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of exhortation and reproof, fuch as the argument naturally fuggefts, and the time will permit me to make use of.
I. First, I fhall explain and state this truth.
And in order to it, I obferve
1. That the apoftle is not speaking of the powers of mere human nature, but of human nature divinely affifted and fupported. He fays not, that a man, of himself, hath strength enough to refift all inducements to fin, and to ftand his ground (as the Pelagians afterwards vainly talked) but that he fhall be enabled to do this, in virtue of a fuperior principle, and by the help of divine grace; which, in fuch exigencies, fhall furely be beftowed on him. "God' (he fays) "will not fuffer us "to be tempted above what we are able.”—Intimating, that we fhould be tempted above what we are able, if God did not interpofe and help us. And again, "God will, with the temptation alfo, "make a way to efcape;" Which implies, that we often could not efcape, unless God made a way for us. -I obferve
2. From the fubject of the apostle's difcourfe, that neither is it his intention to affirm, that we fhall by any measure of divine grace imparted to us in this life, be fo far enabled to baffle all manner of temptations, as to live perfectly spotlefs and finlefs; but only, that we fhall be preferved from falling into great and heinous, into deliberate and prefumptuous fins; fuch as, when committed, throw us out of the favour of God, lay wafte the confcience, and require a particular and
folemn repentance, to render us capable of fal→ vation. For fuch was that fin, which the Corina thians, at this time, were in danger of committing, a compliance with idolaters, in partaking of their idol feafts. Alas! it cannot be otherwife, but that, in the very best of men, fins of ommiffion and infirmity should abound. Let us stand never fo much upon our guard, there will be lapfes, there will be inadvertencies, there will be fur prizes: All therefore that we can in this state of Imperfection depend on, is, That through the grace of God we shall be preferved from fuch enormous offences, as are inconfiftent with a fincere piety, and habitual holiness; not that we fhould be totally freed from human frailties and failings. Further
3. This fupernatural affiftance, which enables us to refift temptations, fuppofs our ute of natural means and our concurrence with it to the best of our power. 'Tis a co-operating caufe, which acts only in proportion to our own endeavours but imparts not its extraordinary fuftaining ftrength and virtue, unless where we exert and make use of that ordinary ftrength we have. Temptations therefore to the most grofs and grievous fins may, in fome circumstances, be ir refiftible; if it were originally our own fault, that we were brought into thofe circumftances; if, for want of that due vigilance and care, which we were obliged and able to employ, the temptation overtook us.
For inftance; If a man of refolved fobriety, fhould be fo far at any time off his guard, as to indulge himself in any unjustifiable degree of ex
cefs, he may, by that means, be inevitably betray ed into fome of the ill confequences of intemper ance. If a perfon, by nature warin and paffionate, thall mix in high dtfputes, or engage in games of chance, 'tis not to be expected that he fhould preferve himself free from offence. His paffions will, of courfe, be agitated and inflamed; his heart will now and then think, and his mouth t utter, perverfe things,' Prov. xxiii. 33. But there is no objection from thefe, and fuch inftances as thefe, against the doctrine laid down, which af firms all temptations to be conquerable. For this is to be understood only of fuch as we unavoid ably fall into, not of fuch as we voluntarily feek. It is not fuppofed, that we fhould have power always to refift, unless we before-hand do what is in our power to fhun temptation
Thefe are the feveral reftrictions, under which the truth implied in the text must be understoodi Which having thus explained and stated, I go on now, in the
II Second place, to confirm by various ways of proof, fuch as experience, reafon, or revelation will fuggeft to us.
And the first way of proving it, shall be by experience.
In vain do libertines pretend, that human na ture is too weak and frail to refift what we have authentic proof, that, as weak and as frail as it is, it hath oftentimes refifted. There is no temp tation, either of defire, or fear of pleafure, or pain, nothing that can either allure us to fin, or fcare
fcare us from our duty, but what hath been actually withstood and baffled by those ho'y men and women that have gone before us: And what hath been already done, may be repeated; unless human nature be a different thing now, from what it was then; which no one, I fuppofe, will pretend.
Can a man look up to the examples of the primitive Chriftans? Can he reflect on the lives and deaths of the faints, martyrs, and confeffors of old; on what they did, and what they fuffered; and pretend to fay, after this, that any folicitations of fenfe are irresistible, any part of virtue is impracticable?
Were they not men of the fame paffions and infirmities as we are? Had they not the fame sense of pleasure and pain? Were they not furrounded with the fame tempting objects? And had they any affiftances, in order to ftand their ground but from that Holy Spirit, who will affift us alfo? And why then should we be forced to yield to those difficulties, over which they triumphed ?
Let us confider fome few of those many plain inftances of this kind, which are recorded in the Holy Story. The temptation of example and reigning custom, is one of the strongest that befet human nature; and yet it hath been refifted and defied, in the utmost degree of ftrength, wherein it is poffible for us to imagine it.
Lot lived in a great and filthy city; fo filthy, that, as great as it was, ten good men could not be found there to refcuę it from destruction. And yet, amidst all that bad company, he con
tinued untainted, and preferved his innocence. Noah lived, not only in a city, but in a world entirely debauched; when All flesh had corrupted its ways," Gen. vi. 13. and there were but feven perfons (befides himself) left, fervants of God, and lovers of righteoufnefs. And yet, notwithstanding this univerfal depravation of manners behold, how untouched he ftood, and what a character he bore!" Noak was a juft man, and "perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with "God!" Ver. 9. Will any man, after this, pretend, that it is impoffible to withstand the influence of ill example; and to live up to ftrict principles of religion and virtue, among thousands, and ten times ten thousands, that neglect and deride them?
The temptations that arise from worldly interest and honour, cannot poffibly prefs harder upon any man than they did upon Mofes. He might have lived in all the fplendor and luxury of the Egyptian court, and enjoyed all the advantages of it, would he but have complied with the religion and manners of the place, and forgotten his relation to a poor perfecuted people: but he refolutely withftood all thefe charms, and, "when he was come of years, refused to be called the fon of Pharaoh's daughter; choofing ra ther to fuffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of fin for a season: efteeming the reproach of Chrift greater riches than the treasures of Egypt," Heb. xi. 24.
"Ye have heard of the patience of Job!" James v. 11. No man was ever tempted more