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When Satan Tempts*


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Satan temps not when he will, but when God pleaseth, and the same Holy Spirit which led Christ into the field, brought him off with victory. And therefore we find him marching in the power of his Spirit, after he had repulsed Satan, into Galilee, Lu. iv. 14. When Satan temps a saint he is but God’s messenger, 2 Co. xii. 7. “There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger Satan to buffet me.” So our translation. But rather as Beza, who will have it in [the nominative case] the messenger Satan, implying that his was sent of God to Paul; and indeed the errand he came about was too good and gracious to be his own, lest I should be exalted above measure. The devil never meant to do Paul such a good office, but God sends him to Paul, as David sent Uriah with letters to Joab; neither knew the contents of their message. The devil and his instruments, both are Gods instruments, therefore the wicked are called his sword, his axe; now let God alone to wield the one and handle the other. He is but a bungler that hurts and hackles his own legs with his own axe; which God should do, if his children should be the worse for Satan’s temptations. Let the devil choose his way, God is for him at every weapon. If he will try it by force of arms, and assault the saints by persecution, as the Lord of hosts he will oppose him. If by policy and subtlety, he is ready there also. The devil and his whole council are but fools to God. Nay, their wisdom, foolishness, cunning and art, commend everything but sin. The more artificial the watch, the picture, &c., the better; but the more wit and art in sin the worse, because it is employed against an all-wise God, that cannot be outwitted, and therefore will in the end but pay the workman in greater damnation. “The foolishness of God is wiser that men;” yea, than the wisdom of men and devils, that is, the means and instruments which God opposeth Satan withal. What weaker than a sermon? Who sillier than the saints in the account of the wise world? Yet God is wiser in a weak sermon, than Satan is in his deep plots, wherein the state heads of a whole conclave of profound cardinals are knocked together—wiser in his simple ones, than Satan in his Ahitophels and Sanballats. And truly God chooseth on purpose to defeat the policies of hell and earth by these, that he may put such to greater shame, 1 Co. i. 21. How is the great scholar shamed to be baffled by a plain countryman’s argument? Thus God calls forth Job to wrestle with Satan and his seconds—for such his three friends showed themselves in taking the devil’s part—and sure he is not able to hold up the cudgels against the fencing-master, who is beaten by one of the scholars. God sits laughing while hell and earth sit plotting, Ps. ii. 4; “He disappointeth the devices of the crafty,” Job v. 12, he breaketh their studied thoughts and plots, as the words import, in one moments pulling down the labors of many year’s policy. Indeed as great men keep wild beasts for game and sport, as the fox, the boar, &c., so doth God Satan and his insturments, to manifest his wisdom in the taking of them. It is observed, that the very hunting of some beast affords not only pleasure to the hunter, but also more sweetness to the eater. Indeed God, by displaying of his wisdom in the pursuit of the saint’s enemies, doth superadd a sweet relish to their deliverance at last. He brake the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gave him to be meat to his people. After he had hunted Pharaoh out of all his forms and burrows, now he breaks the very brains of all his plots, and severs him up to his people, with the garnishment of his wisdom and power about.

—William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:101–102.

* First posted October 10, 2007.



Posted 2019·05·23 by David Kjos
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