Sermon 1528. "They Were Tempted"
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, MARCH 14, 1880,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"They were tempted." Hebrews 11:37.
LAST Lord's-Day I tried to draw the fair portrait of a believing man [Sermon #1526, The Fair Portrait of a Saint] puttinghis feet into God's steps and keeping God's way even unto the end. This morning we shall show in what circumstances such menwere produced. We shall discover that they were not nursed upon the lap of ease, but were born and reared and perfected amidstorms of opposition. We shall again see "the lily among thorns." The gracious characters of which we read in Scripture werenot created by favorable circumstances-they owed nothing to their position or age- their character was formed from within.Their faith was not produced by the tenderness of Providence-they were not put into a conservatory like fair flowers whichcannot endure the frost-we might rather say that they were helped to their robustness by the rough winter blasts which sweptover them.
They were warriors of peace-pilgrims who traveled armed to the teeth making no holiday march, but contending with giants anddragons. Whoever else may find life a sport, the saints have found it to be real and earnest. Their path has been no mereparade, but grim and grisly dangers have beset them-"they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were slain with the sword."One form of the opposition which they encountered is the subject of this morning's meditation-"They were tempted." Do notforget that the leading principle of a godly man is faith and, according to this chapter, faith is the force by which bravedeeds are done and great sufferings are endured.
All the world appears to be in arms against the man of faith. Ishmael, the child of human strength, mocks Isaac who is bornby the power of faith according to promise. Yet faith is able to bear all attacks and to flourish under them, even as theIsraelites in Egypt multiplied the more as their oppressions were increased. The sufferings of Believers, which are mentionedby Paul, are varied and exceedingly intense. And this is one of them-"they were tempted." The speedy weapon of stone, or sword,or saw gratified the malice which sought their death, but tempting them satisfied a subtle hate which stabbed at their characterand their faith.
In temptation there is for the soul all the deadliness which the slaughter weapon brings to the body. It is blessed to observethat the faithful also survived this danger. A torrent roared against them and they stemmed it with resolute confidence. Theydid not drift with the current, nor drown in its floods. Dealing with this one form of opposition, "they were tempted," Ishall be able to say a great many more practical things than if I were preaching upon, "they were stoned," or, "they weresawn asunder," for those things happen but now and then. But this record that, "they were tempted," is repeated in us alland, especially in you who have lately set out on the heavenly pilgrimage. You have got far enough to discover that you arenot to be allowed to go to Heaven if Satan can prevent it, nor suffered to remain a Christian if by any means the men of thisworld can cast you down.
You are being tempted. May the practical words I shall be able to speak be applied with power by the Holy Spirit to your comfortand help.
I. First I will call attention to THE UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF THE STATEMENT now before us. It is not true that all the saints werescourged, nor all imprisoned. Neither were all stoned, nor all slain with the sword. But it is true of the whole cloud ofwitnesses that they were all tempted. The word, "tempted," bears two meanings. First of all, that of being tried or afflictedand, secondly, that of being persuaded or enticed to sin. In the first aspect of it God did tempt Abraham, that is, He triedhim and this He does with all His people. God had one Son without sin, but He never had a son without trial!
"What son is there whom the Father chastened not?" "Of which you are all partakers," says Paul, when he speaks of chastening."For whom the Lord loves, He corrects, even as a father the son in whom he delights." His own elect are
made to feel His refining fires, for He declares of each one "I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction." All the sheepof Christ bear His private mark-He sets the cross of affliction upon them all. "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shallsuffer persecution." "In the world you shall have tribulation." Before you shall find me a man who has never known troubleI think you will have ridden many a horse lame and searched far and wide for, "man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward."And I will guarantee that the wonderful untried person is as much a stranger to God as he is to affliction!
Within the sacred enclosure of the elect of God you shall not be able to discover one whom the Lord has not, in some way orat some time afflicted in love. Count it not, therefore, a strange thing, my dear Brothers and Sisters, that you should havea cross to carry! Do not begin to kick against the pricks as though some unusual suffering were laid upon you when the Lordtouches you with the goad of sorrow. You are one among many and among the many there are worthy ones who bear heavier loadsthan yours! Envy none, but feel a brotherhood with all the faithful, for they, too, "were tempted." As for the other senseof the word, "tempt"-the bad and hard one. In that sense, also, the statement is universally true. All the people of God havebeen tempted to sin. Satan no sooner perceives a child of God renewed in heart and cleansed from defilement than he endeavors,if he can, to mar the work of the Holy Spirit; to ruin the happiness of the Believer and to weaken his usefulness by leadinghim into sin.
The Prince of the power of the air, though he cannot be everywhere himself, manages with his host of underlings to be so nearlyomnipresent that he tempts us all in turns and some of us very fiercely. Woe unto the man who is beset by the arch enemy,himself, if he is not abiding in fellowship with the Lord Jesus! If the Lord is away from the Believer it will go hard withhim when Apollyon, himself, meets him in deadly duel. The fiend is stronger and craftier than we are and unless the Lord coversour head in the day of battle we shall find his fiery darts too terrible. This, however, is some comfort, that every Believernow with God has crossed swords with the devil-He has not suffered one to pass unmolested- "they were tempted."
Nor is it only Satan who tempts the saints. The world is always tempting God's people and there is no position in life whichis free from peril. A man sick of the fever dreams that if he can be placed in another bed he shall feel better-it is buta dream. He turns and tosses to and fro upon his pillow, but as Watts well says-
"It is a poor relief we gain To shift the place but keep the pain." In this mortal life we may change our position, but weshall never get away from temptation. Temptations are with kings upon their thrones and with peasants at the plow-they comeof plenty and they come of poverty-they are born of success and they are born of defeat. Whether our path is rough or smooth,we are liable to be tripped up unless an unseen hand shall hold us up. This is true of all who have gone before us-"they weretempted."
At times Providence permits those who are in authority to exercise great power of temptation. So it was with the saints ofold-those who were in power accounted them as sheep for the slaughter. The rulers of the synagogues and then the magistrates,rulers and emperors set themselves against God and against His Christ and those who held the reins of government were determinedthat they would put down the reign of Christ and utterly destroy His people. Princes and potentates became the willing servitorsof Satan, threatening and bribing those who had espoused the faith. So far as open, legalized persecution by the State isconcerned, we are happily free from it-but of those who in the martyr days bore high the banner of the Cross it may be saidwith emphasis-"they were tempted."
But, Brothers and Sisters, if there were no devil and if there were no wicked world it would still be true that the saintsare tempted, for every man is tempted when he is "drawn away by his own lusts" and there is that within the best of men whichmight make them into the worst of men if the Grace of God did not prevent it! O child of God, you are, on one side, fair asan angel and the Grace of God gleams upon you and makes you bright as your transfigured Master! And yet on the other sideof you, you are black as a devil and if the Grace of God were taken from you, you would as much dishonor the name and Crossof Christ as did the false apostate who took the thirty pieces of silver! Every good man is two men-he finds one fightingagainst the other-the old man, according to its corruptions and lusts, daily warring with the new-born man within him whichcannot sin because it is born of God.
Now it is true, not only of you and me, but it has been true of all the people of God, that they have had inward conflictsand spiritual contests within themselves of the most painful kind. The saints were tempted. They were persuaded to
sin by Satan, by the world and by the propensities of their nature. And of all the blood-redeemed host it must be said, "theywere tempted." Ought not this fact restrain every man from a self-indulgent despair? Do you know what I mean? I mean this-aman says, "Well, I cannot help it! I am in such a place of temptation that if I give way I may well be excused." Not so, Sir!"They were tempted" and yet they did not fall, but held fast their integrity! They who today are waving the palm of victorywere tempted even as you are and it is idle for you to say that victory is impossible seeing they have proved the reverse!
Using the same weapons and helped by the same Spirit, your temptations, which are the same as theirs, will be overcome byyou even as theirs were vanquished by them! Get up and fight like men! Dream no longer of impossibilities which might excuseyou-what has been done by one, by the help of God, can be done by another! This leaves us without any excuse for yieldingto temptation. I know we commonly think that if we can prove that we are tempted there is not much blame attached to us butit is not so! It is most true that those who tempt others are guilty of the greater sin, but the sin of those who are temptedand yield to the temptation is great enough-great enough to crush them into eternal destruction unless they repent of it!Other people have been tempted as you have been and yet they have resisted the temptation and have remained in obedience toGod and, therefore, if you yield to the evil influence you are without excuse.
The multitude of holy men and women who are now before the Throne of God are all witnesses against you, for they show whatcan be done and what can be done in you, too, the Grace of God being with you. This fact that all the saints have been temptedshould put an end to all murmuring upon that score. Somebody says, "Mine is a hard lot! I have to follow Christ under greatdisadvantages. My foes are those of my own household." Yes, your lot may be difficult, but if you could just peep within thepearly gates and see that brilliant company who are the peers of the realm of Heaven, you would see none but those who oncewere tempted!
Do you dare demand a better lot than theirs? Remember your Master was tempted and shall the disciple wish to be above hisMaster, or the servant above his Lord? Is there to be some easy bye-road to Heaven made for you, turned from end to end androlled every morning?-
"Must you be carried to the skies On flowery beds of ease While others fought to win the prize And sailed through bloody seas.9"You must not expect it! You must fight if you would reign! You must carry the cross as others carried it if you are like they,to wear the crown! The temptations which were endured by saints in all ages must forever prevent our complaining if hooksare baited for us and snares laid for our destruction!
One sweet thought arises here. Since the best of saints were tempted, this prevents our conceiving that to be tempted is,in itself, a sin. I have known feeble-minded Christians bemoan themselves and cry, "If I were not exceedingly sinful I shouldnot have these hideous thoughts and dreadful suggestions! If my heart were not full of evil, I should not have these blasphemousideas forced into my poor, unwilling brain." Beloved, it is not so! If your heart were wholly the devil's, he might not careto worry you and, indeed, you would not be worried, but would love sin! It is because you are not his, because you are desperatelystruggling towards holiness and virtue that, therefore, he tempts you. It is no sin to be tempted-the sin is in yielding totemptation!
Your Lord was tempted and yet in Him was no sin. Thrice did Satan assail our Lord-three evil courses did he plausibly suggest,but he found nothing in Him to work upon! There was no tinder for his sparks to light. Be, therefore, greatly comforted, byGod's Grace, you who find evil thoughts rushing through your minds like a torrent. You try to fight against these temptationsand yet they return again and again till your heart is well-near broken with them-do not, therefore, condemn yourself forthem so long as you abhor them. You are not a castaway because you are tempted, for all the saints in Gory were tempted, too.Yes, I think, dear Friends, if any of us here present meet with great trials in life and with very strong temptations to turnback to the world-if God gives us Grace to keep towards the New Jerusalem we may even glory in these trials!
We ought to pray, "Lead us not into temptation," for temptation is not to be sought for but to be looked upon as an evil,seeing that flesh is frail. But when it assumes the form of persecution and our Lord helps us to endure it, steadfast in thefaith, we may even rejoice and leap for joy! If your name is slandered, or you become a loser in wage, or in estate, or incomfort for Christ's sake, you may greatly rejoice-for now you have fellowship with Jesus and His suffering follow-
ers! You are entering the confederacy of the bravest of the brave. Now shall you share in "that lordlier chivalry" which belongsnot to mailed knights, but to spirits purified and ennobled by the Holy Spirit! These are the blessed ones who endure temptation,who, when they are tried, shall receive the Crown of Life which fades not away! Forget not, then, the universal truth of thestatement before us-"They were tempted."
II. Secondly, let us consider THE UNLIMITED BREADTH OF THE STATEMENT. "They were tempted"-it
does not say how. If one form of temptation had been mentioned, we should have surmised that they did not suffer in otherways, but when the statement is, "they were tempted," we shall not be wrong in concluding that they were tried in any andevery form. Whatever form temptation may take, in some or in all the saints, that temptation has been endured. We may sayof Christ's mystical body as we may say of Christ's self-"tempted in all points like as we are." Brothers and Sisters, thesaints who are in Heaven were tempted in all ways!
They were tempted by threats, but they were equally tempted by promises. They were put into prison, or they were banished.They were deprived of their goods and of their good names, but they stood fast and firm and would not yield up Christ, threatenas men might. Then they were tried by bribes-if they would forsake Christ and turn from the Truth of God they would be richand honorable, they would be restored to their families, they would have, in some cases, every indulgence which the monarchcould grant. They were equally deaf to either form of solicitation-they could not be driven and they could not be drawn! Howeverthe net might be spread they could not be taken in it.
Standing at the stake, with the flames kindling and the firewood beginning to burn, the tempting monk has held up the crucifixand said, "Kiss it! Kiss it and your life shall be given you and you shall have great honors!" But they put away the idolfrom them and would not dishonor God by worshipping any material substance, whatever it might be. Or else the martyr, on hisway to die, has been confronted by his wife and children, kneeling down and praying their father to have pity upon them, ifnone upon himself, and not to die and leave a widow and fatherless children. But though natural love struggled in their hearts,they leaped over that temptation, for they loved Christ better than their dearest relatives. They were tempted in the mostsubtle fashion-reason and rhetoric, threat and scorn, bribe and blandishment have all been used and used in vain. Againstthem the enemy has sent forth the arrow which flies by day and the pestilence which walks in darkness, but the Lord has kepttheir soul alive and they have glorified His name!
Yet very sorely "they were tempted." They were tempted both with trials peculiar to themselves and with trials common to usall. We are apt, sometimes, to say that this age is not congenial to the strength of Grace and I think there is truth in theremark. We are a set of dwarfs and it seems hard to grow to the stature of a man in Christ Jesus in the atmosphere which dailysurrounds us. We have fallen upon an evil age in which principle is treated like a football in the streets and bluster rulesthe hour. But the ages in which saints lived long ago had their peculiar temptations, too, and they were tempted. Every periodsince the world began has had its own form of spiritual danger-as weapons of war have changed so have temptations-but theold enmity remains.
Not always does the swordsman make his cut at the head. Sometimes he stabs at the heart, or at another time he drives at thefeet-always aiming to wound, but not always aiming at the same part of the man. One age is dark and ignorance would chillthe heart; another is philosophical and by its false wisdom would overlay the Gospel. The points from which the wind blowsmay differ, but it always blows against the servants of God who are traveling to Heaven. Say not therefore, O child of God,that others who lived before you were not tempted as you are, for they endured temptations which to them were as keen andas powerful as any which have fallen on you!
They had, also, special temptations arising out of their individual constitutions. We have, every one of us, some weak point.One man is not readily made angry, but he is too cold. Another is sensitive, but he is too speedily wrathful. One man is fullof love and affection, but he lacks decision. Another is resolute, but fails in tenderness. Side by side with the specialexcellence of any character we usually discover a remarkable weakness calling for great watchfulness! And of all those whoare now in Heaven it may be said they were tempted-tempted in some characteristic point and with some besetting sin.
Beloved, if you have to endure the same, mark well that you follow a well-trod path. As they had their peculiar temptations,so they had the common trials of the most ordinary life. Look at Abraham-not only does he stand alone in the sacrifice ofIsaac, but he stands with us in our common afflictions. He is tried in his relatives-his nephew Lot is ungrateful to him andleaves him. He is tried in his servants-the family is set by the ears by Hagar. He is tried in his wife,
for she complains against him wrongfully. He is tried in his children, for Ishmael mocks Isaac. His dwelling in tents broughtwith it quite as much discomfort and trial as our dwelling in houses. Flocks and herds involve as much care as shops and workrooms.
Just such domestic troubles as you and I experience were known to Jacob and David. One man is very like another and nothingcan be more unwise than to set up saintly men who lived ages ago upon a sort of shelf, as if they were unapproachable andinimitable and belonged to a different race! These heroes are our brothers, their battles are our battles, their victory shallbe ours. Our Divine Master Himself, when He was assailed by the devil in the wilderness, was attacked by those same temptationswhich have been used against us-we, too, have been tempted to use wrong means to supply our pressing needs, to presume uponthe Providence of God and to commit idolatry in order to gratify ambition. These are arrows which have rattled on the harnessof many soldiers of the Cross.
Our Lord Jesus, the Captain of our salvation, bore the brunt of the battle and in the matter of temptation He condescendedto fight upon the same level with ourselves. "He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin." So that the textstands good in all its length and breadth that all those who have won the everlasting Victory were tempted, even as we arenow.
III. Thirdly, let us notice THE SPECIAL POINT OF THE TRIAL. All these temptations, according to the connection of our text,were aimed at the faith of these holy men. Paul is writing of the victories and sufferings of faith and, therefore, we aresure that these temptations were a test and trial of their faith. It is wonderful how God takes care that the victories offaith shall somehow or other be kept in mind. There was a period after the Prophets had ceased to prophesy and before Christcame in which the Israelite church had to contend against antichrist and other enemies. In the Apocrypha you have the accountof some few of the martyrdoms of those who held fast to God and to His Truth.
They are not put in canonical Scripture-they neither belong to the Old Testament nor to the New-but here Paul immortalizesthem, for the Lord will have them remembered. Those who were stoned and sawn asunder for the Truth's sake shall not be forgotten.If the details are not given, they shall yet be recorded in the gross on the sacred pages. Since that time, dear Friends,as if Paul had been writing prophecy rather than history, the people of God have had to pass through sufferings which, ifI were to repeat them now, would break your hearts with grief because of the horrors of cruelty which human ingenuity hasinvented.
Man has seemed to turn into a devil and sink below a fiend in the barbarities which he has perpetrated against the servantsof God. All this has been aimed at the destruction of faith. The Jews were tempted to worship idols-they must offer incenseto a false God-but they would not. In later years Christians must pay homage to the image of the em-peror-this they wouldnot do-they would die a thousand deaths sooner than worship a false God! By-and-by they were called upon to deny the Deityof Christ and by tens of thousands they perished sooner than deny that fact! In later years it came to this-that they mustsubmit to superstition-they must assert that they believed in transubstantiation, which they could not believe in, nor thusinsult their God!
They must submit themselves to men who said they were priests and could forgive their sins-which they felt was a forsakingof the great High Priest to think of doing it-and so they died rather than deny the faith. The story of the lives of theseheroes is recorded in such half-inspired books as Foxe's "Book of Martyrs" and the like. Read it and let your children readit till both they and you have learned fidelity to Christ! The main point of the adversary's attack was always their faith-thereforelet us learn where to set our guard. Let us see to it that we become strong in faith, for that is true strength. Feed yourfaith well. Know the Truth of God and know it thoroughly. Read the Scriptures and understand them. Make sure of the eternalTruths of God.
Live much upon the promises of future bliss. A sight of the unfading crown will make you cheerfully forego the withering flowersof earth. The sorrows of the way will grow light as the eternal weight of Glory is revealed. You will think less of the commendationor censure of men if your ears already hear the great Master saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
IV. I cannot dwell long on this point, though I had wished to do so, but must now call your attention, in the fourth place,to THE INTENSITY OF THIS TRIAL. That I gather from the position of our text, which is very strange. They were stoned, theywere sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with sword. It has seemed to commentators to be so singular that to be "tempted"should be, as it were, sandwiched in between, "sawn asunder" and being "slain with the
sword," that they have thought there must be an error in the text. Certainly at the first blush, the words look rather outof place, but they are not so. Some learned men have imagined another Greek word to be the correct one, since it involvesa very slight alteration and then the passage would run-"They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were burnt, they wereslain with the sword."
I do not see any reason for desiring an alteration. It seems to me to be plain that the original is, "they were tempted,"and what is written must stand. The more we think of it, the more we shall see that being tempted is worthy to be put sideby side with being sawn asunder and being slain with the sword, for many of those who are daily tormented with temptationswill tell you that it is as painful to bear as any form of death. If you live in a place where you hear little else but blasphemyfrom morning to night you will soon say, "I think I should prefer being in a prison to this. The cut of a whip or the woundof a sword would scarcely cause more pain than to hear the name of Jesus Christ profaned and to see every holy and preciousthing trampled on!"
When the ungodly persecute cruelly, as they can do, even now, without violating the law of man, they can tease and worry yourvery soul. They can embitter every morsel that you eat, make home to be a torture-chamber and the workroom an inquisition.They will maliciously track you in all your steps with jests and jeers and slanders and hard speeches and make you live likeMarcus Arethusa, among the bees which, at last, stung him to death. Believe me, some of God's people have found that to betempted in that sense has been as bad as to be stoned, or to be slain with a sword! In fact, there are times when they havesaid, "If we could be taken out and our heads could be cut off at one stroke with a sword, it would be a happy release fromthis life-long agony."
Alas for gentle, timid, loving spirits who have to endure such temptation! I think Paul did well to put this here, not onlybecause of the painfulness of it, but because of the danger of it, for it is certain that under temptation of the more insidiouskind more professed Christians have been led away than ever were frightened from the faith by racks, or torments, or fearof death. It is a very sad fact that when Queen Mary died there were persons lying in prison condemned for heresy who had,some of them, been great sufferers for the faith and bold confessors of it and yet when released they did not abide in theirsteadfastness.
Queen Mary died and Elizabeth ascended the throne and they obtained their liberty and, alas, some of them, returning to thecomforts of home, became altogether worldly persons and forsook the faith for which once they would have even dared to die.I have known some unhappy cases of the same kind, where persons have been persecuted by their families for following Christand have stood up for Him right manfully so that I have felt great admiration for them for their consistent courage. I havelived to see these very individuals delivered from the yoke of bondage, able to start in life for themselves and to do exactlyas they pleased and, alas, soon after persecution ceased they have grown cold and have forsaken the ways of God! What a strangecreature is man!
Lord, what a deceitful heart I have! O that You would search it and try it, lest it be so that I follow You in stormy weather,but leave You when the south wind blows! I think the Apostle put in this clause just where we find it because more deadlyto the Church have been the blandishments of the world's wealth than all the raging of her cruelty. Her stakes, her racks,her gallows have never injured the Church so much as her witcheries, her smiles, her fashions and her patronage. Yet thiswas borne by saints of old, for, "they were tempted." "Well," says one, "you describe these Christian people as having hadvery hard times of it, for they were tempted and tempted very severely, too." Yes, it is true, but we do not pity one of them.If you saw those gallant men who wear the Victoria cross for valor and you were told of their perils and sufferings, you wouldnot pity them.
They could not have worn the coveted cross given them by their Queen if they had not bravely endured hardship and peril. Wedo not pity men who have performed daring exploits, nor may we pity those servants of God who suffered the utmost cruelties,but now rest from their labors and wear their honors in Heaven. The question is-Can you aspire to take a place among them?To be a true Christian is no small thing and, before you pretend to be a follower of Jesus, count the cost! Are you willingto endure temptation without yielding? Can you scorn the world's bribes and defy its threats? Will you set your face likea flint for Christ and holiness? Has Grace made you a lion-like man? Have you a strong determination worked in you by theHoly Spirit? If not, you may run well for a time, but you will turn back and prove an apostate. I pray God that you may beof that noble stock which the Lord has chosen and may have in you that noble na-
ture which only the Holy Spirit can impart, so that, though you shall be tempted, you shall hold out till life's last hour,invincible through the Grace of God!
I want, in conclusion, to answer the question which naturally arises-Why, then, does God permit His people to encounter somuch temptation? Why is the road to Heaven so beset with foes? I answer that there are a great many replies to that question,for the Lord answers many designs at one and the same time. First, persecution and temptation are a sort of sieve to siftthe Church of God. As it is, we have enough hypocrites among us and if the way to Heaven were strewn all along with loavesand fishes, we should have the devil, himself, going on pilgrimage! There must be these fiery persecutions so that the hypocritesmay be purged out. I guarantee you there were not many hypocrites in the catacombs of Rome when, to be a Christian involvedalmost certain death! They crept into their assemblies at the dead of night and there gathered to sing hymns to the name ofJesus and few were the traitors' tongues which joined in the singing!
When in our own country any man who had a Bible must die for it and, therefore, men hid their Bibles behind the wainscot,or under the floor, few were very eager for Bible-reading. The mocking, the jesting, the jeering which goes on in the worldis the sieve constantly moving to shake off the chaff and let the good wheat remain. If we could stop that winnowing fan weshould hardly wish to do so! I am sure if I could give some of you new converts a pass from here to Heaven so that nobodyshould ever laugh at you and you should never suffer anything for Christ, I would not do it! I feel I would be doing you aserious injury if I could secure you against every trial.
Think of a soldier when he enlists. Suppose he should say to the sergeant, "Sergeant, will you give me a guarantee that Ishall never fight?" I think the officer would reply, "You had better not enlist." Even so I say to you we cannot guaranteeyou that you shall not be tempted and if you need such a guarantee as that, you are not the kind of man we want-you are notthe sort of man that is ever likely to win the unfading Crown! Trial and temptation also discover the reality of conversion.Look at this. Here is a man ridiculed for his religion and for his sobriety. He will not touch a drop of the drink which formerlycast him down to his destruction and, therefore, his fellow workmen laugh at him. All sorts of epithets are hurled at himwhile he is at work.
He goes to a place of worship on Sunday and for this he must be jeered at to the last degree. Who is this man that bears thisso patiently? Why, the very man who, 12 months ago, could drink as much as any of them and used to jeer at others! The veryman who for 20 years before never entered the house of God! Now, the fact that he can stand against temptation is one of thevery best evidences that he is born again and made a new creature in Christ Jesus! And those who see such a change confessthat this is the finger of God. What else could have changed him so completely as to make him stand against the very thingwhich he took part in so short a time ago? We may thank God for the temptations since it helps to evidence the reality ofthe conversion!
Again, it is by this that men are left without excuse, inasmuch as they refuse the Light of God. I sometimes wonder why ungodlymen cannot let Christian people alone. We do not interfere with you! Have we not as much right to do as we like as you haveto do what you like? But no! The moment a Christian appears among working men, they are all upon him as though they were somany dogs worrying a hare! What does this show but that they know the Truth of God and hate it? They know the Light, but wouldgladly quench it and, therefore, they put from them the candle which God sends them. They treat His blessing as if it werea curse! Did you ever read in the Scriptures of God's thinking better of men than they deserved? "No," you say, "that cannotbe!"
Yes, but there is a case, a parabolical case, of course, where the Lord is represented as judging men too easily. "Last ofall he sent unto them his son, saying, they will reverence my son." But they did not reverence him! They took the heir andslew him and cast him out of the vineyard. There are people of God who are naturally so amiable, kind and good that you feelsure all must love and esteem them and yet, because of their religion, even such must be persecuted. The beloved Brother cannotescape without sarcasm. The dear Sister that was everything, before, must now be made the subject of jeers and the husbandor the wife, however much beloved, is not spared. This leaves the ungodly altogether without excuse-it is God's purpose thatit should do so!
Meanwhile, it does saints good, for painful as it is to them, it drives them to prayer. Many a man lives near to God in prayerwho would not have done so if he had enjoyed an easier position. His prayerfulness strengthens him! His having to summon Divineaid to sustain him under trial makes him grow in faith and in every Grace! And he becomes a better Christian. I believe thatpersecution is overruled by God for displaying the work of the Divine Spirit. Men see in Chris-
tian patience, in Christian fortitude, in Christian courage and in Christian zeal what the Holy Spirit can work, even in suchpoor raw material as our human nature! God is magnified by the successful struggling of His people out of love to
Moreover, Brothers and Sisters, the life of the Church is the life of Christ extended and drawn out in His people. He was"holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners," yet He, "endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself," andif we keep close to Christ we must expect to share His lot. Ours should be the prolonged echoes of the music of Christ's life,"linked sweetness long drawn out." Oh that God would help us till Christ Himself shall come to keep up the blessed strain!It seems to me the trials and the temptations of this life are all making us fit for the life to come-building up a characterfor eternity. You have been in a piano plant-did you ever go there for the sake of music? Go into the tuning room and youwill say, "My dear Sir, this is a dreadful place to be in! I cannot bear it! I thought you made music here." They say, "No,we do not produce music here, we make the instruments and tune them here and in the process much discord is forthcoming."
Such is the Church of God on earth. The Lord makes the instruments down here and tunes them and a great deal of discord iseasily perceptible, but it is all necessary to prepare us for the everlasting harmonies up yonder. Have you thought what awonderful creature a man is-a perfect man, made fit to dwell in Heaven? He is the last product of Divine wisdom, the noblestwork of God! There is an angel, he is perfectly holy, but he never knew what sin was and there is little wonder that he clingsto that which has been his nature these many centuries! Besides, He is not encumbered by a body of dust, full of passionsand appetites which are the inlets of sin.
But here is a being with a soul, encumbered with materialism and it has known sin, known it terribly and yet it is foreverbound to do right beyond fear of turning aside! How is this to be achieved? Take away its free agency, says one. No, thatwould spoil it! It would be no longer a man if free agency were destroyed. This being is perfectly free to do whatever hepleases throughout eternity and yet he will never wish to do a wrong thing again! It is a wonderful work for God to fashionsuch a creature! He begins to do it in regeneration and continues the work in sanctification-and all the endurance of trialand all the patience manifested by the tried ones work together to prepare a character which can endure the strain of everlastingbliss and perform the holy service incident thereto!
I speak for every Christian here-I am to stand, one day, so near to God that between Him and me there will be but one Personand that Person the Lord Jesus Christ, my Lord and Mediator! I am, in Christ, to have dominion over all the works of God'shands and to be crowned with glory and honor! Angels are to be my servants and Heaven my inheritance! Shall I never grow proud?Shall no self-exaltation creep in? No! The character will be fixed for holiness as though engraved in eternal brass and yetthe man will be free! It may be that all the afflictions and temptations which God permits to pass over us here below areforming us for eternal bliss. Thus is the corn ripening for the garner, the fruit mellowing for the basket! Here the engravingtool and the hammer bring out the beauties which shall shine in the courts of the Lord forever when, of us, also, the recordwill be written-"they were tempted."