The Snares of Satan

28 Oct

The great controversy between Christ and Satan, that has been
carried forward for nearly six thousand years, is soon to close;
and the wicked one redoubles his efforts to defeat the work of
Christ in man’s behalf, and to fasten souls in his snares. To
hold the people in darkness and impenitence till the Saviour’s
mediation is ended, and there is no longer a sacrifice for sin, is
the object which he seeks to accomplish.
When there is no special effort made to resist his power, when
indifference prevails in the church and the world, Satan is not
concerned; for he is in no danger of losing those whom he is
leading captive at his will. But when the attention is called to
eternal things, and souls are inquiring, “What must I do to be
saved?” he is on the ground, seeking to match his power against
the power of Christ, and to counteract the influence of the Holy
Spirit.
The Scriptures declare that upon one occasion, when the angels
of God came to present themselves before the Lord, Satan
came also among them,914 not to bow before the Eternal King,
but to further his own malicious designs against the righteous.
With the same object he is in attendance when men assemble for
the worship of God. Though hidden from sight, he is working
with all diligence to control the minds of the worshipers. Like
a skilful general, he lays his plans beforehand. As he sees the
messenger of God searching the Scriptures, he takes note of the
subject to be presented to the people. Then he employs all [519]
his cunning and shrewdness so to control circumstances that the
message may not reach those whom he is deceiving on that very
point. The one who most needs the warning will be urged into
some business transaction which requires his presence, or will
by some other means be prevented from hearing the words that
might prove to him a savor of life unto life.
Again, Satan sees the Lord’s servants burdened because of
the spiritual darkness that enshrouds the people. He hears their
earnest prayers for divine grace and power to break the spell of
indifference, carelessness, and indolence. Then with renewed
zeal he plies his arts. He tempts men to the indulgence of appetite
or to some other form of self-gratification, and thus benumbs
their sensibilities, so that they fail to hear the very things which
they most need to learn.
Satan well knows that all whom he can lead to neglect prayer
and the searching of the Scriptures, will be overcome by his
attacks. Therefore he invents every possible device to engross
the mind. There has ever been a class professing godliness, who,
instead of following on to know the truth, make it their religion to
seek some fault of character or error of faith in those with whom
they do not agree. Such are Satan’s right-hand helpers. Accusers
of the brethren are not few; and they are always active when God
is at work, and His servants are rendering Him true homage. They
will put a false coloring upon the words and acts of those who
love and obey the truth. They will represent the most earnest,
zealous, self-denying servants of Christ as deceived or deceivers.
It is their work to misrepresent the motives of every true and
noble deed, to circulate insinuations, and arouse suspicion in the
minds of the inexperienced. In every conceivable manner they
will seek to cause that which is pure and righteous to be regarded
as foul and deceptive.
But none need be deceived concerning them. It may be readily
540 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
[520] seen whose children they are, whose example they follow, and
whose work they do. “Ye shall know them by their fruits.”915
Their course resembles that of Satan, the envenomed slanderer,
“the accuser of our brethren.”916
The great deceiver has many agents ready to present any and
every kind of error to ensnare souls,—heresies prepared to suit
the varied tastes and capacities of those whom he would ruin.
It is his plan to bring into the church insincere, unregenerate
elements that will encourage doubt and unbelief, and hinder all
who desire to see the work of God advance, and to advance with
it. Many who have no real faith in God or in His word, assent
to some principles of truth, and pass as Christians; and thus they
are enabled to introduce their errors as scriptural doctrines.
The position that it is of no consequence what men believe,
is one of Satan’s most successful deceptions. He knows that the
truth, received in the love of it, sanctifies the soul of the receiver;
therefore he is constantly seeking to substitute false theories,
fables, another gospel. From the beginning, the servants of God
have contended against false teachers, not merely as vicious
men, but as inculcators of falsehoods that were fatal to the soul.
Elijah, Jeremiah, Paul, firmly and fearlessly opposed those who
were turning men from the word of God. That liberality which
regards a correct religious faith as unimportant, found no favor
with these holy defenders of the truth.
The vague and fanciful interpretations of Scripture, and the
many conflicting theories concerning religious faith, that are
found in the Christian world, are the work of our great adversary,
to confuse minds so that they shall not discern the truth. And
the discord and division which exist among the churches of
Christendom are in a great measure due to the prevailing custom
of wresting the Scriptures to support a favorite theory. Instead
of carefully studying God’s word with humility of heart to obtain
915 Matt. 7:16.
916 Rev. 12:10.
32. Snares Of Satan. 541
a knowledge of His will, many seek only to discover something
odd or original. [521]
In order to sustain erroneous doctrines or unchristian practices,
some will seize upon passages of Scripture separated from the
context, perhaps quoting half of a single verse as proving their
point, when the remaining portion would show the meaning to be
quite the opposite. With the cunning of the serpent, they entrench
themselves behind disconnected utterances construed to suit their
carnal desires. Thus do many wilfully pervert the word of God.
Others, who have an active imagination, seize upon the figures
and symbols of Holy Writ, interpret them to suit their fancy, with
little regard to the testimony of Scripture as its own interpreter,
and then they present their vagaries as the teachings of the Bible.
Whenever the study of the Scriptures is entered upon without
a prayerful, humble, teachable spirit, the plainest and simplest
as well as the most difficult passages will be wrested from their
true meaning. The papal leaders select such portions of Scripture
as best serve their purpose, interpret to suit themselves, and then
present these to the people, while they deny them the privilege
of studying the Bible and understanding its sacred truths for
themselves. The whole Bible should be given to the people
just as it reads. It would be better for them not to have Bible
instruction at all, than to have the teaching of the Scriptures thus
grossly misrepresented.
The Bible was designed to be a guide to all who wish to become
acquainted with the will of their Maker. God gave to men
the sure word of prophecy; angels and even Christ Himself came
to make known to Daniel and John the things that must shortly
come to pass. Those important matters that concern our salvation
were not left involved in mystery. They were not revealed in
such a way as to perplex and mislead the honest seeker after
truth. Said the Lord by the prophet Habakkuk, “Write the vision,
542 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
and make it plain, … that he may run that readeth it.”917 The
[522] word of God is plain to all who study it with a prayerful heart.
Every truly honest soul will come to the light of truth. “Light
is sown for the righteous.”918 And no church can advance in
holiness unless its members are earnestly seeking for truth as for
hid treasure.
By the cry, Liberality, men are blinded to the devices of
their adversary, while he is all the time working steadily for the
accomplishment of his object. As he succeeds in supplanting the
Bible by human speculations, the law of God is set aside, and
the churches are under the bondage of sin while they claim to be
free.
To many, scientific research has become a curse. God has permitted
a flood of light to be poured upon the world in discoveries
in science and art; but even the greatest minds, if not guided by
the word of God in their research, become bewildered in their
attempts to investigate the relations of science and revelation.
Human knowledge of both material and spiritual things is
partial and imperfect; therefore many are unable to harmonize
their views of science with Scripture statements. Many accept
mere theories and speculations as scientific facts, and they think
that God’s word is to be tested by the teachings of “science
falsely so called.”919 The Creator and His works are beyond their
comprehension; and because they cannot explain these by natural
laws, Bible history is regarded as unreliable. Those who doubt
the reliability of the records of the Old and New Testaments,
too often go a step farther, and doubt the existence of God, and
attribute infinite power to nature. Having let go their anchor,
they are left to beat about upon the rocks of infidelity.
Thus many err from the faith, and are seduced by the devil.
Men have endeavored to be wiser than their Creator; human
917 Hab. 2:2.
918 Ps. 97:11.
919 1 Tim. 6:20.
32. Snares Of Satan. 543
philosophy has attempted to search out and explain mysteries
which will never be revealed, through the eternal ages. If men
would but search and understand what God has made known of
Himself and His purposes, they would obtain such a view of the
glory, majesty, and power of Jehovah, that they would realize
their own littleness, and would be content with that which has [523]
been revealed for themselves and their children.
It is a masterpiece of Satan’s deceptions to keep the minds of
men searching and conjecturing in regard to that which God has
not made known, and which He does not intend that we shall
understand. It was thus that Lucifer lost his place in heaven.
He became dissatisfied because all the secrets of God’s purposes
were not confided to him, and he entirely disregarded that which
was revealed concerning his own work in the lofty position
assigned him. By arousing the same discontent in the angels
under his command, he caused their fall. Now he seeks to imbue
the minds of men with the same spirit, and to lead them also to
disregard the direct commands of God.
Those who are unwilling to accept the plain, cutting truths of
the Bible, are continually seeking for pleasing fables that will
quiet the conscience. The less spiritual, self-denying, and humiliating
the doctrines presented, the greater the favor with which
they are received. These persons degrade the intellectual powers
to serve their carnal desires. Too wise in their own conceit to
search the Scriptures with contrition of soul and earnest prayer
for divine guidance, they have no shield from delusion. Satan is
ready to supply the heart’s desire, and he palms off his deceptions
in the place of truth. It was thus that the papacy gained its power
over the minds of men; and by rejection of the truth because it
involves a cross, Protestants are following the same path. All who
neglect the word of God to study convenience and policy, that
they may not be at variance with the world, will be left to receive
damnable heresy for religious truth. Every conceivable form of
error will be accepted by those who wilfully reject the truth. He
544 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
who looks with horror upon one deception will readily receive
another. The apostle Paul, speaking of a class who “received not
the love of the truth, that they might be saved,” declares, “For
this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should
[524] believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not
the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”920 With such a
warning before us, it behooves us to be on our guard as to what
doctrines we receive.
Among the most successful agencies of the great deceiver
are the delusive teachings and lying wonders of Spiritualism.
Disguised as an angel of light, he spreads his nets where least
suspected. If men would but study the Book of God with earnest
prayer that they might understand it, they would not be left in
darkness to receive false doctrines. But as they reject the truth,
they fall a prey to deception.
Another dangerous error is the doctrine that denies the deity
of Christ, claiming that He had no existence before His advent
to this world. This theory is received with favor by a large class
who profess to believe the Bible; yet it directly contradicts the
plainest statements of our Saviour concerning His relationship
with the Father, His divine character, and His pre-existence. It
cannot be entertained without the most unwarranted wresting of
the Scriptures. It not only lowers man’s conceptions of the work
of redemption, but undermines faith in the Bible as a revelation
from God. While this renders it the more dangerous, it makes it
also harder to meet. If men reject the testimony of the inspired
Scriptures concerning the deity of Christ, it is in vain to argue
the point with them; for no argument, however conclusive, could
convince them. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the
Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can
he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”921 None
who hold this error can have a true conception of the character
920 2 Thess. 2:10-12.
921 1 Cor. 2:14.
32. Snares Of Satan. 545
or the mission of Christ, or of the great plan of God for man’s
redemption.
Still another subtle and mischievous error is the fast-spreading
belief that Satan has no existence as a personal being; that the
name is used in Scripture merely to represent men’s evil thoughts
and desires. [525]
The teaching so widely echoed from popular pulpits, that the
second advent of Christ is His coming to each individual at death,
is a device to divert the minds of men from His personal coming
in the clouds of heaven. For years Satan has thus been saying,
“Behold, He is in the secret chambers,”922 and many souls have
been lost by accepting this deception.
Again, worldly wisdom teaches that prayer is not essential.
Men of science claim that there can be no real answer to prayer;
that this would be a violation of law, a miracle, and that miracles
have no existence. The universe, say they, is governed by fixed
laws, and God Himself does nothing contrary to these laws. Thus
they represent God as bound by His own laws—as if the operation
of divine laws could exclude divine freedom. Such teaching
is opposed to the testimony of the Scriptures. Were not miracles
wrought by Christ and His apostles? The same compassionate
Saviour lives to-day, and He is as willing to listen to the prayer
of faith as when He walked visibly among men. The natural
co-operates with the supernatural. It is a part of God’s plan to
grant us, in answer to the prayer of faith, that which He would
not bestow did we not thus ask.
Innumerable are the erroneous doctrines and fanciful ideas
that are obtaining among the churches of Christendom. It is
impossible to estimate the evil results of removing one of the
landmarks fixed by the word of God. Few who venture to do this
stop with the rejection of a single truth. The majority continue
to set aside one after another of the principles of truth, until they
922 Matt. 24:23-26.
546 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
become actual infidels.
The errors of popular theology have driven many a soul to
skepticism, who might otherwise have been a believer in the
Scriptures. It is impossible for him to accept doctrines which
outrage his sense of justice, mercy, and benevolence: and since
these are represented as the teaching of the Bible, he refuses to
[526] receive it as the word of God.
And this is the object which Satan seeks to accomplish. There
is nothing that he desires more than to destroy confidence in
God and in His word. Satan stands at the head of the great
army of doubters, and he works to the utmost of his power to
beguile souls into his ranks. It is becoming fashionable to doubt.
There is a large class by whom the word of God is looked upon
with distrust for the same reason as was its Author,—because it
reproves and condemns sin. Those who are unwilling to obey its
requirements, endeavor to overthrow its authority. They read the
Bible, or listen to its teachings as presented from the sacred desk,
merely to find fault with the Scriptures or with the sermon. Not
a few become infidels in order to justify or excuse themselves
in neglect of duty. Others adopt skeptical principles from pride
and indolence. Too ease-loving to distinguish themselves by accomplishing
anything worthy of honor, which requires effort and
self-denial, they aim to secure a reputation for superior wisdom
by criticising the Bible. There is much which the finite mind, unenlightened
by divine wisdom, is powerless to comprehend; and
thus they find occasion to criticise. There are many who seem to
feel that it is a virtue to stand on the side of unbelief, skepticism,
and infidelity. But underneath an appearance of candor, it will
be found that such persons are actuated by self-confidence and
pride. Many delight in finding something in the Scriptures to
puzzle the minds of others. Some at first criticise and reason
on the wrong side, from a mere love of controversy. They do
not realize that they are thus entangling themselves in the snare
of the fowler. But having openly expressed unbelief, they feel
32. Snares Of Satan. 547
that they must maintain their position. Thus they unite with the
ungodly, and close to themselves the gates of Paradise.
God has given in His word sufficient evidence of its divine
character. The great truths which concern our redemption are
clearly presented. By the aid of the Holy Spirit, which is promised
to all who seek it in sincerity, every man may understand these [527]
truths for himself. God has granted to men a strong foundation
upon which to rest their faith.
Yet the finite minds of men are inadequate fully to comprehend
the plans and purposes of the Infinite One. We can never
by searching find out God. We must not attempt to lift with presumptuous
hand the curtain behind which He veils His majesty.
The apostle exclaims, “How unsearchable are His judgments,
and His ways past finding out!”923 We can so far comprehend
His dealings with us, and the motives by which He is actuated,
that we may discern boundless love and mercy united to infinite
power. Our Father in heaven orders everything in wisdom and
righteousness, and we are not to be dissatisfied and distrustful,
but to bow in reverent submission. He will reveal to us as much
of His purposes as it is for our good to know, and beyond that
we must trust the Hand that is omnipotent, the Heart that is full
of love.
While God has given ample evidence for faith, He will never
remove all excuse for unbelief. All who look for hooks to hang
their doubts upon, will find them. And those who refuse to accept
and obey God’s word until every objection has been removed,
and there is no longer an opportunity for doubt, will never come
to the light.
Distrust of God is the natural outgrowth of the unrenewed
heart, which is at enmity with Him. But faith is inspired by the
Holy Spirit, and it will flourish only as it is cherished. No man
can become strong in faith without a determined effort. Unbelief
923 Rom. 11:33.
548 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
strengthens as it is encouraged; and if men, instead of dwelling
upon the evidences which God has given to sustain their faith,
permit themselves to question and cavil, they will find their
doubts constantly becoming more confirmed.
But those who doubt God’s promises, and distrust the assurance
of His grace, are dishonoring Him; and their influence,
[528] instead of drawing others to Christ, tends to repel them from
Him. They are unproductive trees, that spread their dark branches
far and wide, shutting away the sunlight from other plants, and
causing them to droop and die under the chilling shadow. The
life-work of these persons will appear as a never-ceasing witness
against them. They are sowing seeds of doubt and skepticism
that will yield an unfailing harvest.
There is but one course for those to pursue who honestly desire
to be freed from doubts. Instead of questioning and caviling
concerning that which they do not understand, let them give heed
to the light which already shines upon them, and they will receive
greater light. Let them do every duty which has been made plain
to their understanding, and they will be enabled to understand
and perform those of which they are now in doubt.
Satan can present a counterfeit so closely resembling the truth
that it deceives those who are willing to be deceived, who desire
to shun the self-denial and sacrifice demanded by the truth; but
it is impossible for him to hold under his power one soul who
honestly desires, at whatever cost, to know the truth. Christ is the
truth, and the “light, which lighteth every man that cometh into
the world.”924 The Spirit of truth has been sent to guide men into
all truth. And upon the authority of the Son of God it is declared,
“Seek, and ye shall find.” “If any man will do His will, he shall
know of the doctrine.”925
The followers of Christ know little of the plots which Satan
and his hosts are forming against them. But He who sitteth in the
924 John 1:9.
925 Matt. 7:7; John 7:17.
32. Snares Of Satan. 549
heavens will overrule all these devices for the accomplishment of
His deep designs. The Lord permits His people to be subjected to
the fiery ordeal of temptation, not because He takes pleasure in
their distress and affliction, but because this process is essential
to their final victory. He could not, consistently with His own
glory, shield them from temptation; for the very object of the
trial is to prepare them to resist all the allurements of evil. [529]
Neither wicked men nor devils can hinder the work of God,
or shut out His presence from His people, if they will, with
subdued, contrite hearts, confess and put away their sins, and
in faith claim His promises. Every temptation, every opposing
influence, whether open or secret, may be successfully resisted,
“not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of
hosts.”926
“The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are
open unto their prayers…. And who is he that will harm you, if
ye be followers of that which is good?”927 When Balaam, allured
by the promise of rich rewards, practised enchantments against
Israel, and by sacrifices to the Lord sought to invoke a curse
upon His people, the Spirit of God forbade the evil which he
longed to pronounce, and Balaam was forced to exclaim: “How
shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy,
whom the Lord hath not defied?” “Let me die the death of the
righteous, and let my last end be like his!” When sacrifice had
again been offered, the ungodly prophet declared: “Behold, I
have received commandment to bless: and He hath blessed; and
I cannot reverse it. He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither
hath He seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with
him, and the shout of a King is among them.” “Surely there is
no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination
against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and
926 Zech. 4:6.
927 1 Peter 3:12, 13.
550 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
of Israel, What hath God wrought!”928 Yet a third time altars
were erected, and again Balaam essayed to secure a curse. But
from the unwilling lips of the prophet, the Spirit of God declared
the prosperity of His chosen, and rebuked the folly and malice of
their foes: “Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that
curseth thee.”929
The people of Israel were at this time loyal to God; and so
long as they continued in obedience to His law, no power in earth
or hell could prevail against them. But the curse which Balaam
[530] had not been permitted to pronounce against God’s people, he
finally succeeded in bringing upon them by seducing them into
sin. When they transgressed God’s commandments, then they
separated themselves from Him, and they were left to feel the
power of the destroyer.
Satan is well aware that the weakest soul who abides in Christ
is more than a match for the hosts of darkness, and that, should he
reveal himself openly, he would be met and resisted. Therefore
he seeks to draw away the soldiers of the cross from their strong
fortification, while he lies in ambush with his forces, ready to
destroy all who venture upon his ground. Only in humble reliance
upon God, and obedience to all His commandments, can we be
secure.
No man is safe for a day or an hour without prayer. Especially
should we entreat the Lord for wisdom to understand His word.
Here are revealed the wiles of the tempter, and the means by
which he may be successfully resisted. Satan is an expert in
quoting Scripture, placing his own interpretation upon passages,
by which he hopes to cause us to stumble. We should study the
Bible with humility of heart, never losing sight of our dependence
upon God. While we must constantly guard against the devices
of Satan, we should pray in faith continually, “Lead us not into
temptation.”

Taken from the Great Controversy by Ellen G White

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