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III.      [The Devil Sings us to the Pinnacle]

The Devil’s dart is▪ Cast thee downe[1]: but he bestows some great cost on this. With the self-same armor that Christ bare off the other dart, does the Devil sharpen and harden this: he does not so in any other of the temptations, therefore we are to look for great matter: he brings scripture, that he may be the better credited. He speaks not now after the manner of men, 1. Cor. 9. 8[2], so that it is not he now that speaks, but Scripture, as Paul reasons there. You see (saith he) I counsel you to nothing, but that the Psalms will bear you out in[3].

The Devil knew well by his own fall, how dangerous the sin of presumption is, it cost him dearly[4], and so did Davidlikewise, and therefore of all other, he prays to God to keep him from presumptuous sins: Ps. 19. 13[5]. He knew also what it was to abuse the goodness, patience and long suffering of God, Rom. 2. 4.[6] Therefore he avouches it by Scripture: he tells him it will be long to go down the stairs, and teaches him a nearer way, but a jump, or to cast himself down, and to fear no hurt, for the Angels have charge of him[7].

And even so he persuades men now-a-days; that they need not go down faire and softly, in fear and trembling, but to defer all till their dying hour, & then commend themselves to God, and throw themselves upon Gods mercy, and that fiery Chariot that took up  Elijah[8] shall come and fetch up them: or else an angel shall carry them up, let them be sure they shall have no harm, for they be God’s darlings, and God doth so dote on them, that he will not suffer them in any case to receive the least hurt that may be[9].

If ever the Devil came in his likeness, it was here. In the first of Sam. 28.18. he came but in the guise of a Prophet[10]: so that instead of saying, Is Saule among the Prophets?[11] it might have been said, “What, is the Devil among the prophets?” But here he has used himself so cunningly, that if ever he was transformed into an angel of light, here it is verified. 1. Cor. 11. 14[12] for he comes here like a white devil, or like a Divine[13], he comes with a Psalter in his hand, and turns to the place, & shows our Savior the 91st  Psalm vers. 11. and 12[14]. wherein first we are to note, that the Devil reads Psalms, as well as we, and hath the words of Scripture in his mouth. And 1. Sam. 28. he counterfeited Samuel so right, and used the very words that he had used, that they could not know him from Samuel: so, here he counterfeited the voce of David[15], Act. 19. 15[16].

This will make us shake off security, considering that God does (for our trial) sometime deliver the adversary the key of the armory, whereby he is able to hold argument with an Archangell, Jude 9[17], yea, with Christ himself, as we see here. How careful therefore had we need to be, to find out a fit answer for him? For only to assault us does he read he Scriptures: yea, but not to anu good end, but even thereby to deceive the simplicity of men; as here, to make them put their souls in adventure to the last hour.[18]

He has indeed a grace with some vain youths of the Court[19], & ungodly Atheists, to set them a scoffing at the Scripture, as Is. 28. 22. But with others, that have the Scriptures in more high reverence, he goes another way to work, making it to them the savor of death, Roman. chapt. 7. vers. 10.[20]

The words which he uses in the name of Samuel, he uses to make Saul despair: and here he uses David’s words to cause presumption, and to make them our bane. And not every Scripture: but if there be any Scripture more full of heavenly comfort than another, that of all other will the Devil abuse; as indeed the Psalms are; and of all the Psalms, this 91. Especially, and in that part, if any one sentence be sweeter than another, that of all other will the Devil abuse[21].

Mark the second verse here cited. He shall giue his Angells charge ouer thee, to keepe thee in all thy ways[22]. These last wordes the Devil leaves out, because they make not for his purpose. They shall beare thee in their hands, that thou dash not thy foote against a stone[23]. And we shall see nothing can be spoken more comfortable: as first, in that it is said, that the Angels have charge over vs in all our ways: Exod. 23. 20. Behold I send my Angell before thee, to guide thee in the way[24], and to comfort, and confirm us: as when Jacob was in fear of his brother Esau, the Angel met him, Gen. 32. 1. and to defend us in all dangers[25], and succor us in all necessities, spreading their wings over vs, and pitching their tents about us, Ps. 34. 7.[26]

Secondly, this charge not only concerns our head and principal members, but also our feet: yea, God’s providence reaches even to the hairs of our head, for they are numbered, Mat. 10. 30[27].

Thirdly, this charge of theirs is not only to admonish us when danger comes, but they are actually to help us, as it were putting their hands between the ground and us. Mat. 13. 41[28] they shall take the rubs and offences out of our way[29].

Fourthly, this do they not of courtesy, as being creatures given of nature to love mankind, but by special mandate and charge they are bound to it, and have a praecipe [Latin, mandate/charge] for it, yea, the very beasts & stones shall be in league with us. Job. 5. 23[30].

This Psalm, and these verses containing such comfort, hath the Devil culled to persuade men, that being such sweet Children of God, they may venture whether and upon what they will; for the Angels attend them at an inch. He bids them put the matter in adventure[31], and then but whistle for an angel, and they will come at first[32]: he carries them up to the top of the pinnacle, and shows them their own case in Annas and Herod; and tells them God will require no more of them, than he did at their hands: & all the way as they go up, he sings them a Psalm of the mercies of God[33]:  he carries them up with a song, that God’s mercy is above all his works, Psalm. 145. 9[34]. And with Psalm. 103.8 how gracious and long-suffring God is, who rewards us not according to our deserts[35]: and Psalm. 136. That his mercie endureth for euer[36]: God therefore being so full of mercy, will take all things in good part. But this mercy theDevil tells them of, differs from the mercy David [the Psalmist] meant: for the mercy David speaks of, is coupled with judgement[37], Ps. 101. 1. I will sing mercie and iudgement to thee O Lord[38]: and Ps. 85. 10. Mercie & truth are met together, Iustice and peace haue kissed each other[39]. Thus I say they shall have music all the way[40], & if any at the height think it a great way down: no, saith the Devil, you need but a jump from your baptism into heaven, you shall need no stairs at all[41].

Notes:

This section raises the matter which Bonhoffer so strikingly called “cheap grace”:

CHEAP GRACE IS THE mortal enemy of our church.[1] Our struggle today is for costly grace.

Cheap grace means grace as bargain-basement goods, cut-rate forgiveness, cut-rate comfort, cut-rate sacrament; grace as the church’s inexhaustible pantry, from which it is doled out by careless hands without hesitation or limit. It is grace without a price, without costs. It is said that the essence of grace is that the bill for it is paid in advance for all time. Everything can be had for free, courtesy of that paid bill. The price paid is infinitely great and, therefore, the possibilities of taking advantage of and wasting grace are also infinitely great. What would grace be, if it were not cheap grace?

Cheap grace means grace as doctrine, as principle, as system. It means forgiveness of sins as a general truth; it means God’s love as merely a Christian idea of God. Those who affirm it have already had their sins forgiven. The church that teaches this doctrine of grace thereby confers such grace upon itself. The world finds in this church a cheap cover-up for its sins, for which it shows no remorse and from which it has even less desire to be set free. Cheap grace is, thus, denial of God’s living word, denial of the incarnation[2] of the word of God.

Cheap grace means justification of sin but not of the sinner. Because grace alone does everything, everything can stay in its old ways

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, ed. Martin Kuske et al., trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss, vol. 4, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 43. The Devil comes to us and tell us that God is all made up of mercy and grace, and that we, having been baptized can fall right into heaven (as he strikingly ends this section).

This false portrayal of God has been a danger throughout the history of the church. In our age, it is coupled with the idea that a God who punishes sin is unworthy to be God. It is presumption on our part: we presume that God will forgive all and everything, that sin is a very small thing.

Thomas Brooks explains that such a lie of Satan must be combated with the utmost gravity and consideration of the truth of the circumstance:

Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That sins against mercy will bring the greatest and sorest judgments upon men’s heads and hearts. Mercy is Alpha, Justice is Omega. David, speaking of these attributes, placeth mercy in the foreward, and justice in the rearward, saying, ‘My song shall be of mercy and judgment,’ Ps. 101:1. When mercy is despised, then justice takes the throne.4 God is like a prince, that sends not his army against rebels before he hath sent his pardon, and proclaimed it by a herald of arms: he first hangs out the white flag of mercy; if this wins men in, they are happy for ever; but if they stand out, then God will put forth his red flag of justice and judgment; if the one is despised, the other shall be felt with a witness.5

See this in the Israelites. He loved them and chose them when they were in their blood, and most unlovely. He multiplied them, not by means, but by miracle; from seventy souls they grew in few years to six hundred thousand; the more they were oppressed, the more they prospered. Like camomile, the more you tread it, the more you spread it; or to a palm-tree, the more it is pressed, the further it spreadeth; or to fire, the more it is raked, the more it burneth. Their mercies came in upon them like Job’s messengers, one upon the neck of the other: He put off their sackcloth, and girded them with gladness, and ‘compassed them about with songs of deliverance;’ he ‘carried them on the wings of eagles;’ he kept them ‘as the apple of his eye’ &c.6 But they, abusing his mercy, became the greatest objects of his wrath. As I know not the man that can reckon up their mercies, so I know not the man that can sum up the miseries that are come upon them for their sins. For as our Saviour prophesied concerning Jerusalem, ‘that a stone should not be left upon a stone,’ so it was fulfilled forty years after his ascension, by Vespasian the emperor and his son Titus, who, having besieged Jerusalem, the Jews were oppressed with a grievous famine, in which their food was old shoes, old leather, old hay, and the dung of beasts. There died, partly of the sword and partly of the famine, eleven hundred thousand of the poorer sort; two thousand in one night were embowelled; six thousand were burned in a porch of the temple; the whole city was sacked and burned, and laid level to the ground; and ninety-seven thousand taken captives, and applied to base and miserable service, as Eusebius and Josephus saith.1 And to this day, in all parts of the world, are they not the off-scouring of the world? None less beloved, and none more abhorred, than they.2

And so Capernaum, that was lifted up to heaven, was threatened to be thrown down to hell. No souls fall so low into hell, if they fall, as those souls that by a hand of mercy are lifted up nearest to heaven. You slight souls that are so apt to abuse mercy, consider this, that in the gospel days, the plagues that God inflicts upon the despisers and abusers of mercy are usually spiritual plagues; as blindness of mind, hardness of heart, benumbedness of conscience, which are ten thousand times worse than the worst of outward plagues that can befall you. And therefore, though you may escape temporal judgments, yet you shall not escape spiritual judgments: ‘How shall we escape, if neglect so great salvation?’ Heb. 2:3,3 saith the apostle. Oh! therefore, whenever Satan shall present God to the soul as one made up all of mercy, that he may draw thee to do wickedly, say unto him, that sins against mercy will bring upon the soul the greatest misery; and therefore whatever becomes of thee, thou wilt not sin against mercy, &c.

Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 1 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 28–29.

Therefore, we must be careful to watch for this deception playing out in our own hearts, when we excuse and minimize our own sin.


[1] Throw yourself down, the Devil to Jesus.

[2] 1 Corinthians 9:7–10 (ESV)  “Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?  Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.” Paul supports his argument by referencing the Scripture. The Devil uses the same technique.

[3] The Devil provides an emphasis to this temptation which he does not make with his other temptations: I am not asking you to do anything other than what is specifically stated in the Scripture, specifically the Psalms.

[4] The Devil fell by the sin of presumption.

[5] Psalm 19:13 (ESV)

                  13               Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;

let them not have dominion over me!

                                    Then I shall be blameless,

and innocent of great transgression.

[6] Romans 2:4 (ESV)  Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

[7] Why go down the stairs when you can just jump (cast yourself down) and the angels will catch you.

[8] 2 Kings 2:11–12 (ESV)

11 And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 12 And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

[9] Rather than repent today just wait. And then, at the last minute, cast yourself upon God’s mercy and his angel will take you to heaven

[10] Saul having been abandoned by God goes to the witch at Endor and asks her to raise Samuel from the dead. An apparition appears who looks like Samuel and tells Saul he will die the next day. What actually took place has been a matter of debate. Andrews takes it that the Devil appeared in the likeness of Samuel.

[11] 1 Samuel 10:10–13 (ESV)

10 When they came to Gibeah, behold, a group of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied among them. 11 And when all who knew him previously saw how he prophesied with the prophets, the people said to one another, “What has come over the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” 12 And a man of the place answered, “And who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” 13 When he had finished prophesying, he came to the high place.

[12] 2 Corinthians 11:14 (ESV) And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

[13] A divine would be a well-trained pastor or theologian, an expert in divinity.

[14] Psalm 91:11–12 (ESV)

                  11               For he will command his angels concerning you

to guard you in all your ways.

                  12               On their hands they will bear you up,

lest you strike your foot against a stone.

[15] He pretended to be Samuel when Saul went to the witch at Endor. And the Devil pretends to speak like David when he comes to Jesus, since David wrote many of the Psalms.

[16] Acts 19:13–17 (ESV)  13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.

[17] Jude 9 (ESV)

But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”

[18] Our armoury would be our defense against the Devil, in particular the Scripture itself. But here we see that the Devil can make use of the Scripture against. Therefore, we had better be prepared to know who to defend ourself against his wiles.

[19] The King’s court. The Devil has assistants in the government.

[20] For some, the Scripture does not bring relief but brings condemnation, hence, death: Romans 7:9–11 (ESV)

I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

Andrews is also making an allusion to 2 Corinthians 2:14–16 (ESV)

14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

[21] The Devil can turn any part of Scripture to his advantage. He uses words in one place to cause despair; in another place to tempt presumption. He can take the Psalms which are of all parts of the Bible most comforting and turn them into a plea for sin!

[22] Psalm 91:11 (ESV)

                  11               For he will command his angels concerning you

to guard you in all your ways.

[23] Psalm 91:12 (ESV)

                  12               On their hands they will bear you up,

lest you strike your foot against a stone.

[24] The reference here is to the Israelites leaving Egypt and going into Canaan. God has promised to go with them to assure their protection and success. Exodus 23:20 (ESV)“Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.”

[25] Of Isaacs two sons, Jacob was the one who inherited the promise to Abraham. Following the conflict with Esau, Esau promised to kill Jacob. Jacob had fled to the extended family’s home in Haran. When Jacob returned to Canaan, he feared that Esau would finally execute his revenge. God kept his promise and Esau met Jacob kindly.

[26] Psalm 34:4–7 (ESV)

                                  I sought the Lord, and he answered me

and delivered me from all my fears.

                                  Those who look to him are radiant,

and their faces shall never be ashamed.

                                  This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him

and saved him out of all his troubles.

                                  The angel of the Lord encamps

around those who fear him, and delivers them.

[27]

[28] Matthew 13:40–42 (ESV)

40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

[29] While we may not realize it, angels may have removed difficulties or obstacles without our notice.

[30] Job 5:19–23 (ESV)

                  19               He will deliver you from six troubles;

in seven no evil shall touch you.

                  20               In famine he will redeem you from death,

and in war from the power of the sword.

                  21               You shall be hidden from the lash of the tongue,

and shall not fear destruction when it comes.

                  22               At destruction and famine you shall laugh,

and shall not fear the beasts of the earth.

                  23               For you shall be in league with the stones of the field,

and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with you.

[31] The Devil says in effect, “Why don’t you just see what happens.”

[32] All you have to do is whistle, and an angel will come running to save you.

[33]

The fifth device that Satan hath to draw the soul to sin is,

Device (5). To present God to the soul as one made up all of mercy. Oh! saith Satan, you need not make such a matter of sin, you need not be so fearful of sin, not so unwilling to sin; for God is a God of mercy, a God full of mercy, a God that delights in mercy, a God that is ready to shew mercy, a God that is never weary of shewing mercy, a God more prone to pardon his people than to punish his people; and therefore he will not take advantage against the soul; and why then, saith Satan, should you make such a matter of sin?

Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 1 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 27.

[34] Psalm 145:9 (ESV)

        The Lord is good to all,

and his mercy is over all that he has made.

[35] Psalm 103:8 (ESV)

        The Lord is merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

[36] His mercy/steadfast love endures forever is a repeated refrain in this Psalm:

Psalm 136:1–2 (ESV)

 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

        Give thanks to the God of gods,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

[37] God is not a God of mercy only, but of judgment and mercy. The mercy is when God withholds deserved judgment. The Devil is portraying a God of all mercy and no-judgment.  The word translated as “mercy” in Andrews’ Bible and translated “steadfast love” in the ESV actually makes this point well. It is the Hebrew word Hesed:

It is not possible to convey precisely ḥesed ‘s semantic range as encountered in profane usage with one Eng. word. ḥesed is not “grace,” and the often suggested “favor” is insufficient. First, ḥesed occurs tangibly in concrete situations and at the same time transcends the individual demonstration and envisions the actor. In this regard, the term exhibits affinities with Eng. “kindness,” and with “goodness” as well (see 3c). ḥesed does occur in relation to particular social forms; its configuration may even be governed by them, but it is never the obvious, the obligatory. It is a human demeanor that alone can fill a form with life and is in some cases (not always) the very requirement for the birth of a community. Jepsen (op. cit. 269) attempted to describe the intention as good will that becomes good deed. This notion is certainly included but is alone insufficient. I suggest an expression for magnanimity, for a sacrificial, humane willingness to be there for the other (Stoebe, diss. 67; id., VT 2 [1952]: 248). It is a given that ḥesed always has to do in some way with the life of the other, and that one expects and hopes from the recipient of such ḥesed a similar willingness that in turn surpasses the obligatory.

Ernst Jenni and Claus Westermann, Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997), 456.

[38] Psalm 101:1 (ESV)

I will sing of steadfast love and justice;

to you, O Lord, I will make music.

[39] Psalm 85:10 (ESV)

                  10               Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;

righteousness and peace kiss each other.

[40] The Devil will be singing to them all the way up the height, until they fall.

[41] This is a striking image which Bonhoffer famously called “cheap grace.”