To H in a Handbasket?

 Thomas Brooks, in Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices (1652), opened his discussion with these stout words:

“Christ, the Scripture, your own hearts, and Satan’s devices are the four prime things that should be first and most studied and searched…to discover the fullness of Christ, the emptiness of the creature, and the snares of the great deceiver.”

The book goes on to explore those themes in a way that is comforting and practical for Christian warfare, for sanctification (mortification and vivification).  Christ and Scripture are front and center, but we must also consider our waywardness and Satan’s tricks – this is the perspective from which Brooks writes.

In our cultural climate, however, it is much more popular for preachers and teachers to be culturally savvy and politically aware.  We’d rather hear conservative sermons about the bad stuff “out there,” about the crimes of the government, the wickedness of vampire movies, the illness of society, and so forth than the errors of our own hearts and the dark ways in which Satan attacks us.  Unfortunately, we’re usually only taught how to interact with the sins “out there,” how to hate them and reform society, but we’re left hanging on a limb when it comes to fighting our own dark hearts and Satan’s deadly arrows.  In fact, the focus might be so lopsided that we actually start to think that most of the darkness lies outside of us – in “society” rather than our own beings.

Willimon says it much better than I can.  It is easy to “lament the evil that is large, systemic, political,  natural, and cosmic.  Keep sin large, global, universal.  Talk about the evil done to us by those wicked institutions, these unjust systems of economic distribution.  Surely part of the popularity of the Left Behind books is that they posit the threat of evil out there, somewhere, in some vast cosmic conspiracy.  Jesus, the one better represented in the New Testament than in the Left Behind books, might tell us that we don’t need to look that far to discover the source of most of the bad that afflicts us” (Sinning Like a Christian, p. 15).

Brooks’ Precious Remedies is is a heavy and serious antidote to this lopsidedness of seeing sin “out there.”  It won’t help us be culture warriors or political pundits or give us the ability to make crass and “twitterable” statements about big government.  But it does something much better: teach us from Scripture to flee and fight our sin and Satan’s devices while resting in the sufficiency of the cross.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

3 Replies to “To H in a Handbasket?”

  1. Shane,

    This might be splitting hairs and/or I might be thinking in the wrong direction but…

    It seems that Brooks’ quote may lead one to conclude that “Christ” should somehow be “studied and searched” independently of Scripture.

    I wonder if the order should look more like Scripture, Christ…etc. We certainly pray to the Lord directly but we can’t “study and search” him independently of Scripture.

    Am I wrong here?

    Perhaps, reading the entire context of the statement might shed some light on my question. I don’t have the book…so I’ll rely on you for now. Or, perhaps he was not trying to communicate a specific order to the “four prime things?”

    I understand (and appreciate) the point you are making with Brooks’ quote…just curious about your take on my observation.

    What thinkest thou?


  2. Yea, Brad, I noticed that too. He’s a good Puritan, so he would totally say study Christ in the Scripture because that is where we learn of him. I think he wrote like he did, if I may venture at a guess, to focus the reader first on the main thing of Scripture – Christ – but also the whole of Scripture’s teaching (about ourselves, and Satan, for two examples). Make sense?

    One more note: quite often Brooks says, “The Scripture shows…” – and he uses that phrase under all sorts of topics (our sin, Satan’s ways, Christ’s work, God’s mercy, etc).

    Get the book, BL!



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