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gaining fome benefit or advantage, or in the fear of falling into some mischiet or inconvenience. Now the divine nature being pertcaly happy, and perfectly fecured in its own happiness, is out of the reach of any of these temptations. Men are many times tenipted to evil very strongly by these cor.liderations; they want many things to make them happy, and they fear many things which may make them milerable; and the hopes of the one, and the fears of the other, are apt to work very powerfully upon thein, to ieduce them from their duty, and to draw them to fin: but the divine nature is firm againit all these attempts; by its own fulness and security. So that you see nowy the proposition upon which the Apostle grounds his argument, is evidently true, and beyond all exception, that God canrot be tempted with evil.
Let us then, in the
(2) Second place, consider the consequence that clearly follows from it, that because God cannot be tempted with evil, therefore he cannot tempt any man to it. For why should he desire to draw men into that which he himself abhors, and which is to contrary to his own nature and disposition ? When men tempt one another to sin, they do it to make uthers like themselves : and when the devil tempts men to fin, it is either out of direct malice to God, cr out of envy to men. But none of these considerations can have any place in God, or be any motive to him to tempt men to fin.
Bad men tempt others to fin, to make them like themselves, and that with one of these two designs ; either for the comfort or plealiire of company, or for the countenance of it, that there may be fome kind of apology and excuse for them,
For the comfort and pleature of company. Man does not love to be alone; and for this reason bad men endeavour to make others like themselves, that agreeing with them in the same disposition and manners, they may be fit company ior them. For no man takes pleasure in the society and conversation of those who are of contrary tempers and in ations to them, because they are continually warring
and clashing with one another. And for this reason bad men hate and persecute those that are good : Let us lie in wait (say they) for the righteous, because he is not for our turn, and he is contrary to our doings ; he is grievous unto us even to behold; for his life is not like other mens, and his ways are of another fashion ; as it is expressed in the Wisdom of Solomon. So that wicked men tempt others to fin, that they may have the pleasure and contentment of their society. But now for this reason God cannot be imagined to tempt men to fin; because that would be the way to make them unlike himself, and such as his soul could take no pleasure in.
Another design that bad men have in seducing others to fin, is thereby to give countenance to their bad actions, and to be some kind of excufe and apo. logy for them. Among men, the multitude of 'offenders does sometimes procure impunity, but it als ways gives countenance to vice; and men are apt to alledge it in their excuse, that they are not alone guilty of such a fault, that they did not do it without company and example ; which is the reason of that law, Exod. xxiii. 2. Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; implying, that men are very apt to take encouragement to any thing that is bad, from com. pany and example. But neither hath this reason any place in God, who being far from doing evil himself, can have no reason to tempt others to do so, by way of excuse and vindication of himself.
And when the devil tempts men to sin, it is either out of direct malice to God, or out of envy to men. Out of malice to God, to spoil his workmanship, and to pervert that which came innocent and upright out of his hands; to rob God of his subjects, and to debauch them from their duty and allegiance to him ; to strengthen the rebellion which he has raised against God, and to make him as many enemies as he can: But for this end God cannot tempt any man; for this would be to procure dishonour to himself, and to de. face the work of his own hands.
Another reason why the devil tempts men, is en. vy. When he was fallen from God, and happiness;
and by his own rebellion had made himself miserable, he was discontented to see the happy condition of man; and it grieved kim at his very heart; and this moved him to tempt man to sin, that he might involve him in the same misery into which he had plunged himfelf. It is a pleasure to envy to overturn the happi. ness of others, and to lay them level with themselves. But the divine nature is full of goodness, and delights in the happiness of all his creatures. His own incom. parable felicity has placed him as much above any temptation to envying others, as above any occasion of being contemned by them. He grudges no man's happiness, and therefore cannot tempt men to fin out of a desire to see them miserable. So that none of those considerations which move the devil to tempt men to fin, and evil men to tempt one another to do wickedly, can be imagined to have any place in God.
And thus you see the force of the Apostle's argu. ment, that because God cannot be tempted to evil, therefore he can tempt no man. None tempt others to be bad, but those who are first fo themselves. I shall now,
2dly, Consider the nature and kind of the argu. ment which the Apostle here ufeth, Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tenipted with evil, neither tempteth he any
He does not reject this impious propofition barely upon his own authority; but he argues against it from the nature and perfection of God; and there. in appeals to the common notions of mankind concerning God. We might very well have rested in his authority, being an Apostle commissioned by our Saviour, and extraordinarily affifted and witnessed to by the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost, wherewith he was endued. But he condescends to give a reason of what he says, and appeals to the common principles of mankind. For all men will readily agree to this, that God hath all imaginable perfection : but it is a plain imperfection to be liable to be tempted to evil, and therefore God cannot be tempted to evil, And if so, it is as impossible
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that he mould tempt others to it; for none can have either an inclination or interest to seduce others to evil, but those who have been first feduced to it themselves;
Now in this method of arguing, the Apostle teacheth us one of the surest ways of reasoning in religion; namely, from the natural notions which men Have of God. So that all doctrines plainly contrary to those natural notions which men have of God, are to be rejected, what authority foever they pretend to. Whatever plainly derogates from the goodness or justice of God, or any other of his perfections, is certainly false, what authority foever it may claim from the judgement of learned and pious men; yea though it pretend to be countenanced from the texts and expressions of holy scripture; because nothing can be entertained as a divine revelation which plainly contradicts the common natural notions which mankind have of God. For all reasoning about divine revelation, and whether that which pretends to be so, be really fo or not, is to be governed by those natural notions. And if any thing that pretends to be a revelation from God, should teach men that there. is no God, or that he is not wise, and good, and just, and powerful, this is reason enough to reject it, how confident soever the pretence be, that it is a divine revelation.
And if any thing be, upon good grounds in reafon, received for a divine revelation, (as the holy fcriptures are amongst Chriftians), no man ought to be regarded, who from thence pretends to maintain any doctrine contrary to the natural notions which men have of God; such as clearly contradict his ho. liness, or goodness, or justice, or do by plain and undeniable consequence make God the author of fin, or the like; because the very attempt to prove any such thing out of the scripture, does strike at the divine authority of those books. For if they be from God, it is certain they can contain no such thing. So that no man ought to suffer himself to be seduced into any such opinions, upon pretence that there are expreffions in scripture which seem to
countenance them. For if they really did so, the consequence would not be the confirming of fuch opinions, but the weakening of the authority of the scripture itself; for just so many arguments as any man can draw from Icripture for any luch opinion, so many weapons he puts into the hands of Atheists against the scripture itself.
I do not speak this, as if I thought there were any ground from scripture for any such doctrine; I am very certain there is not. And if there be any particular expressions which, to prejudiced men, may seem to import any such thing, every man ought to govern himself in the interpretation of such passages, by what is clear and plain, and agreeable to the main scope and tenor of the Bible, and to those natural no. tions which men have of God, and of his perfections, For when all is done, this is one of the furest ways of reasoning in religion; and whoever guides himself, and steers by this compafs, can never err much: but whoever íuffers himself to be led away by the appearance of some more obscure phrases in the expressions of scripture, and the glosses of men upon them, without regard to this rule, may run into the greatest delufions, may wander eternally, and lose himself in one mistake after another, and shall never find his way out of this endless labyrinth, but by this clue.
If St James had not been an apostle, the argument which he used would have convinced any reasonable man, that God tempts no man to fin, because he cannot be tempted with evil himself, and therefore it is is un. reasonable to imagine he thould tempt any man: for he argues from such a principle, as all mankind will, at first hearing, aflent to.
And thus I have done with the first thing asserted by the Apostle here in the text, That God tempts no man to fin. Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God.: for God cannot be tempt. ed of evil, neither tempteth be any man. Before I proceed to the second assertion, That every man is. his own greatest tempter, I should draw some ufe. ful inferences from what has been already delivered::.