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I. [What it is to tempt God]

First, whosoever will not use such ordinary means as God hath appointed, tempts God[1]: if he use extraordinary, (as here the Devil would have Christ do) when nobody went about to thrust him down, willfully to have cast himself down, were great madness: or when a man hath a faire pair of stairs to go down by to call for a Cherub to carry him, or for the wind to fly down, Psalm 18. 10[2] were great wantonness[3].

There is an humor in man[4], that we are all given unto by nature; to be marvelous desirous to try conclusions, in matters that are rare, and unknown unto them contemning things common, and to be fond after strange novelties[5]. It was told them as plain as could be, that they should not reserve of the Manna till morning, and they needed not to have reserved it, they had flesh every day: and yet forsooth they would needs keep it[6], if it were but for an experiment sake, to try whether it would stink or no, Ex. 16. 20[7]. And though they were forbidden to gather on the Sabaoth day, and on the even had enough for two days, and it was told them they should find none; yet they must needs try. When a thing cannot bee had without great difficulty, it is our manner to have a vehement longing after it, as when David was in a hold, and the garrisons of the Philistines were in Bethlehem, then being thirsty, no water would serve his turn, but that in Bethlehem, 2. Sam. 23. 15. But when three mighty men, had broken into the host of the Philistines, & had brought him of it, he cared not for it[8].


What does it mean to “tempt God?” Andrews takes it as presumptuous misuse of what God has provided. God has given us “ordinary means” to live in this world. While God is capable of miracles, we are not to presume God will provide such a miracle. To jump from a building and to expect God to save us is to presume upon God’s goodness. You will also hit the ground. 

We would agree that the person who jumped from the tower was a madman. But are there places in which we do presume upon God’s goodness? Do we do something foolish and say, “I did this for God, so God will bless me?” I have seen very heated conversations on the question as to whether a particular decision is a matter of trusting God or presuming upon God. While leaping from a building may an easy call, there are other matters which are less clear.

For instance, a man with a perfectly stable job quits his job and moves him family to a new city to attend seminary to be a pastor. Is this a pious act of faith, or a presumptuous tempting of God (God, I gave up my job, so you have to take care of my family)?

We are susceptible to this ploy not merely through false piety. It can also come about because we want what we do not have. It is easy to seek to justify our vain curiosity on the supposedly pious ground.

The test which Andrews lays out for us is this: Has God provided an “ordinary means” to accomplish this end? It is not presumption to take the stairs down to the ground floor. Perhaps if we asked ourselves pointedly, “What is the ordinary means to accomplish this end” we would be spared much sorrow.

[1] By “ordinary means”, Andrews means the normal way in which something is done. When just proceed in the world without asking to

[2] Psalm 18:6–10 (ESV)

                                  In my distress I called upon the Lord;

to my God I cried for help.

                                    From his temple he heard my voice,

and my cry to him reached his ears.

                                  Then the earth reeled and rocked;

the foundations also of the mountains trembled

and quaked, because he was angry.

                                  Smoke went up from his nostrils,

and devouring fire from his mouth;

glowing coals flamed forth from him.

                                  He bowed the heavens and came down;

thick darkness was under his feet.

                  10               He rode on a cherub and flew;

he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.

[3] God has appointed “ordinary means” for us to conduct our lives. We use ladders and walk down stairs. If we jump off a building and say, “God catch me!” We are either crazy or extremely sinful.

[4] A natural disposition.

[5] We are always curious about those things which have not experienced. We tend to ignore those things of which we have had experience. This was an issue which would have been a matter of consideration at this time.  There was a great deal of exploration. Modern science was beginning to test everything. The question of curiosity a live issue at the time of this sermon. Consider the following notice by Francis Bacon in a letter to his uncle, Lord Burghley dated 1592:

I confess that I have as vast contemplative ends, as I have moderate civil ends: for I have taken all knowledge to be my province; and if I could purge it of two sorts of rovers, whereof the one with frivolous disputations, confutations, and verbosities, the other with blind experiments and auricular traditions and impostures, hath committed so many spoils, I hope I should bring in industrious observations, grounded conclusions, and profitable inventions and discoveries; the best state of that province. This, whether it be curiosity, or vain glory, or nature, or (if one take it favourably) philanthropia, is so fixed in my mind as it cannot be removed. And I do easily see, that place of any reasonable countenance doth bring commandment of more wits than of a man’s own; which is the thing I greatly affect. (Bacon 1857–74, VIII, 109)

Quoted, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/francis-bacon/

[6] Truly, this would be something they would “have to” do.

[7] Exodus 16:18–20 (ESV)  18 But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. 19 And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” 20 But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them.

[8] When David could not get into Bethlehem, he said, I wish I could drink from the well in Bethlehem. Andrews’ point is we human have a tendency to want what we cannot have and look into what is not our business. It was this tendency for a sort of discontentment which the Devil is seeking to exploit by means of this temptation.