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the apostle meant to clear God of tempting men to sin, is that, in which it is impossible he himself should be tempted. This is the obvious import of the words, "God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man." But God is tempted by sinners in every other way possible to his impassible nature, except being actually inclined to sin.-This then is the point asserted. As God cannot be inwardly moved, or inclined to sin, so neither does he inwardly excite or incline any man to it.
2. The apostle expressly states what he here means by tempting: it is being actually inclined or drawn away to sin.-"But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed." This actual inclination, or being drawn away to sin, which he ascribes to man's own lust as the cause, is the kind of tempting he solemnly warns every man not to impute to God as the direct efficient cause.
3. The apostle's argument requires this construction of his words. There either then was a class of men, who, to excuse or palliate their iniquities, pretended that God tempted, solicited, inclined, or inwardly moved them to all the wickedness they perpetrated, or it was foreseen that such mistaken and deluded men would arise at some future period. If neither of these is true, then the text is impertinent and useless. But the very existence of such a warning in sacred writ, implies the existence of such ungodly men. And the fact is, such men did actually infest the Church at an early period. History records at least one instance of excommunication for this offence. They are mentioned by several writers. Macknight in his view and illustration of the exhortations contained in the first chapter of the Epistle of James, passing from the 12th to the 13th verse, says, "The apostle next directed his discourse to the unbelieving part of the nation, (Jews,) and expressly condemned that impious notion, by which many of them, and even some of the Judaizing teachers among the christians, pretended to vindicate their
worst actions, namely, that God tempts men to sin, and is the author of the sinful actions to which he tempts them."
Now we must suppose the apostle not to reason impertinently. He undoubtedly in saying God tempts no man, supposed he had cut off all ground for such an allegation. But is it possible to suppose he would have thought so, if he had really believed, that God did, by a direct operation on the heart of sinners, move, incline, and draw them away to every abomination with which they defile themselves?-Or had he admitted the reality and truth of such a divine operation, could he justly have hoped to have silenced the objector? Is it possible to suppose he could have imagined this caution would have been saying any thing to the purpose, "Let no man say when he is tempted I am tempted of God," if he had really believed that God, by a direct operation on the heart, did move wicked men to all the evil they commit?
4. The mode of the apostle's reasoning, it must seem, would have been very different, bad he ever imbibed the sentiment which we are called to canvass-Dr. Emmons, in his Sermon on Exod. ix, 16, hath these words respecting the agency of God in hardening the heart of Pharaoh. "He determined to operate on his heart itself. When Moses called upon him to let the people go, God stood by him, and moved him to refuse. When Moses interceded for him and procured him respite, God stood by him and moved him to exult in his obstinacy. When the people departed from his kingdom, God stood by him, and moved him to pursue after them with increased malice and revenge."-Here I would query, if a person should come to the Doctor, and say, "God tempts, inclines, moves, and draws me away to all the pride, malice, and wickedness, of which I ever was or ever can be chargeable, I am therefore not at all guilty for any crime I ever commit;" would the Doctor think it a sufficient answer, to say to
this objector, "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God, for God cannot be tempted of evil; neither tempteth he any man?" No; his reasoning would have been of a very different cast.He would have admitted the fact, that God did stand by him, and by a direct operation on his heart move him to all the sin he ever committed; and he would then have gone about to prove, that this neither constituted any apology for his sin, nor reflected any dishonor upon the divine holiness.-But the apostle undertakes nothing of the kind. The difference between the reasoning of the Doctor and the apostle, seems to be this; The latter utterly denies the fact as an impious falsehood. The former admits it as an unquestionable truth, and is concerned only to vindicate the divine character, and to shut up the mouth of the objector in another way. This to me amounts at least to a very strong presumption, that the inspired apostle and the Doctor are of very opposite sentiments in regard to this subject. Let us incorporate the sentiment we call in question with the words of the apostle, and then we will leave it to the judgment of any plain man, of sound sense and discretion, to say, whether it is possible to believe it ever made any part of the apostolical creed.— "Let no man say, when he is tempted or drawn away to sin, I am tempted of God; for although I believe, that neither Satan, nor any external motives, nor instrumentality of second causes, hath any power to raise up in sinners any wicked exercise, unless God operate on the heart itself, to move, incline, and draw it away to sin; yet I know very well, that God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. For then is a man tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lusts, which lusts, it is true, could have no existence in his heart, if God did not, by an immediate positive efficiency, create them, or produce and bring them into being; and enticed by the allurements of external objects, and the false reasonings suggested by Satan, all
which, however, would never be sufficient, without this positive divine agency, to excite one wicked lust in the sinner's heart."-Had the apostle believed the sentiment we oppose, this paraphrase is perfectly just. And then, as to the solidity of his reasoning, or exhortation, or admonition, there can, I think, be but ove opinion.-James i, 16, 17. "Do not err, my beloved Brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift, is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
The apostle here directs his discourse more particularly to the really upright and godly; but what is the error against which he cautions them?
No doubt it is the one just mentioned, of imputing to a divine influence, our being enticed and drawn away to sin. This seems sufficiently evident by his immediately adding, what appeared to him the truth, in opposition to this error.-Dr. Macknight's paraphrase is, therefore, very just.-"Be not deceived, my beloved brethren, into the belief, that God is the author of sin. So far is God from seducing men to sin, (i. e. by outward enticements, or an inward operation on the heart,) that every good gift, whether it be our reasonable faculties, or virtuous dispositions, or outward happy circumstances, and every perfect gift, pardon of sin, the favor of God, and eternal life, is from above, descending from God, the author of all virtue and happiness, with whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning."
James iii, 14-17. "But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." Here is two.
kinds of-wisdom mentioned, one is holiness, the other is sin.-One of these, the Spirit of God by the apostle, declares is from above; and the other is not. Now the principal question is, what is meant by the phrase, "from above." !!!
I do not remember of ever hearing, among pious and godly christians, any doubt suggested as to its import. It seems to be as plain and easy to be understood, as any expression in language. If any man has a doubt, he must have stumbled upon it, through the influence of some favorite system. In chap. i, 16, the apostle says, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above," and explains what he means by these words, by adding, "and cometh down from the Father of lights." And is not the meaning precisely the same in the words before us? And might not the same exegetical clause be here added, "This wisdom descendeth not from above, it cometh not down from the Father of lights." Is not this then the declaration of the Holy Ghost, that holiness cometh from God, but sin does not? Is not this the natural unconstrained sense? Has the church of God ever viewed the matter in a different light?-Now who can possibly believe, that while the apostle discoursed in this manner to his brethren, he confidently believed, at the same time, that sin and wickedness did as much proceed from an inward divine operation on the heart, as holiness? By saying that the wisdom that descendeth from above is first pure, &c. what does he mean but that God is the author, the producer by an inward operation on the heart, of all holy exercises? And when he uses the same phrase in a negative sense, in regard to sin and wickedness, what reasonable ground of doubt can there be, but that his object is, to teach men, that their evil exercises and wicked Justs, are not produced in them by the same agency?
With plain sensible men, this will, no doubt, stand as the obvious meaning of the apostle to the end of the world; and that, in spite of all labored criticism.