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Questions Answered Extempore by Miss Emma Hardinge 1866

 

Question 3

 

WHAT are the ideas revealed to you regarding the law of temptation? Answer

 

I HAVE already said that in our alliance to the world beneath ourselves, in our relations to the animal kingdom, in our gravitation to the earth on which we tread, in the fact that within us are to be found all the constituent elements of matter, and with them their forces and proclivities, so in all these, there is a perpetual tendency to outwork a set of lower faculties which of necessity grow out of our relationship with a lower kingdom than man’s. It is not absolutely necessary, then, that a personal tempter should be present with us to realise the fact that we feel and often act out the irresistible tendencies of sin. Besides these movings to evil, originating in our connection with matter, consider the action of a personal and individualised tempter,


 

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and analyse how much of influence such a one can exert, in human or spiritual intercourse.

 

Suppose that a murderer would tempt his fellow men to commit a deed of death: he arrays all the motives that would induce men to commit such an act. Acquisitiveness, hate, vengeance, a desire to rid the earth of the presence of some obnoxious person, any and every reason that could induce the committal of the deed are urged upon perhaps two differing human natures. On one they have no effect: on the other they are said to produce, by the strength of the temptation, a result in the deed of crime. This is the world’s view of the action of temptation, but I affirm that the deed and its proclivities thereto were in the heart, or ever the tempter could have power over it. It is an impossibility that the weaker can control the stronger: we acknowledge this in physics, and yet in metaphysics by the world’s verdict on temptation we deny it. But I believe that only if you are weaker, then the suggesting demon will make you yield - if stronger, his temptation has now power over you, but in your strength you may affect your tempter; for as you essay to resist him, you too array a set of motives which may influence him, and therefore while resistance to temptation strengthens yourself, the action is beneficent, and often proves a source of strength to others.

 

In this sense, then, it seems that the philosophy of temptation is a part of the Divine scheme, first for outworking by mental, moral and intellectual effort the soul’s great latent powers of good and judgment, next as a means of freeing our spirits by a struggle from the material mould and its attractions in which we are born; above all, it is a battle fought not only with ourselves but also with those undeveloped minds which seek to become our tempters. Temptation, too, to sin is a prompting to that spirit of investigation which teaches us to search into the sources of crime, not only in the world but in ourselves. Should we desire to bring to a yet more critical issue the subject of temptation, we must ask who does the deed of sin? whose hand is it that strikes the blow, whose lip receives the intoxicating draught, whose hand that shakes the dice, whose tongue proclaims the angry word. Is it the tempter’s or the actors of the crime themselves? Be assured we are not only the battle-ground on which the mighty warfare of right and wrong is enacted, but we are one of the warriors; and as we rise above the temptation or sink beneath it, we may assure ourselves we have defined the true measure of our guilt, far more than of that of our tempters. He at best or worst but proffered the cup of guilt, we it is that have quaffed it, we therefore it is that are guilty. There can be no power in the sinful man to tempt the good, and none can sink the impure down lower than himself. I believe in no retrogression, and I define that the power of temptation only exists to externalise some latent sin that lies with us hidden. It may indeed be deemed the fiery match applied to the cannon’s mouth. The materials of destruction were quiescent there before the spark was applied; it might have so remained for ages, and none have known that it was an instrument of death, until the touchstone of the fire revealed its destroying nature. Even in such an action as this do I find the force of temptation to consist; and yet in view of its manifold uses in the Divine scheme of soul’s growth and ultimate triumph over sin and matter, I still must say “thank God for temptation.2 It is said in the ancient Scriptures that “When Satan presented himself before the Lord, he came amongst the sons of God.” It will be ever so. Among the sons of God that cluster round our hearts, the angelic virtues that are striving through aspiration for expression, Satan, the Adversary, is ever there. It is said, to carry out the figure, that the Adversary went forth to tempt man. Never let us forget that the same parable


 

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instructs us that such temptation only was permitted by the mightier power of God, and that it was only through the Adversary we then, as now, discover the strength of good to overcome the bad; the power of mind to battle for the right, or the glorious triumph of that victory which conquers darkness by the power of light, and only slays the evil with the sword of good.

 

Question 4  January 15th, 1866