The Great Deceiver!
James Smith, 1861
It seems to me, that in the present day, the agency, power, and determined activity of Satan, in doing mischief, is too much lost sight of. If he can get us to lose sight of his presence and power — he can carry out his schemes with so much the more ease. The representations given of him in God's word are calculated, if not to excite alarm, to make us cautious, careful and watchful. Just look at one, "That old serpent called the devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world." Revelation 12:9. Here is,
Our ENEMY.He is represented by a great dragon; because so quick-sighted and cruel. None escape his notice, or remain unmolested by him.
He is "that old serpent," full of subtlety, craft, and cunning. He is powerful, far beyond what most give him credit for — and brings the experience of six thousand years to bear upon his victims.
He is called "the devil," a forger of calumnies, an accuser, who accuses the saints day and night.
He is also called "Satan," an adversary, a legal adversary, one who is well versed in the law, and who opposes the Lord's people in the court of justice.
He is full of bitter hatred to believers, because
they love the Savior, and desire to honor him. His malice is deep and
dreadful, which prompts him in every way to seek to injure them. He hates
them because . . .
they have escaped out of his hand,
they oppose his kingdom and government;
they hate sin, and pant, and pray, and strive for holiness.
He is a terrible foe, for he never wearies, and
though foiled a thousand times — he will renew the attack! If he knows that
he cannot devour us, he will do all he can to worry us; and
though we may be off our guard — he is never off his.
His WORK."He deceives the whole world." He delights to deceive, and he will do so on any point — but especially in reference to spiritual things.
He deceives by misrepresenting objects.
He represents sin as harmless, painful, pleasant, and much to be desired.
He represents holiness as repulsive, injurious, gloomy, and undignified.
He represents man to himself as innocent, injured, dignified, and deserving God's blessing.
He represents himself as man's friend, pitying, and wishing to elevate him, and make him happy.
He represents God as severe, cruel, revengeful, and almost implacable.
He represents the law as harsh, severe, and unnecessarily strict.
He represents the gospel as degrading to man, and very little better than the law.
He represents the Savior as a stern law-giver, an unbending judge, and one very difficult to please.
Indeed every spiritual object is misrepresented by him!
Then by prejudices, errors, or superstition — he . . .
blinds the mind,
conceals the true nature of the gospel,
and hides the Savior from man's view.
"The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God!"
He is always on the watch when the Word is preached, endeavoring by himself or his agents, to snatch away the seed out of the heart, lest the sinner should believe and be saved.
He makes use of all kinds of error, and all sorts
of false teachers, to . . .
hinder God's work,
eclipse the glory of the gospel,
and destroy the souls of men.
He counterfeits the work of the Holy Spirit, leading souls to rest in slight convictions, feeble impressions, false joys, natural excitement, or the performance of religious duties — and so stop short of Christ. He will do anything and everything — to keep the sinner from Christ, driving him to presumption or despair. If he can lull the soul into false security, his end is answered, and the doom of the poor creature is sealed!
If we were not so ignorant of his devices, or did
not forget his unwearied activity, deep rooted malice, and fixed
determination by all means to ruin souls — we would not speak of him
as we do, or trifle with the representations of him in the scriptures
as we do.
The Extent of His SUCCESS."He deceives the whole world!" He deceived the whole world at once, when he deceived our first parents, and led them into sin! He has been carrying on his work of deception ever since, in all places, under all circumstances — until the whole world lies in the Wicked One. The Church of God is rescued from his grasp, by sovereign and invincible grace; "being delivered from the power of Satan, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son." But outside the true church of Christ — Satan exercises authority, exerts his power, and deceives all but the elect. In all places, among all parties, and in all people — he works; exciting enmity against God, opposition to the gospel, and the indulgence of sin.
We were all under his dominion once. We loved his service, believed his lies, and — but for the mercy of God, would surely have perished in our sins! "When the strong man is fully armed and guards his palace, his possessions are safe — until someone even stronger attacks and overpowers him, strips him of his weapons, and carries off his belongings."
All around us we see Satan working, deceiving, and leading souls captive at his will. This should make us think and act soberly, as Peter says, "Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour! Stand firm against him, and be strong in the faith."
It should lead us to walk carefully, for this old serpent is almost sure to be lurking in our path.
It should lead us to examine diligently, lest we should be deceived, for if he deceives the whole world, with all its learning, shrewdness, and knowledge — we may well examine carefully, lest he deceive us!
It should lead us to pray fervently. Think of the fascinating power of the dragon, of the subtlety of the old serpent, of the accusations of the devil, of the legal lore and wit of Satan, and say — have we not need to cry mightily to God, that he would keep us by his power, shield us by his presence, and preserve us by his grace unto his kingdom and glory.
It should lead us to watch daily, for in a sense, we are always in danger! If we sleep — Satan does not! If we are off our guard — he is ready to take advantage, in order to injure us.
It should also lead us to sympathize deeply with those who are overcome and deceived by him. The poor wretched backslider has been beguiled, bewildered, and led astray — and is at this very time in Satan's net! Let us not condemn too harshly, nor dwell too severely on his fault — we know not the degree of power exerted by Satan, the means he has employed, or the deception he has practiced upon the soul. We may condemn the sin, and reprove the folly — but we must exercise mercy toward the sinner.
Just so with the unsaved world, even when they hate us, persecute us, and reject the counsel of God against themselves — we must still pity them. What a fine example our beloved Lord sets us, when sinners had done their worst to insult, degrade, and make him contemptible; and when they were doing their worst to inflict pain and anguish upon him. He looked up to Heaven, exercised sympathy, and recognized the deceiving influence of Satan, and prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
So may we say of multitudes around us; and of more who are under the influence of popery, paganism, Mohammedanism, in far distant lands. They are deceived by Satan, the father of lies, who has succeeded in blinding their minds! The poor wretches go on in darkness; and unless they are plucked as brands from the burning — must perish in their sins. O for that sympathy that will pity, pray for, and send the gospel to them, that they may be saved!
O for wisdom to resist Satan, and overcome him!