Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices has a less-than-enticing title for this former charismatic. I almost passed over it, thinking it was of the school of pentecostal theology that loves to attribute everything to the devil and battle principalities and get zinged up about spiritual warfare and its accompanying thrill. But then I saw the edition: Puritan Paperbacks. The Puritans don’t go in for empty emotional hype, and their theology is solidly biblical. If they’re talking about Satan, I want to hear what they have to say, because I know it will be driven by Scripture. I was not disappointed.
Thomas Brooks is an earnest, passionate author, deadly serious and sparing no effort or source to persuade and plead with his readers. His method is to lead off with one of Satan’s devices (some lie that Satan seeks to impress upon us) and then show the reader various ways to combat that particular device (the remedies).
I appreciate his emphasis on the mind as pivotal in combating Satan’s lies and temptations; almost every remedy consists of reminding the reader of a biblical truth and urging us to think on it, to consider it, to soak in it. This is just one of the places where pentecostal devil theology and the Puritans part ways. Instead of giving us a magic mantra or special prayer-language or tactic to battle the powers of darkness, Brooks simply shines the light of Scripture. And light, after all, is what dispels darkness — not our straining efforts or hyped-up spiritual experiences, but the simple, clear, perfect Word of truth.
Not that there aren’t limits to Brooks’s thinking; some of his examples and similes are less than convincing and read like farfetched folklore. It usually happens when he appeals to some natural phenomenon or generally accepted tale that comes off awkwardly to a modern reader. Thankfully, the meat of his work is biblical and therefore timeless.
Brooks is fond of quoting “wise heathens” in his footnotes, such as Zeno and Seneca. They can say true things, even though they didn’t know Christ! It shows how broadminded the Puritans really were, even as they walked the straight and narrow. The free use of truth, real biblical truth, from pagan authors’ words shows a breadth of thinking and outlook often unattributed to Christian authors of such unbending theology and purpose.
Very soon after starting the book, I decided to read it with a notebook in hand to capture all the particularly pithy and true quotes. I quickly realized I’d be writing down half the book or more. I had to stop and just let myself read and chew, consider and ponder, reread and savor.
I love that Thomas Brooks, who died in 1680, can be a pastor and shepherd of my soul hundreds of years later. That he really is, as he signs himself in the foreword, “Thy soul’s servant in every office of the gospel.”