Few people have had as much influence on my life and faith as Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). In the spirit of “Fenelon Friday” I have decided to post something from Jonathan Edwards on Tuesdays: “Tuesdays with Edwards.” Just as I think everyone needs a little Fenelon, I believe everyone needs a little Edwards!
In this inaugural post, I have chosen a selection from his sermon False Light and True, which focuses on 2 Corinthians 11:14 (NIV), for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. You can read the sermon in its entirety here. Virtually all of his writing is available to read and search through at www.edwards.yale.edu.
Use of Exh. To all to beware of Satan that they be not deceived by him. If Satan always appeared as he is, everyone would beware of him; for he is a most malicious, cruel spirit. The most cruel of all beings, he delights in others’ misery: and no misery that he can bring them into, can be great enough to glut his cruelty; nor can he ever be satisfied with the numbers that he makes miserable. It don’t content Satan to bring any temporal calamity upon men, let it be never so great; but he seeks to bring the misery of hell upon them, which is far greater than ’tis possible for men to endure in this life, and never will have any end. What a kind of horror doth it raise in our minds to hear of the torments that have been effected upon others by some cruel men; but what are those to those miseries that Satan endeavors to bring upon men’s souls? What is the utmost torment that men can inflict on the bodies of men in this world to eternal damnation in hell? We read of history of some that have put multitudes to death by their cruelty; but what is this to the execution that Satan has made among men, the millions and thousands of millions that Satan has undone and drawn into the pit of eternal damnation?
Now I say, if the devil always appeared to men as he was such a cruel spirit, everyone would beware of him. If men knew what Satan’s real design was in his temptation, if they knew that he designed nothing but their undoing, they would beware of him.
If the devil had appeared as he was to Eve without a disguise, and she had known the design that he was upon, she never would have hearkened to his temptation, and mankind might have stood in the favor of God to this very day. But our calamity is that Satan is a subtle spirit as well as a cruel one. He hides himself: he disguises his wickedness and cruelty: he conceals his real designs from men, and hereby deceives them with a false show and appearance; whereby men are emboldened to hearken to him and follow. And they are taken by him “as the bird that hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that ’tis for his life,” but thinks it is to feed pleasantly upon that which [is] nothing but bait to entice him withal.
The devil is “a roaring lion, going about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). But men would beware of him, if he appeared in such a shape. Men would not be so fearless of him, when he ranges about in our streets, and enters into their houses. If there should come a lion, or bear, or some such wild beast into town, how would all the town be raised, and be up in arms against him! But the devil is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He is a roaring lion, but looks as harmless to men as a lamb. Hence men are bold with him, have a great deal to do with him, and think no harm, are no way upon their watch or guard against him.
Yea, he comes to men not only in a harmless but a saint-like and friendly appearance, that men don’t know it to be the devil. He looks to them more like an angel of light. Yea, he oftentimes puts on such a disguise that men mistake him for Jesus Christ himself, the Angel of the Covenant, who is an infinitely holy person, and the greatest friend that ever mankind had. Now, this shows us what danger we are in, and what need we have to beware of Satan, and labor that we may not be ignorant of his devices, but able to distinguish him and know him under all his disguises; able to discern him and see his design, even when he comes under the appearance of an angel of light, and to stand upon our watch and guard continually. Satan is under vastly the greater advantages to ruin men upon this account, of his thus transforming himself.
Be exhorted therefore earnestly to take heed, lest you be led away and taken captive by Satan, when he transforms himself into an angel of light; for Satan now is under the advantage to do you so much mischief as when he is under such a disguise.