Page images

fu u, de bu de th th in ti fir ac th

WY M to

one where at once : so that his malice at the utmost does only all the evil that it can, not all that it would; he plies where he has the best custom, where he has the fairest opportunity, and the greatest hopes; he leaves men many times for a seafon, as (it is faid) he did our Saviour, because he despairs of success at that time; and it may be sometimes when he is gones these persons grow fecure, and through their own fecurity and folly fall into those fins which the devil; with all his baits and wiles, whilst they were upon their guard, could not tempt them to commit.

Others, after he has made them sure, and put them into the

way of it, will go on of themselves, and are as mad of finning, and as forward to destroy themfelves, as the devil himself could wish; so that he can hardly tempt men to any wickedness, which he does not find them inclined to of themfelves. These he can trust with themselves, and leave them to their own inclinations and conduct, finding by experience that they will do as ill things of their own motion; as if Satan stood continually at their right hand to prompt them, and put them on; so that he can go. into a far country, and employ himself elsewhere, and leave them for a long time, being confident that in his absence they will not bury their talent, and hide it in a napkin, but will improve it to a great ad. vantage. And I wish that our own age did not afford us too many instances of this kind, of such forward and expert sinners, as need no tempter either to instruct or excite them to tha which is evil. Now in this case the devil betakes himself to other persons; and removes his snares and baits where he thinks there is more need and occasion for them.

So that we may reasonably conclude, that there is a great deal of wickedness committed in the world, which the devil hath no immediate hand in, though he always rejoiceth in it when it is done ; and that there is a great deal more reason to attribute all good to the motions and operations of the Spirit of God, thánto ascribe all sin and wickedness in the world to the devil ; because the Spirit of God is more power:


[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

ful, and is always every where, and is more intend upon his design, and as forward to promote it, as the devil can be to carry on his work ; day, I doubt not but he is more active to excite men to good, than the devil can be to tempt them to evil. And yet for all this, I think there is no great reason to doubt, but that good men do many good actions of their own inclination, without any special and immediate mo. tion, from the Spirit of God. They are indeed at first regenerate, and fanctified by the Holy Ghost, and are continually afterwards under the conduct of the fame Spirit: but where there is a new nature, it, is of itself inclinable to that which is good, and will bring forth fruits, and do actions answerable, Much less do I think that the devil tempts every man to all the evil that he does, or the greatest part: When the lufts of men, and the habits of vice, are grown strong and confirmed; the devil may spare his temptations in a great measure.; for after wicked. men are wound up to such a pitch: of impiety, they will go a great while of themselves.

I have done with the first observation, That as the Apostle acquits God from having any hand in tempting men to fin, fo neither does he ascribe the efficacy: and prevalency of temptation to the devil, I proceed to the

2. Second observation, That he ascribes the efficacy and success of temptation to the lufts and vitious in-, clinations of men, which seduce them to a consent and compliance with the temptations which are of. fered to them : Every man is tempted, when he is. drawn away of his own luft, and enticed. We have many powerful enemies; but we are much more in danger of treachery from within, than of affaults from without. All the power of our enemies could not de. Atroy us if we were but true to ourselves ; so that the Apostle had great reason to ascribe the efficacy of temptation, to the irregular desires and vitious, inclinations of men, rather than to those temptations, which the providence of God permits them to be af:


[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

faulted with, and consequently to lay the blame of mens fins chiefly upon themselves.

And that chiefly upon these two accounts:

ist, Because the lufts of men are in a great measure voluntary.

2.dly, God hath put it in our power to resist those temptations, and overcome them. Now, so far as the luits of men are voluntary; it is their own fault that they are seduced by them; and if God hath put it in our power to refilt and overcome temptations, we may blame ourselves if we be overcome and foiled by them.

ist, The lufts of men are in a great measure voIuntary. By the lusts of inen, I mean their irregular desires, and vitious inclinations. I grant that the nature of man is very much corrupted, and degenerated from its primitive integrity and perfection : but we who are Christians have received that grace in baptism, whereby our "natures are fo far healed, as if we be not wanting to ourselves, and do not neglect the means which God hath appointed to us, we may mor. tify our lusts, and live a new life; so that if our lufts remain unmortified, we ourselves are in fault, much more if they gain new strength, and proceed to habits; for this could not be, if we did not, after we come to age, and are able to discern between, and to chuse good and evil, voluntarily consent to iniquity, and, by wilful and deliberate practice of known sins, improve the evil inclinations of our nature into vitious habits : But if, instead of mortifying and subu duing the evil propenfions of our nature, (which is no very difficult work to most persons, if they begin it betimes), we will cherish and give new life and power to them; we forfeit the grace which we received in baptism, and bring ourselves again under the power and dominion of fin; and no wonder then if our lufts seduce us, and make us ready to comply with the temptations of the world and the devil.

Nay, and after this it is still our own fault, if we do not mortify our lusts; for if we would hearken to the counsel of God, and obey his calls to repentance,


[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

and sincerely beg his grace and Holy Spirit to this purpose, we might yet recover ourselves, and by the Spirit mortifs the lusts of the Helio; for though we have left God, he hath not quite forfaken us, but is ready to afford his grace again to us, though we have neglected and abused it, and to give his Holy Spirit to those that ask him, though they have forfeited it: so that though our lufts spring from fomething which is natural, yet that they live and have dominion over us, is voluntary, because we might remedy it if we would, and make use of those means which God in the gospel offers to us.

2dly, God hath put it in our power to resist these temptations, and overcome them; so that it is our own fault if we yield to them, and be overcome by them.

It is naturally in our power to resist many sorts of temptations; and the grace of God, if we do not neglect it, and be not wanting to ourselves, puts it into our power to refift any temptation that may happen to us.

(1) It is naturally in our power to resist many forts of temptations. If we do but make use of our natural reason, and those considerations which arę common and obvious to men, we may easily resist the temptations to a great many sins.

Some fins are so horrid in their nature, that when we have the strongest temptations to them, we cannot but have a natural aversion from them; as deliberate murder, the danger and guilt whereof are both so great, as make it easy for any considerate man to resist the strongest temptation to it, even that of revenge. A plain act of injustice, whether by great fraud, or by downright oppression, is so base and disgraceful, fo odious and abhorred by hụman nature, that it is not difficult to a man that hath but a common understanding, and common inclination to be honest, to overcome the greatest temptation of gain and advantage; nay, he must offer considerable violence to his nature and reason to bring himself to it at first. Profaneness, and contempt of God and religion, is so monstrous a fault, and of' so dreadful an appearance, that every man


[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

that will but use his reason, can have no temptation to it, either from gratifying his humour, or pleasing his company, or ihewing his wit, that can be of é qual force with the arguments which every man's mind and conscience is apt to suggest to him against it.

Nay, there are many fins much inferior to these, the temptations whereto may, by the ordinary reasons and confiderations of prudence and interest, be baffled and put out of countenance.

To instance in common fwearing, to which I think there is no temptation, either from pleasure or advantage, but only from fashion and custom. Now this temptation is easy to be conquered, by considering that every man that profefseth to believe the Bible, mutt acknowledge it to be a sin; and if any man be convinced that it is a sin, I dare undertake to convince him that he can leave it. He that can chuse at any time whether he will speak or not, (which it is certainly in every man's power to do), can chuse whether he will swear when he speaks. If he says he does it by custom and habit, and when he does not think of it, a very little care and resolution will in a short time cure any man of that custom; so that it is naturally in every man's power to break off this sin.

(2) The grace of God puts it into our power, if we do not neglect it, and be not wanting to ourfelves, to refilt any temptation that may happen to as; and what the grace of God puts into our power, is as truly in our power as what we can do ourselves. God offers his grace to every man under the gospel, for he has promised to give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him ; and it is naturally, in every man's power to ask it, otherwise the promise:signifies nothing : for if no man can ask the Spirit of God till he firšt have it, then to promise it to them that ask it, is to promise it to them who have it already, and then it is needless to ask it. And if God offer his grace to every man, then it is.every man's fault if he wave it not; and every inan that hath it, may, ty. the ordinary aslistance of that grace, refift any ordinary temp. tation. And if at any time God suffers good men


[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »