A BRIEF EXPOSITION OF THE DEVIL’S DEVICES or SATAN THE STRONG MAN ARMED WHO KEEPETH HIS PALACE (Luke 11:21)

A BRIEF EXPOSITION OF THE DEVIL’S DEVICES or
SATAN THE STRONG MAN ARMED WHO KEEPETH HIS PALACE (Luke 11:21)

By Christopher Ness (1621- 1705)

(A must read for all the Redeemed Children of God. Transcribed from an out-of-print old book titled, “A Divine Legacy Bequeathed unto all Mankind” by Michael Jeshurun You will not find this anywhere else on the World Wide Web.)

The truth of Man’s Malady and Danger is held forth in that text [the Strong man armed & c] which declares Man’s Malady and Danger, Luke 11:21 where Satan is described,

1. By his kind of sex, neither a weak worm, or a weak woman (1Pet 3:7), but a man, one of the stronger sex, and not the weaker.

2. By his quality, a strong man – one that can do all things, Phil 4:13, where the word is used Ben Chaiil Heb a man of valour, so strong, that he is able to trudge over all the world in his travels, notwithstanding his long continuance in this round walk, he walked it in Job’s days (Job 1:7 and 2:2) as he says of himself when God summons him, as in His high court of justice, and he held on the fame, walking round about without weariness, even in Peter’s day, 1Peter 5:8, yea and he holds up still in the same walk and work, even in our days; for who among us cannot experience that a busy Devil, and a base heart do not daily meet together to work us woe in our way to Heaven. This he is still able to do on earth though he was hurled out of Heaven [Jude 6] now almost six thousand years ago; yea and he will carry on the same cursed course, even to the end of the old world, until our Lord come.

We read indeed of a sort of philosophers that are called Peripateticks (which signifies round walkers) but none like this strong Trudger, who has not only out-lasted and out-lived, but also as it may be feared hath finally deceived all those Pagan Peripateticks.

3. He is described by his qualifications; he is not only thus qualified as a strong traveler, but also as a strong warrior, therefore he is said to be armed, from head to foot; so that he is as Achilles is said to be in all parts impenetrable, and not only so, but as he is a Spirit, he is impassive also as to man; for it is neither man’s words nor man’s blows that can wound this adversary, who is hereupon found to be more mortal an enemy to man’s soul and Salvation.

If it be farther inquired how this strong adversary is armed? To this I answer in general, he is verily a Goliath, an Ahitophel and Doeg, all in one together; more particularly,

1. He is armed with an arm of strength as Goliath was, so it may be said to the best of men, what Saul said to David, 1 Sam 17:33 “Thou art not able to fight with this Philistine, for thou art but a Stripling (youth); and he is a man of war from his youth; as Amnon was too strong for Tamar and so ravished her & c (2Sam 13:12,13) And as the betrothed damsel could not stand before a man that rose up against her in the field, (Duet 22:26-28) even so is this matter – no man, not the best of men (who are but men at the best) can be able to match this matchless Goliath, no more than the silly dove without heart or grace, (as Ephraim is called Hos. 7:11) can match the strong Eagle, or the simple lamb the fierce Lion & c. No more can any man who is but a poor worm, Ps. 22:6 make any effectual resistance against this Prince, Fowl of the air (Eph 2:2) or against this roaring Lion, who has still his concreated strength of an Angel (Zech 12:8).

For though he lost by his fall in his morals, yet not in his naturals, he is so strong still says Luther that he is able to destroy the whole world in the space of one hour; if the Lord would but permit him to lay forth his Angelical (or diabolical) strength to such an end.

This strong man hath conquered all persons, (yes even Adam, Samson and Solomon, as before) and all people, all Nations and Languages; he has with Saul slain his thousands and with David his ten thousands, yea and with the Harlot, Prov 7:26 hath cast down and wounded both the many and the mighty: he is the Master of Harlots as Rome is called the Mother of Harlots, Rev 17:5. Nor do we find in any age of the world, that any mere mortal man was ever able to match him at all times by any strength of his own. None but the God-man Jesus Christ was ever able to stand before him: yet he is worth our observation.

Oh what a prevailing power had this strong man even over the sinless Body of our Saviour himself; first in driving it into the wilderness, (Mark 1:12,13) then in hugging it up to the top of the pinnacle of the Temple, (Matt 4:5) and then in carrying it up likewise unto the top of an exceeding high mountain wherein this strong man did far outdo Goliath, who could not do so to David’s body. Nevertheless Christ became the stronger man (as he is called) Luke 11:22 and did conquer him completely in all his three temptations.

2. As Satan is a Goliath for strength and power, so he is an Ahitophel for craft and policy; he can outwit us as well as overpower us. It is said that the Serpent was more subtle than all the beasts of the field (Gen 3:1) So that the Old Serpent the Devil is more crafty than all mortals in the world; this must needs be because the wit of the Angelic nature doth vastly transcend the wit of the best Human Nature. Insomuch as his wit is not so clogged and clouded with fleshly impediments, which often make the mind of man to become a dim, dark and confused chaos, by imprisoning the truth and detaining it in unrighteousness, Rom 1:18 that is, (as it were) so locked up under restraint, that our consciences (which are as a prophet to the soul of man) may not trouble us in our secure sinning against the Lord; whereas the wit and understanding of Satan may be called spiritual as he is a Spirit, and not fettered with flesh as we are, and therefore acts more freely and without disturbance, and so is more quick and piercing , whereby he can more easily feel the pulses of mankind, and fit them all a suitable temptation unto every person’s natural temper.

For Satan well knew what an apple would do to Eve, what a grape would do to Noah, what a wedge of gold to Achan, what a talent of silver would do to Gehazi; and many more such instances might be added, all to show how Satan is wittily wicked in preparing penniworths for all persons according to their several conditions and dispositions; and what he cannot carry and conquer by strength, he will do it by subtlety, having not only the wit of an angel, but also the wisdom of a God, as he is called the God of this world, (2Cor 4:4)

Observe how the Holy Scripture describes his furniture –
1. He hath his sophistical counsels, pretending one thing and intending another, (lest Satan should beguile and get an advantage against us, for we are not ignorant of his devices (2Cor 2:11) where the apostle uses the Greek word for getting advantage, which signifies to over-reach in bargains, getting more gain than belongs to him, this Satan does.

2. Satan has his cunning crafty dealing among mankind; thus the same apostle uses this phrase to the same Church, saying I am jealous over you with godly jealousy & c. for I fear lest by any means, as the Serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety (or cunning craft) so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ (2Cor 11:2,3) Intimating that Satan is an old sophister and Blood-sucker who devours not just widows houses like the Pharisees, but the precious souls of most persons.

He has had the long experience of some thousands of years, and knew then well enough how to over wit, and over reach them in that time; therefore does he caution them to be upon their watch against his wily craft.

How much more is this Old Doctor in our day (now almost 6000 years old) strong in his so long experiences to feel the pulses of all persons after the most critical manner, and the better to suit every one’s humour and disposition, he understands what has been successful and what not. Hence it is that he so seldom misscarries in any of his diabolical attempts, unless it be when our dear Redeemer (the Stronger man) doth engage himself against him for us.

3. Satan has his wiles and methods as this same apostle tells us, “Finally my brethren be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil, [Eph 6:11] This Greek word for method or wiles, is derived of a word that is by the way, because of his way-layings with his stratagems and ambushements which are often more successful than force of arms, as Josh 8:2,5,15 &c. the Greek word is an allusion unto Dan’s adder in the path (Gen 49:17).

So does this serpent, he lies lurking in the way, and bites the heels of passengers, whereby he transfuses his poison to the very head and heart. The holy patriarch compared his son to an adder, foreseeing by his spirit of Prophecy, how the tribe of Dan would subtlely and suddenly surprise the men of Laish, who lived securely and carelessly, having no magistrate to put them unto shame. (Judges 18:7,10) Even so and much more than so, does that old Serpent Satan set upon such souls as are most lulled asleep in the cradle of security.

He hath the sudden jumps of a Lion sometimes, and when the Lions’ hide (skin) will not serve his turn in his jumping assaults, he can then piece it with the fox’s skin. or with the serpent’s slough; so that when the sudden jumps of a lion do fail him, he has still the secret lurkings of a serpent – his subtle windings and turnings to circumvent us, and to assault us unawares, and to set upon us unexpectedly on our backs with his furious conveyances, as he did upon David when he thought his mountain was so strong, that he could never be moved; (Ps. 30:6,7) and yet how did this subtle serpent secretly convey his venom into his heart, not only in the matter of both his adultery and murder but also when this Satan provoked David to number the people at the latter end of his reign 1Chron 21:1. Provoked i.e. Satan would not let him rest till he had prevailed.

In the third place I come to show how this strong man Satan is not only a Goliath for strength and power, as also an Ahithophel for craft and policy, but likewise a Doeg for malice and mischief. He is a more mighty hunter than the great Nimrod, (Gen 10:9) who died some thousands of years ago; but this cruel hunter lived long before Nimrod, even from the beginning of the world, and lives still, and yea is like to last until the last end of the world, and therefore he is called Kako-Damon, the Envious one, or Enemy, Matt 13:25,28 having many cursed properties. Such as –

1. He is antiently (anciently) malicious, therefore our Lord calls him a murderer from the beginning, (John 8:44) for He hath continued this damnable trade from Adam till now.

2. This malignant Adversary is mischievously malicious, he seeks not whom he may scratch, or bite, or wound only, but whom he may devour (as before) 1Pet 5:8. How maliciously mischievous he is to the body of man, as in the case of that miserable demoniac, whose body he violently threw into those two merciless elements, sometimes into the fire and sometimes into the water, yea and cutting and rending it when he was constrained to leave it. Mark 9:22. How mischievous also he is to the estates of men, as he was to Job’s estate, which he destroyed by fire and storms, & c. as he was afterwards to his body, smiting it with boils from top to toe, and every boil as the Rabbis say had each of them a devil in them: Moreover (to mention no more instances) see how maliciously mischievous was Satan likewise unto Job’s good name, which he would have blasted even to the All-knowing God, in calling Job God’s self-seeking servant, as if Job had been only biased with the gain of his Godliness. How was it then that vice itself undertook to correct but a falsely called sin: whereas the blessedness of an angel (wherewith Satan was first created) could not engage himself to continue the servant of his Creator as the Holy Angels which fell not with him, did and do to this day.

But more specially he is mischievous to the souls of mankind. It may be said that the sword of this Strong man reaches even unto the very soul, as Jer 4:10. He both slashes and wounds the soul, and doth ambitiously aspire like Lucifer to be like the Most High, (Isa 14:14) and to have a power to kill the soul (as well as body estate, and good name) which is God’s prerogative only. (Matt 10:28). However his main mark Satan aims at is to procure evil against our souls, Jer 26:19, and therefore as the Syrians were commanded to fight against neither small nor great, but against the king of Israel, (2Chron 18:30), So our fleshly lusts are those Syrians and soldiers whom Satan commands to war principally against the precious soul, (1Pet 2:11) and his malice is mostly to be mischievous to saints more than to sinners; for he tempted David (a man after God’s own heart 1Sam 13:14) to grosser and greater sins than he ever did, not only Saul, who died in his sin, even of self murder, yet never fell into such foul acts of sin as David did, but also than ever he did tempt Ahab, though he sold himself to work wickedness 1Kings 25:25, yet this sinner was only tempted to covet his neighbour’s vineyard, and not his neighbour’s wife, and life too as David did. The reason is this: because Satan is satisfied with the evil state that sinners remain in, so he needs not to tempt them to evil acts, well knowing that such actions will naturally flow from them, as water doth from a fountain. Thus David saith to Saul “wickedness proceeds (even naturally) from the wicked” (1Sam 24:13) as if they needed no tempter, but will tempt themselves (James 1:14,15)

Satan matters not for actions, but only where he cannot secure persons and still keep them captive in an evil state. This reason may be rendered why some Civil moralists do lead more blameless and more spotless lives, than some saints and sanctified souls, (who sometimes may be let of God to Satan’s buffeting messengers to humble them, as 2Cor 12:7,8] because it is enough for the Tempter to know that these mere moral men do still abide in a Christless state. But as to such as are delivered from the power of Belial, and are translated into the Kingdom of Grace, Col 1:12, 13,14, those be they against whom this envious one is most maliciously mischievous, and when he sees that he cannot keep them from Heaven, he will do them all the mischief he possibly can, he will send them if possible even halting to Heaven.

Herein Pharaoh (that Dragon of Egypt, so called Ezk 29:3) was a type and figure of this old Red Dragon the Devil, who was calm and quiet enough with God’s Israel, while he found they could be content to be his bond-slaves in Mortar work, & c. but when they begin to be gone out of his kingdom, then he rages and pursues them with his chariots and horsemen. As Pharaoh pursued Israel as they were passing towards the Earthly Canaan, so Satan pursueth us in our passage towards the Heavenly Canaan; and as Pharaoh in his pursuit of Israel was at length drowned in the Red sea; so this may be for strong consolation to us, that this saint-pursuing Satan shall at last be drowned in the Red Sea of our blessed Saviour’s blood; for we are told to our comfort, that our Redeeming Angel will come down from Heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand, and will lay hold on the Dragon, that old Serpent, the Devil, and not only bind him for a thousand years, but he will cast him likewise into the lake of Fire and Brimstone, where he (together with the Beast and the false prophet) shall be tormented day and night forever and ever (Rev 20 1-3 and 10)

In the meantime we must expect that this Serpent and Dragon will be spitting forth the poison of his malice against us; for such is his malice to all the saints, that he will first tempt them to sin, and then he will accuse them for sin. As it is said of the Russians, they are so malicious one against another, that sometimes a man will hide some of his own goods in the house of him whom he hateth, and then accuse him for stealing of them; just so doth the Devil deal many times with God’s dearest servants. Thus Joseph’s steward first placed his Lord’s cup into Benjamin’s sack, and then accused him for stealing it, [Gen 44:2-4]. So that tempted souls may say to Satan, (when he would tempt them to sin, and after will accuse them of sin) as the young soldier said to Joab his general, (Though I should receive a thousand shekels of silver, yet will I not dare to do what thou (Satan) would draw me into, for the King of kings has charged me to the contrary; and should I do otherwise, I shall then work falsehood against my own life; for there is no matter that can be hid from the King, and thou thyself would set thyself against me, 2 Sam 18:12,13.

Thus Satan dealt with Joshua the High Priest, accusing for wearing those very garments that he himself had foiled, Zech 3:1-4, yea and thus Satan dealt with our dear Saviour himself, to whom he made an offer of his giving to Him all the Kingdoms of the World, and the glories of them, if he would fall down and worship him, Matt 4:8, yet afterwards this accuser of the brethren (as he is called in Rev 12:10) doth by his instruments accuse our Lord for aspiring after one of the least of those kingdoms of the world, namely that little kingdom of Judea, Matt 27:11,29,37. And this is the Tempter’s method with all tempted souls, he will always extenuate sin in the time of his temptation to it, but after the commission of it, he will aggravate it in his accusation for it, that he may drive the soul into despair, & c.

Hereby the third cursed property of this Doeg the Devil is made manifest, namely, that he is not only antiently, maliciously, but also universally mischievous to all mankind, even to all Saints, and to all Sinners, at the least intentionally against every individual person of both sorts, only with this difference; as first for sinners, he makes them to become his Hackney Horses, according to Tertullian’s phrase [Impii perfecutores infessorem Diabolum babent] all wicked persecutors have the Devil riding upon their backs, whom he whips and spurs and spurs end-ways into an high gallop, even all the days of their lives, and then, when the night of their death comes upon them, he lodges them at last in the Hot stables of Hell. And thus Satan made Saul his Hackney, upon whom he sat as his rider, and spurred him forward for many days in his persecuting of David, and to whom he gave this very cold comfort at his death [Tomorrow thou shalt be with me, & c.] 1Sam 28:19,20] which indeed was no better place to lodge his Hackney in at his night of death, than in the Hot rooms of Hell fire.

But secondly, as to Saints (who are not the Devil’s vassals (slaves) as sinners are, but be indeed the impropriated and honourable vessels of their dear Redeemer) Satan will do all the mischief he can to those sealed vessels as Tertullian calls them; those he cannot touch with any of his deadly touches as Cajetan interprets – the wicked one toucheth him not 1Jn 5:19. He cannot cause them to fall finally. The Serpent is confined to feed upon the dust or dirt of the earth (that is, the wicked) he is not allowed to devour the Herbs of Grace, or to destroy any plants of God’s Holy mountain, Isaiah 65:25. God hath set the godly man apart for himself, Psalm 4:3 and God’s charge is upon the God of the World (as the Devil is called 2Cor 4:4) as well as upon the kings of the earth, to whom those words were spoken – Touch not mine anointed ones, and do my prophets no harm, Psalm 105:15. To say this is spoken of kings and not to kings, is a false interpretation. How far this wicked one may touch a saint of God, and that maliciously and mischievously; yea how far he touched our Saviour himself, is above said.

Now the enquiry is, seeing Satan is so universally mischievous both to Saints, as well as to Sinners, how far can Satan force a Saint to sin against God?

Answer – We have all great cause to bless the Lord our good God, that this power of darkness cannot force us to any work of darkness, no, God hath left this power of constraining (compelling) us to sin out of the devil’s charter; he hath no commission to force the will of man; he hath indeed a persuading sleight, but he hath not any enforcing might. It is true we read [that Satan provoked David to sin against God] 1Chron 21:1. that is, he so dogged David daily with his temptation, and would never let him alone in any rest, until he fastened it upon his heart, and gained his consent. However, the great God had His holy hand in all this, who still held this Dog, this Doeg, the Devil in His chain 2Sam 24:1. God did and Satan did also but how? It was thus – God was angry with Israel for abusing their peace and plenty, &c. and with David for his privy pride and creature-confidence, so he lets loose His dog the Devil upon David, and he left David to himself so, as at last after his being very long provoked unto this curiosity of numbering the people, he yielded his consent to that Satanical suggestion, which brought the Destroying Angel upon his subjects. Like as the dog may be said to bait the beast at the stake, while the owner of the bait doth stand by, looks on, and suffers his beast to be baited. This plain similitude may serve to explain the difficulty, and to understand aright, that though it be said, that God moved David, and Satan moved him likewise, yet these two phrases are not contradictory terms, they are not adverse, but only diverse, the latter being subordinate to the former, as all second causes are subaltern to the first cause.

But still Satan is held in God’s chain, and he cannot without permission do the least damage to the soul of a Saint, he cannot force us to sin, with all his most powerful provocations, as appears most plainly in the case of Job, against whom Satan made so many violent and furious thrusts to make him curse God to his face; yet could he not conquer Job with all his provocations; but this good man comes off at last with flying colours , and by the help of his God gets his Tempter trodden under his feet, as Romans 16:20. And though the beginning of the conflict and combat was Satan’s, yet the end in the conquest was the Lord’s; as it is said in James 5:11. This therefore may be very comfortable for us to seriously consider, that the Tempter may strike fire long enough to no purpose, if we do not meet him with dry tinder for his sparks to fall upon; for it is our own concupiscence that carries the chiefest sway; it is our own carnal corruptions wherewith we are drawn aside and enticed James 1:14,15, where the word in the Greek signifies that we are caught as the silly fish by the fisherman’s bait.

Satan is a crafty fisher, and knows what baits will best tempt and take every ones constitution and humour; and though Satan be a spirit, and therefore can have commerce with our spirits, yea and may fix vain thoughts upon our fancies, yet he cannot force the consent of the will thereunto; for as he cannot know the heart, (which is only God’s prerogative Acts 1:24) so he cannot compel the heart much less to any acts of sin, unless the Eve in us doth betray us into the Tempters hands, as Adam hearkened unto the voice of his wife, Gen 3:17.

Thus every son and daughter of Adam hath still an Eve (his tempter) in their own bosoms, and if Satan’s temptations do fall passively only on our part upon the tables of our hearts; it is indeed our Cross, not our sin, if we consent not to it; for it is our consent to it, that makes it our sin; as it was in the case of Benjamin before said; he never consented to the putting of the divining cup into the mouth of his sack; so it was his cross only, but not at all his sin.

Therefore ought we in an hour of temptation to do these two great duties –

1. To give no place to the Tempter, Eph 4:27, no not for an hour, Gal 2:5 by way of subjection. And
2. To resist him, and he will flee from us, James 4:7, especially if we resist him steadfast in the Faith, 1Peter 5:8, 9 even with a resolved negative, No, no & c.

However such is Satan’s hatred to all the Saints, that he will be universally mischievous to them, and do them all the damage and detriment that he possibly can do; and as we learn from the story of Balaam the Soothsayer (who was Satan’s servant), when he cannot curse the whole camp of Israel, he will do his utmost endeavour to curse some part thereof, Numbers 23:13,27.

The 4th cursed character and property of this Adversary of Mankind is, he is uncessantly as well as universally mischievous. It is said of the Scorpion that there is no time wherein he doth not thrust out his sting, but he keeps it in a continual motion for a speedy poisoning of all whatsoever he can reach with it as said before; even so this old Serpent or Scorpion the Devil, is restless night and day, and puts forth his poisonous sting without ceasing to wound us in our heels (according to his commission Gen 3:15) that thereby he may transfuse his venom from our heels to our hearts, & c. And it is his constant custom to assault us both sleeping and waking, for he keeps no holy day (as the vulgar saying is) nor will he make any Truce, or cessation of Arms with us; and he will set upon us, both in our Natural and in our Civil actions; yea and most of all in those that are religious.

He doth not only tempt us to excess in food and raiment; but he will disturb us also in the duties of our general callings; so that we can never serve the Lord (either publicly or privately) without distraction from this adversary, 1Cor 7:35. Neither week-day not Sabbath-day, nay, upon the Sabbath (which signifies a rest) is Satan the most restless; for while we are busiest about God’s service, and the concerns of our souls, then will he be a most busy Devil with our base hearts, to interrupt our communion with Heaven, & c.

The 5th cursed character and property of this our Adversary, is that he is likewise irresistibly mischievous as to any humane power for resisting him. And this because his Angelical (though now diabolical) nature is too strong for any human nature. We are all as unable to withstand him as a feeble fly the cunning spider, which most easily entangles her in his clammy threads (spun out of his own bowels) whose first work is to intoxicate her (as soon as entangled) by infusing his poison into her head, and then with more ease he draws her into his den, and there he sucks out her blood and her life both together. Nor are we poor mortals able to resist this Strong Man Armed, than the silly dove is able to withstand the furious assaults of the strong Eagle, & c.

Thus the Devil is represented in Eph 2:3 as a Prince fowl of the Air who has upper ground of us sorry worms crawling upon the earth or the simple lamb that cannot withstand the furious Lion, when found wandering astray from the sheepfold, & c.

These similitudes do illustrate how irresistible is our Adversary as to us, to which many more may be added, as he is like the hunter with his nets. Like the Fowler with his snares. And like the Fisherman with his angling rods etc. All these do most easily do overpower the beasts, the birds and the fishes they meet with; and so doth Satan overpower us; yea and much more than so, insomuch as he finds something in us which betrays us into his hands; though it be otherwise said of our sinless Saviour, to whom Satan came and found nothing in Him, John 14:30.

The 6th cursed character of Satan, he is everlastingly mischievous; as he was murderer from the beginning, John 8:44 so he will continue to be to the end of the world, as is hinted before. Oh what a long lease hath our Lord lent this roaring Lion! This Beast hath already lasted above five thousand years, and will ever last (out living all the sons and daughters of men) until Time shall be no more; for he is a Spirit, so he cannot die, as we mortals daily die, & c. therefore Man’s Malady and Danger is like to last so long as there is a man living to be tempted by this everlasting Tempter, until our Lord chain him up, & c.

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