Friday, August 15, 2008

Precious Remedies - very late first post

Here it is, the 15th of the month, and I have yet to post anything related to this month's Puritan Reading Challenge selection, Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices, by Thomas Brooks. Just like last month, this is not an easy read. This book was originally scheduled to be the April selection, but was postponed due to lack of availability from one of the book sellers. However, coming on the heals of Bridge's A Lifting Up for the Downcast is a good thing due to the fact that I had developed a systematic approach to ensuring that last month's book would be completed on time, an approach that I have carried over to this month's work.

One of the first things I did when I cracked the cover of this book was to delineate a portion for each day, and mark it in the margin. I don't get to put my head on the pillow at night until I have read to at least that day's marker. This is not an onerous thing, since most days I am a little ahead, but a reminder of what it takes to maintain my commitment. Just like last month, this work requires a considerable amount to reflection and analysis. Truthfully, I don't think that I have read anything else that deals with this subject matter at this level of detail, and I need to remain a good "Berean" by making sure that Brooks is not engaged in flights of fancy. I have encountered a couple of things that have had me scratching my head, but further examination reveals more of a cultural disconnect than an abuse of scriptural truth.

This is the type of book that is going to speak to different people in different ways, depending upon their circumstances and experiences. Brooks catalogs a number of temptations and devices used by Satan to cripple the Christian in his Christian life, and then gives a number of remedies for each. One example follows, just for flavor:

DEVICE 4. By presenting to the soul the best men's sins, and by hiding from the soul their virtues; by showing the soul their sins, and by hiding from the soul their sorrows and repentance: as by setting before the soul the adultery of David, the pride of Hezekiah, the impatience of Job, the drunkenness of Noah, the blasphemy of Peter, etc., and by hiding from the soul the tears, the sighs, the groans, the meltings, the humblings, and repentings of these precious souls.

Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That the Spirit of the Lord has been as careful to note the saints' rising by repentance out of sin, as he has to note their falling into sins. David falls fearfully—but by repentance he rises sweetly. 'Blot out my transgressions, wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, cleanse me from my sin; for I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow; deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, God of my salvation.' It is true, Hezekiah's heart was lifted up under the abundance of mercy that God had cast in upon him; and it is as true that Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, so that the wrath of the Lord came not upon him, nor upon Jerusalem, in the days of Hezekiah. It is true, Job curses the day of his birth, and it is as true that he rises by repentance: 'Behold, I am vile,' says he; 'what shall I answer you? I will lay my hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken—but I will not answer; yes twice—but I will proceed no further. I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear—but now my eye sees you; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes' (Job 40:4, 5; 42:5, 6). Tertullian says that he was born for no other purpose but to repent.

Peter falls dreadfully—but rises by repentance sweetly; a look of love from Christ melts him into tears. He knew that repentance was the key to the kingdom of grace. As once his faith was so great that he leaped, as it were, into a sea of waters to come to Christ; so now his repentance was so great that he leaped, as it were, into a sea of tears, because he had denied Christ. Some say that, after his sad fall, he was ever and always weeping, and that his face was even furrowed with continual tears. He had no sooner took in poison but he vomited it up again, before it got to the vitals; he had no sooner handled this serpent but he turned it into a rod to scourge his soul with remorse for sinning against such clear light, and strong love, and sweet discoveries of the heart of Christ to him. Luther confesses that, before his conversion, he met not with a more displeasing word in all his study of divinity than repent—but afterward he took delight in the word. Clement notes that Peter so repented, that all his life after, every night when he heard the cock crow, he would fall upon his knees, and, weeping bitterly, would beg pardon of his sin. Ah, souls, you can easily sin as the saints—but can you repent with the saints? Many can sin with David and Peter, that cannot repent with David and Peter—and so must perish forever!

Theodosius the emperor, pressing that he might receive the Lord's supper, excuses his own foul act by David's doing the like; to which Ambrose replies, You have followed David transgressing, follow David repenting, and then think you of the table of the Lord. (pg 45-46, formatting from the Grace Gems online copy)

This isn't all, Brooks has an additional three remedies for this same device, approaching it from different angles. As a result, he approaches his subject matter thoroughly while remaining pastoral in his concern for his readers.

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