The Watchful Spirit of the Lord’s Prayer
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The WATCHFUL Spirit of the Lord's Prayer.
"Lead us not into temptation." Matthew 6:13
This solemn petition--perhaps the most solemn one of the whole prayer--would appear a natural and impressive consequence of the preceding one for forgiveness. In the contemplation of that petition, the mind was necessarily led into a deep and grave consideration of sin in its various forms, and of the confession of sin in its minute detail, and of the forgiveness of sin in its daily renewal.
Passing from that theme, it would seem as if the next utterance of the wakeful, tremulous heart would be, "Lord, lead me not into temptation. If such is sin; if such the sore penitence to which its commission leads, and such the humiliating acknowledgment in which it results, and such the costly pardon--the price of blood--which its guilt demands, Lord, keep me, fence me, surround me; that, having been washed every whit clean, I may tread no path, be placed in no position whereby I may be exposed to the power of temptations which I cannot evade, whose strength I cannot resist, and thus relapse from my high and holy walk with You. You have given me absolution from sin, but no indulgence to sin. I would be as free from the tyranny as from the condemnation of sin, and would find my most precious, powerful, and persuasive motive to seek after the attainment of holiness in Your full, and free, and most loving forgiveness. Having washed my feet, how shall I defile them!"
The present scene of the Christian is a scene of temptation. One is almost led to inquire, 'When has it not been?' Even in the paradisiacal age of the world and history of the Church it was so. Who would have thought of temptation lurking in the leafy bowers, and of the serpent's trail along the sylvan walks of Eden? And yet thus it was. Strange to say, that dark deluge of evil which for centuries has rolled its angry billows over the earth, bearing myriads on its bosom to the ocean of a forfeited and dreadful eternity, had its rise in a yet unsinning paradise. Behold our primal parents! Stately trees of righteousness, beauteous plants of paradise! Yet the enemy came in like a flood, and swept them before its powerful and resistless force. Thus there never has been a scene of our humanity, or an era in the history of the world, in which the people of God have been exempt from temptation.
But much more is this the case now. How should it, in the nature of things, be otherwise? MAN is a fallen being. He is, by nature, one unmitigated mass of sin, there dwelling in the flesh no good thing. The WORLD, with all its landscape beauty, its mountain grandeur, its Alpine sublimity, its countless forms of loveliness, is a sin-tainted, curse-blighted world. More than this, it is Satan's empire--where he holds his seat, rules, and reigns by God's permission, over myriads of the human race, until Christ shall come to overthrow his sovereignty, and will make all things new.
Such is the solemn truth which underlies the whole remedial scheme of the gospel of the blessed God. But do our legislators, our philosophers, our educationists, and even some of the ministers of religion, clearly see, fully recognize, and broadly enunciate these facts--that man is totally fallen, and the world wholly corrupt? No, to a great degree, the legislation, and the education, and the preaching of the day is a solemn ignoring of these truths. But not so those who are enlightened by the truth and the Spirit of God. The wonder to them is, not that man is so sinful, but that, by the grace of God, he should become so holy. Not that the world is so evil, but that, by the restraints of God's power, it should be so good. Such is the scene through which the believer passes to heaven. His road homewards is across the enemy's country; his path to glory winds its way through a world lying in the wicked one. Is it any marvel that the present state of the Christian should be of universal and incessant temptation? But let us particularize.
The word "temptation" sometimes signifies TRIAL. God's people are a tried people. Trial is that process by which the Christian is tested--his religion, his principles, his hope, are brought to the proof. It is in this sense we first regard the process to which the believer is subjected, more immediately by GOD HIMSELF. In Genesis 22 we read, "God testedAbraham." In the Epistle to the Hebrews we find the significance of the word, "By faith Abraham, when he was tried." And again, "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test." Now, in this important sense, God may be said to TRY His people. He sometimes, as in the case of Job, unchains, as it were, the enemy for a little while, permitting him to come in like a flood, to worry and annoy the believer.
And, again, God may permit inbred corruptions to have a measured and momentary power over the believer, and then sin seems, for the time, to be in the ascendant.
Once more, God may allow His child to pass through a great fight of affliction, for "the Lord tries the righteous," and by this process subject him to great and severe temptation. But all this springs from the depths of His infinite wisdom and love!
TWO OBJECTS He thus seeks to accomplish. The first is the unfolding of His own character in the eyes of His people. God remembers that, even at best, how limited is our knowledge of Him; but how much smaller the measurement that is not gauged by the test of trial. We know Him revealedly in His Word; we know Him symbolically by His providence; but it is in the school of His direct and personal dealings with us, and of our direct and personal dealings with Him, that His character is the most experimentally unfolded, His perfections are the most distinctly made known, and His glory passes before our eye. To this end God tries us. "Show me now Your ways, that I may know You."
Thus, in all our temptations and trials, we trace His wisdom in ordaining, His sovereignty in permitting, His power in controlling, His faithfulness in directing, and His love in soothing us. And Jesus, the tried Stone, becomes better known, and more intensely endeared, in one fiery temptation, in one severe trial, than, perhaps, in all the passing events of our history combined.
The second object God would compass is, our personal benefit. Our personal religion advances in the same ratio with our spiritual and experimental acquaintance with God in Christ Jesus. By the process of temptation or trial to which He subjects us, we know ourselves better, are more deeply instructed in the knowledge of the word, are emptied, humbled, proved; are taught our own weakness, learn wherein our great strength lies, and that, upheld only by the power of God, we are kept from falling and are preserved unto His kingdom and glory.
By this process, also, the work of moral purification advances--the alloy is consumed, the vile is eliminated from the precious, and the believer emerges from the season of temptation--tried, purified, and made white. "Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer." Placed in the furnace, it may be, in the mass, shapeless and unlovely, such the wondrous transformation, it comes forth a vessel divinely molded, symmetrically formed, exquisitely pencilled--a vessel of honor fit for the Master's use.
Thus are we to interpret God's more immediate hand in the temptations or trials of His saints. But there are other sources of temptation to which the saints are exposed.
There are the temptations that arise from the power of SATAN. It is astounding what opposite and what false views men entertain of the devil. There are ill-informed and timid religionists who almost deify him, by ascribing to him the attributes of omniscience and omnipresence which belong alone to God. Then there are those who, in this Sadducean age, go far to deny his very existence, or who, if admitting that there is a devil, divest him of his power and wrest from him his influence. Oh, it is a solemn thing to trifle with the Evil One, either by exalting his attributes, or by ignoring his existence. But he is the great tempter and accuser of the brethren. Our first parents fell like stately cedars before his arm, and we, the offspring of a fallen father, who, like the tinder, are ready to ignite with every spark that is struck, are not exempt from his fiery darts.
No more, if our merciful High Priest was in all points tempted like as we from this very source, who are we to expect exemption from his assaults? Be not, then, dismayed at the skeptical doubts he insinuates, at the bold blasphemies he suggests, at the profane and impure thoughts he engenders, or at any mode by which he assails the foundation of your faith, and tempts you to give up Christ and cast away your confidence. There is not a moment that he is not plotting your downfall, but there is not a moment that Christ is not upholding you on earth and interceding for you in heaven.
Then there is the believer's temptation from the WORLD. We must pass through it, for there is no escape. It is the empire of the Evil One, and it is the empire of evil. It is essentially and emphatically an evil world, all its works evil, and nothing but evil. The ungodliness of the world is appalling. Whether we view it in its savage or its civilized state, in its refined or its gross forms of society, "we know that the whole world lies in wickedness," or, in the wicked one. Thus from every quarter is the world a snare and a temptation to the God's children. Awed by its frowns we may be dissuaded from taking up Christ's cross, seduced by its smiles we may be persuaded to lay it down. Our very circumstances in life may expose us to peculiar temptation. Affluence may ensnare us into wasteful extravagance and worldly living; poverty may tempt us to depart from strict uprightness and integrity; a moderate position may tempt us to better ourselves by wild and ruinous speculation.
And then there is the worldliness of the world--how powerful and ever-present a snare is this to the child of God. "Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world," is the sad record of many a religious professor once standing so high, but now swept away and no more walking with Jesus, by the resistless current of the world's gaieties, the world's enterprises, and even the world's religion.
But what a scene of temptation is there WITHIN THE CHRISTIAN. It is here--perhaps a foe, a spy, or a traitor within the citadel--his greatest danger lies. From this there is no escape. "The sin that dwells in us" is that lurking spy, the wicked heart throbbing within our breast, "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked," is that concealed traitor. From this, I reiterate, there is no escape. Go where we may, plunge into the pathless desert, escape to the mountain solitudes, hide in the caves of the earth, buried in a monastery, imprisoned in a nunnery, immured in a hermit's cell, still the traitor lurks within, prepared, at any moment, to open the gate and admit the besieging foe.
In the eloquent words of a writer already quoted, "In no scene of earth, in no condition, are we exempt from the incursions of temptation. If we flee to the desert, and avoid the sight of our fellow-creatures' face, we bear there the fiend within; we cannot bar out the indwelling devil. The gratings of the monastery cannot exclude the wings of the fallen seraph, nor solitude sanctify the unregenerate heart. In the garden or the grove, the palace or the hermitage, the crowded city or the howling wilderness, SIN tracks us and SELF haunts us. If the poor are tempted to envy and dishonesty; the rich, as Agur testified, are equally endangered by pride and luxury. If the man of ten talents is puffed up with self-confidence and arrogant impiety, the man of one talent is prone to bury slothfully the portion entrusted to him in the earth, and then to quarrel with its Holy Giver. The great adversary has in every scene his snares, and varies his baits for every age and variety of condition and character. Each man and child has his besetting sin. The rash and the cautious, the young and the old, the crude and the educated, the visitant of the sanctuary and the open neglecter of it, the profane and the devout, the lover of solitude and the lover of society--all have their snares. Satan can misquote Scripture and misinterpret providence, and preach presumption or despair, heresy or superstition, or infidelity, as he finds best. He can assume the sage, the sophist, or the buffoon, the religionist or the statesman at will. He spares not spiritual greatness. Paul was buffeted. The most eminent of God's saints, of the Old Testament and the New--Noah, Abraham, David, Hezekiah, and the apostles, have suffered by him. He spares not the season of highest spiritual profiting. Before you rise from your knees, his suggestions crowd the devout heart. Before the sanctuary is left, his emissaries, as birds of the air, glean away the scattered seeds of truth from the memory. When our Lord Himself had been, at His baptism, proved from heaven as the Son of God, He was led away by the Spirit in the wilderness to be tempted. And how often does some fiery dart pound on the Christian's armor, just after some season of richest communion with his God. Descend from the mount of revelation with Moses, and at its foot is an idolatrous camp dancing around a golden calf. Come down with entranced apostles from the Mount of Transfiguration; and the world whom there you encounter, are a grief to the Holy One by their unbelieving cavils. As John Newton pithily said--'It is the man bringing his dividend from the bank door who has most cause to dread the pilferer's hand.'
Yes, temptation spared not Christ Himself. Even His mother and brethren tempted Him, when the one would prescribe to Him the season and scene of putting forth His veiled godhead at the marriage-feast of Cana of Galilee; and when the other would have hurried the hour of His going up to the temple at Jerusalem. Disciples tempted Him when they cried, 'Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!', to His predictions of His mediatorial sufferings; and quarreled about the division of seats in His kingdom. The multitude tempted Him when they would be received as the disciples, not of His truth, but of His loaves, and were eager to force upon the 'Antagonist of all carnalism in religion' a carnal crown, and a carnal throne, and a carnal policy. The lawyer and the Pharisees tempted Him with questions as to the tribute-money for Caesar, and as to the weightiest matters of the law, and as to the sanctity of the Sabbath and the temple; and the Sadducee continued the work on another side with cavils as to the resurrection and the law of divorce. Satan buffeted Him at the introduction of His public ministry; and, as we gather from the prophetic Psalms, at the close of Christ's earthly course renewed his assaults by the most ferocious onset, when 'the bulls of Bashan and the dogs' of hell bellowed and howled against the meek and Atoning Lamb. Describing His own career, and bidding farewell to His little flock, He called them those who 'had continued with Him in His temptations;' as if all the pathway which they had trodden at His side had led through a field strewn with snares and pitfalls at every step. And besides all these, the temptations which Scripture has expressly indicated, how constant and severe must have been the pressure of temptation, not explicitly described by the New Testament, against which His human nature must have been necessarily called to struggle in controlling the exhibition at times of the indwelling Godhead. Had we been vested with Divine Sovereignty and Lordship over twelve legions of angels, could our human endurance have brooked, like His, the injustice and cowardice of Roman praetors and the insolence of Jewish kinglings, whose faces a glance of His Divine eye could have moldered into ashes? Had we His omniscience, could we have locked it down and kept it under restraint from exposing in open day the hidden enormities of the hypocritical foes that confronted and pursued Him along all His meek and beneficent way? Had we the resources of the wide universe at our command, could we have brooked the crown of thorns, the mock scepter of reed, the society of malefactors, and the cross, with all its agony and all its ignominy? Ospiritual Joseph of Your Church! the archers sorely grieved You, and from every quiver and with every bow shot at You, that You might in all points be tempted like your brethren, and teach them how to meet and endure temptation. Every arrow that pierces us left its point and its venom in You; and falls at our feet quenched and harmless. Yet we fly to You in this time of our temptation, for sympathy and support, and ask that every 'fiery dart' may impel us closer beneath Your sheltering wing, that we may know You more, and love You better, and learn of You to support those who are tempted."
Turn we now to THE PETITION ITSELF, "Lead us not into temptation." Two remarks seem necessary to its clearer understanding. The first is, that entire exemption of the believer from temptation would be entire exemption from some of the greatest blessings of his life. This, therefore, cannot be included in the prayer. Had Abraham been exempted from the trial of offering up his son Isaac, there would have been lacking that illustrious exhibition of his faith, which in all future ages has been, and to all future ages will be, the instruction and comfort of the faithful. Had Hezekiah been exempt from the temptation of display and pride, when he paraded his treasures and his wealth before the ambassadors of Babylon, what a loss had been that record of his spiritual history! Had Peter been exempt from the temptation to deny his Lord, it would seem as if the Bible had been incomplete without that wondrous page which records the Savior's anticipatory intercession on behalf of His devil-tempted disciple--"Satan has desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for you; that your faith fail not." Had Paul been exempt from the "thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him," what a loss to the Church of Christ had been the marvelous declaration which that temptation of the apostle elicited from the Savior, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness."
And, most of all, had our blessed Lord been exempt from the temptation in the wilderness--His forty days and forty nights' conflict with Satan--what chapter of the Bible could have supplied that precious truth--"We have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin?" And were WE, beloved, entirely excluded from this same fiery ordeal of temptation, what a dead-letter, what a sealed book, would much of God's own Word be in our experience. We cannot, therefore, suppose that this petition is a prayer for exemption from what all the saints of God, and the Son of God Himself, have more or less passed through. This would be, as I have remarked, to exempt us from some of the deepest instruction and holiest blessings of our spiritual history.
Our second remark is that, we are not to infer from the petition that God can solicit men to evil. This seems to require no argument; and yet the Holy Spirit has met the idea--"Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted by God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man." And yet the dark, the malignant thought, has found a lodgment in many a guilty breast--"If God had not placed me in this position, I would not have fallen into this sin." No! is the solemn and indignant reply--but every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. "Now, when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death." Oh it is a solemn thing--an act of daring brazenness, fearfully augmenting our guilt--to charge God with the responsibility of our sin! What is this but to make Him the Author of sin?
But the petition is a prayer that God would, by His providence, keep His child out of the way of temptation. "My Father, consign me to no place in which I may be tempted to sin against You, to dishonor the Name of Jesus, to grieve the Holy Spirit, and to bring discredit upon my Christian profession." We can suppose a young believer just entering upon public life, bending before the mercy-seat, and sending up this petition to Heaven, "My Father, I am about to detach myself from the hallowed restraints of the parental roof, from the guardianship of those who, from infancy and childhood, have watched over me with an eye of love that has never slumbered or wearied--may You be the Guide of my youth, and allow me to embark upon no career of life which will expose me to peculiar and overpowering temptations. I am deficient in experience, limited in wisdom, feeble in strength, pliable and irresolute, soon and easily led astray. My Father, lead me not into temptation. Let me not dwell in Potiphar's house, nor pitch my tent towards Sodom, nor flee into Zoar, nor sit with the servants in the palace of the high priest, nor heed any price for the betrayal of my Lord. Allow me not to be tempted above that I am able to bear. My Father, lead me not into temptation. The prayer of Your servant Jabez would I make my own–'Oh that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!'"
Oh, what a solemn, wise, and holy prayer is this! Is it yours, my young reader? Is it the exponent of the thoughts, and feelings, and desires now rising within your soul? Then God, even your Father in heaven, will answer it, as He did the prayer of Jabez, and, by His providence, so dispose of you as that you shall not be exposed to the temptation you thus so holily and earnestly deprecate; or, if exposed, will sustain you under it.
It is a prayer, also, that God would either weaken the power, or remove entirely all existing temptation. The temptation is a formidable one. It assails you, perhaps, in the most vulnerable and least-defended part of your nature. It presents itself in its most fascinating and irresistible form. You are conscious of its power. It is just the thing which your imagination has often pictured, and which your heart has often craved. It holds you like a charmed bird within its serpent-like spell, and you feel but little inclination, still less power, to break it and escape. And yet, alive to your danger, trembling and lowly, you bend before the Mercy-Seat, and lift up your prayer--"My Father, I am a weak, helpless child, safe only as I am out of the way of temptation, or sheltered beneath Your outspread wing. You know my present assault, and how impotent I am to resist it. Weaken its force, or give me grace to overcome it, or remove it entirely from my path. Lead me not into temptation."
It is a petition, also, that God would not withdraw His restraining check from the believer. It is said of Hezekiah, that "God left him to his own heart." How often, for the moment, has this been the sad history of some of the most eminent saints--as eminent for the greatness of their sin as for the greatness of their grace. Lot, dwelling in Zoar--David, walking upon the roof of his house--Solomon, in his years of mellowed experience and wisdom--Peter, sitting among the servants of the high priest's court--Cranmer signing an renouncement of his faith--were all left to know what was in their heart, and a host more of illustrious saints, whose histories present a solemn comment upon the apostolic exhortation, "Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall."
But each and all were the subjects of restoring grace, emerging from the fiery ordeal through which they passed, sadder but wiser and holier men. When, then, you pray, "Lead me not into temptation," you ask of God to withdraw not those divine restraints, to remove not those salutary checks by which, as in the case of David, you may be kept from falling into a snare. "I kept you," says God, "from sinning against me." So may God keep us!
And does not this petition involve a prayer to be preserved from the great tempter? Not only preservation from the evil that is in the world, but preservation from the Evil One of the world, should be our daily prayer. With the galling consciousness of having lost his prey, with all the fiendish malignity of a foiled foe, with his ancient inveterate hate of the Christ of God, Satan traverses the earth bent upon the destruction of the saint. It is not with the dead but the living soul he more especially has to do. The dead, well he knows, are floating silently and surely down with the stream that sweeps them on to the dread gulf where they are borne. Marvel not, then, that you should be a selected object of his assault, distinguished, I had almost said, by the especial envy and malignity of his attack. These very fiery darts hurled so fiercely at your soul, these strong temptations by which your faith, integrity, and hope are assailed, but evidence the life of God within you. Do you suppose for a moment that he would waste his ammunition upon a spiritually dead sinner? that he would suggest to a victim, still chained and pinioned by his resistless power, the imaginary crime of having committed the sin against the Holy Spirit? that his transgressions were too many and his guilt of too deep a hue to come within the scope and power of divine forgiveness? Would he, the Evil One, place his mouth to the ear of a soul dead in trespasses and in sins, and with the softest whisper breathe into it those blasphemous thoughts, those infidel doubts, those sinful suggestions, those promptings to presumption and despair, of which Bunyan and Cowper and Newton were once the victims, and of which a cloud of witnesses in God's Church still are? No; it is only the lambs he frightens, the sheep he worries, the children of God whose downfall he plots. Let us, then, in our daily prayer, "Lead us not into temptation," include yet this needed petition, "and keep me from the power of the tempter." You approach One who has been tempted by this same foe, than whom none in the Church of the tempted could enter so intelligently and feelingly into your case.
"O You! the sinner's only Friend,
On You alone my hopes depend,
That You will guard me to the end,
"I do not weep that joys are fled,
Or those so fondly loved are dead;
For greater griefs my tears are shed,
"The Accuser seems so constant near,
And almost drives me to despair,
That ne'er again Your voice I'll hear,
"He taunts me with my sins, dear Lord,
And tempts me sore to doubt Your word,
That not for me was shed Your blood,
"Oh, come, You Holy, Heavenly Dove,
Fill my lone heart with Your pure love,
And let me rise to joys above,
"Then shall I walk in peace with God,
Nor fear to tread the thorny road,
But kiss the hand that bears the rod,
Some PRACTICAL AND SOLEMN CONCLUSIONS naturally flow from the important subject of the present chapter. While praying not to be led into temptation, we should be watchful against voluntarily running into it. There is such a thing as tempting the tempter. Although we can be in no position entirely exempt from his assaults, we yet may incautiously and needlessly expose ourselves to some powerful onslaught of the foe. Thus it was with Peter. Where should he have been when his Divine Master was under arrest? Side by side with Him at the bar of the high priest. "But Peter stood at the door outside." He had already paved the path of his downfall by "following Christ afar off." And when he stood and warmed himself with the servants and officers of the court--the congregated enemies of his Lord--it is not surprising that before a very mild assault--a little maid charging him with the crime of being Christ's disciple--he fell as a star from its orbit. What a beacon light for us!
If we needlessly go into the world, if we sinfully sit among the foes of the Redeemer, and associate with the scoffers at religion--if we cross the boundary between the Church and the world and fraternize with the assailants of the truth, the condemners of revelation, the avowed foes of the Bible--if we are found in association with the Antichrist of Rationalism, or the Antichrist of Ritualism, or the Antichrist of Formalism, thus presumptuously venturing within the enemies' lines, what marvel if we find ourselves looked upon as deserters by the loyal, or are arrested as prisoners of war by the enemy! While, then, praying not to be led into temptation, we have need to be upon our watch-tower, lest we be surprised by the besieger at the gate. "Sin lies at the door" ready to spring in the moment it is incautiously unlocked or too widely opened.
Mark the unselfishness of the petition, "Lead US not into temptation." If I am a true child of God, I am to embrace in my intercession each member of the brotherhood exposed, like myself, to temptation. I am to regard the holiness and happiness of my brother, as second only to my own. No, seeing that by our incorporation into the same body of Christ, we are members one of another, his preservation from temptation, his upholding in temptation, his deliverance out of temptation, should be a matter of as deep concern to me as my own. Seeing that, perhaps, in consequence of his talents, his popularity, his elevated and responsible position, he is a more conspicuous target for the Archer--standing, it may be, as upon a lofty pinnacle of the temple--how fervent and earnest should be my prayerful intercession in his behalf.
To this end ought we to send up our petition for missionaries and ministers, for pastors and evangelists, for directors, secretaries, and treasurers to whose fidelity are entrusted the momentous and precious interests of Christ's truth and kingdom. Is there not a grave defect in our practical religion touching this matter? Is there not too little consideration of the responsibility of these servants of our Lord, too little sympathy with their dangers and their trials, and too little intercessory prayer for their divine upholding, begirt and assailed as they are by many peculiar and strong temptations? If Moses needed, and Paul craved, and Christ leaned upon the prayers and the sympathy of the saints, how much more these our brethren!
And in whose Name is this petition, as, indeed, the whole prayer, to be offered but the Name of Him who taught it--Himself the Tempted One. There is not a view of the subject of this chapter so instructive and soothing as the life of temptation to which our Lord Himself was exposed. I say the life of temptation, for from the moment that His feet touched the horizon of our planet, to the moment that He sprang from earth into heaven, His whole course was one continuous battle with temptation, in some of its many forms, and from some of its countless sources. His mother tempted Him on the occasion of His first miracle at Cana to a rash unveiling of His deity. His brethren tempted him on the one hand to avoid His sufferings, while His disciples on the other hand tempted Him to forego them altogether. The excited populace would have forced upon Him a crown, while the subtle lawyer would have entrapped Him into an act of disloyalty to Caesar. The ritualistic Pharisee tempted Him touching the weightier matters of the law, while the infidel Sadducee assailed Him with cavils at the mystery of the resurrection. To this must be added the incessant and fierce buffetings of Satan, from the period that, baffled in the encounter, "he left Him for a season" in the wilderness, until his last onslaught in Gethsemane and his final defeat on the cross. O crowned and adorable Victor! all these temptations endured in Your person were for me, that You might be "touched with the feeling of my infirmities, and be in all points tempted like as I am, and yet without sin." Tempted believer! to the sympathy and the support, to the grace and protection of this tempted Savior resort. "He knows what sore temptations mean, for He has felt the same."
You will not find in the whole Church of God, even among those who have most fiercely struggled with the arch-tempter, one who can so clearly understand you, so tenderlysympathize with you, and so effectually shield you as Jesus. He taught you the petition, "Lead us not into temptation." He counsels you to watch and pray lest you enter into temptation. He anticipates your temptation by intercession, that your faith should not fail. And when the temptation actually comes, He enfolds you within the robe of His sympathy, and encircles you with the shield of His might, for "in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to support those who are tempted."
If such the fiery ordeal, and such the difficult salvation of the righteous, who are "scarcely saved," how fearful, how fatal your condition who still are entangled within the coils of the serpent, led captive by him at his will! Unregenerated by God's Spirit, unconverted by His grace, your whole life is one scene, one series, one act of temptation. Error tempts you, and you fall. Ritualism tempts you, and you yield. The world tempts you, and you are seduced. Wealth tempts you, and you are ensnared. Sin tempts you, and you comply. But what will the end of these things be? Oh, too fearful to contemplate, too terrific to describe. An eternal hell! Forever with the tempter! Reaping the wages of sin, and receiving the due and the just reward of your unrighteous deeds. "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with ever lasting burnings?" All, all who have denied the truth, who have hated God, who have neglected salvation; who have rejected the Savior, and who have lived and died the followers of the world, the slaves of lust, the servants of sin, and the vassals of Satan--there, these are as fuel seasoning for the last and the unquenchable fire. But yet there is hope! You are within its region and hope's grasp. Repent, and be converted! The Ark is still open, the life-boat floats at your side, the City of Refuge is within your reach, a loving, beseeching Savior invites you to the asylum of His wounds, to hide you there from the wrath that is to come!
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