« AnteriorContinuar »
so important, that we give them a special name, and call them temptations.
Now, people often think that their peculiar temptations are such as no one else ever endured; that their trials are greater than those of any one else. They think they have a right to complaln and say,
“ Was ever sorrow like my sorrow?” They pity themselves, and spend so much sympathy on themselves, and complain so much of Providence, that they lose all the benefit of the trial. Instead of growing stronger by patience and trust, they become full of complaints and bitterness. So they need to be told that " there has no temptation happened to them but such as is common to man, and that God does not suffer them to be tempted above what they are able ; but with every temptation makes a way to escape, that they may be able to bear it.
In order to see this more clearly, let us analyze human temptations, and classify them. The common distribution, which will answer well enough, is into those which come either from the World, the Flesh, or the Devil. The first class are the temptations of the flesh
that is, those which come from each one's bodily organization and temperament. The physical nature of one person tempts to irritability ; of another to indolence; of another, to too much eating and drinking; of another, to an excessive desire to please and to be admired ; of another, to self-conceit and pride ; of another, to self-will and obstinacy; of anther, to the opposite fault of self-depreciation and want of independence. One man is by nature too sanguine and hopeful, and so lacks caution ; another is too cautious, and lacks hope ; one person is very sympathetic, therefore too yielding, and unable to say “No ;” another, very conscientious, and so judges himself and others too severely, or is over-scrupulous. I have known people so afraid of doing
wrong, so weighed down by the sense of responsibility, that they never ventured to do right. Now, all these tendencies, which are each the cause of a separate temptation, are probably rooted in each man's bodily organization. They constitute his strength and weakness. They make up the temptations of the flesh.
And the first great help we have in fighting against them is to understand this that they belong to human nature ; that they are common to man; that, therefore, they are not to be conquered by a single effort, but to be brought under control by systematic discipline. And, secondly, we are to understand that we are not to blame for having them, but only for yielding to them. This will prevent us from being discouraged, as though we were responsible for the temptations which come from our very organization ; or, as though God sent to us more than our share. The apostle says, and says very wisely, “Let no man say, when he is tempted, “I am tempted of God,' for every man is drawn away and enticed by his own special desires."
First, then, see and admit that you have your special temptations, and that others have theirs - probably different from yours, but equally hard to resist. Then, secondly, endeavor to discover what your own special temptations are. You will find each one side by side with your good quality, for every quality has its defects. The tares and the wheat grow together in each soul. If a man is courageous, his temptation is to be rash; if he is cautious, his temptation is to be timid; if he is firm, his temptation is to be obstinate; if he is sympathizing, his temptation is to be too yielding and unreliable. Therefore it is a great point to see and know what your own peculiar temptation is; for, if you have any good quality, you may be sure you will have a temptation close to the side of it. And if you find for yourself what your special trial is, then you will not need to have
the Lord show it to you by a hard experience. judge ourselves, we shall not be judged,” says the Scripture ; but if we are blind to our own defects and dangers, then we may need to be made to fall, in order to be aroused from our false self-confidence and security.
And in the third place, see and understand that with every temptation God has made a way of escape ; and then discover what is the
Different temptations have different ways of escape. Temptations arising from the bodily organization often need moral gymnastics and ascetic discipline. Of some it may be said, “This kind goeth not out save by prayer and fasting." We can compel ourselves to abstain, to keep away from the temptation, to avoid the beginnings of evil. We can surround our. selves with favorable circumstances. When Alfieri, the poet, was determined to write a tragedy, but found that he could not resist the temptation to leave his desk and rush out into the open air, he made his servant tie him into his chair so that he could not unfasten himself, and ordered him on no account 'to untie him until three hours had elapsed. So, too, the wise Ulysses had himself tied to the mast when about to hear the song of the sirens. We sometimes exercise our freedom in the highest way by thus renouncing our freedom. If our fault is indecision, we may take a step which shall make further indecision impossible, and compel circumstances to come to our aid.
Self-denial, even ascetic self-denial, is sometimes the way of escape. Luxury and self-indulgence enervate. We must sometimes collect our energies by solitude, by denying ourselves recreation, even innocent recreation ; by practicing rigid economy, and leading austere lives. So the Apostle Paul said, “I keep under my body and bring it into subjection ; lest I, who have preached to others, should myself be unable to stand the test." The asceti
cism, which is objectionable, is asceticism for its own sake, as though it were good in itself. This was the error of mediæval ascticism.
Self-denial is to the soul what gymnastics are to the body. Gymnastics are to be practiced for the sake of gaining strength and health, and not for the sake of gymnastics. If people should retire into gymnasiums and devote the rest of their lives to solitary gymnastic exercises, it would be foolish. The monks committed a similar folly. But our danger is not theirs ; our temptations are not in that direction — they are to self-indulgence, to luxury, to the love of display, to love of accumulation. We should be all the better if we were willing to practice more self-denial, to accept a relative poverty, to give up the aim of being rich or of having all the luxuries which the rich have. This would give us more strength in our souls.
I find I have been led to speak already of the second class of temptations — those of the world. They arise from what is around us ; from the influence of public opinion ; the immense power of example : the ease of doing as others do ; the difficulty of standing alone. This influence is immense, and often seems irresistible. By refusing to live as others do, we not only offend our neighbors, but often our friends and our own family. I might be glad to dine on baked potatoes, but how can I ask my friends to share that humble repast? I might be willing to wear very simple clothing, but if I became an object of observation, criticism and ridicule on that account, it might do more harm than good. Unless we go into the backwoods or into convents, or turn Quakers, we must conform in most things to social customs, making only the mild protest of more economy and simplicity in our living. But we can always escape the serious temptations and real dangers of the world “ the evil communications which
corrupt good manners" — by seeking other society, better associates, the company of those whose influence on us is elevating, inspiring and ennoblings
Sometimes the way of escape from worldly temptations is to run away. The only thing we can do to save ourselves is to run. A social atmosphere may be morally so debilitating that it is like malaria
we had best get away from it as soon as possible. So Lot ran from Sodom ; it was the only thing he could do. An irritable person, who finds his anger being excited by what is said, had better take his hat and walk away. And sometimes, the way
of escape is to refuse to listen. There is an instinct of right in the soul which will tell us, if we attend to it, that the argument we hear is a sophistry, and then it is best not to hear more.
When principle is on one side and a vast expediency on the other, we had better cling to the principle, and say, as Jesus said to well-meaning Peter, “Get thee behind
me, Satan!” “Thou savorest not the things which be of God, but those which are of men.”
And this brings us to the third class of temptations the temptations of the devil. These are always temptations to our higher nature and they come disguised as angels. of light. They are the temptations addressed to the conscience, to the religious nature, to the love of doing good, the desire for self-culture. When successful they pervert that which is best in the soul, and are often the most dangerous of all, because a good thing when perverted becomes the worst.
Thus, the greatest cruelties ever practised by man to man have been done in the name of religion, and by a perverted conscience. Let a man only think it his duty to torment his brother, and he will put an amount of horrible atrocity into it which no North American Indians can equal. If you believe that men can only be saved from