Wednesdays with Watson is a weekly reading taken from my favorite Puritan writer, Thomas Watson. This week’s selection is taken from All Things for Good.
The evil of temptation is overruled for good to the godly.
The evil of temptation works for good Satan is called the tempter (Mark 4.15). He is ever lying in ambush, he is continually at work with one saint or another. The devil has his circuit that he walks every day; he is not yet fully cast into prison, but, like a prisoner that goes under bail, he walks about to tempt the saints. This is a great molestation to a child of God. Now concerning Satan’s temptations; there are three things to be considered. (1) His method in tempting. (2) The extent of his power. (3) These temptations are overruled for good.
(1) Satan’s method in tempting. Here take notice of two things. His violence in tempting, and so he is the red dragon. He labours to storm the castle of the heart, he throws in thoughts of blasphemy, he tempts to deny God; these are the fiery darts he shoots, by which he would inflame the passions. Also, his subtlety in tempting; and so he is the old serpent. There are five chief subtleties the devil uses.
(a) He observes the temperament and constitution; he lays suitable baits of temptation. Like the farmer, he knows what grain is best for the soil. Satan will not tempt contrary to the natural disposition and temperament. This is his policy, he makes the wind and tide go together; that way the natural tide of the heart runs, that way the wind of temptation blows. Though the devil cannot know men’s thoughts, yet he knows their temperament, and accordingly he lays his baits. He tempts the ambitious man with a crown, the sanguine man with beauty.
(b) Satan observes the littlest time to tempt in; as a cunning angler casts in his angle when the fish will bite best. Satan’s time of tempting is usually after an ordinance; and the reason is, because then he thinks he shall find us ‘most secure. When we have been at solemn duties, we are apt to think all is done, and we grow remiss, and leave off that zeal and strictness as before; just as a soldier, who after a battle leaves off his armour, not once dreaming of an enemy, Satan watches This time, and, when we least suspect, then he throws in a temptation.
(c) He makes use of near relations; the devil tempts by a proxy. Thus he handed over a temptation to ]ob by his wife. ‘Dost thou still retain thy integrity? (Job 2.9). A wife in the bosom may be the devil’s instrument to tempt to sin.
(d) Satan tempts to evil by them that are good, thus he gives poison in a golden cup. He tempted Christ by Peter. Peter dissuades Him from suffering. Master, pity Thyself. Who would have thought to have found the tempter in the mouth of an apostle?
(e) Satan tempts to sin under a pretence of religion. He is most to be feared when he transforms himself into an angel of light. He came to Christ with Scripture in his mouth: ‘It is written? The devil baits his hook with religion. He tempts many a man to covetousness and extortion under a pretence of providing for his family; he tempts some to do away with themselves, that they may live no longer to sin against God; and so he draws them into sin, under a pretence of avoiding sin. These are his subtle stratagems in tempting.
(2) The extent of his power; how far Satan’s power in tempting reaches.
(a) He can propose the object; as he set a wedge of gold before Achan.
(b) He can poison the fancy, and instil evil thoughts into the mind. As the Holy Ghost casts in good suggestions, so the devil casts in bad ones He put it into Judas heart to betray Christ (John 13.2).
(c) Satan can excite and irritate the corruption within, and work some kind of inclination in the heart to embrace a temptation. Though it is true Satan cannot force the will to yield consent, yet he being an earnest suitor, by his continual solicitation, may provoke to evil. Thus he provoked David to number the people (1 Chron. 21.1). The devil may, by his subtle arguments, dispute us into sin.
[to be continued next week]