by Wilhelmus à Brakel
The devil is a murderer from the beginning. God has put enmity between believers and the devil, who goes about among them as a roaring lion, using every imaginable device and act of violence to harm them—and if it were possible, to kill them. This we now wish to discuss.
It can be confirmed irrefutably from God's Word that the devil assaults believers.
(1) This is to be observed in God's declaration: "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed" (Gen 3:15).
(2) This is also evident from the names which are given him in light of this, such as, the enemy Matt 13:39, the tempter Matt 4:3, the wicked one Matt 13:19, and the adversary (1 Pet 5:8).
(3) It is conveyed by the description of his work among believers: "Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet 5:8). His works are called "the wiles of the devil" Eph 6:16, buffeting 2 Cor 12:7, shooting of fiery darts Eph 6:16, and beguiling (2 Cor 11:3).
(4) Then there are the exhortations to arm ourselves against him and to resist him. "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Eph 6:11); "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about" (1 Pet 5:8); "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).
You should know, and be prepared for the fact, that the moment you are inclined to repent and begin to turn to Jesus, even if it is —Vol. 4, Page 236— but from afar, the devil will exert himself with a vengeance to use all his wiles and wickedness to prevent this. If he cannot prevent this, he will endeavor to torment and trouble you, and thus keep you from living a holy and joyful life. Therefore, from your side you are also to exert yourself fully. Gird yourself with strength and resist him courageously.
It is needful for you to be acquainted with his devices and operations, so that you will be the less offended and be engaged in battle with all the more valor. We shall therefore present several of his common methods to you. He generally presents himself in a threefold manner: as an angel of light, as a devil, or by concealing himself—thus creating the illusion that we ourselves are involved. It is his latter guise which is most injurious.
That he occasionally approaches us as an angel of light is taught by the apostle: "Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light" (2 Cor 11:14). This is not truly the case, but it appears to be so in respect to his operations, for he often approaches the godly under the lovely pretense of godliness.
(1) Sometimes he brings to your attention matters which are good in and of themselves, such as a sweet passage of Scripture, or some sweet experiences and motions of the past; and he will endeavor to cause you to reflect upon them. He does so with evil intentions, however, and at an inappropriate time. He does this, for instance, when we are engaged in a specific matter, or if he knows that whatever will be preached will be most beneficial to us. He does this to short-circuit the earnestness with which we are engaged at that moment and to cause us to desist, as the preached Word will then pass us by unnoticed. Having thus been diverted, we shall miss certain things and will come away empty.
(2) He can make use of the fact that someone, whom he cannot mislead in any other way, is very intent on being virtuous. Yes, he may even stir someone up to this (even though a love for holiness proceeds from the heart of the godly person himself). His objective, however, is to render this person unwilling to be subject to God's dispensation, and cause him to strive continually for greater and loftier things, thereby making him sorrowful, discouraged, and unbelieving, or inducing him to pride.
(3) He may even encourage someone to be virtuous—yes, to the most careful observation of his thoughts, words, and deeds. However, he does so in order to draw him away, so that he might be involved in things which are external to his calling or station in —Vol. 4, Page 237— life. Under a sweet pretense, he will even allure him to things which are contrary to the commandment of God (which is nothing but fanaticism), the person thinking that all that comes to mind is from God. There are then no limits to what he can entice a man. He may also cause one's conscience to be very sensitive, so that a person perceives himself as offending in everything he does, causing him to go his way in much spiritual anxiety. Or he may cause him to see how far he falls short and thus cause him to disown his spiritual state, holding before him that such a life cannot coexist with grace.
(4) He may also stir someone up to be virtuous for the purpose of making him satisfied with the activity itself, keeping him from Christ and the seeking and exercise of justifying faith. Thus, he will subtly rob him of his comfort and that genuine sanctification which flows out of justification—and if someone is not born again, will keep him out of heaven. These matters everyone must keep in mind in order not to be deceived by Satan.
Sometimes the devil comes as a devil in order to inflict terror.
(1) This may occur by way of apparitions, sensations, noises, or in other different ways. This occurs rarely, however, and is generally imaginary, as some are not able to distinguish this from reality.
(2) This may occur when he stirs someone up to surrender himself to him, or something similar. How far he can go in this they only know who have experienced it.
(3) This may occur when he threatens to kill or inflict suffering upon someone, whereby the assaulted person lives in much fear.
It is thus that he torments as a devil. If, however, in addition to this, he is not able to carry out some of his secret designs, he does but little
harm, even though he prevents much that is good.
Most of the time the devil conceals himself and seeks to convince man that he has no hand in what transpired, but rather that it is the person himself and that such things proceed from his own heart. Thereby he seeks either to prevent that which is good and to corrupt it, to bring about the commission of sin, or to bring the soul into a state of bewilderment. In order to prevent that which is good he has many subtle devices, leveling his assault either on faith, prayer, the hearing of the Word, or sanctification.
First, he knows that faith is the fountainhead of spiritual life, and he therefore seeks to obscure faith in all its activity.
(1) He suddenly interjects irrational suggestions, such as, "Is all this in truth? Is not all this imagination?" He will then continually —Vol. 4, Page 238— stir you up to mentally reflect upon these suggestions and to search them out. If we then begin to listen, he gets hold of us and begins to present arguments upon which he demands an answer. And if he gets you that far that you begin to respond by reasoning, he will proceed with his argumentation and will, time and again, present new proofs. When the ability to reason fails, he then proceeds to bring you from fleeting atheistic thoughts to embrace atheism itself. You will then be grievously caught in the net and be incapable of having either comfort or peace, and will not be able to be encouraged in whatever you are doing. Therefore, be on your guard against giving heed to these initial fleeting interjections. Let them pass by, and proceed as before, relying upon the Word of God.
(2) Sometimes he unexpectedly interjects: "Are you really a child of God? Is it really in truth? Have you not deceived yourself? Come, examine yourself, for that which is good can endure a test." At times he does this when we may live sweetly by faith, in the exercise of its extrinsic acts, and when we may have fellowship with God. Or he will occasionally do so when we are least capable of making a judgment about ourselves. If we do listen to him, our faith will receive a setback at the very outset and we shall be prevented from proceeding in this good frame. When it comes to the examination whether our foundation is right, he does his utmost to obscure that which is good and hold before us our corruptions with utmost clarity. He will then suggest: "The godly are such and such, but you are far removed from living such a life! Thus, you have deceived yourself; you have nothing more than an enlightened understanding, and you have nothing but head knowledge. You are a temporal believer and a hypocrite." It is thus that you begin to totter. Therefore, do not listen to those interjections, but proceed with the extrinsic acts of faith, which cannot deceive. For even if you had deceived yourself, it is nevertheless at this point that you must make a beginning. It is safest to practice self-examination when wrestling in prayer; that is, when you are speaking to and transacting with the Lord.
(3) Sometimes he makes your bodily cross to appear much heavier than it is. It then seems as if there is no deliverance, but that it will become heavier and heavier. He will also suggest that this has not come upon you in God's favor, but as a manifestation of His wrath; that it is all because of your sins and is but the beginning of eternal damnation. He knows how to impress this upon you sentence after sentence, doing so in an authoritative and overpowering manner. If you listen to him, his interjections will —Vol. 4, Page 239— begin to have their effect, faith will begin to falter, you will easily become despondent, and your cross will press you down. Therefore, reject all such interjections. Take your cross upon you and follow Jesus; adhere to the promise that you will be sustained and that the outcome will be well.
Secondly, since the devil knows what strength, comfort, and benefit may be derived from prayer, he uses all the power and subtlety at his disposal either to keep you from praying or to trouble you while praying.
(1) He will suggest as many other activities as he possibly can, diverting your thoughts elsewhere, and inducing you to postpone prayer to a given time (having something else to do first). He thus seeks to make a person run around from one thing to the next; and if you follow him in this, you will lose your desire and lively frame to engage in prayer. If you encounter this, be on guard and know that your mortal enemy
the devil, is in pursuit. You must be all the more earnest in your striving to overcome all these obstacles and say to yourself: "It is presently my duty to fight against this, and I desire to be victorious over him in this."
(2) Sometimes he suggests that prayer is such a difficult work—a work that is not possible to do, for which you are entirely unfit, are presently in too sinful a condition for, and that you should thus wait for a season when you will be more fit for it. If this causes you to look up against prayer, he has gained the advantage over you. Therefore, proceed and do not permit yourself to be hindered. Begin, as incapable as you are, and after your prayer consider whether it was difficult and whether you were incapable of it. You will then judge differently.
(3) Sometimes he gives a deep impression that prayer is both ineffective and fruitless. He will then interject the following: "You neither pray in faith nor do you clearly perceive who God is; instead, you are praying to an unknown God. You do not have a right perception of yourself, do not perceive your sinfulness and unworthiness, nor are you as humble and brokenhearted as a supplicant ought to be. You do not earnestly desire the matters for which you are praying, nor do you have those holy objectives which are requisite for prayer. Therefore, desist, for it is not pleasing to God. You will not receive this matter, for God does not hear such prayers. Have you not sufficiently experienced that all your prayers are in vain? What did you ever receive as an answer upon your prayers?" If to some degree you give heed to such interjections, he will succeed both in impairing the exercise of —Vol. 4, Page 240— faith as you engage in prayer, and in decreasing your measure of earnestness and perseverance. Therefore, be acquainted with his devices and strive all the more earnestly to overcome. Adhere to the promises of God and always remember that the Lord does not hear because of the worthiness of prayer, but upon prayer as being a means ordained by Him. He will grant your desire at His time, in His manner, and according to His measure—and you have indeed experienced this to be so.
(4) Sometimes the devil, as if throwing in a handful of dust, is also busy casting other thoughts into our minds while we are praying. He will also try to bring our soul into a hurried and rushed frame; that is, making it seem as if something needed to be done that could not wait. He will stir up a desire for the activity in which we are currently engaged, cause our hearts to be troubled, or suddenly bring matters to mind of which we have not thought in a long time. Be also acquainted with this device and reject it as not worthy of your attention.
Thirdly, the devil knows that the Lord commonly blesses the assembly of believers, the ministry of the Word, and the partaking of the Lord's Supper. Therefore, he goes along to church and will seek to implement his practices upon you there also. He may suggest reasons to you why you ought not to attend, suggest all sorts of thoughts to you, stupefy your mind with sleepiness (if he is permitted to do so), or do a thousand other things to rob you of the Word or to render it ineffective. Remind yourself of this, be acquainted with his devices, be on your guard, and out of hatred and enmity for him, do not in any way cooperate with him. Remind yourself that at such a moment you must do battle and strive for a victory.
Fourthly, since the devil knows that sanctification is so precious to you and in a special sense honors God and edifies your neighbor, he will lay snares everywhere to keep you from its exercise. He may suggest that you are first to be holy within, or that such and such is not your duty. He particularly knows how vividly to hold before you (and to exaggerate) those ulterior motives which he knows are yet to be found in the heart of an imperfect man, and which will readily surface in the best of deeds—yes, even if you were free from them prior to this moment, he will suggest, "See, that is your purpose." When you sing, pray in a gathering or in the presence of others, drop a tear during a sermon, give a gift, or rebuke and exhort others, he will immediately suggest: "You did —Vol. 4, Page 241— that to be seen of men." He will thus either prevent you from proceeding, or will rob you of the comfort you would otherwise have derived. Therefore, be acquainted with his wickedness, pay no attention to his interjections, proceed, and exercise this virtue deficiently and yet to the best of your ability—and the Lord will render you stronger in this area.
His Major Objective: To Bring About the Commission of Sin
The devil is neither satisfied with preventing you from doing good nor spoiling what you are doing, but also endeavors to bring you to the commission of all manner of sin. At one time he will stir up David to be proud and thus to count the people; then he will cause a beautiful Bathsheba to be present in order to entice to fornication. At another time he will give opportunity to be envious, backbite, lie, indulge excessively, or to commit some other sin. It makes no difference to him, as long as he can cause you to fall. He will pursue you at great length and will use a thousand means and devices.
(1) He frequently begins in a remote fashion, concealing his objective and goal. He will create the wonderful illusion for you that you need to relax and will thus seek to make you idle, thereby making you a suitable object for him. He will create the illusion that something is lawful entertainment, and will thus seek to make you elated. He will then suggest various things like a salesman who asks, "Would you like this?" He will go from the one thing to the other to see if there is something in which you might become interested.
(2) He begins with small things which initially do not appear to be sinful, thus concealing their sinfulness. As the soul yields to small sins, she will lose her tenderness and the tender fear of God. He will thus proceed from small or moderate sins to a reflecting upon vain things, thereby endeavoring to present these things as being delightful—and thus the soul will assume a sinful disposition. Therefore, be careful and do not yield to anything, regardless of how small a sin may appear to be.
(3) Then again he will seek to stir you up to the commission of great sins—particularly those sins to which you are naturally most inclined. It is true, he does not know the heart, but he has taken notice of the sin which you commit most frequently, and the sin to which he previously has most easily enticed you. He also listens to the confession of your sins and takes note of all the attending circumstances. From this he concludes what your secret and bosom sins are. These he pursues, and sometimes can present sin so suddenly and as being so delightful to the flesh, that it ignites instantly, as gunpowder. That sin we thought to have under control will then suddenly become —Vol. 4, Page 242— lively again. He will then, so to speak, cause the soul to reel, which may result in a persevering in this sin. Therefore, be on your guard.
(4) When you then perceive too late what you have done, and desire to return to the Lord to have your inner peace, former tenderness, and purity of heart restored, he will then turn the tables and will strive to lead you into the commission of other internal sins: impatience, fretfulness, unbelief, and despair. Therefore, remain steadfast.
Possible Objection: These are my sins; they proceed out of my own heart.
Answer: Some blame the devil too much in order that they may excuse themselves, and others do not blame him enough. I maintain that your own heart is evil enough to bring forth all these things. Consider this to be a most certain truth: Wherever your own will and affections are involved as far as reflecting upon or executing a given matter—this is your own sin, for which you are accountable.
However, it is also true (a fact of which you should clearly and continually remind yourself) that:
First, the devil seeks to meddle in everything, is continually on the alert to get the better of you, and will, under whatever pretense it may be, either rile you up or push you onward in the commission of certain sins.
Secondly, you may indeed believe the devil to be the instigator:
(1) When the above-mentioned matters occur suddenly to you with unusual clarity, appearing to be most advantageous, sweet, and delightful. (I repeat, they appear to be so, for the devil cannot affect the will, and is not able to render them sweet.)
(2) When motives are suddenly joined to this which are even contrary to your judgment and will.
(3) When in addition these matters are forcefully and authoritatively impressed upon you, in order thus to overwhelm the will by such dominating directives.
(4) If the heart is brought into turmoil, and there is an extraordinary lack of composure, and a driving passion. If you are thus guilty of a sin of commission or omission, then recognize the hand of Satan in this; he is both tempter and instigator. And if some of these sins make some inroads, be it known that he himself will also join in. Thus, you are to understand the devil to be the instigator and you the follower. Be on the alert, and hate the devil so much that you would neither give him a hearing nor obey him.
There are also other strifes of which he alone is the author, —Vol. 4, Page 243— having as his sole objective to torment God's children. God's children are not partakers in these sins, except when they permit themselves to be incapacitated to serve God in faith, hope, and love. Only their negative frame is their sin. They should be stronger and thus not permit themselves to be troubled in a sinful manner by his turmoil. However, the interjections themselves are not your sin, but the devil's. Nevertheless (take note of this) he will continually seek to convince you that it is your own sin. If you indeed begin to believe this, his interjections will have their effect upon you and bring you in a grievous condition. If, however, you recognize the devil's words as being his language, you will then be able to resist them that much more readily and be less troubled.
These assaults occur in so many different ways and relative to so many different matters, that it is impossible to recite them all. I also do not desire to present them all and would rather be entirely silent on the matter. In order that his wickedness may be exposed, however, and God's children be armed against the insinuation, "You are the culprit and it proceeds from your own heart," I shall present some matters in a general sense.
(1) Some interjections appear to be entirely infantile and ludicrous; however, they are of a far-reaching nature and generally have painful consequences. For example, he can suggest, "Say this, or say that." He may go a bit further and add, "If you don't say this, and if you don't deal with this, you are damned; if you do it, all is well." This goes a step further, if, in a compelling manner, he demands that you acquiesce in this or that, and thereupon seeks to unsettle you, insinuating that you were the one who acquiesced. Thus, that which appears to be so infantile culminated in much agitation.
(2) Sometimes he quickly interjects a passage of Scripture which is difficult to understand, and he will force that upon us either to charge God foolishly or to disown our spiritual state, stirring us up to respond to this. Once a person begins to defend the truth, God, and his spiritual state, the devil will get an increasing hold of him, for he is a devious deceiver. Therefore, one must not respond—no matter how it may go—but allow it to pass by.
(3) Sometimes he will direct a person's attention to eternal election; that the one person is called and converted instead of another person, thus resulting in the damnation of so many people. He will do this in order to accuse God. Once one begins to reflect upon this and desires to defend God, he is caught in the snare. Therefore, resist this and do not respond, for you will thereby become all the more agitated. The Lord's will is holy.
(4) Sometimes he makes use of a bodily or spiritual cross to —Vol. 4, Page 244— accuse God concerning His dealings by interjecting all manner of things which weigh the soul down incomparably more than the cross. However, be on guard against such interjections and ignore them. Adhere to the fact that God is sovereign. He does whatever pleases Him, and will not give an account to man of His doings.
(5) Sometimes he knows how to lead someone, whom he has been sifting for some time, round about in such a manner, that the person, when desiring to come before the Lord or when beginning to pray, appears to be focused on an object other than God. Due to obscure thoughts and the devil's mysterious operation upon the imagination, it will then appear as if he were praying to that object rather than to God.
This is a great impediment to prayer.
(6) Sometimes he acts as a prophet and interjects: "Such and such will befall you; you will turn out thus, and you will yet come to the commission of such deeds." He does not only interject this, but he will forcefully impose upon the person that it will certainly come to pass in such a manner. He will repeat this over and over again so that there comes no end to his prophesying. Sometimes he will previously begin to show such things in a dream and would wish this dream to be perceived as being of divine origin in order that he may make it more emphatic. Subsequent to this he will again make use of this dream and will impress the imagery of these matters in such a manner that it causes much agitation. And thus he afflicts the body and the soul by generating fear for future matters which he has foretold.
(7) Sometimes he comes with fiery darts and evil thoughts about God, doing so with such vehemence and persistence, that the soul has no rest day or night. The poor soul is then mortally wounded, and can neither endure nor resist those thoughts. They return with increasing force, and it appears as if those images are his own thoughts— which aggravates his misery.
In these and similar assaults the devil operates under cover. His entire effort and device is to suggest that it is not he who interjects such thoughts, but that they proceed from the heart of the assaulted person himself. He will suggest that such sins cannot coexist with grace, and that therefore the person will be eternally damned. And when would there come an end to these assaults if the Lord at His time did not intervene and rebuke Satan?
Question: Do not these thoughts originate with the person himself? It seems to me that all this proceeds from my own heart. If I —Vol. 4, Page 245— only knew that they were the sins of the devil and his interjections, I would already be half delivered. Can we know that this is so—and if yes, whereby can we know this?
Answer: First, all sinful frames of unbelief, despondency, fretfulness, and despair are a person's own sins, even though they at times are caused by the assaults of Satan. The initiative did not come from the person, but from the devil. You have given him too much room to operate, and you have become excessively troubled by it. You should not have paid so much attention to it.
Secondly, let us assume that all the things described came forth out of your own heart. Then what? Is it unforgivable? No; Christ stands ready to receive all those who are heavy laden with sin—also the chief of sinners and blasphemers (1 Tim 1:13).
Evasive Argument: I have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, and that is unforgivable.
Answer: This is not the sin against the Holy Ghost, for there is no remorse over that sin. Instead, it grieves you, you are oppressed by it, and you pray.
Thirdly, you should know that these and similar experiences are the lot, by far, of the majority of God's children. Should it therefore surprise you that it also befalls you?
Evasive Argument: My disposition is entirely different, however. I have not found it in the things mentioned, and I have never heard nor read of a similar disposition.
Answer: Perhaps you know but little of what others have experienced, and thus you cannot say, "Others do not experience this." If you therefore calmly examine the cases described above, I believe that you will find your case there. I did not want to deal with them more distinctly and comprehensively than that. He who experiences these things will be able to detect his own case from these implicit presentations.
Fourthly, that the interjections mentioned are not yours, but rather the sins of the devil, can be ascertained when:
(1) They occur suddenly, unexpectedly, and as lightning—even when one is involved in the performance of a good and holy work. For all that proceeds from our own heart gradually takes shape by way of reasoning, and generally is triggered by a given occasion.
(2) They are forcefully imposed upon us against our will, and in a manner whereby we cannot avoid it. The soul rejects it and wishes neither to think upon it nor to approve of it in the least. Nevertheless these thoughts return time and again. It is thus evident that we are merely suffering as someone who is being —Vol. 4, Page 246— beaten, and that these arrows are being fired from without. Therefore, use your mind and judge accordingly.
(3) They are accompanied with terror so that the soul immediately loses its composure, becomes very agitated, and becomes incapable of reasoning rationally. The very opposite is the case when sins proceed from a person's own heart.
(4) The interjections are unnatural and are thus repulsive to our nature. If this is your experience, you may and must be assured that they are not your sins, but rather the devil's. Therefore, you ought not to be that troubled by them, but resist the devil with contempt.
Question: There are some with whom the thought may yet occur: "There are times when I can truly feel that they are not of an external source, but are my own thoughts."
Answer: A person is frequently ignorant of the manner in which his soul functions, and he is therefore unable to distinguish what proceeds from the representation or interjection of Satan, or from himself. Since, however, we are of the opinion that we do understand this, we are of the opinion that they proceed from the soul herself. When another person utters dreadful things, you will also understand what he is saying. It troubles you, and yet you know that they are not your sins, but rather those of the one who is speaking. Such is also true here.
Secondly, you must also know that when the devil has been driven away from you, you will yet maintain a fearful disposition for some time as a result of what had previously been interjected. These things have also not been erased from your memory as yet; however, it is nothing more than a memory. However, this fearful disposition and the memory of it is not the sin. Indeed, this fearful disposition even proves your love for God, for you wish neither to hear nor think any foolish things about Him.
It does not suffice to know that those fiery darts have been shot by the devil, for we shall thereby not be delivered from them. Rather, it is the Lord's will that we shall battle against the devil, and in the way of strife He will give the victory. You may ask: "What shall I do?"
(1) The best you can do in this respect is to ignore, resist, and make no response; let it all pass by. Consider this to be similar to someone standing by your window and continually yelling these things at you, which would be very troublesome and grievous to you. However, you would not be as upset as if you yourself were speaking these things.
(2) View this as an affliction—just as if you had bodily pain. Remain quiet, possess your soul in patience, and always consider the hand of God to be in it. The Lord has decreed it to be so, wants to keep you humble, and has determined how far it will go (Job 1:12).
(3) Hold fast to your faith. Even though it is not in lively exercise, let it nevertheless be at the bottom of your heart. Therefore, ascertain by way of your previous experience that you are a child of God; however, for the moment refrain from examining yourself.
(4) Know that the Lord Jesus has conquered the devil and has crushed his head (Gen 3:15). His dominion has been eradicated Heb 11.
Therefore, be of good courage, considering that he is a conquered enemy.
(5) Consider the intercessory prayer of the Lord Jesus: "I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not" (Luke 22:32).
(6) Believe that the outcome will be good. This is according to the promises, and has been confirmed by the examples of others and your own experience during other seasons of strife. The more severe your trials are, the greater will be the measure of comfort, peace, joy, and strength the Lord will grant you. You yourself will realize that during such strife you are kept from many other sins and manifestations of pride.
(7) Be much in prayer. If you feel that you have but little strength to persevere earnestly and to enlarge upon your request, then look time and again to the Lord. Let the Lord see and hear your turning to Him, as well as your sighs and your ejaculatory prayers. Therefore, wait also upon Him from whom your help must come, and do not neglect your devotional exercises.
(8) Persevere during this season of darkness and agitation. Follow the Word of God, and direct your goings accordingly—both in living a godly life as well as in the performance of your calling. Always keep yourself occupied therein, for things will never be more difficult for you than when you are idle.
(9) If you can avail yourself of an experienced minister or another strong Christian, reveal your strife to them and do not try to grapple with it alone. The opportunity to pour out your heart to them, their support, as well as their intercession will be a suitable means to be encouraged—and from the moment you may receive some courage, you will increase in strength.
Therefore, be determined to give strong resistance. To be encouraged in doing so, stir yourself up to reflect upon these matters.
First, it is the will of God that His children would jointly form —Vol. 4, Page 248— an army under their Prince and King Jesus, in order to battle against the devil and his angels. Such a battle is expressed in the following passages: "Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels" (Rev 12:7); "Behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war. And the armies ... followed Him upon white horses" Rev 19:11,14. The Lord Jesus has destroyed the devil by His death; that is, He has removed from him all power he had over His people. By making satisfaction for their sins by His death, He has delivered them out of the hands of the tyrant to whom they had become subject through sin, so that he has no dominion over them whatsoever—nor ever will have. In His wisdom and goodness, however, God has granted him some limited power to assault the army of Christ as an enemy, so that His children may be exercised in battle and may achieve victory over him while thus engaged—to their glory and his shame. Since it is thus a fact that you have joined an army at war, it behooves you to fight valiantly, for all who are in this army oppose this enemy—doing so under the supervision of our General and the holy angels. Therefore, be willing and valiant.
Secondly, when we consider the nature of this enemy, we observe that he has a deadly and dreadful hatred for our beloved Lord Jesus, and for all who cleave to Him—and particularly for you. This hatred causes him to rage vehemently, and he, "as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet 5:8). He is subtle, cruel, and tireless in seeking to rob you of your advantage, to harm you, and to hinder you in your conversation. This must arouse your hatred against him in return. Observe this in David so that you may emulate him: "Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate Thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against Thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies" (Ps 139:21-22).
Such hatred will not allow him to have the pleasure to prevail over you in a given matter, and to triumph over you. This hatred will even motivate you not to permit him to remain near you. It will motivate you to chase him away so that he will flee from you. This hatred will cause you to rejoice when you trample him under foot and thwart his actions. God has given you the ability to hate. It is a natural propensity
and therefore use it most vehemently against him.
Thirdly, it is a very shameful thing if you permit him to gain the victory over you by carelessness, unbelief, or by yielding to your lusts—lusts which he stimulated and stirred up in you. For be assured that in a subtle manner he has his hand in everything. How shameful it —Vol. 4, Page 249— will be when you, upon returning to the Lord, are rebuked by Him for having been so fainthearted by either having yielded to him immediately or by having rendered him but little resistance! On the other hand, it is a glorious matter if you have valiantly fought against his assaults, even if you were wounded in doing so.
Such valor will give you much freedom to approach unto the Lord. How sweet it is when the Lord shows that He takes pleasure in your having been engaged in warfare (even if you did so with but little strength), since you have battled with all your strength and in the uprightness of your heart! How sweet it is when the Lord, in response to this, grants you some of the hidden manna, which He has promised to those who overcome! How sweet it is when He says, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!" (Matt 25:21).
Fourthly, the devil is a conquered enemy, and therefore the victory is certain. The Lord Jesus, as the Seed of the woman, has bruised his head Gen 3:15, and has destroyed him by His death (Heb 2:14). He has spoiled principalities and powers, made a show of them openly, and has triumphed over them by way of the cross (Col 2:15). He would indeed be a fainthearted warrior who would not dare to attack a mortally wounded enemy who is already down and yet struggles a bit. God has permitted the devil to still struggle in order to grieve him by having a poor son of man despise, trample upon, and inflict deadly wounds upon him. He will never again regain power over a child of God. He may inflict some wounds, but every believer will ultimately conquer him in the power of Christ and then they shall jubilate: "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor 15:54-57). "They overcame him (the accuser of the brethren who has been cast down, the devil) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death" (Rev 12:11).
Therefore, be valiant against him. Be aware of your weakness, however, and do not trust in your own strength, for this could suddenly cause you to fall. Stay close to the chief captain, Jesus. Take refuge by Him, take hold of His strength, and fight by His strength. Pray without ceasing: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Be careful and take unto you the whole armor of God, gird your loins about with truth, and put on the breastplate of righteousness; let your feet be shod with the preparation —Vol. 4, Page 250— of the gospel of peace; and take the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance" (Eph 6:13-18). Therefore, "be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Rev 2:10).
Excerpt from The Christian's Reasonable Service Wilhelmus à Brakel