«Sermon #1528 Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit 1 “THEY WERE TEMPTED” NO. 1528 DELIVERED ON LORD’S-DAY MORNING, MARCH 14, 1880, BY C. H. SPURGEON, ...»
Sermon #1528 Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit 1
“THEY WERE TEMPTED”
DELIVERED ON LORD’S-DAY MORNING, MARCH 14, 1880,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
“They were tempted.”
LAST Lord’s-Day I tried to draw the fair portrait of a believing man [Sermon #1526, The Fair Portrait of a Saint] putting his feet into God’s steps and keeping God’s way even unto the end. This morning we shall show in what circumstances such men were produced. We shall discover that they were not nursed upon the lap of ease, but were born and reared and perfected amid storms of opposition. We shall again see “the lily among thorns.” The gracious characters of which we read in Scripture were not created by favorable circumstances—they owed nothing to their position or age— their character was formed from within. Their faith was not produced by the tenderness of Providence—they were not put into a conservatory like fair flowers which cannot endure the frost—we might rather say that they were helped to their robustness by the rough winter blasts which swept over them.
They were warriors of peace—pilgrims who traveled armed to the teeth making no holiday march, but contending with giants and dragons. Whoever else may find life a sport, the saints have found it to be real and earnest. Their path has been no mere parade, but grim and grisly dangers have beset them—“they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were slain with the sword.” One form of the opposition which they encountered is the subject of this morning’s meditation—“They were tempted.” Do not forget that the leading principle of a godly man is faith and, according to this chapter, faith is the force by which brave deeds are done and great sufferings are endured.
All the world appears to be in arms against the man of faith. Ishmael, the child of human strength, mocks Isaac who is born by the power of faith according to promise. Yet faith is able to bear all attacks and to flourish under them, even as the Israelites in Egypt multiplied the more as their oppressions were increased. The sufferings of Believers, which are mentioned by Paul, are varied and exceedingly intense. And this is one of them—“they were tempted.” The speedy weapon of stone, or sword, or saw gratified the malice which sought their death, but tempting them satisfied a subtle hate which stabbed at their character and their faith.
In temptation there is for the soul all the deadliness which the slaughter weapon brings to the body. It is blessed to observe that the faithful also survived this danger. A torrent roared against them and they stemmed it with resolute confidence. They did not drift with the current, nor drown in its floods. Dealing with this one form of opposition, “they were tempted,” I shall be able to say a great many more practical things than if I were preaching upon, “they were stoned,” or, “they were sawn asunder,” for those things happen but now and then. But this record that, “they were tempted,” is repeated in us all and, especially in you who have lately set out on the heavenly pilgrimage. You have got far enough to discover that you are not to be allowed to go to Heaven if Satan can prevent it, nor suffered to remain a Christian if by any means the men of this world can cast you down.
You are being tempted. May the practical words I shall be able to speak be applied with power by the Holy Spirit to your comfort and help.
I. First I will call attention to THE UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF THE STATEMENT now before us. It is not true that all the saints were scourged, nor all imprisoned. Neither were all stoned, nor all slain with the sword. But it is true of the whole cloud of witnesses that they were all tempted. The word, “tempted,” bears two meanings. First of all, that of being tried or afflicted and, secondly, that of being persuaded or enticed to sin. In the first aspect of it God did tempt Abraham, that is, He tried him and this He does with all His people. God had one Son without sin, but He never had a son without trial!
“What son is there whom the Father chastened not?” “Of which you are all partakers,” says Paul, when he speaks of chastening. “For whom the Lord loves, He corrects, even as a father the son in whom he delights.” His own elect are Volume 26 www.spurgeongems.org 1 2 “They Were Tempted” Sermon #1528 made to feel His refining fires, for He declares of each one “I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction.” All the sheep of Christ bear His private mark—He sets the cross of affliction upon them all. “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” “In the world you shall have tribulation.” Before you shall find me a man who has never known trouble I think you will have ridden many a horse lame and searched far and wide for, “man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” And I will guarantee that the wonderful untried person is as much a stranger to God as he is to affliction!
Within the sacred enclosure of the elect of God you shall not be able to discover one whom the Lord has not, in some way or at some time afflicted in love. Count it not, therefore, a strange thing, my dear Brothers and Sisters, that you should have a cross to carry! Do not begin to kick against the pricks as though some unusual suffering were laid upon you when the Lord touches you with the goad of sorrow. You are one among many and among the many there are worthy ones who bear heavier loads than yours! Envy none, but feel a brotherhood with all the faithful, for they, too, “were tempted.” As for the other sense of the word, “tempt”—the bad and hard one. In that sense, also, the statement is universally true. All the people of God have been tempted to sin. Satan no sooner perceives a child of God renewed in heart and cleansed from defilement than he endeavors, if he can, to mar the work of the Holy Spirit; to ruin the happiness of the Believer and to weaken his usefulness by leading him into sin.
The Prince of the power of the air, though he cannot be everywhere himself, manages with his host of underlings to be so nearly omnipresent that he tempts us all in turns and some of us very fiercely. Woe unto the man who is beset by the arch enemy, himself, if he is not abiding in fellowship with the Lord Jesus! If the Lord is away from the Believer it will go hard with him when Apollyon, himself, meets him in deadly duel. The fiend is stronger and craftier than we are and unless the Lord covers our head in the day of battle we shall find his fiery darts too terrible. This, however, is some comfort, that every Believer now with God has crossed swords with the devil—He has not suffered one to pass unmolested— “they were tempted.” Nor is it only Satan who tempts the saints. The world is always tempting God’s people and there is no position in life which is free from peril. A man sick of the fever dreams that if he can be placed in another bed he shall feel better—it is but a dream. He turns and tosses to and fro upon his pillow, but as Watts well says— “It is a poor relief we gain To shift the place but keep the pain.” In this mortal life we may change our position, but we shall never get away from temptation. Temptations are with kings upon their thrones and with peasants at the plow—they come of plenty and they come of poverty—they are born of success and they are born of defeat. Whether our path is rough or smooth, we are liable to be tripped up unless an unseen hand shall hold us up. This is true of all who have gone before us—“they were tempted.” At times Providence permits those who are in authority to exercise great power of temptation. So it was with the saints of old—those who were in power accounted them as sheep for the slaughter. The rulers of the synagogues and then the magistrates, rulers and emperors set themselves against God and against His Christ and those who held the reins of government were determined that they would put down the reign of Christ and utterly destroy His people. Princes and potentates became the willing servitors of Satan, threatening and bribing those who had espoused the faith. So far as open, legalized persecution by the State is concerned, we are happily free from it—but of those who in the martyr days bore high the banner of the Cross it may be said with emphasis—“they were tempted.” But, Brothers and Sisters, if there were no devil and if there were no wicked world it would still be true that the saints are tempted, for every man is tempted when he is “drawn away by his own lusts” and there is that within the best of men which might make them into the worst of men if the Grace of God did not prevent it! O child of God, you are, on one side, fair as an angel and the Grace of God gleams upon you and makes you bright as your transfigured Master! And yet on the other side of you, you are black as a devil and if the Grace of God were taken from you, you would as much dishonor the name and Cross of Christ as did the false apostate who took the thirty pieces of silver! Every good man is two men—he finds one fighting against the other—the old man, according to its corruptions and lusts, daily warring with the new-born man within him which cannot sin because it is born of God.
Now it is true, not only of you and me, but it has been true of all the people of God, that they have had inward conflicts and spiritual contests within themselves of the most painful kind. The saints were tempted. They were persuaded to 2 www.spurgeongems.org Volume 26 Sermon #1528 “They Were Tempted” 3 sin by Satan, by the world and by the propensities of their nature. And of all the blood-redeemed host it must be said, “they were tempted.” Ought not this fact restrain every man from a self-indulgent despair? Do you know what I mean? I mean this—a man says, “Well, I cannot help it! I am in such a place of temptation that if I give way I may well be excused.” Not so, Sir! “They were tempted” and yet they did not fall, but held fast their integrity! They who today are waving the palm of victory were tempted even as you are and it is idle for you to say that victory is impossible seeing they have proved the reverse!
Using the same weapons and helped by the same Spirit, your temptations, which are the same as theirs, will be overcome by you even as theirs were vanquished by them! Get up and fight like men! Dream no longer of impossibilities which might excuse you—what has been done by one, by the help of God, can be done by another! This leaves us without any excuse for yielding to temptation. I know we commonly think that if we can prove that we are tempted there is not much blame attached to us but it is not so! It is most true that those who tempt others are guilty of the greater sin, but the sin of those who are tempted and yield to the temptation is great enough—great enough to crush them into eternal destruction unless they repent of it! Other people have been tempted as you have been and yet they have resisted the temptation and have remained in obedience to God and, therefore, if you yield to the evil influence you are without excuse.
The multitude of holy men and women who are now before the Throne of God are all witnesses against you, for they show what can be done and what can be done in you, too, the Grace of God being with you. This fact that all the saints have been tempted should put an end to all murmuring upon that score. Somebody says, “Mine is a hard lot! I have to follow Christ under great disadvantages. My foes are those of my own household.” Yes, your lot may be difficult, but if you could just peep within the pearly gates and see that brilliant company who are the peers of the realm of Heaven, you would see none but those who once were tempted!
Do you dare demand a better lot than theirs? Remember your Master was tempted and shall the disciple wish to be above his Master, or the servant above his Lord? Is there to be some easy bye-road to Heaven made for you, turned from end to end and rolled every morning?— “Must you be carried to the skies On flowery beds of ease While others fought to win the prize And sailed through bloody seas?” You must not expect it! You must fight if you would reign! You must carry the cross as others carried it if you are like they, to wear the crown! The temptations which were endured by saints in all ages must forever prevent our complaining if hooks are baited for us and snares laid for our destruction!
One sweet thought arises here. Since the best of saints were tempted, this prevents our conceiving that to be tempted is, in itself, a sin. I have known feeble-minded Christians bemoan themselves and cry, “If I were not exceedingly sinful I should not have these hideous thoughts and dreadful suggestions! If my heart were not full of evil, I should not have these blasphemous ideas forced into my poor, unwilling brain.” Beloved, it is not so! If your heart were wholly the devil’s, he might not care to worry you and, indeed, you would not be worried, but would love sin! It is because you are not his, because you are desperately struggling towards holiness and virtue that, therefore, he tempts you. It is no sin to be tempted—the sin is in yielding to temptation!
Your Lord was tempted and yet in Him was no sin. Thrice did Satan assail our Lord—three evil courses did he plausibly suggest, but he found nothing in Him to work upon! There was no tinder for his sparks to light. Be, therefore, greatly comforted, by God’s Grace, you who find evil thoughts rushing through your minds like a torrent. You try to fight against these temptations and yet they return again and again till your heart is well-near broken with them—do not, therefore, condemn yourself for them so long as you abhor them. You are not a castaway because you are tempted, for all the saints in Gory were tempted, too. Yes, I think, dear Friends, if any of us here present meet with great trials in life and with very strong temptations to turn back to the world—if God gives us Grace to keep towards the New Jerusalem we may even glory in these trials!