« הקודםהמשך »
hearts to which temptation is not, more or less, allied. It has an influence, in a greater or less degree, upon almost every thought and upon every impulse. Scarcely a moment passes but some suggestion of fancy, or some silent dictate of the will, realizes its ascendency. It is at the bottom of almost every thing we do, and of every thing we desire. It imparts that master hue to the moral aspect of our destinies which gives a tone and character to every other. It is a worm gnawing at the root of every thing that is good within us, and stimulating us to every thing that is depraved. Like a serpent, it weaves its deadly coil around us, and when we passively yield to the insidious embrace, it gradually presses us closer and closer, until we finally become the victims of this too seductive agent of the arch enemy of our souls. Consider this, " ye that forget God !”
But why do I dwell so long upon its influence over us? Because that influence is at once mighty and prevailing; because we are so little on our guard against its approaches; because it seduces us from our fealty to God, and will finally give us over, if we yield without resistance to its fatal allurements, to that dominion where the never - dying worm is the minister, of eternal torment.
Do not let us fondly imagine that the “ crafts and subtleties of the devil" are few and easy to
be contravened. This is a fatal delusion, for we are absolutely beleaguered by his allurements. He strews them so thickly around us that there is no resting-place for our feet but in the midst of them. They are like so many adders in our path, to sting us at every advance we make within the mazes of that flowery labyrinth which so sadly perplexes our progress in the race for the “prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus.” They are the springs of all our passions, of the noblest as well as of the basest. Even Hope is a perpetual temptation. It hangs like a silver star upon a thread of gossamer over the dark abyss of the future, while we are continually leaping at the bright delusion as it glitters before us, mocking but tempting our grasp, and drop into the gulf only to realize the fallacy of human expectation.
Let us only look around the world : let us only consult our own experience, and see how temptation besets us; how it urges us to forget God; how it stimulates us to realize our own vain calculations of profit or of enjoyment at every hazard, and in defiance of the divine denunciations ; how it seduces us to worship Mammon--to idolize the creature more than the Creator-to tie our views down to the things of time, rather than exalt them to the things of eternity. It is the circumference of the mighty circle of sin. Like that mysterious principle in
matter, which combines the several atoms of which all masses are composed with a force of continuity neither to be investigated nor overcome, we are attracted by every temptation that besets us with a might which is as latent as it would be irresistible, but for the aid that “ cometh from above."
Is it possible that any among us can have our minds so utterly abstracted from the perils of our human condition as not to be sensible of this? Is there a Christian now before me who does not therefore feel the absolute necessity of watchfulness and prayer ? Are we not now under trial for a better home, where nothing inpure can enter," an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens," and the very essence of that trial is temptation. If we were never tempted, where would be the test of our righteousness;in what would consist our probation? We should again be complete in the perfection of our primitive creation and in the image of God. But as we have fallen, God in his infinite wisdom has determined that we should undergo a rigid probation here, before we shall rise to a life of immortality hereafter. Still, however severe our trial, of this we may be assured, that « temptation hath taken us but such as is common to man;" and that our efforts to resist it will be crowned with success if we earnestly “ watch
Let us remember that it was the forfeiture of innocence in paradise which first let temptation loose into the world. It is the sad privilege of Satan's conquest, and it now remains for us to resist, endowed with the divine grace and Heavenly benediction," what we can neither avoid nor explode. The means of doing this are by obeying the injunction of the text. Tempted we ever shall be, during our sojourn in this “vale of tears,” though not above our capacities of endurance; for we are assured that “God will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it.” We are all alike exposed, righteous as well as ungodly, to the evils produced by this insidious agent of our ruthless foe, and the only way to baffle him therefore is to “ watch and pray;" because watchfulness will keep alive our caution, and prayer will procure for us the divine aid, without which our resistance to the enticements of sin can never be effectual. We must be earnestly as well as constantly on the watch, or our surprise will be sure and fatal; we must earnestly as well as constantly pray, for the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry," or we shall receive no aid from above to subdue this mighty bar to the security of our souls.
But what resistance do we really offer to temptation? We “feed sweetly upon it-it is as
honey in our mouths,” though “ the poison of asps” is mixed up with the sweet, and we encourage its ascendency because it promises so much, though it realizes so little. And yet, I repeat it, how lax are we in our resistance ! How little heedful are we to flee at once from the danger, though we are aware of the peril, and from the wrath to come!” What delight do we seem to take in urging our frail barks amid the breakers, and dashing them upon the covered rocks of sin ! Gracious God! what an infatuation! And yet this is the infatuation of rational beings-it is the infatuation, more or less, of us all. Yes, of us all !
Do not for a moment imagine that, because I stand before you as a preacher of righteousness, I would arrogantly exclude myself from this frailty of our mortal nature, to which every son of an erring father must, in a greater or less degree, be subject. No! I feel that I am preaching to my own heart. I feel the littleness of my own feeble strength without the sustaining grace of Him, the measure of whose power is “ longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.” I would mix myself up with the mass of my fellow probationers while I pointed to the command of our text,“ Watch and pray;" for I cannot be insensible to my own spiritual feebleness, when I know the voice of inspiration has pronounced