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The great controversy between Christ and Satan, that has been carried forward
for nearly six thousand years, is soon to close; and the wicked one redoubles his
efforts to defeat the work of Christ in man’s behalf, and to fasten souls in his
snares. To hold the people in darkness and impenitence till the Saviour’s
mediation is ended, and there is no longer a sacrifice for sin, is the object which
he seeks to accomplish.
When there is no special effort made to resist his power, when indifference
prevails in the church and the world, Satan is not concerned; for he is in noIllustration - Ebook GC - Snares of Satan - title - text
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 must I do to be
saved?” he is on the ground, seeking to match his power against the power of
Christ, and to counteract the influence of the Holy Spirit.
The Scriptures declare that upon one occasion, when the angels of God came
to present themselves before the Lord, Satan came also among them, Job 1:6,
not to bow before the Eternal King, but to further his own malicious designs
against the righteous. With the same object he is in attendance when men
assemble for the worship of God. Though hidden from sight, he is working with all
diligence to control the minds of the worshipers. Like a skillful general, he lays his
plans beforehand. As he sees the messenger of God searching the Scriptures,
he takes note of the subject to be presented to the people. Then he employs all
his cunning and shrewdness to so control circumstances that the message may
not reach those whom he is deceiving on that very point. The one who most
needs the warning will be urged into some business transaction which requires
his presence, or will by some other means be prevented from hearing the words
that might prove to him a savor of life unto life.
Again, Satan sees the Lord’s servants burdened because of the spiritual
darkness that enshrouds the people. He hears their earnest prayers for divine
grace and power to break the spell of indifference, carelessness, and indolence.
Then with renewed zeal he plies his arts. He tempts men to the indulgence of
appetite or to some other form of self-gratification, and thus benumbs their
sensibilities, so that they fail to hear the very things which they most need toIllustration - Ebook cover - The Great Controversy - text
Satan well knows that all whom he can lead to neglect prayer and the
searching of the Scriptures will be overcome by his attacks. Therefore he invents
every possible device to engross the mind. There has ever been a class
professing godliness, who, instead of following on to know the truth, make it their
religion to seek some fault of character or error of faith in those with whom they
do not agree. Such are Satan’s right-hand helpers. Accusers of the brethren are
not few; and they are always active when God is at work, and his servants are
rendering him true homage. They will put a false coloring upon the words and
acts of those who love and obey the truth. They will represent the most earnest,
zealous, self-denying servants of Christ as deceived or deceivers. It is their work
to misrepresent the motives of every true and noble deed, to circulate
insinuations, and arouse suspicion in the minds of the inexperienced. In every
conceivable manner they will seek to cause that which is pure and righteous to
be regarded as foul and deceptive.
But none need be deceived concerning them. It may be readily seen whose
children they are, whose example they follow, and whose work they do. “Ye shall
know them by their fruits.” Matthew 7:16. Their course resembles that of Satan,
the envenomed slanderer, “the accuser of our brethren.” Revelation 12:10.
The great deceiver has many agents ready to present any and every kind of
error to ensnare souls, heresies prepared to suit the varied tastes and capacities
of those whom he would ruin. It is his plan to bring into the church insincere,
unregenerate elements that will encourage doubt and unbelief, and hinder all
who desire to see the work of God advance, and to advance with it. Many who
have no real faith in God or in his Word, assent to some principles of truth, and
pass as Christians; and thus they are enabled to introduce their errors as
scriptural doctrines.
The position that it is of no consequence what men believe, is one of Satan’s
most successful deceptions. He knows that the truth, received in the love of it,
sanctifies the soul of the receiver; therefore he is constantly seeking to substitute
false theories, fables, another gospel. From the beginning, the servants of God
have contended against false teachers, not merely as vicious men, but as
inculcators of falsehoods that were fatal to the soul. Elijah, Jeremiah, Paul, firmly
and fearlessly opposed those who were turning men from the Word of God. That
liberality which regards a correct religious faith as unimportant, found no favor
with these holy defenders of the truth.
The vague and fanciful interpretations of Scripture, and the many conflicting
theories concerning religious faith, that are found in the Christian world, are the
work of our great adversary to so confuse minds that they shall not discern the
truth. And the discord and division which exist among the churches of
Christendom are in a great measure due to the prevailing custom of wresting the
Scriptures to support a favorite theory. Instead of carefully studying God’s Word
with humility of heart to obtain a knowledge of his will, many seek only to
discover something odd or original.
In order to sustain erroneous doctrines or unchristian practices, some will
seize upon passages of Scripture separated from the context, perhaps quoting
half of a single verse as proving their point, when the remaining portion would
show the meaning to be quite the opposite. With the cunning of the serpent, they
entrench themselves behind disconnected utterances construed to suit their
carnal desires. Thus do many willfully pervert the Word of God. Others, who have
an active imagination, seize upon the figures and symbols of Holy Writ, interpret
to suit their fancy, with little regard to the testimony of Scripture as its own
interpreter, and then they present their vagaries as the teachings of the Bible.
Whenever the study of the Scriptures is entered upon without a prayerful,
humble, teachable spirit, the plainest and simplest as well as the most difficult
passages will be wrested from their true meaning. The papal leaders select such
portions of Scripture as best serve their purpose, interpret to suit themselves, and
then present these to the people, while they deny them the privilege of studying
the Bible, and understanding its sacred truths for themselves. The whole Bible
should be given to the people just as it reads. It would be better for them not to
have Bible instruction at all than to have the teaching of the Scriptures thus
grossly misrepresented.
The Bible was designed to be a guide to all who wish to become acquainted
with the will of their Maker. God gave to men the sure word of prophecy; angels
and even Christ himself came to make known to Daniel and John the things that
must shortly come to pass. Those important matters that concern our salvation
were not left involved in mystery. They were not revealed in such a way as to
perplex and mislead the honest seeker after truth. Said the Lord by the prophet
Habakkuk, “Write the vision, and make it plain, . . . that he may run that readeth
it.” Habakkuk 2:2. The Word of God is plain to all who study it with a prayerful
heart. Every truly honest soul will come to the light of truth. “Light is sown for the
righteous.” Psalm 97:11. And no church can advance in holiness unless its
members are earnestly seeking for truth as for hid treasure.
By the cry, Liberality, men are blinded to the devices of their adversary, while
he is all the time working steadily for the accomplishment of his object. As he
succeeds in supplanting the Bible by human speculations, the law of God is set
aside, and the churches are under the bondage of sin while they claim to be free.
To many, scientific research has become a curse. God has permitted a flood
of light to be poured upon the world in discoveries in science and art; but even
the greatest minds, if not guided by the Word of God in their research, become
bewildered in their attempts to investigate the relations of science and revelation.
Human knowledge of both material and spiritual things is partial and
imperfect; therefore many are unable to harmonize their views of science with
Scripture statements. Many accept mere theories and speculations as scientific
facts, and they think that God’s Word is to be tested by the teachings of “science
falsely so called.” The Creator and his works are beyond their comprehension;
and because they cannot explain these by natural laws, Bible history is regarded
as unreliable. Those who doubt the reliability of the records of the Old and New
Testaments too often go a step father, and doubt the existence of God, and
attribute infinite power to nature. Having let go their anchor, they are left to beat
about upon the rocks of infidelity.
Thus many err from the faith, and are seduced by the devil. Men have
endeavored to be wiser than their Creator; human philosophy has attempted to
search out and explain mysteries which will never be revealed, through the
eternal ages. If men would but search and understand what God has made
known of himself and his purposes, they would obtain such a view of the glory,
majesty, and power of Jehovah, that they would realize their own littleness, and
would be content with that which has been revealed for themselves and their
It is a masterpiece of Satan’s deceptions to keep the minds of men searching
and conjecturing in regard to that which God has not made known, and which he
does not intend that we shall understand. It was thus that Lucifer lost his place in
Heaven. He became dissatisfied because all the secrets of God’s purposes were
not confided to him, and he entirely disregarded that which was revealed
concerning his own work in the lofty position assigned him. By arousing the same
discontent in the angels under his command, he caused their fall. Now he seeks
to imbue the minds of men with the same spirit, and to lead them also to
disregard the direct commands of God.
Those who are unwilling to accept the plain, cutting truths of the Bible, are
continually seeking for pleasing fables that will quiet the conscience. The less
spiritual, self-denying, and humiliating the doctrines presented, the greater the
favor with which they are received. These persons degrade the intellectual
powers to serve their carnal desires. Too wise in their own conceit to search the
Scriptures with contrition of soul and earnest prayer for divine guidance, they
have no shield from delusion. Satan is ready to supply the heart’s desire, and he
palms off his deceptions in the place of truth. It was thus that the papacy gained
its power over the minds of men; and by rejection of the truth because it involves
a cross, Protestants are following the same path. All who neglect the Word of
God to study convenience and policy, that they may not be at variance with the
world, will be left to receive damnable heresy for religious truth. Every
conceivable form of error will be accepted by those who willfully reject the truth.
He who looks with horror upon one deception will readily receive another. The
apostle Paul, speaking of a class who “received not the love of the truth, that they
might be saved,” declares, “For this cause God shall send them strong delusion,
that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned who believed not the
truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12. With such
a warning before us, it behooves us to be on our guard as to what doctrines we
Among the most successful agencies of the great deceiver are the delusive
teachings and lying wonders of Spiritualism. Disguised as an angel of light, he
spreads his nets where least suspected. If men would but study the Book of God
with earnest prayer that they might understand it, they would not be left in
darkness to receive false doctrines. But as they reject the truth, they fall a prey to
Another dangerous error, is the doctrine that denies the divinity of Christ,
claiming that he had no existence before his advent to this world. This theory is
received with favor by a large class who profess to believe the Bible; yet it
directly contradicts the plainest statements of our Saviour concerning his
relationship with the Father, his divine character, and his pre-existence. It cannot
be entertained without the most unwarranted wresting of the Scriptures. It not
only lowers man’s conceptions of the work of redemption, but undermines faith in
the Bible as a revelation from God. While this renders it the more dangerous, it
makes it also harder to meet. If men reject the testimony of the inspired
Scriptures concerning the divinity of Christ, it is in vain to argue the point with
them; for no argument, however conclusive, could convince them. “The natural
man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto
him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1
Corinthians 2:14. None who hold this error can have a true conception of the
character or the mission of Christ, or of the great plan of God for man’s
Still another subtle and mischievous error is the fast-spreading belief that
Satan has no existence as a personal
being; that the name is used in Scripture merely to represent men’s evil thoughts
and desires.
The teaching so widely echoed from popular pulpits, that the second advent of
Christ is his coming to each individual at death, is a device to divert the minds of
men from his personal coming in the clouds of heaven. For years Satan has thus
been saying, “Behold, he is in the secret chambers;” Matthew 24:23-26, and
many souls have been lost by accepting this deception.
Again, worldly wisdom teaches that prayer is not essential. Men of science
claim that there can be no real answer to prayer; that this would be a violation of
law, a miracle, and that miracles have no existence. The universe, say they, is
governed by fixed laws, and God himself does nothing contrary to these laws.
Thus they represent God as bound by his own laws; as if the operation of divine
laws could exclude divine freedom. Such teaching is opposed to the testimony of
the Scriptures. Were not miracles wrought by Christ and his apostles? The same
compassionate Saviour lives today, and he is as willing to listen to the prayer of
faith as when he walked visibly among men. The natural co-operates with the
supernatural. It is a part of God’s plan to grant us, in answer to the prayer of faith,
that which he would not bestow did we not thus ask.
Innumerable are the erroneous doctrines and fanciful ideas that are obtaining
among the churches of Christendom. It is impossible to estimate the evil results
of removing one of the landmarks fixed by the Word of God. Few who venture to
do this stop with the rejection of a single truth. The majority continue to set aside
one after another of the principles of truth, until they become actual infidels.
The errors of popular theology have driven many a soul to skepticism, who
might otherwise have been a believer in the Scriptures. It is impossible for him to
accept doctrines which outrage his sense of justice, mercy, and benevolence;
and since these are represented as the teaching of the Bible, he refuses to
receive it as the Word of God.
And this is the object which Satan seeks to accomplish. There is nothing that
he desires more than to destroy confidence in God and in his Word. Satan stands
at the head of the great army of doubters, and he works to the utmost of his
power to beguile souls into his ranks. It is becoming fashionable to doubt. There
is a large class by whom the Word of God is looked upon with distrust for the
same reason as was its Author—because it reproves and condemns sin. Those
who are unwilling to obey its requirements endeavor to overthrow its authority.
They read the Bible, or listen to its teachings as presented from the sacred desk,
merely to find fault with the Scriptures or with the sermon. Not a few become
infidels in order to justify or excuse themselves in neglect of duty. Others adopt
skeptical principles from pride and indolence. Too ease-loving to distinguish
themselves by accomplishing anything worthy of honor, which requires effort and
self-denial, they aim to secure a reputation for superior wisdom by criticizing the
Bible. There is much which the finite mind, unenlightened by divine wisdom, is
powerless to comprehend; and thus they find occasion to criticize. There are
many who seem to feel that it is a virtue to stand on the side of unbelief,
skepticism, and infidelity. But underneath an appearance of candor, it will be
found that such persons are actuated by self-confidence and pride. Many delight
in finding something in the Scriptures to puzzle the minds of others. Some at first
criticize and reason on the wrong side, from a mere love of controversy. They do
not realize that they are thus entangling themselves in the snare of the fowler.
But having openly expressed unbelief, they feel that they must maintain their
position. Thus they unite with the ungodly, and close to themselves the gates of
God has given in his Word sufficient evidence of its divine character. The
great truths which concern our redemption are clearly presented. By the aid of
the Holy Spirit, which is promised to all who seek it in sincerity, every man may
understand these truths for himself. God has granted to men a strong foundation
upon which to rest their faith.
Yet the finite minds of men are inadequate fully to comprehend the plans and
purposes of the Infinite One. We can never by searching find out God. We must
not attempt to lift with presumptuous hand the curtain behind which he veils his
majesty. The apostle exclaims, “How unsearchable are his judgments, and his
ways past finding out!” Romans 11:33. We can so far comprehend his dealings
with us, and the motives by which he is actuated, that we may discern boundless
love and mercy united to infinite power. Our Father in Heaven orders everything
in wisdom and righteousness, and we are not to be dissatisfied and distrustful,
but to bow in reverent submission. He will reveal to us as much of his purposes
as it is for our good to know, and beyond that we must trust the Hand that is
omnipotent, the Heart that is full of love.
While God has given ample evidence for faith, he will never remove all excuse
for unbelief. All who look for hooks to hang their doubts upon, will find them. And
those who refuse to accept and obey God’s Word until every objection has been
removed, and there is no longer an opportunity for doubt, will never come to the
Distrust of God is the natural outgrowth of the unrenewed heart, which is at
enmity with him. But faith is inspired by the Holy Spirit, and it will flourish only as
it is cherished. No man can become strong in faith without a determined effort.
Unbelief strengthens as it is encouraged; and if men, instead of dwelling upon the
evidences which God has given to sustain their faith, will permit themselves to
question and cavil, they will find their doubts constantly becoming more
But those who doubt God’s promises, and distrust the assurance of his grace,
are dishonoring him; and their influence, instead of drawing others to Christ,
tends to repel them from him. They are unproductive trees, that spread their dark
branches far and wide, shutting away the sunlight from other plants, and causing
them to droop and die under the chilling shadow. The life-work of these persons
will appear as a never-ceasing witness against them. They are sowing seeds of
doubt and skepticism that will yield an unfailing harvest.
There is but one course for those to pursue who honestly desire to be freed
from doubts. Instead of questioning and caviling concerning that which they do
not understand, let them give heed to the light which already shines upon them,
and they will receive greater light. Let them do every duty which has been made
plain to their understanding, and they will be enabled to understand and perform
those of which they are now in doubt.
Satan can present a counterfeit so closely resembling the truth that it deceives
those who are willing to be deceived, who desire to shun the self-denial and
sacrifice demanded by the truth; but it is impossible for him to hold under his
power one soul who honestly desires, at whatever cost, to know the truth. Christ
is the truth, and the “light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”
John 1:9. The Spirit of truth has been sent, to guide men into all truth. And upon
the authority of the Son of God it is declared, “Seek, and ye shall find.” “If any
man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine.” Matthew 7:7; John 7:17.
The followers of Christ know little of the plots which Satan and his hosts are
forming against them. But He who sitteth in the heavens will overrule all these
devices for the accomplishment of his deep designs. The Lord permits his people
to be subjected to the fiery ordeal of temptation, not because he takes pleasure
in their distress and affliction, but because this process is essential to their final
victory. He could not, consistently with his own glory, shield them from
temptation; for the very object of the trial is to prepare them to resist all the
allurements of evil.
Neither wicked men nor devils can hinder the work of God or shut out his
presence from his people, if they will, with subdued, contrite hearts, confess and
put away their sins, and in faith claim his promises. Every temptation, every
opposing influence, whether open or secret, may be successfully resisted, “not by
might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” Zechariah 4:6.
“The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their
prayers. . . . And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is
good?” 1 Peter 3:12, 13. When Balaam, allured by the promise of rich rewards,
practiced enchantments against Israel, and by sacrifices to the Lord, sought to
invoke a curse upon his people, the Spirit of God forbade the evil which he
longed to pronounce, and Balaam was forced to exclaim, “How shall I curse,
whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the Lord hath not defied?”
“Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!” When
sacrifice had again been offered, the ungodly prophet declared: “Behold, I have
received commandment to bless; and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.
He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel;
the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a King is among them.” “Surely
there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against
Israel. According to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath
God wrought!” Numbers 23:8, 10, 20, 21, 23; 24:9. Yet a third altar was erected,
and again Balaam essayed to secure a curse. But from the unwilling lips of the
prophet, the Spirit of God declared the prosperity of his chosen, and rebuked the
folly and malice of their foes: “Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he
that curseth thee.” Numbers 24:9.
The people of Israel were at this time loyal to God; and so long as they
continued in obedience to his law, no power in earth or hell could prevail against
them. But the curse which Balaam had not been permitted to pronounce against
God’s people, he finally succeeded in bringing upon them by seducing them into
sin. When they transgressed God’s commandments, then they separated
themselves from him, and they were left to feel the power of the destroyer.
Satan is well aware that the weakest soul who abides in Christ is more than a
match for the hosts of darkness, and that, should he reveal himself openly, he
would be met and resisted. Therefore he seeks to draw away the soldiers of the
cross from their strong fortification, while he lies in ambush with his forces, ready
to destroy all who venture upon his ground. Only in humble reliance upon God,
and obedience to all his commandments, can we be secure. No man is safe for a
day or an hour without prayer. Especially should we entreat the Lord for wisdom
to understand his Word. Here are revealed the wiles of the tempter, and the
means by which he may be successfully resisted. Satan is an expert in quoting
Scripture, placing his own interpretation upon passages by which he hopes to
cause us to stumble. We should study the Bible with humility of heart, never
losing sight of our dependence upon God. While we must constantly guard
against the devices of Satan, we should pray in faith continually, “Lead us not
into temptation.”

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