And lead us not into temptation.

We have now sufficiently heard what pains and labor are required to retain all that we pray for, and to persevere in it constantly; and even then we cannot accomplish this end without error and stumbling. And besides, although we may have obtained remission of sins and a clear conscience, and be entirely absolved, yet the condition of this life is of such a nature, that one may stand to-day, and fall to-morrow. We must, therefore, even if we are pious, and stand with clear conscience before God, still pray, that he may not permit us to fall back again, and yield to difficulties or temptations. Temptation, however, or as our Saxons formerly called it, Beköhrung, allurement, is of three kinds,– that of the flesh, that of the world, and that of the devil. For we dwell in the flesh, and our Adamic nature cleaves to us, which exerts its influence, and daily entices us to unchastity, indolence, excess, avarice, deception, and fraud, and in short, to all evil lusts which cleave to us by nature, and which are excited by others, namely, by associates, by examples, by hearing and seeing, which frequently inflame and corrupt even an innocent heart.

And finally, the world adds its force, which offends us with words and actions, and provokes us to wrath and impatience. And in a word, there is nothing seen here but wrath and envy, animosity, violence, and injustice, treachery, revenge, imprecation, reproach, detraction, arrogance, pride, ostentation, worldly honor, fame, and power; here no one is willing to be the least, but desires to be the greatest, and to attract notice in preference to all others.

And in addition to these, the devil comes, instigating and provoking every where. But especially is he occupied in those disturbances which pertain to the consciences and to spiritual matters; that is, he endeavors to cause us to disregard and slight both the Word and works of God, so that he may draw us away from faith, hope, and love, and bring us to unbelief, presumption, pride, and obduracy, or even to extreme despair, the denial and blasphemy of God, and to other innumerable, detestable crimes. These are snares and nets, yes, real fiery darts most malignantly hurled into the human heart, not by flesh and blood, but by the devil himself.

These are indeed great and grievous dangers and oppositions, which every Christian must endure, and grievous enough are they, if but one alone had to be borne. Therefore, we should be urged by these to invoke and pray God incessantly, while we are in this depraved life, in which we are assailed, pursued, and persecuted on every side, not to let us become faint and weary, and fall back again into sin, shame, and unbelief; for otherwise, it is impossible to overcome even the slightest attack.

Now, this may be termed not leading us into temptation, if God gives us power and strength to withstand it; although the temptation not be removed or taken away. For temptation and enticement none of us can avoid, while we live in the flesh and the devil surrounds us; and there is no other alternative, we must endure temptations, yes, we must be involved in them; but here we pray, that we may not fall into them, and be overwhelmed.

To feel temptation, therefore, and to consent or agree to it, are things very different. We must all feel temptations, not however all alike; but some more numerous and severe ones than others; for instance, youth are especially infested by the temptations of the flesh; again, the adult and the aged are tempted by the world; but others who are engaged in spiritual matters, that is, stronger Christians, are tempted by the devil. But this feeling, since it is repugnant to our will, and since we would rather be freed from it, can injure no one; for if it were not felt, it could not be called a temptation. But we give our consent to them, when we indulge in them through our loose habits, without resisting or praying against them.

Therefore, we Christians must be prepared for, and daily expect the incessant attacks of temptation, so that none of us may act as securely and carelessly as if the devil were far from us; but we should every where await the stroke, and avert it. For although I may now be chaste, patient, and cheerful, and in firm faith, still the devil can in this hour hurl such a dart into my heart, that I can scarcely withstand it; for he is a foe who never ceases nor becomes weary, so that if one temptation discontinues, other and new ones continually succeed.

Under these difficulties, then, no other resource nor remedy remains, but to appeal to the Lord's Prayer, and thus converse with God from the heart: "Thou hast ordered me, beloved Father, to pray, let me not fall back through temptation." Thus you will perceive that the temptation will be diminished, and finally be overcome. Otherwise, if you undertake to help yourself by your own thoughts and counsels, you will render it worse, and give the devil more room; for he has a serpent's head, which, gaining a chasm through which it can pass, draws his whole body along unimpeded; but this prayer can check it and repel him.


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