Editors Introduction and Bible Study Summary
of John Wesley's article:
Satan's tactics are numberless. He hinders most Christians
from seeking Perfecting Grace by keeping them oblivious to the great
grace God has for them. Those
who recognized God's desire to sanctify them wholly and
thus begin to hunger and thirst after righteousness, Satan
attempts to confuse, side track, and finally destroy their faith in
God's exceeding great and precious promises.
The following article details some specific methods he uses to hinder
Christians from obtaining the greater grace God has for them. The
babe in Christ is already partaker of the inward kingdom of heaven.
This is a great blessing, but God has greater things in store, even
a pure heart and a perfect love. Satan seeks to hinder or destroy
the justifying, regenerating grace we have already received, by discouraging
and confusing us while we are seeking entire sanctifying grace.
I. Satan's Tactics
1. He dampens our joy by consideration of our sinfulness.
2. He attacks our peace, urging that we are not fit to see
3. Or he tempts us to doubt our forgiveness because we lack
4. Especially is this the case in times of bodily weakness.
5. He then attacks our righteousness
Joy and peace are an important means of maintaining both inward
and outward holiness.
Slavish fear weakens the soul. Closely connected with this
he assaults our faith, which is the root of all holiness.
As we honestly view our defects he endeavers to cause us to lose
sight of God's love in Christ, and forget God's promose of reward.
Also the expectation of holiness may become an occasion of unholy
tempers, fretfulness, impatience, envy, and, perhaps, prejudice
against the doctrine of holiness.
II. How to turn back these fiery darts of
1) Look from your sins to the free grace of
Christ, who is your advocate.
2) Keep before you the hope of heaven, remembering the great
work already done.
3) Take courage from the example of others.
4) Redeem the time, and press forward to the attainment of the blessing.
1. The devices whereby the subtle god of this
world labours to destroy the children of God, or at least to torment
whom he cannot destroy, to perplex and hinder them in running the
race which is set before them, are numberless as the stars of heaven,
or the sand upon the sea shore. But it is of one of them only that
I now propose to speak, (although exerted in various ways,) whereby
he endeavours to divide the gospel against itself, and by one part
of it to overthrow the other.
2. The inward kingdom of heaven, which is set
up in the hearts of all that repent and believe the gospel, is no
other than "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
Every babe in Christ knows we are made partakers of these, the very
hour that we believe in Jesus. But these are only the first fruits
of his Spirit; the harvest is not yet. Although these blessings are
inconceivably great, yet we trust to see greater than these.
The Grace of God Which We Seek
We trust to love the Lord our God, not only
as we do now, with a weak though sincere affection, but "with all
our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, and with all our
strength." We look for power to "rejoice evermore, to pray
without ceasing, and in every thing to give thanks;" knowing,
"this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us."
3. We expect to be "made perfect in love;"
in that which casts out all painful fear, and all desire but that
of glorifying him we love, and of loving and serving him more and
more. We look for such an increase in the experimental knowledge and
love of God our Saviour, as will enable us always "to walk in the
light as he is in the light." We believe the whole mind will
be in us, "which was also in Christ Jesus;" that we shall love
every man, so as to be ready to lay down our life for his sake;
so as, by this love, to be freed from anger, and pride, and from
every unkind affection. We expect to be "cleansed from all our
idols," "from all filthiness," whether "of flesh or spirit;" to be
"saved from all our uncleannesses," inward or outward; to be purified
"as he is pure."
4. We trust in his promise, who cannot lie, that
the time will surely come, when, in every word and work, we shall
do his blessed will on earth, as it is done in heaven; when all
our conversation shall be seasoned with salt, all meet to minister
grace to the hearers; when, whether we eat, or drink, or whatever
we do, it shall be done to the glory of God; when all our words
and deeds shall be "in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks
unto God even [to God] the Father, through him."
5. Now this is the grand device of Satan, to destroy
the first work of God in the soul, or at least to hinder its increase,
by our expectation of that greater work. It is therefore my present
design, first, to point out the several ways whereby he endeavours
this: and, secondly, to observe how we may retort these fiery darts
of the wicked one; how we may rise the higher, by what he intends
for an occasion of our falling.
I. 1. I am, first, to point out the several ways
whereby Satan endeavours to destroy the first work of God in the soul,
or at least to hinder its increase, by our expectation of that greater
Satan Attacks our Joy
And, 1. He endeavours to damp our joy in the Lord,
by the consideration of our own vileness, sinfulness, unworthiness;
added to this, that there must be a far greater change than is yet,
or we cannot see the Lord. If we knew we must remain as we are,
even to the day of our death, we might possibly draw a kind of comfort,
poor as it was, from that necessity. But as we know we need not remain
in this state, as we are assured there is a greater change to come,
and that unless sin be all done away in this life, we cannot see God
in glory, that subtle adversary often damps the joy we should
otherwise feel in what we have already attained, by a perverse
representation of what we have not attained, and the absolute necessity
of attaining it. So that we cannot rejoice in what we have, because
there is more which we have not. We cannot rightly taste the goodness
of God, who hath done so great things for us, because there are so
much greater things, which, as yet, he hath not done. Likewise, the
deeper conviction God works in us of our present unholiness, and the
more vehement desire we feel in our heart of the entire holiness he
hath promised, the more are we tempted to think lightly of the present
gifts of God, and to undervalue what we have already received, because
of what we have not received.
Satan Attacks our Peace
2. If he can prevail thus far, if he can damp
our joy, he will soon attack our peace also. He will suggest,
"Are you fit to see God? He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.
How then can you flatter yourself, so as to imagine he beholds you
with approbation? God is holy: you are unholy. What communion hath
light with darkness? How is it possible that you, unclean as you
are, should be in a state of acceptance with God? You see indeed
the mark, the prize of your high calling; but do you not see it is
afar off? How can you presume then to think that all your sins are
already blotted out? How can this be, until you are brought nearer
to God, until you bear more resemblance to him?" Thus will he endeavour
not only to shake your peace, but even to overturn the very foundation
of it; to bring you back, by insensible degrees, to the point from
whence you set out first, even to seek for justification by works,
or by your own righteousness, to make something in you the ground
of your acceptance, or, at least, necessarily previous to it.
3. Or, if we hold fast, "Other foundation can
no man lay than that which is laid, even Jesus Christ;" and, I am
"justified freely by God's grace, through the redemption which is
in Jesus;" yet he will not cease to urge, "But the tree is known by
its fruits: and have you the fruits of justification? Is that mind
in you which was in Christ Jesus? Are you dead unto sin, and alive
unto righteousness? Are you made conformable to the death of Christ,
and do you know the power of his resurrection?" And then, comparing
the small fruits we feel in our souls with the fulness of the promises,
we shall be ready to conclude, Surely God hath not said that my sins
are forgiven me! Surely I have not received the remission of my sins;
for what lot have I among them that are sanctified?
Satan Attacks in Times of Sickness
4. More especially in the time of sickness and
pain, he will press this with all his might: "Is it not the word of
Him that cannot lie, 'Without holiness no man shall see the Lord?'
But you are not holy; you know it well; you know holiness is the full
image of God; and how far is this above, out of your sight? You cannot
attain unto it. therefore all your labour has been in vain. All these
things you have suffered in vain. You have spent your strength for
naught. You are yet in your sins, and must therefore perish at the
last." And thus, if your eye be not steadily fixed on Him who hath
borne all your sins, he will bring you again under that "fear of
death," whereby you was so long "subject unto bondage," and, by this
means, impair if not wholly destroy, your peace, as well as joy in
Satan Attacks our Righteouness
5. But his master piece of subtlety is still behind.
Not content to strike at your peace and joy, he will carry his attempts
farther yet: he will level his assault against your righteousness
also. He will endeavour to shake, yea, if it be possible, to destroy,
the holiness you have already received, by your very expectation of
receiving more, of attaining all the image of God.
6. The manner wherein he attempts this, may partly
appear from what has been already observed. For, first, by striking
at our joy in the Lord, he strikes likewise at our holiness: seeing
joy in the Holy Ghost is a precious means of promoting every holy
temper; a choice instrument of God, whereby he carries on much
of his work in a believing soul. And it is a considerable help, not
only to inward, but also to outward holiness. It strengthens our hands
to go on in the work of faith, and in the labour of love; manfully
to "fight the good fight of faith, and to lay hold on eternal life."
It is peculiarly designed of God to be a balance both against inward
and outward sufferings; to "lift up the hands that hang down, and
confirm the feeble knees." Consequently, whatever damps our joy
in the Lord, proportionably obstructs our holiness. And therefore,
so as Satan shakes our joy, he hinders our holiness also.
7. The same effect will ensue, if he can, by any
means, either destroy or shake our peace. For the peace of
God is another precious means of advancing the image of God in us.
There is scarce a greater help to holiness than this, a continual
tranquility of spirit, the evenness of a mind stayed upon God, a calm
repose in the blood of Jesus. And without this, it is scarce possible
to "grow in grace," and in the vital "knowledge of our Lord Jesus
Christ." For all fear (unless the tender, filial fear) freezes
and benumbs the soul. It binds up all the springs of spiritual
life, and stops all motion of the heart towards God. And doubt,
as it were, bemires the soul, so that it sticks fast in the
deep clay. Therefore, in the same proportion as either of these
prevail, our growth in holiness is hindered.
Satan Attacks our Faith
8. At the same time that our wise adversary endeavours
to make our conviction of the necessity of perfect love an occasion
of shaking our peace by doubts and fears, he endeavours to weaken,
if not destroy, our faith. Indeed these are inseparably connected,
so that they must stand or fall together. So long as faith subsists,
we remain in peace; our heart stands fast, while it believes in the
Lord. But if we let go our faith, our filial confidence in a loving,
pardoning God, our peace is at an end, the very foundation on which
it stood being overthrown. And this is the only foundation of holiness,
as well as of peace; consequently, whatever strikes at this, strikes
at the very root of all holiness: for without this faith, without
an abiding sense that Christ loved me, and gave himself for me, without
a continuing conviction that God for Christ's sake is merciful to
me a sinner, it is impossible that I should love God: "We love
him, because he first loved us;" and in proportion to the strength
and clearness of our conviction that he hath loved us, and accepted
us in his Son. And unless we love God, it is not possible that we
should love our neighbour as ourselves; nor, consequently, that we
should have any right affections, either towards God, or towards man.
It evidently follows, that whatever weakens our faith, must, in the
same degree, obstruct our holiness. And this is not only the most
effectual, but also the most compendious way of destroying all holiness.
Seeing it does not affect any one Christian temper, any single grace
or fruit of the Spirit, but, so far as it succeeds, tears up the very
root of the whole work of God.
9. No marvel, therefore, that the ruler of the
darkness of this world should here put forth all his strength. And
so we find by experience. For it is far easier to conceive, than it
is to express, the unspeakable violence wherewith this temptation
is frequently urged on them who hunger and thirst after righteousness.
When they were in a strong and clear light, on the one hand, the desperate
wickedness of their own hearts, on the other hand, the unspotted holiness
to which they are called in Christ Jesus; on the other hand, the depth
of their own corruption, of their total alienation from God, on the
other, the height of the glory of God, that image of the Holy One,
wherein they are to be renewed; there is, many times, no spirit left
in them; they could almost cry out, With God this is impossible! They
are ready to give up both faith and hope; to cast away that very confidence,
whereby they are to overcome all things, through Christ strengthening
them; whereby, "after they have done the will of God," they are to
"receive the promise."
Satan Attacks our Heavenly Hope
10. And if they "hold fast the beginning of
their confidence steadfast unto the end," they shall undoubtedly receive
the promise of God, reaching through both time and eternity. But
here is another snare laid for our feet: while we earnestly pant for
that part of the promise which is to be accomplished here, "for the
glorious liberty of the children of God," we may be led unawares from
the consideration of the glory which shall hereafter be revealed.
Our eye may be insensibly turned aside from that crown, which the
righteous Judge hath promised to give at that day "to all that love
his appearing;" and we may be drawn away from the view of that incorruptible
inheritance which is reserved in heaven for us. But this also would
be a loss to our souls, and an obstruction to our holiness. For to
walk in the continual sight of our goal, is a needful help in our
running the race that is set before us. This it was, the having "respect
unto the recompense of the reward," which, of old time, encouraged
Moses, rather "to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to
enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of
Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt." Nay, it is expressly
said of a greater than he, that "for the joy that was set before him,
he endured the cross, and despised the shame," till he "sat down at
the right hand of the throne of God." Whence we may easily infer,
how much more needful for us is the view of that joy set before us,
that we may endure whatever cross the wisdom of God lays upon us,
and press on through holiness to glory.
Satan Attacks our Present Faithfulness
11. But while we are reaching to this, as well
as to that glorious liberty which is preparatory to it, we may be
in danger of falling into another snare of the devil, wherein he labours
to entangle the children of God. We may take too much thought for
to-morrow, so as to neglect the improvement of today. We may so
expect perfect love, as not to use that which is already shed abroad
in our hearts. There have not been wanting instances of those
who have greatly suffered hereby. They were so taken up with what
they were to receive hereafter, as utterly to neglect what they had
already received. In expectation of having five talents more, they
buried their one talent in the earth. At least they did not improve
it as they might have done, to the glory of God, and the good of their
12. Thus does the subtle adversary of God and
man endeavour to make void the counsel of God, by dividing the gospel
against itself, and making one part of it overthrow the other; while
the first work of God in the soul is destroyed by the expectation
of his perfect work. We have seen several of the ways wherein he attempts
this, by cutting off, as it were, the springs of holiness. But this
he likewise does more directly, by making that blessed hope an
occasion of unholy tempers.
Satan Tempts to Impatience and Envy
13. Thus, whenever our heart is eagerly athirst
for all the great and precious promises; when we pant after the fulness
of God, as the hart after the waterbrook; when our soul breaketh out
in fervent desire, "Why are his chariot wheels so long a coming?"
He will not neglect the opportunity of tempting us to murmur against
God. He will use all his wisdom, and all his strength, if haply
in an unguarded hour we may be influenced to repine at our Lord
for thus delaying his coming. At least, he will labour to excite
some degree of fretfulness, or impatience; and, perhaps, of envy
at those whom we believe to have already attained the prize of our
high calling. He well knows, that by giving way to any of these tempers,
we are pulling down the very thing we would build up. By thus
following after perfect holiness, we become more unholy than before.
Yea, there is great danger that our last state should be worse than
the first; like them of whom the apostle speaks in those dreadful
words, "It had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness,
than, having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered
Satan Causes Seeking Holinees to
Appear to Produce Unholiness
14. And from hence he hopes to reap another advantage,
even to bring up an evil report of the good way. He is sensible,
how few are able to distinguish (and too many are not willing
so to do) between the accidental abuse, and the natural tendency,
of a doctrine. These, therefore, will he continually blend to
gather, with regard to the doctrine of Christian perfection; in order
to prejudice the minds of unwary men against the glorious promises
of God. And how frequently, how generally, I had almost said how universally,
has he prevailed herein! For who is there that observes any of these
accidental ill effects of this doctrine, and does not immediately
conclude, this is its natural tendency; and does not readily cry out,
"See, these are the fruits (meaning the natural, necessary fruits)
of such doctrine?" Not so: they are fruits which may accidentally
spring from the abuse of a great and precious truth: but the abuse
of this, or any other scriptural doctrine, does by no means destroy
its use. Neither can the unfaithfulness of man, perverting his right
way, make the promise of God of no effect. No: let God be true, and
every man a liar. The word of the Lord, it shall stand. "Faithful
is he that hath promised: he also will do it." Let us not then be
"removed from the hope of the gospel." Rather let us observe, which
was the second thing proposed, How we may retort these fiery darts
of the wicked one:
How we may Rise the Higher by What
he Intends for an Occasion of our Falling.
II. 1. And, first, Does Satan endeavour to
damp your joy in the Lord, by the consideration of your sinfulness;
added to this, that without entire, universal holiness, no man
can see the Lord? You may cast back his dart upon his own head,
while, through the grace of God, the more you feel of your own
vileness, the more you rejoice in confident hope, that all this shall
be done away. While you hold fast this hope, every evil temper
you feel, though you hate it with a perfect hatred, may be a means,
not of lessening your humble joy, but rather of increasing it. "This
and this," you may say, "shall likewise perish from the presence of
the Lord. Like as the wax melteth at the fire, so shall this melt
away before his face." By this means, the greater that change is,
which remains to be wrought in your soul, the more may you triumph
in the Lord, and rejoice in the God of your salvation, who hath done
so great things for you already, and will do so much greater things
2. Secondly: The more vehemently he assaults your
peace, with that suggestion, "God is holy; you are unholy; you are
immensely distant from that holiness, without which you cannot see
God: how then can you be in the favour of God? How can you fancy you
are justified?" Take the more earnest heed to hold fast that, "Not
by works of righteousness which I have done, I am found in him: I
am accepted in the Beloved; not having my own righteousness, (as
the cause, either in whole or in part, of our justification before
God,) but that which is by faith in Christ, the righteousness which
is of God by faith." Oh bind this about your neck: write it upon
the table of thy heart. Wear it as a bracelet upon thy arm, as frontlets
between thine eyes: " I am 'justified freely by his grace, through
the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.' " Value and esteem, more
and more, that precious truth, "By grace we are saved, through faith."
Admire, more and more, the free grace of God, in so loving the world
as to give "his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him,
might not perish, but have everlasting life." So shall the sense
of the sinfulness you feel on the one hand, and of the holiness you
expect on the other, both contribute to establish your peace, and
to make it flow as a river. So shall that peace flow on with an
even stream, in spite of all those mountains of ungodliness, which
shall become a plain, in the day when the Lord cometh to take full
possession of your heart. Neither will sickness, or pain, or the approach
of death, occasion any doubt or fear. You know a day, an hour, a moment,
with God, is as a thousand years. He cannot be straitened for time,
wherein to work whatever remains to be done in your soul. And God's
time is always the best time. Therefore be thou careful for nothing.
only make thy requests known unto him, and that not with doubt or
fear, but thanksgiving; as being previously assured, he cannot
withhold from thee any manner of thing that is good.
3. Thirdly: The more you are tempted to give
up your shield, to cast away your faith, your confidence in his
love, so much the more take heed that you hold fast that whereunto
you have attained. So much the more labour to stir up the gift
of God which is in you. Never let that slip, "I have
'an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;' and, 'the
life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me,
and gave himself for me.' " Be this thy glory, and crown of rejoicing;
and see that no one take thy crown. Hold that fast: "I know that my
Redeemer liveth, and shall stand at the latter day upon the earth;"
and, "I now 'have redemption in his blood, even the forgiveness of
sins.' " Thus, being filled with all peace and joy in believing, press
on, in the peace and joy of faith, to the renewal of thy whole soul
in the image of Him that created thee! Meanwhile, cry continually
to God, that thou mayest see that prize of thy high calling, not as
Satan represents it, in a horrid, dreadful shape, but in its
genuine, native beauty; not as something that must be, or thou
wilt go to hell, but as what may be to lead thee to heaven.
Look upon it as the most desirable gift, which is in all the
stores of the rich mercies of God. Beholding it in this true point
of light, thou wilt hunger after it more and more: thy whole soul
will be athirst for God, and for this glorious conformity to his likeness;
and, having received a good hope of this, and strong consolation through
grace, thou wilt no more be weary or faint in thy mind, but wilt follow
on till thou attainest.
4. In the same power of faith press on to glory.
Indeed, this is the same prospect still. God hath joined, from the
beginning, pardon, holiness, heaven. And why should man put them asunder?
Oh beware of this! Let not one link of the golden chain be broken.
"God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven me. He is now renewing me
in his own image. Shortly he will make me meet for himself, and take
me to stand before his face. I, whom he hath justified through
the blood of his Son, being thoroughly sanctified by his Spirit, shall
quickly ascend to the 'New Jerusalem, the city of the living God.'
Yet a little while, and I shall 'come to the general assembly and
church of the first-born, and to God the Judge of all, and to Jesus
the Mediator of the new covenant.' How soon will these shadows
flee away, and the day of eternity dawn upon me! How soon shall
I drink of 'the river of the water of life, going out of the throne
of God and of the Lamb! There all his servants shall praise him, and
shall see his face, and his name shall be upon their foreheads. And
no night shall be there; and they have no need of a candle, or the
light of the sun. For the Lord God enlighteneth them, and they shall
reign for ever and ever."'
5. And if you thus "taste of the good word,
and of the powers of the world to come," you will not murmur against
God, because you are not yet meet for the inheritance of the saints
in light. Instead of repining at your not being wholly delivered,
you will praise God for thus far delivering you. You will magnify
God for what he hath done, and take it as an earnest of what he will
do. You will not fret against him, because you are not yet renewed,
but bless him because you shall be; and because "now is your salvation"
from all sin "nearer than when you [first] believed." Instead of
uselessly tormenting yourself because the time is not fully come,
you will calmly and quietly wait for it, knowing that it "Will come,
and will not tarry." You may, therefore, the more cheerfully endure,
as yet, the burden of sin that still remains in you, because it will
not always remain. Yet a little while, and it shall be clean gone.
Only "tarry thou the Lord's leisure:" be strong, and "he shall comfort
thy heart;" and put thou thy trust in the Lord!
6. And if you see any who appear (so far
as man can judge, but God alone searcheth the hearts) to be already
partakers of their hope, already "made perfect in love;" far from
envying the grace of God in them, let it rejoice and comfort your
heart. Glorify God for their sake! "If one member is honoured,"
shall not "all the members rejoice with it?" Instead of jealousy or
evil surmising concerning them, praise God for the consolation! Rejoice
in having a fresh proof of the faithfulness of God in fulfilling all
his promises; and stir yourself up the more, to "apprehend that
for which you also are apprehended of Christ Jesus!"
7. In order to this, redeem the time. Improve
the present moment. Buy up every opportunity of growing in grace,
or of doing good. Let not the thought of receiving more grace
to morrow, make you negligent of to day. You have one talent now;
if you expect five more, so much then rather improve that you have.
And the more you expect to receive hereafter, the more labour for
God now. Sufficient for the day is the grace thereof. God is now
pouring his benefits upon you: now approve yourself a faithful steward
of the present grace of God. Whatever may be to morrow, give all
diligence to day, to "add to your faith, courage, temperance, patience,
brotherly kindness," and the fear of God, till you attain that pure
and perfect love! Let these things be now "in you, and abound!"
Be not now slothful or unfruitful: "So shall an entrance be ministered
unto you into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ!"
8. Lastly: If in time past you have abused this
blessed hope of being holy as He is holy, yet do not, therefore, cast
it away. Let the abuse cease, the use remain. Use it now to the more
abundant glory of God, and profit of your own soul. In steadfast
faith, in calm tranquility of spirit, in full assurance of hope, rejoicing
evermore for what God hath done, press ye on unto perfection!
Daily growing in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and going
on from strength to strength, in resignation, in patience, in humble
thankfulness for what ye have attained, and for what ye shall, run
the race set before you, "Looking unto Jesus," till,
through perfect love, ye enter into His glory.