"No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." 1 Corinthians 10:13
The Devil's dupes. Many have yielded to go a mile with Satan, who never intended to go two. Thus Satan leads poor creatures down into the depths of sin by winding stairs, that let them not see the bottom where they are going.
First, he presents an object that occasions some thoughts, these set the affections on fire, and these fume up into the brain and cloud the understanding, which, being thus disabled, now Satan dares a little more declare himself, and boldly solicit the creature to that it would otherwise have defied. Give no place to Satan! no, not an inch in his first motions! He who is a beggar, and a modest one without doors, will command the house if let in.
The devil teaches sinners to cover foul practices
with fair names:
superstition, must be called devotion;
covetousness, must be called thrift;
pride in apparel, must be called keeping up with the times;
looseness, must be called liberty;
and foolishness, must be called mirth.
The Devil's wiles. Satan makes choice of such as have a great name for holiness. None like a live bird, to draw other birds into the net. Abraham tempts his wife to lie: "Say you are my sister." The old prophet leads the man of God out of his way (1 Kings 13).
Under the skirt of Christian liberty, Satan conveys in libertinism; by crying up the Spirit — he decries and vilifies the Scripture; by magnifying faith — he labors to undermine repentance and blow up good works.
If Satan gets into your spirit and defiles it, O, how hard will you find it to stay there? You have already sipped of his broth, and now are more likely to sit down and make your full meal of that, which by tasting has vitiated your palate already!
When you hear one commend another for a wise or good man, and at last come in with a "but" that dashes all, you will easily think he is no friend to the man — but some sly enemy, that by seeming to commend, desires to disgrace the more.
Thus, when you find God represented to you as merciful and gracious — but not to such a great sinner as you; to have power and strength — but not able to save you; you may say, Avaunt, Satan, your speech betrays you.
When the flesh or Satan beg time of you, it is to steal time from you. They put you off prayer at one time, to shut you out at last from prayer at any time.
What day in all the year is inconvenient to Satan? What place or company are you in — that he cannot make a snare for your soul?
Satan knows what order you keep in your house and closet; and though he has not a key to your heart — yet he can stand in the next room to it, and lightly hear what is whispered there. If once he does but smell which way your heart inclines, he knows how to take the hint; if but one door is unbolted, here is advantage enough.
The occasion of temptation. The least passage of your life may prove an occasion of sin to you — at what a little wicket many times a great sin enters! David's eye did but casually alight on Bathsheba, and the good man's foot was presently in the devil's trap! Have you not then need to pray that God would set a guard about your senses wherever you go, and to cry with him, "Keep back my eyes from beholding vanity!"
It should be our care, if we would not yield to the sin — not to walk by, or sit at the door of the occasion — parley not with that in your thoughts, which you mean not to let into your heart. If we mean not to be burnt, let us not walk upon the coals of temptation. You tempt God to allow your locks to be cut, when you are so bold as to lay your head in the lap of a temptation.
Set a strong guard about your outward senses: these are Satan's landing-places, especially the eye and the ear. Take heed what you import at these. Vain discourse seldom passes without leaving some tincture of vanity upon the heart. And for your eye, let it not wander; wanton objects cause wanton thoughts. Job knew his eye and his thoughts were likely to go together, and therefore to secure one — he covenants with the other (Job 31:1).
The handle of Satan's hatchet, with which he lies chopping at the root of the Christian's comfort, is commonly made of the Christian's wood. Satan is but a creature, and cannot work without tools; he can indeed make much of little — but not anything of nothing, as we see in his assaulting of Christ, where he troubled himself to little purpose, because he came and found nothing in Him (John 14:30).
Be sure you are watchful more than ordinary over yourself, in those things where you find yourself weakest and have been oftenest foiled. The weakest part of a city, needs the strongest guard.
The devil would tempt Christ, when he "showed Him all the kingdoms of the world," and promised them all unto Him, if He would "fall down and worship Him." Everyone that by unrighteousness seeks the world's pelf, goes to the devil for it, and worships him in effect. How much better it is to have poverty from God — than riches from the devil! A temptation comes strong, when the way to relief seems to lie through the sin that Satan is wooing to. When one is poor, and Satan comes, "What, will starve rather than step over the hedge, and steal for your supply?" This is enough to put flesh and blood to the stand.
Deliverance from temptation. What says your soul, when God hedges up your way, and keeps you from that sin which Satan has been soliciting for? If on Christ's side, you will rejoice when you are delivered out of a temptation, though it is by falling into an affliction.
Christian, it is ill done of you to make a breach in your holy course, by tampering with any sin; but you will commit a greater offense, if you turn your back on God also when you should humble yourself for your former sin. You have fallen into sin in the day, will you not, therefore, pray at night? Take heed you run not farther into temptation. Now is the time for the devil to set upon you — when the weapon of prayer is out of your hand. The best you can look for, is a storm from God to bring you back again, and the sooner it comes the more merciful He is to you.
"Watch and pray," says our Savior, "that you enter not into temptation" (Matthew 26:41). They, not keeping this pass, gave the enemy, Satan, a fair occasion to come in upon them; and as they were led into temptation by neglect of prayer — so they were rescued and led out of it again by Christ's prayer, which He mercifully laid in beforehand for them: "I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not."
Let this encourage you, O Christian, in your conflict with Satan; the skirmish may be sharp — but it cannot be long. The cloud, while it drops, is rolling over your head, and then comes fair weather, and eternal sunshine of glory!
You cannot be long off your watch — but the devil will hear on it. The devil knew the apostle's sleeping time, and then he desires permission to winnow them (Luke 22). The thief rises — when honest men go to bed. The devil begins to tempt — when saints cease to watch.
The saint's sleeping time — is Satan's tempting time. Every fly dares venture to creep on a sleeping lion. No temptation so weak, but is strong enough to foil a Christian that is napping in carnal security. Samson sleeps — and Delilah cut his locks. Saul sleeps — and the spear is taken away from his very side, and he never the wiser. Noah sleeps — and his graceless son has a fit time to discover his father's nakedness. Eutychus sleeps — nods, and falls from the third loft, and is taken up for dead. The Christian asleep, may soon — lose his spiritual strength, be robbed of his spear, and his nakedness discovered by graceless men, to the shame of his profession. Yes, he may fall from a high loft of profession, so low, into scandalous practices — that others may question whether there is any life of grace in him.
The Christian's safety lies in resisting. All the armor provided is to defend the Christian fighting — none to secure him flying. Stand — and the day is ours; fly, or yield — and all is lost.