‘Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.’ Matthew 4:5–7
Suggested Further Reading: 2 Peter 2:9–22
It is a precious doctrine that the saints are safe, but it is a damnable inference from it, that therefore they may live as they please. It is a glorious truth that God will keep his people, but it is an abominable falsehood that sin will do them no harm. Remember that God gives us liberty, not licence, and while he gives us protection, he will not allow us presumption. I did know a person once when I was a child; I remember seeing him go into a country wake in a little village where I lived, though he was a professed Christian, going to spend the evening in a dancing booth with others, drinking as other men did, and when I in my warm zeal said to him, ‘What doest thou here, Elijah?’ his reply was, ‘I am a child of God, and I can go where I like and yet be safe,’ and though for the moment I knew not what text to quote to answer him, yet my soul revolted from the man ever afterwards, for I felt that no child of God would ever be so wicked as to take poison in the faith that his Father would give him the antidote, or thrust himself into the fire, in the hope that he should not be burned. If God sends me trouble he will yield me deliverance from it, but if I make trouble myself I must bear it. If providence permits the devil to set me upon a pinnacle, even then God will help me, but if I throw myself down, and go in the very teeth of providence, then woe unto me, for I give proof by my presumption that the grace of God is not in me at all. Yet the temptation is not uncommon.
For meditation: How would you have answered this man ‘Elijah’ who had no regard for his own soul or for the young Spurgeon’s? Christian liberty does not provide a loophole for the flesh (Romans 13:13–14; Galatians 5:13) or for being a stumbling block to others (Romans 14:13).
Sermon no. 689
6 May (1866)