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we may not be brought under his power, or become vassals to him, as complying with his temptations.
Others understand the word in a more large sense, as an intimation of our desire to be delivered from evil of all kinds, and that either from the evil of sin, or the evil of afflictions, which are the consequence of sin. If we take it for a deliverance from the evil of sin; this respects the guile thereof, and the punishment that is due to it; and then it differs little or nothing from the subject-matter of the foregoing petition, when we pray, that God would forgive us our sins; or if, on the other hand, we take it for deliverance from the evil of sin, as it includes in it a branch of sanctification, that is, from the dominion and slavery of sin, then it is well connected with the former petition; for when we pray for pardon of sin, we ought also to pray for deliverance from the reigning power thereof. And it is very well connected with our praying against temptation; for it is, in effect, to desire either that we may not be assaulted by the tempter, or that we may not be drawn aside to sin against God thereby.
As for the evil of affliction, I cannot think that this is intended by this expression, because the opposition between it and our deliverance from temptation, would not appear to be so just as we must suppose it is, unless we take temptation itself to be an affliction; and then it is the same as though we should say, deliver us from temptation, that we may not be afflicted therewith; which we must be supposed to be, by reason of the danger we are in of falling thereby.
By passing by these critical remarks on the sense of the words, Deliver us from evil, we shall consider the subjectmatter of this petition, under two general heads, viz.
First, We shall enquire what are the temptations which we are exposed to.
Secondly, How we are to pray that we may not be led into them; or, if we are, how we may be delivered from the evil consequences that will arise from our compliance with them, which is principally implied in those words, Deliver us from
First, What are those temptations which we are exposed to: These are of various kinds, all which take their rise either from the world, the flesh, or the Devil. Their manner of acting, indeed, is different; yet they are very often united in their assaults, from whence we are in perpetual danger of being overcome, if God, by his grace, is not pleased to interpose.And,
1. We shall consider the temptations that we meet with from the world. These are either such as arise from the solicitations of those whom we converse with therein, who, under
a pretence of friendship, persuade us to sin: Thus we read of some who entice others to lay wait for blood, and desire those whom they would ensnare into this crime, to cast in their lot among them, Prov. i. 10-14. but we are advised, not to consent to, or be confederate with them: Or else they arise from those things in the world which present themselves to us, and are temptations to sin, in an objective way, being not so much. the cause as the occasion thereof; and, in many instances, the use thereof is lawful, while the abuse alone proves hurtful to us: This is what we shall principally confine ourselves to at present, and shew how the good and evil things of the world, or the various conditions in which we are, whether prosperous or adverse, prove temptations to us.
(1.) The good things of the world, or the various conditions in which we are, whether prosperous or adverse, prove temptations to us.
(2.) The good things of the world are sometimes a snare to us, or an occasion of sin, viz. the riches, honours and pleasures thereof: Thus our Saviour speaks, Matt. xiii. 22. of the care of this world, that is, either to gain or increase of it; and the apostle speaks of some who had forsaken the right way, following the way of Balaam, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, 2 Pet. ii. 15. or acted contrary to his conscience for gain; and Felix perverted justice to obtain a bribe, concerning whom it is said, He hoped that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him, Acts xxiv. 16. And we read of others that will be rich, that is, who immoderately pursue the gain of the world, that hereby fall into temptation, and a snare, and many hurtful lusts, 1 Tim. vi. 9. And the honours of the world are a temptation to others; Thus our Saviour says, How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, John v. 44. And others are ensnared by the pleasures of the world, who are stiled lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, 2 Tim. iii. 4.
And, indeed, we often find, that the necessary duties or enjoyments of life, such as eating, drinking, and recreation; and the various relations we stand in to others prove a temptation to us. Many things are so, as they are used unseasonably, immoderately, and without a due regard to the glory of God, which ought to be our highest end in all worldly enjoyments; and, indeed, whatever has a tendency to draw forth our corruption, may be said to be a temptation to us: Sometimes the prosperous condition of others has this effect upon us: Thus Cain, beholding Abel to have a more visible token of the divine regard to his person and offering than he had, hated and slew him, Gen. iv. 5, 9. And Joseph's being a favourite in his father's house, and honoured by God, in having
divine dreams, gave occasion to his brethren to envy him; who first designed to slay him, and afterwards, out of malice, sold him into Egypt. And when Joshua saw Eldad and Medad prophesying, supposing that this belonged only to Moses; and that it was a lessening of his honour, for them to pretend to this privilege, he desires that they might be forbid; but this was plainly a temptation; for Moses gives him a check, intimating that he did not well in envying them for his sake, Numb. xi. 29.
Moreover, we often find, that our own condition in the world, when we enjoy the outward blessings of providence, proves a temptation: Some are like the vessel that is in danger of being overset by having too much sail, and no ballast to keep it steady: In like manner, the abundance of this world, without the grace of God, to sanctify and set bounds to our affections, will oftentimes prove a snare to us. Some are hereby tempted to covetousness, than which, nothing is more preposterous; yet nothing more common. This seems to be supposed in the Psalmist's advice; If riches increase, set not your heart upon them, Psal. lxii. 10. and it is an intimation, that our desires often increase with our substance, so that the more we have, the more we want, and are less disposed to contribute to the necessities of others: We have an instance of this in Nabal, whose answer to the obliging message, sent by David to him, Say ye to him that liveth in prosperity, Peace be both to thee, and peace be to thine house, and peace be unto all that thou hast. Give, I pray thee, whatsoever cometh to thine hand, unto thy servants, and to thy son David, 1 Sam. xxv. 6, 8, 11. argued him to be of a churlish disposition, and that his prosperous circumstances in the world were a temptation to his corruptions, having no sense of gratitude for those favours that he had received from him and his men, while they resided in the wilderness, and were conversant with those that kept his flocks there. It would have been a more plausible excuse, had he alleged the danger that might accrue to him thereby: or, that it was possible that Saul might hear of it, and deal with him as he had done with Abimelech, and the other priests, at Nob, for that small respect that he had shewed him: But this he takes no notice of, but treats him morosely, when he says Shall I take my bread and my water, and my flesh, that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be. This manifested him to be a man of Belial, as Abigail confesses, when she says, Nabal is his name, and folly is with him, ver. 25.
Again, we sometimes find, that a prosperous condition in the world, is a temptation to God's people to presumption and carnal security; as the Psalmist says, In my prosperity I said,
I shall never be moved, Psal. xxx. 6. and the wicked are hereby tempted to obstinacy and disobedience; as God says by the prophet, to the Israelites, I spake unto thee in thy prosperity; but thou saidst, I will not hear; This hath been thy manner from thy youth, that thou obeyedst not my voice, Jer. xxii. 21. And sometimes to pride, haughtiness, and oppression; thus the Psalmist speaks of those who were not in trouble, neither plagued like other men; therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain, violence covereth them as a garment, Psal. lxxiii. 5, 6. We are not, indeed, to suppose, that this is the necessary result of a prosperous state in the world, since that temptation, which is only objective, may be fenced against = But the pernicious tendency thereof arises from the depravity of our nature, and its proneness to abuse the blessings of providence; from whence some take occasion to cast off fear, and put the evil day far from them: Therefore, when we pray, that the world may not prove a temptation to us, we desire, that God would keep us from using any indirect means, either to get or increase our worldly substance, but, on the other hand, enable us to improve it to his glory; and that our affections may not be so much set upon it as to alienate them from him; but that we may make it the matter of our deliberate choice, rather to be deprived of outward blessings, than receive them as our only portion, and, by having our hearts set too much upon them, forfeit, and be denied an interest in, his special and distinguishing love.
(2.) The evil things in the world often prove a temptation to us. By evil things, we mean afflictive providences, which are inseparable from this present state; since man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upwards, Job v. 7. These are either personal or relative; some more immediately from God, others from men, as instruments in his hand: Some arise from the present experience we have of affliction, others from our expectation or fear of future troubles and all these sometimes prove temptations to us, unless God is pleased to interpose in a way of preventing grace, and make them conducive to our spiritual advantage. Now afflictions prove temptations to us,
[1.] When we are discontented and uneasy under the hand of God, complaining of the burdens that he is pleased to lay on us, as though they were insupportable, and it were impossible for us to bear up under them; or, when we are ready to conclude, that no affliction is like ours, and are apt to insinuate, that God hereby deals hardly with us.
[2.] When they disturb or disorder our thoughts, weaken our faith, and unfit us for spiritual meditations, or attending aright on ordinances of God; or when we are more concerned about our afflictions, than about sin the cause of them.
[3.] When we have unbelieving apprehensions concerning the event thereof, concluding that they will certainly end in our ruin; notwithstanding the promises, which God has made of their working together for good, to them that love him.This temptation David was exposed to, when he said, I shali now perish one day by the hand of Saul, 1 Sam. xxvii. 1. which was an ungrounded fear, especially considering the promises that God had given him, and the many experiences he had of his being a help to him in the time of trouble.
[4.] Afflictions are temptations to us, when we take occasion from them to question God's fatherly love, or to conclude, that they are sent in wrath, and are intimations that we are cast off by him, when we have no reason to think so from any thing that there is in the nature of affliction itself; also when we are hindered thereby, from applying those suitable promises which God has made to his people, in like cases, for their comfort and support.
Now when we pray that God would not lead us into temptation, as affictive providences expose us to it, we are to pray against them with submission to the divine will, not as though the removal thereof were of equal importance, or as necessary to our happiness, as the taking away the guilt or power of sin: However, we are to pray, that afflictions may be sanctified to us; and that corrupt nature may not take occasion from them, to have unbecoming thoughts of God; but that we may hereby be led nearer to him, that so they may not prove a temptation to us, or at least, that with the temptation, he would make a way for our escape.
2. Another sort of temptations proceed from the flesh, which are the greatest and most dangerous of all. The apostle speaks of them as though they were the only temptations, when he says, Every man is tempted when he is drawn aside of his own lust, and enticed, James i. 14. since all others might, without much difficulty, be resisted and overcome, were there not a corrupt disposition in our nature, which the apostle calls lust, that inclines us to adhere to, and comply with them. This consists in the irregularity and disorder of our passions; which are not only prone to rebel against God, but to act contrary to the dictates of our own consciences, which is the result of our fallen state; and the temptations are oftentimes various, according to the prevailing bias of our natural temper. A melancholy constitution sometimes inclines us to slavish fears, or distrust of God's providence; or to have such black and dismal apprehensions of our spiritual concerns, that we are led to the very brink of despair. A choleric temper prompts us to revenge, injustice, and oppression, and puts us upon magnifying small offences, and expressing a furious resentment with