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JAMES, I, 12.
Blessed is the Man that endureth Temptation: for, when he is tried, he shall receive the Crown of Life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.
THE generality of mankind judge according to the report of their senses; and name things good or evil, as their senses report them. They call, therefore, for ease, for power, or for honour: and they pursue; and endeavour, at any rate, to overtake them.
But the report of God, who perfectly sees from the beginning to the end of things, speaks a contrary language: for he says, 'Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for, when he is tried, he shall receive a crown of life.'
Let us, from the words of the text,
1. Consider WHAT IT IS TO ENDURE TEMPTATION. 2. Inquire BY
WHAT MEANS TEMPTATION IS EN
3. View THE BLESSED ISSUE OF ENDURING TEMPTATION: 'When he is tried, he shall receive a crown of life.'
I. Let us inquire WHAT IT IS TO ENDURE TEMPTATION. 'Blessed is the man that endureth
In this place, and in many other parts of Scripture, temptation signifies any kind of trial.
It may arise from the World: like that, which Abraham was called to endure, when he was directed
to leave his country and his father's house, and to turn his back on his idols; to become a stranger and pilgrim, and to wander as such in the world; to meet with troubles, difficulties, opposition, and contradiction of sinners. Or it may be like that of Moses, who, when he had opportunities to rise greatly in life, turned away his face from all these things, and became an outcast in enduring 'the reproach of Christ.'
Our trial may arise from the Flesh; which, as in the case of David, will assault a man, and seem even to alter his very character; so that he no longer seems to be either 'the man after God's own heart,' or to have any thing like a heart for God at all: he has suffered under the powerful attacks of temptation addressed to his senses.
Or temptation may be a trial immediately proceeding from Satan: like that of Job; who, in the midst of his ease and possessions, was given into Satan's power, to be harassed and disturbed by him. This was, indeed, temptation and trial. So it is said, that 'Satan provoked David to number Israel:' it was a severe and critical temptation, and David fell by it.
Sometimes the trial may come, for wise ends, from God himself. Thus it is said concerning Abraham, 'it pleased the Lord to tempt Abraham, i. e. to try him and therefore he said, Take now thy son, thy only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and offer him up for a burnt-offering.' Here the trial, or temptation, proceeded immediately from God himself, as the trial of Abraham's faith and obedience.
But, says the Apostle, 'Blessed is the man that endureth temptation,' of whatever kind it be: whether from the world or from the flesh, or from Satan, or more immediately sent of God: 'Blessed is the man, that endureth temptation.'
But what is meant by enduring temptation?
Enduring temptation is very contrary to the case of which we have been hearing this morning: Balaam
sought to run into temptation: he seems, if I may be allowed the expression, to have even teazed God to let him go to the court of Balak, that he might be promoted to honour. Saul, when in trouble, would seek relief from a witch: this is running into temptation.
Enduring temptation is very different, too, from merely meeting with it, like Moses in the wilderness. The absence of Moses left the people to their own inventions; and, with their inventions, they proceeded so far as to set up a golden calf, and to call that the God which had brought them out of Egypt.
It is to be distinguished, also, from a single resistance. A man rouses his mind; and is enabled, with resolution, to say-"No! this is an attack on my faith, virtue, and happiness. I will not go !?-when, perhaps, on the very next temptation, he falls.
But the man that endureth temptation,' is the man, who has learnt and is enabled to bear up under it ; or, as we sometimes express ourselves, he will weather it. He expects it; and, when it comes on him, he is not surprised. He knows that it is impossible to give place to it, in any degreee with safety: he resolves, therefore, by the help of God, to make a stand; and though the current may run strong against him, yet he certainly knows, that he must either go against the current, or be carried away and perish for ever.
Such a man was Enoch; who in the midst of a wicked and perverse world, is represented as walking with God; a man of God; ever watchful on the Lord's side, and against the dangerous attacks of an enemy.
Such a character was Noah, 'being warned of God, and moved with fear, he prepared an ark; and did not stand to consider what other men would say. He might hear some call him an enthusiast; others suppose him to be mad, and that his dreaming of a deluge was the greatest proof of his madness. But he made a stand, and went on: he endured the temptation.
Thus did Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Joseph, in particular, endured temptations, not only in the enmity and cruelty of his brethren, but in reproach and sufferings arising from his integrity. He was thrown into prison; not for a day, nor a year: but he must go on enduring one of the darkest dispensations that ever man had to endure; yet he bore it patiently, and, as it is said of Moses, he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. Still, he hung on the truth of God. Still he referred his cause to him. He seemed to say, with St. Paul, 'None of these things move me : neither count I my life dear unto myself.'
It was in the same spirit that we find Daniel and the three children enduring and bearing up under their peculiar trials, in the furnace and the den of lions.
It was this that left the Apostles, in the midst of opposition, as sheep among wolves. We are troubled," says St. Paul, in the fourth chapter of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed: we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken: cast down, but not destroyed.' How is this? How did they weather this trial? The latter part of the chapter puts us in possession of their secret. For which cause we faint not: but, though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." "We are called," as if they had said, to "endure; but it is but for a moment: it is, comparatively 'light affliction; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.""
Brethren! mark here a grand distinction between a Christian and a man of the world. The man of the world looks only at 'the things which are seen :' he is overcome by them: they overwhelm him: they infatuate him: he cannot endure them: he has no true wis
dom, no right understanding, no spirituality. But, says the Apostle, 'We look not at the things which are seen ;' for these we feel to be temporal and momentary: but those which are not seen,' we know to be durable and eternal.
In this way, Brethren! I would answer the question, "What is it to endure temptation?" It is thus, that 'the righteous holds on his way; and he, that hath clean hands, waxeth stronger and stronger.' It is thus, that he becomes a stranger and pilgrim upon earth.'
II. But I anticipate what I was secondly to speak on, namely, BY WHAT MEANS TEMPTATION IS ENDURED.
By what means is tempation endured by the man who is here spoken of as blessed? for a cause must be equal to its effect: and, therefore, no sudden starts of enthusiasm, no momentary impressions, however warm, will be adequate to this trial. For, to endure temptation, a man must be prepared for continual difficulty it is to-morrow's business, as well as that of to-day.
Temptation is not endured by one vice overcoming and casting out another. It is not, for instance, the victory of pride over lust: but faith enables a man to make his stand 'in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation; and to shine as a light in the world,' having a hope full of immortality."
You will see an account of this "royal way," as it has been called, in the xith chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. There we see a procession of characters-determined men-spiritual heroes; who, by faith, and hope, and love, endured and suffered; feeling the grace of God which was given them adequate to the trial.
The case of St. Paul himself, is very expressly related. And there is, doubtless, great wisdom in this particular relation, because it puts us into full posses