It is not unusual with the children of God in their early experience of the boundless goodness and saving grace of God, in their deliverance from guilt and condemnation, and the joyful flow of the love of God shed abroad in them, as they are made to loath and abhor sin, and to love holiness, to conclude that sin, folly and vanity can never have any more charms or attractions for them. Also, they are henceforth strongly fortified and entrenched securely from all the wiles of the adversary, and from the alluring vanities of the world. Against the former they are firmly resolved that they will die rather than yield; while at the latter they have already had their fill; and have no fear that for them they will never thirst again. As to the law in their members, warring against the law of their mind, they have not yet felt it, and flatter themselves that the fountain of evil in their earthly nature is dried up forever, and they will have no trouble from evil propensities, vain thoughts, or vile passions. With sincere, but child-like simplicity they sing,
"My soul forsakes her vain delights
And bids the world farewell;
Base as the dirt beneath my feet,
And mischievous as hell.
No longer will I ask your love,
Or seek your friendship more." Etc.
Their rapture seems a pleasing dream; for it is truly a mere dream, as they will painfully discover when they awake to the reality of their real situation. Their hour of sore conflict and fiery trials, of midnight darkness and fierce temptations, has not yet come; nor do they apprehend that it will ever come to them. Their mountain now stands firm and strong, and they are ready to say they will never be moved. How little they know, and less they fear the trying day to which they hasten. Nor would we utter a word or suggest a thought to dampen their joy, or to abate their trust and confidence in God. And truly while trusting in God, they are perfectly secure; they shall never be moved, they are like Mount Zion which cannot be moved; but they are strangely led to rely, at least to some extent, on their own resolutions, even to trust in the Lord; and they see no danger in forming their resolutions until they find them as the cords with which Delilah bound Samson, like flax that has been burned. After having sailed for a time upon a smooth, unruffled sea, the clouds begin to lower, their heavens are darkened, the cheerful radiance of their sun is hidden by the intervening clouds, the winds arise, the billows swell, and the tempest rages. They are filled with alarm, and fear that their trembling hope will fail them in the trying hour; that their frail bark can never outride the fearful storm. Could they at such times remember that their heavenly Father is at the helm, and that he controls the storms, and only intends these trials for their good and his glory, what comfort they would feel to bear them up.
We are apt to enquire when under trial and temptations, Why, and from whence do they come to us? We cannot doubt the power of God to shield and perfectly secure his children from them. Else why has he taught us thus to pray? We could not in faith ask him to "Lead us not into temptation," if we doubted his ability to do so. And it would be mockery to pray him to do for us what we doubt his power to do, for whatsoever is without faith is sin. But the petition by the Savior taught to his disciples, suggests the thought that God leads his children into temptation; and yet an inspired apostle has warned us against saying, when we are tempted to do evil, that we are so tempted of God; but rather know and acknowledge that every unhallowed thought, vain desire, or temptation to sin, that a Christian ever has or can feel, proceeds from the depravity of our own sinful nature. Yet it is said, God tempted Abraham, when he commanded him to offer up his son Isaac. Also that our divine Lord and Master was himself led by the Spirit (not of Satan, but by the Spirit of the Lord God, which was upon him) into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil. These Scriptures may seem paradoxical and unreconcilable, when only superficially viewed; but when properly understood, they are perfectly harmonious. God did not tempt Abraham to do evil. It was perfectly right that Abraham should, in obedience to the mandate of his God, lead forth his only son to the appointed altar, and there witness that deliverance which God had in store, and of which he had not told the faithful patriarch. In no case can we commit sin by obeying any special command of God. His command in all cases is our warrant. And his will is the supreme standard of right. Had Abraham hesitated, and listened to carnal reasoning, he might have plead: To take the life of my only son, and that son too, in whom all nations are to be blessed, that child of promise, whose seed is ordained to be more than the stars of heaven, will be a violation of the law, which forbids to kill. But waving all these perplexing thoughts and dismissing all human reasoning on the subject, he staggered not at the promise, which his obedience to this command would seem to cut off, he believing God would provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering, or even restore the lad from death, and from the ashes of the altar, bowed in humble obedience to his God. In like manner, God in wisdom, and for their good, often leads his children into such trials as he has appointed, to test their faith and confidence in him; but the spirit of holiness never inclines one to sin.
The temptations of which James was speaking were those wherein our carnal lusts tempt us to transgress the laws of Christ. Although, as we propose to show, God does lead his children into temptation, and through the most trying temptations, for the trial of their faith, and where they are exposed to the severe buffetings and fiery temptations of Satan, no wicked emotion or unrighteous desire in them proceeds from God. That is, from the Spirit of Holiness, which is God. He dwells in them, and walks in them, as his children; and in them works both to will and to do of his own good pleasure. So also exists in them (that is in their flesh) a fountain of corruption; and as no holy aspiration of the child of God may be attributed to the flesh, so neither can any unholy lusting, or wicked thoughts, by which a Christian is so much perplexed and sorely oppressed, be attributed to God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and in that fleshly nature lurks all the seeds of sin; but that which is born of the Spirit is spirit; and that spirit being incorruptible, and born of incorruptible seed, cannot sin, because it is born of God, and his (God's) seed abideth in him.
That God leads or directs the pathway of his children, for wise and necessary purposes, into temptations, subjecting them to the fiery ordeal for their special benefit, will appear from James 1:2,3,4. "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations, knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience; but let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." And that God has a perfect control of all things, temptations included, that can effect us appears from I Corinthians 10:13. "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to men; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." It was necessary that Peter should be tempted, and sifted as wheat, to cut down his self-confidence, and qualify him afterward to comfort the brethren.
But, after all, the brightest, clearest, and most wonderful illustration of our subject is found in the temptations which were felt and endured by the holy, harmless Lamb of God, when in his flesh he was made experimentally acquainted with the feelings of our infirmities, and was tempted in all points as his children are, and yet without sin; that is, without being captivated or overcome by the tempter.
That our Lord Jesus Christ, while in the flesh, was subject to the temptations of the devil has filled us with amazement; but it is nevertheless true, not only that he was assaulted by the tempter, but that he actually felt the full power of temptation, and that he was tempted in all points, as we are, and knows by personal experience the feelings of our infirmities. True, in his Godhead he was not tempted, for James says God cannot be tempted with evil: neither tempteth he any man. But he was as perfectly man as he was perfectly God, and in that fleshly nature which was made of a woman, came to bear the infirmities, as well as the chastisement of the peace of his people. It is consoling to the tried and tempest-tossed children of God to know that we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but one who is fully qualified to sympathize with us in all our trials; knowing exactly how we feel when we are tempted.
"He knows what sore temptations mean,
For he hath felt the same."
In all his temptations we must regard him as our Leader, and all his people must follow him in his temptations, as in all his footsteps. And as surely as we know him, and the power of his resurrection, we shall also know him in the fellowship of his sufferings. The disciples who had followed him in the regeneration, had been with him in his temptations; and so it shall continue to be with all his saints throughout all time.
Since writing the foregoing, we have received an article from our son, Elder William L. Beebe, addressed to our sister Eggleston, on the subject of Temptations, in which the subject is more fully discussed; and as we fully agree with his views on the subject, we will let what we have written, together with his letter, suffice, at least for the present. Hereafter, if the Lord will, we propose to treat more particularly on the temptations of our Lord as stated in Matthew 4:1-11, and attempt to show that in all the temptations of that trying hour, all his followers are made partakers.
August 1, 1868.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 238 - 242