Temptation Chapter 9

Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen

Having thus passed through the considerations of the duty of watching that
we enter not into temptation, I suppose I need not add motives to the observance
of it. Those who are not moved by their own sad experiences, nor the
importance of the duty as laid down in the entrance of this discourse, must
be left by me to the further patience of God. I shall only shut up52 the whole
with a general exhortation to them who are in any measure prepared for it
by the consideration of what has been spoken. Should you go into a hospital
52 summarize, sum up
and see many persons lying sick and weak, sore and wounded, with many
filthy diseases and distempers, and should inquire of them how they fell into
this condition, and they shall all agree to tell you such or such a thing was
the occasion of it—“By that I got my wound,” says one, “And my disease,”
says another—would it not make you a little careful how or what you had
to do with that thing or place? Surely it would. Should you go to a dungeon,
and see many miserable creatures bound in chains for an approaching day of
execution, and inquire the way and means whereby they were brought into
that condition, and they should all fix on one and the same thing, would you
not take care to avoid it? The case is so with entering into temptation. Ah!
How many poor, miserable, spiritually wounded souls have we everywhere!—
one wounded by one sin, another by another; one falling into filthiness
of the flesh, another of the spirit. Ask them, now, how they came into
this estate and condition? They must all answer, “Alas! We entered into temptation,
we fell into cursed snares and entanglements; and that has brought us
into the woeful condition you see!” Nay, if a man could look into the dungeons
of hell, and see the poor damned souls that lie bound in chains of darkness,
and hear their cries, what would he be taught? What do they say? Are
they not cursing their tempters and the temptations that they entered in? And
shall we be negligent in this thing? Solomon tells us that the “simple one that
follows the strange woman knows not that the dead are there, that her house
inclines to death, and her paths to the dead” [Prov. 2:16-18] (which he repeats
three times); and that is the reason that he ventures on her snares. If you knew
what has been done by entering into temptation, perhaps you would be more
watchful and careful. Men may think that they shall do well enough notwithstanding;
but, “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be
burnt? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burnt?” (Prov. 6:27-
28). No such thing; men come not out of their temptation without wounds,
burnings, and scars. I know not any place in the world where there is more
need of pressing this exhortation than in this place. Go to our several colleges,
inquire for such and such young men; what is the answer in respect of many?
“Ah! Such a one was very hopeful for a season; but he fell into ill company,
and he is quite lost. Such a one had some good beginning of religion, we were
in great expectation of him; but he is fallen into temptation.” And so in other
places. “Such a one was useful and humble, adorned the gospel; but now he
is so woefully entangled with the world that he is grown all self, has no sap
nor savor. Such a one was humble and zealous; but he is advanced, and has
lost his first love and ways.” Oh, how full is the world, how full is this place,
of these woeful examples; to say nothing of those innumerable poor creatures
who are fallen into temptation by delusions in religion. And is it not time for
us to awake before it be too late—to watch against the first rising of sin, the
first attempts of Satan, and all ways whereby he has made his approaches to
us, be they never so harmless in themselves?
Have we not experience of our weakness, our folly, the invincible power
of temptation, when once it is gotten within us? As for this duty that I have
insisted on, take these considerations:
If you neglect it, it being the only means prescribed by our Savior, you
will certainly enter into temptation, and as certainly fall into sin. Flatter yourselves.
Some of you are “old disciples,” having a great abhorrency of sin; you
think it impossible you should ever be seduced so and so; but “let him (whoever
he be) that think he stands take heed lest he fall” [1 Cor. 10:12]. It is not
any grace received, it is not any experience obtained, it is not any resolution
improved, that will preserve you from any evil, unless you stand upon your
watch: “What I say unto you,” says Christ, “I say unto all, Watch.” Perhaps
you may have had some good success for a time in your careless frame; but
awake, admire God’s tenderness and patience, or evil lies at the door. If you
will not perform this duty, whoever you are, one way or other, in one thing
or other, spiritual or carnal wickedness, you will be tempted, you will be
defiled; and what will be the end thereof? Remember Peter!
Consider that you are always under the eye of Christ, the great captain of
our salvation, who has enjoined us to watch thus, and pray that we enter not
into temptation. What do you think are the thoughts and the heart of Christ
when he sees a temptation hastening toward us, a storm rising about us, and
we are fast asleep? Does it not grieve him to see us expose ourselves so to danger,
after he has given us warning upon warning? While he was in the days of
his flesh he considered his temptation while it was yet coming, and armed himself
against it. “The prince of this world comes,” says he, “but has no part in
me” [John 14:30]. And shall we be negligent under his eye? Do not think that
you see him coming to you as he did to Peter, when he was asleep in the garden,
with the same reproof: “What! Can you not watch one hour?” Would it
not be a grief to you to be so reproved, or to hear him thundering against your
neglect from heaven, as against the church of Sardis (Rev. 3:2)?
Consider that if you neglect this duty, and so fall into temptation—which
assuredly you will do—that when you are entangled God may with [it] bring
some heavy affliction or judgment upon you, which, by reason of your entanglement,
you shall not be able to look on any otherwise than as an evidence
of his anger and hatred; and then what will you do with your temptation and
affliction together? All your bones will be broken, and your peace and
strength will be gone in a moment. This may seem but as a noise of words
for the present; but if ever it be your condition, you will find it to be full of
woe and bitterness. Oh, then, let us strive to keep our spirits unentangled,
avoiding all appearance of evil and all ways leading thereunto; especially all
ways, businesses, societies, and employments that we have already found disadvantageous
to us.


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