The Thomas Watson Reading RoomThe Christian Soldier; or Heaven Taken by Storm
(Part 7, offering violence to Satan and the world)
2. We must offer violence to Satan. Satan opposeth us both by open violence, and secret treachery. By open violence, so he is called the Red Dragon; by secret treachery, so he is called the Old Serpent. We read in Scripture of his snares and darts; he hurts more by his snares than by his darts.
1. His Violence. He labours to storm the castle of the heart; he stirs up passion, lust, and revenge. These are called 'fiery darts,' Ephes. vi.16 because they oft set the soul on fire. Satan in regard to his fierceness is called a Lion, 1 Peter iv. 6. 'Your adversary the Devil is a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.' Not (saith Chrysostom) whom he may bite, but devour.
2. His Treachery. What he cannot do by force, he will endeavor to do by fraud. Satan hath several subtle policies in tempting.
In suiting his temptations to the complexion and temper of the body, Satan studies physiognomy, and lays suitable baits. -- He knew Achan's s covetous humour, and tempted him with a wedge of gold. He tempts the sanguine man with beauty.
2. Another subtlety is to draw men to evil, sub specie boni, under a pretence of good. -- The pirate doeth mischief by hanging out false colours; so does Satan by hanging out the colours of religion. He puts some men upon sinful actions, and persuades them much good will come of it. He tells them in some cases that they may dispense with the rule of the Word, and stretch their conscience beyond that line, that they may be in a capacity of doing more service. As if God needed our sin to raise his glory.
3. Satan tempts to sin gradually. As the husbandman digs about the root of a tree, and by degrees loosens it, and at last it falls. Satan steals by degrees into the heart: he is at first more modest: he did not say to Eve at first, Eat the apple; no, but he goes more subtly to work; he puts forth a question. Hath God said? Sure Eve, thou art mistaken; the bountiful God never intended to debar one of the best trees of the garden. Hath God said? Sure, either God did not say it; or if he did, he never really intended it. Thus by degrees he wrought her to distrust and then she took of the fruit and ate. Oh, take heed of Satan's first motions to sin, that seem more modest -- principiis obsta. He is first a fox, and then a lion.
4. Satan tempts to evil in licitis, in lawful things. It was lawful for Noah to eat the fruit of the grape; but he took too much, and so sinned. Excess turns that which is good into evil. Eating and drinking may turn to intemperance. Industry in one's calling (when excessive) is covetousness. Satan draws men to an immoderate love of the creature, and then makes them offend in that which they love, as Agrippina poisoned her husband Claudius in that meat he loved most.
5. Satan puts men upon doing good out of evil ends: if he cannot hurt them by scandalous actions, he will by virtuous actions. Thus he tempts some to espouse religion out of policy to get preferment, and to give alms for applause, that others may see their good works, and canonize them. This hypocrisy doth leaven the duties of religion and makes them lose there reward.
6. The Devil persuades men to evil by such as are good. This sets a gloss upon his temptations, and makes them less suspected. The devil hath made use sometimes of the eminentest and holiest men to promote his temptations. The devil tempted Christ by an apostle, Peter dissuades him from suffering. Abraham, a good man, bids his wife equivocate; Say, thou art my sister. These are Satan's subtleties in tempting. Now here we must offer violence to Satan, 1. By faith, 1 Peter v. 9. 'Whom resist, stedfast in the faith.' Faith is a wise, intelligent grace: it can see a hook under the bait. 2. It is an heroic grace; it is said above all, to quench the fiery darts of Satan. Faith resists the devil.
1. As it doth keep the castle of the heart that it doeth not yield. It is not being tempted that makes guilty, but giving consent. Faith enters its protest against Satan.
2. Faith not only not yields, but beats back the temptation. Faith holds the promise in one hand, and Christ in the other: The promise encourageth faith, and Christ strengthens it: so faith beats the enemy out of the field.
2. We must offer violence to Satan by prayer. We overcome him upon our knees. As Samson called to Heaven for help, so a Christian by prayer fetcheth in auxiliary forces from Heaven. In all temptations, go to God by prayer. Lord, teach me to use every piece of the spiritual armor; how to hold the shield, how to wear the helmet, how to use the sword of the Spirit. Lord, strengthen me in the battle; let me rather die a conqueror than be taken prisoner, and led by Satan in triumph.-- Thus we must offer violence to Satan. There is 'a lion in the way,' but we must resolve upon fighting.
And let this encourage us to offer violence to Satan. Our enemy is beaten in part already. Christ, who is 'the captain of our salvation,' has given Satan his death-wound upon the cross, Col. ii. 15. The serpent is soonest killed in his head. Christ hath bruised the head of the old Serpent. -- The devil is a chained enemy, and a conquered enemy; therefore fear not to give battle to him. Resist him, and he will fly; he knows no other march than running away.
3. We must offer violence to the world. The world shews its golden apple. It is a part of our vow in baptism to fight under Christ's banner against the world. Take heed of being drowned in the luscious delights of it. It must be a strong brain that can bear heady wine. He had need have a great deal of wisdom and grace who knows how to maintain a great estate. Riches oft send up intoxicating fumes, which make men's heads giddy with pride. "Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked,' Deut. xxxi. 15. It is hard to climb up the hill of God with too many golden weights. Those who want the honours of the world, want the temptations of it. The world is blandus Daemon, a flattering enemy. It is given to some, as Michal to David, for a snare. The world shews its two breasts of pleasure and profit, and many fall asleep with the breast in their mouth. The world never kisses us, except with an intent to betray us. It is a silken halter. The world is no friend to grace; it chokes our love to heavenly things: the earth puts out the fire. Naturally we love the world, Job xxxi. 24. 'If I have made gold my hope;' the Septuagint renders it, 'If I have been married to my gold.' Too many are wedded to their money; they live together as man and wife. O let us take heed of being entangled in this pleasing snare. Many who have escaped the rock of scandalous sins, yet have sunk in the world's golden quicksands. The sin is not in using the world, but in loving it. 1 John ii. 15. 'Love not the world.' If we are Christians, we must offer violence to the world. Believers are 'called out of the world:' they are in the world, but not of it, John xvii.16. As we say of a dying man, he is not a man for this world. A true saint is crucified in his affections to the world, Gal. vi. 14. He is dead to the honours and pleasures or it. What delight doeth a dead man take in pictures or music? Jesus Christ gave himself 'to redeem us from this present evil world,' Gal. i. 4. If we will be saved, we must offer violence to the world. Living fish swim against the stream. We must swim against the world, else we shall be carried down the stream, and fall into the dead sea. That we may offer violence to the world, let us remember:
1. It is deceitful. Our Savior calls it, 'The deceitfulness of riches,' Matt. xiii. 22. The world promiseth happiness, but nothing less. It promiseth us Rachel, but puts us off with bleary-eyed Leah: it promiseth to satisfy our desires, but only increaseth them: it gives poisoned pills, but wraps them in sugar.
2. It is defiling, James i. 17. 'Pure religion is to keep himself unspotted from the world.' As if the apostle would intimate that the world is good for nothing but to spot. It first spots men's consciences, and then their names. It is called filthy lucre, 1 Peter i. 7. because it makes men so filthy. They will damn themselves to get the world. Ahab would have Naboth's vineyard, though he swam to it in blood.
3. It is perishing, Job ii. 17.The fashion of the world passeth away.' The world is like a flower which withers while we are smelling it.