Tag Archives: Satan

“You can make him do nothing at all for long periods” by C.S. Lewis

“This dim uneasiness needs careful handling. If it gets too strong it may wake him up and spoil the whole game. On the other hand, if you suppress it entirely—which, by the by, the Enemy will probably not allow you to do—we lose an element in the situation which can be turned to good account.

If such a feeling is allowed to live, but not allowed to become irresistible and flower into real repentance, it has one invaluable tendency. It increases the patient’s reluctance to think about the Enemy. All humans at nearly all times have some such reluctance; but when thinking of Him involves facing and intensifying a whole vague cloud of half-conscious guilt, this reluctance is increased tenfold.

They hate every idea that suggests Him, just as men in financial embarrassment hate the very sight of a pass-book. In this state your patient will not omit, but he will increasingly dislike, his religious duties. He will think about them as little as he feels he decently can beforehand, and forget them as soon as possible when they are over.

A few weeks ago you had to tempt him to unreality and inattention in his prayers: but now you will find him opening his arms to you and almost begging you to distract his purpose and benumb his heart. He will want his prayers to be unreal, for he will dread nothing so much as effective contact with the Enemy. His aim will be to let sleeping worms lie.

As this condition becomes more fully established, you will be gradually freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations. As the uneasiness and his reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo (for that is what habit fortunately does to a pleasure) you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention.

You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him.

You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, ‘I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.’

The Christians describe the Enemy as one ‘without whom Nothing is strong.’ And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.

You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy.

It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick.

Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,

Your affectionate uncle,

SCREWTAPE”

–C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: Macmillian, 1950), 62-65.

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“That old serpent” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us first mark in this passage, the power and unwearied malice of the devil. That old serpent who tempted Adam to sin in Paradise, was not afraid to assault the second Adam, the Son of God.

Whether he understood that Jesus was ‘God manifest in the flesh’ may perhaps be doubted. But that he saw in Jesus One who had come into the world to overthrow his kingdom, is clear and plain.

He had seen what happened at our Lord’s baptism. He had heard the marvellous words from heaven. He felt that the great Friend of man was come, and that his own dominion was in peril.

The Redeemer had come. The prison door was about to be thrown open. The lawful captives were about to be set free. All this, we need not doubt, Satan saw, and resolved to fight for his own.

The prince of this world would not give way to the Prince of peace without a mighty struggle.

He had overcome the first Adam in the garden of Eden;—why should be not overcome the second Adam in the wilderness? He had spoiled man once of Paradise;—why should he not spoil him of the kingdom of God?”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 1 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 108. Ryle is commenting on Luke 4:1-13.

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“I will pray” by John Bunyan

“Now, while these Scriptures lay before me, and laid sin ‘anew’ at my door, that saying in the 18th of Luke, with others, did encourage me to prayer.

Then the tempter again laid at me very sore, suggesting, That neither the mercy of God, nor yet the blood of Christ, did at all concern me, nor could they help me for my sin; ‘therefore it was in vain to pray.’

Yet, thought I, I will pray.

But, said the tempter, your sin is unpardonable.

Well, said I, I will pray.

It is to no boot, said he.

Yet, said I, I will pray.

So I went to prayer to God; and while I was at prayer, I uttered words to this effect:

Lord, Satan tells me that neither Thy mercy, nor Christ’s blood, is sufficient to save my soul.

Lord, shall I honour Thee most, by believing Thou wilt and canst? or ‘him,’ by believing thou neither wilt nor canst?

Lord, I would fain honour Thee, by believing Thou wilt and canst.”

–John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, Works of John Bunyan, Vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2006), 31-32. [HT: MED]

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“Christ is a strong Saviour” by Richard Sibbes

“Christ will not leave us till He has made us like Himself, all glorious within and without, and presented us blameless before His Father (Jude 24). What a comfort this is in our conflicts with our unruly hearts, that it shall not always be thus!

Let us strive a little while, and we shall be happy forever. Let us think when we are troubled with our sins that Christ has this in charge from His Father, that He shall not ‘quench the smoking flax’ until He has subdued all.

This puts a shield into our hands to beat back ‘all the fiery darts of the wicked’ (Eph. 6:16). Satan will object, ‘You are a great sinner.’ We may answer, ‘Christ is a strong Saviour.’ But Satan will object, ‘You have no faith, no love.’  We reply: ‘Yes, a spark of faith and love.’

Satan says: ‘But Christ will not regard that.’ We answer: ‘Yes, He will not quench the smoking flax.’ Satan says: ‘But this is so little and weak that it will vanish and come to naught.’ We reply: “Nay, but Christ will cherish it, until He has brought judgment to victory.'”

–Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1630/1998), 123.

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“He hates every word in it” by Jonathan Edwards

“The devil never would attempt to beget in persons a regard to that divine word which God has given to be the great and standing rule for the direction of His church in all religious matters, and all concerns of their souls, in all ages. A spirit of delusion will not incline persons to seek direction at the mouth of God. To the law and to the testimony, is never the cry of those evil spirits that have no light in them…

Would the spirit of error, in order to deceive men, beget in them a high opinion of the infallible rule, and incline them to think much of it, and be very conversant with it? Would the prince of darkness, in order to promote his kingdom of darkness, lead men to the sun? The devil has ever shown a mortal spite and hatred towards that holy book the Bible: he has done all in his power to extinguish that light; and to draw men off from it: he knows it to be that light by which his kingdom of darkness is to be overthrown.

He has had for many ages experience of its power to defeat his purposes, and baffle his designs: it is his constant plague. It is the main weapon which Michael uses in his war with him: it is the sword of the Spirit, that pierces him and conquers him. It is that great and strong sword, with which God punishes Leviathan, that crooked serpent. It is that sharp sword that we read of in Rev. 19:15. That proceeds out of the mouth of Him that sat on the horse, with which He smites His enemies.

Every text is a dart to torment the old serpent. He has felt the stinging smart thousands of times; therefore he is engaged against the Bible, and hates every word in it: and we may be sure that he never will attempt to raise persons’ esteem of it, or affection to it.”

–Jonathan Edwards, “Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 4, The Great Awakening. Ed. C. C. Goen (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972), 253-4.

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