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I have otherwhere touched, and it is not seasonable now further to insist thereon; only it may be pertinent here to observe:
1. That this being the first of petitions, formally such, and purely spiritual, we are hereby admonished to lay the foundation of our devotions in humility; that we are obliged, before we presume to ask anything of God concerning our chief happiness and well-being, to reflect upon, acknowledge, and confess our unworthiness : not coming to our prayers as the Pharisee did, doting upon our worthy qualities and good deeds; but like the poor Publican, with a sense of our infirmities and miscarriages; so as to be ready to acknowledge ourselves, as indeed we all are, guilty of many and great sins. This is here implied, for in requesting pardon for our sins, we confess ourselves to be sinners, and to need God's
mercy. 2. We may hence learn the necessity and excellency of that benefit we here beg. When the Psalmist applied himself to praise God for his benefits, this he set in the first place, as most needful and considerable to him “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (or rather, not any of his benefits): “who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases ;” 1 and answerably, it is the first particular benefit we pray for.
3. We must take notice that we are obliged to go to our devotions with universal charity and good-will
| Psal. ciii. 2, 3.
toward others; “ to list up,” as St Paul enjoineth,“ holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (or, without wrath and dissention); to depose all enmity, as our Lord adviseth, before we bring our oblation “ to the altar” of God;' reserving no spite or grudge toward any man, but having a heart clear of all ill-will and desire of revenge: being in affection of mind toward others as we do wish, and hope, and pray that God would be toward
Such in all reason, equity, and ingenuity should our disposition be; and such God requires it to be; and such we do assert and promise it to be; implying also a compact with God, no otherwise to desire or expect his favour and mercy
than as we, resemble Him in kind and merciful intentions toward our brethren. It is implied on God's part, that he vouchsafes pardon only upon these terms ; yea, more, that he doth truly promise pardon upon our performing this condition ; so our Saviour, purposely reflecting on this petition, doth afterward expound it : "for,” saith he, “if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”3 It also implies a consent on our parts, and submission to this condition, as most equal and reasonable ; so that if we break it, if we do retain any uncharitable inclinations, we deal falsely with God; we forfeit all pretence to favour and mercy from him; we
1 are neither qualified for mercy, nor shall obtain it from God.
11 Tim. ii. 8.
? Matt. v. 23.
8 Matt. vi, 14.
LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION.
Temptation is sometimes taken in a middle and indifferent sense for any occasion by which the moral quality of persons, their virtue or vice, is examined and discovered. So God is said to have "tempted Abraham,” when he propounded to him the offering up of his son;' so he tempted the Israelites, by leading them in that long journey through the wilderness, “that he might know what was in their heart, whether they would keep his commandments or no :”% so he likewise tempted them by permitting seducers to do wonderful things, “that he might know whether they did love the Lord with all their heart and with all their soul." 3 And because affliction is of such a nature, as to try the temper, disposition, and intentions of men, therefore temptation often is used for affliction.
It seemeth also sometimes put in a good sense, for an occasion designed to exercise, or to improve, or to declare the virtues of a person ; so the inconveniences and crosses incident to our nature and condition here, the which our Lord did undergo, are, by St Luke and others of the apostles, styled temptations;* so the "fiery trial” in St Peter was to exercise and refine them, “that” (saith he) “the trial of their faith might be to praise, and honour, and glory.” 5 So St James biddeth Christians to “rejoice,
* Luke xxii. 28; Heb. ii. 18;
1 Gen. xxii, 1.
1 Pet. i. 6, 7 ; iv. 12.
when they fall into divers temptations ;” i that is, when they meet with opportunities of exercising their faith and patience; and so we may understand that place in Deuteronomy: “Who,” it is said, “fed thee with manna, that he might humble and prove thee” (or “tempt thee,” say the LXX.),“ to do thee good at thy latter end”2_"that he might tempt thee,” that is, that he might render thee approved, might exercise and improve thy dependence on God, thy patience, thy obedience.
But the word is commonly taken in a worse sense, for an occasion presented with ill purpose, or naturally tending and not easily avoided, of falling into sin-a stumbling-block, a snare; as when St Paul saith, that
they who will be rich, do fall into temptation and a snare;” 3 thus St James assureth us, that “God tempteth no man," 4 that is, doth not intend to seduce or inveigle any man into sin. Yet because nothing in the world, either good or bad, doth happen without God's permission and governance; and the devil himself must obtain licence from God before he can tempt any man,
any mischief (as we see in Job's case, and in the history of Ahab), since God seeth whatever is done, and with greatest ease could hinder it; and doth not otherwise than for some good end suffer any evil to be designed or achieved; it is the style of Scripture to attribute such
i Tim. vi. 9.
* James i. 13.
things in some sense to him; as when God is said to “send Joseph into Egypt to preserve life," when, in truth, his brethren out of envy and ill-will did sell him thither; and God is said to move David to number the people,” whenas indeed Satan, as it is otherwise affirmed, “provoked him to number them ;” and that
; horrid tragedy acted by the Jews upon our blessed Saviour is said to be brought to pass by the hand and definite counsel of God, because God foreseeing the temptations which those men should incur of committing such acts, and their inclinations tu perform them, did resolve not to interpose his power in hindrance of them, but suffering them to proceed, would turn their mischievous practices to an excellently good end, and use them as instruments of his just, holy, and gracious purposes.
Thus, then, whereas by temptation here is meant any occasion alluring or provoking to sin, or withdrawing from duty, with a violence, all things considered, exceeding our strength to resist or avoid, or that is apt to overthrow us, God may be said to bring them into it whom, in justice, he permits to be exposed thereto; although he do no otherwise intermeddle or concur therein, than by not affording or by withdrawing his especial direction and assistance ; leaving them without check blindly or wilfully to follow the sway of their own tempers, the instinct of their vain minds, the bent
3 Acts ii. 23 ; iv. 28.
i Gen. xlv. 5.
2 Sam. xxiv. 1 ; 1 Chron. xxi. 1.