10 Special Helps & Rules Against Satan’s Devices

I’ve been revisiting the nature of temptation and sin over the last couple of weeks. A helpful resource in this area is Thomas Brooks’ work Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices. At just under two hundred pages and with chapters neatly broken down into “Devices” and corresponding “Remedies”, it’s easy to work through the book in small doses even if you’re mildly allergic to old English.

After dealing with specific devices and remedies, Brooks concludes with ten special “rules and helps against all [Satan’s] devices.” [emphasis added] Read through and see if you don’t find any of his (lightly edited) counsel particularly meaningful in light of your past and/or present battles with sin:

1) Walk by the rule of the Word of God. He who thinks himself too good to be ruled by the Word, will be found too bad to be owned by God; and if God does not, or will not own him–Satan will by his stratagems overthrow him.

2) Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit. If you cause that sweet and blessed Spirit to mourn, who alone can secure you from Satan’s depths–by whom will you be preserved? Man is a weak creature, and no way able to discover Satan’s snares, nor to avoid them–unless the Spirit of the Lord gives skill and power.

3) Labor for more heavenly wisdom. It is not the most knowing Christian–but the most wise Christian, who sees, avoids, and escapes Satan’s snares.

4) Make immediate resistance against Satan’s first motions. It is safe to resist, it is dangerous to dispute. . . The promise of conquest is given to resisting, not to disputing: ‘Resist the devil and he will flee from you’ (James 4:7).

5) Labor to be filled with the Spirit. Satan has his snares to take you in prosperity and adversity, in health and sickness, in strength and weakness, when you are alone and when you are in company, when you come on to spiritual duties and when you come off from spiritual duties, and if you are not filled with the Spirit, Satan will be too hard and too crafty for you . . .

6) Stay humble. A humble heart will rather lie in the dust than rise by wickedness, and sooner part with all than the peace of a good conscience.

7) Keep a strong, close, and constant watch. A sleepy soul is already an ensnared soul. . . Satan works most strongly on the imagination, when the soul is drowsy.

8) Keep communion with God. A soul high in communion with God may be tempted–but will not easily be conquered. Such a soul will fight it out to the death. . . Communion with God is a shield upon land, as well as an anchor at sea; it is a sword to defend you, as well as a staff to support you; therefore keep up your communion.

9) Daily draw new virtue and strength from the Lord Jesus. You must lean more upon Christ than upon your duties; you must lean more upon Christ than upon your spiritual tastes and discoveries; you must lean more upon Christ than upon your graces, or else Satan will lead you into captivity.

10) Pray. Tell God that Satan has spread his snares in all places and in all companies! Tell God that he digs deep, and that he has plot upon plot, and device upon device–and all to undo you!Tell God that you have neither skill nor power to escape his snares! . . .Tell God how His honor is engaged to stand by you, and to bring you off a victor, that you be not ruined by Satan’s plots! . . . Tell God of the love of Christ, of the blood of Christ, and of the intercession of Christ for you, that a way may be found for your escape! Tell God that if he will make it his honor to save you from falling into Satan’s snares, you will make it your glory to speak of his goodness and to live out his kindness.

Hey, Christian! Leave that man alone! (pt. 2)

THE SCENARIO: During a time of congregational singing in a Sunday morning service a young man leaves his seat, makes his way to the front of the room, and kneels to pray. His praying appears passionate but not overly emotional.

QUESTION: What do you do?

ANSWER: Nothing—at least not immediately.

In a previous post I suggested that gender differences play a part in the way we respond to spiritual events. The contrasting reactions between men & women in the scenario above may not represent degrees of spirituality but distinctions in our engendered natures. For that reason we might consider that some of our reactions aren’t so much spiritual as natural and if natural then possibly wrong.

But there’s another angle to consider that doesn’t have anything to do with gender differences. For both men & women, it’s hard to resist the compulsion to do something for a suffering soul. Who doesn’t want to be the “good Samaritan”?

Now Christians should be commended for their desire to alleviate suffering–especially spiritual suffering. The only point I want to offer here is that our desire needs to be coupled with discernment. The question isn’t whether we should help those in trouble but how we should go about helping them. One diagnosis doesn’t fit all cases and not all diagnoses are created equal. If the church serves as a spiritual hospital, the attendants & physicians should desire the patient be healed rather than anesthetized.

A moment’s reflection reminds us that sorrow & suffering are often the divinely ordained means by which our Lord leads His people into greater peace & rest (Lam 3:25-33; 2Cor 7:9-11). Surely we can affirm that there is a kind of affliction that’s “good” (Psa 119:71).

Consider also the testimony of previous generations. Martin Luther came to describe the effect of his spiritual assaults as “delicious despair” and eventually wrote:

I have often seen excellent men horribly vexed by terrors, afflictions, and the severest persecutions, so much so that they nearly experienced despair of heart. But these things must be learned so that we may be able to comfort such men and interpret the temptations as the special manner by which God is accustomed to wrestle with us in the form of a destroyer and that we may exhort them firmly to retain the promise, or lamp and spark, of the Word in the hope that the rescue will certainly follow. [emphasis added; quoted by Martin Marty in Martin Luther: A Life, p 27]

The Puritan preacher John Bunyan pointed to the benefit of a troubled mind in his autobiography Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners when he wrote:

And though I was thus troubled, and tossed, and afflicted, with the sight and sense and terror of my own wickedness, yet I was afraid to let this sight and sense go quite off my mind; for I found that, unless guilt of conscience was taken off the right way, that is, by the blood of Christ, a man grew rather worse for the loss of his trouble of mind, than better. [emphasis added]

Another Puritan pastor, Thomas Brooks, observed that sinners will desperately seek rest from any number of sources at the risk of losing Christ’s ultimate rest:

Poor sinners, when they are under the sense of sin and wrath of God, are prone to run from creature to creature, and from duty to duty, and from ordinance to ordinance, to find rest; and if they could find it in anything or creature, Christ would never hear of them . . . [Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices]

We might consider, then, that sometimes a man should be left alone when he’s in the act of dealing with God. By all means, be ready to show him to the great Physician. Tell him where to go to find the cure for his pain & discomfort. But be wary of offering a placebo when true healing is just around the corner.

Suitable temptations abound

Satan will come on with new temptations when old ones are too weak. In a calm prepare for a storm. The tempter is restless, impudent, and subtle; he will suit his temptations to your constitutions and inclinations. . . If your knowledge is weak–he will tempt you to error. If your conscience is tender–he will tempt you to scrupulosity and too much preciseness, as to do nothing but hear, pray, and read. If your consciences be wide and large–he will tempt you to carnal security. If you are bold-spirited–he will tempt you to presumption; if timorous, to desperation; if flexible, to inconstancy; if proud and stiff, to gross folly. Therefore still fit for fresh assaults, make one victory a step to another. When you have overcome a temptation, take heed of unbending your bow, and look well to it, that your bow is always bent, and that it remains in strength. When you have overcome one temptation, you must be ready to enter the battle with another.

-Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices

Low thoughts of Scripture

Ah! how many in these days have fallen, first to have low thoughts of Scripture and ordinances, and then to slight Scripture and ordinances, and then to make a nose of wax of Scripture and ordinances, and then to cast off Scripture and ordinances, and then at last to advance and lift up themselves, and their Christ-dishonoring and soul-damning opinions, above Scripture and ordinances.

-Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, p 22