Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices
By Thomas Brooks, (1608 - 1680)
N.B. You will find it helpful to read the text below, as you LISTEN TO THE AUDIO.
SIX PROPOSITIONS CONCERNING SATAN AND HIS DEVICES
And now, to prevent objections, I shall lay down some propositions or conclusions concerning Satan and his devices, and then give you the reasons of the point, and so come to make some use and application of the whole to ourselves.
Proposition (1). That though Satan has his devices to draw souls to sin, yet we must be careful that we do not lay all our temptations upon Satan, that we do not wrong the devil, and father that upon him that is to be fathered upon our own base hearts.
I think that oftentimes men charge that upon the devil that which is to be charged upon their own hearts. 'And the Lord said unto the woman, What is this that you have done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat' (Gen. 3:13). Sin and shifting of sin, came into the world together. This is no small baseness of our hearts, that they will blame that naughtiness upon Satan. Man has an evil root within him; that were there no devil to tempt him, nor no wicked men in the world to entice him, yet that root of bitterness, that cursed sinful nature which is in him, would draw him to sin, though he knows beforehand that 'the wages of sin is eternal death' (Rom. 6:23). 'For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, blasphemies' (Matt. 15:19). The whole frame of man is out of frame. The understanding is dark, the will cross, the memory slippery, the affections crooked, the conscience corrupted, the tongue poisoned, and the heart wholly evil, only evil, and continually evil. Should God chain up Satan, and give him no liberty to tempt or entice people to vanity or folly, yet they could not but sin against him, by reason of that cursed nature that is in them, that will still be a-provoking them to those sins that will provoke and stir up the anger of God against them (Jude 15, 16).
Satan has only a persuading sleight, not an enforcing might. He may tempt us—but without ourselves he cannot conquer us; he may entice us—but without ourselves he cannot hurt us. Our hearts carry the greatest guilt in every sin. Satan can never undo a man without himself; but a man may easily undo himself without Satan. Satan can only present the golden cup—but he has no power to force us to drink the poison that is in the cup; he can only present to us the glory of the world, he cannot force us to fall down and worship him, to enjoy the world; he can only spread his snares, he has no power to force us to walk in the midst of his snares. Therefore do the devil so much right, as not to excuse yourselves, by your accusing him, and laying the load upon him, that you should lay upon your own hearts.
We are no sooner born, than buried in a bog of wickedness (Cicero).
The fire is our wood, though it be the devil's flame (Nazianzen).
Prop. (2). That Satan has a great hand and stroke in most sins.It was Satan who tempted our first parents to rebellion. It was Satan who provoked David to number the people. It was Satan who put Peter upon rebuking Christ; therefore says Christ, 'Get behind me, Satan'. It was Satan who put Cain upon murdering of righteous Abel, therefore it is that he is called 'a murderer from the beginning'. It was Satan who put treason into the heart of Judas against Christ, 'And supper being ended, the devil having put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him'. It was Satan who put Ananias upon lying; Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?' (Gen. 3:1-5; 1 Chron. 21:1; Matt. 16:22, 23; John 8:44, 13:2; Acts 5:3)
As the hand of Joab was in the tale of the woman of Tekoah, so Satan's hand is usually in all the sins that men commit. Such is Satan's malice against God, and his envy against man, that he will have a hand one way or other in all the sins, though he knows that all the sins he provokes others to shall be charged upon him to his greater woe, and eternal torment.
Ambrose brings in the devil boasting against Christ and challenging Judas as his own: 'He is not yours, Lord Jesus, he is mine; his thoughts beat for me; he eats with you—but is fed by me: he takes bread from you—but money from me; he drinks wine with you, and sells your blood to me.' Such is his malice against Christ, and his wrath and rage against man, that he will take all advantages to draw men to that which may give him advantage to triumph over men's souls forever.
Prop. (3). That Satan must have a double permission before he can do anything against us.
He must have permission from God, and permission from ourselves, before he can do anything against our happiness. He must have his permission from God, as you may see in the example of Job (Job 1:11, 12; 2:3-5). Though the devil had malice enough to destroy him, yet he had not so much as power to touch him, until God gave him permission.
They could not so much as enter into the swine without permission from Christ (Luke 8:32). Satan would gladly have combated with Peter—but this he could not do without leave. 'Satan has desired to have you, to winnow you' (Luke 22:31). So Satan could never have overthrown Ahab and Saul—but by permission from God (1 Kings 22). Ah! what a cordial, what a comfort should this be to the saints—that their greatest, subtlest, and most vigilant enemy cannot hurt nor harm them, without permission from him who is their sweetest Savior, their dearest husband, and their choicest friend.
And as Satan must have permission from God, so he must have permission from us. When he tempts, we must assent; when he makes offers, we must hearken; when he commands, we must obey, or else all his labor and temptations will be frustrated, and the evil that he tempts us to shall be put down only to his account. That is a remarkable passage in Acts 5:3, 'Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?' He does not expostulate the matter with Satan; he does not say, Satan, 'Why have you filled Ananias's heart to make him lie to the Holy Spirit?' but he expostulates the case with Ananias; Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?' Why have you given him an advantage to fill your heart with infidelity, hypocrisy, and obstinate audacity, to lie to the Holy Spirit? As if he had said, Satan could never have done this in you, which will now forever undo you, unless you had given him permission. If, when a temptation comes, a man cries out, and says, "Ah, Lord! here is a temptation that would force me, that would deflower my soul, and I have no strength to withstand it! Oh! help! help! for your honor's sake, for your Son's sake, for your promise's sake!" it is a sign that Satan has not gained your consent—but committed a rape upon your souls, which he shall dearly pay for.
Prop. (4). That no weapons but spiritual weapons will be useful and serviceable to the soul in fighting and combating with the devil.
This the apostle shows: 'Therefore take unto you,' says he, 'the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand' (Eph. 6:13). So the same apostle tells you, 'That the weapons of your warfare are not carnal—but mighty through God, to the casting down of strongholds' (2 Cor. 10:4). You have not to do with a weak—but with a mighty enemy, and therefore you had need to look to it, that your weapons are mighty—which they cannot be, unless they are spiritual. Carnal weapons have no power in them towards the making of a conquest upon Satan. It was not David's sling nor stone that gave him the honor and advantage of setting his feet upon Goliath—but his faith in the name of the Lord Almighty. 'You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a shield—but I have come to you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied' (1 Sam. 17:45).
He who fights against Satan, in the strength of his own resolutions, constitution or education, will certainly fly and fall before him. Satan will be too hard for such a soul, and lead him captive at his pleasure. The only way to stand, conquer, and triumph, is still to plead, 'It is written,' as Christ did (Matt. 4:10). There is no sword but the two-edged sword of the Spirit, that will be found to be metal of proof when a soul comes to engage against Satan; therefore, when you are tempted to impurity, plead, 'It is written, be holy, as I am holy' (1 Peter 1:16); and, 'Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord' (2 Cor. 7:1). If he tempts you to distrust God's providence and fatherly care of you, plead, It is written, 'Those who fear the Lord shall lack no good thing.' (Psalm 34:9).
We read of many that, out of fortitude, could subdue nature—but were at a loss when they came to deal with a corruption or a temptation. Heraclitus's motto was, 'A Deo victoria!' It is God that gives victory; and that should be every Christian's motto.
It is written, 'The Lord will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from those who live purely' (Psalm 84:11).
If he tempts you to fear that you shall faint, and fall, and never be able to run to the end of the race that is set before you, plead, It is written, 'The righteous shall hold on his way, and he who has clean hands shall be stronger and stronger' (Job. 17:9).
It is written, 'I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good—but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they may not depart from me' (Jer. 32:40).
It is written, 'Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint' (Is. 40:31).
If Satan tempts you to think that because your sun for the present is set in a cloud, that therefore it will rise no more, and that the face of God will shine upon you no more; that your best days are now at an end, and that you must spend all your time in sorrow and sighing; plead, It is written, 'He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us, and cast all our sins into the depth of the sea' (Micah 7:19).
It is written, 'For a small moment have I forsaken you—but with great mercies will I gather you. In a little wrath I hid my face from you for a moment—but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer' (Is. 54:8, 10).
It is written, 'The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed—but my kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, says the Lord who has mercy on you.'
It is written, 'Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yes, they may forget, yet will not I forget you. Behold, I have engraved you upon the palms of my hands, your walls are continually before me' (Is. 49:15, 16).
If ever you would be too hard for Satan, and after all his assaults, have your bow abide in strength, then take to yourself the Word of God, which is 'the two-edged sword of the Spirit, and the shield of faith, whereby you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the devil' (Eph. 6:17). It is not spitting at Satan's name, nor crossing yourselves, nor leaning to your own resolutions, that will get you the victory.
Luther reports of Staupitius, a German minister, that he acknowledged himself, that before he came to understand aright the free and powerful grace of God, he vowed and resolved a hundred times against some particular sin, and never could get power over it. At last he saw the reason to be his trusting to his own resolution. Therefore be skillful in the word of righteousness, and in the actings of faith upon Christ and his victory, and that crown of glory which is set before you, and Satan will certainly fly from you (James 4:7).
Prop. (5). That we may read much of Satan's nature and disposition by the diverse names and epithets that are given him in the Scripture.
Sometimes he is called Behemoth, whereby the greatness and brutishness of the devil is figured (Job 40:15). Those evil spirits are sometimes called accusers, for their calumnies and slanders; and evil ones, for their malice. Satan is Adversarius, an adversary, that troubles and molests (1 Pet. 5:8). Abaddon is a destroyer (Rev. 9:11). They are tempters, for their suggestion; lions, for their devouring; dragons, for their cruelty; and serpents, for their subtlety. As his names are, so is he; as face answers to face, so do Satan's names answer to his nature. He has the worst names and the worst nature of all created creatures.
Prop. (6). That God will shortly tread down Satan under the saints' feet.
Christ, our champion, has already won the field, and will shortly set our feet upon the necks of our spiritual enemies. Satan is a foiled adversary. Christ has led him captive, and triumphed over him upon the cross. Christ has already overcome him, and put weapons into your hands, that you may overcome him also, and set your feet upon his neck. Though Satan be a roaring lion, yet Christ, who is the lion of the tribe of Judah, will make Satan fly and fall before you. Let Satan do his worst, yet you shall have the honor and the happiness to triumph over him. Cheer up, you precious sons of Zion, for the certainty and sweetness of victory will abundantly recompense you for all the pains you have taken in making resistance against Satan's temptations. The broken horns of Satan shall be trumpets of our triumph and the coronets of our joy.
"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." Romans 16:20. The Greek word signifies to break or crash a thing to pieces. Being applied to the feet—it means that crushing which is by stamping upon a thing.
FIVE REASONS OF THE POINT
Now I shall come to the reasons of the point, and so draw to a close.
Reason (1). That their hearts may be kept in a humble, praying, watching frame.
Oh! has Satan so many devices to ensnare and undo the souls of men? How should this awaken dull, drowsy souls, and make them stand upon their watch! A Christian should be like the seraphim, beset all over with eyes and lights, that he may avoid Satan's snares, and stand fast in the hour of temptation.
The Lord has in the Scripture discovered the several snares, plots, and devices that the devil has to undo the souls of men, that so, being forewarned, they may be forearmed; that they may be always upon their watch-tower, and hold their weapons in their hands, as the Jews did in Nehemiah's time.
The philosopher had a ball of brass in his hand; if he chanced to sleep it fell into a basin and awaked him to his studies. You are wise and know how to apply it.
Reason (2). From that malice, envy, and enmity that is in Satan against the souls of men.
Satan is full of envy and enmity, and that makes him very studious to suit his snares and plots to the tempers, constitutions, fancies, and callings of men, that so he may make them as miserable as himself.
Malice cares not what it says or does, just so that it may kill or gall.
The Russians are so malicious, that they have a man hide some of his own goods in the house of him whom he hates, and then accuse him for the stealing of them. So does Satan, out of malice to the souls of men, hide his goods, his wares, as I may say, in the souls of men, and then go and accuse them before the Lord; and a thousand, thousand other ways Satan's malice, envy, and enmity puts him upon, eternally to undo the precious souls of men.
An envious heart and plotting head, are inseparable companions.
Reason (3). The third reason is drawn from that long experience that Satan has had.
He is a spirit of mighty abilities; and his abilities to lay snares before us are mightily increased by that long standing of his. He is a spirit of over five thousand years' standing. He has had time enough to study all those ways and methods which tend most to ensnare and undo the souls of men. And as he has time enough, so he has made it his whole study, his only study, his constant study, to find out snares, traps, and stratagems, to entangle and overthrow the souls of men. When he was but a young serpent, he did easily deceive and outwit our first parents. But now he is grown into that 'old serpent,' as John speaks (Rev. 12:9). He is as old as the world, and is grown very cunning by experience.
Reason (4). In judgment to the men of the world, that they may stumble and fall, and be ensnared forever.
Wicked men who withstand the offers of mercy, and despise the Spirit of grace; who will not open, though God knocks ever so hard by his Word and rod, by his Spirit and conscience—are given up by a hand of justice, to be hardened, deceived, and ensnared by Satan, to their everlasting ruin (1 Kings 22:23). And what can be more just than that they should be taken and charmed with Satan's wiles, who have frequently refused to be charmed by the Spirit of grace, though he has charmed ever so wisely, and ever so sweetly?
Reason (5). That the excellency and power of God's grace may be more illustrated and manifested, by making his people able to grapple with this mighty adversary, and that notwithstanding all the plots, devices, and stratagems of Satan, yet he will make them victorious here, and crown them with glory hereafter.
The greater and the subtler the enemies of the children of Israel were—the more did divine power, wisdom, and goodness, sparkle and shine; and that, notwithstanding all their power, plots, and stratagems, yet to Canaan God would bring them at last. When Paul had weighed this, he sits down and glories in his infirmities and distresses and Satan's buffetings—that the power of Christ might rest upon him (2 Cor. 12:7-9).