And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation…
God has given to most of His creatures an instinct that leads them to fear, and as far as possible to avoid danger. If you lift your hand against any of the lower animals they will do their utmost to avoid the stroke. God has made that a part of their nature. If they see danger coming they try to get out of its way; and if that cannot be, they do their best to provide against it. You may have seen a flock of sheep, when a storm began to gather, all crowding together as if for mutual defence, and hurrying to that part of the field where they would be most likely to be safe from the fury of the blast. So common and natural is this fear of, and desire to avoid danger, that we wonder when we see anything else. When we see the moth fluttering about the evening lamp, attracted by its brightness, unwarned even after the flame has once and again taken the edge oft its wing, darting at length into the very heart of the flame, and falling lifeless on the table, we wonder at that; and while we pity, we cannot help thinking and calling it a silly foolish creature. Now we, too, have got the same instinctive fear of outward danger. We fear disease, and do everything we possibly can to keep out of its way. We tremble at the thought of cholera coming among us. Fire-escapes, immense ladders, and other apparatus in towns, life-boats on land, and life-preservers on board ship, and many things else, tell how we fear, and will do the utmost we can to escape, approaching danger. One thing more dangerous and terrible than any of these we do not fear, we do not avoid. I mean that which is not necessarily sin in itself, though it so often leads to sin — temptation.
I. A THREATENING DANGER — "temptation." When I speak of danger, you expect to hear of something alarming. When you were ill, and the doctor came to see you twice a day, you understood what was meant by there being danger. But when I speak of temptation, that alarms few or none. If you were to go over all the thousands that fill the cells of our prisons, they would all have something to say about having been tempted — that if they have not been tempted they would not have committed the crime, and so would not have been there. Every cell would re-echo the word "temptation," and, as you leave it, I can fancy I hear you saying, "What a dangerous and dreadful thing it must be to be tempted!" These temptations or solicitations to evil are so dangerous.
1. Because of the quarter from which they come — the devil, the world, and the flesh.
2. Their suddenness and unexpectedness make them dangerous. Ordinarily they give us no warning; they take us by surprise. During the mutiny in India, where warning was given, precautionary measures were at once taken; and when the enemy came our countrymen were ready for him, and, in more cases than one, were able to hold out. In this way the British Residency at Nagpore was saved through the instrumentality of that noble-hearted missionary, Stephen Hislop. But temptations, for the most part, give no warning.
3. Their power makes them dangerous.
II. A CRY FOR HELP — "Lead us not into temptation." Perhaps some one asks, "Is it not interfering with God's providence to pray this prayer?" I answer, No. I am allowed to pray that I may be kept out of *,he way of other dangers, such as disease, or poverty, or death. And may I not ask that I may be kept from this danger as well as from these others? It may be needful and good that the temptation or the trouble otherwise should come, but I may lawfully pray to be kept from both. Perhaps some one asks, "Is it not cowardly to pray this prayer? Is it not shrinking back from the battle instead of manfully fighting it?" It is indeed an acknowledgment of weakness. It tells that I fear. But fear is one thing, and cowardice is another. Let us see, then, more particularly what this prayer asks.
1. It asks that we may be kept out of the way of objects that might entice to evil. To see certain things, to be in certain places, is enough, in many cases, to constitute a formidable temptation. There is a girl of dishonest tendency. The mere sight of money within her reach might again secure her fall. Surely she may well pray that things may be so ordered, that it may not be needful that she should go near them at all.
2. It asks that opportunities of evil may be kept out of my way. Oh, how much sometimes depends for my doing evil on my having the opportunity that favours it.
3. It asks that solicitations to evil may not come to us. I may be of a soft, yielding nature — very easily advised, very open to persuasion, not able to say, No.
4. It asks that examples of evil may be kept out of our way. How much the seeing of evil done influences others to do the like.
(J. H. Wilson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.