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a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven! And how hard for any man to withstand the influence even of a little breath of worldly prosperity! I refer, at present, however, to temptations strictly so called.
We know that God “ tempteth no man ;” he does not seduce us by persuasion, or by any operation on our hearts, into sin. But, for wise and holy ends, he permits men to be tempted, to be exposed to the enticements of sinners, and to those circumstances which have a tendency to draw out their corrupt inclinations. Hence we are directed to pray, “ Lead us not into temptation.” And there is a deep and awful dispensation of Providence in this respect towards unprofitable and ungodly professors of religion, which, while it demands from us humble adoration, ought to fill us with holy dread.
- Because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved, God also sent them strong delusions that they should believe
a lie.” *
Satan is at the head of the sinful agents of temptation. Though he acts chiefly by means of external objects addressed to the senses, yet that he has direct access to the soul there can be little reason to doubt, from his own nature as an unembodied spirit, or the account given of his operations in Scripture. He is called “the Spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience." And again, “ Whom the god of this world hath blinded.” Christ as the purifier of his church, permits him to come into it, though he stands by him to restrain and curb him. Though he will not commit his fan into the hands of this destroyer, yet he permits him to use his own fan. Satan has his subaltern agents whom he employs as instruments in seduction. And as he spake at first by the mouth of the serpent, which “was more subtle than any of the beasts of the field,” so he speaks still by the mouths of those who are most plausible, or who exert the greatest influence over us.
He knows well how to entice thee secretly by thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend which is as thine own soul.” * If Peter had recollected the reproof of his master, “ Get thee behind me, Satan, for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of man,” he would not have been so ignorant of the devices of the Tempter, as to suppose that he could not speak to him by the mouth of a maid-servant.
* 2 Thess, ü. 10.
The wind of error and false doctrine carries away multitudes of giddy and unsound professors, who are “ tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine." There arose of old false prophets and false Christs, and under such specious appearances did they come, and such plausible language did they employ, that they drew away many disciples, and “if it had been possible would have deceived the
6. Lastly, Christ will accomplish this work by the fan of the final judgment. This is the last part of the process; and then will Christ “ thoroughly purge his floor.” All the preceding steps are preparative to this, and contribute to the end which it will accomplish. The purgation wrought by them is only partial. None of them, nor all of them together, make a complete separation between the chaff and the wheat. Hypocrites may read the word of God, and sit under the most faithful and searching ministry, and yet hold fast their hypocrisy, and think they are something, when they are nothing. The discipline of the house of God, even when most conscientiously and scripturally administered, can only remove those whose conduct is openly offensive. There was a Ham in the ark, a Judas in the sacred college of the apostles. We have no ground to think that affliction, or persecution, or temptation, or public calamities, carry away all that are insincere from a profession of religion. Professing Christians may go down to the pit under the influence of a deceived heart, and not know that they carry a lie in their right hand. “ Many will say in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils ? and in thy name done many wonderful works ? Have we not
* Deut. xiii. 6.
eaten and drunk in thy presence ? And when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?” They may go to the judgment-seat under such delusions, indulging presumptuous hopes, but they shall not abide there, far less come from it in that state. “ The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment.” In this life, Christ has his fire in Zion and his furnace in Jerusalem, and there he sits as a refiner. But at the last day, “ a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him.” Alas ! " who shall be able to abide the day of his coming ?”
The trial shall be most strict. “ We must all appear ”—be made manifest—“ before the judgment-seat of Christ.” The Judge is the Omniscient One, and on that day will make all men to know that it is He that trieth the reins and searcheth the heart. When the Lord cometh, “ he shall bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the hearts.” Hence it is compared to the severest ordeal— that by fire. Every man's work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it, because it shall be tried by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
Then a complete separation shall be made between the righteous and the wicked. Not one of the righteous shall be found on the left hand of the Judge; and not one of the wicked on his right hand.
And this separation shall be final. No confusion or mixing of the two parties shall then appear.
6. These shall go awa into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal.” “ He shall gather his wheat into his garner, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”