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heed lest you have a Jehu in you, that shall make you drive furiously; or a Jonah in you, that will make you ready to repine; or a David, that will make you hasty in your
determinations, as he was often in the warmth and goodness of his natural temper. He who watches not this thoroughly, who is not exactly skilled in the knowledge of himself, will never be disentangled from one temptation or another all his days.
Again, as men have peculiar natural tempers, which, according as they are attended or managed, prove a great fomes of sin, or advantage to the exercise of grace; so men may have peculiar lusts or corruptions, which either by their natural constitution, or education, and other prejudices, have got deep rooting and strength in them. This also is to be found out by him who would not enter into temptation. Unless he know it, unless his eyes be always on it, unless he observe its actings, motions, advantages, it will be continually entangling and ensnaring of him. Labour, then, to know thine own frame and temper, what spirit thou art of; what associates in thine heart Satan hath, where corruption is strong, where grace is weak; what stronghold lust hath in thy natural constitution and the like. How many
have all their comforts blasted and peace disturbed by their natural passion and peevishness! How many are rendered useless in the world by their frowardness and discontent! How many are disquieted even by their own gentleness and facility! Be acquainted then with thine own heart; though it be deep, search it; though it be dark, inquire into it; though it give all its distempers other names than what are their due, believe it not. Were not men utter strangers to themselves, did they not give flattering titles to their natural distempers, did they not strive rather to justify, palliate, or excuse the evils of their hearts, that are suited to their natural tempers and constitutions, than to destroy them, and by these means keep themselves off from taking a clear and distinct view of them, it were impossible that they should
all their days hang in the same briers without attempt for deliverance. Uselessness and scandal in professors are branches growing constantly on this root of unacquaintedness with their own frame and temper; and how few are there who will either study them themselves, or bear with those who would acquaint them with them.
Secondly, When thou knowest the state and condition of thy heart as to the particulars mentioned, watch against all such occasions, opportunities, employments, societies, retirements, businesses, as are apt to entangle thy natural temper or provoke thy corruption. It may be there are some ways, some societies, some businesses, that thou never in thy life escapedst them, but sufferedst by them more or less, through their suitableness to entice or provoke thy corruption. It may be thou art in a state and condition of life that ensnares thee day by day, on the account of thy ambition, passion, discontent, or the like ; if thou hast any love to thy soul, it is time for thee to awake, and to deliver thyself as a bird from the evil snare. Peter would not come again in haste to the high priest's hall, nor would David walk again on the top of his house, when he should have been in the high places of the field. But the particulars of this instance are so various, and of such several natures in respect of several persons, that it is impossible to enumerate them. (Prov. iv. 14, 15.) Herein lies no small part of that wisdom which consists in our ordering our conversation aright. Seeing we have so little power over our hearts, when once they meet with suitable provocations, we are to keep them asunder, as a man would do fire and the combustible parts of the house wherein he dwells.
Thirdly, Be sure to lay in provision in store against the approaching of any temptation. This also belongs to our watchfulness over our hearts. You will say, What provision is intended, and where is it to be laid up? Our hearts, as our Saviour speaks, are our treasury. There we lay up whatever we have, good or bad ; and thence do we draw it, for our use (Matt. xii. 35). It is the heart, then, wherein provision is to be laid up against temptation. When an enemy draws nigh to a fort or castle to besiege and take it, oftentimes, if he find it well manned, and furnished with provision for a siege, and so able to hold out, he withdraws and assaults it not. If Satan, the prince of this world, come and find our hearts fortified against his batteries, and provided to hold out, he not only departs, but, as James says, he “flies.” For the provision to be laid up, it is that which is provided in the gospel for us. Gospel provisions will do this work; that is, keep the heart full of a sense of the love of God in Christ; this is the greatest preservative against the power of temptation in the world. Joseph had this, and, therefore, on the first appearance of a temptation, he cries out, “How can I do this great evil, and sin against God?" And there is an end of the temptation as to him—it lays no hold on him, but departs. He was furnished with such a ready sense of the love of God as temptation could not stand before (Gen. xxxix. 9).
“ The love of Christ constrains us,” saith the apostle, “to live to him" (2 Cor. v. 14), and so consequently to withstand temptation. A man may, nay, he ought to lay in provisions of the law also; fear of death, hell, punishment, with the terror of the Lord in them. But these are far more easily conquered than the other; nay, they will never stand alone against a vigorous assault. They are conquered in convinced persons every day; hearts stored with them only will struggle for a while, but quickly give
But store the heart with a sense of the love of God in Christ, with the eternal design of His grace, with a remembrance of the blood of Christ, and His love in the shedding of it; get a relish of the privileges we have thereby, our adoption, justification, acceptation with God; fill the heart with thoughts of the beauty of holiness, as it is designed by Christ for the end, issue, and effect of His death,—and thou wilt, in
TAKE WARNING FROM THE FALLEN.
an ordinary course of walking with God, have great peace and security as to the disturbance of temptations.
Having thus passed through the considerations of the duty of watching that we enter not into temptation, I suppose I need not add motives to the observance of it. Those who are not moved by their own sad experiences, nor the importance of the duty, as laid down in the entrance of this discourse, must be left by me to the further patience of God. I shall only shut up the whole with a general exhortation to them who are in any measure prepared for it, by the consideration of what hath been spoken. Should you go into an hospital, and see many persons lying sick and weak, sore and wounded, with many filthy diseases and distempers, and should inquire of them how they fell into this condition, and they should all agree to tell you, Such or such a thing was the occasion of it:-“ By that I got my wound,” says one; “ And my disease,” says another:-would it not make you a little careful how or what you had to do with that thing or place? Surely, it would. Should you go to a dungeon, and see many miserable creatures bound in chains for an approaching day of execution, and inquire the way and means whereby they were brought into that condition, and they should all fix on one and the same thing, would you not take care to avoid it? The case is So with entering into temptation.
Ah! how many poor, miserable, spiritually-wounded souls have we everywhere! one wounded by one sin, another by another; one falling into filthiness of the flesh, another of the spirit : ask them now how they came into this state and condition, they must all answer, " Alas! we entered into temptation, we fell into cursed snares and entanglements, and that hath brought us into the woful condition you see.” Nay, if a man could look into the dungeons of hell, and see the poor damned souls that lie bound in chains of darkness, and hear their cries; what would he be taught? What do they say? are they not cursing their tempters, and the temptations that they entered into ? and shall we be negligent in this thing? Solomon tells us that the “simple one that follows the strange woman knows not that the dead are there, that her house inclineth to death, and her paths to the dead” (which he repeats three times); and that is the reason that he ventures on her snares.
If you knew what hath been done by entering into temptation, perhaps you would be more watchful and careful. Men may think that they shall do well enough notwithstanding ; but can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burnt ? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burnt? (Prov. vii. 27, 28.) No such thing. Men come not out of their temptations without wounds, burnings, and fears. I know not any place in the world where there is more need of pressing this exhortation than in this place. Go to our several colleges, inquire for such or such young men; what is the answer in respect of many? Ah! such an one was very hopeful for a season, but he fell into ill company and he is quite lost. Such an one had some good beginning of religion, and we were in great expectation of him, but he is fallen into temptation. And so in other places. Such an one was useful and humble, adorned the gospel, but now he is so wofully entangled with the world that he is grown all self, hath no sap nor savour; such an one was humble and zealous, but he is advanced and hath lost his first love and ways.
Oh! how full is the world, how full is this place, of these woful examples; to say nothing of those innumerable poor creatures who are fallen into temptation by delusions in religion. And is it not time for us to awake, before it be too late ; to watch against the first risings of sin, the first attempts of Satan, and all ways whereby he hath made his approaches to us, be they never so harmless in themselves?
Have we not experience of our weakness, our folly, the