Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man:…
I. THE CHARACTER GIVEN OF GOD.
1. "God cannot be tempted of evil."(1) The absolute and infinite self-sufficiency of His blessedness. That blessedness is altogether independent of every other being whatever besides Himself. It is full: incapable of either diminution or increase: springing as it does from the infinite perfection of His own immutable nature. He can never have any. thing for which to hope; and never anything to fear.
(2) He is placed beyond all such possibility by the absolute perfection of His moral nature. "God cannot be tempted with evil." His nature is necessarily and infinitely opposed to everything of the kind; and to such a nature what is sinful or impure never can present aught capable of exerting even the remotest influence.
2. "Neither tempteth He any man."(1) God tempts no man, by presenting to him inducements, motives, persuasives, to sin.
(2) God tempts no man by any direct inward influence; by infusing evil thoughts, inclinations, and desires.
(3) God "tempteth not any man" by placing him in circumstances in which he is laid under a natural necessity of stoning.
II. Proceed we now to THE ADMONITION FOUNDED ON WHAT IS SAID OF GOD: — "Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God"; "for God tempteth no man: "or to put it according to the order of thought we have chosen to follow — "God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man: let no man therefore say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man." It is because every such thought of God is impious, that the saying is condemned as impious. The delusion before us is one of the most fearful palliations of sin, and opiates to the conscience, that the deceitful heart of man has ever suggested. But, if conscience is allowed to speak in sincerity, its utterance will be — "I am a voluntary sinner. No extraneous force has kept me back from good; no such force has compelled me to evil. I have followed my own inclinations. My heart and my will have been in all the evil I have done. It is all my own."
1. Let the unbelieving sinner beware of imagining that the guilt of his rejecting the gospel lies anywhere else than with himself.
2. There is one view in which you would do well to remember God "cannot be tempted with evil." He can never be induced to act, in any step of His procedure, inconsistently with any attribute of His character, or, in a single jot or tittle, to sacrifice the claims of the purest moral rectitude.
III. THE TRUE NATURE OF TEMPTATION. "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed." In this description temptation is to be understood as relating to the state of the mind between the moment of the first entrance of the sinful thought, and the actual commission of the evil; — the state of the mind while the enticement is working within among the hidden desires and appetencies of the heart, exerting there its seductive influence. "Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust." This is evidently meant to be emphatic. It refers back to the preceding verse — "Let no man say, I am tempted of God": God "tempteth not any man." The "lust" by which he is tempted, is not of God: it is "his own lust." And all evil that is in man is his own. Within our own hearts are seated many evil desires. The devil needs not introduce them. There they are. He acts upon them, no doubt, in his own mysterious and insidious way. But the extraneous operations of a tempter are not at all required to stir up their evil exercise. They work of themselves. From all the objects around us, that are fitted to gratify those desires, our senses are so many inlets of temptation to our hearts. Nor are even our senses necessary to the admission of temptation. The imagination can work independently of them, And both in waking and in sleeping hours, many a time is it busy in summoning tempting scenes before them. The principle of the words before us may be applied alike to prosperity and adversity. In adversity, "our own lusts" may tempt us to "charge God foolishly," and that too both in our hearts and with our lips; and thus to give sinful indulgence to ungodly tempers of mind. Then again, in the time of prosperity; "our own lust" may often tempt us to the abuse of it. We may be led to forget God, at the very time when His accumulated kindnesses give Him the stronger claim on our grateful and devout remembrance. We may give, in our hearts, the place of the Giver to His gifts.
IV. THE FEARFUL CONSEQUENCES OF YIELDING TO TEMPTATION. "When lust hath conceived." The obvious meaning of the figurative allusion is, that when the evil desire is admitted into the mind, and, instead of being resisted, prayed against, and driven out, is retained, fostered, indulged, and through dwelling upon the object of it, grows in strength, and at length is fully matured, it will come forth in action; as after the period of gestation and growth, the child in the womb comes to the birth. The lust, having thus conceived, "bringeth forth sin"; that is, produces practical transgression — sin in the life — actual departure from the way of God's commandments. "And sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." That God's righteousness may not only condemn justly, but appear as condemning justly, the sentence is thus connected with the act — with the effect and manifestation of the evil principle. But the very language implies that the sin did not begin with the act: it is finished in the act; and the evil of the act concentrates in it all the previous evil of the thoughts, desires, and motives from which it arose, and by which it was ultimately matured into action. The "death" — that death which is "the wages of sin" — follows on the commission of it, as surely as, in nature, the birth follows the conception.
V. THE IMPORTANCE OF FORMING AND CHERISHING RIGHT, AND OF AVOIDING WRONG, CONCEPTIONS ON THIS SUBJECT. "Do not err, my beloved brethren." It is as if the apostle had said — "Beware of mistakes here." And certainly there are few subjects on which it is of more essential consequence to have correct ideas, or on which misapprehensions are more perilous. The thought that is specially reprobated in the passage which has been under review is one which cannot fail to affect all the principles, and feelings, and practices of the Christian life. It affects our views of God: and these lie at the foundation of all religion. According as they are right or wrong, must our religion be right or wrong, it must equally affect our views of ourselves — of ourselves as sinners; inasmuch as all the penitential humiliation, all the contrite broken-heartedness, on account of our sins, which we ever ought to feel, lose entirely their ground, and are inevitably gone, the moment we say, or think, that "we are tempted of God" — that in any way our sin and guilt are attributable to Him. It must, in the same way, affect our conceptions of sin itself; of its "exceeding sinfulness" and unutterable guilt. And thus it will affect our views of our need of a Saviour; and especially of such a Saviour, and such a salvation, as the gospel reveals.
1. Let believers be impressed with the necessity of unceasing vigilance over their own hearts. Their worst enemies are in their own bosoms.
2. Let all consider the necessity of the heart being right with God. It is only in a holy heart, a heart renewed by the Spirit, a heart of which the lusts are laid under arrest, and crucified, that He can dwell.
3. Ponder seriously the certain consequences of unrepented and unforgiven sin: and by immediate recourse to the Cross, and to the blood there shed for the remission of sins, shun the fearful end which otherwise awaits you.
(R. Wardlaw, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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: