HELPS AGAINST TEMPTATION
(The following is an excerpt from Thomas Brooks' "Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices")
Satan is a spirit of mighty abilities; and his abilities to lay snares before us are mightily increased by that long experience of his. He has had time enough to study all those ways and methods which tend most to ensnare and undo the souls of men. He has made it his whole study, his only study, his constant study to find out strategems to entangle and overthrow the souls of men. When he was but a young serpent, he did easily deceive and outwit Eve; but now he is grown that 'old serpent' as John says in Rev. 12; he is as old as the world and is grown very cunning in experience. If Satan has such a world of devices to ensnare the souls of men, then, instead of wondering that so few are saved, sit down and wonder that any are saved, that any escape the snares of this cunning fowler.
I intend to set before you some special helps against all his devices.
Now, to prevent objections, I shall first lay down this proposition:
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 upon him that is to be fathered upon our own base hearts. Man has such an evil root within him, that were there no devil to tempt him, no wicked men in the world to entice him, yet that cursed sinful nature that is in him would draw him to sin, though he knows beforehand that the wages of sin is eternal death.
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 the sons of men to vanity or folly, yet they would not, they could not but sin against Him by reason of that cursed nature that is in them. Satan has only a persuading sleight, not an enforcing might. He may tempt us, but without ourselves he cannot conquer us. In every sin our hearts carry the greatest stroke: the fire is our wood, though it be the devil's flame. Satan can never undo a man without himself; but a man may easily undo himself without Satan. Don't excuse yourself by your accusing him.
Now for the helps I want to offer.
1. Walk by rule. He that walks by rule walks most safely, most honorably, most sweetly. When men throw off the Word, then God throws off them, and then Satan takes them by the hand, and leads them into snares at his pleasure. He that thinks himself to be too good to be ruled by the Word, will be found too bad to be owned by God; and if God do not or will not own him, Satan will by his strategems overthrow him. They that keep to the rule, shall be kept in the hour of temptation, Rev. 3:10, "Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee in the hour of temptation."
2. Take heed of grieving the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit of God that is best able to discover Satan's plots against us; it is only He that can point out all his snares, and enable men to escape those pits that he has digged for their precious souls. Be sure the Spirit be not grieved by your enormities, nor by your refusing the cordials He sets before you, nor by slighting and despising His gracious actings in others.
3. Labor for more heavenly wisdom. Though there is no fear of knowing too much, there is much fear in practicing too little. There are many knowing souls, but there are but a few wise souls. There is oftentimes a great deal of knowledge where there is but little wisdom to improve that knowledge. Ah! souls, you have need of a great deal of heavenly wisdom to see where and how Satan lays his snares, and wisdom to find out proper remedies against his devices, and wisdom to apply those remedies seasonably, inwardly and effectually to your own heart, that so you may avoid the snares which that evil one has laid for your precious souls.
4. Make present resistance against Satan's first motions. It is safe to resist, it's dangerous to argue. Eve argues, and falls in paradise; Job resists, and conquers upon the dunghill. He that will play with Satan's bait, will quickly be taken with Satan's hook. The promise of conquest is made over to resisting, not to arguing: "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you," James 4:7. Ah, souls! were you better at resisting than at disputing, your temptations would be fewer.
5. Labor to be filled with the Spirit. The Spirit of the Lord is a Spirit of light and power; and what can a soul do without light and power "against spiritual wickedness in high places?" (Eph 4:12). That is a sweet word of the apostle, "Be filled with the Spirit" (Eph 5:18); i.e., labor for abundance of the Spirit. He that thinks he has enough of the Holy Spirit, will quickly find himself vanquished by the evil 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, and will easily and frequently take you in his snares, and make a prey of you in spite of your souls. Therefore labor more to have your hearts filled with the Spirit, than to have your heads filled with notions, or your shops with wares, your chests with silver, or your bags with gold; so shall you escape the snares of this fowler and triumph over all his plots.