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REASONS FOR PERMITTING TEMPTATION.
to Christ, should be so lamentably cast down, and buffeted with temptations ?
Answ. It may be for several causes.
1. Some that are coming to Christ, cannot be persuaded, until the temptation comes, that they are so vile as the scripture saith they are. True, they see so much of their wretchedness, as to drive them to Christ; but there is an over and above of wickedness, which they see not. Peter little thought that he had had cursing, and swearing, and lying, and an inclination in his heart to deny his Master, before the temptation came; but when that indeed came upon him, then he found it all there to his sorrow. John xiii. 36–38; Mark xiv. 36-40, 68–72.
2. Some that are coming to Jesus Christ, are too much pleased with their own graces, and too little taken with Christ's person. Wherefore God, to take them off from doting on their own jewels, and that they might look more to the person, undertaking, and merits of his Son, plunges them into the ditch by temptations. And this I take to be the meaning of Job. “If I wash myself,” saith he, "with snow water, and make my hands never so clean, yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me." Job ix. 30. Job had been a little too much tampering with his own graces, and setting his excellencies a little too high; (as these texts make manifest. Job xxxiii. 8-13; xxxiv. 5-10; xxxv. 2, 3; xxxviii. 1, 2; xl. 1-5; xlii. 3-7.) But by that time the temptations were ended, you find him better taught.
Yea, God doth ofttimes, even for this thing, as it were, take our graces from us, and so leave us almost quite to ourselves, and to the tempter; that we may learn not to love the picture, more than the person of the Son. See how he dealt with them of old, in the 16th of Ezekiel, and the 2d of Hosea.
3. Perhaps thou hast been given too much to judge thy
brother, to condemn thy brother, because a poor tempted man: and God, to bring down the pride of thy heart, letteth the tempter loose upon thee, that thou also mayest feel thyself weak. For “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Prov. xiv. 18.
4. It may be thou hast dealt a little too roughly with those that God hath this way wounded, not considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted: and therefore God hath suffered it to come unto thee. Gal. vi. 1.
5. It may be thou wast given to slumber and sleep, and therefore these temptations were sent to awake thee. You know that Peter's temptation came upon him, after his sleeping; then, instead of watching and praying, he denied, and denied, and denied his Master. Matt. xxvi.
6. It may be thou hast presumed too far, and stood too much in thine own strength, and therefore is a time of temptation come upon thee. This was also one cause why it came upon Peter, “Though all men forsake thee, yet will not I.” Ah! that is the way to be tempted indeed. John xiii. 36–38.
7. It may be God intends to make thee wise, to speak a word in season to others that are afflicted; and therefore he suffereth thee to be tempted. Christ was tempted that he might be able to succor them that are tempted. Heb. i. 18.
8. It may be Satan hath dared God to suffer him to tempt thee: promising himself, that if he will but let him do it, thou wilt curse him to his face. Thus he obtained leave against Job. Wherefore take heed, tempted soul, lest thou provest the devil's sayings true. Job i. 11.
9. It may be thy graces must be tried in the fire, that that rust that cleaveth to them, may be taken away,
and themselves proved, both before angels and devils, to be far better than gold that perisheth. It may be also, that thy graces are to receive special praises and honour and glory, at the coming of the Lord Jesus, to judgment, for all the
FAITH AND DOUBT MAY CO-EXIST.
exploits that thou hast acted by them against hell and its infernal crew, in the day of thy temptation. 1 Pet. i. 6, 7.
10. It may be God would have others learn by thy sighs, groans and complaints, under temptations, to beware of those sins, for the sake of which thou art at present delivered to the tormentors.
But to conclude this, put the worst to the worst (and then things will be bad enough), suppose that thou art to this day without the grace of God; yet thou art but a miserable creature, a sinner, that has need of a blessed Saviour. And the text presents thee with one as good and kind as heart can wish; who also for thy encouragement saith, “ And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
To come therefore to a word of application.
Is it so, that they that are coming to Jesus Christ are ofttimes heartily afraid, that Jesus Christ will not receive them? Then this teacheth us these things :
1. That faith and doubting may at the same time have their residence in the same soul.
“O thou of little faith, said Jesus to Peter, wherefore didst thou doubt ?” Matt. xiv. 31. He saith not, O thou of no faith; but, “O thou of little faith ;” because he had a little faith in the midst of his many doubts. The same is true, even of many that are coming to Jesus Christ : they come, and fear they come not, and doubt they come not. When they look upon the promise, or a word of encouragement by faith, then they come; when they look upon themselves, or the difficulties that lie before them, then they doubt. Bid me come,' said Peter; Come,' said Christ. So he went down out of the ship to go to Jesus, but his hap was to go to him upon the water; there was the trial. So it is with the poor desiring soul. "Bid me come,' says the sinner; Come,' says Christ, "and I will in no wise cast thee out: so he comes, but his hap is to come upon the water, upon drowning difficulties; if therefore the wind of
temptations blow, the waves of doubts and fears will presently arise, and this coming sinner will begin to sink, if he has but little faith. But
you shall find here in Peter's little faith, a twofold act, namely, coming and crying. Little faith cannot come all the way without crying. So long as its holy boldness lasts, so long it can come with peace; but when it is so weak it can come no farther, it will go the rest of the way with crying. Peter went as far as his little faith would carry him: he also cried as far as his little faith would help
“Lord, save me; I perish.” And so with coming and crying he was kept from sinking, though he had but a little faith. “For Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt."
2. Is it so, that they that are coming to Jesus Christ, are ofttimes heartily afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive them? Then this shows us a reason of that dejection, and those castings down, that we very often perceive to be in them that are coming to Jesus Christ. Why, it is because they are afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive them.
The poor world mock us, because we are a dejected people; I mean, because we are sometimes so; but they do not know the cause of our dejection. Could we be persuaded, even then, when we are dejected, that Jesus Christ would indeed receive us, it would make us fly over their heads, and would put more gladness into our hearts, than in the time in which their corn, wine, and oil increase. Psalm iv.
3. Is it so, that they that are coming to Jesus Christ, are ofttimes heartily afraid that he will not receive them? Then this shows, that they that are coming to Jesus Christ, are an awakened, sensible, considering people: for fear cometh from sense, and consideration of things.
HELP YOUNG CO-MERS.
They are sensible of sin, sensible of the curse due thereto; they are also sensible of the glorious majesty of God, and of what a blessed, blessed thing it is to be received of Jesus Christ : the glory of heaven, and the evil of sin, these things they consider, and are sensible of. These things dash their spirits, being awake and sensible. “When I remember, I am afraid." " When I consider, I am afraid.” Job xxi. 6; xxiii. 15.
Were they dead, like other men, they would not be afflicted with fear, as they are : for dead men fear not, feel not, care not; but the living and sensible man, he it is that is ofttimes heartily afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive him. I say, the dead and senseless are not distressed : they presume; they are groundlessly confident. Who so bold as blind Bayard ? These indeed should fear and be afraid because they are not coming to Jesus Christ. O the hell, the fire, the pit, the wrath of God, and torment of hell, that are prepared for poor neglecting sinners! " How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation !” Heb. ii. 3. But they want sense of things and so cannot fear.
4. Is it so, that they that are coming to Jesus Christ, are ofttimes heartily afraid that he will not receive them ? Then this should teach old Christians to pity and pray
for young comers.
You know the heart of a stranger, for you yourselves were strangers in the land of Egypt. You know the fears, and doubts, and terrors, that take hold of them : for they sometimes took hold of you.
Wherefore pity them, pray for them, encourage them. They need all this: guilt hath overtaken them, fear of the wrath of God hath overtaken them: perhaps they are within the sight of hell-fire; and the fear of going thither is burning hot within their hearts.
You may know, how strangely Satan is suggesting his