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And lead us not into temptation ; but deliver us froin evil; for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
WE should be very unfit to ask for the pardon of our past sins ; and could neither hope to obtain it, nor, indeed, continue long the better for it, if we did not earnestly desire, at the same time, to avoid sin for the future. And, therefore, after the petition, “ Forgive us our trespasses," most properly follows, “ and lead us not into tempta
The word temptation very often signifies no more than trial ; any opposition, or difficulty, that may call forth our virtues into vigorous practice, and, by so doing, both strengthen and make them known; not, indeed, to God, who always knows our hearts; but to ourselves and others; to those around us at present; to all mankind, and the holy angels hereafter. Now, in this general sense, our whole life on earth is, and was intended to be, a state of temptation; in which, as the Scripture expresses it, “God himself tempts men ;"1 that is, proves and exercises them. And, accordingly, St. James directs us to “count in all joy, when " we fall into divers temptations ;" adding a very good reason for it; “ Blessed is the man that “ endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he “ shall receive the crown of life; which the Lord “hath promised to those that love him."9 The more love to God we thus show, the more exert our inward good principles and habits, and, by exerting, improve them; the greater reward
(1) Gen. xxii. 1.
1 Chron. xxxii. 31.
Deut. iv. 34.
we shall obtain. When, therefore, we say, “Lead “ us not into temptation,” we do not pray that we may not be tried at all; for we know that we must, even for our own good.
But the word here stands for dangerous trials, provocations and enticements to sin: under which we are likely to sink, instead of overcoming them. Now there is, indeed, scarce any thing in life that may not be a temptation to us, in this bad sense. Our tempers, our ages, our stations and employ. ments in this world, be they ever so different, may, each in their different ways, risk our innocence. They that are poor are grievously tempted; either to repine against God, or to take unlawful me. thods of relieving themselves. And “
And “they that “ will be rich,” experience, as well as the Apostle, may teach us, “fall into temptation and a snare, " and into many foolish and hurtful lusts."3 Both adversity and prosperity, business and leisure, company and solitude, have their respective hazards. And sometimes these hazards are so dreadfully heightened by particular circumstances; and, at others, trying incidents, totally unforeseen, happen so unseasonably; that, though they may only rouse and animate our virtue, yet they may also, more probably, overbear and destroy it. And therefore we must know
little of our natural frailty, the strength of our passions, and “ the deceitfulness of sin;" 4 if we do not think it the more prudent, as well as modester part, to decline, than venture the conflict, if it be God's will: and do not accordingly beg of him, that he would " not lead us into such temptation.”
God, indeed, “tempts no man," 5 in the sense of alluring and inviting him to sin; as the Devil, and wicked people, and our own bad hearts, do. And therefore to pray, in this sense, that he would
(3) I Tim. vi. 9.
(4) Heb. iii. 13.
(5) James i. 13.
“ not lead us into temptation,” would be great irreverence, instead of piety: for it is inconsistent with the holiness of his nature, that he should. But as nothing comes to pass, but with his knowledge and sufferance; and every thing is subject to his direction and superintendency; the Scripture speaks, as if every thing was done by him, when the meaning, as appears by other passages of it, is only to acknowledge, that nothing is done without him; and, agreeably to the manner of speaking in the eastern countries, things are ascribed to him, which he only permits, and afterwards turns to the furtherance of his own good purposes. Now God may very justly permit us to be led into the severest temptations, if we do not pray to him against it; because a great part of the danger proceeds from that weakness, which we have wilfully, or carelessly brought upon ourselves; and prayer is one of the means that he hath appointed 'for our preservation and relief ; which means, if we use as we ought, he “ will
not suffer us to be tempted above that we are “ able; but will, with the temptation, also make “a way to escape, that we may be able to bear
But if, through pride or negligence, we will not ask for his help, we must not expect it.
And though we do for form's sake ask it, if we have little faith in it, or dependance on it, St. James hath foretold the event; “Let not that man think " that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.” 7 Yet, on the other hand, if we carry our dependance so far, as presumptuously to run into these dangers, out of which we beg him to keep us ; or, at least, will do little or nothing to keep ourselves out of them, instead of doing every thing that we can; or if, in the dangers, in which he
(6) 1 Cor. x. 13.
(7) James i. 7.
may think fit to place us, we will not use our best endeavours to stand, as well as pray that we may not fall; such prayers can never be likely to avail for our protection. But fervent devotion, hearty resolution, and prudent care, united and continued, will do any thing. By whatever difficulties we are surrounded, and how little possibility soever we may see of getting through them; still “commit thy' way unto the Lord, put thy trust “in him, and he shall bring it to pass.
In the second part of this petition, “But de
liver us from evil;" the word evil may signify, either sin and its consequences; or the great tempter to sin, the evil or wicked one; for by that name the devil is often called in the New Testament. 9 The number indeed of wicked spirits is probably, very great ; but notwithstanding this, being united, under one head, in one design of obstructing our salvation, they are all comprehended under one name.
And since, in our present state of trial, we have not only, as experience shows, “flesh and blood to wrestle against, our own bad dispositions, and the solicitations of a bad world to resist; but also, as the word of God informs us, “ Principalities and powers, and “ spiritual wickedness in high places,” 1 an army of invisible enemies, employing to overcome us, and not less formidably because imperceptibly, all the stratagems, that heaven allows them to use ; this, as it increases our danger, may well quicken our prayers for safety and deliverance. That there should be evil angels, as well as evil men, of the greatest abilities and accomplishments, is, if rightly considered, no great wonder ; and that both should entice us to sin, it is no reasonable discouragement; for let us apply but to God, and
(8) Psalm xxxvii 5.
(1) Eph. i. 11, 12.
we shall not be left to the power of either. What the power of wicked spirits is, we are not told in Scripture; and it is no part of religion, in the least, to believe idle stories about them. Of this we are sure, that they have no power, but what God permits; and he will never permit them to do what shall prove, in the end, any hurt to those who serve and fear him. More especially we are sure, that they cannot in the least, either force us into sinning, or hinder us from repenting. Invite or dissuade us they may, by suggesting false notions of the pleasure, or profit, or harmlessness of sin; by representing God as too good to be angry, or too severe to be reconciled ; by describing to our imaginations, repentance to be so easy at any time, that it is needless now; or so difficult now, that it is too late and impossible; by putting it into our thoughts that we are so good, we may be confident and careless; or so wicked, we must absolutely despair. It concerns us therefore greatly, “not to be ignorant of their devices.” 2 But, provided we keep on our guard; earnestly apply to God; and are true to ourselves ; neither their temptations, nor those of the whole world, shall prevail against us. For then only, as St. James gives us to understand, “is every man
tempted dangerously, when he is drawn away “ of his own lust, and enticed." 3 within therefore, is the most formidable one; and against this it is chiefly that we are to “ watch pray,
that we enter not into temptation :" remembering always, that how willing soever the spirit may be, yet the flesh is weak.14
And now let us observe, in the last place, under this head, that as we are to pray against being led into temptation ourselves, we should be very careful never to lead others into it; but do
(2) 2 Cor. ii. 11.
(3) James i, 14.
(4) Matth. Xxvi. 41.