Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XLVI.: of temptations. - The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1
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CHAPTER XLVI.: of temptations. - John Robinson, The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1 
The Works of John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers, with a Memoir and Annotations by Robert Ashton, 3 vols (London: John Snow, 1851). Vol. 1.
Part of: The Works of John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers, with a Memoir and Annotations by Robert Ashton, 3 vols.
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God tempts a man, and Satan tempts him, and one man tempts another. God's temptations are, as he is, good and for good: and no other thing, but so many trials of the faith, patience, love, wisdom and obedience of his creatures; not that he might know them, for “he understands the thoughts afar off,” Psa. cxxxix. 2; but that they might have use and make manifestation of the grace of the heart in outward acts, that others might know them, and they, themselves: or that, by accident, as they speak, the contrary vices of unbelief, impatience and the like might be discovered where they lie hid, which is good also. It is good, on God's part, and for his church, that men's naughtiness, where it is, should in its time, be discovered. Where also we gather it to be our Saviour's meaning to teach his disciples, and us all, in them, to pray against temptations, Matt. vi. 13, as they are provocations unto sin; but not, as they are moderate trials of faith: and therewith, that our heavenly Father would so sweeten the bitterness of them with the sprinklings of the sense of his love in Christ, as that they may not be excessive or intolerable. Satan's temptations, on the contrary, are as he is, evil, and for evil and sin: either outwardly by fitting of objects or stirring up of instruments or providing of furtherances of evil of all sorts: or in regard of the heart and soul, by suggestion of evil thereto, together with the so disposing and stirring up of the humours of the body, as that they may be ready instruments for the mind's inordinate passions. And albeit he cannot compel either the understanding to assent, or the will to consent, or the affections to liking, and so, not the body to the acting of evil; yet being a spirit, he is undoubtedly able to unite himself in his suggestions with our spirits, after an unknown manner; and the same also very persuasive, specially with such, as upon whom he is by the Lord in anger let loose, for the punishment of former sins by latter. So we read that “Satan filled the heart of Ananias,” Acts v. 3: “entered into the heart of Judas,” Luke, xxii. 3: “works in the children of disobedience,” Eph. ii. 2: and “blinds the mind of the unbelievers,” 2 Cor. iv. 4. Notwithstanding all which his both power and malice, seeing he can do nothing to hurt, but by the permission of God, and power which he hath from him,* and that justly given, though, on his part, unjustly used; we are still to remember the good counsel by one given us, which is, never to fear the power of the devil more than the offence of God.† This were to fear the executioner more than the judge.
Though a man cannot be drawn away, but by his own concupiscence, yet may he be tempted otherwise, James i. 14, and be compelled to suffer temptations, which is human; and devilish only to be overcome of them,‡ by assent, consent, or liking: and where none of these three is, there is the devil's sin, and but man's cross, as one saith, in the temptation. If the thought of evil arising in the heart be such, as unto which not so much as our affections do incline, but that, on the contrary, we wholly abhor from it, in the very first rising, we may gather it to be rather by suggestion from Satan, than of our own concupiscence. And as it is not in our power to avoid the outward presentations of evil, by wicked men, to our eye, or ear; but we are compelled often to see, and hear their unlawful works, and words, as did Lot, the Sodomites, 2 Pet. ii. 7, 8: so neither seemeth it to be in our power to avoid the bare thoughts of evil, which are not always evil thoughts, by Satan's suggestions; but that he being a spirit, and spiritual wickedness, can present them to our'spirits more effectually, than can any man object and offer outward, and corporeal provocation to our outward, and bodily senses.
As Christ our Lord, after the glorious testimony given of him by his Father from heaven, and by the Holy Ghost sitting upon him in the form of are dove, and by John, the Baptist both is word, and deed; “was immediately led into the wilderness.by the spirit, to be tempted of the devil:” Matt. iii. 1,16,17; iv. 1: so must Christians make account, after the special testimonies of God's love received, of some singular combat of temptation, for their trial; wherein, if they overcome, the love of God is thereby, as it were, sealed up unto their hearts. Holy men therefore prospering in virtue must exult, and count it all joy, when they fall into divers temptations, and are exercised in them by the divine providence,* for the trial of their faith, James i. 2: and therewith of God's gracious power, which is perfected in their weakness, 2 Cor. xii. 9, this way.
There are none of God's servants, but in the case of temptation have reaped the fruit of his singular providence towards them; sometimes, in preventing such temptations, as if they had come upon them in their full strength, would have been most like, if not clean to have overthrown them, yet to have caused their grievous fall; by which, they have, through God's providence sitting at the stern, glided, as a ship by the side of a rock: sometimes, in guiding them even in the very midst of temptations compassing them about, like so many sands: and sometimes, by helping and hauling them off, even when they have stuck fast, and been ready to sink in them. Many have been the bodily dangers known, and not known, which, by God's good providence, we have escaped: but how many more those that are spiritual, in which we had been utterly swallowed up, a thousand times, if his gracious hand from heaven had not relieved us? Now, besides those common to all, every person hath his special temptations, arising either from his temper of body or sex or age or education or custom or state or calling or company or other occasion, against which he must watch most carefully, as men used to watch in the gates of a city besieged, and in such other places, as in which the enemy is likest to make his assault; in which, if we quit ourselves as men, and stand fast, we shall have our part in his comforts, who said, “I was upright with him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.” Psa. xviii. 23.
Some have thought it a wise, Christian course in the confession of our secret sins, residing in the heart, unto God, not to use the outward voice, for fear of acquainting Satan with them thereby, and so of advantaging him to tempt us, by applying himself to that, wherein he seeth us likeliest to sin.* As it is certain that he knows not our hearts at all, as God doth, hy immediate insight, but gathers them by the motions and manifestations of the body;† so, considering, that he himself is the original of all evil, mediately or immediately, it is like, he is, for the most part, acquainted with his own work in men. And so it is good wisdom in us, to prefer the best manner of acknowledging our sins to God, for the advantaging of our repentance, before the fear of discovering our corruptions to the devil.
Christ our Lord teaching us to pray, that God would “not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one,” Matt. vi. 13, would warn us not to lead ourselves into temptations, nor to deliver our souls into Satan's hands; which yet we do by affecting familiarity with wicked men, which are, as it were, his brokers, by omitting duties of religion publicly or privately, or doing them unfruitfully; by neglecting our special callings and doing nothing, and thereby giving him opportunity to tempt us to do evil; and lastly, by opening too wide the windows of our outward senses towards alluring objects. By these means we not only tempt God to leave us, but the devil, after a sort, to tempt us. Prov. xxiii. 26—35. We have a promise, that “if we resist him, he will fly from us,” James iv. 7; but that is, when he assaults us, and not when we challenge him, as it were, with his own weapons, wherewith he hath foiled so many. He that thus puts himself within the reach of his paws, shall hardly escape being torn in pieces by him. Let us commit ourselves unto God's safe keeping in all our ways, Psa. xc. 11; but not come in Satan's way, lest we advantage his malice, and put ourselves out of God's protection.
As the sailor's skill is seen in carrying his ship through a storm; so is the strength of faith in vanquishing danger ous temptations. Yet must we not measure the state of a man too much by that which befalls him in some, or other such dangerous trial. There are few so evil but have at times their temptations, that I may so speak, to some particular good, by which they are carried less or more that way: and few or none so good, but, on the contrary, have temptations to evil, in which, at times, something heman befalls them. Now to judge of men's persons according to some such few particulars, contrary to their general course, were partiality. The wicked fall not into evil, but lie grovelling in evil. The godly fall sometimes by occasion; but “God is faithful, who with the temptation maketh a way for him to escape,” 1 Cor. x. 13, by their renewal of repentance, and victory of faith. And though in those their wrestlings they get a wrench, and limp afterwards, as Jacob did; yet they have power, and prevail, and go on, as he did, in their way.