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things, that his moderation may appear unto all
He must religiously examine even the things which seem the most safe. He must take the alarm the first moment he perceives any approbation of sin stealing upon his mind. He must not in the smallest thing give place to the devil, but resist him manfully, steadfast in the faith.
And here a reply may be given to two cases of conscience:
Young persons sometimes ask, WHETHER THEY MAY, FROM CUKIOSITY, READ OCCASIONALLY SUCH BOOKS, OR LISTEN TO SUCH INSTRUCTIONS, OR FREQUENT SUCH SOCIETY AS THEY ARE AWARE MAY HAVE A TENDENCY TO CORRUPT THEIR MINDS FROM THE SIMPLICITY OF SCRIPTURAL TRUTH AND CHRISTIAN OBEDIENCE.
The obvious answer is, No,--unless a very clear call of duty demands it of you. It must not be done to gratify curiosity, but to fulfil some positive obligation. And as such calls of duty are very rare, it can rarely be lawful for you thus to expose yourself. Shall a person in tender health intrust himself to an infected atmosphere? Shall we venture to walk on to the very edge of the precipice? Shall we try how much poison our constitution will sustain? Shall we prefer a mixture of unwholesome food to the unadulterated milk of the word? Can we hope that God will keep us from temptation, if we rush into it of ourselves? Are we not too weak, far too
weak, to tamper with error, to trust ourselves to listen to its syren voice, or to covet, spontaneously and with alacrity, suspicious gratifications?
But you reply that you wish to PROVE ALL THINGS, THAT YOU MAY HOLD FAST THAT WHICH
If this be, indeed, the simple truth, the case is altered. You no longer read the book, or hear the discourse, or enter the supposed society, froin curiosity, but with the honest desire of knowing, that you may obey, the truth. Be on your guard, however, lest you deceive yourself in this supposition. The probability is, that you know the truth in its main branches already, and therefore that you have no real plea for such hazardous pursuit of further knowledge. Conscience tells you this ; and yet you remain unsatisfied. Beware of a fas. tidious taste, lest you mistake morbid delicacy for refinement of mind :-the healthful appetite does not pine after luxuries and variety. Stand fast in the faith. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrine. Avoid foolish questions and contentions as unprofitable and vain.
But you say that THE INSTRUCTIONS WHICH YOU WISH TO HEAR ARE REPORTED TO HAVE MANY EXCELLENCIES, AND TO CONTAIN AT LEAST A LARGE MIXTURE OF TRUTH. Perhaps we may reply, So much the worse. The tempter may
transformed into an angel of light. The poison may be mixed up with wholesome nourishment. There would be comparatively little danger to an enlightened mind, in the contemplation of gross and unmingled error. Therefore watch and pray. No one can tell with what taint be may rise from reading a book, or listening to a discourse, which causes to err from the ways of righteousness. No one can tell but he may thereby grieve the Spirit of God, and provoke him to give him up to his own heart's lust, and to let him follow his own devices. Let no one presume to amuse himself with deviations from truth, lest he be found to trifle with God.
But a second case may be proposed—MAY I OCCASIONALLY AMUSEMENTS OF SOMEWHAT WORLDLY PERSONS ? If indispensable duty throws you into their society, you must submit to it as the will of God; but to prefer their company, is an unquestionable indication of a worldly spirit. You thereby run unnecessarily into temptation. You quench the Spirit. You lose your time. You expose your imagination and thoughts to be corrupted. You open the way for further allurements. You like wise encourage others in a worldly course. You indispose yourself for prayer and devotion. You lower your standard of piety, and are in danger of declining from God. Nay, the very inquiry shows that you have already begun to decline from him. How can a Christian, who occa
sionally frequents the diversions and pleasures of the world, be said to do all things, both in word and deed, in the name of the Lord Jesus ? How can he redeem time, walk circumspectly, escape from conformity to this world, and be transformed in the renewing of his mind ? A Christian ought to have no taste for the world, no relish for the husks, so to speak, which the swine do eat. His heart should be fixed on Christ, on duty, and on heaven. He ought to have his affections devoted to God. Does he pray not to be led into temptation, and shall he wilfully rush into it? He has by nature a powerful bias towards earthly things, shall he run the risk of augmenting it? He has a traitorous heart, shall he allow it to parley with the enemy? He has much difficulty in making any progress towards heaven, shall he increase the difficulty? He professes to run the race of his high calling, shall he voluntarily turn aside from that course? He professes a desire to lay aside every weight, shall he burden himself with additional impediments? He says he wishes to grow in grace, shall he stop in his progress? He appears to have put his hand to the plough, shall he look back?
But I propose, lastly,
- III. SOME TOPICS OF CONSOLATION TO THE HUMBLE AND WATCHFUL CHRISTIAN,
Let such an one remember that the prayer, Lead us not into temptation, implies that no. TEMPTATION CAN ASSAULT US WITHOUT God's PERMISSION. He notices and orders all, knows the way that you take, follows you with his eye, and has designs of holy love to accomplish in all your trials. It is surely a great relief to the tempted and harassed Christian, who is endeavouring in humility and vigilance to resist temptation, to know that all is right; that Satan is under the control of God, and cannot touch even a hair of our head without His permission.
Think also on the PROMISE to which we have already alluded, that no temptation shall happen unto you, but what is common to man; but that God will, with the temptation also, make a way for your escape, that you may be able to bear it. God may see fit to allow you to be led into circumstances of severe temptation; but if you adopt the prayer of the text, he will not leave you under them, he will not permit them to overwhelm you, will bring you needful succour, and will deliver you from all your fears. If it was our Saviour himself who taught bis disciples thus to pray, then HE WILL ASSUREDLY, MEMBER THEM IN THE CONFLICT. He is not an high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling -of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, and yet without sin. He