William Spurstowe (1605-1666), along with other Puritan writers, catalogued many of Satan’s devices, and indicated the remedies that the Christian should take:-
Device 1 – Satan leads us from lesser sins to greater.
Remedy – ‘Do not give the devil a foothold’ (Eph 4:27). If you let the serpent’s head into the house, the whole body will soon follow. Do not trivialise ‘lesser’ sins: ‘the least sin is contrary to the law of God, the nature of God, the being of God, and the glory of God’ (Brooks).
Device 2 – The devil urges us towards particular sins. He introduces evil thoughts into the mind, Jn 13:2. He sways the understanding with arguments and promises, 1 Kings 22:21. In his subtlety, he makes it appear that his suggestions are our own thoughts, Mt 16:22f.
Remedy – Reject the promises of sin. ‘Satan promises the best, but pays with the worst: he promises honour and pays with disgrace, he promises pleasure and pays with pain, he promises profit and pays with loss, he promises life and pays with death; but God pays as he promises, for all his payments are made in pure gold.’ (Brooks).
Device 3 – Satan makes a strategic retreat for a while, in order to make us complacent (cf. Josh 8:15). He permits a momentary victory to fill us with pride, lull us into a sense of security and vain presumption.
Remedy – Overcome the devil with Christian sobriety and watchfulness, 1 Pet 5:8. We are not to live like rich men in a king’s court but like soldiers in a war camp. There is no truce in this war.
Device 4 – Satan clothes evil with false appearances, Isa 5:20. He dyes sin with the colours of virtue. Greed masquerades as frugality, and lukewarmness as moderation. Satan will especially strive to misrepresent God: ‘Satan paints God with his own colours, represents him as envious and malicious as himself’ (Charnock).
Remedy – Love the truth of the Bible. Value truth above all things. Take Christ as pattern, who repulsed the misrepresentations of the devil with scriptural truth. Satan’s power may be as formidable as the walls of Jericho, but the preachers of the Scriptures are God’s trumpeters to cast the devil’s kingdom to the ground.
Device 5 – Satan ensnares us with lawful things. In this way, a quiet stream will carry more boats over the waterfall than noisy rapids. Spurstowe gave, as examples, such lawful things as hunting, drinking, falconry, recreations, eating, and even hard work. These become sinful ‘when they are unbounded and not according to the rule and warrant of the Word.’
Remedy – Learn to be satisfied with little, and not long for riches. Those who have plenty must realise that ‘they walk in the midst of snares’ (Gilpin). Keep well away from things that might tempt us: ‘Our hearts are gunpowder, and therefore we must take heed of sparks’ (Gilpin).
Device 6 – Satan and his angels exalt new revelations, while putting down the Scriptures and the ordinary ministers of the church. See 2 Cor 11:14.
Remedy – Realise that not all experiences are from God, even though that seem to have no natural explanation. See 1 Jn 4:1. Satan can give false experiences of joy as well as of fear. The devil supports his work with false miracles, Mt 24:24; 2 Thess 2:9; Rev 13:13. According to Thomas Manton, most of these are ‘mere fables, notorious impostures, and forgeries’, but even truly supernatural events must be rejected if they draw us away from God.
Device 7 – Satan may use surpise tactics when tempting us. It may then seem that no-one has been tempted as we have been. Or we find ourselves lured towards sins we never thought would appeal to us. Or they foster shame so that we tell no-one of our struggles.
Remedy – ‘Suspect yourself prone to every sin; do not repose anything on constitution or temperament’ (Spurstowe). Temptation is common to all Christians, 1 Cor 10:13, and so we can talk to wise Christians friends ‘who will pray for us and not defide us.’
Device 8 – The devil encourages us to fight him with charms and sacred objects. But these are nothing compared with the truth of Scripture. Satan is not disturbed by holy water and incantations, although he may sometimes give them false success in order to lure us away from God’s word.
Remedy – Do not imagine that such things will frighten the devil. He is far more afraid of our looking to God in prayer.
Device 9 – Satan attacks us with false reasoning. He argues that a particular sin cannot remain in a child of God: therefore you are not a child of God.
Remedy – True conversion is not determined by whether sin remains in us, but whether it reigns in us. It is not the perfection, but the sincerity, of our efforts that counts.
Device 10 – Satan entices us to think that we can easily repent after sinning.
Remedy – ‘Repentance is a mighty work, a difficult work, a work that is above our power…Repentance is a flower that grows not in nature’s garden’ (Brooks). Repentance is a grace from God: we must cherish it, and not take it for granted.
Device 11 – The devil seeks to make our calling as Christians clash with our daily calling. He urges us to our devotions when we should be going to work, and vice-versa.
Remedy – Christians are called to diligence and industry in our calling. Sabbath observance will help us to achieve the right balance.
Device 12 – Satan drives us from one extreme to the other. He pushes us from presumption over sin to despair, from neglect of duties to exhausting zeal. He provokes us to react against one heresy by embracing the opposite error. He aggravates wounds made by the Holy Spirit by making us feel so awful about our sin that we resist the medicine of the gospel.
Remedy – Faith avoids both extremes and embraces God according to the rule of his Word. Presumption believes in God’s mercy but not his justice; despair believes his justice but not his mercy. Faith believes that God is both just and merciful.
Above all, let us look to Christ:-
‘If we did indeed regard our enemies’ strength and our own weakness only, we might well be discouraged from undertaking this combat, but if we look upon our grand Captain Christ, whose love towards us is no less than his power, and both infinite, there is no cause of doubting…He hath already overcome our enemies…Our Saviour hath spoiled principalities and powers, and hath made a show of them openly, and hath triumphed over them upon the cross, Col 2:15. (John Downame)’
Based on Beeke & Jones, A Puritan theology, 193-199.