CONSIDER, O devout soul, to what peril thou art constantly exposed from the devil, thine adversary. He is an enemy extremely ready in audacity, strong in resources, subtle in parts and devices, boundless in stratagem, unweariedly zealous in his assaults upon the soul, and capable of assuming any form at pleasure. He himself entices us to the commission of sin, and then takes delight in accusing us before Godís tribunal. By turns he heaps up accusations against God among men, and against men to God, and against men among men. He first observes accurately the weaknesses and propensities of each individual, and then proposes his temptations in the manner that will most surely ensnare that soul. When besiegers storm a city, they do not direct their attack upon the strongly fortified parts, but where they think the walls are defective, the ditches more shallow and the towers unguarded; and so the devil, waging a ceaseless warfare against our souls, always assails us at our weakest and most unguarded points. Conquered once he does not cease his efforts, but bestirs himself to tempt us anew, that he may overcome, in a moment of weariness or negligence, those whom he could not conquer by the violence of his temptations. Whom will he not assail, since he dared to approach the Lord of Glory Himself with his cunning malignity (Matt. iv. 3)? If he sought to sift the very apostles of Christ as wheat (Luke xxii. 31), think you he will fail to test any Christian with temptation? He deceived Adam (Gen. iii. 1-5) who had a nature holy and innocent; whom can he not then deceive with natures fallen and sinful? He led astray Judas although in the school of the Saviour; whom can he not then lead astray in the world, the school of error?
In all circumstances and conditions of life we need to fear the wiles of the devil. In prosperity he puffs us up with pride; in adversity he sinks us into despair. If he sees any one given to parsimoniousness he takes delight in forging upon him the fetters of insatiable desire. If an heroic spirit animates any one, he inflames him with the sharp stings of passion. If he sees any one a little too joyous, he urges him on to an excessive desire for pleasure. Those whom he sees animated with fervid religious zeal, he endeavors to entangle in the snares of vain superstition. Men weighted with worldly honors, he inflames with unholy ambition. When he would lead us into sin he magnifies the great mercy of God. When he has succeeded in leading us astray, he enlarges upon the rigorous justice of God. First he would lead us into presumptuous sin, and then attempt to drag us down into the depths of despair. Now he assails us externally by persecutions, and anon internally with fiery temptations. At times he attacks us openly and violently, and again secretly and cunningly. He tempts us to gluttony in eating, to deeds of shame and licentiousness, to laziness in our daily avocations, to envy in conversation, to avarice in office, to passion in the exercise of authority, to pride in wearing our honors. He fills our hearts with evil thoughts, our mouths with false words; and leads our members to the commission of iniquitous deeds. In the day-time he impels us to evil works, and at night he suggests shameful dreams. So, in all the situations and circumstances of life we must guard against the wiles of the devil. We sleep and he watches; we are apparently secure, and he goeth about as a roaring lion (1 Pet. v. 8). If thou shouldst behold an enraged lion rushing upon thee how thou wouldst shudder with horrible fear; and when thou hearest that this lion of hell is plotting against thee, thou dost slumber on in imagined security.
Consider, then, O faithful soul, the wiles of this powerful adversary, and seek to overcome him only by the employment of spiritual weapons. Let your loins be girt about with truth, and put on the breastplate of righteousness (Eph. vi. 14). Put on as a garment the perfect righteousness of Christ, and thou wilt be safe from the devilís temptations. Hide thee in the cleft (Cant. ii. 14) of Christís wounds, whenever thou art terrified by the fiery darts of that malignant power. The true believer abides in Christ; and as Satan has no power against Christ (John xiv. 30), so has he none against the true believer. Let thy feet be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace (Eph. vi. 15). Let us be ever confessing Christ, our Saviour, and then no temptation of Satan shall harm us. An enchanterís words do not so quickly drive away a serpent, as a hearty and unceasing confession of Christ puts to flight the devil, that old serpent of hell. Let us also take the shield of faith (Eph. vi. 16) that we may therewith quench the fiery darts of this wicked enemy. It is faith which removes mountains, mountains namely of doubt, of persecution, of temptation. The Israelites, whose doorposts were sprinkled with the blood of the paschal lamb, were not smitten by the destroying angel (Ex. xii. 13), and so those whose hearts are sprinkled, through faith, with the blood of Christ shall not be harmed by this fell destroyer. Faith rests in the promises of God, and these promises Satan can never overthrow; neither then can he prevail against our faith. Faith is the light of the soul; and in that light the temptations of the evil spirit are easily apparent. Through faith our sins will be cast into the depths of the sea of Divine mercy (Micah vii. 19), and in that sea the fiery darts of the devil will be easily quenched. Let us also take the helmet of salvation, that is, we ought to be animated by a blessed hope. Endure temptations, considering the end that God has in view in our temptation; for God directs us in our conflicts, and shall by and by crown the victor. If there be no enemy there will be no conflict; if no conflict, no victory; if no victory, no crown. Better far a stern conflict which brings us very near to God, than such a peace as will alienate us from God. We must take also the sword of the Spirit (Eph. vi. 17), which is the word of God. Let the consolations of Godís word have more weight with thee than the contradictions of the devil; Christ overcame all the temptations of Satan with the word of God (Matt. iv. 4); and by that same divine word Christians may yet overcome all the temptations of the devil.
Finally, in prayer thou hast the greatest source of help against thy temptations. As the little vessel of thy soul is being overwhelmed with the waves of temptation (Matt. viii. 24), arouse Christ with thy prayers. Our visible foes we subdue by striking and slaying them; but this invisible enemy of our souls we conquer by pouring out our prayers to God.
O blessed Christ, do Thou fight for us and in us, that in Thee we may have the victory!