Read CHAPTER II - THE TEMPTER: HIS HISTORY AND NATURE of The Warfare of the Soul Practical Studies in the Life of Temptation, free online book, by Shirley C. Hughson, on ReadCentral.com.

I. Satan’s Fall and its Effects

We have already reminded ourselves that it is as important to understand somewhat of the enemy’s force and resources as it is to have our own equipment and training complete.Let us therefore consider the adversary, for next to the unceasing recollection of the presence, power, and goodness of God, the most necessary thing for the Christian soldier is the recollection of the presence and character of the enemy.Vigilance in maintaining this recollection is what the Apostle solemnly commands.

We cannot speak with theological exactness of the cause and occasion of the fall of Satan and his rebel host, for God has revealed but little concerning it; but when we compare Scripture with Scripture, it seems inevitable that the sin of Satan was one of pride, and, very probably, its particular form was a desire to make himself equal with God.

In the account given in Revelation of the war in heaven, St. Michael, whose name is simply a Hebrew word meaning “Who is like God?” is mentioned as the captain of God’s host, who fought against the dragon and his angels, and overcame and cast them out. It would seem that the leader of the loyal angels took his name from the battle cry with which the armies of God, as they pressed upon the rebel ranks, repudiated the blasphemous claim of him who was seeking to be like the Most High.

As we think of Satan as he is to-day, and as he meets us in the conflict, it will be of great value to us to keep definitely in mind the effect that his fall must have had upon his nature and powers.

Not only is the adversary finite, with all the limitations common to finite beings, but he is one who, by his fall from original righteousness, has become a blasted creature, maimed and wounded in all his faculties.

Man, too has fallen, and the blight is also upon all his powers; but with every return to God in penitence man’s powers are recuperated; he regains somewhat of his former strength.Nay, more, the spiritual strength we lay hold of through penitence is often greater than that which we lost through sin.Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." God through the Precious Blood of His Son so mightily overrules the evil that, as we think of our sin, we can indeed triumphantly cry, “O felix culpa!”

Not so with Satan and his companions.From the day of their fall the poison of the evil that is in them has been working relentlessly, and with never a moment’s cessation, toward their ultimate destruction.By an humble, earnest effort for God’s service in the little opportunities of daily life, we go on from strength to strength, while our foe, however powerful he may be in his warfare against the weakness of man, is daily drawing nearer to the time when he will lie in hell, an impotent and inert slave of the evil he has chosen as his portion.

Even now, when so much of his ancient might remains, we can see the signs of his growing weakness.

One illustration of the effect of his fall upon him is found in the stupidity which marks his work.It is almost incredible that, after all the long millenniums of his warfare, and especially his experience since the Incarnation, he should be so incapable of realizing the inevitable consequence of his warfare against God.

In innumerable cases he has seen the Saints strengthened by his antagonism; he has seen the weak becoming strong through the right use of the opportunities his temptations afford them; he has stood at the Judgment of souls as their accuser, and been covered with confusion as he saw his accusations rejected, and crowns given them, all the more glorious because of the occasion for battle and victory his hate had afforded them.All this he has seen, and yet its real significance has never dawned upon him.

More astonishing still, in spite of his experience, he has never been able to see that when he joins the struggle with us he is only seeking to renew the old warfare which was brought to a final issue on Calvary to his eternal discomfiture; that it is not the weak human soul he is fighting, but the omnipotent God Who in human flesh, and by the exercise of human powers and faculties, bruised him under His feet, invaded his infernal kingdom, broke the gates of brass, and smote the bars of iron in sunder.

Are we wiser than Satan?Have we caught the true significance of the battle, the vision of its final issue?Do we realize, when the conflict comes, that our heart is but the arena of a struggle between the omnipotence of God and the weakness of Satan, and that we are called to fight along with Him Who is the Author of unconquerable might, the King of the Empire that cannot be overthrown? If so, then there can be no fear or repining because of the battle, but with the glad war-cry, Emmanuel, God with us! can we plunge into the glorious strife, knowing that with His own right hand and with His holy arm will He get Himself the victory.

II. The Hopelessness of his Warfare

The hopelessness of Satan’s warfare is shown in its final issue.Sin entered into the world through Satan, and by sin came death. Death seems, when we first consider it, Satan’s triumph; but in reality it is his destruction.He pursues a soul through life, but the hour of death marks the absolute cessation of his power and influence.The faithful departed in the Church Expectant are in the hand of God, and nevermore can the torment of temptation touch them.The very act of wreaking the utmost of his power is the act which places them forever beyond even the possibility of communication with him.So both prophet and apostle cry out in an ecstasy of triumph, as the Holy Spirit leads them to this conclusion, “O death, where is thy sting?O grave, where is thy victory?"

So also is it with “the spirits of just men made perfect," who, having been purged of all stain of sin, stand in the glory of the Beatific Vision in Paradise.Satan thought by means of death to make eternal life with God impossible; but by the divine overruling death is made the gateway of everlasting life.He watches the progress of the effect of sin; he sees the bodily weakness which he introduced into the race when he induced our first parents to sin, increasing, only to realize that the supreme result of evil in the world is to remove the soul he has been pursuing with malignant hate, forever from the sphere of his action.

Even with the lost the same holds good.With infernal glee he watches by the deathbed of a reprobate soul, of one that has yielded himself to his rule.He sees the last hour approaching; the dread coma of death settles down on the mind and heart where Satan’s seat is; and he watches for the rending of soul and body asunder which will seal for eternity his claim to his possession of the sinner.The hour strikes; the horrible spasm of death seizes the frame and passes; the Evil One clutches with hellish eagerness the liberated spirit that is now his forever.The lost soul with the swiftness of thought is judged, Satan’s claim is granted, and the lost wretch flees into outer darkness, the eternal slave of hell.But what a difference now transpires! for such a soul can no longer be used as the active instrument of the divine dishonour, and Satan finds satisfaction in possessing a soul only when he can use it as a co-worker with himself in his warfare with God.

III. The Limitations of the Tempter

Our consideration of Satan’s strength has shown us something of the awful and malignant character of his office.We see that he is not a foe to be despised, and the soul that thinks lightly of his antagonism is marked by him as a sure victim.Yet despite all this, to fear Satan is to dishonour God.What would be thought of a soldier in the armies of an earthly kingdom who was afraid of the enemy?He may be far from despising him; he may recognize his power and skill, but to be afraid of him would be the mark of the caitiff.How much more dishonourable is it in the soldiers of Jesus Christ, our Captain, to stand in fear when He is fighting for us, and has promised us certain victory if only we be faithful.

This is the first consideration that should nerve and enhearten us; but there is a second and most important one to which God would direct our attention, namely, the natural limitations of the adversary himself.

The popular notion of Satan is an extraordinarily erroneous one, and the reaction from it has driven many to a complete denial of his existence.Many make a god of him, endow him with attributes of deity, regarding him as both omnipresent and omniscient.But we are ever to remember that Satan is a creature, finite and limited.

(1) He is in no sense omnipresent.“No angel nor devil has any gift of ubiquity.If any created spirit be in one place, he is not in another.If he is busy protecting, or endangering, the soul of one, he is not with another." Satan has no more power than we have to be in more than one place at the same time, although, through the faithful agency of his many evil angels, fellow-devils with himself, he is able to deal with every soul.We speak in popular language of Satan tempting us, but it is probable that most of our temptations, though inspired by him, are not brought to us by him directly and in his own proper person, but through spiritual or other agencies under his control.

(2) Again, Satan is not omniscient.This attribute, like that of omnipresence, belongs to God alone.Doubtless, in common with other purely spiritual beings, and in spite of his fall, he has, in virtue of his nature, vaster knowledge of things than we can now grasp, but his knowledge is necessarily limited and finite, and any attainment, or increase of it, must be through finite processes.

(3) Another truth that brings us the greatest comfort and courage is that which is revealed in Holy Scripture, namely, that he has no power of reading our minds and hearts.It must ever be a consolation to us to know that in times of temptation neither he nor the fallen spirits he employs can know what effect their evil suggestions are producing in our hearts, except in so far as we give outward evidence of it. Could he at times see how troubled and afraid we are, how near to yielding, he would redouble his assault with such fury as might sweep us wholly away; but God in His merciful kindness withholds this knowledge from him.

This should teach us the necessity of a calm and untroubled front in times of temptation; giving no outward sign of perturbation that might encourage him; remembering how Satan’s experience has given him skill beyond our thought in reading such signs.To give such outward indications would be to notify him of our fear of him; and also would advertise him that we were not putting our trust wholly in God. Let him be given these two assurances, and our chance of escape would be small.

IV. The Restraint of the Divine Decrees

As we have seen, Satan is limited as are all creatures, but his limitations are more than those which belong of necessity to a finite and created nature.Because of his rebellion and his warfare against the Saints, God by decree has set him his bounds, as perhaps He has done with none other of His creatures.

(1) He can tempt a soul that is in grace only with explicit permission from God.This is taught clearly in the history of the temptations of Job. He defames the character of this servant of God, challenging God, as it were, to give him permission to test the Saint.The permission is given, and then, and not till then, is Satan able to lay siege to the heart of the patriarch.

(2) After God’s permission has been given, the extent of the temptation is also specially marked out by God.He sends Satan forth with permission to try His servant, but decrees what he can, and what he cannot, do.“Behold all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thy hand.”This was the limitation of the first temptation, and when in it “Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly,” for the further perfecting of His servant and the confusion of the tempter, He gives a second permission, for each detailed temptation had to be stamped with the divine approval.But here again was the definite bound set.“Behold he is in thine hand, but save his life.”

But in many cases God sets for Satan an even more baffling limitation than was done in the trial of Job, not allowing him to know definitely how far he will be allowed to go.He has no rights in his work of temptation.God has made no covenant with him to allow him anything; he is permitted to operate little by little, here and there, and from time to time, not according to his own will or wish, but only as God wills for His own glory.

If he knew in the beginning the exact limit, if nothing more, he could so much the more intelligently prepare his plans.He is, however, in the position of a man who is bidden to prepare for a journey, but is given no idea of the distance it is to cover, along what road it will be, or what space of time it will occupy.The plan laid out in such a case must be, at best, a poor kind of thing.God has promised us that we shall not be tempted above that we are able.In other words, that He will preside over this battle, watching it in its every detail, and when the limit of our strength is reached, the tempter will be instantly checked.What must be his rage and chagrin to find so often the spoil of the battle apparently all but within his grasp, when suddenly his arm is shortened, his power paralysed.