And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.
~ Matthew 20:23
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
~ Romans 6:3-5
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
~ Romans 8:17
For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
~ 2 Corinthians 1:5
Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:
~ Colossians 1:24
It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:
~ 2 Timothy 2:11-12
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.
~ 1 Peter 4:13-14
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
~ Philippians 3:10-11
Preparations for Sufferings, or The Best Work in the Worst Times, Wherein the Necessity, Excellency, and Means of Our Readiness for Sufferings are Evinced and Prescribed; Our Call to Suffering Cleared, and the Great Unreadiness of Many Professors Bewailed, by John Flavel.
Chapter XI: Suffering Saints Have Insights Into the Methods and Mysteries of Satan’s Temptations. Wherein is opened the singular advantage that suffering saints have by their shill and insights into the methods and mysteries of Satan’s temptations: some of those wiles of Satan opened, and rules for the avoiding of the danger briefly prescribed.
The hazards and dangers of Christians in times of persecution, arise not so much from their sufferings, as from the temptations that always attend, and are by Satan planted upon their sufferings: for the most part, sufferings and temptations go together, Heb. 11:37. And therefore it behoves such as are, or expect to be called to sufferings, to dive into the mysteries of temptations, and be well acquainted with the enemy’s designs upon them. So was Paul, and so he supposes all others to be that engage in the same cause: “We are not ignorant of his devices,” 2 Cor. 2:11. There is a manifold advantage redounding to suffering saints thereby.
1. He that is well acquainted with the methods of temptation, will be better able to descry the first approaches and beginnings of it, and a temptation discovered, is more than half conquered. It is a special artifice of Satan to shuffle in his temptations as undiscernibly as may be into the soul; for he knows, that “in vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird,” Prov. 1:17. And therefore he ordinarily makes a suffering season to be a tempting season; because sufferings, like fire to iron, make it impressive and operable, they do ordinarily put the soul into an hurry and distraction, and so gives him an advantage to tempt the soul with less suspicion and greater success. But now, a skilful Christian that is acquainted with his wiles, will discern when he begins to enter into temptation; as Christ’s expression is, Luke 22:46. And so check the temptation in its first rise when it is weakest, and most easily broken. Doubtless one reason why so many fall by temptation is, because it is got within them, and hath prevailed far before it be discovered to be a temptation.
2. He that is well acquainted with Satan’s methods of tempting, will not only discern it sooner than another; but also knows his work and duty, and how to manage the conflict with it, which is a great matter. There are many poor souls that labour under strong temptations, and know not what to do: They go up and down complaining from Christian to Christian, whilst the judicious Christian plies to the throne of grace with strong cries, see 2 Cor. 12:8. keeps up his watch, Luke 22:46. countermines the temptation, by assaulting that corruption, by endeavours of mortification, which Satan assaults by temptation, 1 Cor. 9:27.
3. Lastly, To name no more; he that is best acquainted with the mystery of temptation, and can maintain his ground against it, he shall be the preserving Christian under persecutions, and the victorious Christian over them. Here lies the main design of Satan, in raising persecution against the saints. It is not so much their blood that he thirsteth after, as their fall by temptation: and all persecutions are designed by him to introduce his temptations. These work upon our fear, and fear drives us into his trains and snares, Prov. 29:25. The devil’s work in raising persecution, is but as the fowler’s work in beating the bush in the night, when the net is spread to take the birds, which he can affright out of their coverts. He that understands that, is not easily moved by the strongest opposition, from his place and duty; and so is like to prove the most constant and invincible Christian in times of persecution.
Oh! then, how necessary is it, that since all persecutions are intended as means to promote temptation, and that skill and insight into these designs of Satan so advantages as to frustrate his designs in both? I say, how necessary is it that you should be all instructed wherein the strength of temptation lies; as also how to resist those strong and dangerous temptations, which your sufferings only are intended to usher in, and make way for?
It will not be unseasonable or impertinent, then, in this chapter, to shew you, First, Wherein the force and efficacy of temptation lieth; Secondly, What you are to do, when in a suffering hour such temptation shall assault you. And first,
Quest. Wherein doth the efficacy and power of temptation lie? Sol. I answer, It lies principally in three things.
I. In the kind and nature of the temptation.
II. In the craft and policy of Satan in managing it.
III. In that secret correspondency that Satan hath with our corruptions.
I. It lies in the kind and nature of the temptation itself; for it is most certain, that all temptations are not alike forcible and dangerous. Some are ordinarily more successful than others; and such are these that follow.
1. Strange and unusual temptations, I mean not such as none have been troubled with before us; for there is not a dart in Satan’s quiver, but hath been let fly at the breasts of other saints, before it was levelled at ours, 1 Cor. 10:13. But by strange and unusual, I mean such as the people of God are but rarely troubled with, and possibly we were never exercised with before. These are the more dangerous, because they daunt and amaze the soul, and ordinarily beget despondency, even as some strange disease would do that we know not what to make of, nor can learn that others have been sick of.
2. Mark them for most dangerous temptations, that are adapted and suited to your proper sin, or evil constitution: For certainly that is the most dangerous crisis of temptation when it tries a man there. Now, if he be not truly gracious, he falls by the root irrecoverably, Luke 22:5, 6. Or if sincere, yet without special assistance, and extraordinary vigilance, he falls scandalously, 2 Sam. 11:2. compared with 1 Sam. 16:12.
3. When it is a spiritual temptation, which rises undiscernibly out of the Christian’s duties. This is the less suspected, because temptations usually come from the strength and liveliness of corruptions; but this, from the slaughter and conquests we make of them. Duties, and enlargements in them, which are the poison of other lusts, prove the food and fuel of this, 1 Cor. 4:7, 8. And how much the more Covert and close any temptation is, by so much the more dangerous it is.
II. The strength and effiacy of temptation lies much in the skill and policy of Satan in the management of it: And hence they are called wiles, methods and devices, 2 Cor. 2:11. Eph. 6:11 and himself an old serpent, Rev. 12:9. And among the rest of his deep and desperate stratagems these following are remarkable.
1. In employing such instruments to manage his temptations as are least suspected, and have the greatest influence. A Teacher, Gal. 2:14.
A wife, Gen 3:6. Job 2:9. Friends, Acts 21:13. The devil knows it is a bad business, and therefore must make the best of it; Paul’s sorest trial was by his dearest friends.
2. In the orderly disposition and ranging of his temptations, beginning with little things first, and then by degrees working over to greater. His first motions are commonly most modest, Gen. 3:1. Should he discover the depth of his design at first, it would startle the soul, and make it reply as Hazael, “Am I a dog that I should do thus?” It is far easier to gain his end by parts, than putting for all at once.
3. In endeavouring to engage the soul upon his own ground. I mean to tempt him from his station and duty where God sets, and expects to find him. He knows while you are with God, God is with you, 2 Chron. 15:2. Whilst a man abides there, he abides with God, 1 Cor. 7:24. Whilst he is there, the promise is a good breast-work to keep off all his darts: And therefore, as fishers, when they have spread their nets in the river, beat the fishes out of their coverts and caverns; so doth Satan.
4. In not presenting the temptation, till the soul be prepared to receive it. He loves to strike when the iron is hot. He first lets their troubles come to an height, brings them to the prison, gibbet, or fire, and then offers them deliverance, Heb. 11:35, 37.
5. In tiring our souls with a long continuance of temptations. What he cannot win by a sudden storm he hopes to gain by a tedious siege. Forty days together he assaulted the Captain of our salvation, Mark 1:13. And truly it is a wonder the soul yields not at last, that hath been tried long, Psal. 125:3. “When the rod of the wicked lies long upon the back of the righteous, it is much if he put not forth his hand to iniquity.”
6. In falling most violently upon them, when they are lowest and most prostrate in their spirits and comforts: So he assaulted Job with a temptation, to curse God and die, when he sat in that deplorable state upon the dunghill, Job 2:8, 9. He loves to fall upon us, as Simeon and Levi did upon the Shechemites, when we are sore and wounded: And therefore ordinarily you find times of divine desertions to be times of diabolical temptations. So that, look, as the wild beasts of the desart come out of their dens in the night, and then roar after their prey, Psal. 104:20. so doth Satan, when the soul seems to be benighted and lost in the darkness of spiritual troubles.
And this is the second thing wherein the efficacy and strength of temptation lies.
III. Lastly, It lies in that secret correspondency Satan holds with our bosom enemies. Were it not for this domestic traitor, he could not surprize us so easily: As you see in Christ; he could do nothing because he found nothing to fasten a temptation on. He was like a chrystal glass filled with pure fountain water: So that though he should have been agitated and shaken never so much by temptation, yet no filthy sediment could appear; but now we have an enemy within that holds intelligence with Satan without; and this would prove a devil to us, if there were no other devil to tempt us, Jam. 1:14, 15. It is a fountain of temptation in itself. Matth. 15:19 and the chief instrument by which Satan doth all his tempting work, 2 Pet. 1:4.
Our several passions and affections are the handles of his temptations. Every thing, saith Epictetus, hath δυο λαβας, two handles to take it by. Our affections are the handles of our souls. The temptation of self-confidence and pride takes hold of a daring and forward disposition, the temptation of apostasy upon a timorous disposition, &c. These inbred lusts go over to the enemy in the day of battle, and fight against the soul, 1 Pet. 2:11. This is a more dangerous enemy than the devil. It is true they both work against us, but with a double difference. Satan works externally and objectively; but lust internally and physically, i.e. quoad materale, as it is capable of physical efficiency. “Sin wrought in me all manner of concupiscence,” Rom. 7:8. Yea, it is a subtle enemy that doth his business politicly, Rom. 7:11 Sin deceived me; it betrays with a kiss, strangles with a silken halter, Heb. 2:12. Eph. 1:22. These be his agents sitting at the council-table in our own breasts, and there carrying on his designs effectually: Yea, it is the restless and perpetual enemy, no ridding your hands of him. Satan is sometimes put to flight by resistance, Jam. 4:7 and sometimes ceases his temptations, Luke 4:13. But when he ceaseth to tempt and inject, this ceaseth not to irritate and solicit; where we are, it will be; it is our sad lot to be tied to it, and perpetually assaulted by it, Rom. 7:24. We may say of it as Hannibal said of Marcellus, that it is never quiet, whether a conqueror, or conquered; yea, it is a potent enemy too, it hauls men away to the commission of sin, Jam. 1:14 it seizeth the magazine of the soul, and delivers up the arms, I mean the members, to be οπλα αδικιας, weapons of unrighteousness.
Thus you see wherein the efficacy and power of temptation consists. And it mightily concerns you that are, or expect to be sufferers for Christ, to be acquainted with these things, and know where the strength of your enemy lies.
But how shall the suffering saint so manage himself in a suffering hour, as not to be captivated by temptations? This brings me upon the second thing I promised; viz. to prescribe some rules for the escaping or conquering of those temptations that are incidental to a suffering state. And first,
1. Rule. Labour to cut off the advantages of temptations before they come. It is our inordinate love to life, estate, liberty, and ease, that gives the temptations so much strength upon us. Do not overvalue them, and you will more easily part from them, Rev. 12:11. O mortify self-love, and creature-love; let your heart be loosened and weaned from them, and then the temptation hath lost its strength.
2. Rule. Secure to yourselves an interest in the heavenly glory. When once you clearly see your propriety in the kingdom above, you will set the lighter and lower by all things on earth. That is a pregnant text to this purpose, Heb. 10:34. It is our darkness and uncertainties about those that make us cling so fast to these.
3. Rule. Settle this principle in your heart as that which you will never depart from, that it is better for you to fall into any suffering, than into the least sin, Heb. 11:24, 25. This all will acknowledge, but how few practise it! Oh that you would practically understand and receive it! Suffering is but a respective, external, and temporal evil; but sin is an universal, internal, and everlasting evil.
4. Rule. Believe that God hath cursed and blasted all the ways of sin, that they shall never be a shelter to any soul that flies for refuge to them, Mark 8:35. Prov. 13:15. The way of transgressors is a hard and difficult way. There is no security in the way of iniquity. He that runs from suffering to sin, runs from the seeming to the real danger; from the painted to the living lion.
5. Rule. Live up to this principle that there is no policy like sincerity and godly simplicity. This will preserve and secure you when carnal wisdom will expose and betray you. Psal. 25:2. Job 2:3. Sinful policy never thrives with saints.
6. Rule. Consider sadly what the consequence of yielding up yourselves to temptations will be: The name of God will be dreadfully reproached, 2 Sam. 12:14. A fatal stumbling-block is laid before the blind world, 1 Sam. 2:36. The hearts of many upright ones made sad, Psal. 25:3. The fall of a professor is as when a standard-bearer fainteth; and a dreadful wound it will be to thine own conscience, 2 Cor. 2:7. Mat. 25:6. One hour’s sleep of security may keep you many days and nights waking upon the rack of horror.
7. Rule. Never engage a temptation in your own strength, but go forth against it trembling in yourselves, and relying on Divine aids and assistances, Eph. 6:10. What! are you to grapple with spirits, to enter the lists with principalities and powers? Or what is your strength that you should hope?
8. Rule. Let the days of your temptation be days of strong cries and supplications. Thus did Paul, 2 Cor. 12:8. Psal. 109:4. Your best posture to wrestle with temptation, is upon your knees.
9. Rule. Dwell upon the consideration of those choice encouragements God hath laid up in the world for such a time. As, (1.) Though he give Satan leave to tempt you, yet you are still in his hand to preserve you, Deut. 33:3. John 10:28. (2.) That whilst Satan is sifting and trying you on earth, Christ is interceding for you in heaven, Luke 22:31, 32. (3.) That an eternal reward is laid up for those that overcome, Luke 22:28, 29. Rev. 21:7, 8. And now is this reward to be won or lost.
Lastly, Be content till God open a door out of your temptations, 1 Cor. 10:13. The time of the promise will come, Acts 7:17. Wait for it, though it tarry, and seem to be deferred; in the end it will speak, and not lie, Hab. 2:3. There was a secret door in the ark, though it could not be seen whilst the waters prevailed: And so there is in all your temptations, though at present it be not discernible by you.
And thus have I brought you one step nearer to Paul’s blessed frame. O give diligence to make yourselves ready for sufferings.