Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Mediocre Review of a Great Book: "Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices" by Thomas Brooks

Is there a Reformed view of "spiritual warfare?" And if there is, does it differ significantly from the modern, charismatic rebuking-the-devil sort of thing?

The answer to the first question is Yes. Thankfully, the answer to the second question is also Yes. (In the interest of full disclosure, I write this review as a former charismatic, warfare prayin' demon buster. I could cast devils out of just about anything, including stuff you never knew they'd get into. Those were the days, joining hands in warfare prayer around a pallet-full of demon-possessed ceiling tiles... but I digress.)

For my money, the best treatment of so-called spiritual warfare from a Reformed perspective is Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices, a Puritan classic by Thomas Brooks, published by Banner of Truth.

Here's the shocking, secret weapon of the devil in spiritual warfare, that the typical charismatic completely misses as he's rebuking spirits of hip-hop music in the sound system: The devil wins in spiritual warfare when he can coax God's people into...brace yourselves...into sinning.

Precious Remedies is really like a foot-soldier's field-manual, instructing him thoroughly in the enemy's tactics and how to overcome them. It has spurred me personally to a greater pursuit of holiness. I suspect that was intentional on Brooks's part.

There is one section that some might find controversial, in which Brooks discusses what is often called "besetting sins," or those particular sins, particular to us as individuals, which we seem to struggle with (and lose against) more often than other people do, and more often than we do with regard to other sorts of sin. Mary is known as a gossip, and can't seem to help herself. Joe is famous for his temper, etc. They both hate their "trademark" sin, but seem to be unable to defeat it utterly.

Brooks's somewhat surprising answer to this is that he was unable to find any promise in the Scripture which gave assurance that these sorts of besetting sins could or would be completely annihilated from the Christian life. He goes on to propose some reasons why God may allow the believer to struggle so, reasons that are both thoughtful and redemptive.

The controversy may come as this sort of thinking meets with a currently popular answer to the same topic. This other answer is: "Stop that! Cut it out! You are probably not saved if you continue to struggle with this one thing and can get no lasting victory over it. Etc." Brooks was unwilling to paint things in such stark black-and-white on that one. Whether you wind up agreeing with him or not, the discourse is worth reading.

For my money, the best way to get your hands on Brooks' Precious Remedies is in the first volume of The Works of Thomas Brooks, a six-volume hardcover set that is now on sale for about 4 cents a page. Talk about your treasure troves, aye, mateys. Brooks is widely regarded as one of the most readable, and profitable, of the Puritan authors and this set is a crown jewel in any Reformed theologian's bookshelf. If any of you out there are wondering what to get me for Christmas--hint, hint, nudge, nudge.

8930: Works of Thomas Brooks, 6 Volumes Works of Thomas Brooks, 6 Volumes

1 comment:

Nathan White said...


Precious is indeed precious, and the The Works are indeed THE works. Excellent stuff. I hope your readers listen to your advice!