SOME OF SATAN’S DEVICES
Extracted from Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks (1608-1680).
The several devices that Satan hath to keep souls in a sad, doubting, questioning, and uncomfortable condition.
Though he can never rob a believer of his crown, yet such is his malice and envy, that he will leave no stone unturned, no means unattempted, to rob them of their comfort and peace, to make their life a burden and a hell unto them, to cause them to spend their days in sorrow and mourning, in sighing and complaining, in doubting and questioning. Surely we have no interest in Christ; our graces are not true, our hopes are the hopes of hypocrites; our confidence is our presumption, our enjoyments are our delusions.
I shall show you this in some particulars:
DEVICE 1. The first device that Satan hath to keep souls in a sad, doubting, and questioning condition, and so making their life a hell, is, By causing them to be still poring and musing upon sin, to mind their sins more than their Saviour; yea, so to mind their sins as to forget, yea, to neglect their Saviour; that, as the Psalmist speaks, ‘The Lord is not in all their thoughts’ (Ps. 10.4). Their eyes are so fixed upon their disease, that they cannot see the remedy, though it be near; and they do so muse upon their debts, that they have neither mind nor heart to think of their Surety.
Remedy (1). The first remedy is for weak believers to consider. That though Jesus Christ hath not freed them from the presence of sin, yet He hath freed them from the damnatory power of sin. It is most true that sin and grace were never born together, neither shall sin and grace die together; yet while a believer breathes in this world, they must live together, they must keep house together. Christ in this life will not free any believer from the presence of any one sin, though He doth free every believer from the damning power of every sin. “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8.1). The law cannot condemn a believer, for Christ hath fulfilled it for him; divine justice cannot condemn him, for that Christ hath satisfied; his sins cannot condemn him, for they in the blood of Christ are pardoned; and his own conscience, upon righteous grounds, cannot condemn him, because Christ, that is greater than his conscience, hath acquitted him.
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider, That though Jesus Christ hath not freed you from the molesting and vexing power of sin, yet He hath freed you from the reign and dominion of sin. Thou sayest that sin doth so molest and vex thee, that thou canst not think of God, nor go to God, nor speak with God. Oh! but remember it is one thing for sin to molest and vex thee, and another thing for sin to reign and have dominion over thee. ‘For sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace’ (Rom. 6.14). Sin may rebel, but it shall never reign in a saint. It fareth with sin in the regenerate as with those beasts that Daniel speaks of, ‘that had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time’ (Dan. 7.12).
Now sin reigns in the soul when the soul willingly and readily obeys it, and submits to its commands, as subjects do actively obey and embrace the commands of their prince. The commands of a king are readily embraced and obeyed by his subjects, but the commands of a tyrant are embraced and obeyed unwillingly. All the service that is done to a tyrant is out of violence, and not out of obedience. A free and willing subjection to the commands of sin speaks out the soul to be under the reign and dominion of sin; but from this plague, this hell, Christ frees all believers. Sin cannot say of a believer as the centurion said of his servants, “I bid one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to another, Do this, and he doeth it” (Matt. 8.9). No! the heart of a saint riseth against the commands of sin; and when sin would carry his soul to the devil, he hales his sin before the Lord, and cries out for justice, Lord! saith the believing soul, sin plays the tyrant, the devil in me; it would have me to do that which makes against Thy holiness as well as against my happiness; against Thy honour and glory, as my comfort and peace; therefore do me justice, Thou righteous Judge of heaven and earth, and let this tyrant sin die for it.
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, Constantly to keep one eye upon the promises of remission of sin, as well as the other eye upon the inward operations of sin. This is the most certain truth, that God would graciously pardon those sins to His people that He will not in this life fully subdue in His people. Paul prays thrice (i.e. often), to be delivered from the thorn in the flesh. All he can get is “My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Cor. 12.9); I will graciously pardon that to thee that I will not conquer in thee, saith God. “And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me, and whereby they have transgressed against me. I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not
remember thy sins” (Jer. 33.8, Is. 43.25). Ah! you lamenting souls, that spend your days in sighing and groaning under the sense and burden of your sins, why do you deal so unkindly with God, and so injuriously with your own souls, as not to cast an eye upon those precious promises of remission of sin which may bear up and refresh your spirits in the darkest night, and under the heaviest burden of sin?
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is. To look upon all your sins as charged upon the account of Christ, as debts which the Lord Jesus hath fully satisfied; and indeed, were there but one farthing of that debt unpaid that Christ was engaged to satisfy, it would not have stood with the unspotted justice of God to have let Him come into heaven and sit down at His own right hand. But all our debts, by
His death, being discharged, we are freed, and He is exalted to sit down at the right hand of His Father, which is the top of His glory, and the greatest pledge of our felicity: “For he hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him,” said the apostle (2 Cor. 5.21). All our sins were made to meet upon Christ, as that evangelical prophet hath it: “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all”; or as the Hebrew
hath it, “He hath made the iniquity of us all to meet in him” (Is. 53.6). In the law, we know that all the debts of the wife are charged upon the husband. Saith the wife to one and to another, If I owe you anything, go to my husband. So may a believer say to the law, and to the justice of God, If I owe you anything, go to my Christ, who hath undertaken for me. I must not sit down discouraged, under the apprehension of those debts, that Christ, to the utmost farthing, hath fully satisfied. Would it not argue much weakness, I had almost said much madness, for a debtor to sit down discouraged upon his looking over those debts that
His surety hath readily, freely, and fully satisfied? The sense of his great love should engage a man for ever to love and honour his surety, and to bless that hand that hath paid the debt, and crossed the books. But to sit down discouraged when the debt is satisfied, is a sin that bespeaks
Christ hath cleared all reckoning betwixt God and us. You remember the scapegoat. Upon his head all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, were confessed and put, and the goat did bear upon him all their iniquities (Lev. 16.21). Why! the Lord Jesus is that blessed scapegoat, upon whom all our sins were laid, and who alone hath carried “our sins away into the land of forgetfulness, where they shall never be remembered more.” A believer, under the guilt of his sin, may look the Lord in the face, and sweetly plead thus with him: It is true, Lord, I owed Thee much, but Thy Son was my ransom, my redemption. His blood was the price; He was my surety and undertook to answer for my sins; I know Thou must be satisfied, and Christ hath satisfied Thee to the utmost farthing: not for Himself, for what sins had He of His own? but for me; they were my debts that He satisfied for; be pleased to look over the book, and Thou shalt find that it is crossed by Thy own hand upon this very account, that Christ hath suffered and satisfied for them.
Remedy (5). The fifth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider. Of the reasons why the Lord is pleased to have His people exercised, troubled, and vexed with the operations of sinful corruptions; and they are these: partly to keep them humble and low in their own eyes; and partly to put them upon the use of all divine helps, whereby sin may be subdued and mortified; and partly, that they may live upon Christ for the perfecting of the work of sanctification; and partly, to wean them from things below, and to make them heart-sick of their absence from Christ, and to maintain in them bowels of compassion towards others that are subject to the same infirmities with them; and that they may distinguish between a state of grace and a state of glory, and that heaven may be more sweet to them in the close. Now doth the Lord upon these weighty reasons suffer His people to be exercised and molested with the operations of sinful corruptions? Oh then, let no believer speak, write, or conclude bitter things against his own soul and comforts, because that sin troubles and vexes his righteous soul; but lay his hand upon his mouth and be silent, because the Lord will have it so, upon such weighty grounds as the soul is not able to withstand.
Remedy (6). The sixth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider. That believers must repent for their being discouraged by their sins. Their being discouraged by their sins will cost them many a prayer, many a tear, and many a groan; and that because their discouragements under sin flow from ignorance and unbelief. It springs from their ignorance of the richness, freeness, fullness, and everlastingness of God’s love; and from their ignorance of the power, glory, sufficiency, and efficacy of the death and sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ; and from their ignorance of the worth, glory,
fullness, largeness, and completeness of the righteousness of Jesus Christ; and from their ignorance of that real, close, spiritual, glorious, and inseparable union that is between Christ and their precious souls. Ah! did precious souls know and believe the truth of these things as they should, they would not sit down dejected and overwhelmed under the sense and operation of sin.
DEVICE 2. By working them to make false definitions of their graces. Satan knows, that as false definitions of sin wrong the soul one way, so false definitions of grace wrong the soul another way.
I will instance only in faith: Oh how doth Satan labour with might and main to work men to make false definitions of faith! Some he works to define faith too high, as that it is a full assurance of the love of God to a man’s soul in particular, or a full persuasion of the pardon and remission of a man’s own sins in particular. Saith Satan, What dost thou talk of faith? Faith is an assurance of the love of God, and of the pardon of sin; and this thou hast not; thou knowest thou art far off from this; therefore thou hast no faith. And by drawing men to make such a false definition of faith, he keeps them in a sad, doubting, and questioning condition, and makes them spend their days in sorrow and sighing, so that tears are their drink, and sorrow is their meat, and sighing is their work all the day long.
The philosophers say there are eight degrees of heat; we discern three. Now, if a man should define heat only by the highest degree, then all other degrees will be cast out from being heat. So if men shall define faith only by the highest degrees, by assurance of the love of God, and of the pardon of his sins in particular, what will become of lesser degrees of faith?
If a man should define a man to be a living man, only by the highest and strongest demonstrations of life, as laughing, leaping, running, working, and walking, would not many thousands that groan under internal and external weaknesses, and that cannot laugh, or leap, nor run, nor work, nor walk, be found dead men by such a definition, that yet we know to be alive? It is so here, and you know how to apply it.
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That there may be true faith, yea, great measures of faith, where there is no assurance. The Canaanite woman in the Gospel had strong faith, yet no assurance that we read of. “These things have I written unto you,” saith John, “that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5.14). In these words you see that they did believe, and had eternal life, in respect of the purpose and promise of God, and in respect of the seeds and beginnings of it in their souls, and in respect of Christ their Head, who sits in heaven as a public person, representing all His chosen ones, “Who hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2.6); and yet they did not know that they had eternal life. It is one thing to have a right to heaven, and another thing to know it; it is one thing to be beloved, and another thing for a man to know that he is beloved. It is one thing for God to write a man’s name in the book of life, and another thing for God to tell a man that his name is written in the book of life; and to say to him (Luke 10.20), “Rejoice, because thy name is written in heaven.” So Paul: “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1.13). So Micah: “Rejoice not against me, 0 my enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned” (or ‘the sad countenance of God,’ as the Hebrew hath it) (Micah 7.8,9). This soul had no assurance, for he sits in darkness, and was under the sad countenance of God; and yet had strong faith, as appears in those words, ‘When I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me.’ He will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold His righteousness. And let this suffice for the first answer.
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That God in the Scripture doth define faith otherwise. God defines faith to be a receiving of Christ – “As many as received him, to them gave he this power (this privilege), to become the sons of God” (John 1.12). “To as many as believed on his name” – to be a cleaving of the soul unto God, though no joy, but afflictions, attend the soul (Act 11.23). Yea, the Lord defines faith to be a coming to God in Christ, and often to a resting and staying, rolling of the soul upon Christ. It is safest and sweetest to define as God defines, both vices and graces. This is the only way to settle the soul, and to secure it against the wiles of men and devils, who labour, by false definitions of grace, to keep precious souls in a doubting, staggering, and languishing condition, and so make their lives a burden, a hell, unto them.
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider this, That there may be true faith where there is much doubting. Witness those frequent sayings of Christ to his disciples. ‘Why are ye afraid, 0 ye of little faith?’ Persons may be truly believing who nevertheless are sometimes doubting. In the same persons that the forementioned scriptures speak of, you may see their faith commended and their doubts condemned, which doth necessarily suppose a presence of both.
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider. That assurance is an effect of faith; therefore it cannot be faith. The cause cannot be the effect, nor the root the fruit. As the effect flows from the cause, the fruit from the root, the stream from the fountain, so doth assurance flow from faith. This truth I shall make good thus:
The assurance of our salvation and pardon of sin doth primarily arise from the witness of the Spirit of God that we are the children of God (Eph. 1.13); and the Spirit never witnesseth this till we are believers:
For we are sons by faith in Christ Jesus’ (Gal. 4.6). Therefore assurance is not faith, but follows it, as the effect follows the cause.
Again, no man can be assured and persuaded of his salvation till he
be united to Christ, till he be ingrafted into Christ; and a man cannot be ingrafted into Christ till he hath faith. He must first be ingrafted into Christ by faith before he can have assurance of his salvation; which doth clearly evidence, that assurance is not faith, but an effect and fruit of faith.
Again, faith cannot be lost, but assurance may; therefore assurance is not faith. Though assurance be a precious flower in the garden of a
saint, and is more infinitely sweet and delightful to the soul than all outward comforts and contents; yet it is but a flower that is subject to fade, and to lose its freshness and beauty, as saints by sad experience find,
Again, a man must first have faith before he can have assurance, therefore assurance is not faith. And that a man must first have faith before he can have assurance, is clear by this, a man must first be saved before he can be assured of his salvation; for he cannot be assured of that which is not. And a man must first have a saving faith before he can be saved by faith, for he cannot be saved by that which he hath not;
Therefore a man must first have faith before he can have assurance, and so it roundly follows that assurance is not faith.
DEVICE 3. By working the soul to make false inferences from the cross actings of Providence. Saith Satan, Dost thou not see how Providence crosses thy prayers, and crosses thy desires, thy tears, thy hopes, thy endeavours? Surely if His love were towards thee, if His soul did delight and take pleasure in thee. He would not deal thus with thee.
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That many things may be cross to our desires that are not cross to our good. Abraham, Jacob, David, Job, Moses, Jeremiah, Jonah, and Paul, met with many things that were contrary to their desires and endeavours, that were not contrary to their good; as all know that have wisely compared their desires and endeavours and God’s actings together. Physic often works contrary to the patients’ desires, when it doth not work contrary to their good.
I remember a story of a godly man, who had a great desire to go to France, and as he was going to take shipping he broke his leg; and it pleased Providence so to order it, that the ship that he should have gone in at that very same time was cast away, and not a man saved; and so by breaking a bone his life was saved. Though Providence did work cross to his desire, yet it did not work cross to his good.
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That the hand of God may be against a man, when the love and heart of God is much set upon a man. No man can conclude how the heart of God stands by His hand. The hand of God was against Ephraim, and yet His love. His heart, was dearly set upon Ephraim: “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus: Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke. Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the LORD my God. Surely, after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh; I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth. Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him;
I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the LORD” (Jer. 31.18-20).
God can look sourly, and chide bitterly, and strike heavily, even where and when He loves dearly. The hand of God was very much against Job, and yet His love, His heart, was very much set upon Job, as you may see by comparing chaps. 1 and 2, with 41 and 42. The hand of God was sore against David and Jonah, when His heart was much set upon them. He that shall conclude that the heart of God is against those that His hand is against, will condemn the generation of the just, whom God unjustly would not have condemned.
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan, is, to consider, That all the cross providences that befall the saints are but in order to some noble good that God doth intend to confer upon them. Providence wrought cross to David’s desire in taking away the child sinfully begotten, but yet not cross to more noble good; for was it not far better for David to have such a legitimate heir as Solomon was, than that a bastard should wear the crown, and sway the sceptre?
Joseph, you know, was sold into a far country by the envy and malice of his brethren, and afterwards imprisoned because he would not be a prisoner to his mistress’s lusts; yet all these providences did wonderfully conduce to his advancement, and the preservation of his father’s family, which was then the visible church of Christ. It was so handled by a noble hand of providence, that what they sought to decline, they did promote. Joseph was therefore sold by his brethren that he might not be worshipped, and yet he was therefore worshipped because he was sold.
David was designed to a kingdom, but oh! the straits, troubles, and deaths that he runs through before he feels the weight of his crown! And all this was but in order to the sweetening of his crown, and to the settling of it more firmly and gloriously upon his head. God did so contrive it that Jonah’s offence, and those cross actings of His that did attend it, should advantage that end which they seemed most directly to oppose. Jonah he flies to Tarshish, then cast into the sea, then saved by a miracle. Then the mariners, as it is very probable, who cast Jonah into the sea, declared to the Ninevites what had happened; therefore he must be a man sent of God, and that his threatenings must be believed and hearkened to, and therefore they must repent and humble themselves, that the wrath threatened might not be executed.
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That all the strange, dark, deep, and changeable providences that believers meet with, shall further them in their way to heaven, in their journey to happiness. Divine wisdom and love will so order all things here below, that they shall work for the real, internal, and eternal good of them that love him. All the rugged providences that David met with did contribute to the bringing of him to the throne; and all the rugged providences that Daniel and the ‘three children’ met with did contribute to their great advancement. So all the rugged providences that believers meet with, they shall all contribute to the lifting up of their souls above all things, below God. As the waters lifted up Noah’s ark nearer heaven, and as all the stones that were about Stephen’s ears did but knock him the closer to Christ, the Corner-stone, so all the strange rugged providences that we meet with, they shall raise us nearer heaven, and knock us nearer to Christ, that precious Cornerstone.