Temptation Preface

Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen

are continually exposed, with what success those temptations have
obtained, to the unspeakable scandal of the gospel, with the wounding and
ruin of innumerable souls, I suppose you will not inquire any further after
other reasons of the publishing of the ensuing warnings and directions, being
suited to the times that pass over us, and your own concern in them. This I
shall only say to those who think [it is] meet1 to persist in any such inquiry,
that though my first engagement for the exposing of these meditations unto
public view did arise from the desires of some, whose avouching2 the interest3
of Christ in the world by personal holiness and constant adhering to
everything that is made precious by its relation to him, have given them power
over me to require at any time services of greater importance; yet I dare not
lay my doing of it so upon that account, as in the least to intimate that, with
respect to the general state of things mentioned, I did not myself esteem it seasonable
and necessary. The variety of outward providences and dispensations4
wherewith I have myself been exercised in this world, with the inward
trials they have been attended with, added to the observation that I have had
advantages to make of the ways and walkings of others—their beginnings,
progresses, and endings, their risings and falls, in profession5 and conversation,
in darkness and light—have left such a constant sense and impression
of the power and danger of temptations upon my mind and spirit, that, without
other pleas and pretenses, I cannot but own6 a serious call unto men to
beware, with a discovery of some of the most eminent ways and means of the
1 fitting, appropriate
2 affirming, confessing
3 share or stake
4 provisions, orderings
5 confession
6 admit, acknowledge, confess to be true
prevalence of present temptations, to have been, in my own judgment, in this
season needful.
But now, reader, if you are among them who takes no notice of these
things or cares not for them—who has no sense of the efficacy and dangers
of temptations in your own walking and profession, nor has observed the
power of them upon others—who discerns not the manifold advantages that
they have got in these days, wherein all things are shaken, nor has been troubled
or moved by the sad successes they have had among professors;7 but supposes
that all things are well within doors and without, and would be better,
could you obtain fuller satisfaction to some of your lusts in the pleasures or
profits of the world—I desire you to know that I write not for you, nor do [I]
esteem you a fit reader or judge of what is here written. While all the issues8
of providential dispensations, in reference to the public concerns of these
nations, are perplexed and entangled, the footsteps of God lying in the deep,
where his paths are not known; while, in particular, unparalleled distresses
and strange prosperities are measured out to men, yea, to professors; while a
spirit of error, giddiness, and delusion goes forth with such strength and efficacy,
as it seems to have received a commission9 to go and prosper; while there
are such divisions, strifes, emulations,10 attended with such evil surmises,
wrath, and revenge, found among brethren; while the desperate issues and
products of men’s temptations are seen daily in partial and total apostasy, in
the decay of love, the overthrow of faith, our days being filled with fearful
examples of backsliding, such as former ages never knew; while there is a visible
declension11 from reformation seizing upon the professing party of these
nations, both as to personal holiness and zeal for the interest of Christ—he
that understands not that there is an “hour of temptation” come upon the
world to “try them that dwell upon the earth” [Rev 3:10], is doubtless either
himself at present captivated under the power of some woeful lust, corruption,
or temptation, or is indeed stark blind and knows not at all what it is
to serve God in temptations. With such, then, I have not at present to do. For
those who have in general a sense of these things—who also, in some measure,
are able to consider that the plague is begun, that they may be further
awakened to look about them, lest the infection have approached nearer to
146 OF TEMPTATION: THE NATURE AND POWER OF IT
7 those who make a religious confession; professing Christians
8 results
9 an authority
10 jealousies, especially of power and position
11 moral decline
them, by some secret and imperceptible ways, than they did apprehend; or
lest they should be surprised at unawares hereafter by any of those temptations
that in these days either waste at noon or else walk in darkness [Ps.
91:6]—is the ensuing warning intended. And for the sake of them that mourn
in secret for all the abominations that are found among and upon them that
profess the gospel, and who are under the conduct of the Captain of their salvation
[Heb 2:10], fighting and resisting the power of temptations, from
whatsoever spring they rise in themselves, are the ensuing directions proposed
to consideration.
That our faithful and merciful High Priest, who both suffered and was
tempted, and is on that account touched with the feeling of our infirmities
[Heb 2:17-18], would accompany this small discourse with seasonable supplies
of his Spirit and suitable mercy to them that shall consider it, that it may
be useful to his servants for the ends whereunto it is designed, is the prayer
of him who received this handful of seed from his storehouse and treasure.
—John Owen

 


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