9. Temptation

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 5
"Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him."—James 1:1212Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. (James 1:12)
He observes the temper and constitution. Satan will not tempt contrary to the natural disposition and temperament: he makes the wind and tide go together; that way the natural tide of the heart runs, that way the wind of temptation blows. Though the devil cannot know men's thoughts, yet he knows their temper, and accordingly he lays his baits.
Satan observes the fittest time to tempt in; as a cunning angler casts in his angle when the fish will bite best. Satan's time of tempting is usually after an ordinance. When we have been at solemn duties, we are apt to think all is done, and we grow remiss, and leave off that zeal and strictness as before; just as a soldier, who after a battle leaves off his armor, not once dreaming of an enemy. Satan watches his time, and, when we least suspect, then he throws in a temptation.
Satan makes use of near relations; the devil tempts by a proxy: thus he handed over a temptation to Job by his wife, "Dost thou still retain thine integrity?" (Job 2:99Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. (Job 2:9)). A wife in the bosom may be the devil's instrument to tempt to sin.
Satan tempts to evil by them that are good; thus he gives poison in a golden cup. He tempted Christ by Peter. Peter dissuades Him from suffering. Master, pity Thyself. Who would have thought to have found the tempter in the mouth of an apostle?
Satan tempts to sin, under a pretense of religion. He is most to be feared when he transforms himself into an angel of light. He came to Christ with Scripture in his mouth: "It is written." The devil baits his hook with religion.
Peter was tempted to self-confidence, he presumed upon his own strength; and when he would needs stand alone, Christ let him fall: but this wrought for his good, it cost him many a tear. "He went out and wept bitterly" (Matt. 26:7575And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:75)). And now he grows more modest, he durst not say he loved Christ more than the other apostles. "Lovest thou Me more than these?" He durst not say so, his fall broke the neck of his pride.
Satan tempts to sin gradually: as the husbandman digs about the root of a tree, by degrees loosens it, and at last it falls. Satan steals by degrees into the heart; he is at first more plausible; he did not say to Eve at first, 'Eat the apple'; no, but he goes more subtly to work; he puts forth a question, "Hath God said?" (Gen. 3:11Now the serpent was more subtile than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? (Genesis 3:1)); surely, Eve, thou art mistaken; the bountiful God never intended to debar thee one of the best trees of the garden. "Hath God said?" surely, either God did not say it; or, if He did, He never really intended it. Thus by degrees he wrought her to distrust, and then she took of the fruit and ate. O, take heed of Satan's first motions to sin, that seem more plausible. Oppose the beginnings of evil. He is first a fox and then a lion.
It is hard to climb up the hill of God with too many golden weights. Those that want the honors of the world, want the temptations of it. The world is a flattering enemy. The world doth never kiss us, but with an intent to betray us. "Love not the world" (1 John 2:1515Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15)). The sin is not in the using of the world but in the loving. Living fish swim against the stream; so we must swim against the world, else we shall be carried down the stream, and fall into the Dead Sea.
"What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch" (Mark 13:3737And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch. (Mark 13:37)). We must ever keep sentinel. Sleep not upon your guard: our sleeping time is the devil's tempting time. When you have prayed against sin, watch against temptation.
Satan, in tempting, baits his hook with religion. He can hang out Christ's colors and tempt to sin under pretenses of piety. Sometimes he is the white devil, and transforms himself into an angel of light. He wraps his poisonous pills in sugar.
Satan doth not tempt God's children because they have sin in them, but because they have grace in them. Had they no grace he would not disturb them, for where he keeps possession all is in peace (Luke 11:2121When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: (Luke 11:21)). A thief will not assault an empty house, but where he thinks there is treasure. Though to be tempted is a trouble, yet to think why you are tempted is a comfort.
If you would not be overcome by temptation, flee the ((occasions of sin". Occasions of sin have great force to awaken lust within. He that would keep himself free from infection will not come near an infected house. The Nazarite who was forbid wine, might not eat grapes, which might occasion intemperance. Come not near the borders of temptation. Many pray, "Lead us not into temptation", and yet run themselves into temptation.
If you would not be overcome by temptation, be much in prayer. Prayer is the best antidote against temptation. Christ prescribes this remedy, "Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation" (Mark 14:3838Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak. (Mark 14:38)). When Paul had a "messenger of Satan to buffet him", he betook himself to prayer. "For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me" (2 Cor. 12:88For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. (2 Corinthians 12:8)). When Satan assaults furiously let us pray fervently.
If you would not be overcome by temptation, be humble in your own eyes. They are nearest falling who presume on their own strength. The doves, says Pliny, take pride in their flying high, till at last they fly so high, that they become a prey to the hawk; so when men fly high in pride and self-confidence, they become a prey to the tempter.
If you would not be foiled by temptation, do not enter into a dispute with Satan. When Eve began to argue the case with the serpent, the serpent was too hard for her; the devil by his logic disputed her out of Paradise. If you enter into a parley with him, you give him half the victory.
If Adam, in a few hours, sinned himself out of Paradise, how quickly would we sin ourselves into hell, if we were not kept by a greater power than our own! But God puts underneath His everlasting arms.... Christian, thou cant not believe that evil which is in thy heart, and which will break forth suddenly, if God should leave thee. "Is thy servant a dog that he should do this great thing?" (2 Kings 8:13,1513And Hazael said, But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing? And Elisha answered, The Lord hath showed me that thou shalt be king over Syria. (2 Kings 8:13)
15And it came to pass on the morrow, that he took a thick cloth, and dipped it in water, and spread it on his face, so that he died: and Hazael reigned in his stead. (2 Kings 8:15)
). Hazael could not believe he had such a root of bitterness in his heart, that he should rip up the women with child. Is thy servant a dog? Yes, and worse than a dog, when that corruption within is stirred up. If one had come to Peter and said, "Peter, within a few hours thou wilt deny Christ", he would have said, "Is thy servant a dog?" But alas! Peter did not know his own heart, nor how far that corruption within would prevail upon him. The sea may be calm and look clear; but when the wind blows, how it rages and foams! so though now thy heart seems good, yet, when temptation blows, how may sin discover itself, making thee foam with lust and passion. Who would have thought to have found adultery in David, and drunkenness in Noah, and cursing in Job? If God leave a man to himself, how suddenly and scandalously may sin break forth in the holiest men on the earth! "I say unto all, Watch" (Mark 13:3737And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch. (Mark 13:37)). A wandering heart needs a watchful eye.