FIFTY-SECOND LORD’S DAY
THE SIXTH PETITION.
Question 127. Which is the sixth petition?
Answer. “AND LEAD us NOT INTO TEMPTATION, BUT DELIVER us FROM EVIL;” that is, since we are so weak in ourselves that we cannot stand a moment: and besides this, since our mortal enemies, the devil, the world, and our own flesh, cease not to assault us, do thou, therefore, preserve and strengthen us by the power of thy Holy Spirit, that we may not be overcome in this spiritual warfare, but constantly and strenuously may resist our foes, until at last we obtain a complete victory.
There are some who here make one petition; while others make two. We should not, however, strive or contend, in reference to the matter as long as the doctrine which is here taught is fully retained. To us the words seem rather to constitute two parts of one and the same petition. Lead us not into temptation, is a petition for deliverance from future evil; but de liver us from evil, is a petition for deliverance from present evil.
The things which we are here to consider are the following:
There are two kinds of temptation. The one is from God, the other is from the devil. The former is a trial of our faith, piety, repentance and obedience, which is from God, through the various oppositions and hinderances of our salvation; as by all evils, by the devil, the flesh, lusts, the world, afflictions, calamities, the cross, &c., that our faith, patience, hope and constancy may be made manifest both to ourselves and others. It is in this sense that God is said to have tempted Abraham, Joseph, Job and David. “The Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deut. 13:4. See also Gen. 22:1. Ps. 139:1.) So God is also said to tempt his people by false prophets and by the cross. The temptation of the devil, or that by which the devil, the flesh and the wicked tempt us, is every solicitation to do wrong, which solicitation itself is sin. It was in this way that the devil tempted Job, that he might draw him from God, whom he loved and worshipped, although the final issue of the temptation was different from what the devil designed, and anticipated. So he also provoked David to number the children of Israel. (1 Chron. 21:1.) Obj. But it is said in the Epistle of James 1:13, “Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted of evil, neither tempteth he any man. But every man is tempted, when he B drawn away of his own lust and enticed.” Ans. God tempts no one by soliciting and enticing him to sin or evil: but he tempts by trying us. But the devil, the world and the flesh tempt us so as to entice arid solicit us to sin for the purpose of drawing us from God. In this sense of the term God tempts no man. Hence, when it is said that he tempted Abraham, Job and David, we are to understand it to mean nothing more than a trial of their faith and constancy by afflictions and the cross. So he, also, by the use of the same means tries our faith, hope, patience, love and constancy, whether we will also worship and serve him in afflictions.
From what has now been said we may easily perceive, since temptation is attributed to the devil, and to the disordered inclinations of men, in what sense God is said to tempt and not to tempt men. Satan tempts men, both by offering occasions to sin from without, and also by instigating them from within to sin, that he may thus plunge them into destruction, and cast reproach upon God. Disordered inclinations tempt men; because they tend to such actions as God prohibits. God, however, tempts, not to destroy us, nor to lead us into sin; but to try and exercise us, when he either sends calamities upon us, or permits the devil, or men, or our flesh to provoke and invite us to sin, hiding for a time his grace and power in preserving and ruling us, that our faith and constancy, by these exercises and trials, may be more clearly manifested, not indeed to God, who knows from ever lasting what and how great our faith is, and how great it will hereafter be by his blessing; but to ourselves and others, that so by these examples of our deliverance there may be confirmed in us a confidence of the divine presence and protection that a desire of imitating us may be awakened in others, by seeing our perseverance, and that true gratitude may be kindled in all of us towards God, who has delivered us from our temptations. It was in this way that God tempted Abraham when he commanded him to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Gen. 22. So he is said to have tempted his people by withholding water from them. Ex. 15. This petition, therefore, Lead us not into temptation, which Christ commands us to address to God, does not simply speak of the trials and proofs of our faith and piety, to which David willingly offers himself, when he says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts;” but also of the cunning devices and assaults of the devil and of our flesh, and of desertion in external and internal conflicts. Nor does the Apostle James speak of our being tried, but of our being enticed to sin, when he says, “Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God, for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin, and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:18, 16.)
Hence it is also apparent, how God punishes the wicked, and chastises and tempts the godly by evil spirits, whilst he is, nevertheless, not the cause of the sins which are committed by the devil, nor is a partaker with him in his wickedness. For that the wicked are punished by the wicked, and the good chastised and exercised, is the just and holy work of the divine will; but that the wicked execute the judgment of God by sinning, is not the fault of God, but comes to pass by the corruption of the wicked, which they have brought upon themselves, God neither willing, nor approving, nor accomplishing, nor furthering their sins, but only permitting them in his just judgment, when accomplishing his work and purpose through them, he either does not reveal his will to them, or does not influence their wills to regard his revealed will as the end and rule of their actions. This distinction between the works of God, and those of the devil, and of God s accomplishing his just work through the devil, and of his permitting the sin of the devil, is evidently confirmed by the history of Job, whom God de signed to try, whilst the devil attempted to destroy him. The same thing is also proven by the history of Ahab, and by the prophecy respecting anti christ, where the devil deceives men that he may destroy them, whilst God permits them to be deceived that he may in this way punish them, and suffers the devil to execute his will and purpose. (1 Kings 23. 2 Thes. 2.)
When God is said to lead us into temptation, we are to understand by it, that he tries and proves us according to his most just will and judgment. When the devil is said to lead us into temptation, it means that God permits him to entice and solicit us to sin. We are here in this petition taught to pray for deliverance from both of these forms of temptation. We there fore pray, 1. That God will not tempt us for the sake of trying us, if such be his will and pleasure, or if he does tempt us, that he will give us strength to endure the temptation. 2. That he will not permit the devil, or the world or the flesh to entice us to sin, or if he does permit us to be tempted, that he himself will be present with us, that we may not fall into sin. This, therefore, is the true sense and meaning of this petition, Lead us not into temptation suffer us not to be tempted above that which we are able to bear; neither permit the devil to tempt us in such a way that we may Cither sin, or wholly fall from thee.
Obj. Temptations which are good in respect to God, are evil in respect to the devil, and yet God, notwithstanding, leads us into them. Therefore God is the cause of sin. Ans. There is here a fallacy of the accident. They are sins in respect to the devil, because he designs to entice us to sin by these temptations. In respect to God, however, they are not sins, because they try us and withdraw us from sin, and also confirm our faith. Temptations, therefore, in as far as they are trials, chastisements, martyrdoms, &c., are sent of God; but in as far as they are evil and sinful, God does not will them, so as to approve and effect them, but only permits them.
There are some who understand by the term evil as here used, the devil; others understand by it, sin, and others, death. It is best, however, to understand it as comprehending all the evils of guilt and punishment, whether they be present or future; yea, and the devil himself, the author and grand contriver of all wicked deeds, who is called by the Apostle John, according to a significant form of speech, the wicked one. “I write unto you young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one.” “Whatsoever is more than these, cometh of Evil.” (1 John 2:13. Matt. 5:37.) Cyprian understood the term evil as here used, to include all the adverse circumstances which the enemy brings against us, from which we can have no sure protection, except God deliver us. Hence when we pray that God will deliver us from evil, we desire, 1. That he will send no evil upon us, but keep and defend us from present and future evils, both of guilt and punishment. 2. That if he does here send evils upon us, he will be pleased to mitigate them, and make them contribute to our salvation that they may be profitable to us. 3. That he will at length fully and perfectly deliver us in the life to come, and wipe away all tears from our eyes.
This petition is necessary, 1. On account of the number and power of our enemies, together with the magnitude of the evils to which we are ex posed, and our own weakness. 2. On account of the preceding petition, that we may obtain the forgiveness of our sins, inasmuch as our sins are not forgiven except we continue in faith and repentance. But we will not continue in these, if we are tempted above our strength, if we rush into sin, and fall from God himself.
Obj. 1. We should not pray for deliverance from things good and profit able to us. The temptations which are from God, such as trials by afflictions, poverty, false prophets, &c., are things good and profitable to us. There fore we should not pray for deliverance from them. Ans. We are not to pray for deliverance from things which are in themselves good and profitable. But trials, afflictions, crosses and other temptations are profitable not in themselves, but only by an accident, which is the mercy of God accompanying them, without which they are not only not profitable, but constitute a part of death and lead to death, both temporal and eternal. Hence in as far as afflictions are evil in themselves, and destructive to our nature, in so far we are to pray for a deliverance from them; but in as far as they are by the goodness of God, good and profitable to those who believe, we should riot desire to be delivered from them. Or we may express it thus; that which is good, and which accompanies afflictions and the cross, we; should not pray for deliverance from; but afflictions and the cross itself,, which are evil in themselves, being destructive to our nature, from these we should pray for deliverance, as Christ himself also prayed when he said, Let this cup pass from me, that is, let it pass from me in as far as it is a destruction and evil, in which sense the Father himself did not desire it. But in as far as the death of Christ was a ransom for the sins of his people, in so far both Christ and the Father desired it; Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matt. 26:39.)
Obj. 2. We ought not to pray for deliverance from what God wills. But God wills our temptations. Therefore we ought not to pray for deliverance from them. Ans. We ought not to pray for deliverance from what God wills, in as far as he simply wills it. But he does not simply will temptations he does not will them in as far as they are destructive to us; but only in as far as they are trials and exercises of our faith, prayer and constancy. In this respect we ought also to desire these things. And that we ought not simply to desire temptations is evident from this, that it is the part of patience to endure and submit to them, which it would not be (but rather our duty) if we should simply desire them, without being permitted to pray for deliverance from them. God will not, therefore, have us to desire evils in as far as they are evils, but will have us patiently to endure them in as far as they are good and profitable to us.
Obj. 3. It is in vain that we pray for what we never obtain. But we shall never obtain a complete deliverance from temptations in this life; for “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Tim. 3:12.) Therefore it is in vain that we pray not to be led into temptation. Ans. There is here an error in regarding that as a cause which is none: for we pray that we may not be led into temptation, not because we are here wholly to be delivered from temptations; but because we are delivered from many temptations and evils in which we should have perished, had we not sought and prayed for deliverance. This should be a sufficient reason why we should pray as we are here taught. But we may add still further, that this petition is necessary, in order that the evils into which we fall may be made contributary to our salvation. Those now who desire deliverance in general, obtain these two great blessings from God, notwithstanding he designs that this benefit be imperfect, even to those who desire it, on ac count of the remains of sin, which still cleave to us; and that because he will have us to pray with confidence, and submission to his will, that we may obtain it fully and perfectly in the life to come.
The benefit of this petition is, 1. A confession of our weakness in en during temptations, even the smallest, that no one may be unduly exalted and filled with conceit, as Peter was, when he declared himself willing to die with Christ; and that no one may take to himself the glory of his confession and sufferings, seeing that the Lord himself teaches us humility, saying, “Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation.” “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” (Matt. 26:41. 1 Cor. 10:12.) 2. A declaration of the miseries and evils of this present life, that we may not become secure, and fall in love with the world.
3. An acknowledgement and confession of the providence of God, which, as Cyprian writes, teaches that the devil can effect nothing against us, except God first give him permission; which should lead us to reverence and fear God, since the wicked one can accomplish nothing in all our temptations, except God give him power to do so. God now grants Satan power over us according as we permit sin to reign in us, as it is said, “Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? did not the Lord: he against whom we have sinned? for they would not walk in his ways, neither were obedient to his law.” (Is. 42:24.) This power too which is given to Satan is two-fold; either for our punishment when we sin against God, or for our glory when we are tried and exposed. This is Cyprian s view of the subject.
It is proper that we should here notice the order and connection between the different petitions which we have now considered. 1. The Lord commands us to seek the true knowledge or profession of God, which is the cause of all his other blessings. 2. That God would rule us by his Spirit, and so continually confirm and preserve us in this knowledge. 3. That every one may by this means properly discharge his duty in his appropriate sphere and calling. 4. That he would give us those temporal blessings necessary, that every one may perform his duty. The fourth petition, therefore, agrees with the preceding, for if it is necessary that we should all be in our pro per calling, we must live and have what is necessary for the support of life. 5. The petition for temporal and spiritual blessings follows next in order, and is thrown in to meet our unworthiness: That thou mayest give us temporal and spiritual blessings, forgive us our debts. The fifth petition is, therefore, the foundation of the rest. If this be overthrown, the rest will likewise fall to the ground. For if any one has not the assurance that God is reconciled to him, how can he know him to be merciful? How can he continue in that knowledge which he has not? How can he do his duty and the will of God, when he is the enemy of God and desires contrary to his will? How can the gifts of God contribute to his salvation? 6. After the petition for temporal and spiritual blessings, the petition for deliverance from present and future evils follows, being the last. From this last petition we return again to the first; Deliver us from all the evils of guilt and punishment, present and future, that we may know thee, our perfect Saviour, that so thy name may be sanctified by us.
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