Precious Remedies Against Satan's
By Thomas Brooks, (1608 - 1680)
"Lest Satan should get an advantage of usófor we are not
ignorant of his devices." 2 Cor. 2:11
DEVICE 9. By presenting to the soul the crosses, losses,
reproaches, sorrows, and sufferings, which daily attend those who walk in
the ways of holiness. Says Satan, Do not you see that there are
none in the world that are so vexed, afflicted, and tossed, as those who
walk more circumspectly and holily than their neighbors? They are a byword
at home, and a reproach abroad; their miseries come in upon them like Job's
messengers, one upon the neck of another, and there is no end of their
sorrows and troubles. Therefore, says Satan, you were better to walk in ways
that are less troublesome, and less afflicted, though they be more sinful;
for who but a madman would spend his days in sorrow, vexation, and
affliction, when it may be prevented by walking in the ways that I set
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device
of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That all the
afflictions that attend the people of God, are such as shall turn to their
profit and glorious advantage.
They shall discover that filthiness and vileness in sin, that yet the
soul has never seen.
It was a speech of a German divine in his sickness, 'In
this disease I have learned how great God is, and what the evil of sin is; I
never knew in my experience, who God was, nor what sin meant--until now.'
Afflictions are a crystal glass, wherein the soul has the clearest sight of
the ugly face of sin. In this glass the soul comes to see sin to be but a
bitter-sweet; yes, in this glass the soul comes to see sin not only to be an
evilóbut to be the greatest evil in the world, to be an evil far worse than
Again, They shall contribute to the mortifying and
purging away of their sins (Isa. 1:15, and 27:8, 9). Afflictions are God's
furnace, by which he cleanses his people from their dross. Affliction is a
fire to purge out our dross, and to make virtue shine. Afflictions are
medicines which heal soul diseases, better than all the remedies of
physicians. Aloes kill worms; colds and frosts do destroy vermin; so do
afflictions the corruptions that are in our hearts. The Jews, under all the
prophet's thunderings, retained their idols; but after their Babylonish
captivity, it is observed, there have been no idols found among them.
Again, Afflictions are sweet preservatives to keep the
saints from sin, which is a greater evil than hell itself. As Job spoke,
'Surely it is fit to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, I will not
offend any more. That which I see not, teach me; if I have done iniquity, I
will do it no more. Once have I spoken foolishly, yes, twice, I will do so
no more' (Job 34:31, 32; 40:5). The burnt child dreads the fire. Ah! says
the soul under the rod, sin is but a bitter-sweet; and for the future I
intend, by the strength of Christ, that I will not buy repentance at so dear
Salt brine preserves from putrefaction, and salt marshes
keep the sheep from the rot: so do afflictions the saints from sin. The ball
in the Emblem says, the harder you beat me down in affliction, the higher I
shall bound in affection towards heaven and heavenly things.
The Rabbis, to scare their scholars from sin, were
accustomed to tell them, 'That sin made God's head ache.' And saints under
the rod have found by woeful experience, that sin makes not only their
headsóbut their hearts ache also.
Augustine, by wandering out of his way, escaped one that
lay in wait to harm him. If afflictions did not put us out of our way, we
would many times meet with some sin or other, that would harm our precious
Again, They will work the saints to be more fruitful in
holiness (Heb. 12:10, 11): 'But he afflicts us for our profit, that we might
be partakers of his holiness.' The flowers smell sweetest after a shower;
vines bear the better fruit, after pruning; the walnut tree is most fruitful
when most beaten. Saints spring and thrive most internally when they are
most externally afflicted. Afflictions are called by some 'the mother of
virtue.' Manasseh's chain was more profitable to him than his crown. Luther
could not understand some Scriptures until he was in affliction. The
Christ-cross is no letter, and yet that taught him more than all the letters
in the row. God's house of correction is his school of instruction. All the
stones that came about Stephen's ears did but knock him closer to Christ,
the corner-stone. The waves did but lift Noah's ark nearer to heaven; and
the higher the waters grew, the more near the ark was lifted up to heaven.
Afflictions lift up the soul to more rich, clear, and
full enjoyments of God (Hosea 2:14): 'Behold, I will allure her into the
wilderness, and speak comfortably to her' (or rather, as the Hebrew has it),
'I will earnestly or vehemently speak to her heart.' God makes afflictions
to be but inlets to the soul's more sweet and full enjoyment of his blessed
self. When was it that Stephen saw the heavens open, and Christ standing at
the right hand of Godóbut when the stones were about his ears, and there was
but a short step between him and eternity? And when did God appear in his
glory to Jacobóbut in the day of his troubles, when the stones were his
pillows, and the ground his bed, and the hedges his curtains, and the
heavens his canopy? Then he saw the angels of God ascending and descending
in their glistering robes.
The plant grows with cutting; being cut, it flourishes;
it contends with the axe, it lives by dying, and by cutting it grows. So do
saints by their afflictions which befall them; they gain more experience of
the power of God supporting them, of the wisdom of God directing them, of
the grace of God refreshing and cheering them, and of the goodness of God
quieting and quickening of them, to a greater love to holiness, and to a
greater delight in holiness, and to a more vehement pursuing after holiness.
It is reported of Tiberius the emperor that, passing by a
place where he saw a cross lying in the ground upon a marble stone, and
causing the stone to be dug up, he found a great deal of treasure under the
cross. So many a precious saint has found much spiritual and heavenly
treasure under the crosses they have met withal.
I have read of a fountain, that at noonday is cold, and
at midnight it grows warm; so many a precious soul is cold God-wards, and
heaven-wards, and holiness-wards, in the day of prosperity; that grow warm
God-wards and heaven-wards, and holiness-wards, in the midnight of
Again, Afflictions serve to keep the hearts of the saints
humble and tender (Lam. 3:19, 20): 'Remembering my affliction and my misery,
the wormwood and the gall. My soul has them still in remembrance, and is
humbled in me,' or bowed down in me, as the original has it. So David, when
he was under the rod, could say, 'I was mute, I opened not my mouth; because
you did it' (Psalm 39:4).
I have read of Gregory Nazianzen, who, when anything fell
out prosperously, would read over the Lamentation of Jeremiah, and that kept
his heart tender, humbled, and low. Prosperity does not contribute more to
the puffing up the soul, than adversity does to the bowing down of the soul.
This the saints by experience find; and therefore they can kiss and embrace
the cross, as others do the world's crown. The more the purest spices are
beaten and bruised--the sweeter scent and fragrance they send abroad. So do
saints when they are afflicted.
Again, They serve to bring the saints nearer to God, and
to make them more importunate and earnest in prayer with God. 'Before I was
afflicted, I went astray; but now have I kept your word.' 'It is good for me
that I have been afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.' 'I will be to
Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I,
will tear and go away: I will take away, and none shall rescue him.' 'I will
go and return to my place, until they acknowledge their offence, and seek my
face: in their affliction they will seek me early.' And so they did. 'Come,'
say they, 'and let us return unto the Lord: for he has torn, and he will
heal us; he has smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days he will
revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his
sight.' (Psalm 119:67, 71. Hosea 5:14, 15; 6:1, 2.)
So when God had hedged up their way with thorns, then
they say, 'I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it with me
better than now' (Hosea 2:6, 7). Ah the joy, the peace, the comfort, the
delight, and contentment that did attend us, when we kept close communion
with God, does bespeak our return to God. 'We will return to our first
husband; for then was it with us better than now.'
When Tiribazus, a noble Persian, was arrested, he drew
out his sword, and defended himself; but when they told him that they came
to carry him to the king, he willingly yielded. So, though a saint may at
first stand a little out, yet when he remembers that afflictions are to
carry him nearer to God, he yields, and kisses the rod. Afflictions are like
the prick at the nightingale's bosom--which awakens her, and puts her upon
her sweet and delightful singing.
Again, Afflictions serve to revive and recover decayed
graces; they inflame that love that is cold, and they quicken that faith
that is decaying, and they put life into those hopes that are withering, and
spirits into those joys and comforts that are languishing. Most men are like
a top, which will not go unless you whip it, and the more you whip it the
better it goes. You know how to apply it. Those who are in adversity, says
Luther, do better understand Scriptures; but those who are in prosperity
read them as a verse in Ovid. Bees are killed with too much honey, but
quickened with vinegar. The honey of prosperity kills our gracesóbut the
vinegar of adversity quickens our graces. Musk, says one, when it has lost
its fragrance, if it is put into the sink among filth--that recovers it. So
do afflictions recover and revive decayed graces. The more saints are beaten
with the hammer of afflictions, the more they are made the trumpets of God's
praises, and the more are their graces revived and quickened. Adversity
abases the loveliness of the world which strives to entice us; it abates the
lustiness of the flesh within, which strives to incite us to folly and
vanity; and it assists the soul in his quarrel to the two former, which
tends much to the reviving and recovering of decayed graces.
Now, suppose afflictions and troubles attend the ways of
holiness, yet seeing that they all work for the great profit and singular
advantage of the saints, let no soul be so mad as to leave an afflicted way
of holiness, to walk in a smooth path of wickedness.
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device
of Satan is, solemnly to consider, that all
the afflictions which befall the saints, only reach their worse part; they
reach not, they hurt not, their noble part, their best part. 'And
who shall harm you, if you be followers of that which is good,' says the
apostle (1 Peter 3:13). That is, none shall harm you. They may thus and thus
afflict youóbut they shall never harm you. The Christian soldier shall ever
be master of the day. He may suffer deathóbut never conquest.
It was the speech of an heathen, when as by a tyrant he
was commanded to be put into a mortar, and to be beaten to pieces with an
iron pestle, he cries out to his persecutors: 'You do but beat the vessel,
the case, the husk; you do not beat me.' His body was to him but as a case,
a husk; he counted his soul himself, which they could not reach. You are
wise, and know how to apply it.
Socrates said of his enemies, 'They may kill meóbut they
cannot hurt me.' So afflictions may kill usóbut they cannot hurt us; they
may take away my lifeóbut they cannot take away my God, my Christ, my crown.
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device
of Satan is, seriously to consider, That the
afflictions which attend the saints in the ways of holiness, are but short
and momentary. 'Sorrow may abide for a nightóbut joy comes in the
morning' (Psalm 30:5). This short storm will end in an everlasting calm,
this short night will end in a glorious day, that shall never have end. It
is but a very short time between grace and glory, between our title to the
crown and our wearing the crown, between our right to the heavenly
inheritance and our possession of the heavenly inheritance. What is our life
but a shadow, a bubble, a flower, a runner, a span, a dream? Yes, so small a
while does the hand of the Lord rest upon us, that Luther cannot get
diminutives enough to extenuate it, for he calls it a very little cross that
we bear. The prophet in Isaiah 26:20, says the indignation does not passóbut
overpass. The sharpness, shortness, and suddenness of it is set forth by the
travail of a woman (John 16:21). And that is a sweet scripture: 'For you
have need of patience, that after you have done the will of God, you might
receive the promise.' 'For yet a little while, he who shall come will come,
and will not tarry' (Heb. 10:36, 37). 'A little, little, little while.'
There are none of God's afflicted ones that have not
their intermissions and respites whiles under their short and momentary
afflictions. When God's hand is on your back, let your hand be on your
mouth, for though the affliction be sharp, it shall be but short.
When Athanasius's friends came to bewail him, because of
his misery and banishment, he said, 'It is but a little cloud, and will
quickly be gone.' It will be but as a day before God will give his afflicted
ones beauty for ashes, the oil of gladness for the spirit of heaviness;
before he will turn all your sighing into singing, all your lamentations
into consolations, your sackcloth into silks, ashes into ointments, and your
fasts into everlasting feasts!
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device
of Satan, is seriously to consider, That the
afflictions which befall the saints are such as proceed from God's dearest
love. 'As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten' (Rev. 3:19).
Saints, says God, think not that I hate you, because I thus chide you. He
who escapes discipline may suspect his adoption. God had one Son without
corruptionóbut no son without correction. A gracious soul may look
through the darkest cloud, and see God smiling on him. We must look through
the anger of his correction to the sweetness of his countenance; even as by
the rainbow we see the beautiful image of the sun's light in the midst of a
dark and watery cloud.
Augustine asks--If he were beloved, how came he to be
sick? So are wicked men apt to say, because they know not that corrections
are pledges of our adoption, and badges of our sonship. God had one Son
without sinóbut none without sorrow.
When Munster lay sick, and his friends asked him how he
did and how he felt himself, he pointed to his sores and ulcers, whereof he
was full, and said, 'These are God's gems and jewels, with which he decks
his best friends, and to me they are more precious than all the gold and
silver in the world.' A soul at first conversion is but rough cast; but God
by afflictions does square and fit, and fashion it for that glory above,
which shows that discipline flows from precious love; therefore the
afflictions which attend the people of God should be no bar to holiness, nor
no motive to draw the soul to ways of wickedness.
Remedy (5). The fifth remedy against this device
of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That it is our
duty and glory not to measure afflictions by the smart--but by the end.
When Israel was dismissed out of Egypt, it was with gold and
ear-rings (Exod. 11:3); so the Jews were dismissed out of Babylon with
gifts, jewels, and all necessary utensils (Ezra 1:7-11). Look more at the
latter end of a Christian--than the beginning of his affliction. Consider
the patience of Job, and what end the Lord made with him. Look not upon
Lazarus lying at Dives's dooróbut lying in Abraham's bosom. Look not to the
beginning of Joseph, who was so far from his dream that the sun and moon
should reverence him, that for two years he was cast where he could see
neither sun, moon, nor stars; but behold him at last made ruler over Egypt.
Look not upon David as there was but a step between him and death, nor as he
was envied by some, and slighted and despised by others; but behold him
seated in his royal throne, and dying in his bed of honor, and his son
Solomon and all his glistering nobles about him.
Afflictions, they are but as a dark entry into your
Father's house; they are but as a dirty lane to a royal palace. Now, tell
me, souls, whether it be not very great madness to shun the ways of
holiness, and to walk in the ways of wickedness, because of those
afflictions which attend the ways of holiness.
Afflictions, they are but our Father's goldsmiths, who
are working to add pearls to our crowns. Tiberius saw paradise when he
walked upon hot burning coals. Herodotus said of the Assyrians, Let them
drink nothing but wormwood all their life long; when they die, they shall
swim in honey. You are wise, and know how to apply it.
Remedy (6). The sixth remedy against this device
of Satan is, seriously to consider, That the design
of God in all the afflictions which befall them, is only to try them; it is
not to wrong them, nor to ruin them, as ignorant souls are apt to think.
'He knows the way that I take: and when he has tried me, I shall come
forth as gold,' says patient Job, 33:10. So in Deut. 8:2, 'And you shall
remember all the way which the Lord your God led you these forty years in
the wilderness, to humble you, and to prove you, to know what was in your
heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.' God afflicted them
thus, that he might make known to themselves and others what was in their
hearts. When fire is put to green wood, there comes out abundance of watery
stuff that before appeared not; when the pond is empty, the mud, filth, and
toads come to light. The snow covers many a ash-heap, so does prosperity
many a rotten heart. It is easy to wade in a warm bath, and every bird can
sing in a sunshine day. Hard weather tries what health we have; afflictions
try what sap we have, what grace we have. Withered leaves soon fall off in
windy weather, rotten boughs quickly break with heavy weights. You are wise,
and know how to apply it.
Afflictions are like pinching frosts, which will search
us; where we are most unsound, we shall soonest complain, and where most
corruptions lie, we shall most shrink. We try metal by knocking; if it sound
well, then we like it. So God tries his by knocking, and if under knocks
they yield a pleasant sound, God will turn their night into day, and their
bitter into sweet, and their cross into a crown; and they shall hear that
voice, 'Arise, and shine; for the glory of the Lord is risen upon you, and
favors of the Lord are flowing in on you' (Is. 60:1).
Dunghills raked send out a filthy stream; ointments
crushed send out a sweet perfume. This is applicable to sinners and saints
under the rod.
Remedy (7). The seventh remedy against this
device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That the
afflictions, wrath, and misery which attend the ways of wickedness, are far
greater and heavier than those which attend the ways of holiness.
Oh, the galling, girding, lashing, and gnawing of conscience, which attend
souls in a way of wickedness! 'The wicked,' says Isaiah, 'are like the
troubled sea, which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.' 'There
is no peace to the wicked, says my God.'
There are snares in all their mercies, and curses and
crosses attend all their comforts, both at home and abroad. What is a fine
suit of clothes with the plague in it? and what is a golden cup when there
is poison at the bottom? or what is a silken stocking with a broken leg in
it? The curse of God, the wrath of God, the hatred of God, and the fierce
indignation of God--always attend sinners walking in a way of wickedness.
Turn to Deuteronomy 28, and read from ver. 15 to the end of the chapter; and
turn to Leviticus 26, and read from ver. 14 to the end of the chapter, and
then you shall see how the curse of God haunts the wicked, as it were a
fury, in all his ways. In the city it attends him, in the country hovers
over him; coming in, it accompanies him; going forth, it follows him, and in
travel it is his comrade. It fills his heart with strife, and mingles the
wrath of God with his sweetest morsels. It is a moth in his wardrobe,
disease among his cattle, mildew in the field, rot among sheep, and ofttimes
makes his children, his greatest vexation and confusion. There is no solid
joy, nor lasting peace, nor pure comfort, which attends sinners in their
sinful ways. There is a sword of vengeance that every moment hang over
their heads by a small thread! And what joy and contentment can attend
such souls, if the eye of conscience be but so far open as to see the sword?
Ah! the horrors and terrors, the tremblings and shakings, that attend their
Sin brings in sorrow and sickness. The Rabbis say, that
when Adam tasted the forbidden fruit, his head ached. Sirens are said to
sing curiously while they liveóbut to roar horribly when they die. So do the
(Sin oftentimes makes men insensible of the wrath of the
Almighty. Sin transforms many a man, as it were, into those bears in Pliny,
that could not be stirred with the sharpest prickles; or those fish in
Aristotle, that though they have spears thrust into their sides, yet they