Brooks on Rest from Religion
religious performance. If we're not careful, we may drift into resting not in Christ himself, but in our reading, prayers, duties, and church attendance.
The great Puritan minister Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) well understood this grave danger. In his devotional masterpiece, Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices, Brooks addresses this subtle shift directly.
In Section three, "Satan's devices to keep souls from holy duties, to hinder souls in holy services, to keep them off from religious performances" Brooks identifies eight devices of Satan. Our device of interest is device eight, "By tempting Christians to rest in their performances."
The eighth device that Satan hath to hinder souls from religious services, from holy performances, is,
Device (8). By working them to rest in their performances; to rest in prayer, and to rest in hearing, reading, and the communion of saints, &c. And when Satan hath drawn the soul to rest upon the service done, then he will help the soul to reason thus: Why, thou wert as good never pray, as to pray and rest in prayer; as good never hear, as to hear and rest in hearing; as good never be in the communion of saints, as to rest in the communion of saints. And by this device he stops many souls in their heavenly race, and takes off poor souls from those services that should be their joy and crown, Isa. 58:1–3, Zech. 7:4–6, Mat. 6:2, Rom. 1:7.
Now the remedies against this device are these:
Remedy (1). The first remedy against this device of Satan is, To dwell much upon the imperfections and weaknesses that do attend your choicest services. Oh the spots, the blots, the blemishes that are to be seen on the face of our fairest duties! When thou hast done all thou canst, thou hast need to close up all with this, 'Oh enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord,' Ps. 143:2, for the weaknesses that cleave to my best services. We may all say with the church, 'All our righteousnesses are as a menstruous cloth.' Isa. 64:6. If God should be strict to mark what is done amiss in our best actions, we are undone. Oh the water that is mingled with our wine, the dross that cleaves unto our gold!
Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider The impotence and inability of any of your best services, divinely to comfort, refresh, and bear your souls up from fainting, and sinking in the days of trouble, when darkness is round about you, when God shall say to you, as he did once to the Israelites, 'Go and cry unto the gods that you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your tribulation,' Judges 10:14. So, when God shall say in the day of your troubles, Go to your prayers, to your hearing, and to your fasting, &c., and see if they can help you, if they can support you, if they can deliver you. If God in that day doth but withhold the influence of his grace, thy former services will be but poor cordials to comfort thee; and then thou must and will cry out, Oh, 'none but Christ, none but Christ.' Oh my prayers are not Christ, my hearing is not Christ, my fasting is not Christ, &c. Oh! one smile of Christ, one glimpse of Christ, one good word from Christ, one nod of love from Christ in the day of trouble and darkness, will more revive and refresh the soul than all your former services, in which your souls rested, as if they were the bosom of Christ, which should be the only centre of our souls. Christ is the crown of crowns, the glory of glories, and the heaven of heavens.
Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That good things rested upon will as certainly undo us, and everlastingly destroy us, as the greatest enormities that can be committed by us. Those souls that after they have done all, do not look up so high as Christ, and rest, and centre alone in Christ, laying down their services at the footstool of Christ, must lie down in sorrow; their bread is prepared for them in hell. 'Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, compass yourselves with the sparks: and walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks ye have kindled. This shall ye have at mine hands; ye shall lie down in sorrow,' Isa. 50:11. Is it good dwelling with everlasting burnings, with a devouring fire? If it be, why then rest in your duties still; if otherwise, then see that you centre only in the bosom of Christ.
Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, To dwell much upon the necessity and excellency of that resting-place that God hath provided for you. Above all other resting-places himself is your resting-place; his free mercy and love is your resting- place; the pure, glorious, matchless, and spotless righteousness of Christ is your resting-place. Ah! it is sad to think, that most men have forgotten their resting-place, as the Lord complains: 'My people have been as lost sheep, their shepherds have caused them to go astray, and have turned them away to the mountains: they are gone from mountain to hill, and forgotten their resting-place,' Jer. 50:6. So poor souls that see not the excellency of that resting-place that God hath appointed for their souls to lie down in, they wander from mountain to hill, from one duty to another, and here they will rest and there they will rest; but souls that see the excellency of that resting-place that God hath provided for them, they will say, Farewell prayer, farewell hearing, farewell fasting, &c., I will rest no more in you, but now I will rest only in the bosom of Christ, the love of Christ, the righteousness of Christ.
You can purchase a copy of Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices here.