Sermon 509. Lead Us Not Into Temptation
A SERMON DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, MAY 17, 1863, BY THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Matthew 6:13. Psalms are entitled "Songs of Degrees." Certainly the prayer before us might be called a Prayer of Degrees. It begins whereall true prayer must commence, with the spirit of adoption, "Our Father." There is no acceptable prayer until we can say withthe prodigal-"I will arise and go unto my Father." This child-like spirit soon perceives the grandeur of the Father "in Heaven,"and ascends to devout adoration, "Hallowed be Your name." The child who lisps, "Abba Father," grows into the cherub, crying,"Holy, Holy, Holy."
Then there is but a step from rapturous worship to the glowing missionary spirit, which is a sure outgrowth of filial loveand reverent adoration-"Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." We do not commence our spiritualcareer with this mission spirit. We begin with"Our Father." We go on to feel His Glory, and then the next natural desire is that others may behold His greatness, too,till we are ready to cry with the Psalmist, "Let the whole earth be filled with His Glory."
In the process of education, which this prayer so well describes, we find the man very early conscious of his dependence uponGod. For as a dependent creature he cries, "Give us this day our daily bread." Being further illuminated by the Spirit, hediscovers that he is not only dependent, butsinful, therefore he entreats for mercy. "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors," and being pardoned, having therighteousness of Christ imputed, and knowing his acceptance with God, he humbly supplicates for holy perseverance, "Lead usnot into temptation."
The man who is really forgiven is anxious not to offend again. The possession of justification leads to an anxious desirefor sanctification. "Forgive us our debts," that is justification. "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,"that is sanctification in its negative and positiveforms. Now, it would not be the course of nature to begin a life of prayer with the supplication of this morning. This isa petition for men already pardoned, for those who know their adoption, for those who love the Lord and desire to see Hiskingdom come. Taught of the Spirit toknow their pardon, adoption, and union to Jesus, they can cry, and they, alone-"Lead us not into temptation, but deliverus from evil."
I shall this morning, first of all, anticipate an objection. Then I shall venture upon an exposition. And conclude with anexhortation.
I. First let us ANTICIPATE AN OBJECTION. A great many persons have been troubled by that passage in James, where it is expresslysaid, "Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts He anyman." It has been found very difficult toreconcile that express declaration of the Apostle with this prayer of our Savior. And some good, but very ignorant men,have gone the length of altering our Lord's words. I have heard of one who was custom always to say, "Leave us not in temptation"-amost unwarrantable andunjustifiable alteration of Holy Scripture.
Because sometimes a learned minister ventures, in all honesty and discretion, to give a more correct translation of the original-canthis justify a foolish unlettered man in altering the original, itself, and perverting the sense of a passage? There is anend to Scripture altogether, iflicense is given to alter its teachings according to our will. To teach perfect Wisdom how to speak is too great a taskto be ventured upon by any but the presumptuous and foolish. When our version is incorrect, then it is a duty to present theproper rendering, if one is able tofind it out. But to give translations out of our whimsical heads, without having been taught in the original tongue is impertinence,indeed!
There can be no better translation of the Greek than that which we have before us. The Greek does not say, "Leave us not intemptation," nor anything like it. It says, as nearly as English language can convey the meaning of the original, "Lead usnot into temptation," and no sort of pinching,twisting, or wresting can make this prayer convey any other sense than that which our version conveys in so many words.Let us always be afraid of attempting improvements on God's perfect Word. And when our theories will not stand with Divinelyrevealed Truth, let us alter ourtheories, but let us never attempt for one single moment to put one Word of God out of its place.
Neither can we get out of the difficulty by supposing that the word "temptation" does not mean "temptation," but must be restrictedto the sense of "trial." Now, we grant at once that the use of the word "temptation" in our translation of Scripture is somewhatliable to mislead. The word temptationhas two meanings-to try, and to entice. When we read that God did tempt Abraham, we are by no means to understand that Heenticed Abraham to anything that was evil. The meaning of the word in that place, doubtless, is simply and only that God triedhim.
But permit me to say that this interpretation will not stand with this particular text now before us. The word here used for"temptation," is not the word constantly written when trial is meant. It is the very word which one would employ if temptationto sin were intended-and I cannot believethat any other translation can meet the case. Doddridge's paraphrase is a happy one-"Do not bring us into circumstancesof pressing temptation lest our virtue should be vanquished, and our souls endangered by them. But if we must be thus tried,do You graciously rescue us fromthe power of the Evil One."
I grant you that the word includes trial, as all temptation does, for all temptation, even if it is temptation from Satan,is, in fact, trial from God. Still there is more than trial in the text, and you must look at it just as it stands. As Al-ford,says, "The leading into temptation must beunderstood in its plain literal sense." Take the text just as you find it. It means literally and truly, without any variance,"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
"Well," says one, "if God does not tempt men, how can it be proper to pray, "Lead us not into temptation"? Dear Brothers andSisters, do but notice the text does not say, "Tempt us not." If it did, then there would be a difficulty! It does not say,"Lord, tempt us not," but it says, "Lead us notinto temptation." I think I shall very rapidly be able to show you that there is a vast difference between leading intotemptation and actually tempting. God tempts no man. For God to tempt, in the sense of enticing to sin, would be inconsistentwith His Nature and altogethercontrary to His known Character.
But for God to lead us into those conflicts with evil which we call temptations, is not only possible, but usual. Full oftenthe Great Captain of Salvation leads us by His Providence to battlefields where we must face the full array of evil- and conquerthrough the blood of the Lamb. Thisleading into temptation is by Divine Grace overruled for our good, since, by being tempted we grow strong in Grace and patience.Our God and Partner may-for wise ends, which shall ultimately serve His own Glory, and our profit-lead us into positions whereSatan, theworld, and the flesh may tempt us. And so the prayer is to be understood in that sense of a humble self-distrust which shrinksfrom the conflict.
There is courage here, for the suppliant calmly looks the temptation in the face and dreads only the evil which it may workin him. But there is also a holy fear, a sacred self-suspicion, a dread of contact with sin in any degree. The sentiment isnot inconsistent with, "all joy," when the manydifferent temptations do come. It is akin to the Savior's, "If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me," which did notfor a moment prevent His drinking the cup, even to its dregs.
Let me observe that God, in no sense, so leads men into temptation as to have any share in the blame of their sin if theyfall into it. God cannot possibly, by any act of His, become partner with man in his crime. As good old Trapp well observes,"God tempts men for PROBATION, but never forPERDITION." The devil tempts men that he may ruin them-God tries men and puts them where Satan may try them-but He leadsthem into temptation for probation, that the chaff may be sifted from the wheat, that the dross may be separated from thefine gold.
By these trials, hypocrites fall, being discovered in the hour of temptation, just as the rough March wind sweeps throughthe forest, and finding out the rotten boughs, snaps them from the tree-the fault being not in the wind-but in the decayedbranch. James alludes to the actualsolicitation to evil in which the most holy God can have no part, but our text deals with the Providential bringing aboutof the temptation which I think you can clearly see may be the Lord's work without His holiness in any degree being stained.
When the Lord leads us into temptation, it is always with a design for our good. He leads us to battle, not that we may bewounded and defeated, but that we may win glorious victories which shall crown the head of our gracious Leader with many crowns,and prepare us for future deeds of valor.Temptations overcome are inestimable blessings, because they make us lie the more humbly at His feet, bind us more firmlyto our Lord, and train us to help others. Tempted men can lift up the hands that hang down, and confirm the feeble knees.They have been tempted in the samemanner, and can therefore succor their Brothers and Sisters.
Yet, while the benefit which God brings out of our being led into temptation is very great, still, temptation in itself isa thing very dangerous. Trials and distress, in themselves, are so perilous, that it is right for the Christian to pray, "Leadus not into temptation." Though, as Martin Luthersays, "Temptation is the best school into which the Christian can enter. Yet, in itself, apart from the Grace of God, itis so doubly hazardous. This prayer should be offered every day, 'Lead us not into temptation.' Or if we must enter into it,'Lord, deliver us from evil.' "
I do not know whether I have met the objection. Perhaps, in the exposition that is to follow I may be able to make it a littlemore clear. I wish to say that although God does not tempt men-that is affirmed in Scripture and reason-and by God's own Character-thoughall prove it tobe fact, yet He may, and certainly does, lead us into positions in His Providence, where it is absolutely certain that weshall be tempted. And therefore, our consciousness of weakness should constrain us to plead for escape from the terrible contest-anddeliverance out ofit-if come, it must.
II. LET US NOW EXPOUND THE TEXT. Possibly we may get at the meaning of the text better by supposing that we have just risenfrom our beds this morning. We are about to engage in prayer. Before we do so we endeavor to prepare our hearts for that hallowedexercise. We look back upon yesterday. Weremember all our follies, our mistakes and sins. We feel deeply grieved. We are conscious that we are, this morning, justas weak as we were yesterday.
We feel that if temptation assails us we shall as surely fall into sin as we did on the past day. We have gathered some experience,but we find we are still as weak as water, and that while the will to be holy is present with us, how to perform that whichis good, we find not. At the same time wehave an intense abhorrence of sin-we feel in our own hearts that we would sooner die than offend our God-we can contemplatesorrow with pleasure, but sin only with horror. We feel afraid to venture downstairs. We fear that temptations may await usin the family, and inbusiness. We feel, therefore, constrained to pray.
We know that there is the temptation of the theater and the music hall, but Divine Grace has made us resolute not to go there,for we feel we could not honestly ask God to preserve us from that temptation if we ran into it ourselves. There are our besettingsins, but being aware of them, we cry toGod for help against them. But the black thought comes across our mind-"You do not know what is to happen today. You cannottell what loss you may have to suffer. You do not know what trouble you may meet with, what rough word may be spoken to you.Your ship is on the sea, butyou know not what rough waves will beat against it-there are sunken rocks and hidden quicksand-what if you should be wreckedon these?"
You feel that you are about to follow the course of Divine Providence, that whatever happens to you will be according to yourFather's will, and you put up this prayer, "Lord, You are to lead me this day. I would follow close to Your footsteps as asheep follows its shepherd. But since I know notwhat is to happen to me, suffer me to ask one thing of You. Do not, I pray You, lead me away from sorrow or trouble-do asYou will about that, O my Lord-but do not, I beseech You, lead me in Your Providence where I shall be tempted. For I am sofeeble that, perhaps, thetemptation may be too strong for me. Therefore, this day make a straight path for my feet, and suffer me not to be assailedby the Tempter.
"Or if it must be, if it is better for me to be tempted, and if You do intend this day that I should fight with old Apol-lyonhimself, then deliver me from evil. Oh, save me from the mischief of the temptation. Let me have the temptation if so it mustbe, but oh, let it do me no hurt. Let me notstain my garments. Let me not slip nor slide, but may I stand fast at the end of the day. May this temptation, though itbe not joyous but grievous, have so worked out in me the comfortable fruits of righteousness, that it may be a part of thatgrand method by which You shallultimately deliver me from all evil and make me perfectly like Yourself in Glory everlasting." That, I believe, is the meaningof the prayer.
Possibly we should bring it out more clearly by taking several cases in which the Lord providentially leads men into temptation.There is poverty. No one will deny that poverty is, in many cases, directly an infliction from God. There are some, who bytheir indolence and debauchery, bringthemselves low, but who pities them? But there are others who by the loss of parents are left orphans. Others who can neverrise from the helpless penury of their first estate. God alone knows the mass of poverty in this city. We talk about the distressin Lancashire, and to somedegree, I fear, Christian liberality has been diverted from London.
But to my knowledge there is much distress in many of the streets of this huge city. Some of you ride through our fine widestreets, which are a sort of ornamental fringe upon the skirts of poverty, and you know nothing about those narrow back streets-thoseblind alleys and those courtsinside of courts-where poverty is huddled together, and where too often sin, lust, and disease become its natural consequences.When a gracious man is brought very low in circumstances, it is God's act, an act of God which leads that man into temptation.For povertynecessarily has its temptations which you cannot possibly dissociate from it.
Look at you poor needle girl-Stitch! Stitch! Stitch!-till the fingers are worn to the bone, till her eyes are red, and herheart weary. All that she can earn is hardly enough to keep body and soul together, while her clothes hang in rags about her.Do you know how stern is thattemptation when a fallen sister whispers to her that there is money to be had so easily, and paints the gainful sin in flashingcolors? What arguments can the Tempter find in that bare room, and empty cupboard, and thin slice of dry bread-and perhapsin a starving mother dyingon a few rags in the corner. If throughout life we have been preserved from the contamination of vice, and feel at all inclinedto exalt ourselves in our virtue, let us remember what we might have been had we been exposed to the same fierce solicitations.And let us pray forourselves, and for all our Brothers and Sisters, "Lead us not into that temptation."
Circumstances alter cases. Oh, my dear young Friends, I pray that no terrible circumstances may ever be able to alter you,but may the Lord who tries you, deliver you from evil. Sometimes the temptations of poverty appear in another form. A manfinds that his trade does not pay him. He works hard,but he gets poorer and poorer. What few goods he had in the shop are decreasing. The stock gets lower. The children arecrying for bread-his wife, perhaps, is an ungodly woman-and she tells him there is trade to be had on the Sunday, and if hewill but open his shop hewill prosper. She says everybody else in the street does it, and all the neighbors call him a fool for putting the shuttersup.
Oh, I admire that noble-heartedness which I have seen in some of you! It has made me look upon you with greater pride thanever prince did on his jewels, when you have said-"I can starve, but I cannot sin against my God." But when, to my grief,some professors yield to the suggestion, Icannot, and do not marvel. I can only pray for the steadfast and pray for myself-"Lord, lead me not into this temptation,"for if a starving wife, wailing children, and a sickly infant are crying in our ears, who knows how soon we might betake ourselvesto any means so as tosatisfy their wants? Happy are they who have come through this temptation, and have been delivered from the evil of it!But happier far are they who have never been led into it. "Give me neither poverty nor riches," was the good prayer of Agur.And you that have never known poverty,and have never understood what shortness of bread means, pray this prayer this morning for yourselves and for all your Brothersand Sisters in this Church, "Lead us not into temptation."
The Lord frequently leads His people into temptation from wicked men in the form of persecution. It often happens that inthe course of Providence, for the wisest possible ends, a good man is put to labor where he finds no godly associates, butwhere his name is the theme of laughter. God issometimes pleased to convert the woman while her husband remains unconverted, and perhaps he is opposed to her religionand will insist upon it that his wife shall not carry out her convictions. Now, in cases like this, God has manifestly putHis people in a position where they areconstantly tempted with the fear of men. This temptation is inevitably connected with persecution-a temptation to be ashamedof Christ, to hide one's face, to hold one's tongue when one should speak, to run down one's colors when they ought to bewaved to the breeze-andlike Peter, to deny our Lord.
When some young man has been, to use a common expression, chaffed day after day, day after day, these cruel ridi-culings area great deal harder to bear than a lash upon the back. Oh, it is a grand thing if a man can go through this, can endure theslow roasting alive year after year, and yet isdelivered from evil. But, dear Brothers and Sisters, I think you and I may well pray, "Lead us not into temptation," forI fear there are some of you who are like the nautilus which, when the Mediterranean is all calm and quiet, floats in a gallantfleet upon the surface. But assoon as ever the rough waves come and the Euroclydon begins to blow, every nautilus draws in its tiny sail and drops toquiet obscurity in the bottom of the sea. There are many such professors, who, while everything goes smooth, float gloriouslywith us-but if rough timesshould come, they would be all unknown and unheard of.
Many there are, I fear, who walk with Religion in her silver slippers, who might desert her if she had to go barefooted andragged through the street, having no place to rest-her only destiny being the prison and the flames. We may pray, as we readthe stories of martyrdom, or as we look uponsome Brothers and Sisters in Church fellowship with us who have to be laughed at day by day, "Lord, lead us not into temptation,or if You do, be pleased to deliver us from evil." I have merely commenced the catalogue. Have patience with me while I mentionthe daily adversities towhich we are heirs.
Some of us fret and think that the Lord deals harshly with us. Let us mend our tune. What a world of mercy God gives to uscompared with what others receive! I hear sometimes of a Believer who has lost a ship, or a horse, or has sustained a veryserious loss with a dishonored bill, or a baddebt-or another of you is out of work for a week, or else your little ones are ill. Well, I pity you all for these trials,but after all, what little trials these are compared with what some endure! Take the case of Job-house and children, landand servants, andcattle-all swept away at a stroke-and his own body covered with sore boils. Did not the Lord lead him into temptation, andwas it not a marvel, indeed, that Job did not go even further than cursing the day of his birth? Was it not a wonder thathe did not yield to hiswife's suggestion and curse God and die?
Surely, Brothers and Sisters, when we see the way in which some saints have met bereavement after bereavement- the holy couragewith which others have sustained loss after loss. When we have marked the heroic resignation with which some have borne allthe "ills which flesh is heirto"-and suffered in head and hand, and passed through painful surgical operations which have well near brought them to thejaws of the grave. When we note all this, we may well wonder how it is that they have been delivered from the evil of so muchadversity, and we may withholy trembling, exclaim, "Lead us not into temptation." How impatient you and I might have been if we had been sorely sick,or bedridden for years.
What hard things we might have thought of our God if He had swept all our estate away. How bitterly we might have spoken ofHis goodness if our husband were in a consumption, or if our wife were in the tomb. Our little ones are round about us andwe hear their happy and cheerful voices. But oh,what a temptation to distrust God it would have been, if He had taken them away. Lord, do not so try us! Send not such adversitiesupon us as to lead us into temptation. But if You do this, be pleased to hold us up in the rough road, lest we fall into evil.
To change the line of thought a moment. There are not only the temptations arising from poverty, from shame, and from trouble,but you know, Beloved, that by far, more dangerous temptations come from prosperity. You sometimes envy the very rich. Youthink of them as having more money than they cancount, and broad acres, and parks, and lands so extensive that they hardly know their own boundaries. If you understoodthe temptations which beset their life. If you knew how hard it is to serve God and be rich-how difficult, especially, tobe a courtier and at the same timea servant of the living God-you would not aspire to so lofty a station, but you would say, "Lead us not into temptation."
Temptation must be incessant to the man who only has to wish and can enjoy what he wills. Many men are kept from sin by beingpoor. Their poverty is a clog to them. But when a man has strong appetites, and has no person to rebuke him-and has, moreover,all the means in his own hand of runninginto sin-we may well cry, "Lord, do not try me in that way." Perhaps you are very anxious to attain a prominent positionin the Church. You may think, for instance, that to be a preacher, well-known and listened to by hundreds, is a very enviableposition. It is about asenviable as the position of Blondin upon his high rope a hundred and fifty feet from the ground. If you knew the temptationswhich beset a man who lives in popularity and has constantly to preach the Word to thronging multitudes, you would say, "Leadme not into temptation, and ifit is Your will that I must rise to that position, then deliver me from evil."
Let me assure you, that high places and high Grace do seldom meet together. And that even in the Church any position of eminenceis counterbalanced in the pleasure which it brings by the extreme danger to which it exposes its occupant. Long not to betoo prosperous! Thank God for bad winds. BlessGod for a little blight and mildew-yes, and be content to bless Him even if the fig tree should not blossom-and the flocksshould be cut off from the field, and the herds from the stall. For any trial in the world is better than unbroken prosperity,concerning which youmay well pray, "Lead us not into that temptation."
Now you may see that the list is endless. If prosperity, honor, and esteem may breed in us worldliness, self-conceit, forgetfulnessof God, reliance upon our own strength, and a departure from simple confidence in Him that made us what we are, then theremust be trials everywhere. But I think Iought to add that, frequently, God leads men into temptation in the service which He requires of them. "Stop," you say,"how can that be? When God prescribes a duty, how can that lead man into temptation?"
I reply that to know duty is often in itself to be tempted not to do it. And that when that duty is high and stern, and demandsof us severe self-denial and earnest perseverance, we may be tempted to shun the engagement. Take the instance of Jonah. Heis sent to Nineveh. His prophetic soulforewarns him that the mission will not be to his honor. He objects to go and attempts to fly to Tarshish to escape themission of his God. Now, such a temptation is not so rare as some suppose. You think, "I can never face that multitude again."You have to deal, perhaps, withcruel tongues in a Church meeting and you think, "I can never fight that battle through."
You have been preaching in the street and the whisper comes-"Never do that again. Never expose yourself to the insults ofthe passerby." You have been teaching in a Sunday school and you may be led into this temptation-"Give it up. It is of nouse. The children will never be blessed."You may have been a tract distributor You may have attempted to go from house to house to speak for God and the temptationmay have been hot upon you-"Cease from it. There's no need for you to do it." Your very duty has led you into temptation.
Brethren, pray to God against it. Ask Him that the duty required of you may always be such as your strength shall enable youto perform-that you may go to His Throne daily and get such help that your arms may be sufficient for you. If not, even inthe highest form of spiritual service you maybe led into temptation. What if I add to this that God may demand sacrifices of us which lead us into temptation? Look atAbraham. "Take you your son, your only son Isaac, and offer him up upon the place that I will show you." I overheard a mothersay, "I love my son so much, and heis such a comfort to me, that I could not give him up." One observed to her that she should not talk so, for the Christianought to stand to the surrender every hour, and be willing to give up child, or husband, or friend at Christ's bidding.
But her answer was, and it was a true one, "I could not do it. It is of no use my pretending that I could. I could not doit, and I am persuaded that if God should command me to give him up-He might take him away, and I would submit to it-but ifI had to give him up voluntarily, I couldnot do it. It is no use in my saying I could." Then I suggested that therefore she ought always to pray that God would nottry her that way, but that He would be pleased to spare her the sacrifice which she could not make-that in fact, He wouldnot lead her into temptation, orif He did, would give her so much Divine Grace that she would not be tempted to rebel, but might give up her son, thoughhe were to her as her own soul.
Oh, dear Friends, there are many trials we talk about, and think we could bear! But if they were once to assail us, we mightfind it very difficult to do so. It is easy to be a sailor on shore, and to laugh at the winds when you are snug in your beds.It is all very well to sing of the waves andshout for-
"The flag that braved a thousand years The battle and the breeze," but the battle and the breeze are very different thingsfrom what the song would make them out to be, and we had better, I think, while we are free from the trial, unanimously praythis prayer-"Lead us not into temptation."
I want you to notice that word "us," for selfishness will dictate you to pray this prayer for yourselves. But we are morethan two thousand strong, a great army for God united in Church fellowship. And you know there are many young added to theChurch, though a large proportion of the aged alsocome-more, perhaps, than in any other congregation. Remember our young members, our young men and women, who are very greatlyexposed. I charge you, elders of the Church. I charge you, seniors in the faith. I charge you, mothers in Israel, that youoffer this prayer today andevery day:
"Lord, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Lord, temper the wind to the shorn lamb. Put not the littleboat upon the rough billows. Send not Your little ones to stern battles. And, Lord, since we are all weak, old as well asyoung-since the gray locks cover no more wisdomthan the child's curls, except as You give wisdom-so keep all the Church, and lead neither pastor, nor officers, nor membersinto temptation. But if we must be led there, we take up the latter sentence, and pray it still more passionately, 'Deliverus from evil.' "
I have heard of a poor pitman, who after being converted to God, had a great dread of falling into sin. One morning, afterhaving endured much scorn, mockery, blasphemy, swearing, and ill-treatment from his fellow colliers, before he went down intothe pit, knelt down and prayed that God wouldsooner let him die than fall into sin. He cried, "Lord, let me die sooner than fall into sin," and he did die there andthen-happy thus to be taken up where he should no more know the annoyance of trial from without, or temptation from within.
III. We close our discourse with A BRIEF EXHORTATION. I exhort you to pray this prayer very earnestly, dear Friends, and Ibid you do it for several reasons.
First, remember your own heart. A man who carries gunpowder about with him may well ask that he may not be led where the sparksare flying. If I have a heart like a bombshell, ready to explode at any moment, I may well pray God that I may be kept fromthe fire, lest my heart destroy me. Perhaps youhave angry tempers, constitutionally so. Some men still remain hot and quick-some of our Welsh friends, always so. Suchshould pray every day that they may not be tempted by any jeering words. That they may be kept calm and quiet, and not beled into irritation. We have eachbesetting sins of some sort or another, and I do not know that the temptation to be hot and quick in temper is anythingso bad as that to be dull and lumpy and stupid.
Generally speaking, a man who has not some temper in him, is not worth much. And those who, as we sometimes say, are as easyas an old shoe, are not often worth more than that worn out article. We may have temptations, however, of another kind, andjust there we should put up our prayer with greatearnestness and intense passion, exclaiming, "Lord, lead me not into that temptation." There is a weak point in each ofus. And remember, the strength of a rope is to be measured, not according to its strength in its strongest, but its weakestpart. Every engineer will tell you thatthe strength of a ship should always be estimated, not according to her strongest, but her weakest part-for if the strainshall come on her weakest part, and that is broken, no matter how strong the rest may be, the whole ship goes down.
Now, I say there is a weak point in every man. Indeed, where is there a point where we are not weak? Show me where our strengthlies. It lies, surely, nowhere here, but only there in Him who makes us strong to do exploits in His name. Therefore, becauseof weakness and inclination to sin, let eachman pray, and pray constantly, "Lead us not into temptation."
To use another argument, how many have fallen who were led into temptation! Think of them, not to congratulate yourselves,nor yet to blame them, but to take warning. When cases of discipline come before the Church, I have thought how gently weought to deal, for had we been put where theseBrothers and Sisters have been, our fall might have been even more desperate than theirs. I have often grieved when a Brotherhas lost his temper, and then I have thought, "Well, I cannot accuse, but I must not judge uncharitably. For if I had beenteased one half as much as he hasbeen, I might have been worse than he."
When I see another man shipwrecked, I should mind that I carefully navigate my own boat. When I see another who has caughta contagious disease, I should be careful not to go into those quarters where that disease is the most virulent, lest I catchit, too. And if I know that there is a greatdisinfectant, a heavenly remedy by which contagion may be stopped, how ought I to use it. That remedy is PRAYER, and theprecise prayer is in the text-"Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil, lest I fall as others have done andbecome weak and vile as they."
Remember to pray this prayer, because should we fall under temptation, how great will be our misery. A certain high Antinomiansaid, one day, that if a Christian fell into sin, he lost nothing by it except-what do you think he said? Except his comfort,and his communion with God! I suppose hethought the Christian's comfort and his communion with God were a drop in a bucket! But he that has once lost his comfort,and his communion with God will tell you quite another tale! Oh, to lose your comfort, to have to groan out with David, "Makethe bones which you have broken torejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out mine iniquities!" Pray that Penitential Psalm over and you will soon discoverthat sin is the father of Sorrow, and that a saint cannot slip without much damage to himself.
I have marked, and marked carefully, those Brothers and Sisters who have backslidden and fallen into sin, and have afterwardsbeen restored. And though I have rejoiced in their restoration, yet I never can help noticing how different they are fromwhat they used to be. So quiet now-so sad inappearance, too. And though, perhaps, better men than ever they were, yet the joy of God is gone. The spring has gone outof their souls! They cannot dance with David before the ark now! You never find David dancing after his sin with Bathsheba.Not he. There was no dance in himafter that! He limped to the day of his death. Take care, man-if you would not make for yourself a garment of sorrows, ifyou would not stuff the pillow of your bed with thorns, and be perpetually wearing chains-take care that you pray to God tolead you not intotemptation.
Worse remains. Recollect what mischief a Christian's fall will do. A thousand Believers live in holiness, and nobody saysanything about them. But if one of them shall fall into sin, the whole world rings with it. I know not why it should be, butif they can but find one bad fish in our net, theyhawk it all round the town in four-and-twenty hours. "See here," they say, "here is one of the people that go to hear Spurgeon!Here is one of your professors! Here is one of your Baptists! Here is one of your Methodists!" or something of that kind.Why do they not look at the ninehundred and ninety-nine who stood fast? Why do they not talk of those who serve their Lord well, and are found faithfuleven to the end?
But that, indeed, would not answer their purpose. Brethren, would you fill the mouths of the daughters of Philistia? Wouldyou make the children of Gath and Askelon rejoice? Would you see the banner of Hell floating proudly in the breeze, and theescutcheon of our glorious Christ trailing in themire? Would you grieve the Spirit? Would you open the wounds of Christ afresh? Would you put Him and His fair Spouse, theChurch, to an open shame? If you would, then be slack in your prayers. But if you would not, if you would adorn the doctrineof God your Savior in all things. Ifyou would win jewels for Christ's crown. If you would make men wonder at Him, and at you, because you have been with Him,then pray this prayer-"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
I cannot tell why it is that this text should come on this particular Sunday, but it is very likely that your life this weekwill let you into the secret of it. Thus says the Lord unto some of you, "This week I will sift you and try you." Pray thatyou enter not into temptation. Christ pleads foryou, for Satan has desired to have some of you, that he may sift you as wheat. Join your prayers with Christ's supplicationsthat your faith fail not. I cannot tell, I am no Prophet, but I feel a call to warn you to watchfulness. There may happensomething that may make us bless Godfor this warning note. We are forearmed because we are forewarned. We are able to put our helmet on in time, to gird onour breastplate and our shoes of brass, and to put our hand upon our sword. For the battle is coming, and the Lord has soundedthe trumpet and bids uscry-"Lead us not into temptation."
This prayer will not suit some of you. You need not be led into temptation, for you live in it already. A man might pray tobe kept out of the water, but a fish cannot, for it lives in it. Even so, you whose native element is sin, cannot pray, "leadus not into temptation." There is another prayerfor you to pray before you get to this, and that is, "Forgive us our trespasses." Pray that today, and then you shall praythis tomorrow. Your sins are accusing you before God today. Your trespasses are clamoring at the Mercy Seat. I hear theircry. They are crying "Justice!Justice! Justice! Lord, smite that man! Lord, smite that man!"
With hoarse voices they cry aloud, "Let him be lost! Let him be cast away!" While your sin clamors against you, will you notpray for mercy? Mercy is ready to hear you. The Throne of Grace is easily accessed. Come before God and say, "O Lord! I knowthat Jesus died and took upon Himself the sins ofall those that trust Him. I trust Him. For His sake, Lord, forgive my trespasses, and let my debt be blotted out by Hisblood." He will hear you, Sinner, and before you go out of yonder doors your sins may be forgiven, and you may be white inChrist's righteousness, and spotless asthe newly fallen snow. After that, then, use my text and pray to Him who is able to keep you from falling, "Lead us notinto temptation, but deliver us from evil."