« PreviousContinue »
own door, and he hath reason to blame himself for all the evil that he does.
First, That God is not the author of fin, that he is no way acceffary to our faults, either by tempting ar
forcing us to the commission of them. For if he were, they would neither properly be fins, nor could
they be juftly punished. They would not properly be sins, for sin is a contradiction to the will of God; but fuppofing men to be either tempted, or neceffitated thereto, that which we call sin would either be a mere passive obedience to the will of God, or an active compliance with it, but neither way a contradiction to it. Nor could these actions be juftly punished : for all punishment fupposeth a fault, and a fault supposeth liberty and freedom from force and necellity; fo that no man can be justly punished for that which he cannot help, and no man can help that which he is necessitated and compelled to. And though there were no force in the case, but only temptation, yet it would be unreasonable for the fame person to tempt and punish. For as nothing is more contrary to the holiness of God, than to tempt men to fin, so nothing can be more against justice and goodness, than first to draw men into a fault, and then to chastize them for it. So that this is a principle which lies at the bottom of all religion, That God is not the author of the fins of men. And then,
Secondly, That every man's fault lies at his own door, and he has reason enough to blame himself for all ibe evil that he does. And this is that which makes men properly guilty, that when they have done amiss, they are conscious to themselves it was their own act, and they might have done otherwise ; and guilt is that which makes men liable to punishment; and fear of punishment is the great restraint from fin, and one of the principal arguments for virtue and obedi. ence.
And both these principles our Apostle St James does here fully assert in the words which I have read unto you: Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God : for God cannot be' tempted with
evil, neither tempteth he any man. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own luft, and enticed.
In which words these two things are plainly contained.
1. That God doth not tenipt any man to fin: Let no man fay, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth be any man.
2. That every man's fault lies at his own door, and he is his own greatest tempter : But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own luft, and enticed:
I. That God doth not tempt any man to sin: Let no man fay, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither templeth be any man. In which words there are three things to be considered:
1. The proposition which the Apostle here rejects, and that is, That God tempts men: Let no man say, when he is témpied, I'am tempted of God.
2. The manner in which he rejects it : Let no man fay fo. By which manner of speaking, the Apostle insinuates these two things : ift, That men are apt to lay their faults upon God; for when he says, Leti no man say fo, he intimates, that men are apt to say fo, and it is very probable that fome did say so; and, 2dly, That it is not only a fault, but an impious asa sertion, to say that God tempts men. He speaks of it as a thing to be rejected with detestation : Let no mani say; that is, far be it from us to affirm a thing fo. impious and difhonourable to God,
3. The reason and argument that he brings against it : For God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempt. eth he any man.
1. The propofition which the Apostle here rejects, and that is, That God tempts men: Let no man say, . when he is tempied, I am templed of God. Now, that we may the more distinctly understand the meaning of the proposition which the Apostle here rejects, it will be very requisite to consider what temptation is, anda Mm 2
the several forts and kinds of it. To tempt a mang is, in general, nothing else but to make trial of him in any
kind what he will do. In scripture, tempta. tion is commonly confined to the trial of a man's good or bad, of his virtuous or vitious inclinations. But then it is such a trial as endangers a man's virtue, and if he be not well resolved, is likely to overcome it, and to make him fall into fin. So that temptation does always imply something of danger the worst way. And men are thus tempted, either from themselves, or by others; by others chiefly these two ways.
IN, By direct and downright persuasions to sin. zdly, By being bronght into such circumstances as. will greatly endanger their falling into it, though none solicit and persuade them to it.
if, By direct and downright persuasions to fin. Thus the devil tempted our first parents, by repre. senting things fo to them, as might on the one hand: incite them to fin, and on the other hand weaken, and loosen that which was the great curb and restraint. from it. On the one hand he represents to them the advantages they should have by breaking God's command: God doth know, that in the day ye. eat thereof. then your eyes for!l be opened; and ye shall be as gods,, knowing good and evil. On the other hand, he
represents the danger of offending not to be fo great and certain as they imagined : The serpent. said unto the woman, Ye Mall not surely. die. And the devil had so good success. in this way of tempting the first A. dam, as to encourage him to set upon the second, our blessed Saviour, in the fame manner; for he: would have persuaded him to fall down and worship him, by offering him all the kingdoms of the world, and. the glory of them. And thus bad men many tiines tempt others, and endeavour to draw them into the faine wicked courses with themselves. Solomon re. presents to us the manner and the danger of it, Prov. i. 10. 11. 13. 14. My. Jon, if finners entice thee, confent thou not. If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent.with. qut cause : we shall find all precious substance, we mall
fill our houses with spoil: Caft in thy lct amongst us,. let us all have one purse. This is the first way of temptation.
And to be sure God tempts no man this way. He offers no arguments to man to persuade him to fin; he no where proposeth either reward or impunity to finners; but on the contrary gives all imaginable encouragement to obedience, and threatens the tranf. greflion of his law with most dreadful punithments.
2dly, Men are likewife tempted, by being brought into such circumstances, as will greatly endanger their falling into sin, though'none persuade them to it; and this happens two ways: when meni are remarkably beset with the 'allurements of the world, or assaulted with the evils' and calamities' of it ; for either of these conditions are great temptations to men, and make powerful assaults upon them, especially when they fall upon those who are ill disposed before, or are but of a weak virtue and resolution.
The allurements of the world are strong tempta.. tions; riches, and honours, and pleasures; they are the Øtcasions and incentives to many lusts. Honour and greatness, power and authority, over others, especially when men are suddenly lifted up, and from a low condition, are apt to transport men to pride and infolency towards others. Power is a strong liquor which does easily intoxicate weak minds, and make them apt to say and do indecent things. Man that: is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts: that perish; intimating, that men who are exalted to an high condition, are very apt to forget themselves, and to play the fools and beasts. · It requires great consideration, and a well poifed mind, not to be lift. ed up with one's condition. Weak 'heads are apt to'. turn and grow dizzy, when they look down from a, great height:
And so likewise ease and prosperity are a very.. slippery condition to most men, and without great care, do endanger the falling into great fins. So So. lomon observes, Prov. i. 32. For the turning away of the simple shall pay them, and the prosperity of foots
fall destroy them. For this reason Agur maketh his prayer to God, that he would give him neither poperty rör ricles, but keep him in a mean condition, because of the danger of both extremes: Prov. xxx. 8.. 9. Cire me not rickes, left I be full, and deny thee.. Both the eager desire, and the posseflion and enjoy ment of riches, do frequently prove fatal to men. So our Saviour tells us elsewhere very emphaticaily, Matth. xix. 23. 24. Verily I say unto you, that a rich: man Niall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.. Ard again. I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go, through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to en.. ter into the kingdom of Gode St Paul likewise very. fully declares unto us the great danger of this condition, 1 Tim. vi. 9. 10.. But they that will be rich,... fall into temptation, and a snare, and into many fool. ish and hurtful lufts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of muey is: the root of all. evil : which while some coveted after, they have erred. from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
But the greatest bait of all to flesh and blood is sensual pleasures : The very presence and opportunity of these, are apt to kindle the desires, and to inflame. the lufts of men, especially where these temptations meet with suitable tempers, where every spark that falls catcheth,
And on the other hand, the evils and calamities of this world, especially if they threaten or fall, upon men in any degree of extremity, are strong temptations to huinan nature. Poverty. and want, pain and suffering, and the fear of any great evil, especially of death, these are great straits to human nature, and apt to tempt inen to great fins, to impatience and discontent, to unjust and dishonest Mifts, to the forsaking of God, and apostasy from his truth and religion. Agur was fenfible of the dangerous temptation of poverty, and therefore he prays against that; as well as against riches: Give me not pozerty, les being poor 1 steal, and take the name of the Lord my God in vain; that is, left I be tempted to theft and perjury,