Thomas Brooks believed so much in a literal Satan he wrote an entire book about him. And that’s why it’s still important today.
Spend enough time in evangelical churches, read enough Christian books, attend enough conferences and you’ll hear it: the “preamble.”
“Now, we know that today many biblical scholars no longer believe this should be taken literally.”
“This interpretation was popular at a time when most Christians still believed in supernatural events such as miracles.”
“You need to know that if you talk about Satan as if he’s a real being, a lot of people are going to think you’re crazy.”
These are common things you’ll hear in modern Christianity. But not in the works of Thomas Brooks.
The English Puritan preacher and author published Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices in 1652. This was a mere 140 years after the beginning of the Protestant Reformation of Martin Luther. He wrote during pre-Englightement England. The age of skepticism and rationalism was not even on the horizon.
Brooks took his cues about the workings of Satan directly from the pages of Scripture, as well as from his personal experiences as a Christian and a shepherd of Christ’s flock.
The Satan of Scripture
The Bible verse from which Brooks culled the title of his book is 2 Corinthians 2:11. I include part of verse 10 here for context.
Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
The Apostle Paul mentions the “evil one” in the setting of forgiveness between believers. To remain unforgiving, it appears, would be to invite the schemes of Satan in to divide these Christians.
Paul does not fear the threat of hurt emotions. He doesn’t admonish against the scourge of damaged reputations. Paul does not tell the believers in Corinth to be on the lookout for less effective ministry, cultural irrelevance, or lower church attendance.
Instead Paul, points straight to the literal embodiment of evil. He exposes the being who seduced and deceived our first parents, who tormented Job with God’s permission, who tempted Jesus in the desert, and who will ultimately lose when the Lord returns to judge the world and establish His kingdom.
The Satan of the Christian life
For Thomas Brooks, Satan is not a mere figure in the Bible’s overall narrative. He actively participates in the spiritual life of every believer.
In the Epistle Dedicatory to Precious Remedies, Brooks mentions “Satan” as one of the four main subjects every believer should study and search. The other three being Christ, the Scriptures, and one’s own heart.
Here are some of the author’s choice warnings about Satan in the Epistle.
Satan being fallen from light to darkness, from felicity to misery, from heaven to hell, from an angel to a devil, is so full of malice and envy that he will leave no means unattempted, whereby he may make all others eternally miserable with himself …
Satan has cast such sinful seed into our souls, that now he can no sooner tempt, but we are ready to assent; he can no sooner have a plot upon us, but he makes a conquest of us.
From the power, malice and skill of Satan proceeds all the soul-killing plots, devices, stratagems and machinations, which are in the world.
This pastor and author dedicated a great deal of effort to warn his people about the very real designs Satan has on their hearts and souls. This shows both Brooks’s compassion for his readers and his trust in the words of Scripture on the subject.
The Satan of today
No, you won’t find Thomas Brooks apologizing for writing a book warning Christians about the devil. He doesn’t waste ink in verbal hand-wringing or establishing credibility with skeptics. He isn’t interested in back-pedaling to save face or maintain relevance.
Brooks didn’t do any of those things because there was no reason to in his day. There was a de facto acceptance of the supernatural. And there was faith enough in the truth of God’s Word to allow for Satan in his genera worldview.
One of Satan’s chief advantages today is the church’s embarrassment about and avoidance of him. This is a reality Brooks likely never imagined. But it’s one we must face with all seriousness.
To read Precious Remedies is to assent that Satan is real, find satisfaction in the lack of apology for this stance, and strive to learn the timeless tools the author has given us to defeat him.