Counseling Principles from Thomas Brooks
If being a biblical counselor means coming alongside fellow Christian soldiers to exhort, encourage, strengthen, and admonish according to the Word of God then the Puritan Thomas Brooks was surely an excellent one. In my reading of the first portion of Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices, along with Tim Challies’ Reading Classics Together initiative, I pulled out five admonitions that are important for us to remember in our ongoing war against sin, the flesh, and the devil.
We Must Love Truth, the Precious Pearl
Faithful biblical counselors repeatedly urge other believers to pursue the wisdom that alone is found in Christ and His word. King Solomon did this in Proverbs 2 when he exhorted his son to pursue biblical truth like silver and then identified the only reliable source: “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Along the same line, Brooks admonishes,
We must love truth both shining and scorching. Every parcel of truth is precious as the filings of gold; we must either live with it, or die for it, As Ruth said to Naomi, ‘Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge, and nothing but death shall part you and me’ (Ruth 1:16, 17); so must gracious spirits say, Where truth goes I will go, and where truth lodges I will lodge, and nothing but death shall part me and truth. A man may lawfully sell his house, land and jewels—but truth is a jewel that exceeds all price, and must not be sold; it is our heritage: ‘Your testimonies have I taken as an heritage forever’ (Psalm 119:111). It is a legacy that our forefathers have bought with their blood, which should make us willing to lay down anything, and to lay out anything, that we may, with the wise merchant in the Gospel (Matt. 13:45), purchase this precious pearl, which is more worth than heaven and earth, and which will make a man live happily, die comfortably, and reign eternally!
Bible Meditation Is More Important than Much Reading
Joshua 1:8 highlights the value of mediating on the Word, both day and night, and the biblical success that comes to those who obey it. Only when we mull Scripture through our minds and digest it with our hearts will we benefit from its life-transforming power. Along the same line, Brooks compares the one who takes time to meditate on Scripture to a honey bee. “It is not the bee’s touching of the flower, which gathers honey—but her abiding for a time upon the flower, which draws out the sweet. It is not he who reads most—but he who meditates most, who will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian.”
Biblical Knowledge, Not Applied, Torments like a Devil
Scripture warns against the self-deception that comes to the so-called believer who hears the Word, but refuses to act upon it (James 1:23-24). Along the same line, Thomas Brooks warns,
Reader, if it is not strong upon your heart to practice what you read, to what end do you read? To increase your own condemnation? If your light and knowledge be not turned into practice, the more knowing a man you are, the more miserable a man you will be in the day of recompense; your light and knowledge will more torment you than all the devils in hell. Your knowledge will be that rod that will eternally lash you, and that scorpion that will forever bite you, and that worm that will everlastingly gnaw you; therefore read, and labor to know, that you may do—or else you are undone forever.
Mature Christians are not Ignorant of Satan’s Devices
Immature Christians fail to consider the manner in which they give up ground to the devil to have a hay-day in their life. Mature believers; on the other hand, refuse to be “ignorant of his designs” (2 Cor 2:11). Brooks displays spiritual maturity when he writes, “We are not ignorant of Satan’s devices, or plots, or machinations, or stratagems. He is but a Christian in title only, who has not personal experience of Satan’s stratagems, his set and composed machinations, his artificially molded methods, his plots, darts, depths, whereby he outwitted our first parents.” In reference to the “wiles of the devil” (Eph 6:11), Brooks says,
the Greek word that is here rendered ‘wiles,’ is a notable emphatic word. (1) It signifies such snares as are laid behind one, such treacheries as come upon one’s back by surprise, it notes the methods or waylayings of that old subtle serpent, thereby transfuses his venom to the head and heart (Gen. 49:17). The word signifies an ambush or stratagem of war, whereby the enemy sets upon a man at unawares. (2) It signifies such snares as are set to catch one in one’s road. A man walks in his road, and thinks not of it; but suddenly he is caught by thieves, or falls into a pit, etc. (3) It signifies such as are purposely, artificially, and craftily set for the taking the prey at the greatest advantage that can be. The Greek signifies properly a waylaying, circumvention, or going about, as they do, who seek after their prey. Julian, by his craft, drew more away from the faith than all his persecuting predecessors could do by their cruelty. So does Satan more hurt in his sheep’s skin than by roaring like a lion.
Sin Deceives through Its Promise of Pleasure
The author of Hebrews lifts up the example of Moses because he chose to suffer with his people, rather than “to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Heb 11:25). Why did he make this choice? “He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (Heb 11:26). Moses outwitted sin’s temptation by considering the pleasure of obedience to Christ as greater. In a similar manner, Brooks gives this insight.
Many eat that on earth what they digest in hell. Sin’s murdering morsels will deceive those who devour them. Adam’s apple was a bitter sweet; Esau’s bowl of stew was a bitter sweet; the Israelites’ quails a bitter sweet; Jonathan’s honey a bitter sweet; and Adonijah’s dainties a bitter sweet. After the meal is ended, then comes the reckoning. Men must not think to dance and dine with the devil, and then to sup with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; to feed upon the poison of asps, and yet that the viper’s tongue should not slay them.
As I continue reading through this classic Puritan work, I will pass on more insights that will help us grow in our own walk with the Lord and our ability to counsel one another faithfully, according to the Word of God.
It’s not too late for you to consider joining up with other believers who are reading this insightful work by Thomas Brooks. Learn more here.
You may also be interested in our all-time #1 post: 20 Ways Satan May Seek to Destroy You