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On Temptation and Sin

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Westminster Shorter Catechism

I love the Puritans, lists (of all kinds), and pithy quotations.  So it was only natural to combine these three favorite things together from my reading.

This list is a great encouragement to mortify sin daily, yet at the same time reminds me of how I’ve fallen woefully short of God’s standard in my daily battle against sin.  But thanks be to God for His mercy and Christ’s imputed righteousness, that I (who is inherently unrighteous) may approach His throne of grace by faith and be declared positionally “righteous” on the basis of Christ’s perfect merits.

  1. The great wisdom and security of the soul in dealing with indwelling sin is to put a violent stop unto its beginnings, its first motions and actings.  Venture all on the first attempt.  Die rather than yield one step unto it.  –John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 6: “The Nature of Indwelling Sin in Believers”
  2. Let no man think to kill sin with few, easy, or gentle strokes.  He who hath once smitten a serpent, if he follow not on his blow until it be slain, may repent that ever he began the quarrel.  And so he who undertakes to deal with sin, and pursues it not constantly to the death.  –John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 3
  3. The belief that God is everywhere should persuade us to sin nowhere.  –Richard Steele, A Remedy for Wandering Thoughts in Worship
  4. The Christian’s armour decays two ways: either by violent battery, when the Christian is overcome by temptation to sin; or else by neglecting to furbish and scour it with the use of those means which are as oil to keep it clean and bright.  –William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour
  5. 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, Volume 6: “Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers”
  6. We must be exercising [mortification of sin] every day, and in every duty.  Sin will not die, unless it be constantly weakened.  Spare it, and it will heal its wounds, and recover its strength.  –John Owen
  7. A great motive to provoke you to the mortifying of your darling sins … consider, that the conquest and effectual mortifying of one bosom sin, will yield a Christian more glorious joy, comfort, and peace, than ever he hath found in the gratifying and committing of all other sins.  The pleasure and sweetness that follows victory over sin is a thousand times beyond that seeming sweetness that is in the gratifying of sin.  –Thomas Brooks
  8. The indulgence of one sin opens the door to further sins.  The indulgence of one sin diverts the soul from the use of those means by which all other sins should be resisted.  –John Owen
  9. When sin is your burden, Christ will be your delight.  –Thomas Watson
  10. There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.  –Richard Sibbes
  11. If the guilt of sin is so great that nothing can satisfy it but the blood of Jesus; and the filth of sin is so great that nothing can fetch out the stain thereof but the blood of Jesus, how great, how heinous, how sinful must the evil of sin be.  –William Bridge
  12. The way to avoid temptation is not always to apply a salve directly pertinent to the temptation; but turn off your mind and your thoughts to some other good object, and by that time your mind is settled upon other objects, you will be easily able to meet with the temptation.  –William Bridge
  13. A regenerate person abhors sin not only for the curse but for the contagion.  He hates this serpent not only for its sting but for its poison.  He hates sin not only for hell but as hell.  –Thomas Watson
  14. Sin is a plague, yea, the greatest and most infectious plague in the world; and yet, ah! how few are there that tremble at it, that keep at a distance from it!  –Thomas Brooks
  15. Take heed of secret sins.  They will undo thee if loved and maintained: one moth may spoil the garment; one leak drown the ship; a penknife stab can kill a man as well as a sword; so one sin may damn the soul; nay, there is more danger of a secret sin causing the miscarrying of the soul than open profaneness, because not so obvious to the reproofs of the world.  –Jeremiah Burroughs
  16. The Christian soldier must avoid two evils—he must not faint or yield in the time of fight, and after a victory he must not wax insolent and secure.  When he has overcome, he is so to behave himself as though he were presently again to be assaulted. For Satan’s temptations, like the waves of the sea, do follow one in the neck of the other.  –George Downame
  17. The wisdom of God is seen in this, that the sins of men shall carry on God’s work; yet that He should have no hand in their sin. The Lord permits sin, but doth not approve it. He hath a hand in the action in which sin is, but not in the sin of the action.  –Thomas Watson
  18. The pleasure of sin is soon gone, but the sting remains.  –Thomas Watson
  19. Go where you will serve best and sin the least.  –Richard Baxter
  20. If you wish to stand firm in the midst of suffering, forewarn yourself of this fact: Temptation is never stronger than when relief seems to dress itself in the very sin that Satan is suggesting.  –William Gurnall
  21. Do you mortify [sin]?  Do you make it your daily work?  Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you. –John Owen
  22. And the longer you delay, the more your sin gets strength and rooting.  If you cannot bend a twig, how will you be able to bend it when it is a tree?  –Richard Baxter
  23. By delay of repentance, sin strengthens, and the heart hardens.  The longer ice freezeth, the harder it is to be broken.  –Thomas Watson
  24. The wicked do but weep for their sins past, but the godly purpose to sin no more.  –Henry Smith
  25. If an unregenerate man should leave off sin under fear of death or hell, it would not be out of hatred to sin, but out of the fear of the punishment, as the bird is kept from the bait by the scarecrow.  –Thomas Manton
  26. It is an old saying, Repentance is never too late; but it is a true saying, Repentance is never too soon.  –Henry Smith
  27. The bird is easily killed in the egg, but when once hatched and fledged, we may kill it when we can catch it.  A frequent reckoning with ourselves will pluck sin up before it is rooted in the soul.  –George Swinnock
  28. If you yield to Satan in the least, he will carry you further and further, till he has left you under a stupefied or terrified conscience: stupefied, till thou hast lost all thy tenderness.  A stone at the top of a hill, when it begins to roll down, ceases not till it comes to the bottom.  Thou thinkest it is but yielding a little, and so by degrees are carried on, till thou hast sinned away all thy profession, and all principles of conscience, by the secret witchery of his temptations.  –Thomas Manton
  29. Temptations and occasions put nothing into a man, but only draw out what was in him before.  –John Owen
  30. Our great Pattern hath showed us what our deportment ought to be in all suggestions and temptations.  When the devil showed Him “all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them,” to tempt Him withal, He did not stand and look upon them, viewing their glory, and pondering their empire … but instantly, without stay, He cries, “Get thee hence, Satan.”  Meet thy temptation in its entrance with thoughts of faith concerning Christ on the cross; this will make it sink before thee.  Entertain no parley, no dispute with it, if thou wouldst not enter into it.  –John Owen
  31. Satan gives Adam [a fruit], and takes away Paradise.  Therefore in all temptations let us consider not what he offers, but what we shall lose.  –Richard Sibbes
  32. The mighty streams of the evil thoughts of men will admit of no bounds or dams to put a stop unto them. There are but two ways of relief from them, the one respecting their moral evil, the other their natural abundance. The first is by throwing salt into the spring, as Elisha cured the waters of Jericho—that is, to get the heart and mind seasoned with grace. … The other is, to turn their streams into new channels, putting new aims and ends upon them, fixing them on new objects: so shall we abound in spiritual thoughts; for abound in thoughts we shall, whether we will or not.  –John Owen
  33. The devil desires to winnow Peter, not Judas.  The more faithful servants of God we be, the more doth Satan bruise us with the flail, or grate us with the fan.  The thief does not break into an empty cottage, but into some furnished house or full granary, where the fatness of the booty is a fitness to his desires.  The unclean spirit finds no rest in an atheist, usurer, drunkard, swearer, etc.  He knows a canker has overrun their consciences already; and that they are as sure as temptation can make them.  What need he tempt them that tempt themselves? –Thomas Adams
  34. Satan doth not tempt God’s children because they have sin in them, but because they have grace in them.  Had they no grace, the devil would not disturb them. … Though to be tempted is a trouble, yet to think why you are tempted is a comfort.  –Thomas Watson
  35. None can better discover Satan’s sleights and policies, than those who have been long in the fencing-school of temptation.  –Thomas Watson
  36. Such a man as opposes nothing to the seduction of sin and lust in his heart but fear of shame among men or hell from God, is sufficiently resolved to do the sin if there were no punishment attending it.  –John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 6: “Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers”
  37. Satan tempts to sin gradually.  As the husbandman digs about the root of a tree, and by degrees loosens it, and at last it falls.  Satan steals by degrees into the heart: he is at first more modest.  –Thomas Watson, Heaven Taken by Storm
  38. Satan doth sow most of his seed of temptation in hearts that lie fallow.  When he sees persons unemployed, he will find work for them to do.  –Thomas Watson, Heaven Taken by Storm
  39. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and wherein I have denied myself: also at the end of every week, month and year.  –Jonathan Edwards, Resolutions
  40. More are hurt by lawful things than unlawful, as more are killed with wine than poison.  Gross sins affright, but how many take a surfeit and die, in using lawful things inordinately.  Recreation is lawful, eating and drinking are lawful, but many offend by excess, and their table is a snare.  Relations are lawful, but how often does Satan tempt to overlove!  How often is the wife and child laid in God’s room.  Excess makes things lawful become sinful.  –Thomas Watson
  41. A sin is two sins when it is defended.  –Henry Smith
  42. Secret sins are more dangerous to the person in some respects than open sins.  For a man doth, by his art of sinning, deprive himself of the help of his sinfulness.  Like him who will carry his wound covered, or who bleeds inwardly, help comes not in because the danger is not decried nor known.  If a man’s sin breaks out there is a minister at hand, a friend near, and others to reprove, to warn, to direct; but when he is the artificer of his lusts, he bars himself of all public remedy.  –Obadiah Sedgwick
  43. It is Satan’s custom by small sins to draw us to greater, as the little sticks set the great ones on fire, and a wisp of straw kindles a block of wood.  –Thomas Manton
  44. God had but one Son without corruption, but he had none without temptation.  Such is Satan’s enmity to the Father, that the nearer and dearer any child is to him, the more will Satan trouble him, and vex him with temptations.  None so well-beloved as Christ; none so much tempted as he.  –Thomas Brooks
  45. If we do not abide in prayer, we will abide in temptation.  Let this be one aspect of our daily intercession: “God, preserve my soul, and keep my heart and all its ways so that I will not be entangled.”  When this is true in our lives, a passing temptation will not overcome us.  We will remain free while others lie in bondage.  –John Owen
  46. The best course to prevent falling into the pit is to keep at the greatest distance; he that will be so bold as to attempt to dance upon the brink of the pit, may find by woeful experience that it is a righteous thing with God that he should fall into the pit.  –Thomas Brooks
  47. In the strength of Christ, and in the power of the Spirit, set roundly upon the mortifying of every lust.  Oh, hug none, indulge none, but resolvedly set upon the ruin of all!  One leak in a ship will sink it; one wound strikes Goliath dead as well as three-and-twenty did Caesar; one Delilah may do Samson as much spite and mischief as all the Philistines; one broken wheel spoils all the whole clock; one vein bleeding will let out all the vitals as well as more; one fly will spoil a whole box of ointment; one bitter herb all the pottage.  …  Ah, Christian!  dost thou not know what a world of mischief one unmortified lust may do? and therefore let nothing satisfy thee but the blood of all thy lusts.  –Thomas Brooks, The Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod
  48. Though He leaves us for a time, yet doth He not forsake us for ever, no more than a nurse doth the weakling child.  She maketh use of one fall to keep the child from many, and God doth make use of our sinning to make us see how prone we are to sin, and so prevent us for the future.  –John Lightfoot

2 Comments

  1. Russell Drake says:

    Thank you for such rich quotes which stir us up to live separate from the wickedness of sin both in us, and around us. This site you have put together is very encouraging as I too have a great desire for the Church to seek out the beauty of holiness in Christ. May the Lord continue to bless you as you continue digging in the treasures of the Puritan works. For indeed they offer much richness in both tables of the law of God and sadly the church has become partial in obeying the law like in Malachai’s day. Oh that our precious Lord might put in our hearts the zeal and love for Him to obey the first table in restoring worship, sabbath keeping, true doctrine, and separation from all inward and outward sin in the quest for true holiness and Christlike conformity. One last note didn’t you used to have a webpage with a lot more info info, if so, could you give me the address, I believe it had some real good advice on redeeming the time with William Gurnall, etc.

    Russell Drake
    reformation.drake@gmail.com
    6/28/74

    • Jessica says:

      I did post on this website about redeeming the time (a few years ago) which included some quotations; however, sometime ago I deleted the previous contents and design of this blog.

      Thank you for the kind words of encouragement about this little humble blog being of some encouragement. (I had actually written posts mainly for my own personal benefit, as an outlet and notes to help me remember things from my readings etc., for future reminders.) I’m thankful to the Lord if someone else could find it encouraging.

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Commonplaces

When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery…I do not know what the words mean. To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labours and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. — G. K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong With the World

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Hi, welcome to my blog! My name is Jessica. I'm a Reformed Presbyterian who loves reading, learning more of God, playing piano, the Puritans, apologetics, old-fashioned things, and exchanging thoughts. This is a place where I write some thoughts or things I'd like to learn.

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