in order that Satan should not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.
I. SATAN'S DEVICES ARE MANY AND VARIED. The resources of an earthly foe ought not to be underestimated by a general who would gain the victory; and if the tactics vary with circumstances, vigilance and self-possession, courage and care, are all needed. Satan besets Christians with many temptations; if he cannot tempt them into conscious sin, he will endeavour to entrap them into some error of judgment and conduct which may give him an advantage over them.
II. SATAN'S DEVICES ARE SKILFUL AND CRAFTY. In the temptation of our Lord this was abundantly manifest, and the Saviour gave his disciples to understand that they would be called upon to endure the assaults of the same unsleeping foe. Against his ever varying tactics, against his all but inexhaustible resources, it becomes, therefore, every Christian soldier to be upon his guard.
III. SATAN'S DEVICES ARE THE MEANS OF SNARING MANY OF THE UNWARY. Some who once ran well have been hindered. Some who have resisted one enemy have fallen beneath the attack of another. The annals of every Church, however pure, tell of those against whom the adversary has directed his blows only too successfully. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
IV. SATAN'S DEVICES NEED TO BE WITHSTOOD WITH WATCHFULNESS AND PRAYER. It is something not to be ignorant of them. The unwary and unthinking are entrapped through very ignorance. Yet knowledge is no sufficient protection. A distrust of our own ability and a reliance upon superior power and wisdom are indispensably necessary in order to safety and deliverance. Well may the inspired counsel be received with gratitude and acted upon with diligence, "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." - T.
Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices
I. HIS DEVICES IN DISCIPLINE. TOWARDS THE LAPSED. Their not being ignorant of his devices is assigned as a reason for the apostle's anxiety, "lest Satan should get an advantage of them." He was fearful lest he should overreach them in the matter referred to. That was a case of discipline. A notorious scandal had gained currency that "one should have his father's wife." The severe discipline had sufficed to produce the desired effect. Whatever might be the mind of "the many who inflicted" the censure, it would seem that there was a party among them unwilling to forgive the offence, remove the sentence, and restore the offender. To all of them the apostle says, "Ye ought rather to forgive him and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow." And this exhortation is enforced by his own example in the person and presence of Christ. "To whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also: for if I forgave anything, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person or in the sight of Christ" vers. 6-10). By their excessive severity in continuing the censure it was possible that the spirit of such an one would give way to despondency or despair, would entertain hard thoughts of God, of the government of His Church, and "thus draw back into perdition." In such a fatal issue the spirit would be lost to Christ and gained by Satan. On these accounts the apostle was anxious "lest Satan should gain an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices." From this instructive case of primitive discipline it would appear that his devices to corrupt the Church of Christ, maintain a party spirit, and mar its unity, and prevent purity of communion were, and still are, these — no discipline, laxity of discipline, and partiality in discipline between rich and poor, master and servant, one party and another, on the One hand; and excessive severity of censure, disproportionate to the offence, and continued for too long a time, on the other.
II. HIS DEVICES TO PREVENT THE SALVATION OF THE LOST. If such are his devices to keep within those who ought to be without, and to keep them without when they ought to be received again within the Church, what are his devices in keeping sinners from Christ and His salvation? His chief devices, his master-machinations to prevent sinners "from giving themselves to the Lord," seem to be the four following.
1. No joy. There is no joy in Christ, no joy in His religion, no joy in His service, and no joy in His salvation. Christians go mourning without the sun. To become a Christian is to bid farewell to all joy, pleasure, and amusement for the life that now is. This device is specially intended for the merry-hearted. It will not stand examination. Try it by reason. Surely every one possessed of reason and speech will admit that the Maker of us all can make His creatures happy or miserable. For He is "the blessed, as well as the only wise God." Happy in Himself, He is also the source of all happiness to His creatures. The very supposition is not less irrational than it is impious. Is the knowledge of God, who is good as well as blessed for ever; faith in God; trust in His providence and promises; the hope of eternal life likely — are such exercises to inspire sadness? Assuredly not. And whether are the benevolent affections of "peace on earth and goodwill toward men," or malevolent affections toward God and men most fitted to give true and lasting joy? Try it by revelation. And what are its tidings? The gospel is not bad but good news from heaven to earth, from God to men. And is good news fitted to produce gladness or gloom, joy or sorrow? Tried by Scripture, no joy in religion is seen and shown to be a lying device and a lying wonder of Satan. Try it by experience. Now on what does real joy or happiness depend? Not on worldly conditions or external circumstances, but on the state of the mind and heart. Well, "The good man shall be satisfied from himself" — not with himself but from himself — "out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned." For what does he pray? "Rejoice the soul of Thy servant." "Are the consolations of God small with thee?" One thing is certain: the consolations of God are not small in their source, not small in the promise, and not small in themselves; and if they are small with thee, is there not a cause? It may be owing either —(1) To thy partial, defective, or erroneous views of the character or gospel of God; or(2) To the want, the weakness, or wavering of thy faith, under a fair and flaming profession; or(3) To some "secret thing with thee," to some secret duty neglected, some secret sin indulged; or(4) To thy constitutional temperament, moody and sickly, which depresses thy spirits, and diminishes thy consolations. "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom and the man that getteth understanding. Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her; and happy is every one that retaineth her."
2. No haste. There is no haste for you to be found on the Lord's side, and be devoted to His service, For all this you have time enough, and to spare in the length of days that lie before you. In the meantime take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry. This device is specially adapted for the young, the strong, the healthy, and aspiring in the outset of life. If No Joy fail with this class, No Haste, and no danger from delay, is more likely to take, as it falls in with the presumptuous spirit and procrastinating habits of fallen man. This device is second to none in danger, and in success with the sons of men. It is a most deceitful and destructive device of Satan. If it takes, Satan, in the majority of cases, has gained his end. By it unstable souls are beguiled from day to day to their eternal undoing and ruin. This device, even still less than the former, will not bear examination. For is it not the part of reason and wisdom, to give the first and most earnest heed to things of the greatest importance. "Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?" Now what time is secured to man for the business of salvation? "There is a time to be born and a time to die"; but what is the time to live? Who can tell? The commands of the Master accord with the dictates of reason, and the results of observation, in this matter. They are all in the present time, all personal, all pressing, and all supreme in obligation on all men. For the Saviour's commands are enforced by Scriptural "ensamples, written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world," or of the ages, "have come." What are they? Felix is a fitting type of many hearers under the preaching of the gospel. They are convinced, but they are not converted to Christ. Their convictions are stifled, it may be never to return. And does not the experience of unconverted sinners under the preaching of the gospel correspond more or less to these ensamples written for our warning? Do they not feel that every delay tends to make the ears dull of hearing the Word?
3. No danger. There is no danger of your losing your soul, or of coming short of the promised rest. This device is specially intended for the outwardly decent, the moral, the well-to-do sort of people. They are satisfied with themselves; are at peace with themselves, and at peace with the world; and they see and feel no danger from any other quarter. Such peace is delusive and short-lived. It is like the calm that precedes the storm. They admit that they are sinners, as all men are, not from any heartfelt conviction of its evil, but in extenuation of their guilt by its diffusion over all; but they have never been convinced of their own sinfulness so as to make them feel the urgent need of the Saviour. They love mammon more than mercy, their sins more than their souls, self more than the Saviour, and pleasure more than God. They are the friends of the world and the enemies of God. Satan thus gets an advantage over them, for they are ignorant of his devices. "The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you."
4. No hope. There is for you no hope of salvation. This is the last, chief device of Satan, but it is not the least. Terrors are increased by the vivid recollections of privileges misimproved; of opportunities lost. Well does Satan know that more sinners perish from despair than through presumption. Like all his other devices, this last is a lying device of Satan. For while there is life there is hope.
(Geo. Robson.)1. That Church discipline is necessary.
2. That discipline should be extended to every member of the Church, whatever his worldly position
3. That Church discipline has its limits.
I. THE EVIL POWER THAT SEEKS ADVANTAGE OVER US. The Bible has much to say of him, but nothing different from its teaching here. We are taught —
1. Satan's names.
2. His condition. Reduced in estate, brought down by pride, etc.
3. His character.
4. Unmixed evil.
5. His calling. He is pre-eminently the tempter.
II. SOME OF THE MANY WAYS BY WHICH SATAN SEEKS AN ADVANTAGE.
1. He tempts with systematic subtlety.
2. He insinuates evil suggestions.
3. He makes use of men to tempt their fellow-men.
4. He conceals his designs, so as not to be perceived or suspected.
5. He avails himself of the advantages presented by the disposition and circumstances of those whom he tempts.The rich, the poor, the gay, the proud.
III. THE KNOWLEDGE WHICH SHOULD FRUSTRATE THE DESIRED ADVANTAGE. We have no excuse for ignorance. A pious mother said to her well-instructed but ungodly son, "Well, Morgan, you are going straight to destruction, but you don't go there in the dark, your mother has put the candle in your hand." What is the Bible, the preaching, and the religious meetings we have? There are only so many candles, warnings, like the red lights of danger, as well as the beacon lights of safety.
I. SOME OF THE MORE SUCCESSFUL METHODS AND TRAINS OF TEMPTATION whereby the great enemy of souls is wont to blow up men's resolutions for a holy life.
1. By secret disbelief of the truth of things.
2. By making false representations of religion.(1) That its restraints are unjust and unreasonable. So religion is looked upon as a tyrannical encroachment upon the natural rights and privileges of mankind.(2) That the precepts of it are difficult, if not impossible.
3. By tempting men to place all religion in a few empty and external pretensions to piety, devoid of the inward life and spirit of religion.
4. By tempting them to such vices as have a shadow and resemblance of virtue. This crafty spirit knows very well that sin will never take in its own naked shape, and therefore dresses it up in a better garb, and calls it by another name. Pride never spreads its plumes with more success than when it is recommended as gentility, and a just valuing of ourselves according to our desert and quality. Many a man would never be betrayed into excesses did he not look upon it as an argument of a free, generous mind, and a piece of good fellowship.
5. By improving the influence of powerful and prevalent examples. Mankind is of a sociable and pliable temper, easily drawn aside when the multitude do evil. We are apt to look upon it as some kind of shelter and patronage to sin in company, and to act contrary to the company we are in is looked upon as a trespass against the laws of civility and good manners.
II. THEREFORE IT CONCERNS US TO STAND CONTINUALLY UPON OUR GUARD, to preserve our consciences quick and tender, to be infinitely watchful, that our foot be not taken in any of those snares that are purposely laid to ruin us. It is no contemptible enemy that we have to deal with, nor the less to be feared because invisible, for by this means he maintains a nearer and more secret intercourse with the spirits of men. He is admirably acute to plant his engines, to make his batteries in the weakest part. But, alas! though men had no foreign enemy there is an enemy within their own breasts (James 1:14). Herein lies Satan's great advantage. He knows our strength is small, our propensions to sin impetuous, and how apt we are to be betrayed by our appetites and passions.
1. Let us, then, treasure up in our minds a great sense of God and of ourselves, let us suffer conscience freely to discharge its duty. Let us reverence the nobility of our natures, which are of a more Divine frame and temper than to be defiled.
2. Let all opportunities and occasions of vice be avoided with a quick and jealous care; a temptation is easier prevented than removed, when once it has thrust itself upon the sinner.
3. We should frequently review our lives, and call our actions to a severe and impartial examination that we may know what is their spring, tendency and consequence.
4. But above all we must solicit Heaven that God would enable us to defeat the subtleties of the tempter. "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation."
(W. Cave, D. D.)I. Now the first trait in the character of Satan is DECEIT. It is evident sin originated in deceit (Genesis 3:13; Revelation 12:9). Hence arise those frequent monitions in the Word of God not to be deceived if we would not sin.
II. The next device which the tempter exercises for the seduction of mankind is ENTICEMENT OR THE ENTANGLEMENT OF THE AFFECTIONS. No sooner is the mind drawn aside from the path of duty than the affections are instantly assailed and enticed to sin. Like the bait with which a fish is taken on the hook, so does Satan seek to allure men to their destruction. The days of this captivity will be heightened when he can insidiously prevail upon the imagination to entertain vain thoughts with secret complacency and delight.
III. A third stratagem which the great seducer employs to get an advantage over us IS TO EXTENUATE THE GUILT OF SIN.
IV. LET US INQUIRE HOW THIS DANGER IS TO BE AVOIDED, AND POINT OUT THE NECESSITY OF RESISTING THE CRAFTS AND ASSAULTS OF THE DEVIL.
1. In the whole course of your obedience attend minutely to the wisdom of Solomon, and "keep thy heart with all diligence."
2. Let this consideration animate us at all times to resist steadfastly in the faith, "knowing that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world."
3. For this purpose let us always bear in mind the example and sufferings of the blessed Jesus.
4. Let us, then, rejoice that we are called to serve under so good a leader, so solicitous for our success, so careful to promote it, and so ready "to help in time of need."
5. Finally, let us remember that in all our encounters with sin, the world, and the devil, we are but following the footsteps of the Captain of our salvation, and travelling to the attainment of the same glory, through the same rugged paths of sorrow and temptation.
(E. Brackenbury, B. A.)
I. First, OF THE CAUTION. Some render these words, Lest Satan should usurp upon you; and they give this reason, because, say they, Satan hath no right to any place; wheresoever he getteth footing he is an intruder and usurper. Others read, Lest Satan circumvent us agreeably to the circumstances of the place and the practice of the devil. But why doth the apostle say, "Lest he get advantage of us"? Was St. Paul in any danger, or had Satan any design upon him? We may conceive that St. Paul joins himself with them, because he esteemed all those whom he begot to Christ by the gospel no other than his own children, and the father cannot but suffer in the loss of his child. The shepherd must needs be endamaged when any of his flock is diminished. St. Paul was further interested in this business, for the Corinthians had excommunicated this incestuous person by order from the apostle, and therefore if he had miscarried, Satan had made his advantage upon all: upon the incestuous person, whose soul he would have ruined; upon the Church, which he had maimed of a member. These were Satan's devices, which he could not carry so closely but that the apostle's vigilant eye descried them, for, saith he, "We are not ignorant of his devices." Did the householder know what night the thief would come to rob him, he would certainly guard his house; did the birds know a snare were laid for them, would they come near it? "Devices." Devices are subtle means to compass our ends, such as are tricks in gaming, fallacies in disputing, and stratagems in war; the enemy of our soul is full of them.
1. The first stratagem, policy, or device of Satan is to observe the natural constitution of every man's mind and body, and to fit his temptations thereunto. For he knoweth well that, as every plant thrives not in every soil, so neither every vice in every temper and complexion. As the mariner marks the wind, and accordingly hoisteth up or striketh sail, or as the cunning orator learneth which way the judge propendeth, and ever draweth him where he seeth him coming on, so the devil maketh perpetual use of the bent of our nature to help forward his temptations.
2. The second stratagem, policy, or device is to observe our natural abilities and endowments, and accommodate his temptations thereunto,
3. The third stratagem, policy, or device of Satan is to accommodate his temptation to men's outward estate, condition, and place, which much swayeth either way,
4. The fourth stratagem, policy, or device is to tempt us by method, beginning with questionable actions, thence proceeding to sins of infirmity, from them to wilful transgressions, after to heinous crimes, and last of all to obstinacy and final impenitency. No wool or cloth is dyed purple or scarlet at the first, but after divers. tinctures at the last taketh that deepest dye. He that hastily turns the peg to wind: up a treble to his pitch will sooner break the string than tune it, but if he strain it: up by little and little, he bringeth it without danger to the height.
5. The fifth stratagem, policy, or device of Satan is to bring us from one extreme to another.
6. The sixth stratagem, policy, or device of Satan is to turn himself into an angel of light, and thereby to persuade the children of light that his suggestions are the motions of God's Holy Spirit.
7. The seventh stratagem, policy or device of Satan is to make advantage of time, not only by alluring every age to the peculiar vices thereof, as children to idleness and vanity, youth to lust, perfect age and strength to violence and audacious attempts, old age to covetousness, and every one to the sins of the time, but making use of the present opportunity to thrust a man suddenly into the next sin.Instruct you how to employ his own engines, and turn his own ordnance upon himself.
1. First, doth Satan play the physiognomer, and observing our natural temper fit his temptations thereunto? Let us also make use of physiognomy, and take advantage of our natural inclinations to further the works of grace in us. If we find ourselves by nature timorous, let us endeavour to improve this fear into awful reverence; if audacious, to improve this boldness into spiritual confidence.
2. Secondly, doth Satan play the poet, and fit every player with a part that he is best able to act? Let us also make use of poetry, and observing our natural abilities of mind and body to fit our spiritual exercises accordingly. If we are endued with pregnancy of wit, to employ it in the study of heavenly mysteries; if with maturity of judgment, employ it in discerning between the true and false religion.
3. Thirdly, doth Satan play the politician, and inquire into every man's estate and condition of life, and accommodate his temptations thereunto? Let us also make use of policy, and by our outward estate better our inward, labouring for those graces which are most proper for our place and condition. If we are in authority, let us strive for gravity and integrity; if under the command of others, for obedience and faithfulness.
4. Fourthly, does Satan play the logician and tempt us by method? Let us also make use of logic, and observe method in the science of salvation.
5. Fifthly, doth Satan play the false pilot, and by persuading us to decline from a rock on the right hand, carry us so far the contrary way that we split our ship upon a rock on the left hand? Let us also make use of the art of navigation in our course to the fair havens in heaven.
6. Sixthly, doth Satan play the crafty merchant, and cheat us with counterfeit stones for jewels, with shows of virtues for true graces? Let us also imitate the wisdom of merchants, who will be perfect lapidaries before they deal in pearls and precious stones. Let us study the difference between true and seeming graces.
7. Lastly, doth Satan play the temporiser, and time all his suggestions? Let us also in a pious sense be timeservers, let us perform all holy duties in the fittest season.
(D. Featly, D. D.)I. TO DRAW THE BELIEVER INTO SIN.
1. He takes advantage of his peculiar temperament. Does he see David inclining to pride and vain confidence, he tempts him to number the people, well knowing the judgment that would follow (2 Chronicles 21:1). Did Satan behold in Peter the fear of man? He instigates a maid to accuse him of being a follower of Christ, and thereby causes him to deny his Lord. Did he see in Lot too much leaning to the world? He takes advantage of it to make him linger in Sodom. Just so now. Satan knows our besetments. It may be irritability of temper, or over-sensitiveness, taking offence quickly at the slightest cause, or spiritual pride, or too much clinging to the world, etc. Of all these he takes advantage.
2. He chooses fitting instruments. He employed Eve to seduce Adam, and Job's wife to tempt the patriarch to "curse God and die." He will tempt a parent to do wrong in order to gratify the caprices of a favourite child; he will tempt a child to act contrary to the dictates of his conscience through fear of disobeying a:parent; he will tempt a Christian to wound his conscience rather than offend another on whose support he may entirely depend.
3. He presents the same temptation under different forms. This was the device which he employed against the Saviour. He tempted Him personally and then by Peter. Foiled in his designs upon us he departs, but only until a feeling of security has stolen over us, then he creeps back again more wilily than ever.
II. TO KEEP BELIEVERS IN A SORROWFUL AND DOUBTING STATE. He does so —
1. By making them look at their sins instead of away from them to Christ.
2. By inclining them to misinterpret God's providential dealings.
3. By making them confound faith with assurance.
III. TO KEEP BELIEVERS FROM HOLY DUTIES. He does so —
1. By presenting the world in a false light.
2. By suggesting a multitude of vain thoughts.
3. By striving to make, them content with a low state of religion, instead of seeking higher degrees of personal holiness, "growing in grace," etc.
(A. W. Snape, M. A.)I. TO OCCUPY OUR MINDS WITH WORLDLY THINGS, SO THAT NO TIME MAY BE LEFT TO CARE FOR OUR SOULS.
II. TO DISCOURAGE THOSE WHO SHOW ANY DISPOSITION TO DO RIGHT.
III. TO MISREPRESENT RELIGION ITSELF.
IV. TO MAKE USE OF THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF SCIENCE TO FURTHER HIS OWN PURPOSES. Hence the idea that there is no limit to human investigations; that the utterances of reason are supreme; that faith in the unseen is but the pitiable weakness of superstition and ignorance.
(J. N. Norton, D. D.)
1. First device I shall mention, which Satan makes use of, is to drive us to despair.
2. A second device that Satan generally makes use of to get an advantage over young converts is to tempt them to presume or to think more highly of themselves than they ought to think.
3. A third device I shall mention which Satan generally makes use of, "to get an advantage over us," is, to tempt us to uneasiness and to have hard thoughts of God, when we are dead and barren in prayer.
4. Fourth device I am going to mention — his troubling you with blasphemous, profane, unbelieving thoughts, and sometimes to such a degree that they are as tormenting as the rack.
5. Fifth I shall mention, which is not the least, tempting us by our carnal friends and relations.
6. Sixth device, which 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 think not of it.
(G. Whitfield, M. A.)
I. A SCANDAL IN THE CHURCH GIVES THE DEVIL AN OPPORTUNITY. When a Christian falls into open sin it is a chance offered to the enemy which he is not slow to improve. He uses it to discredit the very name of Christ; to turn that which ought to be the symbol of the purest goodness into a synonym of hypocrisy. Christ has committed His honour to our keeping, and every lapse into vice gives Satan an advantage over Him.
II. THE DEVIL FINDS HIS GAIN IN THE INCOMPETENCE OF THE CHURCH TO DEAL WITH EVIL IN THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST. It is a fine thing for him if he can drive the convicted sinner to despair, and if he can prompt those who know little of God's love to implacability. If the disciples of Him who received sinners look askance on the lapsed and chill their hope of restoration, there will be joy over it, not in heaven but in hell. And not only this, but the opposite is a device of the devil of which we ought not to be ignorant. There is hardly a sin which some one has not an interest in extenuating. Even the incestuous person had his defenders who gloried in what he had done as an assertion of Christian liberty. The devil takes advantage of Church scandals to bribe and debauch men's consciences; indulgent words are spoken, which are not the voice of Christ's awful mercy, but of a miserable self-pity, and could any one imagine what would suit the devil better than the absolutely unfeeling but extremely interesting gossip which resounds over every exposure of sin?
III. THE DEVIL FINDS HIS ADVANTAGE IN THE DISSENSIONS OF CHRISTIANS. What an opportunity he would have had in Corinth had strained relations continued between the apostle and the Church! What opportunities he has everywhere, when tempers are on edge, and every movement means friction, and every proposal rouses suspicion! The last prayer of Christ was that all His disciples might be one; to be one in Him is the final security against the devices of Satan. What a frightful commentary the history of the Church is on this prayer. It is giving ourselves away to the enemy, if we do not at all costs, "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
(J. Denney, B. D.)
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