Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Importance of Understanding the Enemy’s Habits – Part 2

It is the opinion of some great and good men, that the devil can suggest thoughts to our minds only through the imagination. This is that faculty of the mind by which it forms ideas of things communicated to it through the senses. Thus, when you see, hear, feel, taste, or smell anything, the image of the thing is impressed upon the mind by the imagination. It also brings to our recollection these images, when they are not present. It is thought to be only by impressing these images upon the imagination, that he can operate upon our souls. Hence, we may account for the strange manner in which our minds are led off from the contemplation of divine things, by a singular train of thought, introduced to the mind by the impression of some sensible object upon the imagination. This object brings some other one like it to our recollection, and that again brings another, until we wander entirely from the subject before us, and find our minds lost in a maze of intellectual trifling.

Satan adapts his temptations to our peculiar tempers and circumstances. In youth, he allures us by pleasure, and bright hopes of worldly prosperity. In manhood, he seeks to bury up our hearts in the cares of life. In old age, he persuades to the indulgence of self-will and obstinacy. In prosperity, he puffs up the heart with pride, and persuades to self-confidence and forgetfulness of God. In poverty and affliction, he excites feelings of discontent, distrust, and repining. If we are of a melancholy temperament, he seeks to sour our tempers, and promote habitual sullenness and despondency. If naturally cheerful, he prompts to the indulgence of levity. In private devotion, he stands between us and God, prevents us from realizing his presence, and seeks to distract our minds, and drive us from the throne of grace. In public worship, he disturbs our minds by wandering thoughts and foolish imaginations. When we have enjoyed any happy manifestations of God's presence, any precious tokens of his love, then he stirs up the pride of our hearts, and leads us to trust in our own goodness, and forget the Rock of our salvation.

Even our deepest humiliations he makes the occasion of spiritual pride. Thus we fall into darkness, and thrust ourselves through with many sorrows. If we have performed any extraordinary acts of self-denial, or of Christian beneficence, he stirs up in our hearts a vain-glorious spirit. If we have overcome any of the corruptions of our hearts, or any temptation, he excites a secret feeling of self-satisfaction and self-complacency. He puts on the mask of religion. Often, during the solemn hours of public worship, he beguiles our hearts with some scheme for doing good; taking care, however, that self be uppermost in it. When we are in a bad frame, he stirs up the unholy tempers of our hearts, and leads us to indulge in peevishness, moroseness, harshness, and anger, or in levity and unseemly mirth. There is no Christian grace which Satan cannot counterfeit. He cares not how much religious feeling we have, or how many good deeds we perform, if he can but keep impure and selfish motives at the bottom.

There is great danger, therefore, in trusting to impulses, or sudden impressions of any kind. Such impressions may be from the Spirit of God; but they may also be from Satan. The fact that your religious feelings are not produced by yourself, but that they arise in your mind in a manner for which you cannot account, is no evidence, either that they come from the Spirit of God, or that they do not. There are many false spirits, which are very busy with people's hearts. As before remarked, Satan sometimes appears to us like an angel of light. He is often the author of false comforts and joys, very much like those produced by the Holy Spirit. We are, therefore, directed to "try the spirits, whether they be of God." Nor is it certain that religious feelings are holy and spiritual because they come with texts of Scripture, brought to the mind in a remarkable manner. If the feeling is produced by the truth contained in the Scripture so brought to the mind, and is, in its nature, agreeable to the word of God, it may be a spiritual and holy affection. But if it arises from the application of the Scripture to your own case, on account of its being so brought to your mind, you may be sure it is a delusion of the devil.

He has power to bring Scripture to your mind when he pleases, and he can apply it with dexterity, as you see in his temptations of the blessed Saviour. Our own hearts are exceedingly deceitful; and our indwelling corruptions will gladly unite with him in bringing false peace and comfort to our souls. Satan, no doubt, often brings the most sweet and precious promises of God to the minds of those he wishes to deceive as to their own good estate. But we must be satisfied that the promises belong to us, before we take them to ourselves. We have "a more sure word of prophecy," by which we are to try every impulse, feeling, and impression, produced upon our minds. Anything which does not agree with the written word of God does not come from him, for he "cannot deny himself."

Culled from: A Practical Directory for Young Christian Females - Harvey Newcombs 1803-1863

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