THE

SHORTER CATECHISM

EXPLAINED


QUESTION 106. What do we pray for in the sixth petition?

ANSWER: In the sixth petition, (which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,) we pray, That God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support and deliver us when we are tempted.


Q. 1. What does this petition necessarily suppose?

A. It supposes, "that the most wise, righteous, and gracious God, for divers holy and just ends, may so order things, that we may be assaulted, foiled, and, for a time, led captive by temptations, 2 Chron. 32:31."[195]

Q. 2. How many ways may God be said to lead a person into temptation, and yet not be the author of sin?

A. Two ways, objectively and permissively.

Q. 3. How may he be said to lead into temptation objectively?

A. When his providential dispensations, which, in themselves, are holy, just, and good, do offer, or lay before us occasions for sin.

Q. 4. May these occasions be called incitements or motives to sin?

A. No; only our corrupt hearts abuse or pervert them to this end; thus, David was envious when he "saw the prosperity of the wicked," Psalm 73:3.

Q. 5. When may God be said to lead his people into temptation permissively?

A. When he suffers them to be assaulted by the tempter, and, at the same time, withholds those aids of grace, which would prevent their compliance with the temptation, as in the case of David's numbering the people, 2 Sam. 24:1, compared with 1 Chron. 21:1.

Q. 6. What is the evil from which we pray to be delivered, and the temptations we pray against in this petition?

A. The evil of sin, and temptations to sin.

Q. 7. What is it to be tempted to sin?

A. It is to be strongly solicited, instigated, and enticed to it, Prov. 7:16-24.

Q. 8. Can God be the author or efficient of such instigations and allurements?

A. By no means; "For God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man," James 1:13.

Q. 9. Why then does he permit them to take place?

A. That he may direct and over-rule them to the purposes of his own glory; as in the instance of Peter, Luke 22:31, 32 -- "The Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not."

Q. 10. From whence do all temptations to sin spring, or take their rise?

A. All of them flow from "Satan, 1 Chron. 21:1; the world, Luke 21:34; and the flesh, which are ready powerfully to draw us aside and insnare us, James 1:14."[196]

Q. 11. Are we liable to be drawn aside and insnared by enemies, after we are in a state of grace?

A. Yes; "even after the pardon of our sins, by reason of our corruption, Gal. 5:17, weakness, and want of watchfulness, Matt. 26:41, we are both subject to be tempted, and forward to expose ourselves unto temptations, ver. 69-72."[197]

Q. 12. Are we able to resist temptations when assaulted with them?

A. No; we are, "of ourselves, unable and unwilling to resist them, to recover out of them, and to improve them, Rom. 7:23, 24."[198]

Q. 13. How is Satan denominated in scripture, with reference to temptations?

A. He is called, by way of eminence, THE TEMPTER, Matt. 4:3.

Q. 14. Why is he so called?

A. Because of his strong and violent instigation and solicitation to sin, Acts 5:8.

Q. 15. When did he begin this trade of tempting?

A. He began it in Paradise, Gen. 3:1, 4, 5; and has been making his assaults upon all ranks of mankind ever since, 1 Pet. 5:8.

Q. 16. Can Satan force and compel the will to yield to his temptations?

A. No; otherwise all his temptations would be irresistible.

Q. 17. How do you know that they are not irresistible?

A. Because the saints are exhorted to resist them, James 4:7; and have actually been enabled, by grace, to do it, 2 Cor. 12:8, 9.

Q. 18. How many are the ways by which Satan manages his temptations?

A. Two ways chiefly, either in a way of SUBTLETY, using wiles and devices; hence called "that old serpent which deceiveth the whole world," Rev. 20:2, compared with chap. 12:9; or in a way of FURIOUS ASSAULT, throwing his "fiery darts," Eph. 6:16. In both which respects he is called, in the Greek tongue, APOLLYON; that is, a destroyer, Rev. 9:11.

Q. 19. Why called a destroyer?

A. Because he aims at nothing less than the eternal ruin and destruction of all mankind, 1 Pet. 5:8 -- "Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour."

Q. 20. What are some of those chief wiles and stratagems in which he displays his SUBTLETY?

A. He makes choice of the most advantageous seasons for tempting; he employs the fittest instruments for carrying on his designs; and sometimes gilds over the foulest sins with the fairest names.

Q. 21. What are these advantageous seasons for tempting, of which Satan makes choice?

A. When a person is under sore affliction and distress, Job 2:9; when the object is present that will enforce the temptation, 2 Sam. 11:2, 4; and after some remarkable manifestation of divine love, 2 Cor. 12:2, 7.

Q. 22. Who are the instruments he employs for carrying on his temptations?

A. Men of the greatest power and policy, 1 Kings 12:26-30; and sometimes men of reputed piety and godliness; thus he employed the old prophet to seduce the man of God with a lie, 1 Kings 13:18.

Q. 23. What are these fair names, under which Satan wants to make the vilest sins pass among men?

A. He allures to covetousness, under the name of frugality, Eccl. 4:8; to profuseness, under the specious title of generosity, chap. 5:13, 14; he tempts to drunkenness, under the disguise of good fellowship, Prov. 23:29, 30; and to neutrality and indifference in religion, under the colour of a prudent and peaceable spirit, Acts 18:14, 15, 17.

Q. 24. What are those temptations, which Satan endeavours to throw in upon the soul, in the way of FURIOUS ASSAULTS?

A. They are his temptations to blasphemous and atheistical thoughts.

Q. 25. What is his plot by injecting these horrid suggestions?

A. Either to beget unbecoming thoughts of God, or to disturb, vex, and distract the Christian.

Q. 26. Does he ever gain his design, in begetting unbecoming thoughts of God, in the minds of any of God's children?

A. Yes; as would appear by their speaking sometimes very unadvisedly with their lips, Psalm 77:8, 9 -- "Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? hath God forgotten to be gracious?"

Q. 27. Are the saints suffered to continue long in such sentiments?

A. No; for as such words are far from their stated judgment; and only flow from their lips in the hour of temptation; so the Lord, by his grace, will soon make them change their speech, as in the words immediately following: "And I said, this is mine infirmity; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High," Psalm 77:10.

Q. 28. Do blasphemous and atheistical thoughts ever take their rise in our own hearts?

A. Frequently they do; as our Lord testifies, Matt. 15:19 -- "Out of the HEART proceed -- blasphemies."

Q. 29. When may we charge ourselves with such thoughts, as arising in our hearts?

A. When we make no resistance, but give way to them; contrary to the command of God: "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you," James 4:7.

Q. 30. Can the saints of God distinguish between blasphemous and atheistical thoughts, suggested by Satan, and those that arise in their own hearts?

A. Yes, they can, in some measure; otherwise they would frequently be deprived of the comfortable use of those consolations that are allowed them in the word.

Q. 31. How may they know the one from the other?

A. If they are violent and sudden, coming in like a flash of lightning upon the mind, Matt. 16:22, 23; if their souls tremble at such thoughts, and oppose them with the utmost abhorrence, Psalm 73:15:and if nothing is more grievous than to be assaulted with them, ver. 21, 22; then they may conclude, that they are rather to be charged on Satan than themselves.

Q. 32. What are the extremes, to which Satan labours to drive sinners by his temptations?

A. Either to presumption or despair.

Q. 33. What is PRESUMPTION?

A. It is a confident hope of the favour of God, and of obtaining eternal life, without any sufficient foundation to support it, like the foolish virgins, Matt. 25:11, 12.

Q. 34. What is Satan's conduct with reference to presumption?

A. He does all he can to foster and cherish it, and is sure to give it no disturbance, Luke 11:21 -- "When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace."

Q. 35. What is DESPAIR?

A. It is the melancholy apprehension of a person's case as being quite hopeless, and of there being no help for him in God, Jer. 2:25.

Q. 36. By what artifices does Satan labour to drive persons to this deplorable extreme?

A. By suggesting that their sins are too many, and too heinously aggravated to be pardoned; that the time of forgiveness is past; or that they have been guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost.

Q. 37. Is it possible that our sins can be more numerous and more heinously aggravated, than that they can be pardoned?

A. No; because no bounds or limits can be set to the infinite mercy of God, as vented through the meritorious obedience and satisfaction of Jesus; "for, he will abundantly pardon," (margin, "he will multiply to pardon," Isa. 55:7); and he declares, that though our "sins be as scarlet, or red like crimson, they shall be white as snow, and as wool," Isa. 1:18.

Q. 38. Can any be certain in this life, that the time of forgiveness is past as to them, or that their day of grace is over?

A. No; because while the gospel continues to be published to them, it is their unquestionable duty to believe the report made in it, concerning salvation for them in Christ, without diving into the secret counsels of God, 1 John 5:11 -- "This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son."

Q. 39. How may a person know if he is not guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost?

A. If he is deeply concerned and perplexed about this matter, and has an habitual desire after salvation by grace, he may be verily assured he is not guilty of this: for "they that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick," Matt. 9:12.

Q. 40. What is the second spring of our temptations above mentioned?

A. The WORLD, Mark 4:19.

Q. 41. What are the things of the world which give rise to temptations?

A. Both the good things and the bad things of it.

Q. 42. What are the good things of the world, which may prove a snare and occasion to sin?

A. The profits, pleasures, and preferments of the world, when trusted to, and rested in, Matt. 13:22.

Q. 43. For what should we pray, in order to be delivered from such temptations?

A. That God would incline our hearts unto his "testimonies and not to covetousness," Psalm 119:36, and that he would set our "affections on things above, not on things on the earth," Col. 3:2.

Q. 44. What are the evil things of this world, which may prove temptations?

A. The outward troubles and afflictions we meet with in it, John 16:33 -- "In the world ye shall have tribulation."

Q. 45. Is God the author of all outward afflictions?

A. Yes; Amos 3:6 -- "Shall there be evil in a city and the Lord hath not done it?" Though men may indeed have an instrumental and sinful hand in their own troubles and distresses; Jer. 2:17 -- "Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God?"

Q. 46. When do afflictions prove temptations?

A. When we either "despise the chastening of the Lord," or "faint when we are rebuked of him," Heb. 12:5.

Q. 47. For what should we pray when visited with afflictions?

A. That when the Lord is pleased to chasten us, it may be "for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness," Heb. 12:10.

Q. 48. What is the third spring or fountain of our temptations?

A. The FLESH, Gal. 5:17.

Q. 49. What is meant by the flesh?

A. Our corrupt and depraved nature, Rom. 8:8 -- "They that are in the flesh cannot please God."

Q. 50. How is the flesh, or corrupt nature, the spring of temptation?

A. As it entices to it, James 1:14, and is the inlet to temptations from Satan and the world, Jer. 17:9.

Q. 51. How should we pray against such temptations as have their rise from corrupt nature?

A. That God would not only restrain the pernicious tendency of our natural dispositions, Psalm 19:13, but likewise fortify our souls, by the powerful influence of his grace, against all these evils, to which we are naturally addicted, Eph. 3:16.

Q. 52 May we pray absolutely against temptations?

A. No; but we may put an alternative into God's hand with reference to them.

Q. 53. What alternative may be put into God's hand with reference to temptations?

A. That he would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support and deliver us when we are tempted.

Q. 54. What do we mean, when we pray, that God would keep us from being tempted to sin?

A. We mean by it, that, since the event of a temptation, with respect to us, is so dangerous and uncertain, if God has not some gracious ends to answer by it, he would rather be pleased, by his providence, to prevent the temptation, than suffer us to fall into it, Psalm 19:13.

Q. 55. What do we mean, when we pray, that God would support and deliver us when we are tempted?

A. We thus express our desire, "that, if tempted, we may, by his Spirit, be powerfully enabled to stand in the hour of temptation, Eph. 3:16; or, if fallen, raised again and recovered out of it, Psalm 51:12, and have a sanctified use and improvement thereof, 1 Pet. 5:8."[199]

Q. 56. How does the Lord enable his people to stand in the hour of temptation?

A. By making his grace sufficient for them, and perfecting his strength in their weakness, 2 Cor. 12:9.

Q. 57. How does he raise and recover them out of temptation, when fallen into it?

A. By discovering the corrupt and natural bias of their heart toward the temptation; humbling them on account of it, and the offence done to God by their compliance; and by quickening their faith, to draw virtue from the righteousness of the Surety, for a fresh intimation of pardon, Psalm 51:4, 5, 7.

Q. 58. When have they a sanctified use and improvement of temptations? A. When they are made more circumspect, watchful, and dependent on Christ for the future, as being sensible of their inability to resist the least temptation without him; for he has said, "Without me ye can do nothing," John 15:5.

Q. 59. What should be our habitual scope, and general end, in offering up this petition, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil?"

A. Our aim and end in it, should be, "that our sanctification and salvation may be perfected, 2 Cor. 13:9; Satan trodden under our feet, Rom. 16:20; and we fully freed from sin, temptation; and all evil for ever, 1 Thess. 5:23."[200]


[195] Ibid. Question 195.

[196] Larger Catechism, Question 195.

[197] Ibid.

[198] Ibid.

[199] Larger Catechism, Question 195.

[200] Larger Catechism, Question 195.


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