Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

May 8, 1884

Satan's Devices

[Remarks in the six o'clock
morning meeting at Oakland, Cal.’ April 20, 1884
]

By Mrs. E. G. White

The great controversy between Christ and Satan, that has been carried on for almost six thousand years, is soon to close. And yet how few have their attention called to this matter, how few realize that we are living amid the closing scenes of earth's history! Satan is working diligently, binding his sheaves preparatory to gathering in his harvest. He is uniting the elements of his kingdom for the final struggle. Since his fall, he has been the great adversary of God and man, and has shown a masterly activity in trying to defeat our Saviour's efforts in our behalf. He thinks that because so many readily yield to his temptations and believe his lies, he may yet gain some advantage over Christ, who left the royal courts of Heaven that he might defeat this wily foe on his own battle-field, and open a way whereby man might escape from his cruel power.

He is called in the Bible, Satan, Beelzebub, the serpent, the deceiver, a liar, the accuser of the brethren, the prince of the power of the air, the prince of darkness, and the god of this world. Frightful names, infernal agencies! This fallen spirit, so malignant and subtle, is walking about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. When there is no special effort made to resist his power, when profound indifference prevails in the church and in the world, he 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 shall I do to be saved?” he is on the ground, seeking to match his power against the power of Christ, and doubling his efforts to counteract the influences of the Holy Spirit. Angels of God, with Jesus at their head, are present to press back the powers of darkness; but no one is forced to accept Jesus, and no one can be compelled by Satan's power to reject him.

Satan is at your side when you least suspect it, watching to find a weak spot in your armor, where he can introduce his darts, and wound your soul by betraying you into sin. He has access to minds that are open to receive his suggestions, and by long experience he has learned how to apply his temptations to the best advantage. His first effort is to keep as many minds as possible in a state of careless indifference. He will invent every imaginable excuse to keep people away from meetings where they might receive benefit from hearing the truth. He will especially work to make of none effect these morning meetings, where the Spirit of God is at work; and when he cannot keep persons away, his next effort will be to fill the mind with unimportant matters, thus preventing them from treasuring up the truths they hear.

This work Satan is engaged in at every meeting. He has different temptations prepared for different minds, and souls are continually yielding to his suggestions. He will adopt any means by which he may gain control of the thoughts and purposes of the heart. He will work to divert the mind from Heaven and heavenly things by the absorbing cares of this life. He will produce temporary indisposition to keep you away from meetings where testimonies from Heaven will be borne, and your hearts would be impressed with the deep movings of the Spirit of God. If you attend the meetings, and your heart is impressed, he will tempt you to engage in unprofitable conversation on trivial things, so that you will forget the words spoken.

Circumstances will arise to divert the mind. Visitors, relatives, or worldly friends, or some temporal matter, will engage the attention; and then “cometh the devil, and taketh the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.” These friends will make demands upon your time and strength, and thus God is robbed of the service due him. Yet you flatter yourselves that you cannot do otherwise; for how can you displease your friends? God will not bring a curse upon you for thus robbing him, but your own course of action brings its sure result. But however alluring Satan's temptations, however natural and unavoidable they may seem to the mind that is not clear and sharp in spiritual discernment, you must not be lulled to carnal security. However dear your friends may be, if they lead you away from God they are emissaries of Satan, who works through the children of disobedience, speaks through human organs.

God will not work a miracle to change natural causes which you can control. If you place yourself and family in the current of the world, you and your children will be borne downward by it. Be wise and discriminating in regard to spiritual advantages, and gather about yourselves and your children correct influences. We may have a beautiful and fertile country; but surrounding influences may be weaving a spell upon our souls that will sink us to perdition, and our children may be lost to the cause of God because we did not place them where they would cultivate a love for divine things. We may save our own souls, as did Lot when he fled from Sodom; but the habits and customs with which we have become familiar may cling to us, and we may find that we have assimilated to them more than we were aware. This is a risk that we cannot afford to run. We might better lose every worldly advantage than to lose Jesus, or dishonor him by our careless inattention to his requirements. It is best to obey God at any sacrifice.

Another way that Satan comes in between God and your soul is to lead you to criticise the defects of your brethren and sisters, to watch their mistakes and talk about them. You think it is right to grieve over their errors; but the enemy takes advantage here, and hurls his poisoned darts through the defective places in your armor. You let bitterness into your soul, then jealousy and evil-surmising, and you do not realize it. Your heart becomes hardened against your brethren, and you speak evil of them. You do not know that you are doing the work of Satan, but you are; and you are growing spiritually weaker and weaker, and darker and darker.

The right course for you to pursue is marked out in the Bible, and you should follow it strictly. Go to your brother, and with your heart filled with tender, pitying love,—just such love as inspired Jesus in his efforts to save a fallen race,—tell him his fault between you and him alone. If you fail, do not let this depress you. It will do you harm, and not good, to let your mind dwell upon the mistakes and errors of others. Learn from their weakness to be strong yourself. Avoid their failures. Because Jesus is grieved by their faults, try the harder to honor him yourself by a well-ordered life and godly conversation. If you think your neighbor or brother is defective in character, make him a special subject of prayer; but do not lift up your soul unto vanity by saying, “I am not like him. In contrast with him, I am righteous.” This is not obeying the injunction of the apostle to esteem others better than yourself.

By beholding we become changed. If you allow your mind to dwell upon the imperfections and moral deformities of others, you will be changed into the same image. You will become deformed in character, and mentally one-sided and unbalanced. Let the mind dwell upon the perfect life of Christ. If the thoughts are centered upon him, and the conversation is on heavenly themes, you will be “changed into the same image from glory to glory.” You will become “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”

The way to eternal life is a battle and a march. The great adversary of souls is continually seeking to insinuate himself between you and the Source of your strength. If you allow your mind to be taken up with worldly cares, he will manage to have these cares so varied in character, and press so continually upon you, that you can find no time for the spiritual and the eternal. Worldly acquaintances introduce subjects that are of the greatest importance to them; you listen and are attracted, and these things of minor consequence absorb the mind and affections. You give time and attention, skill and inventive faculties, to outward ornamentation, to the neglect of the inward adorning of the soul. Time is worse than lost which should be devoted to the searching of the Scriptures and to earnest prayer for divine guidance; you rob your own souls of grace and power, and others of the light that should be reflected through you to the world.

But few know the real power of religion. They do not appreciate its refining and elevating influence on the character; they do not partake of its joys nor enter into its spirit. We need constant communion with Jesus just as much as we need daily food to nourish the body. If there is a moment when we are in no danger of being deceived by the enemy, then for that moment we may dispense with divine aid. If there is any moment when we are not dependent on God for our breath, then there is a time when we need not obey the injunctions of his word.

We should be sanctified by the truth. The conscience and the understanding, the words, the deeds, and the thoughts, should be controlled by truth, and not error. The principle of truth and righteousness implanted in the heart, will be revealed in the life, and especially in the family circle. God estimates a man by what he is in the bosom of his family. Fix the mind on things that are pure and holy. “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think of these things.” And the life will be clothed with the beauty of holiness even here; but who shall tell what it will be, when the great controversy between sin and righteousness is forever closed, and we appear in “the beauty of the Lord our God”?

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