TEMPTATION BY GEORGE H. HEPWORTH, D.D.

For God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. — St. James i., 13

THERE are very few persons who have not been sorely tempted to do what neither reason nor conscience would approve. To resist is to add fibre to your character and to yield is to lose what it is very difficult to regain — your self-respect.

Temptation never comes out into the open and never argues fairly. It does not dare to tell the whole truth, but presents a subject in the light of false logic, gilds a bad argument until it looks like gold, and always leaves its victim to immeasurable regret.

A despotic conscience which does not know how

to surrender is the safest guide we can have, for then

one can look Heaven and earth in the face; but if for
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some promised good or pleasure we bid our con-

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234 HERALD SERMONS

science vacate its throne, happiness and peace of mind take their departure. There is, therefore, nothing on the planet of so much worth as a clean conscience. If you have it for a bedfellow your sleep will not be disturbed,

I have watched the subtle processes of temptation in myself and others. It comes in the guise of good advice in order the more easily to accomplish your ruin. It sneers at your moral sense, assures you that we are here to enjoy ourselves in whatever way opportunity may offer, and declares that your scruples have no solid foundation. If you do not grasp the offered advantage some one else will, therefore do not hesitate. You are only too willing to listen,
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and while you do so your moral sense is being dulled. Reiteration of this false reasoning still further undermines your rectitude, and after a while you pretend to be convinced, but it is only a pretence. The deed is done and then you wake up to find that while you have gained something you have lost still more. You have gained a well -filled purse or you have indulged in some demoralizing pleasure, but you have lost a well-filled heart and learned what it is to hate yourself,

TEMPTATION 235

It is a somewhat cruel world, because false estimates of what constitutes happiness have thrown so many temptations in our way. There is an overvaluation of money and an under- valuation of moral principle. The race is so eager, so wild, so intoxicating that we forget everything except to get ahead
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of our competitors, and the means we take to accomplish this are justified, we think, by the fact of winning. As a consequence the tone of life is lowered and we measure a man by what he has, not by what he is. The bank account rather than the character excites our envy. Riches and the pursuit of riches are the bases of orderly society, provided riches and rectitude are interwoven; but riches without the rectitude are of no benefit to any one.

Men and women are too ready to pay a thoughtless, a reckless price for the goods they covet. Fame is worth something, and so is reputation, if it is honestly earned, but if you compromise your honor you are practically selling your soul.

What we need in this generation is a heroic dose of that old-fashioned corrective — moral principle. The only real man, the only man who is recognized in heaven, is the upright and the downright man.

236 HERALD SERMONS
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It may be hard to persuade the public of this truth, but it is the truth nevertheless, and cannot be evaded or ignored. If a nation or an individual is to live comfortably it must live virtuously. False standards mean false and wretched lives, and the logic of events will make that fact known with terrific emphasis.

Honesty comes first, and after that anything you can get. When you give up the honesty, the purity of heart, in exchange for anything else you suddenly find that you have been cheated out of your best self. The object of life is not to acquire, not that solely, unless it be to acquire character. Your temptation to gash your conscience is based on a promise which will never be kept, or if the worldly goods are delivered you will be robbed of something worth a great deal more. Stiffen your conscience until it will not feel the force of temptation, and then you will be ready for life, for death, and for any other world to which you may go when your term on earth expires.

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The only thing to set men right and keep them right is the Sermon on the Mount. It is the thought of others which consecrates the thought of self. A

staff and scrip with a clean heart will do more for human happiness than whatever else you may desire, and until we get back to that fact and to a full appreciation of it we shall fail in the great essentials.

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