By Adam Clarke
THE process of temptation is often as
follows:—1. A simple: evil thought. 2. A strong imagination, or
impression made on the imagination by the thing to which we are
tempted. 3. Delight in viewing it. 4. Consent of the will to perform
it. Thus lust is conceived, sin is finished, and death brought
Temptation is a part of our Christian warfare; and Jesus, our Lord and pattern, was tempted, and sorely tempted too; and has, by his temptation, showed us how we may foil our adversary, and glorify our God in the day of such a visitation.
And man may be tempted, and be in a state of temptation, without entering into it: "entering into it" implies giving way, closing in with, and embracing it. That man has entered into a temptation who feels his heart inclined to it, and would act accordingly, did time, place, and opportunity serve. Christ was tempted even to worship the devil; but he entered not into any of the temptations of his adversary: the prince of this world came and found nothing in him, no evil nature within to join with the evil temptation without. Now a man may be on the verge of falling by some powerful and well circumstanced sin,—he may be in it; but the timely help of God may succour him, and prevent him from entering into it; and thus a brand is plucked from the burning. He was heated, yea, scorched by it, but was saved from the desolating and ruinous act.
The temptation that leads us astray may be as sudden as it is successful. We may lose in one moment the fruit of a whole life! How frequently is this the case, and how few lay it to heart! A man may fall by the means of his understanding, as well as by the means of his passions.
Ye have many enemies, cunning and strong; many trials, too great for your natural strength; many temptations, which no human power is able successfully to resist; many duties to perform, which cannot be accomplished by the strength of man; therefore you need divine strength; ye must have might; and ye must be strengthened everywhere, and every way fortified by that might; mightily and most effectually strengthened.
To know when to fight, and when to fly, is of great importance in the Christian life. Some temptations must be manfully met, resisted, and thus overcome; from others we must fly. He who stands to contend or reason, especially in such a case as that mentioned here, is infallibly ruined. Principiis obsta, "resist the first overtures of sin," is a good maxim. After remedies come too late.
No man, howsoever holy, is exempted from temptation; for God manifested in the flesh was tempted by the devil.
To be tempted even to the greatest abominations, (while a person resists,) is not sin; for Christ was tempted to worship the devil.
The state of our bodily health and worldly circumstances may afford our adversary many opportunities of doing us immense mischief.
We must shut our senses against dangerous objects, to avoid the occasion of sin. There is no temptation which is from its own nature, or favouring circumstances, irresistible. God has promised to bruise even Satan under our feet.
The fear of being tempted may become a most dangerous snare. Men often part with some member of the body, at the discretion of a surgeon, that they may preserve the trunk, and die a little later; and yet they will not deprive themselves of a look, a touch, a small pleasure, which endanger the eternal death of the soul.
Human strength and human weakness are only names in religion. The mightiest man, in the hour of trial, can do nothing without the strength of God; and the weakest woman can do all things, if Christ strengthen her.
Do not yield to temptation. It is no sin to be tempted; the sin lies in yielding. While the sin exists only in Satan's solicitation, it is the devil's sin, not ours: when we yield, we make the devil's sin our own; then we enter into temptation.
We should be on our guard against what are called little sins, and all occasions and excitements to sin. Take heed what company you frequent. One thing apparently harmless may lead by almost imperceptible links to sins of the deepest die.
The best way to foil the adversary is by the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
He who, through the grace of God, resists and overcomes temptation, is always bettered by it.
A more than ordinary measure of divine consolation shall be the consequence of every victory.
Perhaps nothing tends so much to discover what we are, as trials either from men or devils.
The trials, disappointments, insults, and wants of the followers of Christ become, in the hand of the all-wise God, subservient to their best interests: hence nothing can happen to them without their deriving profit from it, unless it be their own fault.
The advantage of trials is to make us know our weakness, so as to oblige us to have recourse to God by faith in Christ.
Trials put religion and all the graces of which it is composed to proof; the man that stands in such trials gives proof that his religion is sound, and the evidence afforded to his own mind induces him to take courage, bear patiently, and persevere.