and alms may do good when he is dead, so his sins may do him mischief when he is dead. When a spider is killed, the poison of it may hurt; so the poison of an evil example may do much hurt when a man is in his grave. Affliction at most can but last a man’s life, but sin lives and hurts when he is gone. Thus sin is far worse than affliction.
Secondly. Sin is worse than death. Aristotle calls death the terrible of terribles, and Job calls it ‘the king of terrors,’ but sin is more deadly than death itself. Job 18: 14. 1. Death, though painful, would not hurt but for sin; it is sin that embitters it and makes its sting. ‘The sting of death is sin.’ 1 Cor 15: 26. Were it not for sin, though death might kill, it could not curse us. Sin poisons death’s arrow, so that it is worse than death, because it puts a sting into death. 2. Death does but separate between the body and the soul; but sin, without repentance, separates between God and the soul. ‘Ye have taken away my gods, and what have I more?’ Judges 18: 24. Death does but take away our life, but sin takes away our God from us; so that it is worse than death.
Thirdly. Sin is worse than hell. In hell there is the worm and the fire, but sin is worse. 1. Hell is of God’s making, but sin is none of his making; it is a monster of the devil’s creating. 2. The torments of hell are a burden only to the sinner, but sin is a burden to God. ‘I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves.’ Amos 2: 13. 3. In hell torments there is something that is good: there is the execution of God’s justice, there is justice in hell; but sin is the most unjust thing; it would rob God of his glory, Christ of his purchase, and the soul of its happiness; so that it is worse than hell.
(s) Look upon sin in the manner of its cure. It cost much to be done away; the guilt of sin could not be removed but by the blood of Christ; he who was God must die and be made a curse for us before sin could be remitted.
How horrid is sin, that no angel or archangel, nor all the powers of heaven, could procure its pardon, but the blood of God only! If a man should commit an offence, and all the nobles should kneel before the king for him, but no pardon could be had, unless the king’s son be arraigned and suffer death for him, all would conceive it to be a horrible thing that was the cause of this. Such is the case here, the Son of God must die to satisfy God’s justice for our sins. Oh, the agonies and sufferings of Christ! In his body: his head crowned with thorns, his face spit upon, his side pierced with the spear, his hands and feet nailed. Totum pro vulnere corpus [His whole body as one wound]. He suffered in his soul. ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.’ Matt 26: 38. He drank a bitter cup, mingled with curses, which made him, though sanctified by the Spirit, supported by the Deity, and comforted by angels, sweat drops of blood, and cry out upon the cross, ‘My God, why hast thou forsaken me!’ All this was to do away with our sin. View sin in Christ’s blood, and it will appear of a crimson colour.
(6) Look upon sin in its dismal effects, and it will appear the most horrid and prodigious evil. ‘The wages of sin is death,’ that is, ‘the second death.’ Rom 6: 23. Rev 21: 8. Sin has shame for its companion, and death for its wages. A wicked man knows what sin is in the pleasure of it, but does not know what sin is in the punishment of it. Sin is scorpio pungens [a stinging scorpion], it draws hell at the heels of it. This hellish torment consists of two parts:
Poena damni, the punishment of loss. ‘Depart from me.’ Matt 7: 23. It was a great trouble to Absalom that he might not see the king’s face; but to lose God’s smiles, to be banished from his presence, in whose presence is fulness of joy, how sad and tremendous! That word, ‘Depart,’ said Chrysostom, is worse than the fire. Sure sin must be the greatest evil, which separates us from the greatest good.
Poena senses, the punishment of sense. ‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.’ Matt 25: 41. Why, sinners might plead, ‘Lord, if we must depart from thee, let us have thy blessing.’ ‘No; go, ye cursed.’ ‘If we must depart from thee, let it be into some place of ease and rest.’ ‘No; go into fire.’ ‘If we must go into fire, let it be for a little time; let the fire be quickly put out.’ ‘No; go into everlasting fire.’ ‘If it be so, that we must be there, let us be with good company.’ ‘No; with the devil and his angels.’ Oh, what an evil is sin! All the torments of this life are but lubidrium et risus [mockery and ridicule], a kind of sport to hell torments. What is a burning fever to the burning in hell! It is called, the ‘wrath of Almighty God.’ Rev 19: 15. The Almighty God inflicts the punishment, therefore it will be heavy. A child cannot strike very hard, but if a giant strike, he kills with a blow; but to have the almighty God lay on the stroke, will be intolerable. Hell is the emphasis of misery. The body and soul, which have sinned together, shall suffer together; and those torments shall have no period put to them. They ’shall seek death, and shall not find it.’ Rev 9: 6. ‘The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.’ Rev 14: 11. Here the wicked thought a prayer long, a Sabbath long; but how long will it be to lie upon beds of flames for ever! That word, ever, breaks the heart. Surely, then, sin is the most deadly and execrable evil. Look upon it in its original, in its nature, in the judgement and estimate of the wise; look upon it comparatively, it is worse than affliction, death, and hell; look upon it in the manner of cure, and in the dismal effect, it brings eternal damnation. Is there not, then, great reason that we should make this prayer, ‘Deliver us from evil’?
Use 1. For instruction. (1) Is sin such a deadly, pernicious evil, the evil of evils? See what we are to pray most to be delivered from, and that it is in reference to sin our Saviour has taught us to pray, ‘Deliver us from evil.’ Hypocrites pray more against temporal evils than spiritual. Pharaoh prayed more to have the plague of hail and thunder removed than his hard heart to be removed. Exod 9: 28. The Israelites prayed, Tolle serpentes, take away the serpents from us, more than to have their sin taken away. Numb 21: 7. The hypocrite’s prayer is carnal: he prays more to be cured of his dearness and lameness than of his unbelief; more that God would take away his pain than take away his sin. But our prayer should be, ‘Deliver us from evil.’ Spiritual prayers are best. Hast thou a diseased body? Pray more that the disease of thy soul may be removed than of thy body. ‘Heal my soul, for I have sinned.’ Psa 41: 4. The plague of the heart is worse than a cancer in the breast. Hast thou a child that is crooked? Pray more to have its unholiness removed than its crookedness. Spiritual prayers are more pleasing to God, and are as music in his ears. Christ has here taught us to pray against sin, ‘Deliver us from evil.’
(2) If sin be so great an evil, then admire the wonderful patience of God that bears with sinners. Sin is a breach of God’s royal law, it strikes at his glory; for God to bear with sinners who provoke him, shows admirable patience. Well may he be called ‘the God of patience.’ Rom 15: 5. It would tire the patience of the angels to bear with men’s sins one day; but what does God bear! How many affronts and injuries he puts up with! He sees all the intrigues and horrid impieties committed in a nation. ‘They have committed villainy in Israel, and have committed adultery; even I know, and am a witness, saith the Lord.’ Jer 29: 23. God could strike men dead in their sins; but he forbears, and respites them. Methinks I see the justice of God with a flaming sword in his hand, ready to strike the stroke; and patience steps in for the sinner and says, Lord, spare him awhile longer. Methinks I hear the angel saying to God, as the king of Israel to the prophet, ‘Shall I smite them? Shall I smite them?’ 2 Kings 6: 21. Lord, here is such a sinner: shall I smite him? Shall I take off the head of such a drunkard, swearer, Sabbath-breaker? And God’s patience says, as the dresser of the vineyard, ‘Let him alone this year.’ Luke 13: 8. Oh, the infinite patience of God, that he should bear with sinners so long! ‘If a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away?’ 1 Sam 24: 19. God finds his enemies, yet he lets them go, he is not presently avenged on them. Every sin has a voice to cry to God for vengeance; as Sodom’s sin cried. Gen 18: 20. God spares men; but let not sinners presume upon his patience. Long forbearance is not forgiveness; God’s patience abused leaves men more inexcusable.
(3) If sin be so great an evil, there is no little sin. There is no little treason: every sin strikes at God’s crown and dignity; and in this sense it may be said, Are not ‘thine iniquities infinite?’ Job 22: 5. The least sin, as the schoolmen say, is infinite objective, because it is committed against an infinite Majesty. Nothing can do away with sin but that which has infinity in it; for though the sufferings of Christ, as man, were not infinite, yet the divine nature shed forth an infinite value and merit upon his sufferings. No sin is little, and there is no little hell for sin. As we are not to think any of God’s mercies little, because they are more than we can deserve, so neither are we to think any of our sins little, because they are more than we can answer for. The sin we esteem lightest, without Christ’s blood, will be heavy enough to sink us into perdition.
(4) If sin be so great an evil, see whence all personal or national troubles come from. They come from the evil of sin. Sin grows high, which makes divisions grow wide. It is the Achan that troubles us, it is the cockatrice egg, out of which comes a fiery, flying serpent. It is like Phaeton, who, as the poets feign, driving the chariot of the sun, set the world on fire. Like the planet Saturn, it has a malignant influence. It brings us into straits. ‘David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait.’ 2 Samuel 24: 14. ‘As keepers of a field are they against her round about;’ as horses or deer in a field are so enclosed with hedges, and so narrowly watched, that they cannot get out, so Jerusalem was so close besieged with enemies and watched, that there was no escape for her. Jer 4: 17. whence was this? ‘This is thy wickedness;’ ver 18. Al our evils are from the evil of sin. The cords that pinch us are of our own twisting. Flagitium et flagellum sunt tanquam acus et filum [Punishment follows wickedness as the thread the needle]. Sin raises all the storms in conscience. The sword of God’s justice lies quiet till sin draws it out of the scabbard, and makes God whet it against a nation.
(5) If sin be so great an evil, how little reason has any one to be in love with it! Some are so infatuated with it, that they delight in it. The devil can so cook and dress sin, that it pleases the sinner’s palate. ‘Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth.’ Job 20: 12. Sin is as delightful to corrupt nature as meat to the taste. It is a feast on which men feed their lusts; but there is little cause to be in love with it. ‘Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth, it is the gall of asps within him.’ Job 20: 12, 14. To love sin is to hug an enemy. Sin puts a worm into conscience, a sting into death, a fire into hell. It is like those locusts in Rev 9: 7: ‘On their heads were as it were crowns like gold and they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions, and they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails.’ After the woman’s hair comes in the scorpion’s sting.
(6) If sin be so great an evil, what shall we say of them who make light of sin, as if there were no danger in it; as if God were not in earnest when he threatens sin; or as if ministers were about a needless work, when they preach against it? Some people make nothing of breaking a commandment; they make nothing of telling a lie, of cozening or slandering; nothing of living in the sin of uncleanness. If you weigh sin in the balance of some men’s judgements, it is very light; but who are those that make light of sin? Solomon has described them. ‘Fools make a mock at sin.’ Prov 14: 9. Stultus in vitia cito dilabitur [The fool falls quickly into vices]. Isidore. Who but fools would make light of that which grieves the Spirit of God? Who but fools would put a viper in their bosom? Who but fools would laugh at their own calamity, and make sport while they give themselves poison?
(7) If sin be so great an evil, I infer that there is no good to be got by it. Of this thorn we cannot gather grapes. If sin be a deadly evil, we cannot get any profit by it; no man ever could thrive upon this trade. Atheists said, ‘It is vain to serve God, and what profit is it?’ Mal 3: 14. But we may say more truly, what profit is there in sin? ‘What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?’ Rom 6: 21. Where are your earnings? What have you got by sin? It has shame for its companion, and death for its wages. What profit had Achan of his wedge of gold? That wedge seemed to cleave asunder his soul from God. What profit had Ahab of the vineyard he got unjustly? The dogs licked his blood. 1 Kings 21: 19. What profit had Judas of his treason? For thirty pieces he sold his Saviour, and bought his own damnation. All the gain men get by their sins, they may put in their eye; nay, they must put it there and weep it out again.
(8) If sin be so great an evi], see the folly of those who venture upon it, because of the pleasure they have in it. ‘Who had pleasure in unrighteousness.’ 2 Thess 2: 12. As for the pleasure of sin, it is but seeming; it is but a pleasant fancy; a golden dream. And besides, it is a mixed pleasure, it has bitterness intermingled with it. ‘I have, says the harlot, perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.’ Prov 7: 17. For one sweet, here are two bitters; cinnamon is sweet, but myrrh and aloes are bitter; the harlot’s pleasure is mixed. There are those inward fears and lashes of conscience that embitter the pleasure. If there be any pleasure in sin, it is only to the body, the brutish part; the soul is not at all gratified by it. ‘Soul, take thine ease;’ he might have more properly said, ‘Body, take thine ease;’ the soul cannot feed on sensual objects. Luke 12: 19. In short, the pleasure men talk of in sin, is their disease. Some take pleasure in eating chalk or coals, which is from disease; so when men talk of pleasure in eating the forbidden fruit it is from the sickness and disease of their souls. They ‘put bitter for sweet.’ Isa 5: 20. Oh, what folly is it, for a cup of pleasure, to drink a sea of wrath! Sin will be bitter in the end. ‘Look not upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup; at the last it biteth like a serpent.’ Prov 23: 31, 32. Sin will prove like Ezekiel’s roll, sweet in the mouth, but bitter in the belly, mel in ore, fel in corde. Ask Cain now how he likes his murder? Achan how he likes his golden wedge? O remember thee saying of Augustine, Momentaneum est quod delectat, aeternum quad cruciat [The pleasure is momentary, the torture eternal]. The pleasure of sin is soon gone, but the sting remains.
(9) If sin be so great an evil, what wisdom is it to depart from it! ‘To depart from evil is understanding.’ Job 28: 28. To sin is to do foolishly; therefore to depart from sin is to do wisely. Solomon says, ‘In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare.’ Prov 29: 6. Is it not wisdom to avoid a snare? Sin is a deceiver, it cheated our first parents. Instead of being as gods, they became as the beasts that perish. Psa 49: 20. Sin has cheated all that have meddled with it; and is it not wisdom to shun such a cheater? Sin has many fair pleas, and tells how it will gratify all the senses with pleasure; but, says a gracious soul, Christ’s love is sweeter; peace of conscience is sweeter; what are the pleasures of sin to the pleasures of paradise? Well may the saints be called wise virgins, because they spy the deceits that are in sin, and avoid the snares. ‘The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.’
(10) If sin be so great an evil, how justifiable and commendable are all those means which are used to keep men from sin! How justifiable are a minister’s admonitions and reproofs! ‘Rebuke them sharply’ (Titus 1: 13); cuttingly; a metaphor from a surgeon that searches a wound, and cuts out the proud flesh that the patient may be sound; so God’s minister comes with a cutting reproof, but it is to keep from sin, and to save the soul. Si merito objurgaverit te aliquis, scito quia profuit [If anyone has reproved you justly, be sure that it was to your benefit]. Seneca. Esteem them your best friends who would keep you from sinning against God. If a man were going to poison or drown himself, would he not be his friend who should hinder hint from doing it? All a minister’s reproofs are but to keep you from sin, and hinder from self-murder; all is in love. ‘Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.’ 2 Cor 5: 11. It is the passion of most to be angry with those who would reclaim them from sin. ‘They hate him that rebuketh in the gate.’ Amos 5: 10. Who is angry with the physician for prescribing a bitter potion, seeing it is to purge out the peccant humour? It is mercy to men’s souls to tell them of their sins. And surely those are priests of the devil who see men go on in sin, and ready to drop into hell, and never pull them back by a reproof; nay, perhaps flatter them in their sins. God never made ministers to be false glasses, to make bad faces look fair; such make themselves guilty of other men’s sins.
(11) If sin be so great an evil, the evil of evils, see what a bad choice they make who choose sin to avoid affliction! It is as if to save the coat from being rent, one should suffer his flesh to be rent. It was a false charge that Elihu brought against Job: ‘This [iniquity] hast thou chosen rather than affliction.’ Job 36: 21. This is a bad choice. Affliction has a promise made to it, but sin has no promise made to it. 2 Samuel 22: 28. Affliction is for our good, but sin is not for our good; it would entail hell and damnation upon us. Spira chose iniquity rather than affliction, but it cost him dear; at last he repented of his choice. He who commits sin to avoid suffering, is like one that runs into a lion’s den to avoid the stinging of a gnat.
(12) If sin be so great an evil, it should be a Christian’s great care in this life to keep from it. ‘Deliver us from evil.’ Some make it all their care to keep out of trouble; they had rather keep their skin whole than their conscience pure; but our care should be chiefly to keep from sin. How careful are we to forbear such a dish as the physicians tell us is hurtful to us: it will bring the stone or gout! Much more should we be careful that we eat not the forbidden fruit, which will bring divine vengeance. ‘Keep thyself pure.’ 1 Tim 5: 22. It has always been the study of the saints to keep aloof from sin. ‘How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’ Gen 39: 9. ‘Keep back thy servant from presumptuous sins.’ Psa 19: 13. It was a saying of Anselm, ‘If sin were on one side, and hell on the other, I would rather leap into hell than willingly sin against my God.’ Oh, what a mercy is it to be kept from sin! We count it a great mercy to be kept from the plague and fire; but what is it to be kept from sin!
(13) Is sin so great an evil? It should make us long for heaven, where we shall be perfectly freed from sin, not only from its outward acts, but from the inbeing of sin. In heaven we shall not need to pray this prayer, ‘Deliver us from evil.’ What a blessed time will it be when we shall never have a vain thought more! Then Christ’s spouse shall be sine macula et ruga, without spot or wrinkle. Eph 5: 27. Now there is a dead man tied to the living; we cannot do any holy duty, but we mix sin with it; we cannot pray without wandering; we cannot believe without doubting; but then our virgin souls shall not be capable of the least tincture of sin, but we shall all be as the angels of God.
In heaven we shall have no temptation to sin. The old serpent is cast out of paradise, and his fiery darts shall never come near to touch us.
Use 2. For exhortation.
First to all in general. If sin be so great and prodigious an evil, as you love your souls, take heed of sin. If you taste the forbidden fruit, it will cost you dear, it will cost you bitter tears, it may cost you lying in hell. O therefore flee from sin.
(1) Take heed of sins of omission. Matt 23: 23. It is as really dangerous not to do things commanded, as to do things forbidden. Some think it no great matter to omit reading Scripture. The Bible lies by like rusty armour, which they never use. They think it no great matter to omit family or closet-prayer; they go several months, and God never hears from them. They have nothing sanctified to them; they feed upon a curse; ‘for every creature is sanctified by prayer.’ 1 Tim 4: 4, 5. The bird which may shame many never takes a drop but its eye is lifted up towards heaven. O take heed of living in the neglect of any known duty. It was the prayer of a holy man on his death-bed, ‘Lord, forgive my sins of omission.’
(2) Take heed of secret sins. Some are more modest than to sin openly in a balcony; but they will carry their sins under a canopy, they will sin in secret. Rachel would not let her father’s images be seen, but she put them under her, ‘and sat upon them.’ Gen 31: 34. Many will be drunk and unclean, if they may do it when nobody sees them; they are like one that shuts up his shop windows, but follows his trade within doors. If sin be so great an evil, let me warn you this day not to sin in secret; know that you can never sin so privately but that the two witnesses, God and conscience, are always by.
(3) Take heed of your besetting sin, that which your nature and constitution most incline to. As in the hive there is a master bee, so in the heart there is a master sin. ‘I kept myself from mine iniquity.’ Psa 18: 23. There is some sin that is a special favourite, the peccatum in deliciis, the darling sin that lies in the bosom, and this bewitches and draws away the heart. O beware of this!
 That sin which a man most cherishes, and to which all other sins are subservient, is the sin which is most tended and waited upon. The Pharisees’ darling sin was vainglory, all they did was to feed the sin of pride. ‘That they may have glory of men;’ when they gave alms they sounded a trumpet. Matt 6: 2. If a stranger had asked the question, why does this trumpet sound? the answer was, The Pharisees are going to give alms to the poor. Their lamp of charity was filled with the oil of vainglory. Matt 23: 5. All their works they did to be seen of men. Pride was their bosom sin. Oftentimes covetousness is the darling sin; all other sins are committed to maintain this. Why do men equivocate, oppress, defraud, take bribes, but to uphold covetousness?
 The sin which a man loves not to be reproved for is the darling sin. Herod could not endure to have his incest spoken against; if John the Baptist meddles with that sin, it shall cost him his head.
 That sin which has most power over a man, and most easily leads him captive, is the beloved of the soul. There are some sins which a man can better put off and repulse; but there is one sin, which, if it becomes a suitor he cannot deny, but is overcome by it: this is the bosom sin. The young man in the gospel had a besetting sin which he could not resist, and that was the love of the world; his silver was dearer to him than his Saviour. It is a sad thing a man should be so bewitched by a lust that he will part with the kingdom of heaven to gratify it.
 The sin which men use arguments to defend is the darling sin. To plead for sin is to be the devil’s attorney. If the sin be covetousness, and we vindicate it; if it be rash anger, and we justify it, saying (as Jonah 4: 9), ‘I do well to be angry,’ this is the besetting sin.
 That sin which most troubles a man, and flies in his face in an hour of sickness and distress, is the beloved sin. When Joseph’s brethren were distressed, their sin in selling their brother came to remembrance. Gen 45: 3. So, when a man is upon his sick-bed, conscience says, Dost not thou remember how thou hast lived in such a sin, though thou hast been often warned, yet thou wouldst not leave it? Conscience reads a curtain lecture upon the darling sin.
 The sin which a man is most unwilling to part with is the darling sin. Jacob could of all his sons, most hardly part with Benjamin. ‘Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away.’ Gen 13: 36. So says the sinner, this and that sin have I parted with; but must Benjamin go? Must I part with this delightful sin? That goes to the heart. It is the Delilah, the beloved sin. Oh, if sin be such a deadly evil, dare not to indulge any bosom sin, which is the most dangerous of all; and, like a humour striking to the heart, which is mortal, leaves open but one gap for the wild beast to enter. One darling sin lived in, sets open a gap for Satan to enter.
(4) Take heed of the sins which attend your particular callings. A calling you must have. Adam in paradise tilled the ground. God never sealed warrants to idleness. But every calling has its snare; as some sin in living out of a calling, so others sin in a calling. Remember how deadly an evil sin is. Avoid those sins which you are exposed to in your trade. Take heed of all fraud and collusion in your dealings. ‘Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.’ Matt 7: 12.
Take heed of a sinful tongue in selling. The Scripture says of one that goes to heaven, ‘He speaketh the truth in his heart.’ Psa 15: 2. It is the custom of many to say the commodity stands them more, and yet they take less. This is hardly creditable.
Beware of a deceitful balance. ‘The balances of deceit are in his hand.’ Hos 12: 7. Men by making their weights lighter, make their accounts heavier.
Beware of sophisticating, mingling, and debasing commodities. ‘We sell the refuse of the wheat.’ Amos 8: 6. They pick out the best grains of the wheat, and sell the worst at the same price as they did the best. To mix a coarse commodity with the fine, and sell it all for fine, is no better than deceit. Isa 1: 22.
Beware of stretching your consciences too far, or taking more for a commodity than it is worth. ‘If thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, ye shall not oppress one another.’ Lev 25: 14. There is a lawful gain allowed, yet one may not so advantage himself as to injure another. Let the tradesman’s motto be, ‘A conscience void of offence toward God and toward men.’ Acts 24: 16. He has a hard bargain that purchases the world with the loss of his soul.
(5) Sin being so deadly an evil, take heed of the appearance of sin. Abstain not only from apparent evil, but the appearance of evil; if it be not absolutely a sin, yet if it looks like sin, avoid it. He who is loyal to his prince, not only forbears to have his hand in treason, but he will take heed of that which has a show of treason. Joseph’s mistress tempted him, and he fled and would not be with her. Gen 39: 12. An appearance of good is too little, and an appearance of evil is too much.
The appearance of evil is often an occasion of evil. Dalliance is an appearance of evil, and oftentimes occasions evil. Touching the forbidden fruit occasions tasting. Dancing in masquerades has often been the occasion of uncleanness.
The appearance of evil may scandalise another. ‘When ye sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.’ 1 Cor 8: 12. Sinning against a member of Christ is sinning against Christ himself.
What means shall we use to be kept from acts of sin?
(1) If you would be preserved from actual and scandalous sins, labour to mortify original sin. If you would not have the branches bud and blossom, smite at the root. I know that original sin cannot in this life be removed, but labour to have it subdued. Why do men break forth into actual sins but because they do not mortify heart sins? Suppress the first risings of pride, lust, and passion. Original sin unmortified will prove such a root of bitterness as will bring forth the cursed root of scandalous sin.
(2) If you would be kept from actual sins, think what an odious thing sin is. Besides what you have heard, remember sin is the accursed thing. Josh 7: 13. It is the abominable thing God hates. ‘Oh do not this abominable thing that I hate.’ Jer 44: 4. Sin is the spirit of witchcraft; it is the devil’s excrement; it is called filthiness. James 1: 21. If all the evils in the world were put together, and their essence strained out, they could not make a thing so filthy as sin is. So odious is a sinner that God loathes the sight of him. ‘My soul lothed them.’ Zech 11: 8. He who defiles himself with avarice, what is he but a serpent licking the dust? He who defiles himself with the lust of uncleanness, what is he but a swine with a man’s head? He who defiles himself with pride, what is he but a bladder which the devil has blown up? He who defiles himself with drunkenness, what is he but a beast that has got the staggers? To consider how odious and base a thing sin is, would be a means of keeping us from sinning.
(3) If you would be kept from actual sins, get the fear of God planted in your hearts. ‘By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.’ Prov 16: 6. Cavebis si pavebis [You will take care if you fear]; fear is a bridle to sin and a spur to holiness. Fear puts a holy awe upon the heart and binds it to its good behaviour. By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil. When the Empress Eudoxia threatened to banish Chrysostom, ‘Tell her,’ said he, ‘I fear nothing but sin.’ Fear is janitor animae; it stands as a porter at the door of the soul and keeps sin from entering. All sin is committed for want of the fear of God. ‘Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood; there is no fear of God before their eyes.’ Rom 3: 14, 15, 18. Holy fear stands sentinel, and is ever watching against security, pride, and wantonness. Fear is a Christian’s lifeguard to defend him against the fiery darts of temptation. Si vis esse securus, semper time. The way to be safe is always to fear.
(4) If we would be kept from actual sins, let us be careful to avoid all the inlets and occasions of sin. Run not into evil company. He that would not have the plague will not go into an infected house. Guard your senses, which may be the inlets to sin. Keep the two portals, the eye and the ear; especially look to your eyes. Much sin comes in by the eye; the eye is often an inlet to sin; sin takes fire at the eye; the first sin in the world began at the eye. ‘When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and was pleasant to the eyes, she took of the fruit thereof.’ Gen 3: 6. Looking begat lusting. Intemperance begins at the eye. Looking on the wine when it is red and gives its colour in the glass, causes excess of drinking. Prov 23: 31. Covetousness begins at the eye. ‘When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and a wedge of gold, I coveted and took them.’ Josh 7: 21. The fire of lust begins to kindle at the eye. David walking upon the roof of his house saw a woman washing herself, and she was, says the text, ‘beautiful to look upon,’ and he sent messengers and took her, and defiled himself with her. 2 Samuel 11: 2. therefore look to your eyes! Job made a covenant with his eyes. Job 31: 1. If the eye be once inflamed, it will be hard to stand out long against sin. If the outworks are taken by the enemy, there is great danger of the whole castle being taken.
(5) If you would be kept from actual gross sin, study sobriety and temperance. 1 Pet 5: 8. Sobrii este, be sober. Check the inordinance of appetite, for sin frequently makes its entrance this way. By gratifying the sensitive appetite, the soul, that is akin to angels, is enslaved to the brutish part. Many drink to drowsiness, if not to drunkenness. Not denying the sensitive appetite, makes men’s consciences full of guilt, and the world full of scandal. If you would be kept from running into sin, lay restraint upon the flesh. For what has God given reason and conscience but to be a bridle to check inordinate desires?
(6) If you would be kept from actual sins, be continually upon your spiritual watch.
Watch your thoughts. ‘How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?’ Jer 4: 14. Sin begins at the thoughts. First, men cherish revengeful thoughts, then they dip their hands in blood. Set a spy over your thoughts.
Watch your passions of anger and passions of lust. The heart is ready to be destroyed by its own passions, as a vessel to be overturned by its sails. Passion transports beyond the bounds of reason; it is brevis insania (Seneca), a short frenzy. Moses in a passion ’spake unadvisedly with his lips.’ Psa 106: 33. The disciples in a passion called fire from heaven. A man in a passion is like a ship in a storm that has neither pilot nor sails to help it, but is exposed to waves and rocks.
Watch your temptations. Satan continually lies in ambush, and watches to draw us to sin; stat in procincto diabolus [the devil stands girded for battle]. He is fishing for our souls; he is either laying snares, or shooting darts. Therefore we had need watch him, that we be not decoyed into sin. Most sin is committed for want of watchfulness.
(7) If you would be kept front the evil of sin, consult the oracles of God; be well versed in Scripture. ‘Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.’ Psa 119: 11. The word is anceps gladius, a two-edged sword, to cut asunder men’s lusts. When the fogs and vapours of sin begin to rise, let but the light of Scripture shine in the soul, and it dispels them. ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.’ Col 3: 16. Alphonsus, king of Arragon, read over the Bible fourteen times. The word shows the damnable evil of sin; it furnishes us with precepts, which are so many recipes and antidotes against sin. When Christ had a temptation to sin, he beat back the tempter, and wounded him three times with the sword of the Spirit: ‘It is written.’ Why do men live in sin, but because they either do not read the word or do not believe it?
(8) If you would be preserved from gross, presumptuous sin, get your hearts fired with love to God. Love has great force in it; it is ’strong as death;’ it breaks the league between the heart and sin. Two things in God cause love.
 His glorious beauty. Moses desired to see some glimpse of it. ‘Lord, show me thy glory.’  His amazing love. What a prodigy of love was it, to give his Son out of his bosom, and lay such a jewel to pawn for our redemption! The glories of God’s beauty, and the magnitude of his love, like two loadstones, draw our love to God; and if we love him, we shall not sin against him: he that loves his friend, will not by any means displease him. I have read of four men meeting together, who asked one another what it was that kept them from sinning? One said, the fear of hell; another said, the joys of heaven; the third said, the odiousness of sin; the fourth said, that which keeps me from sin is love to God; shall I sin against so good a God? shall I abuse love? Love to God is the best curbing-bit to keep from sin.
(9) If you would be kept from the evil of sin, be diligent in a calling. Dii laboribus omnia vendunt [Work buys all things from the gods]. Adam in paradise must till the ground. Such as live idly, expose themselves to sin. If we have no work to do, Satan will find us work; he sows most of his seed in fallow ground. A woman being much tempted to sin, came to the reverend Mr Greenham, and asked him what she should do to resist temptation? He answered, Be always well employed, that when Satan comes he may find thee busied in thy calling, and not at leisure to listen to his temptation.
(10) If you would be kept from sin, fix the eye of your mind upon the ‘beauty of holiness.’ Holiness consists in conformity to God. It is the sparkling of the divine nature, a beam of God shining in the soul. How lovely is Christ’s bride when decked and bespangled with the jewels of holiness! What makes the seraphims angels of light, but their holiness? Do but think with yourselves what a splendid, glorious thing holiness is, and it will cause a disgust and hatred of sin, which is so contrary to it. The beholding of beauty will make us out of love with deformity.
(11) If you would keep from the evil of sin, meditate frequently on death. Think of the unavoidableness of it. Heb 9: 27. Statutum est. ‘It is appointed unto men once to die.’ We are not so sure to lie down this night in bed as to lie down in the grave. Think of the uncertainty of the time. We are but tenants at will. We hold our life at the will of our landlord, and how soon may God turn us out of this house of clay! Death often comes when we least look for it. The flood, as some learned writers observe, came in the month Ziph, or April, in the spring; when the trees were blossoming, and the birds singing, and men least looked for it; so, often in the spring of youth, when the body is most healthy, and the spirits most sprightly and vigorous, and it is least thought on, then death comes. Could we think often and seriously of death, it would give a death’s wound to sin. Nihil sic revocat peccata quam crebra morbis contemplatio [Nothing restrains from sin so much as the frequent thought of death]. Augustine. No stronger antidote against sin than the thought I am now sinning, and to-morrow may be dying. What if death should find me doing the devil’s work, would it not send me to him to receive my wages? Would the adulterer but think, I am now in the act of sin, but how soon may death come, and then I who have burned in lust, must burn in hell! it would strike a damp into his soul, and make him afraid of going after strange flesh.
(12) If you would be kept from gross, scandalous sins, beware of a covetous heart. Covetousness is a dry drunkenness. He who thirsts insatiably after the world will stick at no sin; he will betray Christ and a good cause for money. Cui nihil satis, eidem nihil turpe [The man for whom nothing is enough holds nothing shameful]. Tacitus. ‘The love of money is the root of all evil.’ 1 Tim 6: 10. From this root comes theft. Achan’s covetous humour made him steal the wedge of gold. Josh 7: 21. Covetousness makes the gaols full. From this root comes murder. Why did Ahab stone Naboth to death but to possess his vineyard? 1 Kings 21: 13. Covetousness has made many swim to the crown in blood. From this bitter root of covetousness proceeds fraud. It is the covetous hand that holds false weights. From this root of covetousness comes uncleanness. You read of the hire of a whore. Deut 23: 18. For money she would let both her conscience and chastity be set to sale. Oh, if you would be kept from the evil of sin, beware of covetousness, which is the inlet to so many sins!
(13) Let us be much in prayer to God, to keep us from engulfing ourselves in sin. ‘Keep back thy servant from presumptuous sins.’ Psa 19: 13. We have no power inherent to keep us from evil. Arnoldus says, that man in his corrupt estate, has aliquas reliquias vitae spiritualis, some relics of spiritual life left. And Arminius says, man has a sufficiency of grace within himself whereby he may abstinere a malo, abstain from evil; that freewill is a sufficient curb to check and pull him back from sin. But what needed Christ to have taught us this prayer: Libera nos a malo, ‘Deliver us from evil’? If we have power of ourselves to keep from sin, why pray to God for power? Alas! if David and Peter, who in a habit of grace fell, for want of a fresh gale of the Spirit to hold them up, much more will they be in danger of falling who have only the power of freewill to hold them.
Let us therefore sue to God for strength to keep us from sinning! Let us pray the prayer of David, ‘Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe’ (Psa 119: 117); and that other prayer, ‘Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip nos.’ Psa 17: 5. Lord, keep me from dishonouring thee; keep me from the defiling sins of the age, that I may not be worse for the times, nor the times the worse for me. ‘Keep back thy servant from presumptuous sins.’ Lord, whatever I suffer, keep me from sin. The child is safe in the nurse’s arms; and we are only safe from falling into sin while we are held up in the arms of Christ and free grace.
Secondly, this exhortation has an aspect to God’s children. You that are professors, and carry Christ’s colours, I beseech you, above all others, to take heed of sin; beware of any action that is scandalous and unbecoming the gospel. You have heard what a prodigious hyperbolical evil sin is. Come not near the forbidden fruit. ‘Though Israel play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend.’ Hos 4: 15. So, though wicked men run into sin, yet let not the spouse of Christ defile the breasts of her virginity. Sin ill becomes any, but least becomes professors. Dung is unsightly in the street; but to see it in the temple is much more offensive. Leprosy in the foot is ill, but to see a leprous sore in the face is much worse: to see sin break forth in those who have a face of religion, is most to be abominated. The sins of the wicked are not so much to be wondered at. ‘The wicked shall do wickedly.’ Dan 12: 10. It is no wonder to see a toad spit poison. It was not so wonderful to see Cain or Ahab sin; but to see Lot’s incest, to see David’s hands stained with blood, was strange indeed. When the sun is eclipsed every one stands and looks at it; so when a child of light is eclipsed by scandalous sin, all stand and gaze at such an eclipse.
The sins of God’s people do, in some sense, provoke him more than the sins of the wicked! We read of the provocations of his sons and daughters. Deut 32: 19. The sins of the wicked anger God, but the sins of his people grieve him. The sins of God’s people have a more malignant aspect, and are of a blacker dye than others. There are aggravations in the sins of his people, which are not to be found in the sins of the unregenerate, in eight particulars:
(1) The godly have something which may ponere obicem [set up a barrier], restrain them from sin. When wicked men sin, they have no principle to restrain them; they have wind and tide to carry them, they have nothing to pull them back from sin; but a child of God has a principle of grace to give check to sin; he has the impulses of God’s Spirit dissuading him from evil. For him, therefore, to commit sin is far worse than for others. It is to sin more desperately; it is as if a woman should go about to kill the babe in her womb. Christian, when thou sinnest presumptuously, thou doest what in thee liest to kill the babe of grace in thy soul.
(2) The sins of God’s people are greater than others, because they sin against more mercy. It is like a weight put in a scale to make sin weigh heavier. God has given Christ to a believer; he has cut him off from the wild stock of nature, and grafted him into the true olive; and for him to abuse all this mercy is to outdo the wicked, and to sin with a higher aggravation, because it is to sin against greater love. How was Peter’s sin enhanced and accented, by Christ having done more for him than others! He had dropped some of the holy oil upon him; he had taken him into the number of the apostles; he had carried him up into the mount of transfiguration, and shown him the glory of heaven in a vision. For Peter to deny Christ after all this mercy was heinous, and could not be forgiven but by a miracle and prodigy of love.
(3) The sins of the godly have this aggravation in them, that they sin against clearer illumination than the wicked. ‘They are of those that rebel against the light.’ Job 24: 13. Light is there taken figuratively for knowledge. It cannot be denied, but the wicked sin knowingly; but the godly have a light beyond them, such a divine, penetrating light as no hypocrite can attain to. They have better eyes to see sin than others; and for them to meddle with sin and embrace this dunghill, must needs provoke God, and make the fury rise up in his face. O therefore, you that are the people of God, flee from sin; your sins are more enhanced, and have worse aggravations in them, than the sins of the unregenerate.
(4) The sins of the godly are worse than the unregenerate; for, when they sin, it is against great experiences. They have felt the bitterness of sin in the pangs of the new birth, and afterwards God has spoken peace, and they have had an experimental taste how sweet the Lord is; and yet, after these experiences, that they should touch the forbidden fruit, and venture upon a presumptuous sin, enhances and aggravates their guilt, and is like putting a weight more in the scale to make their sin weigh heavier. The wicked have never tasted the sweetness of a heavenly life; they have never known what it is to have any smiles from God; they have never tasted anything sweeter than corn and wine; therefore no wonder if they sin: but for a child of God who has had such love-tokens from heaven, and signal experiences from God, for him to gratify a lust, how horrid is this! It was an aggravation of Solomon’s sin, that his heart was turned from the Lord, who had appeared to him twice. 1 Kings 11: 9.
(5) The sins of the godly are greater than others, because they sin against their sonship. When wicked men sin, they sin against the command; but when the godly sin, they sin against a privilege; they abuse their sonship. The godly are adopted into the family of heaven, they have a new name. Is it a light thing, said David, to be son-in-law to a king? So, to be called the sons of God, to be heirs of the promises, is no small honour. For such to run into an open offence, is sinning against their adoption. They hereby make themselves vile, as if a king’s son should be tumbling in the mire, or lie among swine.
(6) The sins of the godly are worse than others, because they are committed against more vows and engagements. They have given up their names to God; they have bound themselves solemnly to God by oath. ‘I have sworn that I will keep thy righteous judgements.’ Psa 119: 106. In the supper of the Lord, they have renewed this sacred vow; and, after this, to run into presumptuous sin, is a breach of vow, a kind of perjury, which dyes the sin of a crimson colour.
(7) The sins of the godly are worse than others, because they bring a greater reproach upon religion. For the wicked to sin, must be expected from them, as swine will wallow in the mire; but when sheep do so, when the godly sin, it redounds to the dishonour of the gospel. ‘By this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.’ 2 Samuel 12: 14. Every one’s eye is upon a stain in scarlet; for the godly to sin, is like a spot in scarlet, it is more taken notice of, and reflects greater dishonour upon the ways of God. When the sun is eclipsed, every one stands and looks upon it; so, when a child of light is eclipsed by scandalous sin, all stand and gaze at it. How does the gospel suffer by the miscarriages of the godly! Their blood can never wash off the stain they bring upon religion.
(8) The sins of the godly are worse, because they encourage and harden wicked men in sin. If the wicked see the godly loose and uncircumspect in their lives, they think they may do so too. The wicked make the godly their pattern, not in imitating their virtues, but their vices; and is it not fearful to be the means to damn others? These are the aggravations of the sins of the godly. You, therefore, above all others, beware of presumptuous sin. Your sins wound conscience, weaken grace, and do more highly provoke God than the sins of others, and God will be sure to punish you. Whoever escapes, you shall not. ‘You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.’ Amos 3: 2. If God does not damn you, he may send you to hell in this life; he may cause such agonies and tremblings of heart, that you will be a terror to yourselves. You may draw nigh to despair, and be ready to look upon yourselves as castaways. When David had stained himself with adultery and murder, he complained of his broken bones. Psa 51: 8. This metaphor sets forth the grief and agony of his soul; he lay in sore desertion three quarters of a year, and it is thought he never recovered his full joy to his dying day. O. therefore, you who belong to God and are enrolled in his family, take heed of blemishing your profession with scandalous sin; you will pay dear for it. Think of the broken bones. Though God does not blot you out of his book, yet he may cast you out of his presence. Psa 51: 2: He may keep you in long desertion. You may feel such lashes in your conscience, that you may roar out and think yourselves half in hell.
 We also pray in a special sense, ‘Deliver us from evil.’ We pray to be delivered from evil under a threefold notion. 1. From the evil of our heart, which is called an evil heart. Heb 3: 12. 2. From the evil of Satan, who is called the ‘wicked one.’ Matt 13: 19. 3. From the evil of the world, which is called en ‘evil world.’ Gal 1: 4.
(1) In the petition, ‘Deliver us from evil,’ we pray to be delivered from the evil of our heart, that it may not entice us to sin. The heart is the poisoned fountain, from whence all actual sins flow. ‘Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, fornications, murders.’ Mark 7: 21. The cause of all evil lies in a man’s own breast, all sin begins at the heart. Lust is first conceived in the heart, and then it is midwifed into the world. Whence comes rash anger? The heart sets the tongue on fire. The heart is a shop or workhouse, where all sin is contrived and hammered out. How needful, therefore, is this prayer, deliver us from the evil of our hearts! The heart is the greatest seducer, therefore the apostle James says, ‘Every man is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.’ James 1: 14. The devil could not hurt us, if our own hearts did not give consent. All that he can do is to lay the bait, but it is our fault to swallow it.
O let us pray to be delivered from the lusts and deceits of our own heart. ‘Deliver us from evil.’ Luther feared his heart more than the pope or cardinal; and it was Augustine’s prayer, Libera me, Domine, a meipso; Lord, deliver me from myself. It was good advice one gave to his friend, Caveas teipsum [Beware of yourself]. Beware of the bosom traitor, the flesh. The heart of a man is the Trojan horse, out of which comes a whole army of lusts.
(2) In this petition, ‘Deliver us from evil,’ we pray to be delivered from the evil of Satan. He is ‘the wicked one.’ Matt 13: 19.
In what respect is Satan the wicked one?
He was the first inventor of evil. He plotted the first treason. John 8: 44.
His inclination is only to evil. Eph 6: 12.
His constant practice is doing evil. 1 Pet 5: 8.
He has some hand in all the evils and mischief that fall out in the world.
He hinders from good. ‘He showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.’ Zech 3: 1.
He provokes to evil. He put it into Ananias’ heart to lie. ‘Why has Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?’ Acts 5: 3. The devil blows the fire of lust and strife. When men are proud, the old serpent has poisoned them, and makes them swell. Thus he is the evil one and well may we pray, ‘Lord, deliver us from the evil one.’ The word Satan in the Hebrew signifies an opponent or adversary.
He is a restless adversary, he never sleeps. Spirits need no sleep. He is a peripatetic. He ‘walketh about.’ 1 Pet 5: 8. And how does he walk? Not as a pilgrim, but as a spy. He narrowly observes where he may plant his pieces of battery, and make his assaults with most advantage against us. Satan is a subtle engineer; there is no place that can secure us from his assaults and inroads. While we are praying, hearing, and meditating, we are of his company, though uncertain how we came by it.
Satan is a mighty adversary, he is armed with power. He is called the ’strong man.’ Luke 11: 21. He takes men captive at his pleasure. ‘Who are taken captive by him at his will,’ who are taken alive by him. 2 Tim 2: 26. It alludes to a bird that is taken alive in the snare. The devil’s work is to angle for men’s souls; he lays suitable baits; he allures the ambitious man with honour, the covetous man with riches; he hooks his bait with silver; he allures the lustful man with beauty, he tempts men to Delilah’s lap to keep them from Abraham’s bosom. The devil glories in the damnation of souls. How needful then is this prayer, ‘Deliver us from evil!’ Lord, keep us from the evil one. Though Satan may solicit us to sin, suffer us not to give consent; though he may assault the castle of our hearts, yet let us not deliver up the keys of the castle to our mortal enemy.
(3) In this petition, ‘Deliver us from evil,’ we pray to be delivered from the evil of the world. It is called an evil world, not but that the world, as God made it, is good, but through our corruption it becomes evil, and we had need pray, deliver us from an evil world. Gal 1: 4.
In what sense is it an evil world?
(1) It is a defiling world. It is like living in an infectious air, it requires a high degree of grace to keep ourselves ‘unspotted from the world.’ James 1: 27. It is as hard to live in the world and not be defiled, as to go much in the sun and not be tanned.
The opinions of the world are defiling; as that a little religion will serve the turn; that like leaf gold, it must be spread but thin; that morality runs parallel with grace; that to be zealous is to be righteous over much; that it is better to keep the skin whole than the conscience pure; that the flesh is rather to be gratified than mortified. These opinions of the world are defiling.
The examples of the world are defiling. Examples have great force to draw us to evil. Princeps imperio magnus exemplo major [A prince great in power is greater by his example]. Princes are looking-glasses by which we dress ourselves; if they do evil, we are apt to imitate them. Great men are copies we set before us, and usually we write most like the copy when it is blotted. There is great proneness in us to follow the examples of the world; therefore God has put in a caveat against it. ‘Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.’ Exod 23: 2. How easily are we hurried to sin, when we have the tide of natural corruption and the wind of example to carry us! Lot was the world’s wonder; the complexion of his soul kept pure in Sodom’s infectious air. The river of Peru, in America, after running into the main sea, keeps fresh, and does not mingle with the salt waters; to which Lot might be compared, whose piety kept fresh in Sodom’s salt water. Bad examples are catching. ‘They were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works.’ Psa 106: 35. Had we not need then pray, Lord, deliver us from this evil world? Living in the world is like travelling in a dirty road.
(2) It is an evil world, as it is an ensnaring world. The world is full of snares. Company is a snare, recreation is a snare, oaths are snares, riches are golden snares. Opes irritamenfa malorum [Riches are incitements to sin]. The apostle speaks of the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.’ 1 John 2: 16. The lust of the flesh is beauty, the lust of the eye is money, the pride of life is honour; these are the natural man’s trinity. In mundo splendor opum, gloriae majestas, voluptatum illecebrae ab amore Dei nos abstrabunt [In the world, the splendour of wealth, the greatness of high reputation and the allurements of pleasure draw us away from the love of God]. The world is a flattering enemy; whom it kisses it betrays; it is a silken halter. The pleasures of the world, like opium, cast men into the sleep of security. Lysimachus sold his crown for a draught of water; so, many part with heaven for the world. The king of Armenia was sent prisoner to queen Cleopatra in golden fetters. Too many are enslaved with the world’s golden fetters. The world bewitched Demas. 2 Tim 4: 10. One of Christ’s own apostles was caught with a silver bait. It is hard to drink the wine of prosperity and not be giddy. The world, through our innate corruption, is evil, as it is a snare. ‘They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare.’ 1 Tim 6: 9. If an angel were to live here, there were no danger of the world’s ensnaring him, because he has no principle within to receive the temptation; but we have a corrupt principle that suits the temptation, and that makes us always in danger.
(3) It is an evil world as it is a discouraging world. It casts scorn and reproach upon those who live virtuously. What, will you be holier than others, wiser than your ancestors? The world deals with the professors of religion, as Sanballat did with the Jews when they were building. ‘He mocked the Jews, and said, What do these feeble Jews? Will they fortify themselves? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?’ Neh 4: 1. So the wicked world casts out squibs of reproach at the godly. What, will ye build for heaven? What needs all this cost? What profit is it to serve the Almighty? Thus the world would pluck off our chariot wheels when we are driving towards heaven. These are called cruel mockings. Heb 11: 36. It requires a great measure of sanctity to withstand the discouragements of the world, to dance among serpents, to laugh at reproaches, and bind them as a crown about our head.
(4) It is an evil world as it is a deadening world. It dulls and deadens the affections to heavenly objects. It cools holy motions, like a damp in a silver mine, which puts out the light. Earthly things choke the seed of the word. A man entangled in the world is so taken up with secular concerns that he can no more mind the things above than the earth can ascend, or the elephant fly in the air. And even such as have grace in them, when their affections are belimed with the earth, they find themselves much indisposed to meditation and prayer; it is like swimming with a stone about the neck.
(5) It is an evil world as it is a maligning world. It hates the people of God. ‘Because ye are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you.’ John 15: 19. Hatred, as Aristotle says, is against the whole kind. Haman’s hatred was against the seed of the whole Jews. When you can find a serpent without a sting, or a leopard without spots, then you may expect to find a wicked world without hatred. The mark that is shot at is piety. ‘They are mine adversaries, because I follow the thing that good is.’ Psa 38: 20. The world pretends to hate the godly for something else, but the ground of the quarrel is holiness. The world’s hatred is implacable; anger may be reconciled, hatred cannot. You may as well reconcile heaven and hell, as the two seeds. If the world hated Christ, no wonder it hates us. ‘The world hated me before it hated you.’ John 15: 18. Why should any hate Christ? This blessed Dove had no gall, this Rose of Sharon sent forth the sweetest perfume; but it shows the world’s baseness, that it is a Christ-hating and a saint-hating world. Had we not need to pray, deliver us from this evil world?
(6) It is an evil world, as it is a deceitful world.
There is deceit in dealing. ‘He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand.’ Hos 12: 7. The Hebrew word rimmah signifies both to deceive and oppress. He who dares use deceit will not spare to oppress.
There is a deceit in friendship. ‘But a faithful man who can find?’ Prov 20: 6. Trita frequensque via est per amici fallere nomen. Some use too much courtship in friendship; they are like trumpets which make a great noise, but within they are hollow. Some can flatter and hate, commend and censure. Mel in ore, fel in corde [Honey on the tongue, gall in the heart]. Dissembled love is worse than hatred.
There is deceit in riches. ‘The deceitfulness of riches.’ Matt 13: 22. The world makes us believe it will satisfy our desires, and it does but increase them; it makes us believe it will stay with us, and it takes wings. Prov 23: 5.
(7) It is an evil world, as it is a disquieting world. It is full of trouble. John 16: 33. The world is like a beehive; when, having tasted a little honey, we have been stung with a thousand bees. Basil was of opinion that before the fall the rose grew without prickles; but now every sweet flower of our life has its thorns. There are many things which cause disquiet-loss of friends, law-suits, crosses in estate. Relations are not without their troubles; some are troubled that they have no children, others that they have children: the world is a vexing vanity. If a man be poor, he is despised by the rich; if he be rich, he is envied by the poor. If we do not find an ensnaring world, we shall find it an afflicting world; it has more in it to wean us than tempt us. The world is a sea, where we are tossed upon the surging waves of sorrow, and often in danger of shipwreck. It is a wilderness, full of fiery serpents. What storms of persecution are raised against the righteous! 2 Tim 3: 12. The wicked are briers, where Christ’s sheep lose some of their golden fleece. Mic 7: 4. Then had we not need pray, Lord, deliver us from being hurt by this evil world? Why should we be forbidden to love the world? Though we are commanded to love our enemies, yet this is an enemy we must not love. ‘Love not the world.’ 1 John 2: 15.
 Let it be observed, however, that abstaining from, or forbearing the external acts of sin, is not sufficient to entitle us to salvation. When we pray, ‘Deliver us from evil,’ more is implied in it, as that we make progress in holiness. Being divorced from sin is not enough, unless we are espoused to virtue; therefore in Scripture these two are joined. ‘Depart from evil, and do good.’ Psa 34: 14; Rom 12: 9. ‘Cease to do evil, learn to do well.’ Isa 1: 16, 17. ‘Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit perfecting holiness.’ 2 Cor 7: 1. Leaving sin is not enough, unless we embrace righteousness. Virtutis est magis honesta agere quam non turpia [The mark of righteousness is rather to do good than not to do evil]. As it is in the body, it is not enough that the disease be stopped, but it must grow in health; so in the soul, it is not enough that acts of sin be forborne, which is stopping a disease, but it must be healthy, and grow in holiness.
Use 1. Those are reproved who labour only to suppress the outward acts of sin, but do not press on to holiness; they cease from doing evil but do not learn to do well. Their religion lies only in negatives; they glory in this, that they are given to no vice, none can charge them with any foul miscarriages. ‘God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are; extortioners, unjust, adulterers.’ Luke 18: 11. This is not enough, you must advance a step further in solid piety. It is not enough that a field be not sown with tares or hemlock, but it must be sown with good seed. Consider two things:
(1) If that you are not guilty of gross sins be the best certificate you have to show, God makes no account of you. Though a piece of brass be not so bad as clay, yet not being so good as silver, it will not pass for current coin; so, though you are not grossly profane, yet not being of the right metal, wanting the stamp of holiness, you will never pass current in heaven.
(2) A man may abstain from evil, yet he may go to hell for not doing good. ‘Every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down, and cast into the fire.’ Matt 3: 10. Why were the foolish virgins shut out? They had done no hurt, they had not broken their lamps: yea, but their fault was, there was no goodness in them, they had no oil in their lamps. O therefore, let us not content ourselves in being free from gross acts of sin, but let us launch forth further in holiness; let us cleanse ourselves from all pollution, perfecting holiness.
 ‘Deliver us from evil,’ may be from temporal evil. We pray that God will either prevent temporal evils or deliver us out of them.
(1) We pray that God will prevent temporal evils; that he will be our screen, to stand between us and danger. ‘Save me from them that persecute me.’ Psa 7: 1. We may lawfully pray against the plots of the wicked, that they may prove abortive, that, though they have a design upon us, they may not have their desire upon us. ‘Keep me from the snares which they have laid for me.’ Psa 141: 9.
(2) We pray that God will deliver us out of temporal evils; that he will remove his judgements from us, whether famine, sword, or pestilence. ‘Remove thy stroke away from me.’ Psa 39: 10. Yet may we pray to be delivered from temporal evils, only so far as God sees it good for us. We may pray to be delivered from the evil of sin absolutely, but we must pray to be delivered from temporal evils conditionally, so far as God sees fit for us, and may stand with his glory.
Use 2. In all the troubles that lie upon us, let us look up to God for ease and succour. ‘Should not a people seek unto their God?’ Isa 8: 19. The Papists, then, are to blame who knock at the wrong door. When they are in any trouble, they pray to the saints to deliver them. When they are in danger of shipwreck, they pray to St Nicholas; when they are in the fit of a fever, they pray to St Petronilla! when they are in travail, they pray to St Margaret. How unlawful it is to invocate saints in prayer I will prove from one Scripture: ‘How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?’ Rom 10: 14. We may pray to none but such as we believe in; but we ought not to believe in any saint, therefore we may not pray to him. The Papists have, in their Lady’s Psalter, directed their prayers for deliverance to the Virgin Mary; Deliver me, O Lady. Benedicta Domina, in manibus tuis reposita est nostra salus; O thou blessed Lady, in thy hands our salvation is laid up. But ‘Abraham be ignorant of us.’ Isa 63: 16. The saints and virgin Mary are ignorant of us.
To pray to saints is idolatry advanced to blasphemy. Our Saviour has taught us in all our distresses to pray to God for a cure. ‘Deliver us from evil.’ He only knows what our troubles are, and can give us help from trouble; he only that laid the burden on can take it off. David went to God: ‘O bring thou me out of my distresses.’ Psa 25: 17. God with a word can heal. ‘He sent his word, and healed them.’ Psa 107: 20. He delivered the three children out of the fiery furnace, Joseph out of prison, Daniel out of the lions’ den; which proves him to be God, because none can deliver as he does. ‘There is no other God that can deliver after this sort.’ Dan 3: 29. Let us, then, in all our straits and exigencies, look to God, and say, ‘Deliver us from evil.’ End
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