By Thomas Brooks, (1608 - 1680)
DEVICES TO DESTROY & ENSNARE
I. DEVICES AGAINST THE GREAT AND HONORABLE OF THE EARTH
DEVICE 1.His first device to destroy the great and honorable of the earth is, By working them to make it their business to seek themselves, to seek how to elevate themselves, to raise themselves, to enrich themselves, to secure themselves, as you may see in Pharaoh, Ahab, Rehoboam, Jeroboam, Absalom, Joab, Haman, and others. Self-seeking, like the deluge, overthrows the whole world. But were the Scripture silent, our own experiences do abundantly evidence this way and method of Satan to destroy the great and the honorable; to bury their souls in hell, by drawing them wholly to mind themselves, and only to mind themselves, and in all things to mind themselves, and always to mind themselves. 'All,' said the apostle 'mind themselves' (Phil. 2:21). That is—all comparatively, in respect of the dearth of others who let fall their private interests, and drown all self-seeking, in the glory of God and the public good.
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider,That self-seeking is a sin which will put men upon a plethora of sins, upon sins not only against the law of God, the rules of the gospel—but which are against the very laws of nature—which are so much darkened by the fall of man. It puts the Pharisees upon opposing Christ, and Judas upon betraying Christ, and Pilate upon condemning Christ. It puts Gehazi upon lying, and Balaam upon cursing, and Saul and Absalom upon plotting David's ruin. It puts Pharaoh and Haman upon contriving ways to destroy those Jews whom God did purpose to save by his mighty arm. It puts men upon using wicked balances, and the bag of deceitful weights. It puts men upon ways of oppression and 'selling the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes' (Amos 2:6). I know not any sin in the world but this sin of self-seeking will put men upon it—though it be their eternal loss!
Self-love is the root of the hatred of others, 2 Tim. 3:2. First, lovers of themselves, and then fierce, etc. The naturalists observe, that those beasts which are most cruel to others are most loving to their own.
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider,That self-seeking does exceedingly abase a man. It strips him of all his royalty and glory. It makes a man become a servant to the creature, yes, often to the worst of creatures; yes, a slave to slaves, as you may see in Judas, Demas, Balaam, and the scribes and Pharisees.* Self-seekers bow down to the creatures, as Gideon's many thousands bowed down to the waters. Self-seeking will make a man say anything, do anything, and be anything, to please the lusts of others, in order to get advantages upon others. Self-seeking transforms a man into all shapes and forms; now it makes a man appear as an angel of light, anon as an angel of darkness. Now self-seekers are seemingly for God, anon they are openly against God; now you shall have them crying, 'Hosanna in the highest,' and anon, 'Crucify him, crucify him;' now you shall have them build with the saints, and anon you shall have them plotting the overthrow of the saints, as those self-seekers did in Ezra and Nehemiah's time. Self-seekers are the basest of all people. There is no service so base, so poor, so low—but they will bow to it. They cannot look neither above, nor beyond their own lusts, and the enjoyment of the creature (Rom. 1:25). These are the prime and ultimate objects of their desires.
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnlyTo dwell upon those dreadful curses and woes that are from heaven denounced against self-seekers. 'Destruction is certain for you who buy up property so others have no place to live. Your homes are built on great estates so you can be alone in the land.' (Is. 5:8). So Habakkuk 2:6, 9-12: 'How terrible it will be for you who get rich by unjust means! You believe your wealth will buy security, putting your families beyond the reach of danger. But by the murders you committed, you have shamed your name and forfeited your lives. The very stones in the walls of your houses cry out against you, and the beams in the ceilings echo the complaint. How terrible it will be for you who build cities with money gained by murder and corruption!' The materials of the house built up by oppression shall come as joint witnesses. The stones of the wall shall cry, 'Lord, we were built up by blood and violence; and the beam shall answer, True, Lord, even so it is.' The stones shall cry, Vengeance, Lord! upon these self-seekers! and the beam shall answer, Woe to him, because he built his house with blood!
So Isaiah: 'Destruction is certain for the unjust judges, for those who issue unfair laws. They deprive the poor, the widows, and the orphans of justice. Yes, they rob widows and fatherless children!' (Is. 10:1, 2). So Amos: 'Woe unto them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria. You push away every thought of coming disaster, but your actions only bring the day of judgment closer. How terrible it will be for you who sprawl on ivory beds surrounded with luxury, eating the meat of tender lambs and choice calves. You sing idle songs to the sound of the harp.' (Amos 6:1, 3-6). So Micah: 'How terrible it will be for you who lie awake at night, thinking up evil plans. You rise at dawn and hurry to carry out any of the wicked schemes you have power to accomplish. When you want a certain piece of land, you find a way to seize it. When you want someone's house, you take it by fraud and violence. No one's family or inheritance is safe with you around!' (Micah 2:1, 2).
By these scriptures, you see that self-seekers labor like a woman in travail—but their birth proves their death, their pleasure their pain, their comforts their torment, their glory their shame, their exaltation their desolation. Loss, disgrace, trouble and shame, vexation and confusion, will be the certain portion of self-seekers.
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider,That self-seekers are self-losers and self-destroyers. Absalom and Judas seek themselves, and hang themselves. Saul seeks himself, and kills himself. Ahab seeks himself, and loses himself, his crown and kingdom. Pharaoh seeks himself, and overthrows himself and his mighty army in the Red Sea. Cain sought himself, and slew two at once, his brother and his own soul. Gehazi sought change of clothing—but God changed his clothing into a leprous skin. Haman sought himself, and lost himself. The princes and residents sought themselves, in the ruin of Daniel—but ruined themselves, their wives and children.
That which self-seekers think should be a staff to support them, becomes by the hand of justice an iron rod to break them; that which they would have as springs to refresh them, becomes a gulf utterly to consume them. The crosses of self-seekers shall always exceed their mercies: their pain their pleasure; their torments their comforts. Every self-seeker is a self-tormentor, a self-destroyer; he carries a hell, an executioner, in his own bosom.
Adam seeks himself—and loses himself, paradise, and that blessed image that God had stamped upon him. Lot seeks himself (Gen. 13:10, 11) and loses himself and his goods. Peter seeks to save himself and miserably loses himself. Hezekiah in the business of the ambassadors, seeks himself, and lost himself and his life too, had not God saved him by a miracle.
Remedy (5). The fifth remedy against this device of Satan is,To dwell much upon the famous examples of those worthy saints that have denied themselves and preferred the public good before their own particular advantage. As Moses: 'And the Lord said unto Moses, Leave me alone so I may destroy them and erase their name from under heaven. Then I will make a mighty nation of your descendants, a nation larger and more powerful than they are.' (Deut. 9:14). Oh! but this offer would not take with Moses, he being a man of brave public spirit. He is hot in his desires and prayers that the people might be spared and pardoned; says he, 'Please pardon the sins of this people because of your magnificent, unfailing love, just as you have forgiven them ever since they left Egypt. Then the Lord said, "I will pardon them as you have requested.' (Num. 14:19-20). Ah! should God make such an offer to many, I am afraid they would prefer their own advantage above the public good; they would not care what became of the people, so that they and theirs might be made great and glorious in the world; they would not care about others, so that they might have a Babel built for them, though it was upon the ashes and ruin of the people.
Baser spirits than these are not in hell; no, not in hell; and I am sure there are no such spirits in heaven. Such men's hearts and principles must be changed, or they will be undone forever. Nehemiah was a choice soul, a man of a brave public spirit, a man that spent his time, his strength, and his estate, for the good and ease of his people. 'I would like to mention that for the entire twelve years that I was governor of Judah—from the twentieth until the thirty-second year of the reign of King Artaxerxes—neither I nor my officials drew on our official food allowance. This was quite a contrast to the former governors who had laid heavy burdens on the people, demanding a daily ration of food and wine, besides a pound of silver. Even their assistants took advantage of the people. But because of my fear of God, I did not act that way. I devoted myself to working on the wall and refused to acquire any land. And I required all my officials to spend time working on the wall. I asked for nothing, even though I regularly fed 150 Jewish officials at my table, besides all the visitors from other lands! The provisions required at my expense for each day were one ox, six fat sheep, and a large number of domestic fowl. And every ten days we needed a large supply of all kinds of wine. Yet I refused to claim the governor's food allowance because the people were already having a difficult time. Remember, O my God, all that I have done for these people, and bless me for it.' (Neh. 5:14-19). Likewise Daniel was a man of a brave public spirit: 'Then the other administrators and princes began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling his affairs, but they couldn't find anything to criticize. He was faithful and honest and always responsible. So they concluded, Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the requirements of his religion.' (Daniel 6:4, 5).
Christ had a public spirit; he laid out himself, and laid down himself for a public good. Oh! never leave looking and meditating upon these precious and sweet examples until your souls are quickened and raised up, to act for the public good, more than for your own particular advantage. Many heathens have been excellent at this.
Macrobius writes of Augustus Caesar, in whose time Christ was born, that he carried such an entire and fatherly affection to the commonwealth, that he called it filiam suam, his own daughter; and therefore refused to be called Dominus, the lord or master of his country, and would only be called Pater patriae, father of his country, because he governed it not by fear but by love; the senate and the people of Rome jointly saluting him by the name of Pater patriae, father of his country. The people very much lamented his death, using that speech, 'Would he had never died.'
So Marcus Regulus, to save his country from ruin, exposed himself to the greatest sufferings that the malice and rage of his enemies could inflict. So Titus and Aristides, and many others, have been famous for their preferring the public good above their own advantage. My prayer is, and shall be, that all our rulers may be so spirited by God, that they may be willing to be anything, to be nothing, to deny themselves, and to trample their sinful selves under feet, in order to the honor of God, and a public good; that so neither saints nor heathens may be witnesses against them in that day, wherein the hearts and practices of all the rulers in the world shall be open and naked before him who judges the world in righteousness and judgment.
Remedy (6). The sixth remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider,That self is a great hindrance to divine things; therefore the prophets and apostles were usually carried out of themselves, when they had the clearest, choicest, highest, and most glorious visions. Self-seeking so blinds the soul, that it cannot see a beauty in Christ, nor an excellency in holiness; it distempers the palate, that a man cannot taste sweetness in the word of God, nor in the ways of God, nor in the society of the people of God. It shuts the hand against all the soul-enriching offers of Christ; it hardens the heart against all the knocks and entreaties of Christ; it makes the soul as an empty vine, and as a barren wilderness: 'Israel is an empty vine, he brings forth fruit to himself' (Hosea 10:1).
There is nothing that speaks a man to be more empty and void of God, Christ, and grace, than self-seeking. The Pharisees were great self-seekers, and great undervaluers of Christ, his word and Spirit. There is not a greater hindrance to all the duties of piety than self-seeking. Oh! this is that which keeps many a soul from looking after God and the precious things of eternity. They cannot wait on God, nor act for God, nor abide in those ways wherein they might meet with God, by reason of self. Self-seeking is that which puts many a man upon neglecting and slighting the things of his peace. Self-seekers will neither go into heaven themselves, nor allow others to enter, that are ready to take the kingdom by violence, as you may see in the scribes and Pharisees. Oh! but a gracious spirit is acted quite other ways, as you may see in that sweet scripture (Cant. 7:13), 'At our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for you, O beloved.' All the church has and is, is only for him. Let others bear fruit to themselves, and lay up for themselves, gracious spirits will work for Christ and lay up for Christ.
All the divine endeavors and productions of saints fall into God's bosom, and empty themselves into his lap. As Christ lays up his merits for them, his graces for them, his comforts for them, his crown for them; so they lay up all their fruits, and all their loves, all their graces, and all their experiences, and all their services, only for him who is the soul of their comforts, and the crown and top of all their royalty and glory.
Self-seekers, with Esau, prefers bowl of pottage above their birthright, and with the men of Shechem, esteem the bramble above the vine, the olive, and the fig-tree; yes they esteem empty things above a full Christ, and base things above a glorious Christ. The saints' motto is, 'For you, Lord, for you; not unto us, Lord.'
DEVICE 2. By engaging them against the people of God, against those who are his jewels, his pleasant portion, the delight of his eye and the joy of his heart.Thus he drew Pharaoh to engage against the children of Israel—and that was his overthrow. So he engaged Haman against the Jews—and so brought him to hang upon that gallows that he had made for Mordecai (Esther 7). So he engaged those princes against Daniel—which was the utter ruin of them and their relations (Dan. 6). So in Revelation 20:7-9, "When the thousand years end, Satan will be let out of his prison. He will go out to deceive the nations from every corner of the earth, which are called Gog and Magog. He will gather them together for battle—a mighty host, as numberless as sand along the shore. And I saw them as they went up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded God's people and the beloved city. But fire from heaven came down on the attacking armies and consumed them."
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider,That none have engaged against the saints—but have been ruined by the God of saints. Divine justice has been too hard for all who have opposed and engaged against the saints, as is evident in Saul, Pharaoh, and Haman 'He reproved kings for their sakes, saying, Touch not my anointed, and do my prophets no harm' (Psalm 105:15). When men of Balaam spirits and principles have been engaged against the saints, how has the angel of the Lord met them in the way, and jostled their bones against the wall! How has he broke their backs and necks, and by his drawn sword cut them off in the prime of their days, and in the height of their sins!
Ah! what a harvest has hell had in our days, of those who have engaged against the Lamb, and those who are called, chosen and faithful! Ah! how has divine justice poured out their blood as water upon the ground! how has he laid their honor and glory in the dust, who, in the pride and madness of their hearts, said, as Pharaoh, 'We will pursue, we will overtake, we will divide the spoil, our lusts shall be satisfied upon them. We will draw our sword, our hand shall destroy them' (Exod. 15:9). In the things wherein they have spoken and done proudly, justice has been above them. History abounds in many instances of this kind.
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is,To dwell some time every morning upon the following scriptures, wherein God has engaged himself to stand by his people and for his people, and to make them victorious over the greatest and wisest of their enemies. 'Associate yourselves,' says the Lord by the prophet, 'O you people, and you shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all you of far countries: gird yourselves, and you shall be broken in pieces. Take counsel together, and it shall come to nothing; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us.' 'Fear not, you worm Jacob, and you men of Israel: I will help you, says the Lord, and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I will make you a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: you shall thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shall make the hills as chaff. You shall fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them, and you shall rejoice in the Lord, and shall glory in the Holy One of Israel.' 'No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment, you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, says the Lord.' 'Now also many nations are gathered together against you that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion. But they know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither understand they his counsel; for he shall gather them as sheaves into the floor. Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion: I will make your horn iron, and I will make your hoof brass, and you shall beat in pieces many people, and I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth.' 'Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege, both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.' (Is. 8:9, 41:14, 15, and 54:17. Micah 4:11-13; Zech. 12:2, 3.)
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider,That you cannot engage against the saints—but you must engage against God himself, by reason of that near and blessed union that is between God and them. You cannot be fighters against the saints—but you will be found in the casting up of the account to be fighters against God himself. And what greater madness than for weakness itself—to engage against an almighty strength! The near union that is between the Lord and believers, is set forth by that near union that is between a husband and his wife. 'They two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church; we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones,' says the apostle (Eph. 5:32). This near union is set forth by that union that is between the head and the members, which make up one body, and by that union that is between the graft and the stock, which are made one by grafting. The union between the Lord and a believer is so near, that you cannot strike a believer—but the Lord is sensible of it, and takes it as done to himself. 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute you me?' (Acts 9:4); and 'in all their afflictions he was afflicted' (Is. 63:9). Ah, souls! who ever engaged against God and prospered? who ever took up the sword against him but perished by it? God can speak you to hell and nod you to hell at pleasure. It is your greatest concernment to lay down your weapons at his feet, and to 'Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the midway' (Psalm 2:12).
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider,That you are much engaged to the saints, as instruments for the mercies that you do enjoy, and for the preventing and removing of many a judgment that otherwise might have been your ruin before this day. Were it not for the saints' sake, God would quickly make the heavens to be as brass and the earth as iron; God would quickly strip you of your robes and glory, and set you upon the ash-heap with Job. They are the props that bear the world from falling about your ears, and that keep the iron rod from breaking of your bones. 'Therefore he said that he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them' (Psalm 106:23).
Ah! had not the saints many a time cast themselves into the breach between God's wrath and you, you had been cut off from the land of the living, and had had your portion with those whose names are written in the dust. Many a nation, many a family, is surrounded with blessings for the Josephs' sakes who live therein, and are preserved from many calamities and miseries for the Moses', the Daniels', the Noahs', and the Jobs', sakes, who dwell among them. That is a sweet word (Prov. 10:25), 'As the whirlwind passes, so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is an everlasting foundation, or is the foundation of the world.' The righteous is the foundation of the world, which but for their sakes would soon shatter and fall to ruin. So the psalmist (Psalm 75:3), 'The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it. Selah.'
'He could have what he would of God', said one concerning Luther. Prayer is the gate of heaven, a key to let us into paradise. 'When the danger is over, the saint is forgotten', is a French proverb and that which many saints in England have found by experience.
The emperor Marcus Antoninus being in Germany with his army, was enclosed in a dry country by his enemies, who so stopped all the passages that he and his army were likely to perish for lack of water. The emperor's lieutenant seeing him so distressed, told him that he had heard that the Christians could obtain anything of their God by their prayers, whereupon the emperor, having a legion of Christians in his army, desired them to pray to their God for his and the army's delivery out of that danger, which they presently did, and presently a great thunder fell among the enemies, and abundance of water upon the Romans, whereby their thirst was quenched, and the enemies overthrown without any fight.
Mary, Queen of Scots, was accustomed to say, 'That she feared Knox's prayers more than an army of ten thousand men.'
I shall close up this last remedy with those sweet words of the psalmist: 'God is well known in Judah; his name is great in Israel. Jerusalem is where he lives; Mount Zion is his home. There he breaks the arrows of the enemy, the shields and swords and weapons of his foes.' (Psalm 76:1-3).
II. DEVICE AGAINST THE LEARNED AND THE WISE
Secondly, Satan has his devices to ensnare and destroy the learned and the wise: and that, sometimes by working them to pride themselves in their parts and abilities; and sometimes by drawing them to rest upon their parts and abilities; and sometimes by causing them to make light and slight of those who lack their parts and abilities, though they excel them in grace and holiness; and sometimes by drawing them to engage their parts and abilities in those ways and things that make against the honor of Christ, the joy of the Spirit, the advancement of the gospel, and the liberty of the saints. The truth of this you may see in the learned scribes and Pharisees. (John 5:44; 1 Kings 22:22-25; 1 Cor. 1:18-29.)
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That you have nothing but what you have received, Christ being as well the fountain of common gifts as of saving grace. 'What have you,' says the apostle, 'that you have not received? And if you have received it, why do you boast as though you had not received it?' (1 Cor. 4:7). 'Whatever you are, you owe to him who made you; and whatever you have, you owe to him who redeemed you' (Bernard).
There are those who would hammer out their own happiness, like the spider climbing up by the thread of her own weaving. Of all the parts and abilities that are in you, you may well say as the young man did of the axe, 'Alas, master! it was but borrowed' (2 Kings 6:5). Alas, Lord! all I have is but borrowed from that fountain that fills all the vessels in heaven and on earth. My gifts are not so much mine as yours: 'Of your own have we offered unto you,' said that princely prophet (1 Chron. 29:14).
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That men's learning and trusting to their own wits, parts, and abilities, have been their utter overthrow and ruin; as you may see in Ahithophel, and those princes that engaged against Daniel, and in the scribes and Pharisees. God loves to confute men in their confidences. He who stands upon his parts and abilities, does but stand upon a quicksand that will certainly fail him. There is nothing in the world which provokes God more to withdraw from the soul than this; and how can the soul stand, when his strength is departed from him? Everything which a man leans upon—will be a dart that will certainly pierce his heart through and through! Ah! how many in these days have lost their estates, their friends, their lives, their souls, by leaning upon their admired parts and abilities! The saints are described by their leaning upon their beloved, the Lord Jesus (Cant. 8:5). He who leans only upon the bosom of Christ, lives the highest, choicest, safest, and sweetest life. Miseries always lie at that man's door that leans upon anything below the precious bosom of Christ; such a man is most in danger, and this is none of his least plagues, that he thinks himself secure. It is the greatest wisdom in the world to take the wise man's counsel: 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding' (Prov. 3:5).
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider, That you do not transcend others more in parts and abilities, than they do you in grace and holiness. There may be, and often is, great parts and abilities, where there is but little grace, yes, no grace. And there may be, and often is, a great deal of grace, where there is but weak parts and abilities. You may be higher than others in gifts of knowledge, utterance, and learning, and those very souls may be higher than you in their communion with God, in their delighting in God, in their dependence upon God, in their affections to God, and in their humble, holy, and unblameable walking before God. Is it folly and madness in a man, to make light and slight of another, because he is not so rich in lead or iron as he, when he is a thousand thousand times richer in silver and gold, in jewels and in pearls, than he? And is it not madness and folly with a witness, in those who have greater parts and abilities than others, to slight them upon that account, when that those very people that they make light and slight of, have a thousand times more grace than they? And yet, ah! how does this evil spirit prevail in the world!
Judas and the scribes and Pharisees had great parts—but no grace. The disciples had grace—but weak parts. (Luke 11:1; 24:19-28.)
It was the sad complaint of Augustine in his time: 'The unlearned,' says he, 'rise up and take heaven by violence, and we with all our learning are thrust down to hell.' It is sad to see how many of the rabbis of these times do make an idol of their parts and abilities, and with what an eye of pride, scorn, and contempt do they look upon those who lack their parts, and who do not worship the idol that they have set up in their own hearts. Paul, who was the great doctor of the Gentiles, did wonderfully transcend in all parts and abilities the doctors and rabbis of our times, and yet, ah! how humbly, how tenderly, how sweetly, does he carry himself towards the lowest and the weakest! 'To the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some' (1 Cor. 9:22). 'Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not? Wherefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will eat no flesh while the world stands, lest I make my brother to offend' (1 Cor. 8:13).
But, ah how little of this sweet spirit is to be found in the doctors of our age, who look sourly and speak bitterly against those who do not see as they see, nor cannot speak as they speak. Sirs! the Spirit of the Lord, even in despised saints, will be too hard for you, and his appearance in them, in these latter days, will be so full of spiritual beauty and glory, as that they will darken that which you are too apt to count and call your glory. The Spirit of the Lord will not allow his choicest jewel grace to be always buried under the straw and stubble of parts and gifts (Is. 60:13-17).
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider, That there is no such way for men to have their gifts and parts blasted and withered, as to pride themselves in them, as to rest upon them, as to make light and slight of those who lack them, as to engage them against those people, ways, and things, that Jesus Christ has set his heart upon. Ah! how has God blasted and withered the parts and abilities of many among us, that have once been famous shining lights! How is their sun darkened, and their glory clouded! 'How is the sword of the Lord upon their arm, and upon their right eye! how is their arm clean dried up, and their right eye utterly darkened!' as the prophet speaks (Zech. 11:17). This is matter of humiliation and lamentation. Many precious discerning saints see this, and in secret mourn for it; and oh! that they were kindly sensible of God's withdrawing from them, that they may repent, keep humble, and carry it sweetly towards God's jewels, and lean only upon the Lord, and not upon their parts and understanding, that so the Lord may delight to visit them with his grace at such a rate as that their faces may shine more gloriously than ever, and that they may be more serviceable to the honor of Christ, and the faith of the saints, than formerly they have been.
Becanus says, that the tree of knowledge bears many leaves, and little fruit. Ah! that it were not so with many in these days.
III. DEVICE AGAINST THE SAINTS
Thirdly, Satan has his devices to destroy the saints; and one great device that he has to destroy the saints is, By working them first to be cold, and then to divide, and then to be bitter and jealous, and then 'to bite and devour one another' (Gal. 5:15). Our own woeful experience is too great a proof of this. The Israelites in Egypt did not more vex one another, than Christians in these days have done, which occasioned a deadly consumption to fall upon some. (If we knock, we break. Dissolution is the daughter of dissension.)
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, To dwell more upon one another's graces than upon one another's weaknesses and infirmities. It is sad to consider that saints should have many eyes to behold one another's infirmities, and not one eye to see each other's graces, that they should use spectacles to behold one another's weaknesses, rather than looking-glasses to behold one another's graces.
Flavius Vespasian, the emperor, was more ready to conceal the vices of his friends than their virtues. Can you think seriously of this, Christians, that a heathen should excel you, and not blush?
Erasmus tells of one who collected all the lame and defective verses in Homer's works—but passed over all that was excellent. Ah! this is the practice of many professors—that they are careful and skillful to collect all the weaknesses of others, and to pass over all those things which are excellent in them. The Corinthians did eye more the incestuous person's sin than his sorrow, which was likely to have drowned him in sorrow.
Tell me, saints, is it not a more sweet, comfortable, and delightful thing to look more upon one another's graces than upon one another's infirmities? Tell me what pleasure, what delight, what comfort is there in looking upon the enemies, the wounds, the sores, the sickness, the diseases, the nakedness of our friends? Now sin, you know, is the soul's enemy, the soul's wound, the soul's sores, the soul's sickness, the soul's disease, the soul's nakedness; and ah! what a heart has that man who loves thus to look! Grace is the choicest flower in all a Christian's garden; it is the richest jewel in all his crown; it is his princely robes; it is the top of royalty; and therefore must needs be the most pleasing, sweet, and delightful object for a gracious eye to be fixed upon. Sin is darkness, grace is light; sin is hell, grace is heaven; and what madness is it to look more at darkness than at light, more at hell than at heaven! (Not race of place—but grace truly sets forth a man.)
Tell me, saints, does not God look more upon his people's graces than upon their weaknesses? Surely he does. He looks more at David's and Asaph's uprightness than upon their infirmities, though they were great and many. He eyes more Job's patience than his passion. 'Remember the patience of Job,' not a word of his impatience (James 5:11). He who drew Alexander while he had a scar upon his face, drew him with his finger upon the scar. God puts his fingers upon his people's scars, that no blemish may appear. Ah! saints, that you would make it the top of your glory in this, to be like your heavenly Father! By so doing, much sin would be prevented, the designs of wicked men frustrated, Satan outwitted, many wounds healed, many sad hearts cheered, and God more abundantly honored.*
Sin is Satan's work, grace is God's work; and is it not most fit that the child should eye most and mind most, his father's work?
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That love and union makes most for your own safety and security. We shall be invincible if we are inseparable. The world may frown upon you, and plot against you—but they cannot hurt you. Unity is the best bond of safety in every church and commonwealth.
There was a temple of Concord among the heathens; and shall it not be found among Christians, that are temples of the Holy Spirit?
And this did that Scythian king in Plutarch's book represent lively to his eighty sons, when, being ready to die, he commanded a bundle of arrows fast bound together to be given to his sons to break; they all tried to break them—but, being bound fast together, they could not; then he caused the band to be cut, and then they broke them with ease. He applied it thus: 'My sons, so long as you keep together, you will be invincible; but if the band of union be broke between you, you will easily be broken in pieces.'
Pancirollus says, 'that the most precious pearl among the Romans was called unio, union.'
Pliny writes of a stone in the island of Scyros, that if it be whole, though a large and heavy one, it swims above water—but being broken, it sinks. (No doubt a volcanic, porous product.) So long as saints keep whole, nothing shall sink them; but if they break, they are in danger of sinking and drowning.
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, To dwell upon those commands of God which require you to love one another. Oh! when your hearts begin to rise against each other, charge the commands of God upon your hearts, and say to your souls, O our souls! has not the eternal God commanded you to love those who love the Lord? And is it not life to obey, and death to rebel? Therefore look that you fulfill the commands of the Lord, for his commands are not like those who are easily reversed; but they are like those of the Medes, which cannot be changed. Oh! be much in pondering upon these commands of God. 'A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another' (John 13:34). It is called a new commandment, because it is renewed in the gospel, and set home by Christ's example, and because it is rare, choice, special, and remarkable above all others.
'This is my commandment, That you love one another, as I have loved you.' 'These things I command you, that you love one another.' 'Owe no man anything—but love one another: for he who loves another, has fulfilled the law.' 'Let brotherly love continue.' 'Love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God.' 'See that you love one another with a pure heart fervently.' 'Finally, be all of one mind, having compassion one for another. Love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.' 'For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.' 'And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.' 'Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.' Oh! dwell much upon these precious commands, that your love may be inflamed one to another. (John 15:12, 17; Rom. 13:8; Heb. 13:1; 1 John 4:7; 1 Peter 1:22, and 3:8; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:11.)
In the primitive times, it was much taken notice of by the heathens, that in the depth of misery, when fathers and mothers forsook their children, Christians, otherwise strangers, stuck one to another, whose love of religion proved firmer than that of nature. Ah! that there were more of that spirit among the saints in these days! The world was once destroyed with water for the heat of lusts, and it is thought it will be again destroyed with fire for the coldness of love.
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, To dwell more upon these choice and sweet things wherein you agree, than upon those things wherein you differ. Ah! did you but thus, how would sinful arguments be abated, and your love raised, and your spirits sweetened one to another! You agree in most things, you differ but in a few; you agree in the greatest and weightiest things, as concerning God, Christ, the Spirit, and the Scripture. You differ only in those points that have been long disputable among men of greatest piety and parts. You agree to own the Scripture, to hold to Christ the head, and to walk according to the law of the new creature.
Shall Herod and Pilate agree? Shall Turks and pagans agree? Shall bears and lions, tigers, and wolves, yes, shall a legion of devils, agree in one body? And shall not saints agree, who differ only in such things as have least of the heart of God in them, and that shall never hinder your meeting in heaven?
What a sad thing was it that a heathen should say, 'No beasts are so mischievous to men, as Christians are one to another!'
Remedy (5). The fifth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That God delights to be styled—'the God of peace'; and Christ to be styled—'the Prince of peace, and King of peace'; and the Spirit is a Spirit of peace. 'The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace' (Gal 5:22). Oh! why then should not the saints be children of peace? Certainly, men of froward, unquiet, fiery spirits cannot have that sweet evidence of their interest in the God of peace, and in the Prince of peace, and in the Spirit of peace, as those precious souls have, who follow after the things that make for love and peace. The very name of peace is sweet and comfortable; the fruit and effect thereof pleasant and profitable, more to be desired than innumerable triumphs. Peace is a blessing which ushers in a multitude of other blessings. Where Peace is, there is Christ, because Christ is peace. (2 Cor. 13:11; Is. 9:6).
The ancients were accustomed to paint peace in the form of a woman, with a horn of plenty in her hand. The Grecians had the statue of Peace, with Pluto, the god of riches, in her arms. Ah! peace and love among the saints, is that which will secure them and their mercies at home; yes, it will multiply their mercies; it will engage the God of mercy to crown them with the choicest mercies; and it is that that will render them most zealous, men invincible, and successful abroad. Love and peace among the saints is that which puts the counsels of their enemies to a standstill, and renders all their enterprises abortive; it is that which does most weaken their hands, wound their hopes, and kill their hearts.
Remedy (6). The sixth remedy against this device of Satan is, To make more care and conscience, of keeping up your peace with God. Ah! Christians, I am afraid that your remissness herein is that which has occasioned much of that sourness, bitterness, and divisions that be among you. (There is no fear of knowing too much—but there is much fear in practicing too little.) Ah! you have not, as you should, kept up your peace with God, and therefore it is that you do so dreadfully break the peace among yourselves. The Lord has promised, 'That when a man's ways please him, he will make his enemies to be at peace with him' (Prov. 16:7). Ah! how much more then would God make the children of peace to keep the peace among themselves, if their ways do but please him! All creatures are at his beck and check. Laban followed Jacob with one troop. Esau met him with another, both with hostile intentions; but Jacob's ways pleasing the Lord, God by his mighty power so works that Laban leaves him with a kiss, and Esau met him with a kiss; he has a promise from one, tears from the other, peace with both. If we make it our business to keep up our league with God, God will make it his work and his glory to maintain our peace with men; but if men make light of keeping up their peace with God, it is just with God to leave them to a spirit of pride, envy, passion, contention, division, and confusion, to leave them 'to bite and devour one another, until they are consumed one by another.'
Pharnaces sent a crown to Caesar at the same time he rebelled against him; but he returned the crown and this message back, 'Let him return to his obedience first.' There is no sound peace to be had with God or man—but in a way of obedience.
Remedy (7). The seventh remedy against this device of Satan is, To dwell much upon that near relation and union that is between you. This consideration had a sweet influence upon Abraham's heart: 'And Abraham said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray you, between me and you, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen—for we are brethren' (Gen.13:8). The Hebrew signifies, 'Oh! let there be no bitterness between us—for we are brethren.'
That is a sweet word in the psalmist, 'Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to live together in unity' (Psalm 133:1). It is good and pleasant. There be some things that are good and not pleasant, as patience and discipline; and there are some things that are pleasant but not good, as carnal pleasures, and voluptuousness. And there are some things that are neither good nor pleasant, as malice, envy, and worldly sorrow; and there are some things that are both good and pleasant, as piety, charity, peace, and union among brethren. Oh! that we could see more of this among those who shall one day meet in their Father's kingdom and never part. And as they are brethren, so they are all fellow-members: 'Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular' (1 Cor. 12:27). And again: 'We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones' (Eph. 5:30).
Shall the members of the natural body be serviceable and useful to one another, and shall the members of this spiritual body cut and destroy one another? Is it against the law of nature for the natural members to cut and slash one another? And is it not much more against the law of nature and of grace for the members of Christ's glorious body to do so? And as you are all fellow-members, so you are fellow soldiers under the same Captain of salvation, the Lord Jesus, fighting against the world, the flesh, and the devil. And as you are all fellow-soldiers, so you are all fellow sufferers under the same enemies, the devil and the world. And as you are all fellow-sufferers, so are you fellow-travelers towards the land of Canaan, 'the new Jerusalem that is above.' 'Here we have no abiding city—but we look for one to come.' The heirs of heaven are strangers on earth. And as you are all fellow-travelers, so are you all fellow-heirs of the same crown and inheritance. (Rev. 12:7, 8; Heb. 2:10; Rev. 2:10; John 15:19, 20; Heb. 12:14, 13; Rom. 8. 15-17)
Remedy (8). The eighth remedy against this device of Satan is, To dwell upon the miseries of discord. Dissolution is the daughter of dissension. Ah! how does the name of Christ, and the way of Christ, suffer by the discord of saints! How are many who are entering upon the ways of God hindered and saddened, and the mouths of the wicked opened, and their hearts hardened against God and his ways—by the discord of his people! Remember this—the disagreement of Christians is the devil's triumph; and what a sad thing is this, that Christians should give Satan cause to triumph! Our dissensions are one of the Jews' greatest stumbling-blocks. Can you think of it, and your hearts not bleed?
It was a notable saying of one, 'Take away strife, and call back peace, lest you lose a man, your friend; and the devil, an enemy, rejoice over you both.'
Remedy (9). The ninth remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That it is no disparagement to you to be first in seeking peace and reconcilement—but rather an honor to you, that you have begun to seek peace. Abraham was the elder, and more worthy than Lot, both in respect of grace and nature also, for he was uncle unto Lot, and yet he first seeks peace of his inferior, which God has recorded as his honor.
Ah! how does the God of peace, by his Spirit and messengers, pursue after peace with poor creatures! God first makes offer of peace to us: 'Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be you reconciled to God' (2 Cor. 5:20). God's grace first kneels to us, and who can turn their backs upon such blessed and bleeding embracements—but souls in whom Satan the god of this world reigns? God is the party wronged, and yet he sues for peace with us at first: 'I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name' It is doubled to show God's exceeding forwardness to show favor and mercy to them. (Is. 65:1).
Ah! how does the sweetness, the freeness, and the riches of his grace break forth and shine upon poor souls. When a man goes from the sun, yet the sunbeams follow him; so when we go from the Sun of righteousness, yet then the beams of his love and mercy follow us. Christ first sent to Peter who had denied him, and the rest who had forsaken him: 'Go your ways, and tell his disciples and Peter, that he goes before you into Galilee: there shall you see him, as he said unto you' (Mark 16:7). Ah! souls, it is not a base, low thing—but a God-like thing, though we are wronged by others, yet to be the first in seeking after peace. Such actings will speak out much of God with a man's spirit. They shall both have the name and the note, the comfort and the credit, of being most like unto God, who first begin to pursue after peace with alienated mankind.
Christians, it is not matter of liberty whether you will or you will not pursue after peace—but it is matter of duty that lies upon you; you are bound by express precept to follow after peace; and though it may seem to fly from you, yet you must pursue after it: 'Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man can see the Lord.' The Greek signifies to follow after peace, as the persecutor does him whom he persecutes. Peace and holiness are to be pursued after with the greatest eagerness that can be imagined. So the psalmist: 'Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace and pursue it' (Psalm 34:14). The Hebrew word that is here rendered seek, signifies to seek earnestly, vehemently, affectionately, studiously, industriously. 'And pursue it.' That Hebrew word signifies earnestly to pursue, being a metaphor taken from the eagerness of wild beasts or ravenous fowls, which will run or fly both fast and far rather than be disappointed of their prey. So the apostle presses the same duty upon the Romans: 'Let us follow after the things that make for peace, and things wherein one may edify another' (Rom. 14:19). Ah! you froward, sour, dogged Christians, can you look upon these commands of God without tears and blushing?
I have read a remarkable story of Aristippus, though but a heathen, who went of his own accord to Aeschines his enemy, and said, 'Shall we never be reconciled until we become a tabletalk to all the country?' and when Aeschines answered he would most gladly be at peace with him, 'Remember, then, said Aristippus, that though I were the elder and better man, yet I sought first unto you.' You are indeed, said Aeschines, a far better man than I, for I began the quarrel—but you the reconcilement. My prayer shall be that this heathen may not rise in judgment against the flourishing professors of our times, 'Who whet their tongues like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words' (Psalm 64:3).
Remedy (10). The tenth remedy against this device of Satan is, For saints to join together and walk together in the ways of grace and holiness so far as they do agree, making the word of God their only touchstone and judge of their actions. That is sweet advice that the apostle gives: 'I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus' (Phil. 3:14-16). 'I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this to you also. In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained.' Ah! Christians, God loses much, and you lose much, and Satan gains much by this—that you do not, that you will not, walk lovingly together so far as your ways lie together. It is your sin and shame that you do not, that you will not, pray together, and hear together, and confer together, and mourn together; because that in some far lesser things you are not agreed together. What folly and madness is it in those whose way of a hundred miles, lies 99 miles together, yet will not walk so far together, because that they cannot go the other mile together; yet such is the folly and madness of many Christians in these days, who will not do many things they may do, because they cannot do everything they should do. I fear God will whip them into a better temper before he is done with them. He will break their bones, and pierce their hearts—but he will cure them of this malady.
And be sure you make the word of God the only touchstone and judge of all people and actions: 'To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them' (Is. 8:20). It is best and safest to make that to be the judge of all men and things now, that all shall be judged by in the latter day: 'The word, says Christ, that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day' (John 12:48). Make not your dim light, your notions, your fancies, your opinions, the judge of men's action—but still judge by rule, and plead, 'It is written.'
When an ignorant man cried out in contest with a holy man, 'Hear me, hear me,' the holy man answered, 'Neither hear me, nor I you—but let us both hear the apostle.'
Constantine, in all the disputes before him with the Arians, would still call for the word of God as the only way, if not to convert, yet to stop their mouths.
Remedy (11). The eleventh remedy against this device of Satan is, To be much in self-judging. 'Judge yourselves, and you shall not be judged by the Lord' (1 Cor. 11:31). Ah! were Christians' hearts more taken up in judging themselves and condemning themselves, they would not be so apt to judge and censure others, and to carry it sourly and bitterly towards others who differ from them. (It is storied of Nero, himself being unchaste, he did think there was no man chaste.) There are no souls in the world who are so fearful to judge others—as those who do most judge themselves; nor so careful to make a righteous judgment of men or things—as those who are most careful to judge themselves. There are none in the world who tremble to think evil of others, to speak evil of others, or to do evil to others—as those who make it their business to judge themselves. There are none who make such sweet constructions and charitable interpretations of men and things—as those who are best and most in judging themselves. In the Olympic games, the wrestlers did not put their crowns upon their own heads—but upon the heads of others. It is just so with souls that are good at self-judging.
One request I have to you that are much in judging others and little in judging yourselves, to you that are so apt and prone to judge harshly, falsely, and unrighteously, and that is, that you will every morning dwell a little upon these scriptures:
'Judge not, that you be not judged; for with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged; and with what measure you mete out, it shall be measured to you again' (Matt. 7:1, 2). 'Judge not according to appearance—but judge righteous judgment' (John 7:24). 'The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.' (Rom. 14:3, 10, 13).
'We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ. Let us not judge one another any more—but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.' 'Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.' (1 Cor. 4:5). 'Speak not evil one of another, brethren: he who speaks evil of his brother, and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law, and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law—but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy' (James 4:11, 12). 'Who are you that judges another man's servant? to his own master he stands or falls; yes, he shall be held up, for God is able to make him stand' (Rom. 14:4).
One Delphidius accusing another before Julian about that which he could not prove, the party denying the fact, Delphidius answers, 'If it be sufficient to deny what is laid to one's charge, who shall be found guilty?' Julian answers, 'And if it be sufficient to be accused, who can be innocent?' You are wise, and know how to apply it.
Remedy (12). The twelfth remedy against this device of Satan is this, above all, Labor to be clothed with humility. Humility makes a man peaceable among brethren, fruitful in well-doing, cheerful in suffering, and constant in holy walking (1 Pet. 5:5). Humility fits for the highest services we owe to Christ, and yet will not neglect the lowest service to the lowest saint (John 13:5). Humility can feed upon the lowest dish, and yet it is maintained by the choicest delicacies, as God, Christ, and glory. Humility will make a man bless him who curses him, and pray for those who persecute him. An humble heart is an habitation for God, a scholar for Christ, a companion of angels, a preserver of grace, and a fitter for glory. Humility is the nurse of our graces, the preserver of our mercies, and the great promoter of holy duties. Humility cannot find three things on this side heaven: it cannot find fullness in the creature, nor sweetness in sin, nor life in an ordinance without Christ. An humble soul always finds three things on this side heaven: the soul to be empty, Christ to be full, and every mercy and duty to be sweet wherein God is enjoyed.
Humility can weep over other men's weaknesses, and joy and rejoice over their graces. Humility will make a man quiet and contented in the lowest condition, and it will preserve a man from envying other men's prosperous condition (1 Thess. 1:2, 3). Humility honors those who are strong in grace, and puts two hands under those who are weak in grace (Eph. 3:8). Humility makes a man richer than other men, and it makes a man judge himself the poorest among men. Humility will see much good abroad, when it can see but little at home.
Ah, Christian! though faith be the champion of grace, and love the nurse of grace, yet humility is the beautifier of grace; it casts a general glory upon all the graces in the soul. Ah! did Christians more abound in humility, they would be less bitter, willful, and sour, and they would be more gentle, meek, and sweet in their spirits and practices. Humility will make a man have high thoughts of others and low thoughts of himself; it will make a man see much glory and excellency in others, and much baseness and sinfulness in himself; it will make a man see others rich, and himself poor; others strong, and himself weak; others wise, and himself foolish.
Humility will make a man excellent at covering others' infirmities, and at recording their gracious services, and at delighting in their graces; it makes a man rejoice in every light which outshines his own, and every wind which blows others good. Humility is better at believing, than it is at questioning other men's happiness. I judge, says a humble soul, it is well with these Christians now—but it will be far better with them hereafter. They are now upon the borders of the New Jerusalem, and it will be but as a day before they slide into Jerusalem. A humble soul is more willing to say, Heaven is that man's, than mine; and Christ is that Christian's, than mine; and God is their God in covenant, than mine. Ah! were Christians more humble, there would be less contention, and more love among them than now is.
Humility, said Bernard, is that which keeps all graces together.
The humble soul is like the violet, which grows low, hangs the head downwards, and hides itself with its own leaves; and were it not that the fragrant smell of his many virtues discovered him to the world, he would choose to live and die in his self-contenting secrecy.
IV. DEVICE AGAINST POOR AND IGNORANT SOULS
Fourthly, As Satan has his device to destroy gracious souls, so he has his devices to destroy poor ignorant souls, and that sometimes, By drawing them to esteem ignorance, and to neglect, slight, and despise the means of knowledge. Ignorance is the mother of mistake, the cause of trouble, error, and of terror; it is the highway to hell, and it makes a man both a prisoner and a slave to the devil at once. Ignorance unmans a man; it makes a man a beast, yes, makes him more miserable than the beast which perishes. (Ignorant ones have this advantage—they have a cooler hell.) There are none so easily nor so frequently captured in Satan's snares—as ignorant souls. They are easily drawn to dance with the devil all day, and to dream of supping with Christ at night. 'My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.' Hosea 4:6. 'You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.' Matthew 22:29.
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That an ignorant heart is an evil heart. 'Without knowledge the mind is not good' (Prov. 19:2). As an ignorant heart is a naughty heart, it is a heart in the dark; and no good can come into a dark heart—but it must pass through the understanding: 'And if the eye be dark, all the body is dark' (Matt. 6:22). A leprous head and a leprous heart are inseparable companions. Ignorant hearts are so evil that they let fly on all hands, and spare not to spit their venom in the very face of God, as Pharaoh did when thick darkness was upon him.
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider, That ignorance is the deformity of the soul. As blindness is the deformity of the face, so is ignorance the deformity of the soul. As the lack of fleshly eyes spoils the beauty of the face, so the lack of spiritual eyes spoils the beauty of the soul. A man without knowledge is as a workman without his hands, as a painter without his eyes, as a traveler without his legs, or as a ship without sails, or a bird without wings, or like a body without a soul.
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That ignorance makes men the objects of God's hatred and wrath. 'It is a people who err in their hearts, and have not known my ways. Therefore I swear in my wrath, they should never enter into my rest' (Heb. 3:10, 11). 'My people are a people of no understanding; therefore he who made them will have no mercy on them' (Is. 27:11). Christ has said that he will come 'in flaming fire, to render vengeance on them that know not God' (2 Thess. 1:8). Ignorance will end in vengeance. When you see a poor blind man here, you do not loathe him, nor hate him—but you pity him. Oh! but soul-blindness makes you abominable in the sight of God. God has sworn that ignorant people shall never come into heaven. Heaven itself would be a hell to ignorant souls. They must needs err that know not God's ways, yet cannot they wander so wide as to miss of hell. 'My people are destroyed for want of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I will reject you' (Hosea 4:6).
Chilo, one of the seven sages, being asked what God had done, answered, 'He exalted humble men, and suppressed proud ignorant fools.'
The Catholic Church says that ignorance is the mother of devotion—but the Scripture says, it is the mother of destruction.
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider, That ignorance is a sin that leads to all sins. All sins are seminally in ignorance. 'You do err, not knowing the Scriptures' (Matt. 22:29). It puts men upon hating and persecuting the saints. 'They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.' (John 16:2, 3). Paul thanks his ignorance for all his cruelties to Christians. 'I was a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly' (1 Tim. 1:13). (It seems right to note that the apostle does not allege his ignorance, for which he was responsible, as the ground of the 'mercy' shown him—but only as the source and explanation of his sin and violence. The clause, 'but I obtained mercy,' is parenthetic, and it is of importance to note this.)
It was ignorance that put the Jews upon crucifying Christ: 'Father, forgive them,' says Christ of his murderers, 'for they know not what they do' (Luke 23:34). 'For if the princes of this world had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory' (1 Cor. 2:8).
Sin at first was the cause of ignorance—but now ignorance is the cause of all sin. 'Swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and whoring abound,' says the prophet, 'because there is no knowledge of God in the land.' There are none so frequent, and so impudent in the ways of sin, as ignorant souls; they care not, nor mind not what they do, nor what they say against God, Christ, heaven, holiness, and their own souls. 'Our tongues are our own, who shall control us?' 'They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens; and their tongue walks through the earth. Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the Lord?' 'Therefore, pride is their necklace, and violence covers them like a garment. Their eyes bulge out from fatness; the imaginations of their hearts run wild. They mock, and they speak maliciously; they arrogantly threaten oppression. They set their mouths against heaven, and their tongues strut across the earth. They say—'How can God know? Does the Most High know everything?' Look at them—the wicked!' Psalm 73:6-12
Aristotle makes ignorance the mother of all the misrule in the world. They did like Oedipus, who killed his father Laius, king of Thebes, and thought he killed his enemy.