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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. Ixii. 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 tỏ 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 here1 by tempted to obstinacy and disobedience; as God says by the prophet, to the Israelites, I spake unto thee in thy prospe rity; but thou saidst, I will not hear; This hath been thy manner from thy youth, that thou obeyedst not my voice, Jer. xxii. 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. Ixxiii. 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 shall 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 afflictive 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
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 unregenerate, they are wholly under his power: Therefore conversion: is called a turning them from the power of Satan unto God,
See Quest. LXXVIL
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 containsTM 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.