« PreviousContinue »
were ordered some place very remote from the Conversation of Men, as most proper for that purpose, and added Fasting to that Solitude. Thus did Moses twice, at his receiving the Tables of the Law; Thus did Elias; And that the Jews might have no Pretence to think His Authority, on this account, inferior to either of Theirs, thus, you see here, did our Saviour Christ. The Usefulness of Retirement, when we would set our felves apart to the Business of Religion, is confirmed by every Man's Experience, who makes the Tryal. By withdrawing from the World, we shut out infinite Distractions, are better qualified to collect our Thoughts, and fix them upon God and another State.
But still the same Inference ineets us again, which was spoken to under the Last Head; That even here we ought not to flatter our selves, with an Imagination of absolute Safety. In such Circumstances the Tempter assaulted our Blessed Master ; In such we shall often find him attacking Us. Our Closets, and our Fasting-Days, do indeed separate us from the Snares of Business and Company; and let us into a nearer Communication with Him, whom our Soul loveth. They help to raise our Devotion, and to keep up our Virtue: The Former would quickly linguish, and the Latter remit of its Vigor, if These were unfrequented. But yet we find our felves close pursued even hither. The Zealwe labourat, or kindle by these Retirements, is cooled by wandring Thoughts in the very Act of Prayer ; and the Activity we design, rebated by many Interruptions. One plain Account whereof 'is certainly this. "That our Enemy makes his Approaches toward Us, with less Formality, and therefore with more Succefs, than He did, or could do againit the Holy Jesus. Him he seems to have encountred in some visible Shape, the Purity and Innocence of the Person concerned, One in whom, as our Lord himself ex
presses it, He had nothing, drove him to that Necessity.
Us he steals unseen. The Corruption of our Nature gives great Hold to fasten on; Our Passions and Affections, Our Ignorance and Infirmities, and all the necessary Consequences of Our Original Weakness and Depravation, we cannot run away from. And, because we carry these about us every where, he never can want fit Place or Opportunity for Temptation. For These are in truth the Matter he works upon, and our own Thoughts, and Desires, are the Instruments he works by. As will appear more fully, if we consider,
IV. Fourthly, The manner. how our Saviour was tempted. In the First Attempt the Devil takes occasion from his Hunger, to persuade Him to work a Miracle for the fatisfying it. In 14:3;6. the Second, he puts Him upon an unnecessary Experiment of God's preserving Providence, and such a Proof of being his Son, as the consenting to would argue a Distrust of the Evidence already given of it.
And this he colours over, with a Text of Scripture, pretended to countenance his Proposal. In the Third, he entices him to an unlawful Act, with Promise of worldly Honours and Advantages. In all Three he forms his Attack upon those Natural Appetites and Affections, which God hath put into Mankind ; and which, it is evident from this Example, are never (strictly speaking) the Causes, but only the Accidental Occasions of Sin. And not Occasions neither, except we abuse, and apply them irregularly.
It is not posible for any Man living, to describe all the subtle Acts of this Lier-in-wait to deceive. But, from the Instance now at hand, we may discover in general, That he strikes in with Mens Wants and Necessities; with their different Tempers and Circumstances in the World ; with their governing Passions and darling Objects: That from These, he labours to
thority so facred, with Reason so enforcing, that They, who are capable of arguing justly, are here provided with Topicks of invincible Strength; and They, who want chatSkill and Address, if they bring but an honest Mind hither, will be able to defend themselves, and baffle all the Sophistry of the Adversary, with a bare Thus it is written, and, The Lord hath Spoken.
Hence it is easy to perceive, of what absolute Neceslity, of what inighty Importance it cannot but be, to all sorts of People, to be very conversant in the Book of God; to read, to study, to understand rightly the practical Parts of it especially. In These there is no great Difficulty, to them who apply themselves with a good Principle, and a sincere Desire to learn, and to obey. For our Bountiful God hath, in his Revelation, dealt with the Souls, as, in his Creatures, he hath done with the Bodies, of Men. That, which is most necessary for Health and Sustenance, is most common, and plain, and ready at hand. With this then let us fill our Memories, and lay in a Stock to be drawn out, as Occasions call for it. But let it not rest in our Memories alone, but rule in our Hearts, and influence our Affections, and be the measure of all our Actions. Thus it must do, to preserve us in the Day of Combat. · Without this we fight naked; but thus armed we are always under guard, and shall prevent a world of Surprises, which those thoughtless unprovided Creatures are over-powered by, who have their Weapons to seek, when they have immediate occasion to use them. More particularly yet. Let every Man diligently enquire into his own Circumstances; The Sin that doth most easily beset him, the Passion he finds hardest to be conquered, the Temptations, to which his Condition or Business most expose him ; the Infirmities and Frailties peculiar to his Age, or Temper, or Complexion; and be sure to lose no Time for lay
ing in a Fund, ( as out of so rich a Treasure he quickly may) proper for these Exigencies; that none of these may any sooner start up, but some Scripturc, well digested, may come up with it, and effectually bring it under again. This would be to imitate our Master's Wisdom in a Point, of Advantage greater than any thing else can, but our own Experience and almost incredible Successes would soon, make us duly sensible of.
VI. Let us now, in the Last Place, cast our Eye upon the Comforts, that followed our Lord’s Temptation ; express’d at the Eleventh Verse; Then the Devil leaveth him, and behold Angels came and ministred unto him. This we are told, shall not fail to be Our Case too: That, if we resist the Devil, he will flee from us; and if we draw nigh to God, he will draw nigh to us. He will, by those mini- Jam. iv. 7, 8. string Spirits, which are sent forth to mijter unto them who mall be Heirs of Salva- Heb. i. 14. tion, protect and guard us from future Dangers. He will relieve those Wants, by a better and more effectual Way, for the Supply whereof we would not submit to any unlawful Courses; reward our better Choice with the inexpressibly sweet Satisfactions of a good Conscience; a Peace and Joy, which the World and all its Pleasures cannot give, which all its Amictions cannot take away; And at last, through these Triumphs begun upon Earth, will conduct us to that yet more perfect Blessedness, which shall abundantly recompense our Toils and Sufferings, and crown our Constancy, with Glory immortal in Heaven.
I add but this Word more, That the Account of our Lord's Abstinence and Retirement, when about to enter upon the Exercise of his Prophetick Office, is very seasonable at this Time, when that Fait approaches, which this Church hath thought fit to appoint, for the more effectual Imploring his Alistance,
we deal with, in Civil Contracts. But this is a Matter, plainly foreign to the rest of the Apostle's Discourse in this place, which is wholly employ'd upon the Sins of Uncleanness; And therefore, if the Words can reasonably bear a Sense agreeable to that Subject, this is a Direction so to understand them. Now, besides that the Word, which we render
go begond, hath in its Etymology, an Affinity and Relation to that very Act, by which unclean Desires are gratified ; It is farther observable, that the Other, translated Defraud, hath been likewise applied to such Gratifications of that kind, as are irregular and unreasonable. The Word insports in general, aiming at more than ones share, and is made the Character of the Covetous, who, from such Greediness, sticks at no Injustice to inrich himself. Hence, by an easy figure, it is transferr'd to the Carnal Man, who, to satisfy his Lust, without regard to what is lawful and allowed him, invades his Neighbour's Bed, or else lets himself loose to such Vices, as are quite beside the Course of Nature. And thus the best Expositors have made this part, consistent with the rest of the Apostle's Caution against Uncleanness, by applying the Sixth Verse, Some to the Sin of Adultery, Others to that of Sodomy. In both which the Offender does Alsovexleiv, take more than belongs to hin, to compass his Desires. And, for that Expression, in any Matter, 'tis observable, that the Word any is not in the Original; so that, by reading, as literally we may, in the matter, this Construction is still more confirm'd. That being a modest Intimation, by a general Term, of A&ions, that cannot with decency be particularly nam’d.'
For the same reason, it must not be expected, that I should enlarge upon the several ways, by which the Sin of Uncleanness pollutes. There is danger, even in descending to the Niceties of this Vice, lest Inclinations, so strong by Nature, should take an advantage