George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
We are not ignorant of his devices--2Co 2:11
This is a chapter of autobiography. It is one of the glimpses we get into the great human heart that everywhere throbs in these epistles. Some men's doctrine is so divorced from their life and their experience that the two seem separate spheres not to be thought of at the same moment. But it is never so with a really sincere man: and it is never so with Paul. What he believed was so bound up inextricably with what he was that he can pass from doctrine to his own history, and from his history back again to doctrine, and it all seems quite natural. O why is life so separated, part from part! Why are there these great gulfs between our Sunday and our Monday, our brain and heart, our doctrine and our practice! All Paul's theology is useless--God may condemn us by it--unless the tides of it sweep into every creek and inlet of this so broken and mysterious shore.
Well, in this chapter of autobiography our text occurs. "We are not ignorant of his devices." Do you observe that gracious we? Only God's perfect gentleman would have written that. As a matter of fact, these men of Corinth were ignorant of the devices of the devil. Had they but known them, he never could have spread such havoc in the church as these two letters reveal. An uninspired man, blind to the possibilities in others, would have said I. But Paul wrote in the Holy Ghost and had the outlook and the hope and the magnificent prospects of the Holy Ghost for every man within him. And in the power of that, he elevates these Corinthians to his own level--some day they shall be there--and he says we. It is the way of Paul. It is the way of Christ. It is the way of love: expecting great things from the most ignorant man; and by the very sunshine of the expectation, starting the growth of them.
Now I want in a simple way to expound on some of these devices. "Knowledge is power," said Lord Bacon: and to know some of the subtleties of that malevolent power that fights against us is so far to be forearmed. Paul does not tell us what the devices were. But probably the devices of today are very much the same as in Paul's time. For underneath all changing years and the growing complexities of life, this heart keeps wonderfully constant; and the arts that take it and that snare it now, took it and snared and slew it eighteen hundred years ago. We are not ignorant of his devices--what, then, are some of these?
Satan Labels Evil Things with Pleasant Names
There is a tendency in all language to do that. Whether it springs from a very natural desire to hide the uglier sides of human life or whether it is the survival of some old pagan feeling that tried to propitiate the gods of nature by fair words, we cannot tell. But every language has been rich in what grammarians call euphemisms-those nice and delicate words that cover some offensive truth. When Prince George of Greece went over to Crete to become governor, there had been fierce rioting and bloodshed between the Muslims and Christians. And when he arrived and was received with great enthusiasm, the correspondent of the Times gave a very curious description of the scene. "The long rows of ruined houses, beneath which in some cases, the fire is still smoldering," he wrote, "are almost concealed by festoons and banners." It was an attempt to decorate and hide the tragedies. And language is always doing that. No man has ever loved to call the seamier side of things by its right name or to look the darker facts of life straight in the face. And from the first, language has been busy in fashioning its own festoons and banners to hide these ugly things. It is this tendency of human speech that is caught up and wrested by the devil into an engine and instrument of ill. If, in the natural shuddering at death, I shrink from saying, "My mother is dead," and say instead, "She is gone," there is no harm in that. But if by any trick of speech I veil the filthiness of sin, or if I cannot see how odious evil is because I have dubbed it with some pleasant name, I have been ignorant of his devices. Who called the world of self and pleasure the happy world? Who named the business man whose transactions border on the shady the smart man? Who said that the adulterer who is breaking his wife's heart had his little weakness? Who smiled and said the profligate was only fast? or called the sowing of a harvest of misery for children's children the sowing of wild oats? 0 cease that speech! Call vile things by their vile names, and be not ignorant of his devices.
Satan Makes His Onset on Our Strongest Side
Our characters are complex products, and in every one of us strong elements and weak are strangely blended. The strongest Achilles has his defenseless heel. And the worst of us is not altogether bad, the weakest of us not altogether weak. There is something that still rings true; there is some chord that will still make some music in us. Thou hast a worst side, and generally men take thee on thy worst side. But thou hast a best side, and God takes thee on that. And Satan, transforming himself into an angel of light, assails on that side too.
The Bible has many instances of that. Who above all patriarchs and prophets was noted for his meekness? Was it not Moses? Yet it was Moses who broke the tables in a passion and failed in the grace that most distinguished him. Whom do we call the father of the faithful? Is it not Abraham? Yet the worst sin in Abraham's life sprang out of want of faith. And patient Job sinned through impatience: and the brave Peter fell through cowardice. And gentle and most tolerant St. John, in that one hour when he would have the fire on the Samaritan villagers, was like to be the most intolerant of all. And did not Christ know this ? Christ's loftiest passion was for the kingdoms of the world that He might bring them into obedience to God. And it was there that the Prince of Darkness struck at him: "All these things will I give thee if thou wilt fall down and worship me."
O friend, remember that. Where thou art strongest, watch! Where thou art best and bravest, be on thy guard! The choicest gifts that God has dowered you with may be your snare, and all that is best in you may be your ruin. The victim of intemperance might have been a happy man today but for the kindly heart and splendid fellowship that made him the darling of the social company. It was the best in him that gave a standing-ground for Satan. All that was best in him has proved his curse.
Satan Uses Tools
It is one mark of practical genius to choose the right instruments to do its work. A born administrator is a man who not only works hard himself, but has the skill of choosing the right men to be his assistants. That is always a mark of practical capacity. And a true general shows his genius to command by the way in which he uses each branch of the service--cavalry, artillery, and infantry- for its proper work. Every administrator must make use of agents; and he displays the greatest genius for administration who picks his agents with the greatest skill.
What a magnificent administrative genius that power must be that plots our ruin if we judge it by a test like that. Could you conceive a finer choice of instruments than Satan makes when he is seeking to overthrow a human soul? Out of a hundred gates into your hearts and mine, he passes by those that are barred and chooses one that will open at a touch. His is the plan and his the whole device. But he gets other hands and other hearts to do the work; and the whole history of the tempted world, and the whole story of your tempted heart, tells the consummate genius of the choice.
Think of our Lord's experience. First, in the wilderness Satan tempted Him. He came himself that time: he sent no messenger and used no agent. It was a personal conflict between the Prince of Darkness and the Prince of Life. But the next time the baffled tempter fell back upon this old device. Next time he does not come in person: he comes incarnated in Simon Peter. What, was it not a master-stroke of genius to reach at the heart of Jesus through the loyal heart of that disciple? And when Jesus turns and detects Satan's voice in Peter's tongue and cries, "Get thee behind me, Satan, thou savourest not the things of God," He was not ignorant of his devices.
And do you think that artifice is disused today? Has Satan's brain grown blunted in these latter times ? It is not the men who hate us and it is not the men and women we despise who tempt us most. It is those we trust and those who love us best who often prove hell's aptest messengers. If we but hated those who tempt us, life would become a very easy thing. It is because we love and reverence them so that for a thousand men and women life is hard. Come, tempter, in thine own cursed shape, and any coward shall beat thee off. But come through the loving heart of Simon Peter, and look through the loving eyes of Simon Peter, and speak through the loving lips of Simon Peter--and only Christ can make us strong to say, "Get thee behind me, Satan."
Satan Shams Defeat
To sham defeat is a well-known trick in warfare. Nothing will sooner disorganize a regiment than to see the enemy routed on the field. While the fight rages, a man is nerved and strung for he is carrying his life in his hand and knows it. But with the victory there comes reaction, and men grow careless; and there are battles where the enemy has shammed defeat just to inspire that careless spirit. O sirs, we are not ignorant of his devices! This old device of sham defeat- have you not seen it? You fought like a man with your besetting sin and mastered it. God keep you watchful. God keep you on your guard. One careless hour and the routed sin is at the gates again, and the whole battle has to be fought anew. We thought the sin was dead, and it was only sleeping. We thought that we had slain that habit, and it is stealing over us again. We thought we had defeated Satan, and Satan only shammed defeat. Keep the loins girded and the lamps burning and the hand upon the sword until the end. Our unseen foe is a consummate strategist. Many a soul has been lost because it won --won in the first encounter, then said all's well and laid its arms aside--till the old sin crept up again and sprang and the last state was worse than the first.
Satan Lays the Emphasis upon Tomorrow
We are always prone to put the accent there. It is very hard to grasp the true splendor of the present. Today seems insignificant; tomorrow shall be the real day for us. God never speaks that way. God's Bible never speaks that way. It tells us that the present is divine, and lays the whole emphasis upon today: "Now is the accepted time." And the Holy Ghost is saying, Today.
And this is the arch-device of the arch-tempter. In every life, for every start and every noble deed, God says, Today. In every life for every start and every noble deed, the devil says, Tomorrow. Is it conversion? Today, says God: Tomorrow, whispers Satan. Is it the breaking with that sin? Tomorrow. Is it the starting on a higher level? Tomorrow. Tomorrow, tomorrow, always tomorrow ! till by tomorrow's road we are at Never--and the chance is gone, and the dream has vanished, and the hope is dead. O friends, young men and women, be not ignorant of that device. It will never be easier to come to Christ than now. It will never be easier to make the start than now. God says, Today, tonight! And God who says it is here to give the power that can save now, and can cleanse now, and can send you home now with old things passed away and all things new in Jesus Christ.
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