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are not as our thoughts, and that the merit of Christ extends itself to the chief of sinners, it is all to no purpose, for his general reply, to this and all other arguments of the like nature, is that this belongs not to him, or his iniquities have excluded him from the divine favour.
3dly, Satan endeavours to hinder a soul at this time, from waiting on God in ordinances. As for the Lord's supper, he not only dissuades him from attending on it, but endeavours to insinuate, that, in partaking of it in times past, he has eat and drunk his own damnation, giving a perverse sense of that scripture, 1 Cor. xi. 29. which, as appears from the context, is not to be applied to weak believers, but to such as engage in this ordinance, in a profane and irreverent manner, as though it were not a divine institution, and without any desire of obtaining spiritual mercies from God therein; and the word which we render damnation, ought to be rendered judgment, denoting that they expose themselves to temporal, as well as spiritual judgments in this world for this wickedness; not that they are from hence to conclude, that their eternal damnation will unavoidably ensue hereupon: And therefore the design of this scripture, is to lead to repentance, and not to despair. As for the word preached, he concludes, that every thing which is delivered therein, contains an indictment against him, and there he cannot endure to hear it: And, as for prayer, Satan discourages him from it, by pretending that he is not in a right frame for the performance of this duty, and by giving a false sense of such scriptures as these, in Prov. xxviii. 9. He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination; and, in chap. xxi. 27. The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination; the meaning of which is, not that the duty itself is sinful because performed by sinners, or that God hates them the more for praying, but that he hates the hypocrisy, formality, and other sins committed by them, when engaged in this duty; so that they should rather strive and pray against this unbecoming frame of spirit, than lay aside the duty itself, as they are tempted to do.
4thly, Satan alse makes use of false reasoning, by which he endeavours to answer this end; as,
[1.] He puts them upon concluding, that because they have no grace, therefore they never shall have it; which method of reasoning, if it were just, must be applied to all unregenerate sinners; and then we must conclude, that the whole work of conversion in this world, is at an end; which, blessed be God, it is not.
[2.] He farther argues, that because they have lived a great while in a course of sin, and their hearts are very much hardened.thereby; therefore they cannot be broken, or their wound is
incurable, and there are no healing medicines; which is to set limits to the almighty power and grace of God.
[3.] Satan farther induces them to conclude, that there is something uncommon in their case, that they are greater sinners than ever obtained mercy, which is more than it is possible for them to know; however, they are tempted to apply this presumptuous and discouraging suggestion to themselves to heighten their despair, and hinder the force of any argument that may be brought to the contrary.
[4.] The most common argument which Satan uses to induce persons to despair, is, that they have sinned against light, and the convictions of their own consciences, grieved and quenched the Spirit of God; and therefore they are inclined to think that they have committed the unpardonable sin. This is often alleged by persons against themselves, though, at the same time, they know not what that sin is, and regard not any thing that is said to convince them, that they have committed it; and, indeed, their very fears that they have, and the desires they express that it were otherwise with them, are an undeniable argument that they are mistaken in the judgment which they pass on themselves, by adhering to Satan's suggestions, leading them to despair *. Thus we have given some account of the great variety of temptations which we are exposed to from the world, the flesh and the Devil. We are now to consider,
Secondly, How we are to pray, that we may not be led into temptation; or, if we are, by what means we may be delivered from the evil consequences that will arise from our compliance therewith. An hour of temptation is not only afflictive, but dangerous, by reason of the united assaults of those enemies that we have to deal with. The world continually presents objects that are agreeable to corrupt nature; and Satan is unwearied in his endeavours, to turn us aside from God thereby, that he may have us in his own power, and drive us from one degree of impiety to another: Therefore, though it is not impossible to be tempted without sin, yet it is exceeding difficult; and therefore, as we are to take heed, that we do not go in the way of temptation; so we are to address ourselves to God, that he would keep us from it, if it be his will.
We are not, indeed, absolutely to pray against it, as we are to pray against sin, which it is not possible for us to commit, without contracting guilt; whereas we may be tempted to sin, and yet come off conquerors over it: But, since
See a particular account what this sin is; and when a person may certainly Bonclude that he has not committed it, ante page 318 to 320.
the enterprize itself is hazardous, the conflict difficult, and the event, with respect to us, uncertain, we should rather desire, that, if God has not some gracious ends to answer thereby, which are, at present, unknown to us, he would be pleased to prevent it. The case is the same as though we were apprehensive of an infectious distemper raging amongst us, which we are to pray against; though God could, by his power, preserve us, in particular, from the ill consequences thereof; or, if we were informed, that an enemy laid wait secretly for our lives, it is possible for God to deliver us out of his hand; yet if the matter were referred to our own choice, we would rather desire that he may not be suffered to assault us. Thus we are to pray, that God would keep us from temptation; though we are not, at the same time, to question his power, or distrust his providence, as though he could not carry us safely through it; which we are to hope that he will do, if he suffers us to be tempted. Neither are we to suppose, that we can be altogether free from those temptations that arise from the imperfection of this present state, in which we must expect to be subject to the perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit: Therefore we are principally to direct our prayers to God, that he would keep us from falling by the temptation, or else, that he would recover us, when fallen, prevent the evils, that would otherwise ensue, and over-rule our sinful compliance therewith, to his own glory, and our future advantage.
1. We are to pray, that he would keep us from falling by the temptation, that it may be like a wave dashing against a rock, which remains unmoved thereby, or like a dart shot against a breast-plate of steel, which only blunts the point thereof, and returns it back without doing any execution. Now God prevents our falling by temptation, either by his restraining or renewing grace: The former of these is common to the regenerate and the unregenerate; and where there is nothing more than this, it chiefly consists in some alteration made in the natural temper, or present inclinations of men, whereby sin, though it remains unmortified, is, nevertheless abstained from, like a river that is kept from overflowing a country, not by ceasing to be fluid in its own nature, but by being contained within its proper banks. These restraints, in some, proceed from that change which providence makes in their outward condition or circumstances in the world; so that those temptations, which, before this, they were so ready to comply with, are either discontinued, or offered without success; as when a person is bowed down with some affliction, that it gives a different turn to his passions, whereby, as Job speaks, the heart is made soft, Job xxiii. 16. in a natural way, by those
troubles that tend to depress the spirits. Sometimes he is unexpectedly surprized with a fit of sickness, which gives him a near view of death and another world, and then the violence of the temptation, for the present, ceases, or at least, he is deterred from complying with it; and it may be, his spirits are decayed, his constitution weakened, and his natural vigour abated hereby, so that he has no inclination to commit some sins which he was formerly addicted to. Others want leisure to pursue those lusts which they are habitually prone to, being engaged in a hurry of business, or conflicting with many difficulties for the subsisting of themselves and families: These are not exposed to those temptations that often attend a slothful and indolent way of living: Or it may be, they are separated from their former associates, who have been partners with them in sin, and tempters to it. And sometimes there is a sudden thought injected into their minds, which fills them with an inward fear and dread of the consequence of committing those sins which are more gross and notorious. This is the result of an awakened conscience; whereby persons are kept from the commission of many sins, by the restraints of common providence, though they are, notwithstanding, in a state of unregeneracy, and sin in general remains unmortified.
But, on the other hand, the believer is preserved from it by the power of sanctifying grace, whereby an habitual inclination is wrought in him, to detest the sin that he is tempted to; and the Spirit of God, by his immediate interposure, internally disposes him to exercise the contrary graces; which proceed from a principle of filial fear and love to God, together with a sense of gratitude for all the benefits that he has received from him; so that in repelling a temptation, he says, with Joseph, How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God, Gen.
2. We are also to pray, that God would prevent those evil consequences, which very often attend such-like temptations; that our hearts may not be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, that we may not willingly yield ourselves bond-slaves to Satan, or take pleasure in those sins which we have been tempted to commit: and that we may not be exposed hereby to divine desertion, how much soever we have deserved it.
3. We are likewise to pray, that God would recover, or bring us out of the pit, into which we are fallen, that hereby Satan may not take occasion, after he has overcome, to insult us, that we may not be given to a perpetual backsliding; but that our souls may be restored, and we led in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake, Psal. xxiii. 3.
4. If we have fallen by a temptation we are farther to pray, that God would over-rule it to his own glory, and our spiritual advantage. Though there be nothing good in sin, yet God can bring good out of it; and this he does when he humbles the soul for it, and makes him afraid of going near the brink of the pit, into which he fell, inclines him to be more watchful, that, by indulging some sins, he may not lay himself open to those temptations that would lead him to the commission of many others. This will also induce him to depend on Christ by faith, as being sensible of his inability to resist the least temptation without him. And it will excite in him the greatest thankfulness to God, who has found a way for his escape out of the snare wherein he was entangled, by which means he will receive abundant advantage, and God will be greatly glorified.
Thus we have considered God's people as exposed to various temptations, and how they are to direct their prayers to him, agreeably thereunto, pursuant to what our Saviour has taught us in this petition; which, that we may farther enlarge upon in our meditations, we may express ourselves to God in prayer to this purpose; "We draw nigh to thee, O our God and "Father, as those who are exposed to many difficulties, by reason of the snares and temptations that attend us. We find "it hard to pass through the world without being allured and "drawn aside from thee, by the vanities thereof, or discou"raged and made uneasy by those afflictions which are inse"parable from this present state: But that which gives us the "greatest ground of distress and trouble, and makes us an 66 easy prey to our spiritual enemies, is, the deceitfulness and "treachery of our own hearts, whereby we are prone to yield "ourselves the servants of sin and Satan. Every age and con"dition of life has been filled with temptations, which we "have been very often overcome by. We therefore implore "the powerful aids of thy grace, that we may be kept in the "hour of temptation. Enable us to overcome the world, to "mortify and subdue our corrupt inclinations, and to stand "against all the wiles and fiery darts of the Devil. Let us "not be tempted to presume of being happy without holiness, "or enjoying the benefits that are purchased by Christ, with"out faith in him. May we also be freed from all unbecom"ing thoughts of thy divine perfections, and not give way to "any temptations that may lead us to despair of thy mercy, "which thou art pleased to extend to the chief of sinners. "We farther beg, though with submission to thy will, that we "may be kept from the temptations of our grand adversary, "because we are sensible of our own weakness and inability to "resist him; nevertheless, we are confident that we can do all