For more than two centuries, George Whitefield has been considered the most brilliant and popular preacher the modern world has ever known. He began preaching at an early age of twenty-two and his voice startled England like a trumpet blast. He boldly preached the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith and was attacked by clergy, the press, and even mobs. Most of His preaching was in the open air to crowds of twenty to thirty thousand people. Yet for all his popularity and impact he remained a man of humility and deep spirituality. He died at the age of 55 and had preached an estimated 30,000 sermons. His penetrating comments are as wise and relevant today, as they were when he first preached them. His sermons have been consistently recognized, and their usefulness and impact have continued to the present day, even in the outdated English of the author's own day.
Why then should expositions already so successful and of such stature and proven usefulness require adaptation, revision, rewrite or even editing? The answer is obvious. To increase its usefulness to today's audience the language in which it was originally written needs updating.
Though his sermons have served other generations well, just as they were preached in the eighteenth century, they still could be lost to present and future generations simply because, to them, the language is neither readily nor fully understandable.
My goal, however, has not been to reduce the original writing to the vernacular of our day. It is designed primarily for you who desire to read and study comfortably and at ease in the language of our time. Only obviously archaic terminology and passages obscured by expressions not totally familiar in our day have been revised. However, neither Whitefield's meaning nor intent have been tampered with.
"In order that Satan might not
outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes."
[2 Corinthians 2:11]
These words were spoken by the Apostle Paul to the church of Corinth. In that church there was an unhappy person, one who had committed the sin of incest, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: The man had taken his father's wife; but either on account of his wealth, power, or for some other reason, like many notorious offenders today, he had not been exposed to the discipline of the church. The Apostle Paul, therefore, in his first epistle, severely reprimands the church for this neglect of discipline, and commands them, "When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord," that is, they should solemnly excommunicate him; which back then was commonly followed with some bodily disease.
The Corinthians, being obedient to the Apostle, as soon as they received this reproof, like dear children, submitted to it, and cast the offending party out of the church. But while they were endeavoring to amend one fault, they unhappily ran into another; and as they formerly had been too mild and negligent, so now they behaved towards him with too much severity and resentment. The Apostle, therefore, in this chapter, reproves this, and tells them, that "The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him:" that he had now suffered enough; and that, therefore, lest he should be tempted to say with Cain, "My punishment is more than I can bear;" therefore, "Forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow."
Now that he had given proof of his repentance, you now needed to forgive him, to confirm your love towards him, and to restore him in the spirit of meekness; "In order that Satan, (who is trying to tempt him to despair) might not outwit you." Satan wants the church to be unforgiving and to be the vehicle that drives the repentant sinner to despair, thereby representing you, the church, as being merciless and cruel, and to cause the Holy Name of Christ to be blasphemed, by which you are called; "for we are not unaware of his schemes:" we know very well how many subtle ways Satan has to distract and deceive unguarded and unthinking men.
Thus, as Satan has many schemes, and as his quiver is full of other poisonous darts, besides those which he shoots at us to drive us to despair, I shall, this morning, discuss the following,
I. First, I will briefly attempt to help you understand who Satan is.
II. Secondly, I will point out to you the principal schemes, he generally uses, to lead astray new converts to Christ, and also prescribe some remedies against them.
I. First, Who is Satan?
The word "Satan," in its original definition, means an adversary; and in its general understanding, is use to point out to us the chief of the devils, who was found guilty of trying to raise his throne above the stars of God and for trying to make himself equal to the Most High. For this great sin he was cast out of heaven, and is now permitted, with the rest of his demons in high places, to prowl around the earth, like roaring lions looking for men and women to devour and destroy.
We hear of Satan immediately after the creation, when in the form of a serpent, he lays in wait to deceive our first parents. He is called Satan, in the book of Job, where we are told, that "One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them." The Scripture also declares in the book of Chronicles that; "Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel."
In the New Testament he goes under different titles; sometimes he is called the "evil one," because he is evil in himself, and tempts us to evil. Sometimes he is called, "the ruler [or prince] of the kingdom of the air," because he resides chiefly in the air. Other times he is referred to as, "the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient," because all those who are not born of God, are said to be in league with him.
He is an enemy of God and goodness; he is a hater of all truth. Why else did he slander God in paradise? Why did he tell Eve, "You will not surely die?" And why did he promise to give all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor to Jesus Christ, "if Jesus would only bow down and worship him?"
He is full of hatred, envy, and revenge: For what other motives could induce him to molest innocent man and woman in paradise? And why is he still so restless in his attempts to destroy us, who have done him no wrong?
He is a being of great power, as is evident in his being able to act on the imagination of our blessed Lord, so as to depict some sort of vision to Him of all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor, and all this in a moment of time. His power is also displayed in the transporting of the sacred body of our dear Savior, through the air up to the highest point of the temple; and also of his driving a herd of pigs so furiously that the whole herd rushed down a steep bank into a lake and died in the water. Yes, so great is Satan's power, that, I do not doubt, that if God was to permit him to use his full strength, he could turn the earth upside down, or pull the sun out of its orbit.
But Satan is most known for his remarkable ability to use his cleverness against mankind. Since he is not given power from God to take us by force, he is therefore required to wait for opportunities to betray us, and to catch us by the use of deception. He, therefore, made use of the serpent, which was the most crafty of all the beasts of the field, in order to tempt our first parents; and accordingly he and his accomplices are described in the New Testament as being cunning and crafty in their deceitful scheming. In the words of our text, this morning, the Apostle says, "We are not unaware of his schemes:" thereby implying, that we are more in danger of being seduced by his system of deception, than overpowered by his strength.
From this short description of Satan, we may easily judge who his children are, they are those who love to tell a lie, who slander and speak evil of their neighbor, and whose hearts are full of pride, deception, hatred, envy, revenge, and cruelty. Surely they have Satan for their father: for they know Satan's character and they do the works of Satan. But if they could either see themselves, or Satan as he really is, they would be terrified at their resemblance to him, and totally hate themselves with a deep remorse.
But, the justice of God in allowing us to be tempted by Satan and his demons, is justified from the following:
First, that we live on this earth in a state of disorder; which was caused by the sin of man, therefore, we are getting what sin deserves.
Secondly, that God has promised us that He would not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear; and not only that, but when we have stood the test, we will receive the crown of life.
It even appears that the holy angels themselves, were once put to a test whether they would be faithful or not. The first Adam was tempted, even while he lived in paradise. And Jesus Christ, the second Adam, though He was a Son, yet was carried, as our representative, by the Holy Spirit, into the wilderness, to be tempted by the devil. And there is not one single saint in heaven, among the fellowship of the prophets, the glorious company of the apostles, the noble army of martyrs, and the spirits of righteous men made perfect, who, when on the earth, was not assaulted by the fiery darts of that wicked one, the devil.
We must not think that we will be exempted from the common experience of all God's children, and of the angels, yes, even of the eternal Son of God Himself. No, it is acceptable if we are made perfect through temptations, as they were. Therefore, since we can't prevent the temptations of the devil and his evil ones, we should, instead of fretting over our condition, rather be inquiring, at what time of our lives will Satan most violently assault us? And what those schemes are, which he commonly uses, in order to "get an advantage over us?"
As to the first question, what time of our lives can we expect to be most violently assaulted by Satan? I answer, that we must expect to be tempted by him, in some degree or another, all of our lives, because this life is a continual warfare. We must never expect to have rest from our spiritual adversary the devil, or to able to say, our combat with him is finished. Our fight with the evil one will continue until we bow our heads and our spirit is removed from our body and is brought into the presence of our dear precious Savior Jesus Christ!
But the moment of our conversion, when we take our first few steps as a new Christian, is the most critical time at which Satan, for the most part, violently assaults us, knowing well, that if he can prevent us from getting a good start in the Christian walk, then he can lead us captive to do his will. A wise man once gave this warning to all Christians, saying, "When you determined in your heart to serve the Lord, be prepared for temptation from the evil one."
II. Secondly, let us look at the principal schemes Satan generally uses to take advantage of new converts to Christ, and also prescribe some remedies against them.
But before I get started, let me mention to you, that what I am about to say, is only intended for those who have actually entered into the divine life, those who have been truly born again in Christ Jesus. This is not for the so-called "Carnal Christians," who have the form of godliness, but have never yet felt the power of it in their hearts, those who are false believers. This being said, here are the various schemes, which Satan uses to defeat us in our Christian walk:
Satan's Scheme #1 - Drive us to despair.
When God the Father awakens a sinner by the terrors of the law, and by his Holy Spirit convicts him of sin, in order to lead him to Christ, and show him his need of a Redeemer; then Satan generally strikes, and aggravates those convictions to such a degree, as to make the sinner doubt the he will ever be able to receive mercy from the mediator Jesus Christ.
We saw this in Satan's temptations of the Holy Lord Jesus. His scheme was to make Jesus question, whether he was the Son of God? Satan said, "If you are the Son of God," do so and so. Likewise, with many such desponding thoughts, no doubt, the Apostle Paul was assaulted by right after his conversion, for three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything; and therefore he speaks by experience, when he says, in the words of the text, "We are not unaware of his schemes," a scheme that would endeavor to drive the sinful person to despair.
But don't let any of you be influenced by Satan, to despair of finding mercy. For it is not the magnitude or number of our sins, but being unwilling to repent and our own foolish unbelief, that will prove our ruin. No, if our sins outnumbered the number of the hairs on our head; yet the merits of the death of Jesus Christ are infinitely greater, and faith in his blood shall make them white as snow.
Always answer, therefore, his despairing suggestions, as your Blessed Lord did, with an "It is written." Tell him, you know that your Redeemer lives, always to make intercession for you. And though you have sinned much, that is no reason why you should despair, but only all the more reason why you should love much, having so much forgiven.
Satan's Scheme #2 - Tempt us to be proud, or to think more highly of ourselves then we should.
Satan loves to tempt new Christians to become proud, or to think more highly of themselves than they should.
When a person has for a little while tasted the Word of God, and felt the powers of the world to come, he is commonly (as indeed he should) highly thrilled with the sudden changes he finds in himself.
But then, Satan will, at such a time, puff him up with a conceit of his own attainments as if he was some great person; and will tempt him to look down on his brothers and sisters in Christ, as if he was holier than they.
Therefore be careful, and let us beware of this scheme from our spiritual adversary; for as before honor comes humility, so a proud spirit generally goes before a fall; and God is obliged, when under such circumstances, to send us some humbling situation, or permit us to fall, as he did Peter into some grievous sin, that we may learn not to be egotistical.
To help prevent spiritual pride, let us remember, that we did not chose Christ, but were chosen by Him. We have nothing but what has been given to us. The free grace of God has alone made the difference between us and others; and, if God was to leave us to the deceitfulness of our own hearts for even one moment, we would become weak and wicked, like other men. We should further consider, that being proud of grace, is the quickest way to diminish it. For "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Even if we were endowed with the perfections of the seraphim; yet if we were proud of those perfections, that pride would only make us more accomplished devils. Above all, we should earnestly pray to Almighty God, that we may learn to have the humble heart of Jesus Christ. That His grace we receive during the deception and deceitfulness of Satan, may not become our poison. But that we may always in humility consider others better than ourselves.
Satan's Scheme #3 - Tempt us to feel perplexed, and to begin to doubt God when our prayers seem to go unanswered.
Though this is a term not understood by the natural man, yet, whoever has passed through the pains of the new birth, know full well what I mean, when I talk about a period of deadness and dryness in prayer, when God doesn't seem to be listening. And, I do not doubt, that many of you, are even now experiencing this deadness and dryness.
When persons are first awakened to the divine life, because grace is new and their old nature still seems to be so strong, God is often pleased to bestow on them some extraordinary illuminations of his Holy Spirit; but when they are more mature in Christ, then He frequently seems to stretch their faith, by permitting a somewhat horrible deadness and dread to overwhelm them; at which times Satan will try to tempt them to impatience, to the great discomfort of their souls.
But do not be afraid; for this is no more than your blessed Redeemer, that spotless Lamb of God, has undergone before you: witness His bitter agony in the garden, when His soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. When He sweat great drops of blood that fell on the ground; when the sense of the Divinity was drawn from Him; and Satan, in all probability,
was permitted to pour out all his terrors in a barrage upon Jesus.
Rejoice, therefore, my brethren, when you fall into similar circumstances; knowing, that you are sharing in the sufferings of Jesus Christ. Consider, that it is necessary for such inward trials to come, to wean us from the excessive love of external means of devotion, and teach us to follow Christ, not merely for his loaves of bread, but out of a principle of love and obedience. In patience, therefore, control your souls, and do not be terrified by Satan's suggestions. Persevere in seeking Jesus even in the use of external means, though it seems to be cold and useless at the time; continue even though your soul feels barren, and you grieve all day long. Consider that Jesus is with you, though hidden behind a curtain; as He was with Mary, at the tomb, though she did not know. That He was withdrawn but for a little while, to make his next visit more welcome. That though He may now seem to frown and look back on you, as he did on the Canaanite woman; yet if you, like her, or blind Bartimaeus cry out earnestly, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me;" He will be made known to you again, by the breaking of bread, or some other way.
Satan's Scheme #4 - Troubling the believer with blasphemous, impure, unbelieving thoughts.
Among all the schemes that Satan makes use of, "to get an advantage over us," there is none in which he is more successful, or by which he grieves the children of God worse, than this fourth scheme, the tempting of us with blasphemous, impure, unbelieving thoughts; and sometimes to such a degree, that they are as tormenting as any instrument of torture.
Some people are apt to ascribe all such evil thoughts to the simple wickedness of man's heart. But those who know anything of the Christian life, can inform you, with greater certainty, that for the most part, these wicked thoughts proceed from that wicked one, the devil; who, no doubt, has permission given him from above to test Christians, by trying to confuse and rattle our fleshly body, as he did Job's, that he may, with secrecy and success, ruffle and torment the soul.
You that have felt his fiery darts, can attest to the truth of this, and can testify, how often he has suggested that you, "curse God and die," and darted into your thoughts a thousand blasphemous and wicked suggestions, even in your most secret and solemn times of prayer. Even now, when you look back on these times of great temptations, it may cause your hearts to tremble.
I appeal to your own consciences; Have not some of you, when you have been lifting up holy hands in prayer, been pestered with such a crowd of the most horrid thoughts, that you have been often tempted to get up from your knees, and been made to believe your prayers were an abomination to the Lord? Yes, when, with the rest of your Christian brethren, you have crowded around the Lord's Table, and taken the sacred symbols of Christ's most blessed body and blood into your hands, instead of remembering the death of your Savior, have you not been busy driving out evil thoughts, as Abraham was in driving away the birds, that came to devour his sacrifice; and thereby have been terrified, lest you might eat and drank to your own damnation?
But do not marvel at this, as though some strange thing was happening to you; for this has been the common lot of all God's children. We read, even in Job's time, "One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD (at public worship), and Satan also came with them." to disturb their devotions.
And do not think that God is angry with you for these distracting, though ever so wicked thoughts: No, He knows it is not you, but Satan working on you. Nonetheless He is displeased with, and will certainly punish him; yet he will both pity and reward you for not allowing the temptations to cause you to sin. And though it will be difficult to make persons in your circumstances to believe it is true; yet I do not doubt that you are more acceptable to God, when performing your holy duties in the midst of such involuntary distractions, than when you are wrapped up by devotion, as it were, into the third heavens; for you are then suffering, as well as doing the will of God at the same time; and, like Nehemiah's servants at the building of the temple, are holding a trowel in one hand, and a sword in the other.
Do not be driven away from the worship service, the Lord's Table or prayer on account of those abominable suggestions; for then you let Satan get his desired advantage over you. It is all part of his plan, by these wicked thoughts, to make you stop worshipping and praying and to tempt you to believe, that you do not please God, for no other reason, than because you do not please yourselves. Rather persevere in going to the Lord's Table, and all other godly activities; and when these temptations have been resisted by you through the power of the Spirit, then God will visit you with fresh tokens of his love, as he met Abraham, when he returned from the slaughter of the five kings; and will send an angel from heaven, as he did to his Son, with the sole purpose to strengthen you.
Satan's Scheme #5 - Tempting us by our carnal friends and relatives.
Up to now, we have only observed the schemes that Satan uses personally, by himself; but there is a scheme that he uses that utilizes our carnal friends and relatives to tempt us.
This is one of the most common, as well as most artful schemes he makes use of, to draw young converts from God; for when he cannot prevail over them by himself, he will try what he can do by the influence and mediation of others.
Thus Satan tempted Eve, that she might tempt Adam. Likewise he stirred up Job's wife, to suggest to him that he "Curse God and die." And thus he made use of Peter's tongue, to persuade our blessed Lord "to spare himself the death on the cross," and thereby refuse those sufferings, which were the only way we could be preserved from suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. And thus, in our lives, he often stirs up our most powerful friends and dearest relatives, to persuade us not to keep walking down that narrow road, which alone leads to eternal life.
But our blessed Lord has furnished us with a sufficient answer to all such suggestions. "Get behind me, my adversaries!" for otherwise they will be a stumbling block to you; and the only reason why they give such wicked advice is, because they do not honor the things of God, but rather the things of man.
Whoever, therefore, among you are resolved to serve the Lord, prepare your souls for many such temptations as these; for it is necessary that such attacks should come, to test your sincerity, and to teach us to not trust man, and to see if we will forsake everything to follow Christ.
Indeed many liberal teachers of Christianity would persuade us, that many of the gospel teachings were intended only for about the first two hundred years; and that now there is no need of hating father and mother, or of being persecuted for the sake of Christ and His gospel. But such persons are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures, and the power of godliness in a person's heart; for whoever receives the love of God in the truth of it, will find, that Christ "did not come to bring peace, but a sword," as much now as ever. "Now, as well as in the early days of the Church, a family will be divided by the gospel, "father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." And if we will try to live godly lives in Christ Jesus, we must now, as then, suffer persecution from carnal friends and relations.
Satan's Scheme #6 - Not tempting us at all, in order to "surprise" us when we least expect it.
This sixth scheme, is as dangerous as any of the former. By not tempting us at all, or rather, by withdrawing himself for a while, in order to come upon us at an hour when we least expect it.
Thus it is said, that he left Jesus Christ only for a season; and our blessed Lord has commanded us to always watch and pray, that we do not enter into temptation; thereby implying, that Satan, whether we think he is or not, is always seeking new ways to devour us.
If we would therefore behave like good soldiers of Jesus Christ, we must be always on our guard, and never pretend to lay down our spiritual weapons of prayer and watching, till our warfare is ended by death; for if we do, our spiritual foe will quickly prevail against us. What if he has left us? It is only for a season; yet in a little while, and, like a roaring lion, with double fury, he will break out upon us again. Satan is such a evil enemy, that he seldom leaves us after the first attack. As he followed our blessed Lord with one temptation after another, so will he treat the Lord's servants. And the reason why he sometimes does not renew his attacks, is because God knows our weaknesses and at times are unable to bear an attack. Sometimes the pause in the temptations come because our adversary thinks it is better to assault us at a more convenient season.
O Christian, carefully watch over your heart, and whenever you perceive yourself to be falling into a spiritual slumber, say to it, as Christ said to his disciples, ""Why are you sleeping?" "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation." Awake, awake; put on strength, watch and pray, or otherwise the Philistines will overwhelm you, and lead you where you do not want to go. Is this life a time to lie down and slumber in? Wake up, and call upon your God; your spiritual enemy is not dead, but lurks in some secret place, seeking a convenient opportunity how he may betray you. If you don't think it is important to guard yourself against the devil, then you will cease being a friend of God; you will cease to walk down that narrow road that leads to eternal life.
Thus have I endeavored to point out to you some of those schemes, that Satan generally makes use of "to get an advantage over us;" no doubt, there are many others, which he often uses. But these, on account of my youth and lack of experience, I cannot yet counsel you further. But those who have lived for many years in their master's service, and fought under his banner against our spiritual adversary, are able to discover more of his schemes; and, being tempted in all things, like their brethren, can, in all things, advise and aid those that are being tempted.
In the meanwhile, let me exhort my young fellow-soldiers, who, like myself, are just entering the field, and for whose sake this was written, not to be discouraged at the fiery trials that are to sure come their way, if they seek to be found faithful servants of Jesus Christ. You see, my dearly beloved brethren, by what has been revealed to us, we know that our way through the wilderness of this world to heaven, is beset with thorns, and that there are enemies of the cross to be grappled with, on your way to the promised land. But do not let these, like so many false spies, discourage you from going up to fight the Lord's battles, but say with Caleb and Joshua, "No, we will go up and fight, for we are able to conquer them." Jesus Christ, that great captain of our salvation, has in our place, and as our representative, confused the grand enemy of mankind, and we have nothing to do, but to fight under the banner of the Lord, and to go on from conquering to conquer. Our glory does not consist in being exempted from, but in enduring temptations. "Blessed is the man, (says the apostle) who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him;" and again, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds." And in that perfect example of a prayer that our blessed Lord has prescribed to us, we are taught to pray, not so much to be delivered from all temptation, as "from the evil one."
While we are on this side of eternity, temptations must come; and, no doubt, "Satan has asked to sift all of us as wheat." But why should we fear? For He that is for us, is by far more powerful, than all that are against us. Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, is exalted to the right hand of God, and there sits to make intercession for us, that our faith will not fail.
Since then Christ is praying for us, whom should we fear? And since he has promised to make us more than conquerors, of whom should we be afraid? No, though an host of demons are lined up against us, let us not be afraid; though the hottest persecution should rise up against us, yet let us put our trust in God. Even though Satan, and the rest of his apostate spirits, are powerful, when compared with us; yet, if put in competition with the Almighty, they are as weak as the smallest worms. God has them all reserved in chains of darkness until the final judgment day. They shall only go as far as He permits them, and no farther.
They can only go as far as God allows, and there shall their proud malicious designs be stopped. We read in the gospel, that though a legion of them possessed one man, yet they could not destroy him; nor could they so much as enter into a swine, without first having permission from the Lord Jesus.
It is true, we often find that though demons foil us, when we are assaulted by them; but let us be strong, and very courageous; for, though they bruise our heels, we shall, in time, bruise their heads. Yet in a little while, and Jesus will come again, and then we shall see all of our spiritual enemies put under our feet. What if they do come out against us, like so many great Goliaths; yet, if we can go forth, as the young boy David did, in the name and strength of the Lord of hosts, we may say, "O Satan, where is thy power? O fallen spirits, where is your victory?"
To conclude; let us be strong, and very courageous, and let us put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the fiery darts of the wicked one. Let us renounce ourselves, and the world, and then Satan will find nothing in us for his temptations to work upon.
We shall then prevent his malicious designs; and being willing to suffer ourselves, and shall need less sufferings to be sent us from above. Let us have the belt of truth buckled around our waist, and put on the helmet of salvation. With this in mind, be alert and pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests." Above all, "Let us take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God," and "the shield of faith," always fixing "our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." To which such a happy place, may God in his infinite mercy bring all of us, through our Lord Jesus Christ. To whom, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, three persons and one eternal God, be all honor and glory, now and forevermore. Amen.
Transcribed and Updated by:
Bible Bulletin Board
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