Brooks takes as his starting text, 2 Corinthians 2:11, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.”
He then makes a series of observations about the text. The overall context is the restoration of a man who had been under church discipline. Although there is some debate as to the person of whom Paul writes, it is commonly taken (as is here by Brooks), that the man put out of the congregation had been the man in the mentioned in 1 Corinthians who been an illicit relationship with his father’s wife.
Sorrowing for the Sin of Others
Brooks begins with a reference to the effect of the sin of others upon a believer:
Gracious souls use to mourn for other men’s sins as well as their own, and for their souls and sins who make a mock of sin, and a jest of damning their own souls. Guilt or grief is all that gracious souls get by communion with vain souls, Ps. 119:136, 158.
This leads to a question: if this is true, and if I am not experiencing sorrow over sin of others, then I must be experiencing some guilt, some contagion. Brooks will use the image of sin as an infectious plague in reference to the first device, below. If sin is indeed an infectious disease, one transmitted from person to person with great ease; then the only defense to the infection is sorrow for the presence of sin in others.
There are four points to consider:
First, how should I sorrow for another’s sin:
Psalm 119:136 (ESV)
136 My eyes shed streams of tears,
because people do not keep your law.
The Psalmist has the honor of God as his primary reference: This person in unrepentant sin dishonors the Lord. This one who dishonors the Lord is a danger to me and an enemy to God.
Second, sorrow for the sins of others (particularly when they are seen as in rebellion against God) disarms the temptation which is inherent in being near sin.
Third, sorrow for the sin of others protects me from a haughty attitude toward others: we cannot feel sorrow and pride at once. Sorrow creates pity.
Fourth, how little I sorrow for the sin of others. This then implies that I am being infected with their sin. If sorrow is the antitode, then a lack of sorrow is a grave danger.
And fifth – Brooks will make another observation about the importance of sorrowing for another’s sin, below.
The Sorrow of Repentance
Having made general observations on the text, Brooks moves to the nature of sorrow for repentance:
It was a sweet saying of one, ‘Let a man grieve for his sin, and then joy for his grief.’ That sorrow for sin that keeps the soul from looking towards the mercy-seat, and that keeps Christ and the soul asunder, or that shall render the soul unfit for the communion of saints, is a sinful sorrow.
Sorrow should drive us to Christ.
Before I go along, we must note Brooks’ facility with language:
That sorrow for sin
that keeps the soul from looking towards the mercy-seat,
and that keeps Christ and the soul asunder,
or that shall render the soul unfit for the communion of saints,
is a sinful sorrow.
First, he makes good use of alliteration: there is a conflict between the hard “c/k” and the soft “s”.
Second, there is the repetition of the sorrow & sin at the beginning and end of the sentence: “sorrow for sin” becomes “sinful sorrow”, thus inverting both the words and the concept.
Third, there are three criteria given to define sinful sorrow. The clauses themselves are easily spoken and have the feel of a line of poetry.
Sorrowing for the Sin of Others
Brooks notes an interesting movement in Paul’s thought: We must be show sorrow and pity upon the repentant sinner. Why so? I would think the rationale would be the need for kindness to the broken man. But Paul draws a different relationship: our failure to show pity is a danger to us:
In the 11th verse, he lays down another reason to work them to shew pity and mercy to the penitent sinner, that was mourning and groaning under his sin and misery; i. e.lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
The necessary sorrow for sin is to protect the others from a scheme of the Devil.
This leads to Brooks’ general theme: Satan has many devices to destroy Christians.
He begins with a general observation on the words. First, advantage:
Lest Satan should get an advantageof us; lest Satan over-reach us. The Greek word πλεονεχτηθῶμεν, signifieth to have more than belongs to one. The comparison is taken from the greedy merchant, that seeketh and taketh all opportunities to beguile and deceive others. Satan is that wily merchant, that devoureth, not widows houses, but most men’s souls.
We will not care about Satan’s efforts, if we are not convinced of Satan’s danger.
Next the concept of a scheme or device:
‘We are not ignorant of Satan’s devices,’ or plots, or machinations, or stratagems, Νοήματα. He is but a titular Christian that hath not personal experience of Satan’s stratagems, his set and composed machinations, his artificially moulded methods, his plots, darts, depths, whereby he outwitted our first parents, and fits us a pennyworth still, as he sees reason.
This leads to the basic doctrine for the rest of the book:
Doct. That Satan hath his several devices to deceive, entangle, and undo the souls of men.
These devices are more dangerous than persecution. “So doth Satan more hurt in his sheep’s skin than by roaring like a lion.”
He gives two examples to prove this point: 2 Timothy 2:26 & Revelation 2:24.
This again leads to some questions:
First, is it true that temptation is more dangerous than persecution?
What examples from Scripture can see?
What are examples from history?
Second, do we really see Satan as an active danger?
Do we think of Satan as an actual person, or as a figure of speech?
Do we think of Satan and his minions actually doing things?
Do we see this as a real danger to us?
Third, before we begin to read Brooks’ list: what devices do we see used to ensnare souls?
Brooks list is not exhaustive.
Fourth, why are we so unaware of Satan’s devices? Paul says “we are not unaware”, but is that true?
Fifth, to the extent we are unaware of Satan and his devices, why is this so?