Augustine on “Lead us not into Temptation” and the Lord’s Prayer

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Will this again be necessary in the life to come? Lead us not into temptation, will not be said, except where there can be temptation. We read in the book of holy Job, Is not the life of man upon earth a temptation? What then do we pray for? Hear what. The Apostle James says, Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God. He spoke of those evil temptations, whereby men are deceived, and brought under the yoke of the devil. This is the kind of temptation he spoke of. For there is another sort of temptation which is called a proving; of this kind of temptation it is written, The Lord your God tempts (proves) you to know whether ye love Him. What means to know? To make you know, for He knows already. With that kind of temptation, whereby we are deceived and seduced, God tempts no man. But undoubtedly in His deep and hidden judgment He abandons some. And when He has abandoned them, the tempter finds his opportunity. For he finds in him no resistance against his power, but immediately presents himself to him as his possessor, if God abandon him. Therefore that He may not abandon us, do we say, Lead us not into temptation. For every one is tempted, says the same Apostle James, when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Then lust, when it has conceived, brings forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death. What then has he hereby taught us? To fight against our lusts. For you are about to put away your sins in Holy Baptism; but lusts will still remain, wherewith ye must fight after that you are regenerate. For a conflict with your own selves still remains. Let no enemy from without be feared: conquer your own self, and the whole world is conquered. What can any tempter from without, whether the devil or the devil’s minister, do against you? Whosoever sets the hope of gain before you to seduce you, let him only find no covetousness in you; and what can he who would tempt you by gain effect? Whereas if covetousness be found in you, you take fire at the sight of gain, and art taken by the bait of this corrupt food. But if he find no covetousness in you, the trap remains spread in vain. Or should the tempter set before you some woman of surpassing beauty; if chastity be within, iniquity from without is overcome. Therefore that he may not take you with the bait of a strange woman’s beauty, fight with your own lust within; you have no sensible perception of your enemy, but of your own concupiscence you have. Thou dost not see the devil, but the object that engages you you see. Get the mastery then over that of which you are sensible within. Fight valiantly, for He who has regenerated you is your Judge; He has arranged the lists, He is making ready the crown. But because you will without doubt be conquered, if you have not Him to aid you, if He abandon you: therefore do you say in the prayer, Lead us not into temptation. The Judge’s wrath has given over some to their own lusts; and the Apostle says, God gave them over to the lusts of their hearts. How did He give them up? Not by forcing, but by forsaking them.

Sermon 7 on the New Testament, Section 9, as found at https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/160307.htm

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