“The safest road to Hell is the gradual one” by C.S. Lewis

“My Dear Wormwood,

A few weeks ago you had to tempt your patient to unreality and inattention in his prayers: but now you will find him opening his arms to you and almost begging you to distract his purpose and benumb his heart.

He will want his prayers to be unreal, for he will dread nothing so much as effective contact with the Enemy. His aim will be to let sleeping worms lie.

As this condition becomes more fully established, you will be gradually freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations.

As the uneasiness and his reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo (for that is what habit fortunately does to a pleasure) you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention.

You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do.

You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him.

You can make him do nothing at all for long periods.

You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room.

All the healthy and out-going activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at least he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, ‘I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.’

The Christians describe the Enemy as one ‘without whom Nothing is strong’.

And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.

You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness.

But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy.

It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick.

Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one— the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,

Your affectionate uncle,

SCREWTAPE”

–C.S. Lewis, “Letter XII,” The Screwtape Letters (New York: Macmillian, 1950), 63-65.

“Faith never rests so calmly and peacefully as when it lays its head on the pillow of God’s omnipotence” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us mark, in the third place, the mighty principle which the angel Gabriel lays down to silence all objections about the incarnation. ‘With God nothing shall be impossible.’

A hearty reception of this great principle is of immense importance to our own inward peace. Questions and doubts will often arise in men’s minds about many subjects in religion. They are the natural result of our fallen estate of soul.

Our faith at the best is very feeble. Our knowledge at its highest is clouded with much infirmity.

And among many antidotes to a doubting, anxious, questioning state of mind, few will be found more useful than that before us now,—a thorough conviction of the almighty power of God.

With Him who called the world into being and formed it out of nothing, everything is possible. Nothing is too hard for the Lord.

There is no sin too black and bad to be pardoned. The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin.

There is no heart too hard and wicked to be changed. The heart of stone can be made a heart of flesh.

There is no work too hard for a believer to do. We may do all things through Christ strengthening us.

There is no trial too hard to be borne. The grace of God is sufficient for us.

There is no promise too great to be fulfilled. Christ’s words never pass away, and what He has promised He is able to perform.

There is no difficulty too great for a believer to overcome. When God is for us who shall be against us? The mountain shall become a plain.

Let principles like these be continually before our minds. The angel’s receipt is an invaluable remedy.

Faith never rests so calmly and peacefully as when it lays its head on the pillow of God’s omnipotence.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 21-22. Ryle is commenting on Luke 1:34-38.

“Do you think Jesus Christ is only for little sinners?” by Charles Spurgeon

“Remember that even after you are secure in Christ, and accepted before God, and clothed in Christ’s righteousness, you may sometimes get despondent.

Christian men are but men, and they may have some trial, and then they get depressed if they have ever so much grace. I would defy the apostle Paul himself to help it.

But what then? Why then you can get joy and peace through believing. I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to, but I always get back again by this— I know I trust Christ.

I have no reliance but in Him, and if He falls I shall fall with Him, but if He does not, I shall not. Because He lives, I shall live also, and I spring to my legs again and fight with my depressions of spirit and my downcastings, and get the victory through it.

And so may you do, and so you must, for there is no other way of escaping from it. In your most depressed seasons, you are to get joy and peace through believing.

‘Ah!’ says one, ‘but suppose you have fallen into some great sin—what then?’ Why then the more reason that you should cast yourself upon Him. Do you think Jesus Christ is only for little sinners? Is He a doctor that only heals finger-aches?

Beloved, it is no faith to trust Christ when I have not any sin, but it is true faith when I am foul, and black, and filthy; when during the day I have tripped up and fallen, and done serious damage to my joy and peace, to go back again to that dear fountain and say:

‘Lord, I never loved washing so much before as I do tonight, for today I have made a fool of myself; I have said and done what I ought not to have done, and I am ashamed and full of confusion, but I believe Christ can save me, even me, and I will rest in Him still.’

That is the true way of Christian life, and the only way of getting joy and peace. Go to Christ even when sin prevails.

Only let your confidence be not in your peace, not in your joy, but in Christ.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Joy and Peace in Believing,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 12 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1866), 12: 298–299.

“He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them” by C.S. Lewis

“My Dear Wormwood,

I am delighted to hear that your patient’s age and profession make it possible, but by no means certain, that he will be called up for military service. We want him to be in the maximum uncertainty, so that his mind will be filled with contradictory pictures of the future, every one of which arouses hope or fear.

There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.

Your patient will, of course, have picked up the notion that he must submit with patience to the Enemy’s will. What the enemy means by this is primarily that he should accept with patience the tribulation which has actually been dealt out to him– the present anxiety and suspense.

It is about this that he is to say “Thy will be done”, and for the daily task of bearing this that the daily bread will be provided. It is your business to see that the patient never thinks of the present fear as his appointed cross, but only of the things he is afraid of.

Let him regard them as his crosses: let him forget that, since they are incompatible, they cannot all happen to him, and let him try to practice fortitude and patience to them all in advance.

For real resignation, at the same moment, to a dozen different and hypothetical fates, is almost impossible, and the Enemy does not greatly assist those who are trying to attain it: resignation to present and actual suffering, even where that suffering consists of fear, is far easier and is usually helped by this direct action.”

–C.S. Lewis, “Letter VI,” The Screwtape Letters (New York: Macmillian, 1950), 34-35.

“The divine alarm clock” by John Onwuchekwa

“Let the temptation to worry serve as the divine alarm clock reminding you it’s time to pray.”

–John Onwuchekwa, Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 125.

“The pillow of God’s omnipotence” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us mark, in the third place, the mighty principle which the angel Gabriel lays down to silence all objections about the incarnation. ‘With God nothing shall be impossible.’

A hearty reception of this great principle is of immense importance to our own inward peace. Questions and doubts will often arise in men’s minds about many subjects in religion. They are the natural result of our fallen estate of soul.

Our faith at the best is very feeble. Our knowledge at its highest is clouded with much infirmity.

And among many antidotes to a doubting, anxious, questioning state of mind, few will be found more useful than that before us now,—a thorough conviction of the almighty power of God.

With Him who called the world into being and formed it out of nothing, everything is possible. Nothing is too hard for the Lord.

There is no sin too black and bad to be pardoned. The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin.

There is no heart too hard and wicked to be changed. The heart of stone can be made a heart of flesh.

There is no work too hard for a believer to do. We may do all things through Christ strengthening us.

There is no trial too hard to be borne. The grace of God is sufficient for us.

There is no promise too great to be fulfilled. Christ’s words never pass away, and what He has promised He is able to perform.

There is no difficulty too great for a believer to overcome. When God is for us who shall be against us? The mountain shall become a plain.

Let principles like these be continually before our minds. The angel’s receipt is an invaluable remedy.

Faith never rests so calmly and peacefully as when it lays its head on the pillow of God’s omnipotence.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 1: 27-28. Ryle is commenting on Luke 1:34-38.

“A disarmed and conquered enemy” by Richard Sibbes

“Even death itself, which is the end of all, though it be fearful and irksome to nature, yet it is to God’s servants a bed of down, easing them of all their miseries, and putting them in possession of an heavenly kingdom.

Therefore saith Solomon, ‘The day of death is better than the day of birth,’ Eccles. 7:1. God will be the God of His, not only unto death, but in death.

Death is the death of itself, and not of us. It is a disarmed and conquered enemy to all the faithful; for which cause St Paul desired to be dissolved and to be with Christ, which is best of all, Philip. 1:23.

Death, albeit it seems terrible and dreadful, yet the sting thereof being taken away by the death of Christ, it brings everlasting joy along with it.

Death is only as a grim porter to let us into a stately palace.

Whither tend all the troubles we meet with in this world, but only to fit us for a better condition hereafter, and to assure the soul that when earth can hold it no longer, heaven shall.”

–Richard Sibbes, “The Privileges of the Faithful,” in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 5 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson, 1863), 260–261.