by Thomas Brooks
Satan has his devices to destroy the saints; and one great device that he has to destroy the saints is, By working them first to be cold, and then to divide, and then to be bitter and jealous, and then 'to bite and devour one another' (Gal. 5:15). Our own woeful experience is too great a proof of this. The Israelites in Egypt did not more vex one another, than Christians in these days have done, which occasioned a deadly consumption to fall upon some. (If we knock, we break. Dissolution is the daughter of dissension.)
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, To dwell more upon one another's graces than upon one another's weaknesses and infirmities. It is sad to consider that saints should have many eyes to behold one another's infirmities, and not one eye to see each other's graces, that they should use spectacles to behold one another's weaknesses, rather than looking-glasses to behold one another's graces.
Flavius Vespasian, the emperor, was more ready to conceal the vices of his friends than their virtues. Can you think seriously of this, Christians, that a heathen should excel you, and not blush?
Erasmus tells of one who collected all the lame and defective verses in Homer's works—but passed over all that was excellent. Ah! this is the practice of many professors—that they are careful and skillful to collect all the weaknesses of others, and to pass over all those things which are excellent in them. The Corinthians did eye more the incestuous person's sin than his sorrow, which was likely to have drowned him in sorrow.
Tell me, saints, is it not a more sweet, comfortable, and delightful thing to look more upon one another's graces than upon one another's infirmities? Tell me what pleasure, what delight, what comfort is there in looking upon the enemies, the wounds, the sores, the sickness, the diseases, the nakedness of our friends? Now sin, you know, is the soul's enemy, the soul's wound, the soul's sores, the soul's sickness, the soul's disease, the soul's nakedness; and ah! what a heart has that man who loves thus to look! Grace is the choicest flower in all a Christian's garden; it is the richest jewel in all his crown; it is his princely robes; it is the top of royalty; and therefore must needs be the most pleasing, sweet, and delightful object for a gracious eye to be fixed upon. Sin is darkness, grace is light; sin is hell, grace is heaven; and what madness is it to look more at darkness than at light, more at hell than at heaven! (Not race of place—but grace truly sets forth a man.)
Tell me, saints, does not God look more upon his people's graces than upon their weaknesses? Surely he does. He looks more at David's and Asaph's uprightness than upon their infirmities, though they were great and many. He eyes more Job's patience than his passion. 'Remember the patience of Job,' not a word of his impatience (James 5:11). He who drew Alexander while he had a scar upon his face, drew him with his finger upon the scar. God puts his fingers upon his people's scars, that no blemish may appear. Ah! saints, that you would make it the top of your glory in this, to be like your heavenly Father! By so doing, much sin would be prevented, the designs of wicked men frustrated, Satan outwitted, many wounds healed, many sad hearts cheered, and God more abundantly honored.*
Sin is Satan's work, grace is God's work; and is it not most fit that the child should eye most and mind most, his father's work?
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That love and union makes most for your own safety and security. We shall be invincible if we are inseparable. The world may frown upon you, and plot against you—but they cannot hurt you. Unity is the best bond of safety in every church and commonwealth.
There was a temple of Concord among the heathens; and shall it not be found among Christians, that are temples of the Holy Spirit?
And this did that Scythian king in Plutarch's book represent lively to his eighty sons, when, being ready to die, he commanded a bundle of arrows fast bound together to be given to his sons to break; they all tried to break them—but, being bound fast together, they could not; then he caused the band to be cut, and then they broke them with ease. He applied it thus: 'My sons, so long as you keep together, you will be invincible; but if the band of union be broke between you, you will easily be broken in pieces.'
Pancirollus says, 'that the most precious pearl among the Romans was called unio, union.'
Pliny writes of a stone in the island of Scyros, that if it be whole, though a large and heavy one, it swims above water—but being broken, it sinks. (No doubt a volcanic, porous product.) So long as saints keep whole, nothing shall sink them; but if they break, they are in danger of sinking and drowning.
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, To dwell upon those commands of God which require you to love one another. Oh! when your hearts begin to rise against each other, charge the commands of God upon your hearts, and say to your souls, O our souls! has not the eternal God commanded you to love those who love the Lord? And is it not life to obey, and death to rebel? Therefore look that you fulfill the commands of the Lord, for his commands are not like those who are easily reversed; but they are like those of the Medes, which cannot be changed. Oh! be much in pondering upon these commands of God. 'A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another' (John 13:34). It is called a new commandment, because it is renewed in the gospel, and set home by Christ's example, and because it is rare, choice, special, and remarkable above all others.
'This is my commandment, That you love one another, as I have loved you.' 'These things I command you, that you love one another.' 'Owe no man anything—but love one another: for he who loves another, has fulfilled the law.' 'Let brotherly love continue.' 'Love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God.' 'See that you love one another with a pure heart fervently.' 'Finally, be all of one mind, having compassion one for another. Love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.' 'For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.' 'And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.' 'Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.' Oh! dwell much upon these precious commands, that your love may be inflamed one to another. (John 15:12, 17; Rom. 13:8; Heb. 13:1; 1 John 4:7; 1 Peter 1:22, and 3:8; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:11.)
In the primitive times, it was much taken notice of by the heathens, that in the depth of misery, when fathers and mothers forsook their children, Christians, otherwise strangers, stuck one to another, whose love of religion proved firmer than that of nature. Ah! that there were more of that spirit among the saints in these days! The world was once destroyed with water for the heat of lusts, and it is thought it will be again destroyed with fire for the coldness of love.
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, To dwell more upon these choice and sweet things wherein you agree, than upon those things wherein you differ. Ah! did you but thus, how would sinful arguments be abated, and your love raised, and your spirits sweetened one to another! You agree in most things, you differ but in a few; you agree in the greatest and weightiest things, as concerning God, Christ, the Spirit, and the Scripture. You differ only in those points that have been long disputable among men of greatest piety and parts. You agree to own the Scripture, to hold to Christ the head, and to walk according to the law of the new creature.
Shall Herod and Pilate agree? Shall Turks and pagans agree? Shall bears and lions, tigers, and wolves, yes, shall a legion of devils, agree in one body? And shall not saints agree, who differ only in such things as have least of the heart of God in them, and that shall never hinder your meeting in heaven?
What a sad thing was it that a heathen should say, 'No beasts are so mischievous to men, as Christians are one to another!'
Remedy (5). The fifth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That God delights to be styled—'the God of peace'; and Christ to be styled—'the Prince of peace, and King of peace'; and the Spirit is a Spirit of peace. 'The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace' (Gal 5:22). Oh! why then should not the saints be children of peace? Certainly, men of froward, unquiet, fiery spirits cannot have that sweet evidence of their interest in the God of peace, and in the Prince of peace, and in the Spirit of peace, as those precious souls have, who follow after the things that make for love and peace. The very name of peace is sweet and comfortable; the fruit and effect thereof pleasant and profitable, more to be desired than innumerable triumphs. Peace is a blessing which ushers in a multitude of other blessings. Where Peace is, there is Christ, because Christ is peace. (2 Cor. 13:11; Is. 9:6).
The ancients were accustomed to paint peace in the form of a woman, with a horn of plenty in her hand. The Grecians had the statue of Peace, with Pluto, the god of riches, in her arms. Ah! peace and love among the saints, is that which will secure them and their mercies at home; yes, it will multiply their mercies; it will engage the God of mercy to crown them with the choicest mercies; and it is that that will render them most zealous, men invincible, and successful abroad. Love and peace among the saints is that which puts the counsels of their enemies to a standstill, and renders all their enterprises abortive; it is that which does most weaken their hands, wound their hopes, and kill their hearts.
Remedy (6). The sixth remedy against this device of Satan is, To make more care and conscience, of keeping up your peace with God. Ah! Christians, I am afraid that your remissness herein is that which has occasioned much of that sourness, bitterness, and divisions that be among you. (There is no fear of knowing too much—but there is much fear in practicing too little.) Ah! you have not, as you should, kept up your peace with God, and therefore it is that you do so dreadfully break the peace among yourselves. The Lord has promised, 'That when a man's ways please him, he will make his enemies to be at peace with him' (Prov. 16:7). Ah! how much more then would God make the children of peace to keep the peace among themselves, if their ways do but please him! All creatures are at his beck and check. Laban followed Jacob with one troop. Esau met him with another, both with hostile intentions; but Jacob's ways pleasing the Lord, God by his mighty power so works that Laban leaves him with a kiss, and Esau met him with a kiss; he has a promise from one, tears from the other, peace with both. If we make it our business to keep up our league with God, God will make it his work and his glory to maintain our peace with men; but if men make light of keeping up their peace with God, it is just with God to leave them to a spirit of pride, envy, passion, contention, division, and confusion, to leave them 'to bite and devour one another, until they are consumed one by another.'
Pharnaces sent a crown to Caesar at the same time he rebelled against him; but he returned the crown and this message back, 'Let him return to his obedience first.' There is no sound peace to be had with God or man—but in a way of obedience.
Remedy (7). The seventh remedy against this device of Satan is, To dwell much upon that near relation and union that is between you. This consideration had a sweet influence upon Abraham's heart: 'And Abraham said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray you, between me and you, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen—for we are brethren' (Gen.13:8). The Hebrew signifies, 'Oh! let there be no bitterness between us—for we are brethren.'
That is a sweet word in the psalmist, 'Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to live together in unity' (Psalm 133:1). It is good and pleasant. There be some things that are good and not pleasant, as patience and discipline; and there are some things that are pleasant but not good, as carnal pleasures, and voluptuousness. And there are some things that are neither good nor pleasant, as malice, envy, and worldly sorrow; and there are some things that are both good and pleasant, as piety, charity, peace, and union among brethren. Oh! that we could see more of this among those who shall one day meet in their Father's kingdom and never part. And as they are brethren, so they are all fellow-members: 'Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular' (1 Cor. 12:27). And again: 'We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones' (Eph. 5:30).
Shall the members of the natural body be serviceable and useful to one another, and shall the members of this spiritual body cut and destroy one another? Is it against the law of nature for the natural members to cut and slash one another? And is it not much more against the law of nature and of grace for the members of Christ's glorious body to do so? And as you are all fellow-members, so you are fellow soldiers under the same Captain of salvation, the Lord Jesus, fighting against the world, the flesh, and the devil. And as you are all fellow-soldiers, so you are all fellow sufferers under the same enemies, the devil and the world. And as you are all fellow-sufferers, so are you fellow-travelers towards the land of Canaan, 'the new Jerusalem that is above.' 'Here we have no abiding city—but we look for one to come.' The heirs of heaven are strangers on earth. And as you are all fellow-travelers, so are you all fellow-heirs of the same crown and inheritance. (Rev. 12:7, 8; Heb. 2:10; Rev. 2:10; John 15:19, 20; Heb. 12:14, 13; Rom. 8. 15-17)
Remedy (8). The eighth remedy against this device of Satan is, To dwell upon the miseries of discord. Dissolution is the daughter of dissension. Ah! how does the name of Christ, and the way of Christ, suffer by the discord of saints! How are many who are entering upon the ways of God hindered and saddened, and the mouths of the wicked opened, and their hearts hardened against God and his ways—by the discord of his people! Remember this—the disagreement of Christians is the devil's triumph; and what a sad thing is this, that Christians should give Satan cause to triumph! Our dissensions are one of the Jews' greatest stumbling-blocks. Can you think of it, and your hearts not bleed?
It was a notable saying of one, 'Take away strife, and call back peace, lest you lose a man, your friend; and the devil, an enemy, rejoice over you both.'
Remedy (9). The ninth remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That it is no disparagement to you to be first in seeking peace and reconcilement—but rather an honor to you, that you have begun to seek peace. Abraham was the elder, and more worthy than Lot, both in respect of grace and nature also, for he was uncle unto Lot, and yet he first seeks peace of his inferior, which God has recorded as his honor.
Ah! how does the God of peace, by his Spirit and messengers, pursue after peace with poor creatures! God first makes offer of peace to us: 'Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be you reconciled to God' (2 Cor. 5:20). God's grace first kneels to us, and who can turn their backs upon such blessed and bleeding embracements—but souls in whom Satan the god of this world reigns? God is the party wronged, and yet he sues for peace with us at first: 'I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name' It is doubled to show God's exceeding forwardness to show favor and mercy to them. (Is. 65:1).
Ah! how does the sweetness, the freeness, and the riches of his grace break forth and shine upon poor souls. When a man goes from the sun, yet the sunbeams follow him; so when we go from the Sun of righteousness, yet then the beams of his love and mercy follow us. Christ first sent to Peter who had denied him, and the rest who had forsaken him: 'Go your ways, and tell his disciples and Peter, that he goes before you into Galilee: there shall you see him, as he said unto you' (Mark 16:7). Ah! souls, it is not a base, low thing—but a God-like thing, though we are wronged by others, yet to be the first in seeking after peace. Such actings will speak out much of God with a man's spirit. They shall both have the name and the note, the comfort and the credit, of being most like unto God, who first begin to pursue after peace with alienated mankind.
Christians, it is not matter of liberty whether you will or you will not pursue after peace—but it is matter of duty that lies upon you; you are bound by express precept to follow after peace; and though it may seem to fly from you, yet you must pursue after it: 'Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man can see the Lord.' The Greek signifies to follow after peace, as the persecutor does him whom he persecutes. Peace and holiness are to be pursued after with the greatest eagerness that can be imagined. So the psalmist: 'Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace and pursue it' (Psalm 34:14). The Hebrew word that is here rendered seek, signifies to seek earnestly, vehemently, affectionately, studiously, industriously. 'And pursue it.' That Hebrew word signifies earnestly to pursue, being a metaphor taken from the eagerness of wild beasts or ravenous fowls, which will run or fly both fast and far rather than be disappointed of their prey. So the apostle presses the same duty upon the Romans: 'Let us follow after the things that make for peace, and things wherein one may edify another' (Rom. 14:19). Ah! you froward, sour, dogged Christians, can you look upon these commands of God without tears and blushing?
I have read a remarkable story of Aristippus, though but a heathen, who went of his own accord to Aeschines his enemy, and said, 'Shall we never be reconciled until we become a tabletalk to all the country?' and when Aeschines answered he would most gladly be at peace with him, 'Remember, then, said Aristippus, that though I were the elder and better man, yet I sought first unto you.' You are indeed, said Aeschines, a far better man than I, for I began the quarrel—but you the reconcilement. My prayer shall be that this heathen may not rise in judgment against the flourishing professors of our times, 'Who whet their tongues like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words' (Psalm 64:3).
Remedy (10). The tenth remedy against this device of Satan is, For saints to join together and walk together in the ways of grace and holiness so far as they do agree, making the word of God their only touchstone and judge of their actions. That is sweet advice that the apostle gives: 'I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus' (Phil. 3:14-16). 'I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this to you also. In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained.' Ah! Christians, God loses much, and you lose much, and Satan gains much by this—that you do not, that you will not, walk lovingly together so far as your ways lie together. It is your sin and shame that you do not, that you will not, pray together, and hear together, and confer together, and mourn together; because that in some far lesser things you are not agreed together. What folly and madness is it in those whose way of a hundred miles, lies 99 miles together, yet will not walk so far together, because that they cannot go the other mile together; yet such is the folly and madness of many Christians in these days, who will not do many things they may do, because they cannot do everything they should do. I fear God will whip them into a better temper before he is done with them. He will break their bones, and pierce their hearts—but he will cure them of this malady.
And be sure you make the word of God the only touchstone and judge of all people and actions: 'To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them' (Is. 8:20). It is best and safest to make that to be the judge of all men and things now, that all shall be judged by in the latter day: 'The word, says Christ, that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day' (John 12:48). Make not your dim light, your notions, your fancies, your opinions, the judge of men's action—but still judge by rule, and plead, 'It is written.'
When an ignorant man cried out in contest with a holy man, 'Hear me, hear me,' the holy man answered, 'Neither hear me, nor I you—but let us both hear the apostle.'
Constantine, in all the disputes before him with the Arians, would still call for the word of God as the only way, if not to convert, yet to stop their mouths.
Remedy (11). The eleventh remedy against this device of Satan is, To be much in self-judging. 'Judge yourselves, and you shall not be judged by the Lord' (1 Cor. 11:31). Ah! were Christians' hearts more taken up in judging themselves and condemning themselves, they would not be so apt to judge and censure others, and to carry it sourly and bitterly towards others who differ from them. (It is storied of Nero, himself being unchaste, he did think there was no man chaste.) There are no souls in the world who are so fearful to judge others—as those who do most judge themselves; nor so careful to make a righteous judgment of men or things—as those who are most careful to judge themselves. There are none in the world who tremble to think evil of others, to speak evil of others, or to do evil to others—as those who make it their business to judge themselves. There are none who make such sweet constructions and charitable interpretations of men and things—as those who are best and most in judging themselves. In the Olympic games, the wrestlers did not put their crowns upon their own heads—but upon the heads of others. It is just so with souls that are good at self-judging.
One request I have to you that are much in judging others and little in judging yourselves, to you that are so apt and prone to judge harshly, falsely, and unrighteously, and that is, that you will every morning dwell a little upon these scriptures:
'Judge not, that you be not judged; for with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged; and with what measure you mete out, it shall be measured to you again' (Matt. 7:1, 2). 'Judge not according to appearance—but judge righteous judgment' (John 7:24). 'The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.' (Rom. 14:3, 10, 13).
'We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ. Let us not judge one another any more—but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.' 'Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.' (1 Cor. 4:5). 'Speak not evil one of another, brethren: he who speaks evil of his brother, and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law, and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law—but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy' (James 4:11, 12). 'Who are you that judges another man's servant? to his own master he stands or falls; yes, he shall be held up, for God is able to make him stand' (Rom. 14:4).
One Delphidius accusing another before Julian about that which he could not prove, the party denying the fact, Delphidius answers, 'If it be sufficient to deny what is laid to one's charge, who shall be found guilty?' Julian answers, 'And if it be sufficient to be accused, who can be innocent?' You are wise, and know how to apply it.
Remedy (12). The twelfth remedy against this device of Satan is this, above all, Labor to be clothed with humility. Humility makes a man peaceable among brethren, fruitful in well-doing, cheerful in suffering, and constant in holy walking (1 Pet. 5:5). Humility fits for the highest services we owe to Christ, and yet will not neglect the lowest service to the lowest saint (John 13:5). Humility can feed upon the lowest dish, and yet it is maintained by the choicest delicacies, as God, Christ, and glory. Humility will make a man bless him who curses him, and pray for those who persecute him. An humble heart is an habitation for God, a scholar for Christ, a companion of angels, a preserver of grace, and a fitter for glory. Humility is the nurse of our graces, the preserver of our mercies, and the great promoter of holy duties. Humility cannot find three things on this side heaven: it cannot find fullness in the creature, nor sweetness in sin, nor life in an ordinance without Christ. An humble soul always finds three things on this side heaven: the soul to be empty, Christ to be full, and every mercy and duty to be sweet wherein God is enjoyed.
Humility can weep over other men's weaknesses, and joy and rejoice over their graces. Humility will make a man quiet and contented in the lowest condition, and it will preserve a man from envying other men's prosperous condition (1 Thess. 1:2, 3). Humility honors those who are strong in grace, and puts two hands under those who are weak in grace (Eph. 3:8). Humility makes a man richer than other men, and it makes a man judge himself the poorest among men. Humility will see much good abroad, when it can see but little at home.
Ah, Christian! though faith be the champion of grace, and love the nurse of grace, yet humility is the beautifier of grace; it casts a general glory upon all the graces in the soul. Ah! did Christians more abound in humility, they would be less bitter, willful, and sour, and they would be more gentle, meek, and sweet in their spirits and practices. Humility will make a man have high thoughts of others and low thoughts of himself; it will make a man see much glory and excellency in others, and much baseness and sinfulness in himself; it will make a man see others rich, and himself poor; others strong, and himself weak; others wise, and himself foolish.
Humility will make a man excellent at covering others' infirmities, and at recording their gracious services, and at delighting in their graces; it makes a man rejoice in every light which outshines his own, and every wind which blows others good. Humility is better at believing, than it is at questioning other men's happiness. I judge, says a humble soul, it is well with these Christians now—but it will be far better with them hereafter. They are now upon the borders of the New Jerusalem, and it will be but as a day before they slide into Jerusalem. A humble soul is more willing to say, Heaven is that man's, than mine; and Christ is that Christian's, than mine; and God is their God in covenant, than mine. Ah! were Christians more humble, there would be less contention, and more love among them than now is.
Humility, said Bernard, is that which keeps all graces together.
The humble soul is like the violet, which grows low, hangs the head downwards, and hides itself with its own leaves; and were it not that the fragrant smell of his many virtues discovered him to the world, he would choose to live and die in his self-contenting secrecy.
Source: Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices, by Thomas Brooks