The enticement of sin is heightened when the imagination dominates over the mind. It implants vain thoughts within the mind, and delights secretly in its complacency. When we indulge with delight in thoughts of forbidden things, we commit sin, even though our will has not yet consented to perform the deed. The prophet asks, “How long will your vain thoughts lodge within you?” (Jer 4:14). All these thoughts come and go as messengers, carrying sin with them. Such thoughts inflame the imagination and entangle the affections more and more.
As we have already seen, sin always seeks to extenuate and lessen the seriousness of sin to the mind. “It is only a small offense,” it says. “It will be given up shortly.” With such excuses it speaks the language of a deceived heart. When there is a readiness on the part of the soul to listen to these silent voices—secret insinuations that arise from deceit—it is evident that the affections are already enticed.When the soul willingly listens to these seductions, it has already lost its affections for Christ, and has become seduced. Sin entices like ”wine when it is red, when it gives its colour in the cup, when it moves itself attractively” (Prov 23:31). But in the end, sin “bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder” (Prov 23:32).
How, then, does sin deceive to entice and to entangle the affections? First, it makes use of the tendency of the mind. If the mind is like a sly bird, sin will not capture it. “Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird” (Prov 1:17). But if a bird is distracted, its wings are of little use to escape from the trap. Thus does sin entice. It diverts the mind away from the danger by false reasonings and pretenses, then casts its net upon the affections to entangle them.
Second, sin takes advantage of the phases of life, and proposes sin to be desirable. It gilds over an object with a thousand pretenses which the imagination promotes as “the pleasures of sin” (Heb 11:25). Unless one despises these pleasures, as Moses did, one cannot escape from them. Those who live in sin, the apostle says, “live in pleasure” (James 5:5). It is pleasure because it suits the flesh to lust after them. Hence the caution, given, “Make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Rom 13:14). That is to say, do not nourish yourself with the lusts of the flesh, which sin gives to you through your thoughts or affections. He also warns us, “Fulfill not the lusts of the flesh” (Gal 5:16). When men live under the power of sin, they fulfill “the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (Eph 2:3). When sin would entangle the soul, it prevails with the imagination to solicit the heart by painting sin as something beautiful and satisfying.
Third, it hides the danger associated with sin. Sin covers the hook with bait, and spreads the food over the net. It is, of course, impossible for sin to completely remove the knowledge of danger from the soul. It cannot remove the reality that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23), or hide “the judgment of God, that they who commit sin are worthy of death” (Rom 1:32). But it so takes up and possesses the mind and affections with the attraction and desirability of sin, that it diverts the soul from realizing its danger.