Our Thoughts: the Spawning Ground of Temptation

James 1:14,15; Proverbs 30:32
       Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
       If thou hast thought evil, lay thine hand upon thy mouth.

STEPHEN CHARNOCK (1628-1680): Thoughts are the words of the mind, and as real in God’s account as if they were expressed with the tongue.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): Words are but the female issue of our thoughts, works the male.

WILLIAM ARNOT (1808-1875): When you see a mighty tree in the forest, you assume that it did not leap into maturity in a day, although you saw not its gradual growth: you may as confidently count that full-sized crime did not attain its stature in a day. In all of us are the seeds of it, and in many the seedlings are growing apace. The ways follow the thoughts and words, as trees spring from seeds. He who would be kept from the path of the destroyer must crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts. Out the heart proceed evil thoughts, and soon after murders and adulteries follow. In the matter of watching for one’s soul, as in all other matters, true wisdom is to take care of the beginnings.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Evil thoughts as unavoidably arise from an evil nature, as steam arises from a boiling tea kettle. Every cause will have its effect, and a sinful nature will have sinful effects. You can no more keep such thoughts out of your mind than you can stop the course of the clouds…But though we cannot prevent evil thoughts from rising in our minds, we should endeavour to combat and suppress them.

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): The reason why Job got to such a measure of holiness, [is that] he watched over little things, even his very thoughts, and suffered not the least temptation to have access. For let in one temptation, more will follow it.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): Parley not with that in thy thoughts, which thou meanest not to let into thy heart. If we mean not to be burnt, let us not walk upon the coals of temptation. Thou temptest God to suffer thy locks to be cut, when thou art so bold as to lay thy head in the lap of a temptation.

STEPHEN CHARNOCK: Musing, either carnal or spiritual, makes the fire burn the hotter; as the fury of fire is doubled by being pent up in a furnace…Hence it follows, that every inclination to a sinful motion is a consent in embryo, though the act may prove abortive. If we think of any unlawful thing with pleasure, and imagine it either in possibility or in act, it brings a guilt upon us, as if it were really acted.

RICHARD SIBBES (1577-1635): These thoughts, if the soul dwell on them so long as to suck or draw from and by them any sinful delight, then they leave a more heavy guilt upon the soul, hinder our sweet communion with God, interrupt our peace, and put a contrary relish into the soul, disposing it to greater sins. All scandalous actions are only thoughts at the first. Ill thoughts are as little thieves, which, creeping in at the window, open the door to greater. Thoughts are seeds of actions.

THOMAS MANTON: Speculative wickedness makes way for active wickedness.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Satan labours to provoke the Christian to heart sins, to stir up and foment these inward motions of sins in the Christian’s bosom―to present some sinful motions handsomely dressed up to the eye of the soul, that the Christian may, before he is aware, take this brat up, and handle it in his thoughts, till at least he makes it his own by embracing it; and may be, this boy, sent in at the window, may open the door to let in a greater thief.

RALPH ERSKINE (1685-1752): Thus he leads people from unclean thoughts to unclean looks, words, and actions.

STEPHEN CHARNOCK: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, Isaiah 55:7; Galatians 5:24. Mortification must extend to these: affections must be crucified, and all the little brats of thoughts which beget them, or are begotten by them. Shall we nourish that which brought down the wrath of God upon the old world; as though there had not been already sufficient experiments of the mischief they have done?

WILLIAM GURNALL: Let a wicked man set up a lust for his thoughts to dally with, and the devil will soon be at his elbow to assist him. Many have yielded to go a mile with Satan, that never intended to go two. Thus Satan leads poor creatures down into the depths of sin by winding stairs, that let them not see the bottom whither they are going: first, he presents an object that occasions some thoughts, these set the affections on fire, and these fume up into the brain and cloud the understanding, which, being thus disabled, now Satan dares a little more [to] declare himself, and boldly solicit the creature to do that it would otherwise have defied.

RICHARD SIBBES: When Satan comes to us, he finds something of his own in us, which holds correspondence and has intelligence with him. There is the same enmity in our nature to God and goodness, in some degree, that is in Satan himself. Therefore his temptations fasten, for the most part, some taint upon us. And if there were no devil to suggest, yet sinful thoughts would arise from within us, though none were cast in from without. We have a mint of them within.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): All the devils in hell and tempters on earth could do us no injury if there were no corruption in our own natures.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Give not place to Satan! No, not an inch in his first motions…Set a strong guard about thy outward senses: these are Satan’s landing-places, especially the eye and the ear. Take heed what thou importest at these; vain discourse seldom passeth without leaving some tincture upon the heart. And for thy eye, wanton objects cause wanton thoughts. Job knew his eye and his thoughts were like to go together, and therefore to secure one he covenants with the other, Job 31:1, “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?

JOHN ROBINSON (1575-1625): Every thought of evil is not an evil thought, but only such as to which we adjoin either consent of will, or, at least, a delight of affection.

R. C. CHAPMAN (1803-1902): Sin does not lie in being tempted, but in not resisting temptation.

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): Temptations of course cannot be avoided, but because we cannot prevent the birds from flying over our heads, there is no need that we should let them nest in our hair.

C. H. SPURGEON: God will not live in the parlour of our hearts if we entertain the devil in the cellar of our thoughts.

DUTCH PSALTER 386 (Psalm 141): Guard Thou my thoughts, I Thee implore,
                                                                                   And of my lips keep Thou the door;
                                                                                    Nor leave my sinful heart to stray
                                                                                    Where evil footsteps lead the way.


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