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out ground. A sanguine and airy constitution often proves a temptation to cast off all serious thoughts about God and another world, and to count religion a needlesss, melancholy and distasteful thing, and to make a jest of what is sacred, and ought to be treated with the utmost reverence; and this temper frequently exposes persons to the pernicious influence of bad company, and induces them to be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. Again, a stupid, plegmatic and heavy constitution, often proves a temptation to negligence in our civil and religious affairs, and not to make provision for a time of trial: Hereby persons are often tempted to neglect holy duties, especially such as are difficult; or to perform them in a careless manner, and so rest in a form of godliness, without the power thereof.
This difference of natural tempers is the reason why we behold lust appearing in different shapes; so that the same temptation that presents itself from without, suits the natural disposition of one who eagerly embraces it, while another is not greatly moved by it. This is what we understand by those temptations which arise from the flesh; and, when we pray against them, it is not to be supposed, that we expect to be perfectly freed from them in this world, in which, as has been elsewhere observed, there are the remnants of sin abiding in every part, even in them that are sanctified, and the perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit. Therefore, when we pray against such-like temptations, we desire,
(1.) That God would restrain and prevent the irregularity and pernicious tendency of our natural temper, which inclines us to those sins which it is most prone to; or that he would keep us from those sins that more easily beset us, by reason of the propensity of our nature to commit them. And,
(2.) That he would sanctify our affections and bring them under the powerful influence of a principle of grace, which may maintain a perpetual opposition to those habits of sin that are daily leading us to turn aside from God, so that, whatever temptations we meet with from objects without us, our souls may be internally fortified against them, and disposed to hate and avoid every thing that is contrary to his holy law, or tends to his dishonour.
2. We shall now consider those temptations that arise from Satan, who is, for this reason, called the tempter, Matt. iv. 3. 1 Thess. vi. 3. and he is also said to enter into, Luke xxii. 3. and fill the hearts of sinners, Acts v. 3. As for the As for the unregenerate, they are wholly under his power: Therefore conversion is called a turning them from the power of Satan unto God,
See Quest. LXXVIĮ.
chap. xxvi. 18. There are, indeed, some who deny that Satan has any hand in those temptations, which we are exposed to; in which they are too much disposed to give into the error of the Sadducees of old. And if they do not expressly deny the existence of spirits, yet they will not allow that they have any thing to do in this world: And, indeed, they think it impossible for the Devil to give us any disturbance, seeing he is shut up in chains of darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day; and, inasmuch as we often read in scripture, of those things that he does against men in this world, they suppose that all these are to be understood in a metaphorical sense, and that nothing else is intended thereby, but the temptations we meet with from men, or from our own lusts: These, according to them, are the only devils that we need to fear. This error they are led into under a pretence of avoiding the contrary extreme of those who seem to lay all the sins they commit, to the Devil's charge, rather than their own; when, probably, he has nothing to do with them, but they wholly proceed from their own corruptions: The middle way between these two extremes, is, as I conceive, much more consonant to scripture and experience, and rather to be acquiesced in. And therefore we shall endeavour to prove, that we are often tempted by Satan, as well as our own lusts; which will appear, if we consider the following propositions.
1st, It is not unreasonable to suppose, that spirits may so far have access to our souls, as to suggest good or bad thoughts; for, being reasonable creatures, it is beyond dispute, that they are able to converse with one another; and, if so, it contains no absurdity to suppose, that they may, some way or other, have conversation with the souls of men, which are capable of having things internally suggested to them, as well as receiving ideas from sensible objects, by means of our bodies, to which they are united. As to the manner how this is done, we pretend not to determine it, since it is sufficient to our present purpose, to make it appear that we are exposed to temptations from Satan, as well as our own selves.
2dly, It is obvious from scripture, that the Devil, and his angels, are conversant in this lower world: And accordingly he is styled, The prince of the power of the air, Eph. ii. 2. the god of this world, 2 Cor. iv. 4. And elsewhere he is said, to walk about, seeking whom he may devour, 1 Pet. v. 8. And whereas it is objected, that this is inconsistent with his being shut up in hell: That may respect principally his state, as being unchangeably separated and banished from God's favourable and comfortable presence; nevertheless, he may suffer him to attempt many things against men in this world, for the trial of the graces of his people, and the punishing of his enemies.
There is, indeed, a place of misery allotted for them, though they may not be, at present, confined to it; which seems to be implied in that request they made to our Saviour, that he would not command them to go into the deep, Luke viii. 31. by which, it is probable, the place of torment is intended, in which they expect to be for ever shut up after the day of judg ment; and therefore they are represented elsewhere, as crying out, Art thou came hither to torment us before the time? Matt. viii. 29.
3dly, Our first parent, in innocency, was tempted by the Devil, who made use of the serpent, by which he is said to speak to Eve, Gen. iii. 1. & seq. as has been proved elsewhere. And our Saviour was also tempted by him, when led by the Spirit into the wilderness for that purpose, Matt. iv. 1. but neither of these could be said to be tempted by the lusts of the flesh, as being inconsistent with that siniess state in which our first parents were before they fell, and our Saviour always was; and, it is certain, that the temptation offered to each of them, was not only objective; but there were words spoken, and a perverse method of reasoning made use of to ensnare them: And they could not be temp.ed by men, for, in this respect, they were alone; it therefore follows, that Satan was the tempter to each of them.
4thly, There are several other scriptures which expressly prove, that Satan has sometimes tempted persons to sin: Thus we read, that he stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number them, 1 Chron. xxi. 1. And elsewhere our Saviour tells the Jews, Ye are of your father the Devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do; that is, you eagerly commit those sins that he tempts you to. It is farther added, that he was a murderer from the beginning; which cannot be understood otherwise than of his murdering man, by tempting him to sin, and prevailing; and it is also said, that he abode not in the truth, and is a liar, and the father of it, John viii. 44. that is, he deceives us by his suggestions, and prevails on us, when comply ing therewith, to deceive ourselves.
This may give us occasion to enquire, how we may distinguish those temptations which take their rise from Satan, from others which proceed from ourselves. This is a very difficult question to be resolved, because our corrupt nature, for the most part, tempts us to the same sins that Satan does; therefore, where there are two causes of the same action, it is hard to distinguish one from the other: As when two candles are set up in the same room, we cannot distinguish the light of one from the light of the other. It is true, if the sins that we are tempted
*See Vol. II. page 94.
to by our lusts, on the one hand, and by Satan on the other, had been described, as being of different kinds, we might more easily determine the difference that there is between them. Or if we had not the least inclination to comply with the temptation, and were able to say, as our Saviour did, The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me, chap. xiv. 30. then we might easily know where to fasten the charge of guilt; and it would be no injustice to exculpate ourselves, and lay the blame wholly on the Devil: But it is far otherwise with us, by reason of the corruption of our nature, which would render us prone to sin, though Satan did not tempt us to it. Therefore, since we often contract guilt by complying with his temptations, in like manner as he does by offering them; it is necessary that something be said, that we may know when the temptation is to be laid at our own door, and when at Satan's, so far as we are able to determine this matter: Therefore, let it be considered,
1st, If we are tempted to those sins which we cannot think of but with the utmost abhorrence; and we are so far from entertaining any pleasure in the thing that we are tempted to, that we take occasion from hence, to express the greatest aversion to it, and would not comply with it for ten thousand worlds; when we count the suggestion an invasion on our souls, an affliction grievous to be borne; and, instead of compliance therewith, are led hereby to the exercise of those graces that are opposite to it: In such-like cases I humbly conceive, we do not incur guilt by being tempted; but the sin is wholly to be charged to Satan. Nevertheless,
2dly, When we are pleased with the temptation, but frequently meditate on the subject-matter thereof, and either commit the sin we are tempted to; or, if we abstain from the commission thereof, it is only out of fear or shame; and when the propensity of our nature leads us, at other times, to those sins which bear some resemblance to it; this argues, that our own lusts, as well as Satan, are joint causes of those sins that ensue hereupon. These things being considered, we shall proceed to speak more particularly concerning Satan's temptations; and, in order thereunto, lay down some things, by way of premisal, which relate to this matter, and then consider the method he takes in managing them.
1. There are some things to be premised in general, concerning Satan's temptations;
(1.) That, though he may tempt to sin, yet he cannot force the will; for then the guilt would devolve wholly on himself and not on us. It would certainly render our condition very miserable, if it were impossible for us to resist his temptations; for this would be to suppose, that we lie at the mercy of him,
who has more power to destroy us than we have to withstand him. Besides this would be to extend the servitude of the will of man beyond its due bounds; for, though it be not free to what is spiritually or supernaturally good, we do not deny but that it is free, as it has a power to avoid many sins, which, upon this supposition, it would be inevitably hurried into. And it would be a reflection on the providence of God, so far to leave man in the hands of Satan, as that hereby he should be laid under a necessity of sinning and perishing without the choice and consent of his own will, and consequently, his destruction could not be said to be of himself.
(2.) Satan's power is not equal to his malice; for he is under divine restraints, and, indeed, can do nothing against believers, but by God's permission. This may be argued from our being obliged to desire that God would keep us from being tempted, that is, restrain the tempter, as well as enable us to resist him; and if it were otherwise, no one could be saved; for Satan's malice is boundless, though he be not suffered to do what it prompts him to. And this is a very great blessing to God's people; as it is a comfortable thing to consider, that they are in his hands, who is a merciful Father; and not in Satan's power, who breathes forth nothing but revenge and cruelty:
(3.) As it is not a sin to be tempted, since our Saviour is said to have been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin, Heb. iv. 15. so on the other hand, when we are pleased, and comply with the temptation, it will be no sufficient excuse for us to allege, that Satan had a great hand in it, since, as we have before observed, he can only tempt, but not force the will; and how formidable soever he may be, by reason of the greatness of his power and malice; yet we have this expedient to make use of, as it should put us upon saying, the Lord rebuke thee Satan.
(5.) There is a vast difference between the condition of those who are converted, and others, who are in an unregenerate state, as to the event and consequence of Satan's temptations. The former, indeed, by reason of the remainders of corruption in them, are oftentimes foiled and overcome thereby; but yet they shall not be wholly destroyed; but God will find out a way for their recovery out of the snare, in which they may, at any time, be entangled: Whereas the latter are wholly under his power, by their own choice and consent, and will remain so, till, by the grace of God they are delivered from the dominion of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of his dear Son. We shall now consider,
2. The method in which Satan manages his temptations, in order to his inducing men to sin. Sometimes he endeavours to ensnare and deceive us by his subtilty: upon which account he