The Young Lady's Guide to the
Development of Christian Character
by Harvey Newcomb, 1843
There is, in the Holy Scriptures, abundant evidence of
the existence of an evil spirit, who is permitted, in various ways, to tempt
mankind. This appears in the very beginning of the history of our race; for,
according to the apostle John, in the Revelation, "that old serpent," which
deceived our first parents, was "the Devil and
SATAN." The same
malicious being was also permitted to tempt the "second Adam," in the
beginning of his mediatorial work for the recovery of lost man. He is
represented as the father of the wicked, and as putting evil designs into
the hearts of men. "The tares are the children of the wicked one." "You
child of the devil." "You are of your father the devil." "And Satan stood up
against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel." "The devil having now
put into the heart of Judas Iscariot to betray him." "Ananias, why has Satan
filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?" Wicked men are spoken of as
being carried captive by him at his will; and he is also represented as the
adversary of the people of God, seeking to lead them into sin, and, if
possible, to destroy them. "Your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion,
walks about, seeking whom he may devour."
These, with numerous other passages, fully establish the
fearful truth that we are continually beset by an evil spirit, who is
seeking to injure and destroy our souls; and that, in some mysterious
manner, which we cannot explain, he has access to our minds. It is of great
importance, then, that we should know something of the character of our
great adversary, and of his devices to deceive and ruin our souls. From the
representations of Scripture, we learn the following things respecting him—
1. He is powerful.
He is called "prince of this world," "prince of darkness," and "the god of
this world." These titles denote the possession of power, and the exercise
of dominion. The people over whom he exercises dominion are, other fallen
spirits, called "his angels," and all mankind in their natural state. Paul,
in writing to the Ephesians, represents that, in their former state, before
their conversion, they walked "according to the prince of the power of the
air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience;" and
all unconverted men are children of disobedience. Hence, when any are
converted, they are said to be turned "from the power of Satan unto God."
But, besides exercising dominion over natural men, he is
permitted to tempt and try the true children of God. This is evident from
the numerous cautions that are given them against his devices. He is also
called Destroyer; and is said to walk about, seeking whom he may
devour. So great was his power, and so mighty his work of ruin and
destruction, that it became necessary for the Son of God to come into the
world to destroy his works. "For this purpose was the Son of God manifested,
that he might destroy the works of the devil."
But, although he is powerful, yet his power is limited.
This you see in the case of Job. No doubt his malice would have destroyed
that holy man at once. But he could do nothing against him until he was
permitted; and then he could go no farther than the length of his chain. God
reserved the life of his servant. Jude speaks of the devils as being
"reserved in chains;" which means that they are kept perfectly under
the control of the Almighty, so that they can do nothing without his
But the question arises, "Why is Satan permitted to
exercise any power at all?" Perhaps it is not consistent with proper
reverence for the Supreme Being to entertain this objection; for he is a
righteous Sovereign, in no way accountable to us, or to any being but
himself, for the measures of his administration; and "he gives not account
of any of his matters." Nevertheless, it appears, from the Scriptures, that
the temptations of Satan, and the power which he is permitted to exercise,
are wisely overruled for good. The children of God on earth are in a state
of trial and discipline; and these are among the means which the Lord uses
to prove and develop their characters. Instance the case of Job. Satan had
slandered that holy man, by accusing him of serving God from selfish
motives. By allowing him to take away all he had, the Lord proved this
accusation to be false; and Job came out of the furnace greatly purified.
The apostle James says, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into
divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith works
patience." If the children of God were never tempted, they would never have
an opportunity to prove the sincerity of their faith. But they have the
blessed assurance that God will not allow them to be tempted above what they
are able to bear, but will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape,
that they may be able to bear it. Satan is likewise permitted to exercise
his power for the discovery of hypocrites, and for the punishment of
sinners. "These have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of
temptation fall away." "But, if our gospel be hid, it is hid to those who
are lost: in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them that
2. Satan has much knowledge.
He knew the command of God to our first parents, and
therefore tempted them to break it. When those who were possessed with
devils were brought to Christ, they cried out, "We know who you are; the
Holy One of God." Satan has also a knowledge of the Bible; for he quoted
Scripture in his temptation of Christ. And, as he has had a long experience
in this world, he must have much knowledge of human nature, so as to be able
to suit his temptations to the peculiar constitutions of individuals.
3. He is wicked.
"The devil sins from the beginning." He is called the wicked one; or,
by way of eminence, "the wicked." He is altogether wicked. There is
not one good quality in his character.
4. He is crafty, and full of deceit and treachery.
He lays snares for the unwary. That he may the more readily deceive the
people of God, he appears to them in the garb of religion. "Satan himself is
transformed into an angel of light." In consequence of his cunning and
craft, he is called the serpent. He is likewise represented as
deceiving the nations. Hence we are cautioned against the wiles of the
5. He is a liar.
The first thing recorded of him is the lie which he told our first parents,
to persuade them to disobey God. Hence our Savior calls him a "liar from the
6. He is malicious.
As Satan is the enemy of God, so he hates everything
good. He is continually bent on mischief. If his power were not restrained,
he would introduce general disorder, anarchy, and confusion into the
government of God. He loves to ruin immortal souls, and takes delight in
vexing the people of God. Hence he is called destroyer, adversary,
accuser, tormentor, and murderer.
Now, since we are beset by an adversary of such knowledge
and power, so sly and artful, so false and so malicious—it behooves us to be
well acquainted with his arts, that we may be on our guard against them.
Paul says, "For we are not ignorant of his devices." O that every Christian
could say so! How many sad falls would be prevented! I will mention a few of
the devices of Satan,
which are manifest both from Scripture and experience. It is the opinion of
some great and good men, that the devil can suggest thoughts to our minds
only through the imagination. This is that faculty of the mind
by which it forms ideas of things communicated to it through the senses.
Thus, when you see, hear, feel, taste, or smell anything, the image of the
thing is impressed upon the mind by the imagination. It also brings to our
recollection these images when they are not present. It is thought to be
only by impressing these images upon the imagination, that he can operate
upon our souls. Hence we may account for the strange manner in which our
minds are led off from the contemplation of divine things by a singular
train of thought, introduced to the mind by the impression of some sensible
object upon the imagination. This object brings some other one like it to
our recollection, and that again brings another, until our minds are lost in
a maze of intellectual trifling.
Satan adapts his temptations to our peculiar temperaments
and circumstances. In youth, he allures us by pleasure, and
bright hopes of worldly prosperity. In manhood, he seeks to bury up
our hearts in the cares of life. In old age, he persuades to the
indulgence of self-will and obstinacy. In prosperity, he puffs up the
heart with pride, and persuades to self-confidence and forgetfulness of God.
In poverty and affliction, he excites discontent, distrust,
and repining. If we are of a melancholy temperament, he seeks to sour
our tempers, and promote habitual sullenness and despondency. If we are
naturally cheerful, he prompts to the indulgence of levity. In
private devotion, he stands between us and God, to prevent us from
realizing his presence, and seeks to distract our minds, and drive us from
the throne of grace. In public worship, he disturbs our minds by
wandering thoughts and foolish imaginations. When we enjoy a comfortable and
happy frame of mind, he stirs up pride in our hearts, and leads us to
trust in our own goodness, and forget the Rock of our salvation. Even our
deepest humiliations he makes the occasion of spiritual pride. Thus
we fall into darkness, and thrust ourselves through with many sorrows. If we
have performed any extraordinary acts of self-denial, or of Christian
beneficence, he stirs up in our hearts a vainglorious spirit. If we have
overcome any of the corruptions of our hearts, or any temptation, he excites
a secret feeling of self-satisfaction and self-delight. He puts on the mask
of religion. Often, during the solemn hours of public worship, he beguiles
our hearts with some scheme for doing good; taking care, however, that
self be uppermost in it. When we are in a bad frame, he stirs up the
unholy tempers of our hearts, and leads us to indulge in peevishness,
moroseness, harshness, and anger, or in levity and unfitting mirth.
There is no Christian grace which Satan cannot
counterfeit. He cares not how much religious feeling we have, or how
many good deeds we perform, if he can but keep impure and selfish motives at
the bottom. There is great danger, therefore, in trusting to impulses, or
sudden impressions of any kind. We ought to "try the spirits, whether they
be of God." The Spirit of grace does not reveal truth or duty directly to
us. He has finished his work of Revelation, and put the record of it into
our hands, as our only rule of truth and duty. His office now is, to
enlighten our minds to perceive the truth, and to stir us up to perform the
duties required in his word. If, therefore, we find a secret impulse
operating upon our minds to persuade us to perform known duty, we may
know it is from the Spirit of God. But, if our conviction of duty arises
from the impression upon our mind, we shall be liable to be led
astray, and carried about by every wind. The fact that our religious
feelings are not produced by ourselves, but that they arise in our mind in a
manner for which we cannot account, is no evidence, either that they come
from the Spirit of God, or that they do not.
Satan is sometimes transformed into an angel of light. He
is often the author of false comforts and joys, very much resembling those
which are truly gracious. Nor is it certain that religious feelings are holy
and spiritual because they come with texts of Scripture, brought to the mind
in a remarkable manner. If the feeling is produced by the truth contained in
the Scriptures so brought to the mind, and is, in its nature, agreeable to
the word of God, it may be a spiritual and holy affection. But, if it arises
from the application of the Scripture to our own case, on account of its
being so brought to our mind, it is probably a delusion. Satan has power to
bring Scripture to our minds; and he can apply it with dexterity, as we see
in his temptations of the blessed Savior. Besides, our hearts are
exceedingly deceitful, and our indwelling corruptions are in league with the
adversary. How easily, then, may he succeed in cheating our souls with false
peace and selfish joys!
Satan, no doubt, often brings the most sweet and precious
promises of God to the minds of those he wishes to deceive. But he
misapplies the promises, as he did to our Lord, when he attempted to
persuade him to cast himself down from a pinnacle of the temple, on the
strength of the promise, "He shall give his angels charge concerning you;
and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your
foot against a stone." We must be satisfied that the promises belong to us,
before we take them to ourselves. We have "a more sure word of prophecy," by
which we are to try every impulse, feeling, and impression, produced upon
our minds. Anything which does not agree with the written word of God, does
not come from him; for he "cannot deny himself."
Satan manages temptation with the greatest subtlety and
adroitness. He asks so little at first, that, unless our consciences are
very tender, we do not suspect him. If he can persuade us to parley, he
perhaps leaves us for a while, and returns again, with a fresh and more
vigorous attack. He is exceedingly persevering; and, if he can induce us to
give place to him at all, he is almost sure to overcome us at last. So it
was with Eve. She parleyed at first; then listened to the suggestions of the
tempter; then lusted after the fruit of the forbidden tree; then took and
ate. Such is the progress, and such the end, of those who parley with
We are also liable to temptation from the world without,
and from the corruptions of our own hearts within. "They that will be rich
fall into temptation and a snare." The riches, honors, pleasures, and
fashions, of this world are great enemies to serious piety. "Every man
is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lusts, and enticed." Remaining
corruption is the greatest evil that besets the Christian. The temptations
of Satan alone would be light, in comparison with the inward conflict he is
compelled to maintain against the lusts of his own heart. But the devil
makes use of both these means of temptation to accomplish his ends. The
former he uses as outward enticements, and the latter act as traitors
within. Thus you may generally find a secret alliance between the arch
deceiver and the corruptions of your own heart. It is not sin to be
tempted; but it is sin to give place to temptation. "Neither give place
to the devil."
The heart is very properly compared to a castle or fort.
Before conversion, it is in the possession of the great enemy of souls, who
has fortified himself there, and secured the allegiance of all our moral
powers. But, when Jesus enters in, he "binds the strong man armed," and
takes possession of the heart himself. Yet Satan, though in a measure bound,
loses no opportunity to attempt regaining his lost dominion. Hence we are
directed to "keep the heart with all diligence." Now, we know how a
castle, fort, or city, is kept in time of war. The first thing done is to
set a watch, whose business is to keep constantly on the look out, this
way and that way, to see that no enemy is approaching from without, and no
traitor is lurking within. Hence we are so frequently exhorted to watch.
"Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation." "Take heed, watch and
pray." "And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch." "Watch, stand fast
in the faith, be strong like men." "Continue in prayer, and watch in
the same, with thanksgiving." "Praying always, with all prayer and
supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all
perseverance." "Let us watch and be sober." "Watch, then, in all things."
"Watch unto prayer." "Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his
garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame." "Set a watch, O Lord,
before my mouth; keep the door of my lips." If we were in a house surrounded
by a band of robbers, and especially if we knew there were people in it who
held a secret correspondence with them, we would be continually on our
guard. Every moment we should be watching, both within and without. But not
unlike this is our case. It is therefore with good reason that we are so
frequently cautioned on this point, and directed to watch in all things.
But there are particular
seasons when we should set a double watch.
1. We are directed to watch unto prayer. When you
approach the mercy-seat, watch against a careless spirit. Do not allow your
mind to be drawn away by anything, however good and important in itself,
from the object before you. If the adversary can divert your mind, on the
way to that consecrated place, he will be almost sure to drive you away from
it without a blessing.
2. We are required to watch not only unto, but
in, prayer. Satan is never more busy with Christians than when he sees
them on their knees. He well knows the power of prayer; and this makes him
"Satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees."
You should, therefore, with the most untiring vigilance,
watch in prayer against all wandering thoughts and distraction of mind. You
will often experience, on such occasions, a sudden and vivid impression upon
your mind, of something entirely foreign from what is before you; and this,
we have reason to believe, is the temptation of Satan. If you are
sufficiently upon your watch, you can banish it without diverting your
thoughts or feelings from the subject of your prayer, and proceed as though
nothing had happened. But, if the adversary succeeds in keeping these wild
imaginations in view, so that you cannot proceed without distraction, turn
and beseech God to give you help against his wiles. You have the promise,
that if you resist the devil, he will flee from you. These remarks apply
both to secret prayer and public worship.
3. We have need of special watchfulness when we have
experienced any comfortable manifestations of God's presence. It is then
that Satan tempts us to consider the conflict over, and relax our diligence.
If we give way to him, we shall bring leanness upon our souls.
4. We have need of double watchfulness, when gloom and
despondency come over our minds; for then the adversary seeks to stir up all
the perverse passions of the heart.
5. Watch, also, when you feel remarkably cheerful. Satan
will then, if possible, persuade you to indulge in levity, to the wounding
of your soul, and the dishonor of religion.
6. We have need of special watchfulness in prosperity,
that we forget not God; and in adversity, that we murmur not at his dealings
7. Set a watch over your tongue, especially in the
presence of the unconverted. "The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity."
David says, "I will keep my tongue with a bridle, while the wicked is before
me." I do not mean that you should ever engage in any sinful
conversation in the presence of Christians. Some professors of religion will
indulge in senseless garrulity among themselves, and put on an air of
seriousness and solemnity before those whom they regard as unconverted. This
they pretend to do for the honor of Christ. But Christ says, "Out of
the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." God abhors lip-service.
However, in the company of sinners and formal professors, we are peculiarly
exposed to temptation, and have need, therefore, to set a double guard upon
our lips. A single unguarded expression from a Christian may do great
injury to an unconverted soul.
8. Watch over your heart, when engaged in doing good to
others. It is then that Satan seeks to stir up pride and vainglory.
9. Set a double watch over your easily-besetting
sin. "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset
us." Most people have some constitutional sin, which easily besets them.
Satan takes the advantage of this infirmity, to bring us into difficulty.
10. Finally, keep a constant watch over the
imagination. Since this is the medium through which temptation comes,
never allow your imagination to rove without control. If you mortify this
faculty, it may be a great assistance to your devotion. But, if you let it
run at random, you will be led captive by Satan at his will. Strive, then,
after a sanctified imagination, that you may make every power of your soul
subservient to the glory of God.