« ÎnapoiContinuă »
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 judgment; 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 sinless 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 tempted 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 complying 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
is called that old serpent, which deceiveth the whole world, Rev. xx. 2. and xii. 9. And elsewhere we read of the depths of Satan, chap. ii. 24. that is, his deep-laid designs, and of his wiles, Eph. vi. 11. which it is an hard matter to withstand; and he is sometimes said to be transformed into an angel of light, 2 Cor. xi. 24. when he tempts to sin, under a pretence of our bringing glory to God, as well as good to ourselves and others. And there are other methods he takes, which, though managed with equal subtilty, yet he appears, not as an angel of light, pretending to help us in the way to heaven, but as a roaring lion, rendering himself formidable, and not concealing his design to devour, or make a prey of us, and to fill us with that distress of conscience, that brings us to the very brink of despair: These, as it is probable, the apostle intends by his fiery darts, as contra-distinguished from his wiles. In the former he shews himself a tempter, in the latter, an accuser. These are the usual methods which he takes in managing his temptations: and we shall consider them under four heads;
1. His endeavouring to produce and strengthen the habits of sin.
2. What he does to prevent conviction of sin, or to hinder the efficacy thereof.
3. His discouraging those who are under convictions from closing with Christ by faith. And,
4. His injecting blasphemous and atheistical thoughts into the minds of men, and using endeavours to drive them to despair.
1. Satan endeavours to produce and strengthen the habits of sin. These are generally attained by frequent acts, or by making a progress in sin, by which the heart is more hardened; and it is with greater difficulty that such are reclaimed from it; of them the prophet speaks, when he says, Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots; then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil, Jer. xiii. 23. And in order thereunto, we may observe that he does not usually tempt, at first, to the vilest and most notorious acts of sin, especially where he has ground to suspect that these temptations will not be readily entertained or adhered to; this is the case of those who retain some impressions of a religious education, or are, at present, under the influence of restraining grace: these are first tempted to commit lesser sins before they proceed to greater. He generally begins with tempting to sins of omission, or to formality and indifferency in the performing of religious duties, or by pretending that God gives us some indulgencies or allowance to commit those sins that our natural constitution most inclines us to, and that we have been mistaken, when we have thought that religion is so difficult a
matter as some have pretended it to be; and that we may safely follow a multitude, though it be in doing that, which is in itself sinful; and that we are not to take an estimate of religion, from the apprehensions which some melancholy persons entertain of it; and that strictness in religion, is being righteous overmuch; or striving against the stream, is a needless precaution; and therefore we may consult our own honour and reputation in the world, and give into that scheme of religion that is uppermost; and that denying ourselves, taking up the cross and folowing Christ; though it may be reckoned a safe, yet it is not the only way to heaven. By this means the habits of sin are strengthened, the heart hardened therein, and persons proceed from one degree of impiety to another, till at last, they abandon themselves to every thing that is vile and profligate, and run with others, in all excess of riot. And, that his design may be more effectually carried on, herein he suits his temptations to every age and condition of life. Here we shall consider,
(1.) The method he takes with those who are in the prime and flower of their age: Accordingly these he endeavours to persuade, that it is time enough for them to think of being religious hereafter; and that it is too austere and melancholy a thing for them to pretend to it at present, as what is inconsistent with those pleasures and youthful lusts, which are agreeable to their age and condition of life. If they are children, then he suggests to them, that they have time enough before them; and when they are more advanced in years, they will have a greater degree of understanding, and be better able to take in the force of those arguments that are usually brought to induce persons to lead a religious life; and then they may make choice of it out of judgment. If they are servants, he persuades them, that they have other business on their hands, and that they had better stay till they are free from the engagements which they are, at present, under, to their masters; and, when they are at their own disposal, then it will be the fittest time for them to embrace the ways of God. This temptation carries in it the highest instance of presumption, tends greatly to harden the heart in sin, and has been the ruin of multitudes.
(2.) When persons are come to years of maturity, being no longer children or servants, but about to engage in those secular employments, which they are called to in the world, then he has temptations of another nature to offer to them. He has hitherto kept possession of their hearts, and desired them only to wait for this age of life, and then they would have a more convenient season to lead a religious life; but this convenient season is not yet come; for there are other stratagems which he now makes use of, to keep them in subjection to him, 3 L