DEVICE 11: By polluting and defiling the souls and discernment of men with such dangerous errors, which generally carry the souls of men to all looseness and wickedness, as we often see in our experience.
Oh, how many are filled with these and suchlike Christ-dishonoring and soul- undoing opinions, that is—that the Scriptures are full of errors and gray areas (or uncertainties), and don’t need to be obeyed unless they agree with their own carnal thoughts; that it is a poor, low thing, if not idolatry too, to worship God in a Mediator; that the resurrection is already past; that there was never any such man or person as Jesus Christ—but that all is an allegory; that there is no God nor devil, heaven nor hell—but what is within us; that sin and grace are equally good—with a hundred other horrid opinions, which have caused wickedness to break like a flood over us.
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That an incorrect, vain MIND is as revolting to God as a wicked LIFE. One who had leprosy in his head was to be pronounced utterly unclean (Levit. 13:44). Gross errors make the heart foolish, and render the life loose. Error spreads like a gangrene, and makes the soul a leper in the sight of God. The breath of the erroneous is infectious, and, like the dogs of Congo—they bite even though they don’t bark.
It was God’s heavy and dreadful plague upon the Gentiles, to be given over to a mind that was lacking judgment, or an injudicious mind, or a mind rejected, disallowed, despised by God, or a mind that no one should glory in—but rather to be ashamed of (Rom. 1:28). I think that in these days God punishes many men’s former wickednesses, by giving them up to soul-ruining errors. Oh, Lord, this mercy I humbly beg, that you would rather take me into your own hand, and do anything with me, than give me up to those sad errors to which thousands have married their souls and are in the way of perishing forever. It were best that we never erred; next to that, that we fix our error. To persist in error is devilish.
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, To receive the truth affectionately, and let it dwell in your souls fruitfully. When men stand against the truth, when truth is presented, and men bar the door of their souls against the truth, God in justice gives up such souls to be deluded and deceived by error, to their eternal undoing (2 Thess. 2:10-12): ’10 and with all wicked deception (or, as the Greek has it, “the efficacy of error,”) for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.’
Oh, sirs, if you love your souls, do not tempt God, do not provoke God, by rejecting truth—giving yourself up to believe a lie, and damning yourself. There are no men on earth so guarded against error as those that love the truth and receive it with love. Such souls are not ‘easily tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness, wherein they lie in wait to deceive’ (The Greek, signifies such sleights as cheaters and false gamesters use at dice.) It is not who receives most of the truth in his head—but who receives most of the truth affectionately in his heart—who shall enjoy the happiness of having his judgment sound and clear, when others are deluded and deceived by them, who make it their business to infect the judgments and to undo the souls of men. The greatest sinners are sure to be the greatest sufferers.
Oh, souls, if you do not want your judgments polluted and defiled with error, ‘Let the word of the Lord,’ which is more precious than gold, yes than fine gold, ‘dwell plenteously in you’ (Col. 3:16). Let it dwell in you as an ingrafted word incorporated into your souls, so digested by you, that it becomes one with yourselves. It is not the hearing of truth, nor the knowing of truth, nor the commending of truth, nor the talking of truth—but the indwelling of truth in your souls—which will keep your judgments chaste and sound, in the midst of all those glittering errors that betray many souls into his hands, who can easily ‘transform himself into an angel of light’ (2 Cor. 11:14), that he may draw others to lie in chains of darkness with him forever. Oh, do not let the Word be a stranger—but make it your best friend! Then will you be able to stand in the day wherein many shall fall on your right hand, and on your left, by the subtlety of those who shall say, ‘Lo, here is Christ, or lo, there is Christ.’
Oh, souls, if truth dwells in you fruitfully, you are happy; if not, you are unhappy under all your greatest felicity. Truth at last triumphs.
￼Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That error makes the owner suffer loss. All the pains and labor that men take to defend and maintain their errors, to spread abroad and infect the world with their errors, will bring no profit, nor no comfort to them in that day, wherein ‘every man’s work shall be made manifest, and the fire shall try it of what sort it is,’ as the apostle shows in that remarkable scripture (1 Cor. 3:11-15). Ah, that all those who rise early and go to bed late, that spend their time, their strength, their spirits, their all—to advance and spread abroad God-dishonoring and soul-undoing opinions, would seriously consider this, that they shall lose all the pains, cost and charge that they have been, or shall be at, for the spreading of error; and if they are ever saved, it shall be by fire, as the apostle there shows. Oh, sirs, is it nothing to lay out your money for that which is not bread? and your strength for that which will not, which cannot, profit you in the day that you must make up your account, and all your works must be tried by fire? Error as a glass, is bright, but brittle, and cannot endure the hammer, or fire—as gold can, which, though rubbed or melted, remains firm and shiny.
Oh, that such souls would now at last ‘buy the truth, and sell it not’ (Prov. 23:23). Remember you can never over-buy it, whatever you give for it; you can never sufficiently sell it, if you should have all the world in exchange for it.
It is said of Caesar, that ‘he had greater care of his books than of his royal robes,’ when swimming through the waters to escape his enemies, he carried his books in his hand above the waters—but lost his robes. Oh, what are Caesar’s books to God’s books? Well, remember this, that one day, yes, one hour spent in the study of truth, or spreading abroad of truth, will yield the soul more comfort and profit than many thousand years spent in the study and spreading abroad of corrupt and vain opinions, which come from hell, and not from heaven, from the god of this world and not from the God who shall at last judge this world, and all the corrupt opinions of men.
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, To hate, reject and abominate all those doctrines and opinions which are contrary to godliness, and which open a door to profaneness, and all such doctrines and opinions which require men to hold forth a strictness above what the Scripture requires; and all such doctrines and opinions which advance and lift up corrupted nature to the doing of supernatural things, which none can do but by that supernatural power that raised Christ from the grave; and such opinions which lift our own righteousness in the room of Christ’s righteousness, which place good works in the throne of Christ, and makes them co- partners with Christ. And all those opinions and doctrines which so set up and cry up Christ and his righteousness, as to cry down all duties of holiness and righteousness, and all those doctrines and opinions which make the glorious and blessed privileges of believers in the days of the gospel to be lesser, fewer and weaker, than they were in the time of the law. Oh, did your souls arise with a holy hatred, and a strong indignation against such doctrines and opinions, you would stand when others fall, and you would shine as the sun in his glory, when many who were once as shining stars may go forth as stinking snuffs. Gideon had seventy sons, and but one illegitimate child, and yet that illegitimate child destroyed all the rest (Judges 8:13, et seq.). One turn may bring a man quite out of the way. One old piece of gold is worth a thousand new counterfeits, and one old truth of God s more than a thousand new errors. True hatred is against all errors! It is sad to frown upon one error and smile upon another.
Remedy (5). The fifth remedy against this device of Satan is, To hold fast the truth. As men do not take hold on the arm of flesh—until they let go the arm of God (Jer. 17:5); so men do not take hold of error until they have let go their hold of truth; therefore hold fast the truth (2 Tim. 1:13, and Titus 1:9). Truth is your crown, hold fast your crown, and let no man take your crown from you. Has not God made truth sweet to your soul, yes, sweeter than honey, or the honeycomb? and will not you go on to heaven, feeding upon truth, that heavenly honeycomb, as Samson did of his honeycomb.
Oh, souls, have you not found truth sweetening your spirits, and cheering your spirits, and warming your spirits, and raising your spirits, and corroborating your spirits? Have not you found truth a guide to lead you, a staff to uphold you, a cordial to strengthen you, and a medicine to heal you? And will not you hold fast the truth? Has not truth been your best friend in your worst days? Has not truth stood by you when friends have forsaken you? Has not truth done more for you than all the world could do against you, and will you not hold fast the truth? Is not truth your right eye, without which you cannot see for Christ? And your right hand, without which you cannot do for Christ? And your right foot, without which you cannot walk with Christ? And will you not hold truth fast? Oh! hold fast the truth in your judgments and understandings, in your wills and affections, in your profession and conversation.
Truth is more precious than gold or rubies, ‘and all the things you can desire are not to be compared to her’ (Prov. 3:15). Truth is that heavenly mirror wherein we may see the luster and glory of divine wisdom, power, greatness, love and mercifulness. In this mirror you may see the face of Christ, the favor of Christ, the riches of Christ, and the heart of Christ—beating and working sweetly towards your souls. Oh! let your souls cleave to truth, as Ruth did to Naomi (Ruth 1:15, 16), and say, ‘I will not leave truth, nor return from following after truth; but where truth goes I will go, and where truth lodges I will lodge; and nothing but death shall part truth and my soul.’
What John said to the church of Philadelphia I may say to you, ‘Hold fast that which you have, that no man take your crown’ (Rev. 3:11). The crown is the top of royalties: such a thing is truth: ‘Let no man take your crown.’ ‘Hold fast the faithful word,’ as Titus speaks. Hold fast as with tooth and nail, against those who would snatch it from us. It is better to let go of anything, rather than truth! It is better to let go, of your honors and riches, your friends and pleasures, and the world’s favors; yes, your nearest and dearest relations, yes, your very lives—than to let go of the truth. Oh, keep the truth, and truth will make you safe and happy forever. Blessed are those who are kept by truth. ‘Though I cannot dispute for the truth, yet I can die for the truth,’ said a blessed martyr.
Remedy (6). The sixth remedy against this device of Satan is, To keep humble. Humility will keep the soul free from many darts of Satan’s casting, and erroneous snares of his spreading. As low trees and shrubs are free from many violent gusts and blasts of wind which shake and tear the taller trees, so humble souls are free from those gusts and blasts of error which shake and tear proud, lofty souls. Satan and the world have least power to fasten errors upon humble souls. The God of light and truth delights to dwell with the humble; and the more light and truth dwells in the soul, the further off darkness and error will stand from the soul. The God of grace pours in grace into humble souls, as men pour drink into empty vessels; and the more grace is poured into the soul, the less error shall be able to overpower the soul, or to infect the soul. ￼I have read of one who, seeing in a vision so many snares of the devil spread upon the earth, he sat down mourning, and said within himself, Who shall pass through these? whereupon he heard a voice answering, Humility shall pass through them.
That is a sweet word in Psalm 25:9, ‘The humble, he will guide in judgment, and the meek he will teach his way.’ And certainly souls guided by God, and taught by God, are not easily drawn aside into ways of error. Oh, take heed of spiritual pride! Pride fills our fancies, and weakens our graces, and makes room in our hearts for error. There are no men on earth so soon entangled, and so easily conquered by error—as proud souls. Oh, it is dangerous to love to be wise above what is written, to be curious and unsober in your desire of knowledge, and to trust to your own capacities and abilities to undertake to pry into all secrets, and to be puffed up with a carnal mind. Souls that are thus a- soaring up above the bounds and limits of humility, usually fall into the very worst of errors, as experience does daily evidence. The proud soul is like him who gazed upon the moon—but fell into the pit. You know how to apply it.
Remedy (7). The seventh remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, The great evils that errors have produced. Error is a fruitful mother, and has brought forth such monstrous children as has set towns, cities and nations on fire. Errors in conscience produce many great evils, not only in men’s own souls—but also in human affairs. Error is that whorish woman that has cast down many, wounded many, yes, slain many strong men, many great men, and many learned men, and many professing men in former times and in our time, as is too evident to all who are not destitute of the truth, and blinded by Satan. Oh, the graces that error has weakened, and the sweet joys and comforts that error has clouded, if not buried! Oh, the hands that error has weakened, the eyes that error has blinded, the judgments of men that error has perverted, the minds that error has darkened, the hearts that error has hardened, the affections that error has cooled, the consciences that error has seared, and the lives of men that error has polluted! Ah, souls! can you solemnly consider of this, and not tremble more at error, than at hell itself?