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The Sixth Sermon

Matt. 4. Ver. 8 & 9. Again, the Devil takes him up into an exceeding high mountain, and shows him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.[1]

And saith unto him: All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

At the first overthrow, we had the first Again: and when Christ overthrew him then also, yet would not the Devil leave then neither, but he comes with his second Again: he comes again and again. The first Again was an argument of his courage and stomach: this second, is an argument of his importunity[2].

The first repulse could not drive him away, nor the second neither, no, nor this third for altogether: for Luke says, He departed for a season, Lu. 4. 13[3]. So that as Christ saith, John 16. 16. After a while ye shall see mee, and after a while you shall not see mee: so saith the Devil also, After a while you shall not see me, & again after a while you shall see me.[4]

Which teaches us this lesson, that it is not enough to have prevailed against his temptations twice or thrice, & so become secure: but we are always to stand upon our guard, knowing how the Devil will successively, every turning of a hand, be with us; & that while we live, we shall never be at rest with him: or if he tempt us not, we shall be in as bad or worse case.[5]

For so long as the Lord left other nations among the Israelites, to prove them by, & to be pricks to their sides, it went well enough with them, Jud. 3. 1. but when they began to live in some security (having for the most part subdued them) then grew they to mutual dissention[6].

It is the greatest temptation, to be without temptation.

Therefore, Paul had the messenger of Satan to buffet him, 2. Co. 12.7[7] for then follows the pressing of God by prayers. But whether we join hands with Satan, or resist him, we shall be sure he will set upon us[8], & try by fair means [any effective means] what he can do, or if we say nay, yet in the end he will weary us as Dalila did Sampson, Jud. 16. 16. who, because she was importunate, his soul was pained to the death, & then he told her[9]: or if we will be obstinate in rejecting his temptations, giving him at the first a peremptory refusal: then he will go another way to work, as to imagine [think up] some devise [strategy] against us, & smite us with the tongue, Jer. 18. 18[10], he will be rough with us.

If none of these will prevail, he will persuade us, we must be like other men, & that is as profitable or pleasant to us, & then say Samuel what he can, we will have a king, 1. Sa. 8. 19.[11] And when we have yielded once, then goes he to fetch company, and takes unto him seven worse spirits than himself, Luke 11. 26.[12] So, the last state of that man is worse than the first. Give but an inch, and he will take an ell [around 18 inches] if he can get in but an arm, he will make shift to shove in his whole body. As we see if the point of a nail have once made entry, the rest will soon in[13].

We see an example of his encroaching even in David, 2. Sam. 11. 4. after he had once made him commit adultery by some mean degrees with Bethsheba, see how he tolls him on from one wickedness to another. She was with child, her husband being in the service of God and the King was by the King murdered to hide her shame, and satisfy his lust.[14] So did he draw on Peter, first he made him follow a loose off; secondly, flatly to deny Christ; thirdly, to forswear him; and fourthly, to curse himself if he knew him.

The Hebrew writers note, that the Devil’s name Beelzebub, signifies a great flesh fly, or a master fly: flap him away never so often, he will still fly thither again. So, the Devil will never cease molesting us, till the smoking flax be quite quenched, and the bruised reed clean broken, Isaiah 42. 3.[15]

First, he twists certain small threads together, and so makes a little cord of vanity, to draw us unto him: afterward with a cart-rope or gable of iniquity, he seeks to bind us fast unto him for starting; either by the vice of lust, or of envy, or at least covetousness[16]. But if all should fail, pride is sure to hold. Oh Lord, I thanke thee, I am not like such and such, nor like this Publicane (a degree further) nor lyke this Pharisie, Luke18. 11.[17]

This may be a good caveat unto us, that we stand always upon our guard, & that we be sure that we make strong resistance in the beginning, and break it (if we can) while it is but a whipcord.[18] And to use the like policy in a good matter, that the King of Egypt did in a bad; who took order that every male child should be killed, to keep the Israelites down betimes[19]: & against the succession of temptation, to entertain the succession of prayer.[20]

Now to the matter. The Devil deals as with a city. In the first he tells him, he must be famished, except he can turn stones into bread. Secondly, he comes to make a train [a line] of Scripture to entrap him. Now he comes to the ordinary means of dealing, that is; when men strive about anything, and both parties are loath to yield, there will be some parley of composition and sharing between them. So here, the Devil seeing that he cannot over-throw his faith, offers, him to compound [make a deal] and (on his part) he is content to give Christ all the Kingdoms of the world, if our Savior (for his part) will but fall down, and worship him.[21]

The Devil before came disguised in the shape of a malcontent, as that Christ should be in such hunger. Next, he came in the habit [clothing, outfit] of a Divine [a theologian] and that very demurely, with his Psalter in his hand. Now he comes in all his Royalty, like the Prince of this world, as he is so called, John 4. 30. He does not stand pelting with Christ, but goes roundly and frankly to work: he offers all that he hath, (and that is no small matter) to bring Christ but to one sin, that so he might overthrow all mankind.

He comes no more now with Si filius Dei es[22]: for that we see is here left, he would not have him think on it, he would have him now filius seculi[23].

This is called by Saint Paul, the bewitching Temptation, whereby men become so foolish, as that after they have begun in the spirit, they will end in the flesh, Galatians. 3. 3.[24]

Where the Devil cannot prevail, either by our own concupiscence, or by his enticings: he will see what he can do with his Dragons tail, and by that means (say the Fathers) he did more hurt, than by the other[25]. Secondly, his tail is said to draw down the third part of the stars of heaven, and to cast them to the earth. Apoc. 12. 4.[26]


What can we learn about temptation.  First, temptation will always be coming and will never be silent. We should always expect it. Thus, when we don’t see temptation coming we are in danger:

It is the greatest temptation, to be without temptation.

This sounds paradoxical. But the truth is temptation is always working even if we are not aware. John Owen put the matter like this:

Sin doth not only still abide in us, but is still acting, still labouring to bring forth the deeds of the flesh. When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone; but as sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep when they are still, so ought our contrivances against it to be vigorous at all times and in all conditions, even where there is least suspicion.

John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 6 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 11.

Being aware of temptation can keep us safe. Also, being tempted will keep us humble.  God used the nations about Israel to vex them to keep them dependent upon God. As soon as they thought they were safe, they fell into sin. Even the Apostle Paul needed vexation to keep him from sin. And so God can use even trials and temptations to keep us from sin.

Now to some observations of our enemy. He will be persistent. If he cannot strike one way, he will find another. If he cannot work with lust or envy, he will with pride. If he cannot tempt, he will negotiate. What is true is that he will never stop.


And he will come back. Again. And again.

And again.

If you let him just a little, everything will come along behind. Andrewes illustrates this with a series of images. Sin is like a nail, first the time then the body. Sin is like someone weaving a cord who soon finds themselves tied by a rope.  John Owen, again:

“Sin aims always at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin in that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its head. Men may come to that, that sin may not be heard speaking a scandalous word in their hearts,—that is, provoking to any great sin with scandal in its mouth; but yet every rise of lust, might it have its course, would come to the height of villany: it is like the grave, that is never satisfied. And herein lies no small share of the deceitfulness of sin, by which it prevails to the hardening of men, and so to their ruin, Heb. 3:13,—it is modest, as it were, in its first motions and proposals, but having once got footing in the heart by them, it constantly makes good its ground, and presseth on to some farther degrees in the same kind. This new acting and pressing forward makes the soul take little notice of what an entrance to a falling off from God is already made; it thinks all is indifferent well if there be no farther progress; and so far as the soul is made insensible of any sin,—that is, as to such a sense as the gospel requireth,—so far it is hardened: but sin is still pressing forward, and that because it hath no bounds but utter relinquishment of God and opposition to him; that it proceeds towards its height by degrees, making good the ground it hath got by hardness, is not from its nature, but its deceitfulness. Now nothing can prevent this but mortification; that withers the root and strikes at the head of sin every hour, so that whatever it aims at it is crossed in. There is not the best saint in the world but, if he should give over this duty, would fall into as many cursed sins as ever any did of his kind.”

John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 6 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 12.

What then must be our strategy? Be like the King of Egypt and be ruthless with your trouble. Kill and kill and resist. And you will fail. And when you fail, stop as soon as you can. Then turn to prayer.

This last move may, as a practical matter be the most difficult move. When we have sinned, we feel guilt. We are the prodigal son who is no longer worthy to be called a son. But we mistake God at this point. He sits upon a Throne of Grace. The grace is there because you need it. Your need for grace is no reason to stay far away.

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14–16 (ESV)

[1] Matthew 4:8–9 (ESV)  Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

[2] The first “again” was the second temptation. The Devil tempted the Lord’s courage (stomach: do you have the stomach for this? The fortitude, the courage?) The third temptation was an insistent pressing (importunity).

[3] The implication of the statement in Luke’s account of the Temptations, the Devil departed for a while (a season) is that the Devil was only gone for a little while; but he came back

[4] Andrewes alludes to Jesus statement in John 14:19 in which he foreshadows his burial and resurrection: John 14:19 (ESV)  “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” In a similar way, the Devil will leave but he will come back.

[5] Here is a practical application: If the Devil kept pestering and coming back to Jesus, how much more should we be prepared for constant temptation. If he would not leave the Lord alone, how can we expect we will be left alone.

[6] Judges 3:1 provides,  “Now these are the nations that the Lord left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan.” When the people were under stress from their neighbors, they turned to God. But as soon as they thought they were secure, the immediately fell into sin.

[7] 2 Corinthians 12:5–7 (ESV)  “On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.”

[8] Give in or fight temptation, the Devil will not go away.

[9] The Devil will be like Delila when it comes to temptation. She repeatedly pled and nagged Sampson about the source of his strength. He misled her a couple of occasions. Finally from exhaustion at her importuning, he told her the truth:  16 And when she pressed him hard with her words day after day, and urged him, his soul was vexed to death. 17 And he told her all his heart, and said to her, “A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.” Judges 16:16–17 (ESV) Lewis gives an interesting picture of this in  Perelandra, where the Tempter continues on without ceasing, without sleep, for days, seeking to ruin Eve.

[10] Jeremiah 18:18 (ESV)  18 Then they said, “Come, let us make plots against Jeremiah, for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us strike him with the tongue, and let us not pay attention to any of his words.”  

18:18 Jeremiah’s preaching did get results, but not the kind he desired. He wanted the people to believe his warnings and thereby avert the decreed punishment. Instead, his words only aroused his enemies’ fury and strengthened their determination to destroy him. They rejected Jeremiah’s warnings. They could not believe that a time was coming when the priests would no longer be teaching the law, when the wise would no longer be giving counsel, or, above all, when prophets would no longer be speaking words from God (cf. Ezek 7:26). They believed they could get along quite well without Jeremiah. So they determined to attack him with their tongues, that is, destroy his credibility or reputation by slander and malicious stories. They resolved to pay no attention to anything he said. The Syr says, “Let us smite him with his own tongue,” i.e., use his own words against him, perhaps to show he was a traitor or perhaps to show he was a false prophet because his predictions had not come to pass.

F. B. Huey, Jeremiah, Lamentations, vol. 16, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 184.

[11] The people of Israel had grown tired of being led by God and so asked Samuel to get them a king, so they could be like the nations around them. In the same way, the Devil will seek to get us to just get along and be like everyone else.

[12] He alludes here to a saying of Jesus. Luke 11:24–26 (ESV)  24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

[13] The Devil will not leave. If you give him an inch, he will take a mile. He is like a nail: if the tip gets in the rest will follow.

[14] David’s first sin of adultery, leads to lying. Lying then led to murder. One sin begets another.

[15] It is a promise of the coming Messiah that the Messiah will break the bruised reed or quench the burning flax. The Devil however will not stop until he has destroyed God’s work.

[16] He continues with the idea of how one leads to another. This time, Andrewes uses the image of someone weaving a rope. First a string, then a cord, then a rope. The end of this image is brilliant: Once the rope is built we are dragged along like a cart.

[17] If the Devil cannot take us by lust or envy or greed, he can always trip up us with pride. Shakespeare uses this to great effect in Measure for Measure. The reference is to the pride of the Pharisee at prayer: Luke 18:9–12 (ESV)  He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

[18] Be always on your guard for sin. And then you realize you have made a beginning, break it off and escape. Do not let it continue to fester and gain in strength.

[19] To turn an image on its head: Be like the King of Egypt. He saw the Israelites were increasing rapidly. To keep them down, he killed all of the male babies. We need to as ruthless in a good cause, killing all the opportunities which rise up to catch us.

[20] You have stumbled into sin. Do not despair at that place. Stop. Regain yourself, turn to prayer and escape.

[21] The Devil tries to tempt with despair, then with presumption. When that fails, he sets upon a new strategy, like two parties in conflict where one offers to negotiate. Rather than fight, can’t we find some common ground?

[22] The Devil no more says, “If you are the Son of God” (Andrewes gives the Latin).

[23] Latin, Son of the World. Rather than be Son of God, why not be Son of the World.

[24] Galatians 3:1–3 (ESV)  O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

[25] We might say, If he cannot come in through the front door, he’ll try the back.

[26] He is here making use of the image of the Satan as Dragon in Revelation 12.