Defeat Deadly Despair!

For Lords’ Day, October 8, 2022

Dear Saints,

First, let me rejoice with you that Abraham Van Leuven met with Session this week to review his fully completed Membership Class test and discuss his hearty desire to graduate to communicant membership during morning worship tomorrow.  God is faithful!  Praise the Lord.  Pray that Abe’s first partaking of the Lord’s Supper would be the means of grace it is intended to be for him.  Thank you!

Recently in a sermon entitled, “You Can and Must Defeat Despair!” (based on 2 Corinthians 4:8b), I emphasized how Satan’s tactics with all other sins is to lead us to the ultimate danger of despair (noting what we had just studied of the Giant Despair nearly getting Christian to commit suicide in Doubting Castle during Sabbath Class with Dr. Derek Thomas’ guide through John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress).

In that sermon, I began with this sobering quote by Puritan Christopher Love that led me to revisit the topic:

“Despair is the total eclipse of the mind with the blackest fumes arising from the burning lake of fearful terrors.”

I also pointed out that I couldn’t find Thomas Watson’s direct quote that I was referencing about Satan’s desire to move us with all other sins to the pit of despair, but would hunt for it.

Well, after searching back through Watson’s Art of Divine Contentment where I thought it was (and then Jeremiah Burroughs’ Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment I peppered into online lectures through Watsons’ book on contentment at that time), and then going back through his The Ten Commandments and Body of Divinity I didn’t find it (and neither did I on some stuff by Martin Luther where I think it might have come from), I went back to Watson’s book, The Lord’s Prayer, and his writing on the Sixth Petition as likely where I read this (also the impetus of why we are now studying this section of Watson’s book on Wednesday nights for a while).

I’m still not convinced I found exactly what I was recollecting (and I think it might be Luther and I’ll at some point listen back through my lectures of Watson’s book on contentment to discover it!).  However, there are some important quotes about despair and its dangers that express a similar (if not the exact) sentiment I rediscovered going back through Watson’s teaching through the Sixth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer I’d like to share with you here:

” … when Satan has disturbed a Christian’s spirit, and filled his mind full of black, and almost despairing thoughts, how can he be thankful?”

” … the devil, by troubling the saints’ peace, would discourage others looking towards heaven; he would beat them off from prayer, and hearing all soul-awakening sermons, by fear lest they should fall into this black humour of melancholy, and end their days in despair.”

“Satan disturbs the saints’ peace by drawing forth their sins in the black colours to affright them, and make them ready to give up the ghost.”

“Satan, by plausible arguments, tempts men to commit felo de se, to make away with themselves.  This temptation not only crosses the current of Scripture, but it is abhorrent to nature to be one’s own executioner.”

” … take heed of discontent, which often opens the door to self-murder.”

” … let not a child of God be wholly discouraged, and say there is no hope.”

” … beware of the predominance of melancholy …”

” [the affliction of] Judas brought him to desperation [and suicide].”

Thus Watson often has a refrain through this section of the book that we would see how very necessary it is for us to regularly pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil!”

Remember, beloved:  We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; (2 Corinthians 4:8).

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

PS: In response to the morning sermon on despair, Ms. Becky Cervantes had shared with me via email what has helped her a lot especially when a new Christian facing Satan’s attacks toward despair by the Puritan Thomas Brooks in his Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices (pages 87-90). At the end of this message I pass on to you her quotes from CHAPTER 4: SATAN’S DEVICES TO KEEP SAINTS IN A SAD, DOUBTING, QUESTIONING & UNCOMFORTABLE CONDITION.

Also, if you weren’t able to listen live to the recent Man’s Chief End radio program with Fernanda and our youngest three children discussing God’s Names to introduce our next series of messages (including how each of their middle names as “El” in it) as well as singing Psalm 117 and also allowing a bit of “beat boxing” by Gabriel to air in the show, click here: (You also can hear the eldest four kids with me on an earlier program introducing a series on Psalm 23 (The Lord is My Shepherd) that included singing it in harmonies and playing one of my old CD songs, “Dumb Stupid Sheep” (an autobiography).


Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices

[8 devices and their remedies in total]

“Though Satan can never rob a believer of his crown, yet such is his malice and envy, that he will leave no stone unturned, no means unattempted, to rob them of their comfort and peace—to make their life a burden and a hell unto them, to cause them to spend their days in sorrow and mourning, in sighing and complaining, in doubting and questioning. ‘Surely,’ he says, ‘we have no interest in Christ; our graces are not true, our hopes are the hopes of hypocrites; our confidence is our presumption, our enjoyments are our delusions.’

“Blessed John Bradford (the martyr) in one of his epistles, says thus, ‘O Lord, sometime methinks I feel it so with me—as if there were no difference between my heart and the wicked. I have a blind mind as they, a stout, stubborn, rebellious hard heart as they,’ and so he goes on.

“I shall show you this in some particulars:

“DEVICE 1: The first device that Satan has to keep souls in a sad, doubting, and questioning condition, and so making their life a hell, is, By causing them to be still poring and musing upon sin, to mind their sins more than their Savior; yes, so to mind their sins as to forget, yes, to neglect their Savior; that, as the Psalmist speaks, ‘The Lord is not in all their thoughts’ (Psalm 10:4). Their eyes are so fixed upon their disease, that they cannot see the remedy, though it be near; and they do so muse upon their debts, that they have neither mind nor heart to think of their Surety. A Christian should wear Christ in his bosom as a flower of delight, for he is a whole paradise of delight. He who minds not Christ more than his sin, can never be thankful and fruitful as he should.

‘Remedy (1). The first remedy is for weak believers to consider, That though Jesus Christ has not freed them from the presence of sin, yet he has freed them from the damnatory power of sin. It is most true that sin and grace were never born together, neither shall sin and grace die together; yet while a believer breathes in this world, they must live together, they must keep house together. Christ in this life will not free any believer from the presence of any one sin, though he does free every believer from the damning power of every sin. ‘There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh—but after the Spirit’ (Rom. 8:1). The law cannot condemn a believer, for Christ has fulfilled it for him; divine justice cannot condemn him, for that Christ has satisfied; his sins cannot condemn him, for they in the blood of Christ are pardoned; and his own conscience, upon righteous grounds, cannot condemn him, because Christ, that is greater than his conscience, has acquitted him.
My sins hurt me not, if they like me not. Sin is like that wild fig-tree, or ivy in the wall; cut off stump, body, bough, and branches, yet some strings or other will sprout out again, until the wall be plucked down.

“Remedy (2). The second remedy against this device of Satan is, to consider, That though Jesus Christ has not freed you from the molesting and vexing power of sin, yet he has freed you from the reign and dominion of sin. You say that sin does so molest and vex you, that you can not think of God, nor go to God, nor speak with God. Oh! but remember it is one thing for sin to molest and vex you, and another thing for sin to reign and have dominion over you. ‘For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law—but under grace’ (Rom. 6:14). Sin may rebel—but it shall never reign in a saint. It fares with sin in the regenerate as with those beasts that Daniel speaks of, ‘that had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season’ (Dan. 7:12). The primitive Christians chose rather to be thrown to lions without, than left to lusts within.

“Now sin reigns in the soul, when the soul willingly and readily obeys it, and submits to its commands, as subjects do actively obey and embrace the commands of their prince. The commands of a king are readily embraced and obeyed by his subjects—but the commands of a tyrant are embraced and obeyed unwillingly. All the service that is done to a tyrant, is out of violence, and not out of loving obedience. A free and willing subjection to the commands of sin speaks out the soul to be under the reign and dominion of sin; but from this plague, this hell, Christ frees all believers. It is a sign that sin has not gained your consent—but committed a rape upon your souls, when you cry out to God. If the ravished virgin under the law cried out—she was guiltless (Deut. 22:27); so when sin plays the tyrant over the soul, and the soul cries out, it is guiltless; those sins shall not be charged upon the soul.

“Sin cannot say of a believer as the centurion said of his servants, ‘I bid one, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to another, Do this, and he does it’ (Matt. 8:9). No! the heart of a saint rises against the commands of sin; and when sin would carry his soul to the devil, he hates his sin, and cries out for justice. Lord! says the believing soul, sin plays the tyrant, the devil in me; it would have me to do that which wars against your holiness as well as against my happiness; against your honor and glory, as my comfort and peace; therefore do me justice, O righteous judge of heaven and earth, and let this tyrant sin die for it! ‘What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?’

Remedy (3). The third remedy against this device of Satan is, Constantly to keep one eye upon the promises of remission of sin, as well as the other eye upon the inward operations of sin. This is the most certain truth, that God graciously pardons those sins to his people—that he will not in this life fully subdue in his people. Paul prays thrice (that is, often), to be delivered from the thorn in the flesh. All he can get is ‘My grace is sufficient for you’ (2 Cor. 12:9); I will graciously pardon that to you—which I will not conquer in you, says God. ‘And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me, and whereby they have transgressed against me. I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember your sins (Jer. 33:8, Is. 43:25).
Ah! you lamenting souls, who spend your days in sighing and groaning under the sense and burden of your sins, why do you deal so unkindly with God, and so injuriously with your own souls, as not to cast an eye upon those precious promises of remission of sin which may bear up and refresh your spirits in the darkest night, and under the heaviest burden of sin?

“Is. 44:2; Micah 7:18, 19; Col. 2:13, 14. The promises of God are a precious book; every leaf drops myrrh and mercy. Though the weak Christian cannot open, read, and apply them, Christ can and will apply them to their souls. ‘I, I am he, blotting out your transgressions’ today and tomorrow (the Hebrew denotes a continued act of God).

“Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan is, To look upon all your sins as charged upon the account of Christ, as debts which the Lord Jesus has fully satisfied; and indeed, were there but one farthing of that debt unpaid that Christ was engaged to satisfy, it would not have stood with the unspotted justice of God to have let him come into heaven and sit down at his own right hand. But all our debts, by his death, being discharged, we are freed, and he is exalted to sit down at the right hand of his Father, which is the top of his glory, and the greatest pledge of our felicity: ‘For he has made him to be sin for us that knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,’ said the apostle (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ was the greatest of sinners by imputation and reputation.

“All our sins were made to meet upon Christ, as that evangelical prophet has it: ‘He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:3-6).
In law, we know that all the debts of the wife are charged upon the husband. Says the wife to one and to another, If I owe you anything, go to my husband. So may a believer say to the law, and to the justice of God, If I owe you anything, go to my Christ, who has undertaken for me. I must not sit down discouraged, under the apprehension of those debts, which Christ, to the utmost farthing, has fully satisfied. Would it not argue much weakness, I had almost said much madness, for a debtor to sit down discouraged upon his looking over those debts that his surety has readily, freely, and fully satisfied? The sense of his great love should engage a man forever to love and honor his surety, and to bless that hand that has paid the debt, and cancelled the books. But to sit down discouraged when the debt is satisfied, is a sin which bespeaks repentance.

“Christ has the greatest worth and wealth in him. As the worth and value of many pieces of silver is in one piece of gold, so all the excellencies scattered abroad in the creatures are united in Christ. All the whole volume of perfections which are spread through heaven and earth are epitomized in him.

“Christ has cleared all reckoning between God and us. You remember the scapegoat. Upon his head all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, were confessed and put, and the goat did bear upon him all their iniquities (Lev. 16:21). Why! the Lord Jesus is that blessed scapegoat, upon whom all our sins were laid, and who alone has carried ‘our sins away into the land of forgetfulness, where they shall never be remembered more.’

“Christ is the channel of grace from God. A believer, under the guilt of his sin, may look the Lord in the face, and sweetly plead thus with him: It is true, Lord, I owed you much—but your Son was my ransom, my redemption. His blood was the price; he was my surety and undertook to answer for my sins; I know you must be satisfied, and Christ has satisfied you to the utmost farthing: not for himself, for what sins had he of his own? but for me; they were my debts that he satisfied for; be pleased to look over the book, and you shall find that it is crossed by your own hand upon this very account, that Christ has suffered and satisfied for them.

“The bloods of Abel, for so the Hebrew has it, as if the blood of one Abel had so many tongues as drops, cried for vengeance against sin; but the blood of Christ cries louder for the pardon of sin!

“Remedy (5). The fifth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, Of the reasons why the Lord is pleased to have his people exercised, troubled, and vexed with the operations of sinful corruption; and they are these: partly to keep them humble and low in their own eyes; and partly to put them upon the use of all divine helps, whereby sin may be subdued and mortified; and partly, that they may live upon Christ for the perfecting the work of sanctification; and partly, to wean them from things below, and to make them heart-sick of their absence from Christ, and to maintain in them affections of compassion towards others who are subject to the same infirmities with them; and that they may distinguish between a state of grace and a state of glory, and that heaven may be more sweet to them when finally arrived there.

“Now does the Lord upon these weighty reasons allow his people to be exercised and molested with the operations of sinful corruptions? Oh then, let no believer speak, write, or conclude bitter things against his own soul and comforts, because sin so troubles and vexes his righteous soul. But he should lay his hand upon his mouth and be silent, because the Lord will have it so, upon such weighty grounds as the soul is not able to withstand.

“Remedy (6). The sixth remedy against this device of Satan is, solemnly to consider, That believers must repent for their being discouraged by their sins. Their being discouraged by their sins will cost them many a prayer, many a tear, and many a groan; and that because their discouragements under sin flow from ignorance and unbelief. It springs from their ignorance of the richness, freeness, fullness, and everlastingness of God’s love; and from their ignorance of the power, glory, sufficiency, and efficacy of the death and sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ; and from their ignorance of the worth, glory, fullness, largeness, and completeness of the righteousness of Jesus Christ; and from their ignorance of that real, close, spiritual, glorious, and inseparable union which exists between Christ and their precious souls. Ah! did precious souls know and believe the truth of these things as they should, they would not sit down dejected and overwhelmed under the sense and operation of sin.

“God never gave a believer a new heart that it should always lie a-bleeding, and that it should always be rent and torn in pieces with discouragements.”