Matthew 10:20
No two creatures are more opposite to one another in nature. The serpent eyes the dove with greedy desire; the dove looks at the serpent with the fascination of horror. The serpent is the symbol of the evil spirit; the dove is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, each has exemplary lessons to teach, and the most dove-like soul will be imperfect if something of the serpent is lacking.

I. ALL THE WORLD IS FULL OF EXAMPLES FOR CHRISTIAN CONDUCT. We must be struck with our Lord's freedom in the use of materials for illustrating his teaching. Seeing truth clearly, and living in a spiritual atmosphere of purity, he was in no danger of being misled by the errors and evils around him; he was able to find the good in everything - even to suck honey, so to speak, from the deadly nightshade. The truer and loftier our soul is, the wider will be the range from which we can derive a wholesome diet. It is only the sick man who must be shut up in a hospital, and it is only the sick soul that craves conventual seclusion for the preservation of its purity. Jesus could even go beyond the darker side of nature and find emblems in evil men. He compared himself to a thief (Matthew 24:43, 44). He bade his disciples imitate an unjust steward (Luke 16:2, etc.). But we want the Christ-spirit to see "good in everything," and to extract the soul of goodness from things evil without carrying away some of the evil. A degraded nature sees evil everywhere - contrives to obtain the poison of the asp even from the innocent dove, finds Delilah in a Madonna.

II. THE SERVANT OF CHRIST NEEDS VARIED GRACES.

1. The wisdom of serpents. In Egyptian symbolism, which gives us serpents coiled about the throne of a sovereign, and, indeed, in the practices of nations in all quarters of the globe, we see the repulsive reptile regarded as of threefold significance - as the emblem of eternity, as the representative of guile, and as the incarnation of evil. It is the second of these characteristics that our Lord here selects. We know that he never encourages deceit. But mental alertness, keenness of observation, and nimbleness of thought are invaluable gifts even for Christian work. We should consecrate intelligence in the service of Christ. There is no virtue in dulness. Stupidity is not sanctity.

2. The harmlessness of doves. This is a negative quality. But it is not less important than the positive intelligence. The shaft of wit may wound where no unkindness is intended. A serpent-like subtlety of mind is a most dangerous faculty. It is valuable; but it is only safe when it is balanced by a dove-like gentleness of disposition.

3. The combination of varied graces. The point of our Lord's recommendation is in the union of two very different characteristics. The common danger is that we should select one to the neglect of the other. There are men of mind who lack heart, and there are affectionate creatures who weary us with their senseless ineptitude. The serpent is an awful ideal if it is selected by itself. Its prophet is Machiavelli, and its hero Mepifistopheles. But the dove alone will not suggest the most perfect saint; its gentleness may be feeble. Yet too often people choose one or the other as their ideal of perfection. Christ blends the two in himself; he is skilful in confounding the clever scribes by keen replies, and he is meek and gentle, harmless and undefiled. - W.F.A.







For it is not ye that speak.
The text applied —

I. To THE APOSTLES.

1. The primary reference is to the apostles.

2. The fact of the Spirit of the Father speaking in the apostles is evident from the effects produced by their word.

II. To OURSELVES.

1. This is the dispensation of the Spirit.

2. The minister of the Spirit prepares diligently for his pulpit ministrations.

(C. Clayton, M. A.)

The disciples were a helpless body of men for thinking purposes, and could not imagine beforehand, in their simplicity and rudeness and ignorance, what would be best for them; but if they gave themselves wholly to the ministry of Christ, and then were called before magistrates, it would be given them in that hour what they should say. The range of saying was very limited. It was not that they should understand all theology, providence, learning; but the power of self-defence against magistrates. They were to maintain innocency and simplicity; not to be tricked into casuistry.

1. The nation and times from which the sacred Scriptures came were anterior to the philosophizing period which was ushered in later. Facts, events, things, emotions, belong to the periods which generated the Scriptures.

2. Every man recognizes the fact that the mind acts with different degrees of clearness and certainty under different conditions. The range of the eye is limited, but in perfect health you can see more clearly than when health is impaired; also when atmospheric conditions are favourable. So it is with faculty. The faculties of the mind have a wonderful power of development. The limit to which you can draw out the mind — for that is the meaning of education — is immense. But that is not the only limit of the expansible faculties of the mind. They are subject to instantaneous development. As a grain of powder, which is small, but which, when touched by fire, expands instantly into a thousand times its bulk and diameter, and generates a power that was unsuspected before, so the mental faculties can be touched with a fire that shall give them an immense flash and scope and penetration utterly unlike the ordinary experience of men in life.

(Beecher.)

There is a latent spirit of prophecy in everybody who is highly organized. This action of the mind is seen in lower forms. Take, for example, the inspiration which fear breeds. If a man's leading idea is gold, he has an instinct by which he avoids things unfavourable. Others work on the plane of philosophical power. Scholars have the "critical judgment." These flashings of inspiration are of the highest value; in business, art. There may be error in these intuitions; so there is in ordinary experience. These flashes of prophecy should be corrected.

1. The primary benefit that comes from these moral intuitions is comfort and direction of the individual. They clear his reason, they furnish an ideal; they redeem him from bondage.

2. These inspirations work mostly beyond the senses, in the invisible. Is it unreasonable to expect a certain degree of excitability of mind in the Divine realm?

(Beecher.)

A man is walking sluggishly home, and thinking of the drudgery of the day, and he hears the fire-bell, and instantly he says, "Why, that is my district; how did I leave things?" Instantly he thinks of the way in which he left his shop and the tire; and then he says to himself, "If it is there, what treasure I have in that shop, open and exposed! Why, there is powder there!" In an instant that man, not by any slow process of analyzing, but with a flash, thinks of a thousand things; and they are all material things; they are not higher thoughts and realities at all.

(Beecher.)

Of course, when the flash of inspiration comes to a man in practical matters, there must be material for it to illuminate or act upon. If in a gallery of pictures there is a central electric fire, and the light flashes into the room, a spectator who has a liking for pictures, standing there, feels the inspiration in a minute; and if the light instantly goes out, he exclaims, "I have seen them: I know them; let the light go out;" but if a man is in an empty room, where there is nothing on the walls, if the light were to flash, he might look around and not know anything more than he did before. Let a man store his mind with knowledge, with facts, with realities, with materials of various kinds, and then, when swelling, flashing revelations come, he has something for them to inspire; but they never inspire emptiness or ignorance; they merely give to what a man does know, facts, principles, materials, spiritual or ethical forms and proportions and revelatory power for the future.

(Beecher.)

We know, too, that these intuitions, these flashes of prophecy should be corrected. We dig gold out of a vein, and we know that there is dross in it. Gold absolutely pure is seldom found anywhere; but we do not reject the ore if there is only ninety per cent. of gold in it. I think that men who buy dry mines, and spend good money on nothing at all, ought to be willing to take a mine that has ninety per cent. of pure metal in it. If it has fifty per cent. or forty per cent., or even twenty per cent., it is worth working: it more than pays expenses.

(Beecher.)

Never perhaps has this promise been more clearly fulfilled than in the case of Luther before the Diet of Worms. The intrepid monk, who had hitherto boldly braved all his enemies, spoke on this occasion, when he found himself in the presence of those who thirsted for his blood, with calmness, dignity, and humility. There was no exaggeration, no mere human enthusiasm, no anger; overflowing with the liveliest emotion, he was still at peace; modest, though withstanding the powers of the earth; great in presence of all the grandeur of the world. This is an indisputable mark that Luther obeyed God, and not the suggestions of his own pride. In the hall of the Diet there was One greater than Charles and than Luther.

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