Satan shows his subtlety in choosing the most proper and advantageous seasons for tempting.‘To every thing there is a season,’ Solomon saith, Ecc. 3:1, that is, a nick of time, which taken, gives facility and speedy despatch to a business; and therefore the same wise man gives this reason why man miscarries so frequently, and is disappointed in his enterprises, ‘because he knows not his time,’ Ecc. 9:12.  He comes when the bird is flown.  A hundred soldiers at one time may turn a battle, save an army, when thousands will not do [it] at another.  Satan knows when to make his approaches, when (if at any time) he is most likely to be entertained.  As Christ hath the tongue of the learned to speak a word in season of counsel and comfort, to a doubting dropping soul, so Satan knows his black heart, and hellish skill, in speaking words of seduction and temptation in season; and a word in season is a words on its wheels.  I shall give you a view of his subtlety in special seasons, which he chooseth to tempt in.  These special seasons are:

1. Season.  When the Christian is newly converted.  No sooner is this child of grace, the new crea­ture, born, but this dragon pours a flood of temptation after it.  He learned the Egyptians but some of his own craft, when he taught them that bloody and cruel baptism, which they exercised upon the Israel­itish babes, in throwing them into the river as soon as they were born.  The first cry of the new creature gives all the legions of hell an alarm.  They are as much troubled at it as Herod and Jerusalem were when Christ was born; and now they sit in council to take away the life of this new-born king.  The apostles met with opposition and persecution in their latter days when endued with larger portions of the Spirit, but with temptations from Satan in their former, when young converts; as you may observe in the sev­eral passages recorded of them.  Satan knew grace within was but weak, and the supplies promised at the Spirit’s coming not landed.  And when is an enemy more like to carry the town than in such a low condition?  And therefore he tries them all.  Indeed the advantages are so many, that we may wonder how the young convert escapes with his life; knowledge [being] weak, and [he] so soon let him into an error, especially in divided times, when many ways are held forth one saying, Here is Christ, another There is Christ.  And the Christian [is] ready to think every one means honestly that comes with good words, as a little child that hath lost his way to his father’s house, is prone to follow any that offer their conduct [or] experience of what he knows little.  And if Adam, whose knowledge [was] so perfect, yet was soon cheated—being assaulted before he was well warm in his new possessions—how much more advantage hath Satan of the new convert!  In him he finds every grace in a great indisposition to make resistance, both from its own weakness, and the strength of contrary corruption, which commonly in such is unmortified. [This] makes it act with more difficulty and mixture, as in a fire newly kindled, where the smoke is more than the flame, or like beer newly tunned which runs thick.  So that though there appear more strength of affection in such, that it works over into greater abundance of duty than in others, yet [it is] with more dregs of carnal passions, which Satan knows, and therefore chooseth to stir what he sees troubled already.

2. Season.  When the Christian is beset with some great affliction, this is as blind lane or solitary place, fit for this thief to call for his purse in.  An expert captain first labours to make a breach in the wall, and then falls on in storming the city.  Satan first got power from God to weaken Job in his estate, children, health and other comforts he had, and now tempts him to impatience, and what not; he lets Christ fast forty days before he comes, and then he falls to his work; as an army stays till a castle be pinched for provision within, and then sends a parley, never more likely to be embraced than in such a strait.  A temptation comes strong when the way to relief seems to lie through the sin that Satan is woo­ing to; when one is poor and Satan comes, What! wilt starve rather than step over the hedge and steal for thy supply? this is enough to put flesh and blood to the stand.

3. Season.  When the Christian is about some notable enterprise for God’s glory, then Satan will lie like a serpent in the way, ‘an adder in the path, that biteth his horse-heels, so that his rider shall fall back­ward.’  Thus he stood at Joshua’s right hand ‘to resist him.’  The right hand is the working hand, and his standing there implies the desire to hinder him in his enterprise.  Indeed the devil was never friend to temple-work, and therefore that work is so long a doing.  What a handsome excuse doth he help the Jews unto—The time is not come!  God’s time was come, but not the devil’s, and therefore he helps them to this poor shift, Ezra 1, 2, 6, 8, perverting the sense of providence as if it were not time, because they were so poor; whereas they thrive no better because they went no sooner about the work, as God tells them plainly.  Paul and Barnabas had a holy design in their thoughts, to [go] visit the brethren in every city, and strengthen their faith.  The devil knew what a blow this might give to his kingdom; their visiting might hinder him in his circuit, and he stirs up an unhappy difference between these two holy men, who grow so hot that they part in this storm, Acts 15:36-39.  There were two remarkable periods of Christ’s life, his intrat and exit, his entrance into his public ministry at his baptism, and his finishing it at his passion, and at both we have the devil fiercely encountering him. The more public thy place, Christian, and the more em­inent thy service for God, the more thou must look that the devil [will have] some more dangerous design or other against thee; and therefore if every private soldier needs armour against Satan’s bullets of temptation, then the commanders and officers, who stand in the front of the battle, much more.

4. Season.  When he hath the presence of some object to enforce his temptation.  Thus he takes Eve when she is near the tree, and had it in her eye while he should make the motion, [so] that [by] assaulting two ports at once, it might be the harder for her to hinder the landing of his temptation; and if Eve’s eye did so soon affect her heart with an inordinate desire, then much more now is it easy for him, by the presence of the object, to excite and actuate that lust which lies dormant in the heart.  As Naomi sent her daughter to lie at the feet of Boaz, knowing well, if he endured her there, there were hope he might take her into his bed at last.  If the Christian can let the object come so near, Satan will promise himself [that] his suit may in time be granted.  Therefore it should be our care, if we would not yield to the sin, not to walk by, or sit at, the door of the occasion.  Look not on that beauty with a wandering eye, by which thou wouldst not be taken prisoner.  Parley not with that in thy thoughts, which thou meanest not to let into thy heart.  Conversation begets affection: some by this have been brought to marry those, whom at first they thought they could not have liked.

5. Season.  After great manifestations of God’s love, then the tempter comes.  Such is the weak con­stitution of grace, that it can neither well bear smiles or frowns from God without a snare; as one said of our English nation, it cannot well bear liberty nor bondage in the height.  So neither can the soul.  If God smile and open himself a little familiar to us, then we are prone to grow high and wanton; if the frown, then we sink as much in our faith.  Thus the one, like fair weather and warm gleams, brings up the weeds of corruption; and the other, like sharp frosts, nips and even kills the flowers of grace.  The Christian is in danger on both hands; therefore Satan takes the advantage, when the Christian is flush of comfort, even as a cheater, who strikes in with some young heir, when he hath newly received his rents, and never leaves till he hath eased him of his money. Thus Satan lies upon the catch, then to inveigle a saint into one sin or other, which he knows will soon leak out his joy.  Had ever any a larger testimony from heaven than Peter? Matt. 16:17, where Christ pronounceth him blessed, and puts a singular honour upon him, making him the representative of all his saints.  No doubt this favour to Peter stirred up the envious spirit the sooner to fall upon him.  If Joseph’s parti-coloured coat made the patriarchs to plot against him their brother, no wonder malice should prompt Satan to show his spite, where Christ had set such a mark of love and honour; and therefore we find him soon at Peter’s elbow, making him his ins­trument to tempt his Master, who rebukes Peter with a ‘get thee behind me, Satan.’  He that seemed a rock even now, through Satan’s policy is laid as a stone of offence for Christ to stumble at.  So [with] David, when he had received such wonderful mercies, settled in his throne with the ruin of his enemies, yea, par­doned for his bloody sin, and now ready to lay down his head with peace in the dust, Satan chops in to cloud his clear evening, and tempts him to number the people; so ambitious is Satan then chiefly to throw the saint into the mire of sin, when his coat is cleanest.

6. Season.  At the hour of death, when the saint is down and prostrate in his bodily strength, now this coward falls upon him.  It is the last indeed he hath for the game; now or never; overcome him now and ever.  As they say of the natural serpent, he is never seen at his length till dying; so this mystical serpent never strains his wits and wiles more, than when his time is short.  The saint is even stepping into eternity, and now he treads upon his heel, which he cannot trip up so as to hinder his arrival in heaven, yet at least to bruise it, that he may go with more pain thither.

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