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JAMES i. 14.

But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust., and enticed.

IT is natural for men, in the commission of sin, to design to themselves as much of the pleasure, and as little of the guilt of sin, as possibly they can: and therefore, since the guilt of sin unavoidably remains upon the cause and author of sin, it is their great business to find out some other cause, upon which to charge it, beside themselves. Accordingly the apostle here directs these words and the foregoing, as an anticipation of, and an answer to a secret objection that might possibly arise in some minds against God himself, as if he were the great impeller and inducer of men to sin; in which answer he clears God, by stating sin upon its true cause and original.

In the prosecution of the words, I shall only premise the explication of these two terms, and so descend to their further discussion.

1. What the apostle here means by being tempted.

2. What is intended by lust.

1. For the first of these: it is as certain, that the scripture affirms some men to have been tempted by God, and particularly Abraham, as that it is positively affirmed in the verse before the text, that God tempts no man; and therefore this word must needs be of various signification. In the sense that it is 343ascribed to God, it signifies no more than a bare trial; as when, by some notable providence, he designs to draw forth and discover what is latent in the heart of man. In the sense that it is denied of God, it signifies an endeavour, by solicitations and other means, to draw a man to the commission of sin: and this the most holy God can by no means own; for it would be to take the Devil’s work out of his hands. But neither does this sense reach the measure of the word in this place; which imports not only an endeavour to engage a man in a sinful action, but an actual and effectual engaging him with full success and prevalence, as to the last issue of the commission. And thus a man can be only tempted by his own lust; which is the

Second thing to be explained. By lust the apostle here means, not that particular inordination or vice that relates to the uncleanness of the flesh; but that general stock of corruption that possesses the whole soul through all its respective faculties. But principally is it here to be understood of the prime and commanding faculty of all, the will, as it is possessed and principled with sinful habits and depraved inclinations. And this is the grand tempter, that tempts and seduces, so as actually to engage and determine a man to the choice of sin.

Now, though the apostle seems, by stating the cause of sin upon this, directly and principally to have it in his design only to clear and discharge God from this imputation; yet the nature of the proposition is of a wider compass, and carries it to the exclusion of all other external causes whatsoever. And therefore, in compliance with this, the business of the ensuing discourse shall be to demonstrate, that 344 the corrupted will of man is the sole, adequate, and entire cause of all his sinful prevaricatings, and deviations from the law of God.

The prosecution of which shall lie in these three particulars.

I. To shew those false causes upon which men are apt to charge their sins.

II. To shew positively, that lust is the true and proper cause of them.

III. To shew the way by which it causes them; and that, the text tells us, is by seducing and enticing. Every man is tempted, when he its drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

I. And for the first of these, the mistaken causes of sin; in the number of which we may reckon these that follow.

1. The decree of God concerning things to come to pass, is not a proper cause for any man to charge his sins upon; though perhaps there is nothing in the world that is more abused by weak and vulgar minds in this particular. I shall not concern myself to dispute how God decrees the event of sins: but this I shall affirm in general, that be the divine decree never so absolute, yet it has no causal influence upon sinful actions; no, nor indeed upon any actions else: forasmuch as the bare decree or purpose of a thing produces or puts nothing in being at all. It is, as the schools call it, an immanent act; that is, such an one as rests wholly within God, and effects nothing without him. A decree, as such, is not operative or effective of the thing decreed.

Besides, whensoever God decrees that a thing shall come to pass, he decrees the manner of its production also, and that suitably to the way of working 345proper to that cause by which it is effected: as if he decrees that a man shall do such or such a thing, he decrees that he shall do it freely, and agreeably to that liberty of will that his nature invests him with.

But it will be replied, Does not every thing decreed by God certainly and necessarily come to pass? And then, how can we prevent it? And if so, is there not a force upon us from Heaven to do the thing that is thus decreed?

I answer, No; for there is a great deal of difference between a mere illative necessity, which consists only in the logical consequence of one thing upon another, and between a causal necessity, which efficiently and antecedently determines and puts the faculty upon working. But so does not the divine decree: it exerts no force or impulse upon man’s will, but leaves it to its own natural liberty. How ever, it is certain, that, by the former kind of merely illative necessity, the thing decreed will assuredly have its event. But this is no greater a necessity, than God’s foreknowledge puts upon the event of the thing foreknown: for it is impossible that God should not foreknow all things that shall come to pass; and it is equally impossible, if God foreknows a thing shall come to pass, that that thing should not come to pass. And yet, I suppose, that none will say, that God’s foreknowledge of a man’s actions does, by any active influence, necessitate that man to do those actions: albeit, that this consequence stands unshakeable, that whatsoever God foreknows a man will do, that shall certainly and infallibly be done. Otherwise, where is God’s omniscience and his infallibility? He knows the last point to which 346 the will will incline its choice; he is beforehand with all futurities, and so takes them into his view with the same certainty, as if they were present or actually past.

Now let any one compare these two, God’s decree and his foreknowledge, and he will find, that, as to the event, the same necessity passes both upon the thing decreed and the thing foreknown. And therefore, if men will confess that God’s foreknowledge does not force or push a man upon the doing of any thing, it will follow also, that neither does his decree. But if, in the scanning of either, there occurs any difficulty, to our apprehensions not resolvable, it is because God is infinite; and because an infinite mind, both in its knowledge and purposes, proceeds not according to the methods and measures of a finite understanding. And upon this account, all the arguments, that, with so much noise and confidence, are urged against God’s decrees, will be found but popular and fallacious, and grounded upon the application of men’s ways of acting and apprehending to God; and consequently tend to disprove God’s infinity, as much or more than any thing else.

Let no bold or ignorant sinner, therefore, think to take sanctuary here; or to allege God’s decree as an excuse for those villainies, which, with full purpose and choice of will, he committed. If God, by the unsearchable counsel of his will, designs, fore sees, and orders, what yet the sinner does most freely, what is that to him? That alters not the nature of his action, any more than if I had a design to kill my enemy, and another, without any knowledge of such a design of mine, should of his own accord kill him. Would this free him from bearing 347the guilt of his own action, and undergoing the deserved punishment of a murderer? None so apt to babble about predestination and God’s decrees, as the illiterate vulgar; and from hence to take reasons for what they are to do. But what can warrant them to insist upon mysteries, when they are called to duty? And to pore and break their brains upon the hidden senses of a decree, when they have the plain and intelligible voice of a precept? God hath shewed thee, O man, what is good and what is evil. He has placed life and death before thee. This is the rule by which thou must stand or fall: and no man will find, that his fulfilling God’s secret will, will bear him out in the breach of his revealed.

2. The influences of the heavens and of the stars imprint nothing upon men that can impel or engage them to do evil; and yet some are so sottish, as to father their vices and villainies upon these: they were born (forsooth) under such a planet, and therefore they cannot choose but be thieves, or whoremasters, or rebels, all their life after. But it is strange, that heaven should prepare men for hell, and imprint those qualities upon them, that should hinder them from ever coming to heaven. This would be highly injurious to the great artificer and maker of those bodies, that he should provide such storehouses of mischief, such irresistible conveyers of the seeds of sin into men’s minds. To be born under any planet would in this case be worse than not to be born at all. And to what purpose should God allow men the means to save them, if he places them under such an influence as must certainly damn them?

But these are mere fopperies; the fables and 348 follies of old women and astrologers, who are seldom able to give an account of that which is under the immediate impressions of the heavens, that is, of the air and the elements; and upon the stock of all their acquaintance with these celestial bodies, to secure us but one fair day a month or two hence. It is all but confident conjecture, and cheating reduced to an art grounded upon the ignorance and credulity of the vulgar, who are always willing to be deceived, if any one will but take the pains to deceive them.

But admitting that the heavens have an influence and operation upon inferior bodies, and that those glorious lights were not made only to be gazed upon, but to control as well as to direct the lesser world; yet still all communication between agent and patient must be in things that hold some proportion and likeness in their natures; so that one thing can pass no impression upon another, of a nature absolutely and in every respect diverse from it, provided it be also superior to it; and such a thing is a spirit in respect of body.

Upon which grounds, what intercourse can there be between the stars and a soul? How can the sun or moon, or any planet, move or incline the will this way or that way? and carry the freedom of its choice to one thing rather than another? This is absurd and unimaginable, and contrary to all the principles of philosophy as well as religion. And therefore let no man think himself under a necessity of sinning from any such superior influence; it is not that which he sees over his head, but that which he feels within his heart, that he is to look to. The will scorns the control of any creature, either in 349heaven or earth; next under God it is its own master. Every man is indeed to look upon God as his Saviour; but it is himself only that can be his destroyer.

3. Neither can any man charge his sins upon the constitution and temper of his body, as the proper cause of them. The body was made to serve, and not to command. All that it can do, is only to be troublesome; but it cannot be imperious. If the soul will but maintain its right, and resolve to keep the throne, it may easily make the fleshly part, not only its subject, but its instrument; not only quiet, but useful. They are not the humours of the body, but the humours of the mind, to which men owe the irregularities of their behaviour.

The sensitive appetites having their situation in the body, do indeed follow the peculiar complexion and temper of it: but reason is a thing that is placed solely and entirely in the soul, and so depends not upon those inferior faculties; but though it is some times solicited by them, yet it is in its power, whether or no it will be prevailed upon. And for all the noise, and hurry, and tumult, that is often raised amongst them; yet reason, like the upper most region of the air, is not at all subject to the disturbances that are below. And so long as the soul listens to reason, the inferior appetites may bawl indeed, but they cannot persuade. Let a beg gar be never so impudently craving and importunate, yet the door may be shut against him, and then he must be either quiet, or only troublesome to himself.

In vain therefore does any man for his excuse allege the solicitations of his appetites, against the 350 dictates of his reason: it is, as if in a rebellion a man should act by the summons of a constable, against the command and proclamation of his prince. No man is made an adulterer, a drunkard, or an idle person by his body; his body indeed may in cline him to be so, but it is his will only that makes him so. And be the clamours and requests of appetite never so earnest, reason has still a negative voice upon them; and if it shall be pleased but to advise upon the matter, they cease and are extinct, and can never pass into action.

If indeed reason shall give way to these sensual motions, and take the bit into its mouth, and suffer itself to be rid; there is no doubt, but it may be made a servant of servants, a slave and a drudge to all the tyrannies of a domineering sensuality. But this will be no apology before God, who endued it with a perfect sovereignty, and put the government of the whole soul into its hands.

And besides, there have been some in the world, who by the conduct of their reason have made their way to virtue, through all the disadvantages of their natural constitution. Philosophy has done it in many, and religion may do it in all. Let no man therefore charge his sins upon that part of himself, that cannot possibly sin without the consent of his will.

4. And lastly, to proceed yet higher: no man can justly charge his sins upon the Devil, as the cause of them; for God has not put it into the power of our mortal enemy to ruin us without ourselves; which yet he had done, had it been in the Devil’s power to force us to sin. The Devil can only tempt and allure, but compel he cannot; he may inveigle, 351but he cannot command our choice; and no man yet ever suffered death, who did not choose death: the fisher may propose, and play the bait before the fish, but he cannot force it to swallow it. And so whatsoever the Devil does, he does by insinuation, and not by compulsion.

The Spirit of God assures us, that he may be resisted, and that upon a vigorous resistance he will fly. He never conquers any, but those that yield; a spiritual fort is never taken by force, but by sur render. And when a man is as willing to be ruined, as he is to ruin him, it is that, that makes the Devil triumphant and victorious. How slily and creepingly did he address himself to our first parents! which surely his pride would never have let him do, could he have effected their downfall by force, with out temptation.

It is confessed indeed, that the guilt of those sins that the Devil tempts us to will rest upon him; but not so as to discharge us. He that persuades a man to rob a house, is guilty of the sin he persuades him to, but not in the same manner that he is who committed the robbery; for it was in his power, after all the other’s persuasions, to have for borne the fact, and to have maintained his innocence: for no man is a thief or a villain against his will.

In vain therefore do men shift off their sins upon the Devil, whose greatest arts they may frustrate, whose strongest solicitations they may make ineffectual: for it is in their power (as I may so say) in some respect to make the Devil himself innocent. But still the load of all must lie upon him; and it is not he that commits, but he that tempts to sin, that must be the sinner. It seems to be with the Devil, 352 in respect of the disorders of the soul, as it is with the spleen in respect of the distempers of the body; whatsoever is amiss, or indisposed, the charge is sure to lie there.

But howsoever men may mock themselves with such evasions, yet God will not be mocked, who knows that he left the soul in its own keeping, and made the will free, and not to be forced: and therefore these figleaves will fall off, when he shall come to scrutiny and examination. Every man shall bear his own burden, and the Devil himself shall have but what is his due.

And thus I have done with the first particular proposed, namely, to shew and remove the mistaken causes upon which men are apt to charge their sins; concerning which, before I proceed any further, I shall remark this by way of caution: that though I deny any of these to be the proper causes of sin, yet it is not to be denied, but that they are often very great promoters of sin, where they meet with a corrupt heart and a depraved will. And it is not to be questioned, but that many thousands now in hell might have gone thither in a calmer and a more cleanly way at least, had they not been hurried and pushed on by impetuous temptations, by an ill constitution, and by such opportunities and circumstances of life, as mightily suited their corruption, and so drew it forth to a pitch of acting higher and more outrageous than ordinary.

For there is no doubt, but an ill mind in an ill-disposed body will carry a man forth to those sins, that otherwise it would not, if lodged in a body of a better and more benign temperament. As a sword covered with rust will wound much more dangerously, 353where it does wound, than it could do if it were bright and clean. And it is also as certain, that were it not for the Devil’s suggestions, the bare corruption of man’s nature would not engage him in many of those enormities, that frequently rage in the lives of some persons. Nor is it to be denied, but that the circumstances and ways of life, that Providence sometimes casts men under, unavoidably expose them to those occasions of sin, that entangle them in those actions, that they would never have been guilty of, had they lived free from those occasions.

All this is very true; and therefore, besides those internal impressions of grace, by which God sanctifies the heart, and effectually changes the will, many are accountable to his mercy for those external and inferior assistances of grace. As, that he restrains the fury of the tempter; that he sends them into the world with a well-tempered and rightly-disposed body; and lastly, that he casts the course of their life out of most of the snares and occasions of sin: so that they can with much more ease be virtuous than other men; and if they sin, they sin merely upon the stock of an internal, overflowing malice; which is instead of a tempter, a devil, and all sinful occasions to itself.

But on the other side, where God denies a man these advantages, and casts him under all the forementioned disadvantages of virtue, and decoys to sin; it is yet most certain that they lay upon him no necessity of sinning. The will is still entire, and may break through all these impediments: it may be virtuous, though indeed at the price of a greater trouble, and a more afflicting endeavour.


II. I come now to the second particular; namely, to shew, that the proper and effectual cause of sin is the depraved will of man, expressed by the apostle here under the name of lust. The proof of which is not very difficult; for all other causes being removed, it remains that it can be only this. We have the word of Christ himself, that it is from within, from the heart, that envyings, wrath, bitterness, adulteries, fornications, and other such impurities do proceed. To heap up all the several places of scripture that bear witness to this, would be infinite and end less: and therefore supposing it sufficiently clear from scripture, that a corrupt will is the sole cause of all sinful actions, I shall endeavour yet further to evince the same by arguments and reasons.

1. The first shall be taken from the office of the will, which is to command and govern all the rest of the faculties; and therefore all disorder must unavoidably begin here. Nothing can be done without a commission from the will; whereupon, if any thing be done sinfully, the fault lies in him that issued out the commission. The economy of the powers and actions of the soul is a real government; and a government cannot be defective without some failure and defect in the governor.

2. The second argument shall be taken from every man’s experience of himself and his own actions; upon an impartial survey of which he shall find, that before the doing of any thing sinful or suspicious, there passes a certain debate in the soul about it, whether it shall or it shall not be done; and after all argumentations for and against, the last issue and result follows the casting voice of the will. This is that which turns the balance, that gives the 355final determination, and therefore the guilt of every action must inevitably rest here.

3. A third reason is from this, that the same man, upon the proposal of the same object, and that under the same circumstances, yet makes a different choice at one time from what he does at another; and therefore the moral difference of actions, in respect of the good or evil of them, must of necessity be resolved into some principle within him; and that is his will. Which remaining one and the same, according to its own absoluteness and freedom, some times turns itself to one thing, sometimes to another.

4. The fourth and last reason shall be from this, that even the souls in hell continue to sin; and therefore the productive principle of sin must needs be the will.

The consequence appears from hence, because those sins cannot possibly proceed from the body, or the irregular motions of the sensitive appetite, since the soul in this estate is divided from these: nor yet from the temptations of the Devil, for he tempts only that he may bring the soul to hell; but when he has it once there, of a tempter he becomes a tormentor. Wherefore they must needs flow from some principle inherent in the soul; and that is the will, which is as inseparable from the soul, as its own substance.

I shall not insist upon any further proofs of so plain a truth: let these suffice to persuade every man to turn his eyes inward, to seek for the traitor in his own bosom; for here is the source and fountain of all those enormities that stream forth in a man’s conversation. And therefore it is a great vanity to declaim against any thing without us, as 356 if we were led captive by some external force: for neither the flesh, the world, nor the Devil, no, nor all of them together, could be able to annoy us, if our wills were but faithful to us. Were the spirit but willing, the flesh would be weak in a good sense; and were we but crucified to the world, the world would be as much crucified to us. Nay, and lastly, the Devil himself would be but a contemptible adversary, were he not sure of a correspondent, and a party that held intelligence with him, in our own breasts. All the blowing of the fire put under a caldron could never make it boil over, were there not a fulness of water within it.

Some are so stupid as to patronize their sins with a plea, that they cannot, they have not power to do otherwise; but where the will is for virtue, it will either find or make power. The truth is, men are in love with their vices, their will is enthralled, and here is all the restraint that is put upon them; they suffer no violence, but from delight; no captivity, but from pleasure. But if a man binds his own hands, it will be but a poor excuse to plead that he had no use of them, when his work shall be required of him.

III. I come now to the third and last thing; and that is, to shew the way by which a corrupt will, here expressed by the name of lust, is the cause of sin; and that is, by drawing a man aside, and enticing him.

1. And first for the first of these: it seduces, or draws a man aside; it actually takes himself from the ways of duty: for as in all motion there is the relinquishment of one term before there can be the acquisition of another; so the soul must pass from 357its adherence to virtue, before it can engage in a course of sin. It must first be unfastened, and removed from its former bottom, and then it may with ease be pitched upon any other.

Now the first and leading attempt of lust, is to possess the mind with a kind of loathing and disgust of virtue, as a thing harsh and insipid, and administering no kind of pleasure and satisfaction; all the paths of it are represented as planted with thorns, as full of horror, as made up of nothing but the severities of discipline, and the rigours of unnatural abridgments: and by these means lust disgraces and libels virtue out of practice; it brings it out of favour with the will and the affections; and then we know that the natural consequence of being out of favour with them, is to be laid aside by them.

This being done, and the mind clear, it is now ready for any new impression, and to receive the offers and proposals of vice: and vice and virtue are like other enemies; one never supplants the other, but with a design to step into its place; and amongst contraries, when one is drove out, the other usually takes possession.

Prevail but with a man to remit the prosecution of his duty, and he lies open to all vicious practices imaginable; he offers his mind, as it were, a blank for sin to write what he pleases upon it: and seldom was it known, that omissions of virtue went alone, but were presently followed with enormous commissions of sin.

2. The other course that lust takes to entangle a man in sin, is by enticing; that is, by using arguments and rhetoric, to set off sin to him with the best advantage and the fairest gloss.


And this it does these two following ways.

1. By representing the pleasure of sin, stript of all the troubles and inconveniences of sin. There is no sin but is attended and surrounded with so many miseries and adherent bitternesses, that it is at the best but like a single drop of honey in a sea of gall. Who can extract and fetch it out? It is to be done only by fancy and imaginary speculation. But when a man comes to the real instances of practice and experience, he will find the bitter to intermingle with the sweet, and that with a very great predominance: he will find the sweetness to vanish and disappear, and to be swallowed up in those unequal mixtures of sharpness that are conveyed with it.

But now it is the act of lust, to shew the quintessence and the refined part of a sinful action, separate from all its dregs and indecencies, so to recommend it to the apprehension of a deluded sinner. It will present you only with the fair side, and tell you what pleasure and satisfaction you shall reap from such or such an action: but it never reminds you of the regret and remorse of conscience that will accompany it; of the shame and vengeance that will follow it. No; lust is too skilful a sophister, and has at least this part of perfection, to conceal its imperfections.

Lust never deals impartially with the choice, so as to confront the whole good with the whole evil of an object; but declaims amply and magnificently of one, while it is wholly silent of the other. And it is observable, that there are few things that present so entirely bad an appearance, but admit of very plausible pleas and flourishes of commendation. Sin prevails upon the affections, not so much by the 359suitableness of the thing proposed, as by the art of the proposal.

As for instance, should I tell a thirsty man that I had for him a drink of a noble colour, a quick taste, and a fragrant smell, surely there could be nothing in this description but must raise and inflame his appetite: but should I tell him that it was poison that was of this so rare a taste, colour, and smell, this would be a full allay to his desire, and a sufficient countercharm to all its other alluring qualities.

It is no question but Judas’s covetousness addressed his sin to him in this manner, and struck his apprehension with the convenience of having so much money, and gaining it with so much ease; but it told him nothing of the black despair and the disastrous death that was to follow it. For had this been offered to his thoughts at the same time, it is no doubt but it must have dashed the temptation, and made it cheap and contemptible.

2. Lust entices, by representing that pleasure that is in sin greater than indeed it is: it swells the proportions of every thing, and shews them, as it were, through a magnifying-glass, greatened and multiplied by desire and expectation; which always exhibit objects to the soul, not as they are, but as they would have them be.

Nothing cheats a man so much as expectation; it conceives with the air, and grows big with the wind; and, like a dream, it promises high, but performs nothing. For the truth is, even in lawful enjoyments God has put an emptiness, and made it the very specific and inseparable property of the creature. So that Solomon, who had both the 360 largest measure of those enjoyments, and of wisdom to pass a right judgment upon them, has given the world a full account and declaration of their vanity and dissatisfaction, upon the credit of a long and unparalleled experience. And if the very condition of the creature gives it such a shortness, and hollowness, and disproportion to the desires of a rational soul, even in the most innocent and allowed pleasures; what shall we think of the pleasures of sin, which receive a further embasement and diminution from the superaddition of a curse?

They are cursed like the earth, not only with barrenness, but with briers and thorns; there is not only a fallacy, but a sting in them: and consequently they are rendered worse than nothing; a reed that not only deceives, but also pierces the hand that leans upon it.

But the exceeding vanity of every sinful pleasure will appear, by considering both the latitude of its extent, and the length of its duration.

1. And first, for the latitude or measure of its extent: it seldom gratifies but one sense at a time; and if it should diffuse an universal enjoyment to them all, yet it reaches not the better, the more capacious and more apprehensive part of man, his soul: that is so far from communicating with the senses, that in all their revels it is pensive and melancholy, and afflicted with inward remorses from an unsatisfied, if not also an accusing conscience.

2. And then secondly, for its duration or continuance: it is but for a moment; it affects and leaves the sense in an instant, and scarce affords so much scope as for reflection: the whole course of such pleasures passes like a tale that is told; a tale, that 361after it is told, proves a lie. How transient and vanishing are the pleasures of the epicure, that expire with a taste, and determine with the poor and momentary gratifications of his palate! And yet, who thinks he shares so largely of the pleasures of sin as he?

But when sin entices, it takes no notice of these littlenesses and flaws in the enjoyment: it speaks loftily, and undertakes largely; it offers mountains and kingdoms, and never suffers a man to purchase a right judgment of it, but at the dear rate of a disappointment: and then he finds how those offers sink and dwindle into nothing; and what a pitiful skeleton of an enjoyment that is, that at first dazzled his apprehensions with such glistering pretences and glorious overtures of pleasure.

He therefore that would stand upon his guard against all the enticements of his corruption, must fortify himself with this consideration, that sin never makes any proposal, whatsoever shew of advantage it may have, but it is with an intent to abuse and deceive him. And consequently, that it is an infinite folly to seek for pleasure or satisfaction but in the ways of duty; the only thing that leads and unites to the great, inexhaustible fountain of satisfaction: in whose presence is fulness of joy, and at whose right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

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