Tempt, v. ‘ It is the tempter’s care to bring the tempting object near enough, or draw the sinner near enough to it: the net must come to the fish, or the fish to the net: the distant fire will not burn the wood. The devil’s chief confidence is in the sensitive appetite, which worketh strongest at hand. If he get the drunkard into the alehouse and shew him the cup, he hath half conquered him already: but if he be scrupulous and modest, some one shall drink a health, or importune him, and put the cup into his hand. The thief with Achan shall see the bait, and the sight will work a covetous desire. The glutton shall have the tempting dishes before him, and be at a table which by variety of delicious food, is fitted to become his snare ; whereas if he had nothing set before him, but the poor man’s simple food which hath nothing in it fit to tempt him, he might easily have escaped. The fornicator shall have his beautiful dirt brought near him, and presented to him in a tempting dress; for at a sufficient distance there had been little danger. The ambitious person shall have preferment offered him, or brought so fair to his hand that with a little seeking it may be attained. The fearful coward shall be threatened with the loss of estate or life, and hear the report of the cannons, guns and drums of satan. Peter is half conquered when he is got among questioning company in the highpriest’s hall. Thus David, thus Lot, thus ordinarily sinners are drawn into the snare.’
Direct, v. As ever you would preserve your innocency and your souls, fly as far from tempting objects as you can: I say as you can, without distrusting God in the neglect of a certain duty. A wife, or a servant that are bound cannot fly : nor must we leave undone our certain duty upon an uncertain danger, which may otherwise be avoided: but keep off* from the temptation at as great a distance as you can : the safest course is the best when your souls lie at the stake : if it be not necessary, plead not the lawfulness of what you do, when it is a temptation to that which is unlawful. You say, it is lawful to wear such curious ornaments, and set out yourselves in the neatest dress ; but is it lawful to be proud or lustful, or to consume your time unprofitably ? If not, tempt not yourselves or others to it. Keep away from the place where the snare is laid. Look first to the end before you meddle with the beginning. Why should I eat that which I know I cannot digest, but must cast it up again ? And why should I taste that which I must not eat? And why should I desire to have that set before me, and to look upon that which I must not taste ? Come not near if thou wouldst not be taken. What dost thou at the alehouse with a cup before thee, if thou wouldst not be drawn to excess of drink ? If thou be subject to excess in eating, make not thy own table thy temptation. Fly from the temptation as thou wouldst do from hell, or from the devil himself. See not the bait of lust, or come not near, if thou be inclinable to lust, saith Solomon, ” Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house ; for her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword: her feet go dowa to death, her steps take hold on hell. Her house inclineth to death and her paths unto the dead : none that go to her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death. Whoso is simple let him turn in hither : and as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But he knoweth not that the dead are there ; and that her guests are in the depths of hell. Lust not after her beauty in thy heart, neither let her take thee with her eyelids. Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burnt? Remember that you pray daily, ” Lead us not into temptation :” and if you will run into it yourselves, are not your prayers hypocritical and an abuse of God ? If you would be saved from sin, you must be saved in God’s way : and that is by flying from temptations; and not drawing near, and gazing on forbidden objects, and tempting yourselves : even as God’s holy means must be used by all that would come to holiness and heaven; so the devil’s must be avoided by him that would escape sin and hell. 2. But if you cannot remove far enough from the snare, then double your fear, and watchfulness, and resolution : fly with Joseph from the sin, if you cannot go out of the house. How carefully should every foot be placed, when we know that every step we tread is among snares ! Rule your senses, if you cannot remove the bait: make Job’s covenant with your eyes, that you look not on that which would allure! Let every sense have a constant watch.