1 Corinthians 10:13
Great Texts of the Bible
Trust in God and do the Right

God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it.—1 Corinthians 10:13.

1. The reason for our confidence that every temptation can be overcome is that God is faithful. “God is faithful,” says the Apostle, “who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it.” Notice, the Apostle does not give as his reason for confidence that man is strong, but that God is faithful. Men who have faced temptation confiding only in their own strength have come to grief. It is the men who, distrustful of self, have leaned upon God who have come off more than conquerors.

2. Should we be disposed at any time to doubt this, we may reassure ourselves by remembering how God’s faithfulness is guaranteed.

(1) God cannot be true to His purpose of grace and yet allow us to be overcome by the sheer weight and pressure of evil without a possibility of escape. For what is the purpose which we see revealed in the gift of Christ? It is that we may be saved from sin; and salvation from sin implies that we shall be strengthened against the temptations by which it seeks to prevail. God is faithful to His purpose, and His purpose is to save and keep all those who put their trust in Him. He never departs from this. He has it always before Him. It is the end to which He makes everything subordinate. He is never off His guard, never asleep, never too busily engaged to attend to the wants of the very least of His children. Sin can lurk nowhere without being detected by His all-seeing eye. It can devise no stratagem without being clearly visible to Him. Still less can it strike down or fatally wound any who look to Him for help.

(2) But not only would it be inconsistent with His purpose of grace were God to suffer overwhelming evil to assail us, it would also place Him in contradiction to Himself. His nature is to love goodness supremely, and He has pledged Himself by the gift of His Son to leave nothing undone to give it the victory. But if He were to stand aside, and see us beaten down by sin without interposing; if He were to allow temptations to muster in irresistible force; this would not only defeat His manifested purpose, but destroy His character for holiness. The very fact that God is good, that He loves and cherishes with a compassionate eye every movement of a human soul to purity and truth, involves His doing everything that wisdom, and power, and pity can do to make us triumphant over sin.

When man thus considers the wealth and the marvellous sublimity of the Divine nature, and all the manifold gifts which He grants and offers to His creatures, amazement is stirred up in his spirit at the sight of so manifold a wealth and majesty; at the sight of the immense faithfulness of God to all His creatures. This causes a strange joy of spirit, and a boundless trust in God, and this inward joy surrounds and penetrates all the forces of the souls in the secret places of the spirit.1 [Note: M. Maeterlinck, Ruysbroeck and the Mystics, 140.]

A beautiful instance is recorded in the life of Catherine of Siena. The plague was abroad, and Father Matthew, the Director of the Hospital, caught the infection while ministering to a dying person. The next day he was carried like a corpse, livid and strengthless, from the chapel to his room. The physician said that every symptom announced the approach of death. But Catherine loved him sincerely, and when she heard of his illness she went to his room and cried with a cheerful voice, “Get up, Father Matthew! Get up!” As she left the house, another friend—Raymond of Capua—was entering, and said to her, “Will you allow a person so dear to us, and so useful to others, to die? I know your secrets, and I know that you obtain from God whatsoever you ask in faith.” She bowed her head, and, after a few moments, looked him in the face with her countenance radiant with joy, and said, “Well, let us take courage; he will not die this time.” The good Father immediately recovered, and sat down to a light meal with his friends, chatting and laughing gaily with them. Catherine believed in the promise, “The prayer of faith shall save the sick.” She was bold in appealing to the truthfulness of the Divine Healer, and she was not disappointed. “Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God; the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him” (Deuteronomy 7:9). We very seldom put the veracity of God to the test. But the more we venture on Him and on His gracious words, the stronger and clearer is our faith bound to become.1 [Note: J. A. Clapperton, Culture of the Christian Heart, 52.]

I sometimes think that in the case of those who are not tried by sharp outward temptations to break God’s commandments, the trial may come in inward temptations to distrust His grace. It would be a bad business for us if we were not tried in some way.2 [Note: The Life of R. W. Dale of Birmingham, 544.]

There are two possible ways of looking upon trial. The first is that God is angry with the sufferer and is taking His revenge. It is a view old as the fears and the morbidness of man. The friends of Job are its champions in every generation. It seems so obvious to those who hold it that few of them give any pains to think it out to its issues, or realize how small a God this of theirs must be. Those who seriously believe in God at all will have little difficulty in passing to the second way of looking upon trial, and if their faith is worthy of the name, it will be quite as obvious as the former. Once seen it can never again be doubted, though it may sometimes require a strong effort to realize and hold by it. When we hear that certain troops have been sent into the most dangerous and trying post on the battlefield, how do we judge of them? Is it that their general has wished to punish them, or is it not rather that he believed in them best of all? And is not such confidence an honour greater than all other praise? To look at life under that light is to be done with fears and doubts. And along with that we take the further assurance that God sends no man into any battle that he may fall. None of all His troops are ever sacrificed to the exigencies of the field.3 [Note: J. Kelman, Honour towards God, 52.]

And this shalt thou know most surely, God breaketh His faith with none.

Teach thy thoughts ne’er from Him to wander, since Himself and His ways are One.”

3. “God is faithful,” says St. Paul, and proceeds to point out to the Corinthians the ways in which God’s faithfulness is shown towards them in the matter of their temptations. He tells them (1) that God permits the temptation, suffers them to be tempted; (2) that He proportions the temptation to their strength of resistance, not suffering them to be tempted above that they are able; (3) that He provides the way of escape from every temptation. So we have

I.  The Control of Temptation.

    II.    The Adjustment of Temptation.

    III.    The Escape from Temptation.


The Control of Temptation

The term “proof,” “temptation,” comprehends all that puts moral fidelity to the proof, whether this proof has for its end to manifest and strengthen the fidelity—it is in this sense that God can tempt,—or whether it seeks to make man fall into sin—it is in this sense that God cannot tempt, and that the devil always tempts. It may also happen that the same fact falls at once into these two categories, as, for example, the temptation of Job, which on the part of Satan had for its end to make him fall, and which God, on the contrary, permitted with the view of bringing out into clear manifestation the fidelity of His servant, and of raising him to a higher degree of holiness and of knowledge. There are even cases in which God permits Satan to tempt, not without consenting to his attaining his end of bringing into sin. So in the case of David. This is when the pride of man has reached a point such that it is a greater obstacle to salvation than the commission of a sin; God then makes use of a fall to break this proud heart by the humbling experience of its weakness.1 [Note: F. Godet, Commentary on Corinthians, ii. 70.]

When Jehovah asked the question: “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in all the earth?” Satan said, “Hast thou not put a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side?” I am very thankful for Satan’s own confession of the security of this servant of God. “The hedge was so high,” says one of the old Puritans, “that the big demons could not get over it, and so thick that the little demons could not get through it.”2 [Note: J. G. Mantle.]

1. Since God controls the temptation, and is testing us by it, we ought to bear it faithfully, believing in His faithfulness. We know God’s faithfulness to us only when we are honestly faithful to ourselves. He is no paternal despot who will make us good by force; and no more shameful cry than that petulant demand exists. He preserves our independence; it is dear to Him; He will compel us to work out our own salvation with resolute labour, and in this more than in all else His faithfulness to us is shown. That fidelity is often stern enough, it inflicts our due penalties, it proves to us the weaknesses of our nature by the trials in which they break down, it reveals what is strong in us by testing it sometimes to the last strand of the rope, and we quiver under the severity of the test; but what is the worth of our manliness, and what the use of a long experience, unless we are sufficiently strong of heart to realize that faithfulness is often sternness, and love sometimes apparently cruel?

We shall all be tempted, but the effects of the temptation depend upon ourselves. Fling into the same flame a lump of clay and a piece of gold, the clay will be hardened, the gold will melt; the heart of Pharaoh hardened into perfidious insolence, the soul of David melted into pathetic song. Bear temptation faithfully, and it will leave you not only unscathed, but nobler.1 [Note: F. W. Farrar, The Silence and the Voices of God, 112.]

O Beauteous things of earth!

I cannot feel your worth


O kind and constant friend!

Our spirits cannot blend


O Lord of truth and grace!

I cannot see Thy face


A shadow on my heart

Keeps me from all apart


Yet something in me knows

How fair creation glows


And something makes me sure

That love is not less pure


And that th’ Eternal Good

Minds nothing of my mood


For when the sun grows dark

A sacred, secret spark

Shoots rays.

Fed from a hidden bowl

A Lamp burns in my soul

All days.1 [Note: Charles G. Ames.]

2. We must trust Him in the darkness of our temptation. He is faithful; but to us in our blindness, ignorance, waywardness, He does not always seem so. To the strong man when he sits, despairing and stricken, amid the ruins of his life, to the father whose erring son causes him agony and shame—to these the sun shines not, and the stars give no light, the heavens above their heads are iron, and the earth beneath their feet is brass. Yet, how gently He heals even for these the wounds which His own loving hand has made; how do the clouds break over them and the pale silver gleam of resignation brighten into the burning ray of faith and love. For our path in life is like that of the traveller who lands at the famous port of the Holy Land. He rides at first under the shade of palms, under the golden orange-groves, beside the crowded fountains with almonds and pomegranates breaking around him into blossom. Soon he leaves behind him these lovely groves; he enters on the bare and open plain; the sun burns over him, the dust-clouds whirl around him; but even there the path is broidered by the quiet wayside flowers, and when at last the bleak bare hills succeed, his heart bounds within him, for he knows that he shall catch his first glimpse of the Holy City, as he stands weary on their brow.

There came a cloud; it fell in shining showers.

Lo! from the earth sprang troops of radiant flowers.

Grief o’er a joyous heart its shadow threw.

Lo! in the darkness love’s sweet graces grew.

The golden sun dropped sudden out of sight.

Lo! silver stars made glorious the night.

Death came. The soul, affrighted at its guise,

Was led protesting into Paradise.

3. Because God is faithful, He sends temptation to drive us to Himself. There is no escape from His love; no escape from the restlessness He will excite in our hearts till we find rest in Him. A thought will rise in our minds, we know not whence, a dim emotion kindle there which will seem to have no cause; they are the inspirations of God. In early times we have heard, as Samuel heard, His voice, and, unlike Samuel, we have forgotten. In after years, in issuing into life, we have met Him, in our first loneliness, as the infinite Inspirer. He has kindled in our hearts a fire of duty and hope and aspiration; but we have lost the music of that vision in the din of business and the clangour of the world. But He will not lose us; we forget, but not He. Again He comes to make our life shake in the tempest. If tenderness will not touch us, perhaps this stern education will. Therefore, there comes keen testing—“thrilling anguish,” the death of earthly hopes, the hours in which life seems a dreadful dream out of which we cannot wake. For only so can some be awakened to feel that they are not their own, but God’s; that the invisible is the real, and the visible unreal; that this world is, to us, children of immortality, no more than one flash of the shuttle through the loom, in comparison with the eternal world in which we are at one with Him.

Many men are distressing themselves, when they think of their trials, by imagining that they must have done something wrong, or God never could have sent such afflictions to them personally or to their household. That is a mistake. There are trials that are simply tests, not punishments; trials of faith and patience, not rods sent to scourge men because they have been doing some particular evil thing. God’s people are tried. “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.” The honour is not in the trial, it is in the spirit in which the trial is borne.1 [Note: J. Parker.]

4. It is an awful thought, this unremitting faithfulness of God, for it means, if we resist Him, stern, unrelenting work upon us. It is in vain that we say to Him, “Let us alone, torment us not.” He never takes offence; He has none of the jealousy of vanity; He is never unkind, though His strokes are hard; never wanting in swift reciprocation of the faintest utterance of love, the faintest cry for forgiveness; always ready to listen with tenderness, though wise enough not always to grant our prayer; always reasonable, always just, so that He can make excuse, can weigh the force of trial on our character, can understand the force of the circumstances which betrayed us into guilt. He knows all, and there is infinite comfort in that.

You may assure your soul, when you are marching forward into the darkness of some valley of the shadow of death, that God would never have sent you to face that trial unless He had known that you could master it. Life is often difficult: it is never impossible for the man that has to live it. If the trial be very sore, if it shake your strength and strain your patience almost to the breaking-point, if the agony of conflict surprise you, then that only shows that you are stronger than you took yourself to be. Had you been unfit for it, this post of danger would never have been assigned to you. Your God has gauged your powers of resistance with exact knowledge, and the duty He shall set you will always be well within the limits of these powers.1 [Note: J. Kelman, Honour towards God, 53.]

5. In the face of such faithfulness, we dare not do less than our best. It is a shame to sink wilfully below that which we know we ought to be. There are those who talk of their weakness, their yielding nature, as if it were something beautiful to be feeble; as if there were some poetical quality in giving way to that which they choose to call Fate; as if ideals were given them in order that they might sigh sentimentally over their unattainability, and not in order that they may pursue them with a resolute will. This is the infidelity of life—far worse than all else, when it is worst—turned into the ghost of an artistic dream and made the ground of vanity. Feebleness is never beautiful, and to choose feebleness as the rule of life is disgraceful in man or woman, however we may deck it with fine fancies. The real beauty of life is in health of mind, strength of will, vigour of purpose. The real poetry of life is in the noble effort which does not rest till it has accomplished its end; in the undying pursuit of that which we know to be best; in the battle for right; in the resolution and the power to live above the standard of the world; in the ravishment which is born of seeing truth, love, justice, purity, as they are seen by God; and in unresting, yet unhasting endeavour to become at one with them.

Led by God’s Spirit to the battle-ground, there is no assault in which any man is doomed to be defeated, and there is no temptation which it is impossible for a man to overcome. The conditions of life that tempt us are but the challenges that incite a man to assert his mastery. The lusts of the body, the pride of life, the meaner parts of human nature that offer a morbid pleasantness,—all that they can do at their worst is to give him the choice whether he shall respect himself or bow his neck. Let him remember that God has trusted him for this conflict also, trusted him to assert his best manhood, and to show its mastery. Let him remember that he is upon his honour, and that God counts on him to keep his honour bright as his sword.1 [Note: J. Kelman, Honour towards God, 57.]

Was the trial sore?

Temptation sharp? Thank God a second time!

Why comes temptation but for man to meet

And master and make crouch beneath his foot,

And so be pedestaled in triumph? Pray

“Lead us into no such temptations, Lord!”

Yea, but, O Thou whose servants are the bold,

Lead such temptations by the head and hair,

Reluctant dragons, up to who dares fight,

That so he may do battle and have praise.2 [Note: Browning.]


The Adjustment of Temptation

We are to believe that whatever our trial or temptation may be,—however heavy, however formidable,—it will, at least, never come in a light, random way to us. It is all measured before, and it is in strict order and proportion to something. He who made our body and our mind, and who knows exactly our every sensitive fibre, and the capacity of each—what each can and cannot endure—has fitted everything accurately to our constitution, to our circumstances, to our body, to our mind; and this sense of adaptation or proportion will of itself be an immense strength to us. It gives such dignity to affliction, and establishes at once a limit beyond which it can no more go than the sea can pass high-water mark. The mere knowing that there is a boundary line perfectly defined, though we do not see it, will give us courage to bear all that falls within that line. It will come to pass thus. It will sometimes happen to us to feel in our suffering—“If this trial were to go one inch further, I could not bear it; it would crush me.” But it will never go that inch. We shall not be crushed.

The words beyond what ye are able come as a surprise. Has man then some power? And, if the matter in question is what man can do with the Divine help, is not the power of this help without limit? But it must not be forgotten that, if the power of God is infinite, the receptivity of the believer is limited: limited by the measure of spiritual development which he has reached, by the degree of his love for holiness and of his zeal in prayer, etc. God knows this measure, St. Paul means to say, and He proportions the intensity of the temptation to the degree of power which the believer is capable of receiving from Him, as the mechanician, if we may be allowed such a comparison, proportions the heat of the furnace to the resisting power of the boiler.1 [Note: F. Godet.]

1. There are two factors in every temptation, the sinful heart within, the evil world without, and they stand to one another much in the relation of the powder-magazine and the lighted match. Temptation originates in the heart, says St. James, and that is absolutely true. The heart is the powder-magazine. But for the lusts raging there, the allurements of the world would be absolutely powerless for harm. Temptation comes from the sinful world, says St. Paul; that is also true. The world is the lighted match; but for the allurements and incitements of the world, the sinful desires of the heart would never be called into play. It is when the match is applied to the powder-magazine that danger arises. So the power of the temptation may vary and the power of resistance may vary.

2. There is no greater mystery of providence than the unequal proportions in which temptation is distributed. Some are tempted comparatively little; others are thrown into a fiery furnace of it seven times heated. There are in the world sheltered situations in which a man may be compared to a ship in the harbour, where the waves may sometimes heave a little, but a real storm never comes; there are other men like the vessel which has to sail the high seas and face the full force of the tempest.

(1) That which is a temptation at one period of life may be no temptation at all at another. To a child there may be an irresistible temptation in a sweetmeat which a man would never think of touching; and some of the temptations which are now the most painful to us will in time be as completely outlived.

(2) One of the chief powers of temptation is the power of surprise. It comes when we are not looking for it; it comes from the person and from the quarter we least suspect. The day dawns which is to be the decisive one in our life; but it looks like any other day. No bell rings in the sky to give warning that the hour of destiny has come. But the good angel that watches over us is waiting and trembling. The fiery moment arrives; do we stand; do we fall?

(3) Every man has his own trials; and every condition and circumstance of life its own peculiar temptations. Solitude has its temptations as well as society. St. Anthony, before his conversion, was a gay and fast young man of Alexandria; and, when he was converted, he found the temptations of the city so intolerable that he fled into the Egyptian desert and became a hermit; but he afterwards confessed that the temptations of a cell in the wilderness were worse than those of the city. It would not be safe to exchange our temptations for those of another man; every one has his own.

In speaking of Knox’s Rambles, and the effects of association with men in sharpening the intellect, you remark that this seems inconsistent with the fact that great spirits have been nursed in solitude. Yes, but not the ploughman’s solitude. Moses was forty years in Midian, but he had the education of Egypt before, and habits of thought and observation begun, as shown in his spirit of inquiry with regard to the burning forest. Usually, I suppose, the spark has been struck by some superior mind, either in conversation or through reading. Ferguson was, perhaps, an exception. Then, again, stirring times set such master-minds to work even in this solitude, as in Cromwell’s case. I remember, too, a line of Goethe’s, in which he says:

Talent forms itself in solitude,

Character in the storms of life.

But I believe both your positions are true. The soul collects its mightiest forces by being thrown in upon itself, and coerced solitude often matures the mental and moral character marvellously, as in Luther’s confinement in the Wartburg. Or, to take a loftier example, Paul during his three years in Arabia; or, grander still, His solitude in the desert: the Baptist’s too. But, on the other hand, solitude unbroken from earliest infancy, or with nothing to sharpen the mind, either by collison with other minds, or the expectation of some new sphere of action shortly, would, I suppose, rust the mental energies. Still there is the spirit to be disciplined, humbled, and strengthened, and it may gain in proportion as the mind is losing its sharpening education.1 [Note: F. W. Robertson, in Life and Letters, 222.]

Trench, in his poem “The Monk and Bird,” shows that the very blessedness of the consecrated life may become a temptation.

Even thus he lived, with little joy or pain

Drawn through the channels by which men receive—

Most men receive the things which for the main

Make them rejoice or grieve.

But for delight, on spiritual gladness fed,

And obvious to temptations of like kind;

One such, from out his very gladness bred,

It was his lot to find.

When first it came, he lightly put it by,

But it returned again to him ere long,

And ever having got some new ally,

And every time more strong—

A little worm that gnawed the life away

Of a tall plant, the canker of its root,

Or like as when from some small speck decay

Spreads o’er a beauteous fruit.

For still the doubt came back,—Can God provide

For the large heart of man what shall not pall,

Nor through eternal ages’ endless tide

On tired spirits fall?

Here but one look tow’rd heaven will oft repress

The crushing weight of undelightful care;

But what were there beyond, if weariness

Should ever enter there?

Yet do not sweetest things here soonest cloy?

Satiety the life of joy would kill,

If sweet with bitter, pleasure with annoy

Were not attempered still.

This mood endured, till every act of love,

Vigils of praise and prayer, and midnight choir,

All shadows of the service done above,

And which, while his desire,

And while his hope was heavenward, he had loved,

As helps to disengage him from the chain

That fastens unto earth—all these now proved

Most burdensome and vain.1 [Note: Trench, Poems, 13.]

3. The severity and the variety of man’s temptations, together with the persistently lofty and urgent appeals addressed to him, are a supreme tribute to the grandeur of his moral nature. In a race the severity of the handicap is an indication of the capacity of the runner. A great deal is expected from a man who can give another a hundred yards’ start. The runners are not all of equal calibre, and they are not handicapped above that they are able. Can we not see here what God is doing? Can we not see how He is dealing with us, according to this Pauline statement? So far from making things too difficult, He is trying to make them easier; He is tempering the strife to each man’s strength; He does not want us to lose, but to win; not to fail, but to overcome. That is not harshness, it is kindness; that is not undue severity, it is magnanimity, it is compassion, it is fair-play. Let us not allow ourselves to curse our circumstances, or to arraign God and His plans and His world, as if they were all in special conspiracy against us. The fact is that most of us are in conspiracy against ourselves—perhaps without knowing it. We have groaned about our difficulties, instead of accepting them and using them as stepping-stones to success. We have kicked against our limitations, instead of allowing them to develop our resources. We have resented our hardships and our handicaps, instead of making them contribute to our manhood. We have sat and gloomed at our temptations and roundly cursed our fate, but we have never considered the ways of escape. Thus we have been at once unfair to God and have courted failure for ourselves.

You all know the story about the Black Prince at the battle of Crecy, how his father refused to send help to him when he was hard pressed. It would have been easy for the king to keep the prince out of reach of danger; but no, the father said to those who came appealing for help, “Let the boy win his spurs, and let the day be his.”1 [Note: F. de W. Lushington, Sermons to Young Boys, 24.]


The Escape from Temptation

1. God will “with the temptation make also the way of escape.” Sometimes we want to see the way of escape before the temptation, but the way of escape comes with the temptation, not before it.

It may have happened to us, in some of our visits to the grandest scenes of nature, to be wending our way along a lake or river where mountains are before us, so close and so encompassing that they appear not only to bar our own progress, but to leave not the smallest outlet for our little boat. But, as we neared these vast barriers which edged us in, we gradually descried an opening between the hills which, as we went on, grew clearer and clearer, and wider and wider, till, safely and smoothly, our little bark floated on by a channel just made for us from within apparently impenetrable masses, to other regions which now range before us in their loveliness. So when the hindrances are the thickest, and the difficulties the most insurmountable, we feel that our faithful God, who made these fastnesses for this very end, will Himself provide the issue, and with the temptation make also the way of escape, that we may be able to endure it.

2. God is said here to make the temptation as well as the way of escape. Nor is this without a purpose. He knows precisely the strength we need, because He has prepared the occasion on which we shall be called to use it. It will never fail through any miscalculation or ignorance on His part. It will never be too feeble or too long upon the way. We may always be sure His succour will be at hand, a very present help in every time of trouble. Even in those moments in which our temptation comes upon us most suddenly, so that it may seem to have taken even God Himself by surprise, His way of escape will be close beside us. For the swiftest and most unforeseen of temptations are all equally under His control.

I leave you to call this deceiving spirit what you like—or to theorize about it as you like. All that I desire you to recognize is the fact of its being here, and the need of its being fought with. If you take the Bible’s account of it, or Dante’s, or Milton’s, you will receive the image of it as a mighty spiritual creature, commanding others, and resisted by others: if you take Æschylus’s or Hesiod’s account of it, you will hold it for a partly elementary and unconscious adversity of fate, and partly for a group of monstrous spiritual agencies connected with death, and begotten out of the dust; if you take a modern rationalist’s, you will accept it for a mere treachery and want of vitality in our own moral nature exposing it to loathsomeness or moral disease, as the body is capable of mortification or leprosy. I do not care what you call it,—whose history you believe of it,—nor what you yourself can imagine about it; the origin, or nature, or name may be as you will, but the deadly reality of the thing is with us, and warring against us; and on our true war with it depends whatever life we can win. Deadly reality, I say. The puff-adder or horned asp is not more real. Unbelievable,—those,—unless you had seen them; no fable could have been coined out of any human brain so dreadful, within its own poor material sphere, as that blue-lipped serpent—working its way sidelong in the sand. As real, but with sting of eternal death—this worm that dies not, and fire that is not quenched, within our souls or around them. Eternal death, I say—sure, that, whatever creed you hold;—if the old Scriptural one, Death of perpetual banishment from before God’s face; if the modern rationalist one, Death Eternal for us, instant and unredeemable ending of lives wasted in misery.

This is what this unquestionably present—this, according to his power, omni-present—fiend, brings us towards, daily. He is the person to be “voted” against, my working friend; it is worth something, having a vote against him, if you can get it! Which you can, indeed; but not by gift from Cabinet Ministers; you must work warily with your own hands, and drop sweat of heart’s blood, before you can record that vote effectually.1 [Note: Ruskin, Time and Tide (Works, xvii. 365).]

3. The way of escape must be sought for, or it may not be found. It is not always forcibly obtruded. It reveals itself to the humble and watchful eye—the eye that has become single, and waits only upon God. And if we are tempted, and can see no mode of relief, then we must search for it. Gradually it will open and widen before us.

4. How is it that God makes the way of escape? Notice that it is not a way, but the way of escape; the one separate escape for each separate temptation.

(1) Sometimes the only victory over a temptation is not to argue with it, not even to wrestle with it, but simply to get away from it. “Brethren, let us not be righteous over-much!” St. Paul, indeed, uses no grandiloquent speech as to what a man should do when he finds himself beset by temptations. He does not in this place recommend a man to draw his sword, and plant his right foot forward, and clench his teeth, and do many another strenuous and showy thing which looks so well in a picture and sounds so well when addressed to a great audience, but which is all, as a matter of fact, futile in those hot, and terrible, and lonely hours when we are sorely tempted to do wrong. No; St. Paul tells us here that when we are tempted, the first and only thing to do is to get away from the spot, to run in fact for our life. This is one of those simple and obvious things which never occur to any of us until a genius arises to say them—when you are hard pressed by evil, move on, get away, escape. That may sound tame. It may sound less than the highest; but it is the very highest. Nay, it is the only truth and fact of the matter. There are situations in life, dark turnings in the moral world, sheer precipices where we must not trust ourselves, where the only sensible and religious course is to get away.

In passing through the “Inferno,” Dante’s spiritual guide would not allow him to stand still for a moment.

“What!” a wayward youth might perhaps answer, incredulously; “no one ever gets wiser by doing wrong? Shall I not know the world best by trying the wrong of it, and repenting? Have I not, even as it is, learned much by many of my errors?” Indeed, the effort by which partially you recovered yourself was precious; that part of your thought by which you discerned the error was precious. What wisdom and strength you kept, and rightly used, are rewarded; and in the pain and the repentance, and in the acquaintance with the aspects of folly and sin, you have learned something; how much less than you would have learned in right paths can never be told, but that it is less is certain. Your liberty of choice has simply destroyed for you so much life and strength, never regainable. It is true you now know the habits of swine, and the taste of husks: do you think your father could not have taught you to know better habits and pleasanter tastes, if you had stayed in his house; and that the knowledge you have lost would not have been more, as well as sweeter, than that you have gained?1 [Note: Ruskin, Queen of the Air (Works, xix. 409).]

(2) The way of escape may be very near the entrance gate. It often is. And the victory may be won by watchfulness over the thoughts. As is the fountain, so will be the stream. Quench the spark, and you are safe from the conflagration. Crush the serpent’s egg, and you need not dread the cockatrice. Conquer evil thoughts, and you will have little danger of evil words and evil ways. The victory over every temptation is easiest, is safest, is most blessed there.

Wasps’ nests are destroyed when the wasps are only grubs like caterpillars, and before they have learned to fly. You get a squib, like those they fire off on the fifth of November, and light the end and put it into the hole in the ground where the nest is, and cover it over with a turf. And then all the grubs in the nest are suffocated by the smoke. If you wait till the grubs have wings and have learned to fly, then a ton of dynamite will be of little use; for the wasps will be buzzing all round your ears, and stinging you, and then flying away.2 [Note: W. V. Robinson.]

(3) Sometimes prayer is the only way of escape. Sometimes the doors are all shut upon human sympathy and understanding, but there is always a way of escape towards God. “I have been driven many times to my knees,” said Abraham Lincoln, “by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”

There is a picture by one of our great artists of a young knight on the verge of a dark wood through which he has to pass. That wood contains all manner of lurking perils and stealthy enemies, and before entering it the young knight has taken off his helmet, and is pouring out his soul in prayer. And the legend at the foot of the picture is this: “Into thy hands, O Lord.” We too stand, like that young knight, face to face with all manner of dangers and perils; fierce and deadly temptations of many a kind will assail us as we make our way through the mystic wood. What better can we do than commit ourselves into the keeping of the same gracious and mighty God? “Into thy hands we commit ourselves.”1 [Note: J. D. Jones.]

I was in the Puzzle Garden one day at Hampton Court (there they call it a maze), and after getting to the centre, I had the greatest difficulty in getting out. But in the centre of that garden there is, not a summer house, but a raised platform. And a man stands on it, and he can see every one in the maze. Soon I heard him calling to me: “Turn to the left, sir,” “To the left again,” “Now to the right,” until I got out. Life is like a puzzle garden sometimes. We do not know which way to turn, whether to go forward, or to turn to this side or to that; but if we look up to God in prayer, He will show us the way, and bring our souls out of trouble. We shall hear a voice behind us saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it.”2 [Note: W. V. Robinson.]

A young lieutenant who had seen one campaign—alone, and without any of the means and appliances of such war as I had been apprenticed to—I was about to take command, in the midst of a battle, not only of one force whose courage I had never tried, but of another which I had never seen; and to engage a third, of which the numbers were uncertain, with the knowledge that defeat would immeasurably extend the rebellion which I had undertaken to suppress, and embarrass the Government which I had volunteered to serve. Yet, in that great extreme, I doubted only for a moment—one of those long moments to which some angel seems to hold a microscope and show millions of things within it. It came and went between the stirrup and the saddle. It brought with it difficulties, dangers, responsibilities, and possible consequences terrible to face; but it left none behind. I knew that I was fighting for the right. I asked God to help me to do my duty, and I rode on, certain that He would do it.3 [Note: Edwardes, A Year on the Punjab Frontier, ii. 318 (Ruskin’s Works, xxxi. 495).]

(4) There is the way of submission and resistance. It is all summed up in that word of St. James: “Submit yourselves therefore unto God, but resist the devil.” That is the way of submission and resistance, and it is the secret of victory in the hour of fierce temptation. “Submit yourselves to God.” Let us yield our nature absolutely and unreservedly to Him. Make an unconditional surrender. Then trust Him to come in the Person of His Spirit, and garrison every part of that yielded being, and undertake the battle for us. Then, when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him. As the flood rushes onwards carrying everything before it, so the tempter comes upon men, if perchance he may find them unprepared and sweep them off their feet. What happens to the man who is submitted to God? The Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against the enemy. An ungrieved Spirit will always mean victory in the hour of temptation. First submit, and then resist. Trust Him to undertake the conflict and then resist.

In an old Continental town they will show you a prison in a tower, and on all the stones of that prison within reach, one word is carved—it is “Resist.” Your guide will tell you that years ago a godly woman was for forty years immured in that dungeon, and she spent her time in cutting with a piece of iron on every stone that one word, for the strengthening of her own heart and for the benefit of all who might come after her, “Resist!” “Resist!” “Resist!”1 [Note: J. G. Mantle.]

I hoped that with the brave and strong,

My portioned task might lie;

To toil amid the busy throng,

With purpose pure and high;

But God has fixed another part,

And He has fixed it well;

I said so with my bleeding heart,

When first the anguish fell.

Thou, God, hast taken our delight,

Our treasured hope away;

Thou bidst us now weep through the night

And sorrow through the day.

These weary hours will not be lost,

These days of misery,

These nights of darkness, anguish-tossed,—

Can I but turn to Thee:

With secret labour to sustain

In humble patience every blow,

To gather fortitude from pain,

And hope and holiness from woe.

Thus let me serve Thee from my heart,

Whate’er may be my written fate:

Whether thus early to depart,

Or yet a while to wait.

If Thou shouldst bring me back to life,

More humbled I should be,

More wise,—more strengthened for the strife,—

More apt to lean on Thee:

Should death be standing at the gate,

Thus should I keep my vow:

But, Lord! whatever be my fate,

O let me serve Thee now

Trust in God and do the Right


Aitken (W. H. M. H.), Temptation and Toil, 91.

Banks (L. A.), The Great Promises of the Bible, 112.

Boyd (A. K. H.),Counsel and Comfort from a City Pulpit, 251.

Brooke (S. A.), Short Sermons, 269.

Caulfleld (S. F. A.), The Prisoners of Hope, i. 76.

Cuckson (J.), Faith and Fellowship, 283.

Davies (D.), Talks with Men, Women and Children, v. 41.

Faithful (R. C.), My Place in the World, 157.

Farrar (F. W.), The Silence and the Voices of God, 101.

Fraser (J.), Parochial Sermons, 167.

Hutton (J. A.), The Fear of Things, 81.

Jones (J. D.), Elims of Life, 92.

Kuegele (F.), Country Sermons, New Ser., iii. 93, v. 234.

Lushington (F. de W.), Sermons to Young Boys, 22.

Mantle (J. G.), God’s To-morrow, 67.

Moinet (C.), The Great Alternative, 105.

Mursell (W. A.), The Waggon and the Star, 49.

Robinson (W. V.), Sunbeams for Sundays, 49.

Spurgeon (C. H.), Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, l. (1904) No. 2912.

Stalker (J.), in The World’s Great Sermons, ix. 167.

Vaughan (J.), Sermons (Brighton Pulpit) ix. (1872) No. 749.

Christian World Pulpit, xlviii. 142 (Wickham); lxix. 298 (Dale); li. 217 (Gore).

Churchman’s Pulpit: Ninth Sunday after Trinity: xi. 129 (Field), 134 (Boyd), 137 (Rice), 140 (Cotton).

Clergyman’s Magazine, vii. 25 (Griffith); xv. 18 (Rogers); New Ser., vi. 95 (Proctor).

Methodist Times, June 2, 1910, p. 6 (Hutton).

The Great Texts of the Bible - James Hastings

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