365 days with Newton


Satan’s subtlety

‘Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.’ Genesis 3:1

What I can observe to you may be gathered from Satan’s appearance, his address and his arguments. He appeared as a serpent, either in the likeness of a serpent or rather, as I suppose, he actually possessed a real serpent. If I was to tell you the conjectures of the learned upon this subject, it might be more for your amusement than edification. I would say as little as possible that is not founded upon the sure word. It is plain the serpent was degraded by the sentence and therefore was a more excellent creature before the Fall than since. It did not go upon its belly or feed upon dust; what other properties it might possess we know not. Satan’s principal reason for choosing this creature is assigned—he was the most subtle, and therefore Eve was the less liable to be surprised at the subtlety of Satan under such a form. From hence we may note in general that Satan knows how to avail himself of the fittest instruments. In all succeeding times, Satan’s work is carried on by subtle instruments. When he would oppose the commands of God, when he would deprave the doctrines of the gospel, when he would darken the glories of Christ and deny the operations and influences of the Holy Spirit, he does not ordinarily employ fools in these services, but men of parts and abilities, of genius and learning. We shall hardly find one dangerous or damnable error that had considerable prevalence in the church but what has been started and maintained by persons of this sort. Had they been ignorants and blockheads, as we say, their dreams might have been quickly despised and forgot.

FOR MEDITATION: Hence none should be proud of natural abilities, or a turn for reasoning, or the furniture of learning. The more of these things a man has, if they are not sanctified by grace, they make him but so much a fitter instrument for Satan, and qualify him for the greater mischief. Many wise men and great scholars who have admired themselves and been admired by the world for their ingenuity will one day wish they had been born idiots.


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