Practical Meditations on the Lord's Prayer

Newman Hall, 1889



Salvation is deliverance from sin; and therefore includes both pardon of its guilt and release from its power. A gospel would be unworthy of God which, encouraging the transgressor to ask forgiveness, promised no aid against sin itself. We come from the mercy-seat happy in the hope of absolution, but at once encounter temptations by yielding to which we needed that mercy. Must we again fall and come for repeated pardons? Is prayer merely a hospital for the wounded? No, it is also an arsenal to equip the soldier for the fight. He who, grieving for and hating sin, implores forgiveness, desires strength to resist temptation and is here encouraged to ask it. The confession of sin is an acknowledgment of frailty, and therefore of our need of Divine help. The more truly we pray, "Forgive us our trespasses," the more earnestly we shall pray, "Lead us not into temptation."

The liberated slave who has tasted the bitterness of bondage, all the more strives to avoid recapture. "A burnt child dreads the fire." He who has been bitten by a serpent will ask not to be led where serpents abound, and will himself avoid sitting on the bank where he felt the poisoned fang. On a winter morning when the ground was covered with snow, a robin, urged by hunger, entered an open window of the writer's house, to eat the crumbs spread for it inside. This visit he frequently repeated, flying away unmolested. But one day the servant closed the window, and the bird found its way of escape cut off. As there was no intention to imprison the trustful visitor, the window was soon reopened. But the robin never returned. For a brief moment it had been captured, and it would not again venture within the possible prison. "In vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird."

The more we have been forgiven, the more gratitude we feel. The prodigal son welcomed home, desires not again to grieve his father. The more hearty that forgiveness, the more earnest that desire. The greater the pardon, the greater the guilt if we repeat the offense. The pardon therefore is a deterrent from the sin. The fuller our assurance of such pardon, the stronger will be our endeavor not to lose such assurance. We shall fear to defile the white clothing which has been given us; to obscure the writing on the roll of our acceptance with God. The sunshine will be so pleasant, that in proportion as we walk in it, we shall avoid the dark shadow into which renewed sin would bring us. The grace received in forgiveness will do more than the threat of punishment to guard us from yielding to temptation. "There is forgiveness with You that You may be feared." He who is blessed in the non-imputation of iniquity is the man "in whose spirit there is no deceit." The prayer, "Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities," is immediately followed by, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." The Divine promise, "I will forgive their iniquity," is linked with this other, "I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts." Our Lord's absolution, "Neither do I condemn you," was followed by the command, "Go and sin no more." The gospel assurance, "There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus," is applicable to those alone "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." The penitent sinner hoping pardon because "if any man sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous," is reminded that this is not to encourage but destroy sinfulness—"These things write I to you, that you sin not." It is in accordance with all Scripture teaching, that those who pray to be forgiven, pray also to be saved from sin.


The fundamental idea is test, or trial for discovery. The strength of a ship is tested by the fierceness of the storm it encounters; and the virtue of a youth who has never been away from home is tested by the companionship, seductions and trials of the world into which he enters. Temptation includes whatever presents an opportunity of choice between good and evil. In this sense it would seem that temptation is unavoidable in the case of all beings capable of moral goodness; inasmuch as such goodness is not the result of physical necessity, but implies free choice, and therefore the power of choosing or rejecting the evil as well as the good. If so, unfallen angels are perfect not because they are outside the sphere of possible temptation, but because they always choose what is right.

It would also seem that temptation in this sense is not only involved in moral responsibility, but is essential to the full maturity of moral excellence. Every faculty is strengthened by exercise. Acts of right choice repeated, form habits of goodness which may become so strong as to constitute a moral necessity of acting in accordance with them; so that temptation, though still presented to the mind, loses all power of harm. We can only become strongly good by freely choosing good. As the limbs need to be developed by exertion and the mind by education, so also the moral nature by encountering and overcoming temptation. There must be a gymnasium for the soul if we are to become spiritual athletes. The most valuable soldiers are not those who have merely marched on parade or fought imaginary foes at a review, but those who have been in real battles. Adam, before he sinned, was capable of being tempted to sin. A persevering course of victory would have raised him to a far higher condition than that of his first creation. The second Adam, partaking of human nature in all but its moral degeneracy, was tempted in the wilderness as was Adam in the garden; but He overcame, and so not only opened the way for us to the heavenly Paradise, but for His work as Mediator, was, like ourselves, perfected through temptation (Heb. 2:10, 17). A test may be applied with various motives, for opposite ends—by a friend or by a foe; to benefit or to injure to save or to destroy. This consideration will easily reconcile texts seemingly at variance.

1. Inducement to sin. This is the most familiar use of the word. The very nature of God forbids the thought that He ever tempts thus. "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God—for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He himself tempts no man—but each man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed." The essential nature of God, His eternal and unchangeable holiness—the purity of all His laws, forbidding the evil and enjoining the good—His promises to those alone who are righteous, His threatenings to all the wicked above all, His gift of Christ to redeem us from all iniquity, and the infinite cost by which our restoration was effected—all this renders it absolutely certain that we are never tempted in the sense of allurement to sin by Him who said, "As I live, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live." We are tempted when "drawn away by our own lusts." We have various instincts and capacities not in themselves sinful, but, as given by God, useful and holy. When employed according to His will, they glorify Him. Pleasure, beneficently connected with the exercise of them, may become an allurement to use them wrongfully, and so degrade them into sinful lusts. When uncurbed by conscience, they become tempters to sin of which the devil avails himself.

2. Afflictions or trials are temptations in the sense of being tests of faith, and are either sent or permitted by God. Their object is to benefit, not injure—to cultivate our submission, not to induce us to rebel. So the gale may test the tree, which thereby gains more than it loses; dead branches are broken off, enfeebling parasites torn away, while "Firmer he roots him the ruder it blows." It is possible that by our own fault the trial may become an occasion of sin—yet this is not its purpose—and the experience of the children of God concurs to testify that "Happy is the man whom God corrects." Samson's riddle has frequent illustration—"Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness." David said, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept Your word." "Blessed is the man whom You discipline." Paul could "rejoice in tribulations; knowing that tribulation works patience; and patience, approval; and approval, hope." He tells us that lest he should "be exalted above measure," there was given to him a "thorn in the flesh," the result of which was that he was able to "glory in his infirmities" by reason of "the power of Christ" resting upon him. The Apostle James says, "Count it all joy when you fall into manifold temptations (trials); knowing that the proof of your faith works patience." This is the Divine purpose. "Blessed is the man who endures temptation, for when he has been approved he shall receive the crown of life." The writer to the Hebrews echoes back the ancient truth—"You have forgotten the exhortation which reasons with you as with sons; My son, regard not lightly the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved of Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." It is not as an enemy, but as our Father, that in this sense God tempts His children. So the fire purifies the precious metal by revealing and destroying its dross. Thus Peter comforts those who are "put to grief in manifold temptations" by the Divine purpose, "that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold that perishes though it is proved by fire, might be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

Satan's tests are intended as allurements to sin. Providential tests are to sanctify by sorrow. Thus "God tempted (proved) Abraham." The command to offer Isaac was a severe test of resignation to the Divine will, absolute self-surrender, and faith that in spite of a seeming impossibility God's promise would yet be fulfilled. Testing may be of use in making known a fact, but do no good to the thing tested. A rope is not strengthened by the weight that tries its tenacity, nor a boiler by the pressure of steam that proves its resisting power. But, the skill of a sailor who steers his ship safely in a gale through a difficult channel, or the capacity of a general who fights a battle against great odds, is not only tested but improved. So Abraham's faith was not only shown to be strong, but was made stronger by exercise. So with the Israelites. "You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God led you to prove you, to know what was in your heart." Leighton says—"Trials stir the water that was possibly clear at the top, to see whether it be not muddy at the bottom." Many a domestic cistern has held concealed in its depths corrupting deposits, from which poisonous exhalations have carried fever through the household. How beneficent the stirring up, by however rough an implement, if it reveals the unsuspected foe! The temptations which were permitted to assail Job revealed, beneath very much that was godly, much of a self-righteous spirit which he was led to renounce and "repent in dust and ashes." He verified his own prediction, "When God has tried me, I shall come forth as gold." Prior to his denial of his Lord, Peter did not know his need of watchfulness. The "sifting as wheat" which he survived, enabled him ever after to "comfort his brethren."


The RV. renders the prayer—"Bring us not." It has been suggested that "to bring" implies more danger than the word "to lead." God always does lead us in His Providence along paths which are perilous by reason of temptation. This is the unavoidable result of man's moral nature and the circumstances of the present life. Temptation as a necessary discipline constitutes the difference between the man and the child. An infant is lovely in its innocence, and may well be dedicated to God in faith and prayer, and welcomed as one of the lambs of the flock; an emblem of purity itself. It has never committed one evil action nor cherished one sinful thought, but it has not been tried, and cannot be compared with the mature Christian, whose faith has been tested in many a furnace, whose valor has borne him victorious in many a fight. Yet the latter has often yielded to temptation, fallen into the mire, been wounded by the foe. He has not the child's innocence, but neither has the child his experience, matured knowledge, disciplined piety and fitness for high service. Such men as Joseph, after the temptation of Potiphar's house and the trials of prison; Daniel from his open window and the lion's den; and even David; were far nobler characters than any babe, however stainless, uneducated and untried. "Every one who partakes of milk is without experience of the word of righteousness—for he is a babe. But solid food is for full-grown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil." But none can attain this maturity without that "exercise" which involves temptation.

The faculties of body and mind make temptation possible, and the unavoidable conditions of life make it actual. Over all these circumstances God presides. He, not the devil, is the supreme Arbiter of our life. We are not mere material on which stern law operates. We are ever in our Father's care. He is our Guide in a journey from which temptation cannot be excluded. God knows this, yet leads us on. He feeds us amid famine, opens fountains in the desert, and guards us from foes; but the famine and the desert and the foes await us in the path. "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies." God has a bountiful table for His children, but spreads it within sight of the foe. He purposes that we should meet with difficulties. He does not tempt to sin, but He guides us where temptation is. "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil." The devil tempted Him, but God led Him. So God leads all His children, but with a great difference of purpose. Christ was led to encounter the full force of the foe in order to conquer as our Champion and teach as our Example we are led where temptations assail that we may experience just so much conflict, and no more, as may make us good soldiers of Jesus Christ. But in both cases it is true that though the devil tempts, our Father leads us. A guide on the mountains leads the Alpine climber where dangers exist. The summit cannot otherwise be reached. In avoiding or conquering the danger, the traveler's skill, courage and endurance are both tested and improved. His health and manhood, as well as his enjoyment, are secured by his being thus led where dangers abound. But the leader knows what path is practicable, what perils should be shunned, and is ever ready to lend a helping hand.

We are passing through a region partially occupied by the foe. In places least suspected his skirmishers are lurking. We must pass through this Samaria to reach Jerusalem. We must through much tribulation enter the kingdom. Any step off our way may bring us within range of the enemy's guns, within reach of the dagger of some ambushed assassin. Our confidence is this, that our Father leads us amid this peril; and it is for Him and not for our foe to choose where and when and how we are to be exposed to it. Exposed to it, in some way, we must be; this is our Father's Will, for His children's good. It is vain to suppose that certain conditions of life are exempt from temptation, and to pray that our condition may be so altered that we may escape it. Our safety is not in some temptation-proof cell, but in having God for our shield while following His guidance where fiery darts may abound. Poverty may tempt us to murmur, deceive, envy, or steal; but could we escape these temptations by becoming rich, we might be tempted to be proud, self-indulgent, forgetful of God and of the heavenly inheritance. The vigorous and healthy may glory in their strength rather than in its Giver; while a sick-bed may tempt to petulance, distrust, and selfish murmuring. Society has its snares, substituting fashionable opinion for Divine truth, and the pleasing of men for the service of God—but the solitude to which we fly for safety may be found equally perilous in the nurture of a morbid imagination, and the companionship of evil desires. If in honor—we may be boastful, despise our inferiors, and fancy ourselves free from restraint; if in obscurity—we may sin because unobserved, and make up for lack of fame by reviling the famous. Many talents may tempt us to use them vainly or selfishly; few talents, to hide them as not worth cultivation. Religious privileges may tempt to a ceremonial reliance on them; deprivation may suggest excuses for indifference. Full assurance of hope may beguile to unwatchfulness; while depression of mind may tempt us to halt in the plain path of practical duties while peering into the misty gloom of our doubts and fears.

"How easy it is for monks to bring evidence that marriage makes the soul less free; how utterly they fail when they would praise the safety of celibacy! Sometimes men escape from turmoil for security to the religious world, and find that there they are in the midst of more fierce and implacable contentions. Into whatever perils we have come, let us be sure it was not the Evil Spirit but God Himself who ordered the whole frame and condition of our lives, and that this is the best possible for us, though—yes because—it is one of tremendous temptation. Let us be equally sure that He is not our tempter; that He never tempted any man to evil; that we fall into it only when we think He is not with us to deliver us from it" (Maurice). Yet we should pray that God would so guide us that we may not be tempted beyond our strength. However surely we may rely on Divine help in peril, inasmuch as to become the victim of that peril is sin, every true child of God will shrink from it. Each has his special perils from inward temperament or outward circumstances, and we reasonably pray to be protected in our most vulnerable part. "It would be a great misfortune to a man with weak lungs to call him to live in a cold, bleak air. So would it be to a man with weak eyes, to fix him in a situation which required much study by candle-light. Now it is to the full as dangerous for the soul of the ambitious man to be put into the road which leads to high stations, or for a man like Balaam to have much to do with money-bags" (Hare). If, careful of our bodily health, we desire not to be lodged where the climate would try our constitution to the utmost; so, anxious for our spiritual health, we ask God to guide us in such a way that outward circumstances may not so accord with inward tendencies, that the resulting temptation might overpower us.

The meaning of the prayer is clear in the light of Divine precepts and promises. We pray not to be so brought into temptation as to be overcome by it; not to be carried into it so as to be left in it. "God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above that you are able, but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." God does permit us to be tempted, but we pray that no temptation may be beyond our strength; we pray, not that we may escape being tempted at all, but that our escape may be in the way of endurance and victory. "The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation." He has two methods; sometimes by leading us out of its reach, sometimes by leading us through it and giving special strength to conquer it. The apostle was severely tempted when, being brought before Nero, his friends "all forsook him," but "the Lord stood with him and strengthened him;" he prayed "God that it might not be laid to their charge;" and he was "delivered out of the mouth of the lion." He exulted in the confidence of faith, saying, "And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me to His heavenly kingdom." Through "the valley of the shadow of death," abounding with perils, our Shepherd often leads His flock; and it is our privilege to follow fearless, singing "For You are with me, Your rod and Your staff they comfort me."

"After God has forgiven us, there is nothing that we have so earnestly to pray for as that we fall not again into the same filth. Since therefore, as David says, there are in the great sea of this world 'things creeping innumerable,' we have need to pray from the inmost heart, 'O Father, lead us not into temptation. We are surrounded with temptations, but be our help, that we consent not to them, and thus be taken and overcome by them.' To a certain younger brother who desired to be free from his evil imaginations, one of the elders replied, 'You cannot prevent the birds from flying over your head, but yet you can prevent them from building their nests in your hair.' And again, the blessed Augustine says, 'We cannot avoid temptations, but we can, by calling upon God for aid, take heed that they do not overcome us'" (Luther).

This prayer is the natural heart-utterance of every believer. We say—Our Father! we mourn because of past sin committed against You; O keep us from fresh grief in grieving You! We lament that we have often failed to hallow Your Name and to do Your Will; help us in the future! We hate the sins that dishonor You and wound our own soul; enable us to conquer them! We distrust ourselves, for we have proved 'how inconstant are our best resolves, how weak our own strongest efforts, how numerous our evil inclinations, how slippery are the paths on which we walk, how many are the snares laid for our feet; uphold us! We lean on You! We follow You! but O bring us not where temptation might be too strong for us! Old Testament prayers express the same desire—"Hold You me up, and I shall be safe. O let me not wander from Your commandments. Order my steps in Your word, and let not any iniquity prevail against me. Remove from me the way of lying. Make me to go in the path of Your commandments. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, and let not any iniquity have dominion over me." We pray with Jehoshaphat, who appealed to God, saying, "We have no power against this great company that is coming against us; neither do we know what to do; but our eyes are upon You."

This prayer, like the rest, is unselfish. It embraces our brethren who are exposed to the same temptations; as on board a ship in danger we cannot pray for our own preservation without including all the crew. For the whole Church we pray—for struggling, tempted souls altogether unknown to us in distant lands, of other tongues. We realize the "communion of the saints," the brotherhood of all who are on their pilgrimage of trial. "O strange and mysterious privilege, that some bed-ridden woman in a lonely garret, who feels tempted to distrust the love and mercy of God, should wrestle with that doubt, saying the Lord's Prayer; and that she should be thus asking help for those who are dwelling in palaces, yet in their own way are in peril as great as hers; for the student haunted with questions which would seem to her monstrous and incredible, but which to him are agonizing; for the minister in his terrible assaults from cowardice, despondency, vanity, from the sense of his own heartlessness, from the shame of past neglect, from the appalling discovery of evils in himself which he has denounced in others, from vulgar temptations into which he had proudly fancied that he could not fall. Of all this the sufferer knows nothing, and yet for these she prays—and for the statesman…for her country…for all other countries in their throes of anguish…for one and all she cries, 'Lead us not into temptation.' Their temptations and hers, different in form, are the same in substance. They, like her, are tempted to doubt that God is, and that He is the Author of good and not of evil; and that He is mightier than the evil; and that He can and will overthrow it, and deliver the universe out of it" (Maurice).


1. Temptation is not sin—It only becomes sin when we invite, tamper with and encourage it; but when we resist and pray against it, faith and fortitude are increased. Sincere prayer against it is evidence of a desire not to yield. We shall never be overcome through the weakness that causes us to lay hold on the arm of Omnipotence. "When I am weak, then am I strong." God does not condemn us for obstacles in climbing the heights of holiness, but commends us for our efforts to overcome them. He does not judge us by the side-eddies and counter-currents and tiny whirlpools which here and there make the river seem to flow backward, nor by the rocks in the channel which retard the crested tide; but by the onward flood, which, despite such resisting rocks and returning currents, rolls steadily to the ocean of Infinite Love. If we can say with the Psalmist, "I hate vain thoughts," those thoughts are no evidence that we are wanderers from God; but the hating of them does prove that we are His children.

2. Temptation is not peculiar to the individual—We are not alone in having to suffer it. "Lead us not into temptation." All who call on "Our Father" need such help. "There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man." Incident to humanity, it is no disparagement to the individual; no sign that we are specially weak or wicked, that the devil is allowed some special power over us, or that our Heavenly Father is displeased with or has forgotten us. Because we are human we are tempted, and because we are Christian we feel temptation the more keenly.

3. Christ Himself was tempted—He "was made like His brethren." All bodily and mental faculties, however abused by us, are in themselves pure and holy, because given by a holy God. These the faultless Christ shared, and through these was tempted. His hunger was real, and His desire to satisfy it was intense, but to satisfy it in opposition to the will of His Father would have been sin. Though to this desire he did not yield, He felt it as we do. "He was in all points tempted like we are;" otherwise He could not have been an example of conflict and victory. He knew how possibilities of sin attend the exercise of the purest affections, even as shadows are cast from the loveliest flowers. He knew the loneliness the soul may feel when in some wilderness which the devil haunts. He knew the pangs of unsatisfied desire, the yearnings of natural instincts, the depression of mind caused by weakness of the flesh, and the strength which may thus by special circumstances belong to temptations which would be powerless at other times. He who, exhausted by the struggle, needed sympathy and aid, so that "angels came and ministered to Him," will Himself be present to help us in our temptations.

4. The prayer is presented to "Our Father"—He loves the children He has redeemed. It is not His will that any of His little ones should perish. If a sparrow falls not to the ground without His notice, how surely His eye of love watches, His arm of power is outstretched to help those who, fearing to grieve Him by sin, ask Him to save them from temptation! He first puts this prayer into our hearts, and "He cannot deny Himself." He is "our Father in Heaven," and therefore able to control all the circumstances of our lives, and must be mightier for our weal than all who seek our woe. They who utter this cry to their Father may be sure that "He pitifully beholds the sorrows of their hearts."


1. We should not go into temptation—If we sincerely pray God not to bring us into temptation, we cannot willingly bring ourselves into it; for, if we do, our prayer does not express our true desire, and is but an empty form. The Author of the prayer said, "Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation." Guard against the first approach of danger, go not near it of your own choice, "avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it and pass away." If you ask God not to take you there, never take yourselves there. This lesson is applicable to companionships, books, amusements, which are felt to be, if not sinful, yet paths leading sin-wards. If the precipice is dreaded, beware of the slope leading to it. If, subject to dizziness, we ask our guide not to lead us too close to the edge, let us not venture there to pluck a flower, or look down into the abyss. "The way of sin is down hill. A man cannot stop where he would; and he that will be tampering with dangerous occasions in confidence of his resolution, shall find himself often carried beyond his purpose" (Leighton). "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall."

Some enter into temptation presumptuously, to show their power of resistance; some curiously, to see what the danger is, and taste the allurement; some carelessly, giving no heed to their steps; some imitatively; following where others go; and some pharisaically; boasting their piety and pretending to glorify God by showing what His grace can do. Many, like Eve, begin by looking, until looking leads to longing; longing, to approaching; approaching, to smelling and handling; then to plucking and eating. Often has the case of Achan been repeated—"When I saw among the spoils a Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them and took them." Deliberate looking leads to the sin. Many, like David, loiter on the roof to gaze at beauty that fascinates, beguiles, ensnares, destroys. Look not off from the path of present duty to gaze upon pleasant but perilous byways; "Let your eyes look right on, and let your eyelids look right before you." "Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity." To preserve the streams from pollution, guard the fountain. "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life." If we would not have our house burnt down, let us extinguish the stray spark, the smoldering flame. "Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals and his feet not be burned?" Those who carry powder must not stand among flying sparks. If we dread the jaws of the lion, we must not loiter at the mouth of his den. We should beware how we enter the dungeon-door which shuts of itself with a spring-lock, but cannot be opened without a key. "There is no necessary connection between going into temptation and coming out."

Habits gradually and easily formed may become chains requiring more than human strength to break. The noxious seed may be easily uprooted, but the tree may defy your strength. An infant temptation may be slain, which, full grown, will slay you.

"Fashion it thus—that what he is, augmented,
Would run to these and these extremities;
And therefore think him as a serpent's egg,
Which, hatched, would, as his kind, grow mischievous;
And kill him in the shell." —Julius Caesar

The gentle current may float us into the raging rapids or the cruel whirlpool and over the deadly fall. The writer was once persuaded by a friend to accompany him and his family in a tiny steam-craft from Buffalo down the Niagara river. At first the broad smooth stream gave no sign of its never-ceasing downward flow. But presently the noise of the plunging prow grows less. Now it ceases. We are no longer forcing our way through the water, but are being hurried along by it. The silence, the smoothness, in other circumstances soothing, are awful to those who now see in the distance a horizontal line suddenly terminating the view. Over it is a white column of mist; between us and it a line of surf. We are rapidly approaching the tremendous fall, when we suddenly shoot into a small creek. An accident to the machinery, or insufficient power to counteract the current, would be fatal. Many a boat with its cargo of precious life has thus been carried over. Inexperience, lack of due precaution, foolhardiness, have been death to many who fancied they could at any moment stem the tide, and safely return to where the stream was gentle and the landing-place easy to reach.

The whirlpool was afterwards visited. Here the great cataract, surging from its enormous plunge, has worn away a vast crater-shaped basin at the side of the main stream, round which the heaving, foaming waters perpetually revolve. I watched a great tree which had been carried into this whirlpool. Sometimes it gyrated on its own axis; sometimes it rose suddenly in the air, pointing upwards as if some huge giant lifted his arm in distress; then it plunged downwards and disappeared; then as suddenly it shot up again perpendicularly in some other place, and fell back helpless on the whirling tide, ever borne round and round its prison. I looked until I fancied it was a sentient creature struggling to escape into the main stream, and so reach the quiet refuge of the lake below. Again and again it neared the mouth of the great basin, and I thought the main current might mercifully embrace and rescue it. But no! after a brief struggle it was swept back to repeat the same course of agonizing disappointment. I could bear it no longer and turned away, for I seemed to look upon multitudes of my fellow-creatures, the victims of evil habit. They have ventured on the placid stream of temptation to indulgence that seemed harmless and easy to be resisted when it might threaten injury; they have been lulled by soothing pleasure, and the perilous silence of conscience; they have become self-secure in the purpose of rousing themselves when in danger of going too far; but they have been swept into the deadly whirlpool of sinful habit which is now alternately their chamber of insensibility and torture; they sometimes awake to a sense of their peril, they lift up their arms in despair, they resolve to escape, again and again they think deliverance near, but again and again the power of habit asserts itself, and they are still carried round and round in "the hell of waters" they have made for themselves.

"Habits are soon assumed; but when we strive
To strip them off, 'tis being flayed alive.
Called to the temple of impure delight,
He who abstains, and he alone, does right.
If a wish wander that way, call it home;
He cannot long be safe whose wishes roam.
But if you pass the threshold, you are caught;
Die then, if power Almighty save you not." —Cowper

Alas! how many a human moth flutters round the alluring flame until, with singed wings, it falls and dies; how many a fly willfully gets entangled in a web that seems so flimsy, yet is so strong, until the watchful foe enfolds and devours it! The youth who would not become the victim of her whose "feet go down to death, and whose steps take hold on hell," must "remove his ways far from her, and come not near the door of her house." He who would avoid gluttonous excess should "be not among wine-bibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh; for the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty." To avoid their ruin, "be not among them." He who is in danger of "woe, contentions, babbling, wounds without cause, and redness of eyes" by "tarrying long at the wine," is bidden to "look not on the wine when it is red, when it gives its color in the cup, when it moves itself aright." If he would not experience that "at the last it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder," he should "look not upon it."

A good general is cautious as well as brave, else bravery is foolhardiness. He respects his foe for strength and vigilance if for nothing else, and gives him no opportunity to "steal a march" or assail an unguarded post. He does not go out of his way to "demonstrate," and provoke an unnecessary fight which may involve failure. "Our safest course is always to be ready prepared to the battle, but not to provoke the enemy to fight." (Farindon).

"When fierce temptation, seconded within
By traitor Appetite, and armed with darts
Tempered in Hell, invades the throbbing bosom,
To combat may be glorious, and success
Perhaps may crown us; but to fly is safe." —Cowper

At the battle of Waterloo, a wealthy merchant of Brussels who had been allowed access to headquarters, asked Wellington whether he was not exposing his person to great danger, as shot and shell were falling around. The general replied, "You have no business here, but I am performing my duty." So let us never go into spiritual danger from idle curiosity, but only when duty calls—then, and then alone, may we expect to be safe. In a matter of life or death let us not run dangerous risks, relying on what is "deceitful above all things." "He who trusts his own heart is a fool." Let there be no sleeping on the Philistine's lap, if we would not have our locks shorn. Piety enfeebled by trifling with pleasant danger is no match for the enemy when with strong cords he bursts in to bind and enslave. A recent shipwreck was caused by the captain venturing near a rocky coast, in too great reliance on his own skill, the depth of water and the changeful wind. Alas! how many have "made shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience" not by purposely heading upon the visible rocks of sin, but by venturing into the shallow waters of temptation where shoals and reefs are hidden! Let us give a wide berth not only to those headlands, but to these shallows too.

Burglars have been known to send into a house they intended to rob, a child who has secreted himself until night and has then opened the door to the spoilers. If we fear the burglars, let us beware of the child. "Admit but some inordinate desire into your heart that you consider a small matter, and it is a hundred to one but it shall prove a little thief got in to open the door to a number of greater." One temptation fondled instead of strangled, may open the door to a host of devils to rob us of our choicest wealth. Let us not allow the wedge to enter if we would not have our roof-tree split. However thin its edge, if once inside the crack, gentle pressure may be followed by sturdy blows, until the strongest resolutions and longest formed habits give way.

"It is the little rift within the lute,
That by and by will make the music mute." —Tennyson

Temptation is like a quicksand, which, when the tide has left it, is firm to the tread, but as soon as the water returns, proves treacherous to the unwary loiterer. The sea has its regular ebb and flow, and the hours may be calculated within which the sand may be visited; but temptation has no such limits. A wave of passion may suddenly rise and convert that pleasure-ground into a deadly swamp, into the mouth of hell. They cannot be innocent who venture there, nor safe because they mean to leave it when they see danger near.

"An hour, or more, not meaning any harm?
It is hypocrisy against the devil;
Those who mean virtuously, and yet do so,
The devil their virtue tempts, and they tempt Heaven."—Othello

"The common excuse is, 'We wish to see life.' Life! my brother. Depravity is disease, evil is corruption; to call such life, is only the gloss of an artful delusion. You can only see life when you see truth, purity, goodness. If we wish to see physical life, we seek it where the pure airs of heaven hue the cheek with health, and the exercises of honest industry sinew the limbs with symmetry and strength; not where life lies marred and crippled with the loathsome disfigurements of self-entailed disease. Let the physician go—and God protect him!—on his benevolent mission into the infected region where the deadly epidemic is doing its ghastly work upon the sad and weary sufferers; but idle curiosity may not venture there. And remember that evil has its contagion, and sin circulates the subtlest infection" (Loraine).

The writer saw at Chicago notices placed on several houses with the warning, "Small-pox is here;" "Fever is here." Only those having necessary business or bound on errands of affection and philanthropy would enter such a house. But may not the mark of moral pestilence be seen on the forehead of many a boon companion, and over the entrance of many a saloon of pleasure? Is it not inscribed on every fascinating temptation to sin? Should we be less cautious regarding the health of the soul than of the body? Young men specially boast of freedom. But over how many a door through which they enter to seek it, they might read "Slavery is here"! Who is a more abject slave than he who yields to sinful passions, and is tied and bound by habits of evil-doing? How often the youth thus voluntarily enslaved has been all his life afterwards the fag of others or the drudge of adverse circumstances, so that his early boast of liberty has ended in a lifelong slavery, and futile complaints of injustice and tyranny! To many such the grand words of Milton are applicable—"Instead of laying the blame on any but yourselves, know that to be free is the same thing as to be wise, to be temperate and just, frugal and abstinent, and lastly, to be magnanimous and brave. So to be the opposite of all these is the same as to be a slave; and it usually happens that those who cannot govern themselves and moderate their passions, but crouch under the slavery of their lusts, should be delivered to the sway of those whom they abhor, and made to submit to an involuntary servitude."

An excuse often made for young men's sins is that they must "sow their wild oats." It is forgotten that whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap."Would any one expect to improve his garden by sowing weeds in it rather than by rooting them out? Will injury to a tool make it more suitable for future use? Is a man the stronger because he was sickly when a child? Is that soldier the braver who, when a youth, yielded like a coward to the foe? It is monstrous to suppose that indulgence in fleshly lusts can be needed as a discipline for the practice of spiritual virtues. In reply to those who "assert that youthful vice is preparative for manhood, a kind of mud-has in which the youth is necessitated to steep," Carlyle says—"We hope they are mistaken; for sin and remorse so easily beset us in all stages of life, and are always such indifferent company, that it seems hard we should at any stage be fated not only to meet but to yield to them. Clear we are it cannot be the training one receives in the devil's service, but only our determining to desist from it, that fits us for true manly action. Surely such lessons are best learned from the lips of a devout mother, in the looks and actions of a devout father, while the heart is yet soft and pliant, rather than in collision with the sharp adamant of fate, attracting us to shipwreck us when the heart is grown hard, and may be broken before it will become contrite."

Little drops of water may hurl down mountain masses. Slowly and gently the tiny rills percolate the soil and undermine the rocky strata, until suddenly the land-slip carries away the forest and overwhelms the village. Thus many a catastrophe of sin has been caused by the accumulated force of unregarded temptation. The spiritual nature has been softened and saturated by allurements to evil, until it has suddenly and forever given way beneath the pressure. Looking into a long railway tunnel, you see a tiny spark. It seems stationary, but it is approaching constantly, irresistibly, rapidly. Do not loiter on those rails, else the express train will be upon you. A jeweled cup is presented, filled with fragrant poison, and you hesitate to believe that what looks so radiant and smells so sweet can do you harm. Handle not that glittering toy; inhale not that stupefying odor; cast away the goblet if you would not drink the poison. Wisdom says, not, "Look at it, but do not drink it; or if you drink, drink not much;" but—

"Taste not at all the sweet Circean cup;
He who sips often, at last drinks it up."

The gospel says not, "Go as near to the edge of the precipice as you can without falling over;" but, "Keep as far from danger as you can without sacrifice of duty." It says not, "Venture into the rapids without plunging into the howling abyss;" but, "Turn from it and pass away." It does not advise us to mingle with sinners and handle without being defiled by their toys, but, "Come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord; and touch no unclean thing—and I will receive you, and will be to you a Father, and you shall be to me sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."

The danger of trifling with what is falsely called a "little sin," but, which encouraged, may overpower a multitude of moral restraints, as a small leak may cause a great embankment to give way before the increasing pressure of the reservoir behind it, is truly pictured by that saintly poet George Herbert—

"Lord, with what care have You begirt us round!
Parents first season us; then Schoolmasters
Deliver us to laws; they send us bound
To Rules of Reason, holy Messengers;
Pulpits and Sundays; Sorrow, dogging Sin;
Afflictions sorted; Anguish of all sizes;
Fine nets and stratagems to catch us in;
Bibles laid open; millions of Surprises;
Blessings beforehand; ties of Gratefulness;
The sound of glory ringing in our ears;
Without, our Shame; within, our Consciences;
Angels and Grace; eternal Hopes and Fears.
Yet all these fences, and their whole array,
One cunning bosom-sin blows quite away."

2. We must resist temptation in the way Christ Himself has appointed—not therefore boasting of our own resolution, nor relying on a sense of propriety and on well-matured habits, but in a spirit of humble dependence, as taught in this prayer. We must not forge weapons of our own, but seek "the whole armor of God." We must take "the shield of faith, with which to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one." We must see "Him who is invisible," if we would overcome the allurements of sense. We must behold the Lamb of God offered for sin, if we would so hate it as to conquer it. We must take "the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God," if we would imitate the Captain of our salvation, who thus parried every hostile thrust, and by Holy Scripture refuted satanic sophisms. In the light of that Word let us look beneath the specious garb temptation wears; let us ask, Will the pleasure promised bear reflection in sickness and death, judgment and eternity? Is it worth the cost of conscience, God, heaven? Thus we shall detect the serpent lurking among the flowers. As on the moors or the mountains boggy places may be safely traversed by planting the foot only where tufts of heather grow, so let us tread only where some Divine promises can take root. Above all, we must obey the injunction of Him who encourages us to offer this petition. Our importunity in urging it is one of God's methods of fulfilling it. We must "watch and pray" if we would not enter into temptation—"praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance."

3. We should specially guard weak places in our defense—Past temptations indicate the joints in the armor by which the arrow most easily enters; the place in the roof which the rain soonest penetrates; the window or door most favorable for the burglar's admission; the part of the fence through which the cattle may pass to trample down our tender plants; the angle of our sea-bound estate, against which the high tides most threateningly dash. Let us then strengthen with special care the places most exposed. We should fortify with extra toil and watch with constant vigilance the weak part of our position, where the foe is most likely to deliver his assault. But while specially guarding weak places, we must not neglect the strong. A fortress has sometimes been captured by scaling the precipice which seemed to render it on that side impregnable. So the father of the faithful yielded to distrust, and Moses, the meekest of men, to irritation and disobedience.

Various temperaments are exposed to corresponding temptations, and those who are comparatively safe from one sin may be specially liable to another. Righteous Lot, grieved at the profanity of the wicked, may be ensnared by the intoxicating cup, and sink into shameful vice. Wise Solomon may become a fool, ensnared by women's wiles. Strong Samson may yield to seductive weakness. Heroic David may basely bend beneath the yoke of tyrant passions. An inspired prophet may be lured by lucre and preach to please. When we fancy ourselves specially secure through removal from worldly scenes by affliction, we may be exposed to special peril. Foes often lurk in dark shadows. Years of freedom from fierce assault may generate self-security, so that we remit our vigilance and unclasp our armor. Many victors have been vanquished by carelessness after conflict, and many professing Christians have fallen away in old age by ceasing to watch against temptation often conquered.

4. Turn stumbling-blocks into stepping-stones—The opportunity of sinning may be made an opportunity of glorifying God. Blame not the flesh because Satan often employs it as a ground of temptation, but make that flesh a battlefield for winning trophies from the foe. The various faculties of the body and mind which may become occasions of sin may also, when curbed and controlled, become occasions for special glory to God. Chrysostom says, "We do not read, Let not the flesh act or live, but let not sin reign—for Christ came not to subvert human nature, but to rectify the will." We cannot eradicate our natural instincts and faculties, nor should we desire to do so, but rather to regulate and use them in the service of God. Not the faculties are to be blamed, but our misuse. The same weapon which might serve the murderer may also be wielded by the loyal soldier; the moral quality residing not in it but in him. To preserve our faculties from serving the devil, let them be yielded wholly to God. Let those members which temptation would desecrate for vice become consecrated vessels for the temple. "Neither present your members to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God." This full surrender will be the best preservative against any particular member being employed in opposition to Him. Our body as well as our soul belongs to God; sin, the usurper, claims it as his domain; let us deny the claim, resist the usurpation, denounce the invader. Feudal lords held their estates as vassals of the king, and were bound to aid him in his wars in proportion to their holding. The ruler of a kingdom receives its tribute. If we recognize sin as ruler, we shall yield our faculties to its service; but if we give our entire selves to God, there will be no single faculty left with which to serve sin.

Let the hand, when tempted to dishonest grasp or angry blow, be urged in Love's own service to benefit others by honest toil and gentle aid. Let the foot, when bidden by the devil to go his errands, be the more promptly moved forward in the path of God's commands. Let not the wondrous faculty of vision open the door for a rabble of unclean imaginations to enter and pollute the soul, or for sending forth looks of lust or malice; but when thus tempted, let it the more ponder the lively oracles of truth, and be the inlet of images of purity and love. Let the voice, when prompted to utter angry, deceitful, or profane words, the more bear witness for God, plead before His throne, and blend with the anthems of angels in His praise. As all we have we hold from Him, let hands, feet, eye, tongue, imagination, memory, will, bearing the mark of His ownership, be devoted to His service. Let us take the harp which temptation may be preparing for the music of sin, and make its strings vibrate with the harmonies of heaven. Circumstances which threaten peril may become helps instead of hindrances. Are we inclined to be made angry by some fierce provocation? Let it become an occasion of cultivating patience. Does some sensuous pleasure allure? Let it be a summons to crucify the flesh. Does some accession of fortune tempt us to "the love of money which is a root of all kinds of evil"? Let us seize the opportunity of doing good, and instead of allowing wealth to impoverish the soul, let us therewith "lay up a good foundation for the world to come." By a godly chemistry, let fragrant essences be distilled from filthy refuse. By a holy husbandry, let deposits which might breed pestilence enrich and fertilize the soil. If, in the course of Divine Providence, we find ourselves in the company of the ungodly, instead of merely resisting their assaults, let us be ourselves assailants. Would they allure us to sin? Let us persuade them to godliness. Instead of simply refusing to be led into the world, let us lead them into the church. Not content with escaping danger, let us save those who would entice us there. To avoid temptations to evil, let us dwell among incitements to good. If we would escape an epidemic, let us not only avoid infection, but be well supplied with its preventive. To be secure against evil example, let us cultivate close fellowship with the righteous. Let their sentiments, aims and actions so impregnate and possess our minds that we may be proof against adverse influences. To counteract the chilling frost of the world, let us keep up the temperature of our inner life by devout reading of the Scriptures; by prayerful attendance on gospel preaching; by "showing forth the Lord's death" at the feast of loving memory He has ordained; by self-examination; by interaction with the godly; and, above all, by habitual and earnest prayer. As we are exposed without ceasing to temptation, we must "pray without ceasing," if we would overcome it.

Thus feeding the furnace of the moral machinery within, let us wisely economize the force created, nor let the steam blow off in mere sentiment and religious enthusiasm. Let us beware of indulging ourselves in lazy religious melancholy, which is often our foe's busy opportunity. Let us be at some work for Christ, so temptation will not find us at leisure to listen. "When a man has nothing to do, Satan will bring christ to the mill, and find him work enough." Let not failure discourage effort, but prompt to new resolve. It may be well to open our hearts to some Christian friend for advice and sympathy. Above all, let us "go and tell Jesus," our great High Priest, who always is at hand to aid and save. Thus we may be sure of victory. The hostile current only carries away those that love to float with the stream. How many a brave wrestler with temptation may seem as if his efforts would be vain; but let him persevere in the strength of God, and he will surely stem the tide and reach the shore. "They shall never perish."

"I saw him beat the surges under him,
And ride upon their backs—he trod the water,
Whose enmity he flung aside, and breasted
The surge most swoln that met him—his bold head '
Bove the contentious waves he kept, and oared
Himself with his good arms in lusty stroke
To the shore, that o'er his wave-worn basis bowed,
As stooping to relieve him. I not doubt,
He came alive to land."—The Tempest

5. We should not bring others into temptation—As our Lord taught that if we truly ask forgiveness we must also practice it, so also if we pray that God will not bring us into temptation, we surely must not willingly bring others into it. If we need help from our Father, we must render it to our brethren. If what we do, though safe to ourselves, encourages others in what is perilous to them, how far are we acting consistently with this prayer? There are two roads to a village among the mountains. One is, solid, wide and safe; the other is narrow, slippery, precipitous. By strength, practice, well-nailed boots, I can, without danger, traverse the mauvais pas. But suppose by my example others are encouraged to follow who fall and perish. I may assert my liberty and censure their folly; but would it not be more Christ-like if for their sake I took the safer path? I am bathing where the river is deep and rapid. I make no secret of my enjoyment, and practically recommend others to bathe in the same place. But of those who attempt it, some, by lack of strength and skill, are drowned. Would it not be merciful in me to mark the place as "Dangerous," and bathe elsewhere?

All along our dangerous coasts lighthouses warn sailors against rocks, and guide them into port. But, alas for humanity! false lights have sometimes been exhibited to allure vessels to destruction, that the wreckers might seize the spoil. Spirits of darkness do this for the ruin of the soul. But, without such fell purpose, it has often happened that the dubious example of Christian professors has misled the unwary to make shipwreck of faith. The more we are trusted as safe guides, the more dangerous is any misleading signal. Let us be quite sure that what we ourselves allow, prove not a snare to others. As true beacons we are to "shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life." At the Greenwich Observatory a signal is given every day at the exact moment of noon. By this the captains of outward-bound vessels adjust the chronometers by which they calculate their longitude during many weeks, and ascertain their exact position though on the trackless ocean, hundreds of miles from land. An error at the Observatory would disarrange all the calculations of the navigator, and might cause the wreck of many a ship and the loss of many a crew. The reputation of the Observatory for accuracy increases the confidence reposed in it, and also the injury which might result from any inaccurate signal. Christians should specially be careful to give the true time, regulated by the Sun of righteousness, otherwise some who think they may safely follow such example may suffer shipwreck.

Paul considered meat offered to idols as differing nothing from other meat. But to some persons eating this meat seemed to be idol-worship, and the example of the apostle might encourage them in an act which would be for them a sinful surrender of the faith. So he said, "If meat makes my brother stumble, I will eat no flesh forevermore, that I make not my brother to stumble." This principle may be applied to a variety of indulgences, not in themselves wicked but dangerous to many, such as the theater, the racecourse, the ballroom, games of hazard, intoxicating drinks, etc. Many Christians abstain from them because, however harmless to themselves, such pleasures might prove perilous to others, especially the young. Their personal sanction would be pleaded by those to whom the indulgence would act as the slope towards the precipice, and as the swift current hurrying to the cataract. The higher the character for wisdom, experience and piety, the more potent the example for good or evil. Those therefore who have achieved a reputation for conquering temptation should take special heed lest they lead others into it. "It is good neither to eat flesh nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby your brother stumbles, or is offended, or is made weak."

Vigilant ourselves, we should show compassion towards those who stumble. Perhaps their temptations were stronger than ours, their advantages less. Perhaps they had not our knowledge, privileges, and help from friends. Exposed to the same assaults, we might ourselves have yielded. Perhaps they resisted long though overcome at last. Our own experience of the force of temptation should make us gentle in our judgments, earnest in our prayers, tender in our treatment respecting the fallen. The world, except where its own standard has been transgressed and the sin is vulgar, is apt to excuse the fault, or "make a mock at sin," and even dress it up as virtue and give it titles of honor. Pharisaism, on the other band, proudly gathers up its robes, and sweeps past the transgressor in heartless scorn. We are taught both to abhor the sin and to pity the sinner. There have been times when the stream of adverse influence that has swept him down was too strong for ourselves, and it is only by Divine mercy that we are now struggling against it. We remember conflicts with the same foe when we also have suffered defeat, and victories which long trembled in the balance and were at last only just won. We have weathered the gale and hope soon to be in port, but we cannot forget how narrowly we escaped shipwreck.

"Safe home, safe home in port!
Rent cordage, shattered deck,
Torn sails, provisions short,
And only not a wreck.
The prize, the prize secure!
The wrestler nearly fell;
Bare all he could endure,
And bare not always well.
No more the foe can harm,
No more of leaguered camp,
And cry of night-alarm,
And need of ready lamp
And yet how nearly he had failed;
How nearly had the foe prevailed!" —Neale

Let us then deal gently with the fallen; cheer them lest they despair, by telling of pardoning mercy and assisting grace; and be ourselves hopeful of their recovery. "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself, lest you also be tempted."

Pity the fallen—O! the bitter strife,
The shame, the fear, the anguish of their life.
Assist the fallen—you may need a hand,
For you may fall, who firmly now do stand.
Seek out the fallen—love them, help lend,
And thus resemble Christ, the sinner's Friend.
Restore the fallen—you have been reclaimed,
For Jesus sought you, raised you, cheered, though blamed.
O save the fallen—bliss indeed 'twill be,
With souls thus won, to spend eternity. —Newman Hall