For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.
~ Luke 21:15, Romans 16:19, Ephesians 5:15-17, Colossians 1:9, Colossians 4:5, 2 Corinthians 1:12
That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:
~ Philippians 2:15, 1 Thessalonians 2:10
Of Wisdom and Innocency, by Thomas Watson. This is from his work, “A Body of Practical Divinity”.
Be ye therefore wise as Serpents, and harmless as Doves.
The Apostle saith, All Scripture is of Divine inspiration, 2 Tim. 3.16. God’s Word is compared to a Lamp, for its enlightning quality, Psal. 119.105. and to Silver refined, for its enriching quality, Psal. 12.6. Among other parts of Sacred Writ, this in the Text, is not the least; Be ye wise as Serpents, and innocent as Doves. This is the Speech of our Blessed Saviour. His Lips were a Tree of Life which fed many. His Works were Miracles, his Words were Oracles, and deserve to be engraven upon our hearts, as with the point of a Diamond.
This is a golden Sentence; Be ye wise as Serpents, and innocent as Doves. Our Lord Jesus, in this Chapter,
First, Gives his Apostles their Commission.
Secondly, Foretells their Danger.
Thirdly, Gives them several Instructions.
I. Christ gives his Apostles their Commission. Before they went abroad to preach, Christ ordains them, vers. 5. These Twelve Jesus sent forth. Those who exercise in the Ministerial Function, must have a Lawful Call. Hebr. 5.4. No Man takes this Honour to himself, but he who is called of God. Christ gave not only the Apostles and Prophets a Call to their Office, (who were extraordinary Ministers;) but even Pastors and Teachers, Ephes. 4.11.
Quest. But if one have Gifts, is not this sufficient to the Ministerial Office?
Answ. No: As Grace is not sufficient to make a Minister, so neither Gifts; therefore it is observable, that the Scripture puts a difference between Gifting and Sending. Rom. 10.15. How shall they Preach, unless they be Sent? If Gifts were enough to constitute a Minister, the Apostle should have said, How shall they Preach unless they be Gifted? But he saith, unless they be Sent: Which denotes a lawful Call, or Investiture into the Office. The Attorney that pleads at the Barr may have as good Gifts as the Judge that sits upon the Bench; but he must have a lawful Commission before he sit as Judge. If it be thus in Matters Civil, then much more in Church-Matters, which are of an higher Concern. Those therefore who usurp the Work of the Ministry without being solemnly set apart for it, discover more Pride than Zeal; and they can expect no Blessing. Ier. 23.32. I sent them not, nor commanded them, therefore they shall not profit this People, saith the Lord. So much for the First; the Apostles Commission they received: These Twelve Iesus sent forth.
II. Christ foretells their Danger, ver. 16. Behold I send you forth as Sheep in the midst of Wolves. The Apostles were going about a glorious Work, but an hazardous Work; they would meet with Enemies fierce and savage, like Wolves. As all that will live godly in Christ, shall meet with Sufferings; so commonly Christ’s Ambassadors encounter the deepest Trials. Most of the Apostles died by the hands of Tyrants. Peter was crucified with his head downwards. Luke the Evangelist was executed on an Olive-Tree. John was cast by Domitian into a Vessel of scalding Oyl. Maximinus the Emperor (as Eusebius relates) gave charge to his Officers to put none to death, but in non-Latin alphabet; the Governors and Pastors of the Church. The Ministers are Christ’s Antesignani, his Ensign-bearers to carry his Colours; therefore they are most shot at: They hold forth his Truth: Phil. 1.17. I am set for the defence of the Gospel. The Greek Word in non-Latin alphabet, alludes to a Soldier that is set in the Forefront of the Battel, and hath all the Bullets flying about his Ears. The Minister’s Work is to part between Men and their Sins; and this causeth opposition. When Paul preached against Diana, all the City was in an uproar, Acts 19. This may stir up Prayer for Christ’s Ministers, that they may be able to withstand the Assaults of the Enemy, 2 Thes. 3.2.
III. Christ gives the Apostles their Instructions; whereof this was one in the Text; Be ye wise as Serpents, and innocent as Doves. 1. The Exhortation: Be ye wise. 2. The Simile, as Serpents. 3. The Qualification of this Wisdom; a Wisdom mixt with Innocency; Harmless as Doves.
This Union of the Dove and the Serpent, is hard to find. Mat. 24.45. Who then is a wise and faithful Servant? On which Place, saith St. Chrysostom, It is an hard matter to find one faithful and wise. Faithful, there is the Dove; Wise, there is the Serpent. ‘Tis hard to find both: If one would seek for a faithful Man, questionless he may find many; if for a wise Man, he may find many; but if he seek for one both wise and faithful, this is rara avis, hard to find: yet, it is possible, though not common. Moses, a man learned in all the Wisdom of the Egyptians, Acts 7.22. There was the Wisdom of the Serpent: And the meekest man alive, Numb. 12.3. Now the Man Moses was very meek above all the men upon the face of the Earth; there was the Innocency of the Dove. Daniel was an excellent person, Dan. 5.14. Excellent Wisdom is found in thee; there was the Prudence of the Serpent: And, Dan. 6.4. The Presidents and Princes ought to find occasion against Daniel; but they could find no occasion or fault: Behold here the innocency of the Dove. Look on St. Paul, Acts 23.6. When Paul perceived that the one part were Sadduces, and the other Pharisees, he cried out, I am a Pharisee; By which Speech Paul got all the Pharisees on his side: Here was the Wisdom of the Serpent. And, ver. 1. I have lived in all good Conscience before God until this day: Here was the innocency of the Dove. How amiable is this, the Union of the Dove and the Serpent? The Scripture joins these two together, Meekness of Wisdom, Jam. 3.13. Wisdom, there is the Serpent; Meekness, there is the Dove. This beautifies a Christian, when he hath the Serpent’s Eye in the Dove’s Head. We must have Innocency with our Wisdom, else our Wisdom is but Craftiness; and we must have Wisdom with our Innocency, else our Innocency is but Weakness. We must have the Innocency of the Dove, that we may not circumvent others; and we must have the Wisdom of the Serpent, that others may not circumvent us. We must have the Innocency of the Dove, that we may not betray the Truth; and the Wisdom of the Serpent, that we may not betray our selves. In short, Religion without Policy, is too weak to be safe: Policy without Religion, is too subtil to be good. When Wisdom and Innocency, like Castor and Pollux, appear together, they presage the Soul’s Happiness.
Doct. 3. That Christians must be both wise and innocent.
I begin with the first, Wise: Be ye wise as Serpents.
1. I shall speak concerning Wisdom in general. Solomon saith, Wisdom is the principal thing, Prov. 4.7. ‘Tis better than Riches, Prov. 31.14. Happy is the Man that findeth Wisdom for the Merchandise of it is better than the Merchandise of Silver. If the Mountains were Pearl, if every sand of the Sea were a Diamond, it were not comparable to Wisdom. Without Wisdom a person is like a Ship without a Pilot, in danger to split upon Rocks. Iob sets forth the Encomium and Praise of Wisdom, Job. 28.13, 18. The Price of Wisdom is above Rubies. The Ruby is a precious Stone, transparent, of a red fiery colour. It is reported of one of the Kings of India, that he wore a Ruby of that bigness and splendor, that he might be seen by it in the dark: But Wisdom cast• a more sparkling colour than the Ruby; it makes us shine as Angels. No Chain of Pearl you wear, doth so adorn you as Wisdom. Wisdom consists chiefly in three things.
1. Knowledge to discern.
2. Skill to judge.
3. Activity to prosecute.
1. Knowledge to discern wherein Happiness lies.
2. Skill to judge what will be the fittest Means to conduce to it.
3. Activity to prosecute those things which will certainly accomplish that End. So much for Wisdom in general.
More particularly: Wisdom is variously distinguished. ‘Tis either Natural, or Moral, or Theological.
1. A Natural Wisdom: Which is seen in finding out the Arcana Naturae, the Secrets of Nature. Aristotle was by some of the Ancients called an Eagle fallen from the Clouds, because he was of such raised Intellectuals, and had so profound an insight into the Causes of Things. This Natural Wisdom is adorning; but it is not sufficient to Salvation. St. Hierom brings in Aristotle with his Syllogisms, and Tully with his Rhetorick, crying out in Hell.
2. A Moral Wisdom: Which consists in two Things; Malum respuendo, Bonum elegendo: Moral Wisdom lies in the rejection of those things which are prejudicial, and the election of those things which are beneficial. This is called prudence. Knowledge without Prudence may do hurt: Many a man’s Wit hath undone him for want of Wisdom.
3. A Theological, or Sacred Wisdom: which is our knowing of God: who is the supream and sovereign Good. Greece was counted the Eye of the World, for Wisdom, and Athens the Eye of Greece; but neither of them knew God. Acts 17.23. I found an Altar with this Inscription, in non-Latin alphabet ; To the unknown God. To know God, in whom is both Verum & Bonum, Truth and Goodness, is the Master-piece of Wisdom. 1 Chron. 28.9. And thou Solomon my Son, know thou the God of thy Father. And this knowledge of God is through Christ. Christ is the Glass in which the Face of God is seen, Col. 1.15. And then we know God aright, when we know him not only with a knowledge of Speculation, but Appropriation. Psal. 48.14. This God is our God. This knowledge of God is the most sublime Wisdom; therefore ’tis called in non-Latin alphabet; Wisdom from above, Jam. 3.17.
But to come nearer to the Text, and speak of the Wisdom of the Serpent: Be ye wise as Serpents.
Quest. But must we in every thing be like the Serpent?
Answ. No. Our Saviour meant not that in every thing we should imitate the Serpent. I shall shew you,
1. Wherein we should not be like the Serpent.
2. Wherein we should be like the Serpent.
I. Wherein we should not be like the Serpent.
1. The Serpent eats Dust. Isa. 65.25. Dust shall be the Serpent’s Meat: It was a Curse upo• the Serpent. Thus we should not be like the Serpent, to feed immoderately on earthly Things. It is absurd for him that hath an heaven-born Soul capable of Communion with God and Angels, to eat greedily the Serpent’s Meat: A Christian hath better Food to feed on; the heavenly Manna, the precious Promises, the Body and Blood of Christ. ‘Tis counted a Miracle to find a Diamond in a Gold-Mine; and it is as great a Miracle to find Christ, the Pearl of Price, in an earthly heart. The Lapwing wears a little Coronet on its head, yet feeds on dung. To have a Crown of Profession on the head, yet feed inordinately on these dunghil-Comforts, is unworthy of a Christian. What a poor contemptible thing is the World? It cannot fill the Heart: If Satan should take a Christian up to the top of the Pinacle, and shew him all the Kingdoms and Glory of the World, what could he shew him, but a in non-Latin alphabet , a Shew, a pleasant Delusion? There is a lawful Vse God allows of these outward things; but the Sin is in the Excess. The Bee may suck a little Honey from the Leaf; but put it in a Barrel of Honey, and it is drown’d. The wicked are thus characterised, Ephes. 3.19. They mind earthly things. They are like Saul, hid among the Stuff. We should be as Eagles flying aloft towards Heaven, not as Serpents, creeping on the Earth, and licking the Dust.
2. The Serpent is deceitful. The Serpent useth many Shifts, and glides so cunningly, that we cannot trace him. This was one of those four things which wise Agur could not find out, the way of a Serpent upon a Rock, Prov. 30.19. ‘Tis a deceitful Creature: We should not in this sence be like the Serpent, for deceitfulness. Naturally we too much resemble the Serpent for Fraud and Collusion Jer. 17.9. The Heart is deceitful above all things.
1. Deceit towards Man: 1. To dissemble Friendship; to cover Malice with pretences of Love; to commend and censure; to flatter and hate; a Judas-Kiss, and a Joab’s Sword; Mel in ore, Fel in corde. 2. To dissemble Honesty; to pretend just dealing, yet use false Weights.
2. Deceit towards God. To draw nigh to God with the Lips, and the Heart is far from him; to serve God, and seek ourselves; to pretend to love God, and yet be in league with Sin; we should not in this sence be like the Serpent, deceitful, and given to Shifts. O be upright! Be what you seem to be: God loves Plainness of Heart, Psal. 51.6. The plainer the Diamond is, the more it sparkles: The plainer the Heart is, the more it sparkles in God’s Eye. What a Commendation did Christ give Nathanael, Joh. 1.47. Behold an Israelite indeed in whom there is no Guile.
3. The Serpent casts the Coat, but another new Coat comes in the room; in this we should not be like the Serpent, to cast the Coat, to cast off one Sin, and another Sin as bad come in the room. The Drunkard leaves his Drunkenness, because it impairs his Health, his Credit, his Purse, and falls to the Sin of Cozenage: The Prodigal leaves his Prodigality, and turns Usurer: This is as if one Disease should leave a Man, and he should fall into another as bad. His Ague leaves him, and he falls into a Consumption. O be not like the Serpent, that casts one Coat and another comes. This is like him in the Gospel, that had one Devil go out of him, and seven worse Spirits came in the Room, Matth. 12.45.
4. The Serpent is a Venomous Creature, ’tis full of Poison, Deut. 32.24. In this be not like the Serpent. ‘Tis said of Wicked Men, their Poison is like the Poison of a Serpent, Psal. 58.4. What is this Poison? it is the Poison of Malice: Malice is the Devil’s Picture. Lust makes Men brutish, and Malice makes them Devilish: in non-Latin alphabet , Chrys. Malice carries in it its own punishment: A malicious Man to hurt another will injure himself. Quintillian speaks of one who had a a Garden of Flowers, and he poisoned his Flowers, that his Neighbours Bees sucking from them might be poisoned and die. Oh be not venomous like the Serpent. Malice is Mental Murder, you may kill a Man and never touch him. 1 Joh. 3.15. Whosoever hates his Brother is a Murderer. Malice spoils all your good Duties; the malicious Man defiles his Prayers, poisons the Sacramental Cup; he eats and drinks his own Damnation. I have read of one who lived in Malice, and being asked, how he could say the Lords Prayer? He answered, I leave out those Words, As we forgive them that Trespass against us. But St. Austin brings in God replying thus to him, because thou dost not say my Prayer, therefore I will not hear Thine. The malicious Man is not like to enjoy either Earth or Heaven; not the Earth, for the Meek shall inherit the Earth, Matth. 5.4. Nor is he like to enjoy Heaven, for God will beautifie the Meek with Salvation, Psal. 149.4. So that the malicious Man is cut off both from Earth and Heaven.
5. The Serpent is given to Hissing: So ’tis said of the Basilisk. In this be not like the Serpent, to hiss out Reproaches and Invectives against the Saints and People of God. Thy are the Seed of the Serpent that hiss at Godliness. The Lord will one Day reckon with Men for all their hard Speeches, Jude 15. Lucian was such an one who did hiss out and scoff against Religion, and as a just Judgment of God, he was afterwards torn in pieces by Dogs.
6. The Serpent Stops her Ear. It is an obstinate Deafness. Psal. 58.4. They are as the Deaf Adder which stoppeth her Ear. In this be not like the Serpent, obstinately to stop your Ears to the Voice of God’s Word. While God calls you to repent of Sin, be not as the Basilisk, to stop your Ear, Zach. 7.11. They refused to hearken, and stopp’d their Ears, that they might not hear: the Word denounceth threatnings against Sin; but many instead of being like the Publican, smiting on their Breast, they are as Deaf Adders stopping their Ears: If you shut your Ear against God’s Word, take heed God doth not shut Heaven against you: If God crys to you to repent, and you will not hear; when you cry for Mercy, God will not hear. Zach. 7.13. As he cryed and they would not hear, so they cryed and I would not hear, saith the Lord of Hosts.
7. The Serpent casts her Coat, but keeps her Sting: In this sence be not like the Serpent, to cast off the outward Acts of Sin, and keep the Love of Sin. He whose Heart is in Love with any Sin, is an Hypocrite. 1. A Man may forbear Sin, yet retain the Love of it: He may forbear the act of gross Sin, Formidine Poenae, for fear of Hell; as a Man may forbear a Dish he loves for fear it should bring his Disease upon him; the Stone or Gout. 2. A Man may forsake Sin, yet keep the Love of Sin; he may forsake Sin, either out of Policy or Necessity. 1. Policy, Vice will impair his Health, eclipse his Credit; therefore out of Policy he will forsake it: Or, 2. Necessity. Perhaps he can follow the Trade of Sin no longer; the Adulterer is grown old, the Prodigal poor; either the Purse fails, or the Strength. Thus a Man may refrain the Act of Sin, yet retain the Love of Sin: This is like the Serpent, which casts her Coat, but keeps her Sting. Oh! take heed of this; herein be not like the Serpent; remember that saying of Hierom, Gravius est peccatum diligere quam perpetrare: ‘Tis worse to love Sin than to commit it: A Man may commit Sin through a Tentation, or out of Ignorance, and when he knows it to be a Sin he is sorry for it; but he that loves Sin, his Will is in the Sin, and that aggravates it, and is like the Dye which makes the Wool of a Crimson Colour.
8. Serpents are chased away with sweet perfumes, the perfume of Harts-Horn, or the sweet odour of the Styrax drives the Serpent away. In this be not like the Serpent, to be driven away with the sweet perfumes of Holiness. Carnal Hearts are for Things only which delight the Senses, they will discourse of News or Traffick; here they are in their Element; but let a Man bring with him the sweet perfume of Religious discourse, let him talk of Christ, or living by Faith, this spiritual perfume drives them away: Oh, be not in this like the Serpent! How do you think to live with the Saints in Heaven, that cannot endure their Company here? You hate the sweet savour of their Oyntments, the fragrant perfume of their Graces?
9. The Serpent (as is noted of the Stellio, a kind of Serpent) he doth no sooner cast his skin but he eats it up again. In this be not like the Serpent, to forsake Sin and then take it up again. 2 Pet. 2.22. It is happened according to the Proverb, the Dog is returned to his own Vomit again; such were Demas and Julian. Many after a Divorce, espouse their Sins again; as if one’s Ague should leave him a while, and then come again: The Devil seemed to be cast out, but comes the second Time, and the end of that Man is worse than his beginning, Luk. 11.24. because his Sin is greater; he sins knowingly and wilfully, and his Damnation will be greater.
10. Serpents are great Lovers of Wine. Pliny, who writes of Natural History, saith, if Serpents come where Wine is, they drink insatiably: In this be not like the Serpent; though the Scripture allows the use of Wine, 1 Tim. 5.23. yet it forbids the excess, Eph. 5.18. Be not drunk with Wine, wherein is excess; be not like the Serpents in this, Lovers of Wine. Because this Sin of Drunkenness doth so abound in this Age, I shall enlarge something more on this Head. ‘Tis said of the Old World, They eat, they drank, till the Flood came, Luk. 17.27. Drinking is not a Sin; but the meaning is, they drank to intemperance, they disordered themselves with Drink, and God let them have Liquor enough; first they were drowned in Wine, and then in Water.
There is no Sin which doth more deface God’s Image than Drunkenness, it disguiseth a Person, and doth even unman him; Drunkenness makes him have the Throat of a Fish, the Belly of a Swine, and the Head of an Ass; Drunkenness is the Shame of Nature, the Extinguisher of Reason, the Shipwrack of Chastity, and the Murder of Conscience; Drunkenness is hurtful for the Body: The Cup kills more than the Cannon; it causeth Dropsies, Catarrhs, Apoplexies; Drunkenness fills the Eyes with Fire and the Legs with Water, and turns the Body into an Hospital; but the greatest hurt is that it doth to the Soul. Excess of Wine breeds the Worm of Conscience. The Drunkard is seldom reclaimed by repentance; and the ground of it is, partly, because by this Sin the Senses are so inchanted, Reason so impaired, and Lust so inflamed; and, partly, it is judicial, the Drunkard being so besotted with this Sin, God saith of him as of Ephraim, Hos. 4.17. Ephraim is joyned to Idols, let him alone; so this Man is joyned to his Cups, let him alone, let him drown himself in Liquor till he scorch himself in Fire. How many Woes hath God pronounced against this Sin, Isa. 28.1. Woe to the Drunkards of Ephraim! Joel 1.5. Howl ye Drinkers of Wine! Drunkenness excludes a Person from Heaven. 1 Cor. 6.10. Drunkards shall not inherit the Kingdom of God: A Man cannot go to Heaven reeling. King Solomon makes an oration full of Invectives against this Sin, Prov. 23.29. Who hath Woe? Who hath Contentions? Who hath Babling? Who hath redness of Eyes? they that tarry long at the Wine. Who hath Contentions? Drink when abused breeds Quarrels, it causeth Duels. Who hath Babling? When one is in Drink, his Tongue runs, he will reveal any Secrets of his Friend. Who hath redness of Eyes? Redness of Eyes comes sometimes from Weeping, but too often from drinking; And what is the Issue? verse 32. at last the Wine bites like a Serpent, and stingeth like an Adder. The Wine smiles in the Glass, but stings in the Conscience. Drunkenness is a Sin against all the Ten Commandments.
1. Drunkenness casts off the true God: Hos. 4.11. Wine takes away the Heart: It takes the Heart off from God.
2. It makes the Belly a God, Phil. 3.19. To this the Drunkard pours Drink-Offerings; there’s a breach of the Second Commandment.
3. The Drunkard in his Cups takes God’s Name in Vain by his Oaths.
4. The Drunkard makes no difference of Days; he is seldom sober on a Sabbath; he on that Day worships Bacchus.
5. The Drunkard Honours neither his Natural Father, nor the Magistrate his Civil Father; he will be intemperate, though the Laws of the Land forbid it.
6. The Drunkard commits Murder. Alexander killed his Friend Clitus when he was Drunk, for whom he would have given half his Kingdom when he was Sober.
7. The Drunkard’s Wine provokes Lust. Austin calls Wine, Fomentum libidinis, the Inflamer of Lust. Nunquam ego ebrium castum putavi, I never did believe a drunken Man to be chast, saith St. Hierom.
8. The Drunkard is a Thief; he spends that Money upon his drunken Lust, which should have been given to charitable Uses; so he robs the Poor.
9. The Drunkard is a Slanderer; he cares not, when he is on the Ale Bench, how he doth defame and belye others; when he hath taken his full Cups, he is now fit to take a false Oath.
10. The Drunkard Sins against the Tenth Commandment; for he Covets to get another’s Estate, by Circumvention and Extortion, that he may be the better able to follow his drunken Trade. Thus he Sins against all the Ten Commandments.
If this Sin of Drunkenness be not reformed, I pray God the Sword be not made Drunk with Blood. And whereas some will go to shift off this Sin from themselves that they are no Drunkards, because they have not drunk away their Reason and Senses; they are not so far gone in drink that they cannot go: He is a Drunkard in the Scripture-sence, who is mighty to drink Wine, Isa. 5.22. He is a Drunkard (saith Solomon) that tarries long at the Wine, Prov. 23.30. He who sits at it from Morning to Night, that drinks away his precious Time, though he doth not drink away his Reason, he is a Drunkard that drinks more than doth him good, and that though he be not himself drunk, yet he makes another drunk: Hab. 2.15. Woe to him that gives his Neighbour drink, that puttest thy Bottle to him and makest him drunk. Oh! I beseech you be not in this like the Serpent, Lovers of Wine. This I fear is one cause why the Word Preached doth so little good on many in this City, they drink away Sermons, they do as the hunted Deer when it is wounded, runs to the Water and drinks; so when they have been at a Sermon, and the Arrow of Reproof hath wounded their Conscience, they run presently and drink away those Convictions; they steep the Sermon in Wine. The Tavern-Bell doth more hurt, than the Sermon Bell doth good. Thus you have seen wherein we should not be like Serpents.
II. Wherein we should be like the Serpent, and that is in Prudence and Wisdom: Be ye Wise as Serpents. The Serpent is a most prudent Creature, therefore the Devil made use of the Serpent to deceive our First Parents, because it was such a subtile Creature: Gen. 3.1. The Serpent was more subtile than any Beast of the Field. There is a Natural Wisdom and Subtilty in every part of the Serpent, and we should labour to imitate them, and be Wise as Serpents.
First, The Serpent hath a subtilty in his Eye, he hath a singular sharpness of sight; therefore among the Gracians, in non-Latin alphabet, a Serpent’s Eye, was a Proverbial Speech for one of a quick Understanding; in this we should be like the Serpent. Get the Serpent’s Eye, have a quick in-sight into the Mysteries of the Christian Religion. Knowledge is the Beauty and Ornament of a Christian, Prov. 14.18. The Prudent are Crowned with Knowledge. Get the Serpent’s Eye; be divinely illuminated. Faith without Knowledge is Presumption: Zeal without Knowledge is Passion: Prov. 19.2. without Knowledge the Mind is not good: For one to say he hath a good Heart who hath no Knowledge, is as if one should say he hath a good Eye when he hath no sight; in this be like the Serpent of a quick Understanding.
Secondly, The Serpent hath a Prudence and Subtilty in his Ear; the Serpent will not be deluded with the Voice of the Charmer, but stops its Ear: In this we must be Wise as Serpents, stop our Ears to false Teachers, who are the Devil’s Charmers.
1. We must stop our Ears to Arminian Teachers, who place the chief Power in the Will, as if that were the Helm that turns about the Soul in Conversion. 1 Cor. 4.7. Who maketh thee to differ from another? Ego me ipsum discerno, said Grevinchovius, I have made my self to differ. Be as the Serpent, stop your Ears to such Doctrine.
2. We must stop our Ears to Socinian Teachers, who raze the Foundation of all Religion, and deny Christ’s Divinity. This the Apostle calls a damnable Heresie, 2 Pet. 2.
3. We must stop our Ears to Popish Teachers, who teach Merit, Indulgencies, Transubstantiation, who teach that the Pope is the Head of the Church. Christ is called the Head of the Church, Eph. 5.23. For the Pope to be Head is to make the Church Monstrous, to have two Heads. Popish Teachers teach the People Nonsense and Blasphemy; they cause the People to Pray without Understanding, to Obey without Reason, to Believe without Sence; it is a damnable Religion; therefore worshiping the Beast, and drinking the Cup of God’s Indignation are put together, Rev. 14.9. Oh! in this be Wise as Serpents, stop your Ear to the charming of false Teachers. God hath given his People this Wisdom to stop their Ears to Hereticks: Joh. 10.5. A Stranger will they not follow, but flee from him.
The Serpent hath a chief care to defend his Head; a blow there is deadly; so in this we should be Wise as Serpents; our chief care should be to defend our head from Error. The Plague in the Head is worst. Loose Principles breed loose Practices. If the Head be tainted with Erroneous Opinions, That Believers are free a Lege Morali, That there is no Resurrection, That we may do Evil that Good may come of it; What Sin will not this lead to, or keep your Head? Error is a Spiritual Gangrene, 2 Tim. 2.17. which spreads, and if not presently cured, is Mortal. Heresies destroy the Doctrine of Faith, they rend the Mantle of the Churches Peace, and eat out the Heart of Religion. The Gnosticks, as Epiphanius observes, did not only pervert the Judgments of their Proselytes, but brought them at last to Corporeal Uncleanness. Error damns as well as Vice. Vice is like killing with a Pistol, and Error like killing with Poison. O be wise as Serpents, defend your Head. Be ye Wise as Serpents, and harmless as Doves.
Our Saviour Christ here commends to us the Wisdom of the Serpent, and the Innocency of the Dove. The Elect are call’d wise Virgins, Mat. 25.4. Virgins, there is the Dove: Wise, there is the Serpent. We must have Innocency with our Wisdom, else our Wisdom is but Craftiness; and we must have Wisdom with our Innocency, else our Innocency is but Weakness. We must have the Innocency of the Dove, that we may not circumvent others; and we must have the Wisdom of the Serpent, that others may not circumvent us.
Doctr. Christians must be both wise and innocent.
This Union of the Dove and the Serpent, is Hard to find, but, it is possible: Moses was learned in all the Wisdom of the Egyptians, Acts 7.22. There was the Prudence of the Serpent; and he was meek above all the Men upon the face of the Earth, Numb. 12.3. There was the Innocency of the Dove. But the most famous instance of Wisdom and Innocency, was in our Saviour; When the Iews came to him with an insnaring Question, Mark 12.14. Is it lawful to give Tribute to Caesar, or not? Christ answers wisely, v. 17. Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. Deny not Caesar his Civil Right, nor God his Religious Worship: Let your Loyalty be mixed with Piety; here he shew’d the Wisdom of the Serpent. And would you see Christ’s Innocency? 1 Pet. 2.22. There was no guile found in his mouth; who when he was reviled, reviled not again. He opened his Mouth in praying for his Enemies, but not in reviling them. Behold here the Innocency of the Dove.
Two Things I am to speak of; the Serpent, and the Dove.
I. The Serpent.
Quest. Wherein should we be like the Serpent?
Answ. In Prudence and Sagacity; Be ye wise as Serpents. The Serpent is the most prudent Creature; therefore the Devil made use of the Serpent to deceive our first Parents, Gen. 3.1. The Serpent was more subtil than any Beast of the Field. There’s a natural Wisdom and Subtilty in every part of the Serpent; and herein we should endeavour to imitate him. Be wise as Serpents.
1. The Serpent hath a subtilty in his Eye; he hath a singular sharpness of sight: therefore among the Grecians, in non-Latin alphabet, a Serpent’s Eye, was a Proverbial Speech for one of a quick understanding. In this we should be like the Serpent, have a quick in-sight into the Mysteries of the Gospel. Get the Serpent’s Eye. Prov. 10, 14. Wise men lay up knowledge. Faith without Knowledge is Presumption; Zeal without Knowledge is Frenzy.
2. The Serpent hath a Prudence and Subtilty in his Ear; the Serpent will not be deluded with the Voice of the Charmer, but stops its Ears: In this be wise as Serpents; stop your Ears from such as would discourage you from strict, holy walking. Some inspired by Satan, would raise prejudices against the Ways of God, that they are strew’d with Thorns of Mortification and Persecution. If you will be religious, you must hang your Harps upon the Willows, and bid Adieu to all Joy. Acts 28.22. This Sect is every where spoken against: Oh, be wise as Serpents! Stop your Ears to such as would discourage you from holy walking; they are the Devil’s Charmers. Godliness is the Root on which all true Joy grows; solid Joy, though not wanton. Psal. 138.5. Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the Lord. Acts 9.31. If we leave God, whither shall we go? When Saul left God, he went to the Witch of Endor, 1 Sam. 28.8.
3. The Serpent hath a Subtilty in its Wings; For Naturalists report, such Serpents are found in Aethiopia, as have Wings; and the Scripture mentions a fiery flying Serpent, Isa. 14.29. Which Wings denote the subtilty of the Serpent in the hasty prosecution of his Prey: In this be like the Serpent, in having winged Desires after heavenly Objects. Desire is the wing of the Soul, which sets it a flying: Hast after Ordinances; they are Pabulum Animae, the Food of the Soul; fly to them with Appetite; get the Serpent’s Wing. Psal. 122.1. Come, let us go up to the House of the Lord. We know not how long we shall enjoy the Blessings of the Sanctuary. When Manna was to cease on the seventh day, the People of Israel gathered twice as much on the sixth. If we have the Wisdom from above, we shall neglect no Season wherein we may get the Bread of Life broken to us.
4. Serpents have a Subtilty and Prudence in their drinking: before they drink, expuunt venenum, they cast up their Poison. In this we should be wise as Serpents; before we come to Ordinances, we should cast up the Poison of Sin by Repentance. If a Man takes Opium or Mercury, a Cordial will do him no good: So, as long as Men feed on their Sins, Ordinances will do them no good; nay, much hurt; they eat and drink their own Damnation: In this therefore let us be Wise as Serpents, cast up the Poison of Sin, before we come to drink of the Waters of the Sanctuary.
5. The Serpent hath a Subtilty in his whole Body, which he wraps together like a Circle to defend his Head; a Blow on his Head is deadly, and his chief Policy is to safeguard his Head: In this let us learn of the Serpent, our chief care should be to defend our Head from Error; the Apostle calls them damnable Heresies, 2 Pet. 2.1. they destroy the Doctrine of Faith, rend the Coat of the Churches Peace, and eat out the Heart of Religion. Let us as the Serpent defend our Head. Let us keep our Head from Socinian Opinions, who deny the Deity of Christ; from Popish Opinions, Merit, Image-Worship, Transubstantiation; Papists cause the People to Pray without Understanding, to Obey without Reason, to Believe against Sense: Have a care to defend your Head from being tainted with Popish Aphorisms. Thus you see wherein we should be like the Serpent, in Prudence and Sagacity.
II. The Second thing I am to speak of is the Dove; be harmless as Doves. The Dove is an excellent Creature; it was so acceptable, that in the old Law God would have the Dove offered in Sacrifice: The Holy Ghost, when he would appear in a visible shape, assumed the likeness of a Dove, Matth. 3.16. We should be as Doves in Three Respects.
In Respect of
I. In respect of Meekness. The Dove is the Emblem of Meekness; ’tis sine Felle, without Gall; we should be as Doves for Meekness, we must avoid unruly Passion, which is brevis Insania, a short Frenzy; we must be without the Gall of Bitterness and Revenge; we must be of mild Spirits, Praying for our Enemies: So Stephen, Act. 7.60. Lord, lay not this Sin to their charge. This Dove like Meekness is the best Jewel and Ornament we can wear: 1 Pet. 3.4. The Ornament of a meek Spirit, which is in the sight of God of great Price. Passion doth disguise, Meekness adorns.
II. We should be as Doves for Innocency.
The Innocency of the Dove is seen in Two Things.
1. Not to Deceive.
2. Not to Hurt.
1. Not to Deceive. The Dove is as without Gall, so without Guile; it doth not deceive or lie at the catch. Thus we should be as the Dove, without Fraud and Craft. There is an Holy Simplicity commendable; Rom. 16.19. I would have you Simple concerning Evil; to be a Bungler at Sin, not to have the Art to Beguile•; this is a good Simplicity; as Nathanael, in whose Spirit there was no guile Joh. 1.42. Where almost is this Dove-like innocency to be found? We live in an Age wherein there are more Foxes than Doves: Persons are full of Guile, they study nothing but Fallacies, that one knows not how to deal with them; Psal. 12.2. With a double Heart do they speak.
2. Not to hurt. The Dove rostro non laedit; the Dove hath no Horns or Talons to hurt, only Wings to defend it self by flight: Other Creatures are commonly well armed; the Lion hath his Paw, the Boar its Tusk, the Stagg its Horns; but the Dove is a most harmless Creature, it hath nothing wherewith to offend. Thus we should be as Doves for Harmlesness: We should not do wrong to others, but rather suffer wrong. Such a Dove was Samuel, 1 Sam. 12.3. Whose Ox have I taken, or whose Ass have I taken, or whom have I defrauded? He did not get Mens Estates into his hands, or raise himself upon the Ruine of others. How rare is it to find such Doves? Sure they are flown away. How many Birds of Prey are there? Micah 7.2. They all lie in wait for Blood, they hunt every Man his Brother with a Net. These are not Doves, but Vultures; they travel with mischief, and are in pain till they bring forth.
III. We should be as Doves for Purity. The Dove is the Emblem of Purity; it loves the purest Air; it feeds on pure Grain: The Raven fed on the Carkass, but the Dove feeds pure. Thus let us be as Doves for Sanctity, cleansing our selves from all pollution both of Flesh and Spirit, 2 Cor. 7.1. Christ’s Dove is pure: Cant. 5.2. My Dove, my undefiled. Let us keep pure among dregs. 1 Tim. 5.22. Keep thy self pure. Better have a Rent in the Flesh, than an Hell in the Conscience. The Dove is a chast, pure Creature: Let us be Doves for Purity.
Vse 1. See here the Nature of a good Christian; he is wise and innocent: He hath so much of the Serpent, that he doth not forfeit his discretion, and so much of the Dove, that he doth not defile his Conscience. A godly man is look’d upon by a carnal Eye, as weak and indiscreet, as having something of the Dove, but nothing of the Serpent. To believe things not seen, to chuse Suffering, rather than Sin, this is counted Folly: But the World is mistaken in a Believer; he hath his Eyes in his Head; he knows what he doth; he is prudent as well as holy; he is wise that finds the Pearl of price; he is wise that provides for Eternity; he is the wisest man that hath wit to save his Soul; he is wise that makes him his Friend who shall be his Judge. The godly man acts both the Politician, and the Divine; he retains his Ingenuity; yet doth not part with his Integrity.
Vse 2. Reproof. It reproves them who have too much of the Serpent, but nothing of the Dove. Ier. 4.22. Wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. These are like the Devil, who retains his Subtilty, but not his Innocency. We have many in this Age like the Serpent for Craftiness. Dan. 8.25. Through policy he shall cause Craft to prosper. Men have the Head-piece of Subtilty, but want the Breast-plate of Honesty; they are wise to contrive Sin, to forge Plots, to study Compliance, rather than Conscience: The Port they aim at, is Preferment; the Compass they sail by, is Policy; the Pilot that steers them, is Satan. These have the Craftiness of the Serpent: They are wise to do evil.
2. They are like the Serpent for Mischief. You know the Fiery Serpents did sting Israel. These have the sting of the Serpent; they have a sting in their Tongues, stinging the People of God with bitter Slanders and Invectives, calling them Factious and Seditious; and they sting with their Indictments and Excommunications, Gal. 4.29. Such stinging Serpents were Nero, Dioclesian, and Julian; and their Spirit is yet alive in the world. These have too much of the Serpent in them, but nothing of the Dove. 2 Pet. 2.3. Their Damnation slumbereth not.
Vse 3. Exhortation. To put in practice our Saviour’s Counsel in the Text; join the Serpent and the Dove together, Wisdom and Holiness: Here lies the Knot; this is the great difficulty, to unite these two together, the Serpent and the Dove, Prudence and Innocency: If you separate these two, you spoil all.
Quest. Wherein doth a Christian join these two together, the Serpent and the Dove, Prudence and Holiness?
Answ. This I shall answer in Twelve Particulars.
1. To be wise and innocent, consists in this; To be sensible of an injury, yet not revenge it. A Christian is not a Stoick, nor yet a Fury; he is so wise, that he knows when an Injury is done him; but so holy, that he knows how to pass it by. This is in non-Latin alphabet , a most excellent temper of Soul; I had almost said, Angelical. As the Wind doth allay the heat of the Air, so Grace doth allay the heat of Revenge. Moses herein shew’d a mixture of the Serpent and the Dove: Miriam murmured against him. Numb. 12.2. Hath the Lord spoken only by Moses? Is he the only Prophet to declare God’s Mind to us Moses was so wise as to discern her Pride, and slighting of him; yet so meek, as to bury the injury: When God struck her with Leprosie, he prays for her. Numb. 12.13. Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee. And upon his Prayer, she was cured of her Leprosie. A good Christian hath so much Wisdom as to discern his Enemy’s Malice; but so much Grace as to conquer his own: He knows it is the Glory of a Man to pass by a Transgression, Prov. 19.11. Though a Christian hath so much Prudence as to vindicate himself, yet so much Goodness, as not to avenge himself. Behold here the Serpent and the Dove united; Sagaity and Innocency.
2. The mixing Wisdom and Innocency, is seen in this; To be humble, but not base: Humility is part of the Dove’s Innocency. 1 Pet. 5.5. Be ye cloathed with Humility. St. Paul, though the chief of the Apostles, calls himself the least of Saints.
A gracious Soul hath low Thoughts of himself, and carries himself lowly toward others; but though he be humble, he is not base; though he will not saucily resist his Superiours, he will not sinfully humour them: Though he will not do such proud Actions, as to make his Enemies hate him; yet he will not do such sordid Actions as to make them despise him: Here is the Serpent and the Dove united.
A good Christian is so humble, as to oblige others; but not so unworthy, as to disobey God. St. Paul, as far as he could with a good Conscience, did become all things to all, that he might save some, 1 Cor. 9.20, 22. But he would not break a Commandment to gratifie any. When God’s Glory lay at stake, who more resolute than Paul? Gal. 2.5. The Three Children were humble; they gave the King his Title of Honour; but they were not sordidly timorous. Dan. 3.18. Be it known unto thee, O King, we will not serve thy Gods. Though they shew’d Reverence to the King’s Person, yet no Reverence to the Image he set up. A good Christian will not do any thing below himself; though he is for obeying of Laws, yet he will not prostitute himself to Mens Lusts. He is humble; there he shews the Innocency of the Dove; but not base, there he shews the Wisdom of the Serpent.
3. The Prudence of the Serpent, and Innocency of the Dove is seen in this; to reprove the Sin, yet love the Person. We are commanded to reprove; Levit 19.17. Thou shalt not hate thy Brother in thy heart; thou shalt rebuke him, and not suffer Sin upon him. Not to reprove Sin, is to approve it: But this Sword of Reproof is a dangerous Weapon if it be not well handled: To reprove, and yet love, is to act both the Serpent and the Dove.
Quest. How may a Christian so reprove Sin, as to shew Love to the Person?
Answ. 1. In taking a fit season to reprove another; that is, when his Anger is over: As when God did rebuke Adam, he came to him in the cool of the Day, Gen. 3.8. So when we are to reprove any, we are to come to them when their Spirits are more cool, and fit to receive a Reproof. To reprove a Man when he is in a Passion, is to give Strong Water in a Fever; it doth more hurt than good. By observing a fit season, we shew both Prudence and Holiness; we discover as well Discretion as Affection.
2. Reproving Sin, so as to shew Love to the Person, is seen in this; when, though we tell him plainly of his Sin, yet it is in mild, not provoking Words. 2 Tim. 2.25. In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves. Peter tells the Jews plainly of their Sin in crucifying Christ; but useth Suasive and Gospel-Lenitives, to allure and encourage them to believe. Acts. 2.23. Him ye have taken, and by wicked hands crucified. ver. 38. Repent, and be baptised in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin; for the Promise is to you and to your Children. Reproof is a bitter Pill, and hard to swallow; therefore we must dip it in Sugar, use those sweet mollifying expressions, that others may see Love coming along with the Reproof. David compares Reproof to Oil, Psal. 141.5. Oil supples the Joints when they are hard and stiff: Our Reproofs being mixed with the Oil of Compassion, they work most kindly, and do most soften stiff, obdurate Hearts.
3. Reproving Sin, yet Love to the Person, is when the End of our Reproof is not to Revile him, but to Reclaim him. While we go to heal men’s Consciences, we must take heed of wounding their Names. The Chirurgeon in opening a Vein, shews both Skill and Love; Skill, in not cutting an Artery; and Love, in letting out the bad Blood: Here is the mixing the Serpent and the Dove; the Wisdom of the Serpent is seen, in not reproaching the Sinner the Innocency of the Dove is seen in reclaiming him from Sin.
4. Prudence and Holiness is seen in this; to know what we and do what we know. To know what we should do, there the Wisdom the Serpent; to do what we know, there is the innocency of the Dove. Knowledge is a Jewel him that wear is the and of the Mind Knowledge in non-Latin alphabet, the Eye of the Soul to guide it in the right way; but this Knowledge must be joyn’d with holy to separate Practice from Knowledge, is to separate the Dove from the Serpent. Many illuminated Heads can discourse fluently in Matters of Religion; but they do not live up to their knowledge: This is to have good Eyes, but to have the Feet cut off: They know they should not break the Sabbath, they should not defame or defraud; but they do not practise what they know: Here they separate the Dove from the Serpent; Vertue from Knowledge. How vain is Knowledge without Practice! As if one should know a Sovereign Medicine, and not apply it. Satan is a knowing Spirit, he hath enough of the Serpent; but that which makes him a Devil is, he wants the Dove, he doth not practise Holiness.
5. To mix the Serpent and the Dove is to keep two Trades going. To understand worldly Affairs, there is the Wisdom of the Serpent; yet not neglect the Soul, there is the Innocency of the Dove. God hath said, Six Days shalt thou Labour, Exod. 20.9. Religion did never grant a Patent to idleness: There is a Lawful Care to be had about Secular Things: To have insight into one’s Calling is a commendable Wisdom; but with this wisdom joyn the Dove’s Innocency; so follow your Calling as not to neglect your Soul. The Soul is a precious thing, in non-Latin alphabet , it would beggar the Angels to give half the price of a Soul. Our greatest care should be to get Grace. While you put Gold in your Bag, do not forget to put Oil in your Vessel. Trade beyond the East Indies. Drive a Trade of Holiness. This Merchandice is better than the Merchandice of Silver, Prov. 3.14. Live in a Calling, but especially live by Faith. Look to the providing for your Families, but especially to the saving of your Souls. The Soul is the Angelical part; the loss of this can never be made up again. God, saith Chrysostom, hath given a Man two Eyes, if he lose one Eye he hath another; but he hath but one Soul, if he lose that it is irrecoverable, it can never be made up again. O unite the Serpent and the Dove, Prudence and Holiness; use the World, but love your Soul: Trade on Earth, but beware of breaking in your Trade for Heaven. How many part these two, the Serpent and the Dove? they are wise for the World, but Fools for their Souls. ‘Tis too often seen that Men pull down their Souls to build up an Estate.
6. To join the Serpent and the Dove, Prudence and Innocency, consists in this, To know how to give Counsel, and how to keep Counsel. He hath the Wisdom of the Serpent that can give Counsel, he knows how to advise another in difficult cases, and speak a Word in due season: 2 Sam. 16.23. The Counsel of Achitophel was as if a Man had enquired at the Oracle of God. But this is not enough to have the Wisdom of the Serpent, in being able to give Counsel; but there must be the Innocency of the Dove too in keeping Counsel. If a Friend’s secret be imparted to us (unless in case of Blood) we are not to reveal it. A Friend is alter idem, as one’s own Soul, Deut. 13.6. And what he imparts of his Heart should be kept under Lock and Key. Prov. 25.9. Discover not a Secret to another, lest he that hear thee put thee to shame, &c. To disclose a Friend’s secrets, though it be not Treason, it is Treachery; it is most Unchristian; a Word may be spoken in secret, which when it is Trumpeted out, may occasion Quarrels or Law-suits. He that cannot keep a Matter committed to him, is like a Vessel that runs out, or a sick Stomach that cannot keep the Meat but brings it up again. He that publisheth his Friends secret, doth publish his own shame.
7. To mix these two, Prudence and Holiness, is to know the Seasons of Grace and improve them. To know the Seasons of Grace, there’s the Wisdom of the Serpent. ‘Tis Wisdom in an Husband-Man to know the fit time for pruning of Trees, sowing of Seed; so it is no less Wisdom to know the Golden Seasons of Grace: While we hear the joyful Sound, while we have praying Hours, while the Spirit of God blows on our Hearts, here is a Gale for Heaven. The day of Grace will not always last; the Shadows of the Evening seem to be stretched out; Things look as if the Gospel tended a-pace to a Sun-setting. Be Wise as Serpents to know what a prize is put in your Hands; and with the Serpent joyn the Dove; that is, in improving the Seasons of Grace: The Stork and Turtle not only know their Season, but improve it; they approach to the warmer Climate against Spring, saith Pliny: Here is the Serpent and Dove united, knowing and improving the Day of Grace; when we profit by Ordinances, when we mix the Word with Faith, when an Ordinance hath stamped Holiness upon us, as the Seal leaves its print upon the Wax. This is to improve the Seasons of Grace.
8. The Serpent and the Dove, Wisdom and Innocency, is to be moderate yet zealous. Moderation is good in some cases. Phil. 4.5. Let your Moderation be known to all.
First, Moderation is good in case of Anger. When the Passions are up, Moderation sits as Queen and Governess in the Soul; it allays the Heat of Passion. Moderation is Fraenum Irae, the Bridle of Anger.
Secondly, Moderation is good in case of Law-Suits; so the Greek Word for Moderation, in non-Latin alphabet , is properly taken. If there be a Dispute in Law, between us and others, we are not to take the Extremity of the Law, but use Christian Equity and Mildness; nay, for Peace sake, cedere de Iure, rather part with some of our right than oppress them; this much Honours the Gospel.
Thirdly, Moderation is good in Things indifferent. Things ought not to be rigorously imposed in God’s Worship, which are not of Divine Injunction; God never made Governours of the Church to be like Pilots of a Ship, to steer Men’s Consciences which way they please. Moderation and Christian Forbearance in Things indifferent, would much tend to the Peace and Unity of the Church. All this Moderation is commendable, and shows the Wisdom of the Serpent; but remember to joyn the Dove with the Serpent: We must so exercise Moderation as withal to cherish Zeal. St. Paul in some things was moderate, he did not press Circumcision, Act. 15.25. He was tender of laying a Yoke upon the Consciences of the Disciples; but he had Zeal with his Moderation; when he saw their Idolatry at Athens, the Fire of his Zeal broke forth. Acts 17.16. His Spirit was stirred in him. ‘Twas good advice Calvin gave to Melancthon, that he should not so affect the Name of Moderate, as to lose all his Zeal. To be cool and silent, when God’s Blessed Truths are undermined or adulterated, is not Moderation, but Luke-warmness, which is to God a most hateful temper, Rev. 3.15. I would you were cold or hot, any thing but Luke-warm. This is to shew Prudence and Holiness, when we are Moderate yet Zealous.
9. To Unite Serpent and Dove, consists in this, when we defend the Truth by Argument, and adorn it by Life. Defending the Truth is the Serpent’s Wisdom. An intelligent Christian can in non-Latin alphabet, convince Gainsayers. This Wisdom of the Serpent was eminently in Stephen. Act. 6.9. There arose certain of the Synagogue, disputing with Stephen, and they were not able to resist the Wisdom and the Spirit by which he spake. We read in the Acts and Monuments of the Church, John Fryth, Martyr, being opposed by three Papists, he, like another Hercules, fighting with all three at once, did by his Wisdom so convince them, that one of them turned from Popery and became a zealous Protestant: Herein is the Wisdom of the Serpent, not only to love them that profess the Truth, but silence them that oppose it: But with this Wisdom of the Serpent there must be joyned the Dove; together with defending the Truth by Argument, there must be adorning it by Life, Tit. 2.10. That they may adorn the Doctrine of God our Saviour. There are some who can dispute for the Truth, but disgrace it by their bad living. This is to act both the Serpent and the Dove, when we not only plead for the Truth, but walk in the Truth; like Nazianzen; of whom it was said he did Thunder in his Doctrine, and Lighten in his Conversation.
10. The uniting the Serpent and the Dove, is to be Serious in Religion, yet Cheerful. Seriousness puts the Heart in an Holy Frame, it fixeth it on God. Seriousness is to the Soul, as Ballast to the Ship, it keeps the Soul from being overturned with Vanity. The Heart is ever best when it is serious; but this Seriousness in Religion must be mixed with Cheerfulness. Cheerfulness conduceth to Health, Prov. 17.22. it Honours Religion, it proclaims to the World we serve a good Master. Cheerfulness is a Friend to Grace, it puts the Heart in Tune to praise God, Psal. 71.23. Unchearful Christians, like the Spies, bring an evil report on the Good Land: Others suspect there’s something unpleasant in Religion, that they who profess it hang their Harps upon the Willows, and walk so dejectedly. Be serious yet cheerful Phil. 4.4. Rejoyce in the Lord always. Why was Christ anointed, but to give the Oyl of Joy for Mourning? Isa. 61.1. Joy is as well a Fruit of the Spirit as Faith, Gal. 5.22. One way of grieving the Spirit (saith Heinsius) is by Christians unchearful walking: If you would render the Gospel lovely, mix the Dove and the Serpent, be serious yet chearful in God.
11. The uniting of the Serpent and the Dove, Wisdom and Holiness, consists in this, when we so lay up, as we lay out. ‘Tis a Duty to provide for our Charge; 1 Tim. 5.8. If any provide not for his own he is worse than an Infidel: To lay up for our Family, here’s the Wisdom of the Serpent; but we must lay out for the Poor two, here’s the mixture of the Dove. 1 Tim. 6.17. Charge them that are rich in the World that they do Good, that they be rich in Good Works. The Poor Man is as it were an Altar, if we bring our Alms and lay upon it, with such Sacrifices God is well pleased. Faith though it hath sometimes a trembling Hand, it must not have a withered Hand; but must stretch forth it self to Works of Mercy: There’s nothing lost by Charitableness: Prov. 11.25. The liberal Soul shall be made fat. Psal. 41.1. Blessed is he that considereth the Poor, thou wilt make all his Bed in his Sickness. While Men do so remember their Family, that they do not forget the Poor, they show both Prudence and Piety; they unite the Serpent and the Dove.
12. The Serpent’s Wisdom and the Dove’s Innocency is seen in this, so to avoid Danger, as not to commit Sin; to preserve our Liberty, yet keep our Integrity. There’s a sinful escaping Danger, namely, when we are called to suffer for the Truth, and we decline it: But there’s an escaping Danger without Sin, as thus, when we do not betray our selves into the Enemies Hands by rashness, nor yet betray the Truth by Cowardice; we have a Pattern of this in our Saviour, he avoided his Enemies in one place that he might Preach the Gospel in another. Luk. 4.30. They brought him to the brow of the Hill, that they might cast him down headlong; but he passing through the midst of them went his way: There was Christ’s Wisdom in not betraying himself to his Enemy. And ver. 43. I must Preach to other Cities also: There was his Holiness. Christ’s securing of himself, was in order to the Preaching of the Gospel. This is to mix Prudence and Innocency, when we so avoid Danger as we do not commit Sin.
Thus I have, as briefly and as clearly as I could, shown you how we must unite these Two, the Serpent and the Dove, Prudence and Holiness: For want of Coupling these two together, Religion doth much suffer in the Christian World. What Christ hath joyn’d together, let no Man put asunder. Observe these two, Prudence and Holiness; here is the Serpent’s Eye in the Dove’s Head. When these Two, Wisdom and Innocency (like Castor and Pollux) appear together, they presage much Good and Happiness that will befall a Christian.