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Care for managing himself under his Temptations; to watch and pray diligently ; as being duly Tensible that he hath a watchful Enemy to deal with, one who will not fail to take all Advantages of Decei
1 Pet. V. 8. ving, and who goes about continually, seeking whom he may devour. Nor must our Attainments in Virtue dispose us to remit of this Care, for Virtue is no abfolute Security. No Man is so perfect, so holy, as never to be assaulted, or out of the reach of this Adversary. We may defend our selves against his Attacks, but still attack'd we must, and most certainly shall be.
Now tho’there be great Hazard and Uneasiness, yet is there likewise great Profit to be made from Temptations. Particularly, as they contribute to the humbling our Minds, to the purging off our Dross, and the making us wiser by suffering. This is the rough Way to Happiness, which all the Saints of God have travelld before us, and by it at last were fafe conducted to their Journey's End : And they who fell off and were discouraged at the Ruggedness of the Passage, are all Reprobates and Caft-aways. No Order or Profession of Men is so sacred, no Place so remote or solitary, but that Temptations and Troubles will find them out and intrude upon them.
Nor ought it to seem strange, that these should haunt and pursue us clofe,at allTimes and Places; since we our felves carry about us the very Matter of our Temptations, and can never run away from that inborn Concupiscence, upon which they work, and from whence they take Occasion to destroy us. This is the Account we may reasonably give our selves, why there should be such an uninterrupted Succession of Temp-. tations and Miseries, and why one Trouble should press so hard upon the Heels of another. For how indeed can it be otherwise ; since with our Innocence we lost our Safety and Happiness, and must be born to
Trouble, because the Ground of our Trouble is now become a Part of our Nature ? Many Men involve themselves deeper in Temptations, by being too folicitous to decline them. For we must not suppose our felves always to have conquered a Temptation, when we have fled from it. The nobler, and sometimes the more effectual way, is to vanquish them by patient enduring, and being humbled under them.
Thus much is plain ; That by declining a Temptation we have not disarmed it. The Root is standing still, and will soon be sprouting again ; and a Man who flees, is so far from getting ground upon his Ado versary, that he rather gives him Encouragement to pursue more vigorously. The way to overcome is by Patience and Long-fuffering; which, by God's Allistance, and by degrees, tho' perhaps but slow onés, is more likely to succeed, than Heat, and Vehemence, and any the violentest and most obftinate Efforts of our own Strength. When
find your self tempted, be sure to ask Advice ; and when you see another fo, deal with him gently. Support him with Compassion, and administer all the Comfort in er, as You could not but wish to be treated your self, were You in his afflicted Circumstances.
The Beginning of all Temptations to Wickedness, is the fickleness of our own Mind, and want of Trust in God. An inconstant and irresolute Man is like a Ship without a Pilot, driven to and fro, at the Mercy of eve
ry gust of Wind. Metals are tried in the Ecclus. ii. 5.
Fire, and Acceptable Men in the Furnace of Affliction. We seldom know the true extent of our own Power, till Temptation discover it to us. But Watchfulness, which is always necessary, is chiefly fo when the first Affaults are made, For the Enemy is more easily repulsed, if we never suffer him to get within us, but upon the very first Approach draw up our Forces, and fight him without the Gate. 'Twas well advised of the Poet,
Ovid. Fake Phyfick early; Medcines come too late Principiis When the Disease is grown inveterate.
Medicina And this will be more manifest, if we ob
Cain mala ferve, by what Methods and Degrees per longas Temptations grow upon us. The first invalucre Thing that presents it self to the Mind, moras. is a plain single Thought ; This straight is iinproved into a strong
Inagination; That again enforced by a sensible Delight; then follow evil Mations; And when there are onee Itirred, there remains nothing but the Aflent of the Will, and then the Work is finished. Now the first Steps of this are seldom thought worth our Care; fometimes not taken notice of; fo that the Enemy frequently is got close up to us, and even within our Trenches, before we observe him ; and we have lost the Day, for want of defending our felves, while he was in a Condition of being refifted. For the longer we defer the Engagement, the weaker we grow, and the more our Adverfary gathers Strength.
The Season of thefe Trials is various and uncertain. Upon some they are severer presently after their Conversion, upon Others towards the latter End of their Days. Some have them fo thick repeated, that their whole Life is one continued Conflict; and some again. have but very few and gentle Trials. All which different Cases are ordered by a Juft and Wife God, who knows what each Man deferves, and what he is qualified to undergo ; and weighs all Circumstances so justly, that his several Dispensations are constantly fubfervient to the Salvation and Happiness of his chosen Servants.
Let us not therefore despair, when Temptations beset us ; but excite our Zeal, and pray to God more feryently, that he would be our present Help and
Refuge in all our Troubles; and, as St. Paul expresses
it, That he would with the Temptation also I Cor. X. 13. 1 Pet. iv.
make a way to escape, that we may be able
to bear it. Let us bumble our felves un der the trying Hand of God, and patiently submit to
his good Pleasure in all our Tribulation. Pfalm xxxiv.
For those who do fo be will exalt in due time, and save them that be of a meek and a contrite Spirit.
i By Temptations and Ami&tions a Man is brought ( as it were ) to the Touch; by these his Proficiency is measured, and easily difcernable. The greater these are the more acceptable the Sufferer is' to God, and the brighter Luftre they add to his Virtue." For, to be Religious and Zealous in the Service of God, when no Uneafiness is upon us ; This is no mighty matter. But if we can suffer with Patience and Resignation, and continue steady in the Love and Service of God, when he afflicts and sends Bitterness into our Souls, this argues a noble Disposition, and promises an extraordinary Perfection. Some Person's have come off with Safety and Honour in very sharp and trying Instances, and yet are worsted in common and trivial ones... And this Case is capable of a very good Im-. provement: For thus no doubt God gives Mén warning, that they should not presume upon their own Strength, but humbly take Sanctuary in Him, in Matters of Difficulty ; Moved by the Experience of that Weakness, and Frailty, which hath yielded to fighter and less violent Temptations.
CH A P. XIV.
. Raft Judging:
Urn your Eyes inward upon your self; for you
ccan very hardly exceed in judging your own Actions, nor. be too cautious and sparing in censuring those of others. And Censuring indeed this deserves to be called in the worst Sense of the Word, rather than Judging; if we consider, not only how unprofi-. table to any good End, but how liable to infinite Mistakes, and very often how exceeding sinful, all fuch Judgments are. Whereas the Examining and Judging our own felves is a Work very proper for us ; Such as we are qualified to undertake, and always turns to good Account. We generally-determine and give Sentence, just as we stand affected to Persons and Things; our own Passions and Private Prepossessions blind our Minds, and either hinder us from discerning the Truth, or from letting it have its due Weight with us. Whereas, if we proceed from no other Principle but the Love of God; those Matters, which disa- ' gree with our own Sense of Things, would be allow'd fairer Consideration, and be less uneasy to us.
But now something foreign to the Case in hand, either lurking privately in our own Breaft, or happening from without, engages and draws our Minds after it. Many People act upon private Respects and personal Interests, even when leaft sensible that they do fo. These Men continue well fatisfied, so long as Things agree with their own Inclination ; but are out of all Patience, upon the least Difference and Contradiction. And hence it comes to pass, that good Correspondence is so often broke, and Quarrels commenced between Priends and Neighbours, even Men of Piety and the moft Sacred Professions, upon no other Ground, than that they do not think and act alike.