Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices
By Thomas Brooks, (1608 – 1680)
SATAN’S DEVICES TO DRAW THE SOUL TO SIN
[12 devices and their remedies]
DEVICE 5. To present God to the soul as one made up all of mercy.
Oh! says Satan, you need not make such a matter of sin, you need not be so fearful of sin, not so unwilling to sin; for God is a God of mercy, a God full of mercy, a God that delights in mercy, a God that is ready to show mercy, a God that is never weary of showing mercy, a God more prone to pardon his people than to punish his people; and therefore he will not take advantage against the soul; and why then, says Satan, should you make such a matter of sin?
Remedy (1). The first remedy is, seriously to consider, That it is the greatest judgment in the world to be left to sin, upon any pretense whatever. O unhappy man! when God leaves you to yourself, and does not resist you in your sins. Woe, woe to him at whose sins God does wink. When God lets the way to hell be a smooth and pleasant way, that is hell on this side hell, and a dreadful sign of God’s indignation against a man; a token of his rejection, and that God does not intend good unto him. That is a sad word, ‘Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone’ (Hosea 4:17); he will be unteachable and incorrigible; he has made a match with mischief, he shall have his bellyful of it; he falls with open eyes; let him fall at his own peril. And that is a terrible saying, ‘So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lusts, and they walked in their own counsels’ (Psalm 81:12). A soul given up to sin is a soul ripe for hell, a soul hastening to destruction!
Ah Lord! this mercy! humbly beg, that whatever you give me up to, you will not give me up to the ways of my own heart; if you will give me up to be afflicted, or tempted, or reproached, I will patiently sit down, and say, It is the Lord; let him do with me what seems good in his own eyes. Do anything with me, lay what burden you will upon me, so you do not give me up to the ways of my own heart.
Augustine says, ‘It is a human thing to fall into sin, devilish to persevere therein, and divine to rise from it. Deliver me, O Lord, from that evil man—myself!
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That God is as JUST, as he is merciful. As the Scriptures speak Him out to be a very merciful God, so they speak Him out to be a very just God. Witness His casting the angels out of heaven and His binding them in chains of darkness until the judgment of the great day.* Witness His turning Adam out of Paradise. Witness His drowning of the old world. Witness His raining hell out of heaven upon Sodom. Witness all the troubles, losses, sicknesses, and diseases, which are in the world. Witness Tophet, which “has long been prepared; it has been made ready for the king. Its fire pit has been made deep and wide, with an abundance of fire and wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of burning sulfur, sets it ablaze.” (Isaiah 30:33) Witness His treasuring up of wrath against the day of wrath. But above all, witness the pouring forth of all His wrath upon His bosom Son, when Jesus bore the sins of His people, and cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
*God hanged them up in gibbets, as it were, that others might hear and fear, and do no more so wickedly.
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That sins against God’s mercy will bring the greatest and sorest judgments upon men’s heads and hearts. Mercy is God’s Alpha, justice is His Omega. David, speaking of these attributes, places mercy in the forefront, and justice in the rearward, saying, “I will sing of Your love and justice.” (Psalm 101:1). When God’s mercy is despised, then His justice takes the throne!* God is like a prince, who sends not his army against rebels before he has sent his pardon, and proclaimed it by a herald of arms: he first hangs out the white flag of mercy; if this wins men in, they are happy forever; but if they remain rebellious, then God will put forth his red flag of justice and judgment. If His mercy is despised, His justice shall be felt!
The higher we are in dignity, the more grievous is our fall and misery.
God is slow to anger—but he recompenses his slowness with grievousness of punishment. If we abuse His mercy to serve our lust, then, in Salvian’s phrase, God will rain hell out of heaven, rather than not visit for such sins.
See this in the Israelites. He loved them and chose them when they were in their blood, and most unlovely. He multiplied them, not by means—but by miracle; from seventy souls they grew in few years to six hundred thousand; the more they were oppressed, the more they prospered. Like camomile, the more you tread it, the more you spread it; or like a palm-tree, the more it is pressed, the further it spreads; or like fire, the more it is raked, the more it burns. Their mercies came in upon them like Job’s messengers, one upon the neck of the other: He put off their sackcloth, and girded them with gladness, and ‘compassed them about with songs of deliverance’; he ‘carried them on the wings of eagles’; he kept them ‘as the apple of his eye.’ (Psalm 32:7; Exod. 19:4; Deut. 32:10) But they, abusing his mercy, became the greatest objects of his wrath. As I know not the man who can reckon up his mercies; so I know not the man who can sum up the miseries which are coming upon him for their sins!
For as our Savior prophesied concerning Jerusalem, ‘that a stone should not be left upon a stone,’ so it was fulfilled forty years after his ascension, by Vespasian the emperor and his son Titus, who, having besieged Jerusalem, the Jews were oppressed with a grievous famine, in which their food was old shoes, leather, old hay, and the dung of beasts. There died, partly by the sword and partly by the famine, eleven hundred thousand of the poorer sort; two thousand in one night were slaughtered; six thousand were burned in a porch of the temple; the whole city was sacked and burned, and laid level to the ground; and ninety-seven thousand taken captives, and forced to base and miserable service, as Eusebius and Josephus says. (Vespasian broke into their city at Kedron, where they took Christ, on he same feast day that Christ was taken; he whipped them where they whipped Christ; he sold twenty Jews for a penny, as they sold Christ for thirty pence.) And to this day, in all parts of the world, are they not the offscouring of the world? None more abhorred, than they. Men shall be deeper in hell, because heaven was offered unto them; but they abused God’s mercy. Men’s offences are increased by their obligations.
And so Capernaum, that was lifted up to heaven, was threatened to be thrown down to hell. No souls fall so low into hell, if they fall, as those souls that by a hand of mercy are lifted up nearest to heaven. You who are so apt to abuse God’s mercy, consider this, that in the gospel days, the plagues that God inflicts upon the despisers and abusers of mercy are usually spiritual plagues; as blindness of mind, hardness of heart, benumbedness of conscience, which are ten thousand times worse than the worst of outward plagues which can befall you. And therefore, though you may escape temporal judgments, yet you shall not escape spiritual judgments: ‘How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?’ (Heb. 2:3) says the apostle. Oh! therefore, whenever Satan shall present God to the soul as one made up all of mercy, that he may draw you to do wickedly, say unto him, that sins against God’s mercy, will bring upon the soul the greatest misery; and therefore whatever becomes of you, you will not sin against mercy.
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan, is seriously to consider, That though God’s general mercy is over all his works, yet his special mercy is confined to those who are divinely qualified. Augustus, in his solemn feasts, gave trifles to some—but gold to others whom his heart was most set upon. So God, by a hand of general mercy, gives these poor trifles—outward blessings, to those who he least loves; but his gold, special mercy, is only towards those who his heart is most set upon. So in Exodus 34:6, 7: ‘And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, patient, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty.’ Exodus 20:6, ‘And showing mercy unto thousands of those who love me, and keep my commandments.’ Psalm 25:10, ‘All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.’ Psalm 32:10, ‘Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about.’ Psalm 33:18, ‘Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon those who fear him, upon those who hope in his mercy.’ Psalm 103:11, ‘For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward those who fear him.’ Ver. 17, ‘But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him.’
When Satan attempts to draw you to sin by presenting God as a God all made up of mercy, oh then reply, that though God’s general mercy extend to all the works of his hand, yet his special mercy is confined to those who are divinely qualified, to those who love him and keep his commandments, to those who trust in him, that by hope hang upon him, and who fear him; and that you must be such a one here, or else you can never be happy hereafter; you must partake of his special mercy, or else eternally perish in everlasting misery, notwithstanding God’s general mercy.
Remedy (5). The fifth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That those who were once glorious on earth, and are now triumphing in heaven, did look upon the mercy of God as the most powerful argument to preserve them from sin, and to fence their souls against sin; and not as an encouragement to sin. Psalm 26:3-5: ‘For I am constantly aware of your unfailing love, and I have lived according to your truth. I do not spend time with liars or go along with hypocrites. I hate the gatherings of those who do evil, and I refuse to join in with the wicked.’
So Joseph strengthens himself against sin from the remembrance of mercy: ‘How then can I,’ says he, ‘do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’ (Gen. 39:9). He had his eye fixed upon mercy, and therefore sin could not enter, though the irons entered into his soul; his soul being taken with mercy, was not moved with his mistress’s impudence. Satan knocked often at the door—but the sight of mercy would not allow him to answer or open. Joseph, like a pearl in a puddle, keeps his virtue still. (The stone called Pontaurus, is of that virtue, that it preserves him who carries it, from taking any hurt by poison. The mercy of God in Christ to our souls is the most precious stone or pearl in the world, to prevent us from being poisoned with sin.)
Likewise with Paul: ‘Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we who are dead to sin, live any longer therein?’ (Rom. 6:1, 2). There is nothing in the world that renders a man more unlike to a saint, and more like to Satan—than to argue from God’s mercy to sinful liberty; from divine goodness to licentiousness. This is the devil’s logic, and in whomever you find it, you may write, ‘This soul is lost!’ A man may as truly say, ‘the sea burns’, or ‘the fire cools’—as that God’s free grace and mercy should make a truly gracious soul to live wickedly.
So the same apostle: ‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service’ (Rom. 12:1). So John: ‘These things I write unto you, that you sin not (1 John 2:1, 2). What was it that he wrote? He wrote: ‘That we might have fellowship with the Father and his Son; and that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin; and that if we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins; and that if we do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.’ These choice favors and mercies the apostle holds forth as the choicest means to preserve the soul from sin, and to keep at the greatest distance from sin; and if this will not do it—you may write the man void of Christ and grace, and undone forever!