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is it, properly, a trial only, being designed by Him as the means of manifesting our virtue, in order to our receiving the reward of it; but, with respect to the corruption of our hearts, and the abuse that is likely to be made of it, it may, very fitly, be called a temptation also, and a snare. For instance, prosperity and adversity, with respect to God's appointment of them, are intended for the good of the soul; the one, as agreeable food; the other, as an wholesome medicine; and yet nothing, through the craft of the tempter, more likely to prove destructive to the soul than these; the one as a sweet, the other as a bitter, poison. I shall, in this discourse, first shew, that temptations are unavoidable; that, however unavoidable, they are not, through God's assistance, irresistible: and then, how far his Grace may be expected. I. Reason is the distinguishing characteristic of man. God lays good and evil, life and death, before him, leaving the choice of either, entirely, to his own determination. And were there not these different motives proposed to him, to what end were his reason given, or wherein could his liberty be shewn 2 Take away his inducements to vice, and you take away all opportunities of displaying his virtue; for there can be no virtue where there is no opposition; and the greater the opposition is, the greater still the virtue that surmounts it. Temptations are yet, further, necessary, to distinguish good and bad men here, and to proportion their rewards and punishments hereafter. For men differ as much in their tempers, as in their constitutions, their features, or their complexions; and consequently, the temptations must be as various, as the . tempers
tempers are to which they are applied; indeed they would, otherwise, be hardly temptations at all. For instance : grandeur would be no allurement to a covetous man, nor riches to an ambitious' one: that only can be, properly, a temptation to each, which is suitable to the different temper of each. And this is the way whereby God unmasks those that have been long hid from the world, and, perhaps, from themselves too: this is the method by which he distinguishes between constitution and virtue ; between the 6 form of godliness, and the power” of it. It is thus that the truly pious are manifested, by appearing in all circumstances, and upon all events, the same; while others, that fall off upon any trial, shew, that what was considered to be piety, was little better than temper; and that they sinned not before, merely, because they were not, properly, tempted before.
Temptations then, we see, are necessary'; let us next shew, that, however unavoidable, they are not, through God's Grace and assistance, irresistible.
II. Now, the very first notions we conceive of God are, that He is an infinitely holy, just, and good Being. But if you say, God has placed men in a world of temptations to sin, that are unavoidable, and yet irresistible, what is this but to make Him the Author of sin? And if so, where is His holiness ? If you say, He has required our obedience, where our obedience is impossible, as, in case of irresistible temptations it must be, and yet will punish our disobedience, where then is His justice ? Again, if you suppose Him to have made man, knowing before that he would meet with temptations which he could not resist; and yet resolved to punish him, if he did not resist them ; what
is this bụt to make Him delight in the misery of His creatures? And if so, where is His goodness ?
But this supposition is not more contradictory to the nature of God, than to the express words of Scripture. “ The Lord knoweth how to deliver the “ godly qut of temptation. His Grace is sufficient “ for us." And in the text, “Blessed is the man that " endureth temptation; for, when he is tried, he
shall receive the crown of life.” Which words, plainly, shew, that temptations may be endured; the enduring of them could not, otherwise, be made the condition of our receiving the crown of life. The promise of the reward, if we conquer them, must, neçessarily, imply, that it is in our power to conquer them. Nor do the Scriptures only assure us, that temptations may be endured, but furnish us, besides, with many examples of those, who have endured them.
Could afflictions, either severer in themselves, or attended with more aggravating circumstances, befal any man, than what befel Job? And yet they had no other effect upon him, than the winds have upon a strong oak, which, at the same time that they tear off its branches, or shake, perhaps, its trunk, serve but to fix its roots so much the deeper. It was thus, when he saw himself stripped of all the comforts of this life, that he held the faster to that, which was able to sup: port bim in the want of them all, and which, therefore, was more than worth them all, his confidence in the Almighty.
Il were easy to multiply instances; but it, already, appears, both from reason and Scripture, that temptations may be resisted ; and, from example, that they have been: let us next see, how they are resistible,
which, we shall find, is, entirely, owing to God's Grace and assistance.
That there is a general corruption in our nature, it is necessary only, to appeal to every man's experience. This the very best of men feel; and they are the most ready to own and deplore it. And this corruption, which, like a conspirator, is always ready to betray us from within, hath a constant correspondence with numberless temptations, constantly attacking us from without; and all these under the management of a most subtle, and powerful, enemy, who well knows where our weakness lies, and accordingly assaults us there most, where we are least able to defend ourselves. Thus, as the passions have the most prevailing influence over men, he, generally, takes his advantage, first from them; still levelling his attacks against particular persons, from those particular passions, to which they are each of them most subject. He hath his offers of gain for the covetous ; of applause for the vain; and of honor for the ambitious: he seduces one man by his fear, and another by his confidence: he affrights this man from his duty, by multiplying its difficulties, and allures that man into sin, by magnifying its enjoyments. Nay, he is so subtle, as, without our utmost caution, to turn our very virtues into vices. Thus shall he make frugality serve as a cloak for avarice, and liberality for profuseness; turn moderation, in religious matters, into a cool indifference about them, and transport zeal into enthusiasm: in short, be our age, or temper, or circumstances what they will, he hath his peculiar temptations for them all. He is ready to meet us at all times, and in all places; in our business, and in Our
our pleasures; abroad, and at home; in the most public assemblies, and in our most private retirements. And now, after this short survey of our enemy's strength, and our own weakness, it surely must appear, that we have need of some other help than our own to preserve us; and that can be nothing else but the Grace of God, which, the Scripture tells us, is sufficient for us; for that “His strength is made perfect in weak“ness.” So that, be our temptations ever so many or great, yet “greater is He that is in us, than he “ that is in the world. God is faithful, who will “ not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able, “ but will, with the temptation, also, make a way “ to escape, that we may be able to bear it.” There remains but one thing more to be enquired into, how far God's Grace is to be expected; and that is, only, in proportion as we use our own best endeavors. “Blessed is the man that endureth temp“tation, for when he is tried, he shall receive the “ crown of life.” III. God promises such a supply of power, as may enable us to stand our ground; but leaves it to ourselves, whether we will exert that power or not. We are not to imagine, that the Divine Grace is to act upon us as a charm, and preserve us against temptations, whether we will or no; that is contrary to our nature, and to all the principles of reason, and choice; for, whether we were under the influence of irresistible temptations, or irresistible Grace, the consequences were the same; there could, either way, be no liberty; no virtue or vice; no title to reward or punishment. Indeed, there could then be no such thing as a temptation; for trials, which we either cannot resist, or cannot but overcome, are, properly, no trials at all.