A Feast for Serpents Being the substance of a sermon, preached at the Obelisk Chapel, on Sunday evening, March 21, 1813 by Church, J. (John)

Transcribed from the 1813 R. Thomas edition {0} by David Price, email ccx074@pglaf.org

[Picture: Public domain book cover]

A Feast for Serpents,



Preached at the Obelisk Chapel,

On SUNDAY Evening, March 21, 1813,

Published by Desire—and addressed to all whom it may concern.

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BY J. CHURCH, Minister of the Gospel.

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SAVIOUR.—_Ye Serpents_, _ye Generation of Vipers_.

HOSEA iv, 8.—_They eat up the Sin of my People_, _and they set their heart on their Iniquity_.

ISAIAH.—_He feedeth on Ashes_.

JEREM.—_Against him that bendeth let the Archer lend his Bow_.

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Printed by R. THOMAS, RED LION STREET, Borough.


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_TO the Church of Jesus Christ_, _who are loved with an everlasting love_, _chosen in Christ before all worlds_—_redeemed by the blood of the Lamb_—_and effectually called out of darkness into marvellous light_; _led by the providence of God to attend the ministry of so unworthy an instrument as myself_, _to whom God has made my labors useful_, _and profitable for reformation_, _conviction_, _conversion_, _building up_, _and spiritual consolation_. _Having been much tried and perplexed by men of corrupt minds_, _who have long endeavoured to prejudice me_, _with a view to separate us one from the other_, _but they have hitherto failed_—_having grace given you to continue with me in my temptations_, _to abide in the furnace of affliction with me_, _and to stand in the evil day_. _The good hand of God_, _restoring a degree of peace to us_, _so that we can pass to our Meeting Place of Worship unmolested_,—_I think it right_, _and that I am in duty bound_ (_though you have not demanded it_) _to make a few general remarks upon the subjects which have agitated the public_, _and not a little distressed your minds_.

_I wish you most decidedly to bear in mind thro’ the whole of this performance_, _that I write only for your sakes_—_I write not for the worldling_, _whose heart is set on the things of time and sense_, _who_, Gallio _like_, _cares for none of these things_, _except it be to pass an unpleasant sneer at us_.—_I write not for the proud Pharisee_, _or the mere Formalist_, _who have a name to live and are dead_—_I write not for Hypocrites_, _whose end will be according to their work_, _and who are a perpetual plague to the Household of Faith_—_Wolves in Sheep’s cloathing_, _who cover the vilest principles and conduct with the garb of apparent holiness_!—_but I write for those who know the plague of the heart_; _the vanity of the world_; _the emptiness of the creature_; _the danger of a form of godliness without the power_; _the spirituality of God’s most holy Law_; _the preciousness of a dear Redeemer_; _the power of the word_; _the manifestation of the atonement_. _These characters so graciously taught_, _must be under the influence of divine love_—_the remnant that shall not do iniquity_, _nor speak lies_—_neither is a deceitful tongue found in their mouths_; _but they feed on the bread of eternal life_, _and can not be satisfied without it_. _To these Characters I dedicate this book_; _and not doubting but it will procure me many foes_, _and stir up that carnal enmity which they are the slaves of_, _for them I would put up that charitable prayer of our Lord_, “_Father forgive them_;”—_and of you I would use the fine language of the blessed Apostle_—_And now_, _Brethren_, _I commend you to God_, _&c._—_Acts xx_.



IT is a most undoubted truth, that, as in the planetary system one star differs from another in glory, so it is in the Church of God—though the elect are loved alike, chosen and provided for alike, and shall all be partakers of the same glory in ultimate bliss—the infant who died this day, and the mind of the apostle Paul will be alike there; yet, in the Church Militant it is not so. God the divine Spirit, is a sovereign in all his dispensations; and while some of the people of God have scarcely been known here, but through the solitary lane of life, have pursued the noiseless tenor of their way—treasures hid in the sand—a Sparrow alone—a Pelican of the Wilderness—and, as finely described by one of our Poets—

Full many a gem, of purest ray serine, The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear: Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, And lose its sweetness in the desert air.

But though this is the case with many, yet some have been more highly favored, and shone with peculiar lustre in the Church of God. All the Prophets testified of the adorable Redeemer, but Isaiah shines like a star of the first magnitude. His name signifies the Salvation of God; and he was a type of the great Prophet of the Church of God. It is said, but without any probable ground, he was the cousin of King Uzziah, in the latter end of whose reign he began his predictions. His qualifications were great, and his writings truly sublime, yet his success was but small. A minister of small talents may be more successful in his public work than a man of greater, but this is according to the sovereign good-will and pleasure of God.—After this great Prophet had borne his testimony for God and truth about forty-five years, he died a martyr, perhaps sawn asunder with a wooden saw, under the reign of Manassah. He clearly foretels the incarnation of our Lord; and probably he was the first to whom it was revealed that the Messiah should be born of a virgin. His mind was led to trace him through a life of sorrows, while he foretels his most intimate acquaintance would be _grief_—acquainted with grief, but his reward would be glorious. His name should be great in all the world, and everlasting honours paid him, as God-man Mediator.—This was the joy set before him, for which he endured the Cross, and thought light of the shame—the Father hath therefore highly exalted him, and given him a name above every other, that at his name every knee should bow, if not in this world to the sceptre of his grace and mercy, they shall to his iron rod in hell.

The chapter from whence the text is selected is very singular, yet truly important. The Prophet is led to foretel the base conduct of the Jews in rejecting the Gospel, the Saviour, and his Apostles—the casting away of that nation; the provoking them to jealousy by a foolish nation, in the calling a people that did not seek after him, or expect it. These things are clearly pointed out in the seven first verses. Then, lest the truly godly should fear being cut off, the Lord graciously promises he would take care of them, when the rest should be numbered to the sword; they are the seed, the blessed of the Lord. A line of distinction is drawn between God’s servants and those rejecters of the Saviour, from the 13th to the 16th verse. The Holy Ghost then leads the mind of the Prophet to the future glory of the Church in the thousand years reign—_For behold I create new heavens and a new earth_, which will be a state of joy and comfort. This new heavens and earth must refer, literally, to the personal reign of Christ on earth; for the apostle Peter says (it is written) and to this passage he must refer. After the old heaven and earth are passed away, then a new region will be created, suited to the glorified bodies of the saints—and a new earth, where Christ and his saints will dwell personally a thousand years—_one day with the Lord_—the true sabbatic year. The Prophet having intimated this, goes on to shew what will take place previous to this reign, even a spiritual reign, in the universal knowledge of our Lord—long life; no weeping over dead children; no oppression of each other’s houses or lands; but all temporal prosperity and spiritual success—speedy answers to prayer; and even, perhaps, the brute creation will be tamed, and brought into the same subjection as before the fall—Hail! happy period! the Lord hasten it in his time.

This spiritual reign will be very different from the Millennium, though many good men suppose it the same thing; but the Millennium will be a perfect state, this will not. The Millennium will be after the resurrection of the just, this will be before it. The Millennium will be the personal reign of Christ, but this will be spiritual; just as it is now, in the heart—in the Church, in Doctrines and Ordinances, but with an amazing increase of light, life, love, and holiness; when, no doubt, the poorest peasant will have as much light as the apostle Paul had when on earth.

It is very probable that this prophecy began to take place upon the spread of the Gospel in the land of Judea, and in the Gentile world; when there was a new face of things, so that the whole looked like a new world. The Gospel ran, had free course, and was glorified—Sinners, of every sort and size, were converted to God—the Redeemer saw the travail of his soul, and the Holy Spirit displayed the love, grace, and mercy of God, in all its glory. The _freeness_ of grace was seen in the objects it noticed; the _power_ of it was seen in the conquests it gained; its _sovereignty_ was seen in passing by those who bid fairest in their own eyes for glory. While grace revealed these things unto babes, others, not interested in them, heard enough to hate them—rejected them altogether, and persecuted those who had received them. These persecutions were attended with many advantages to the saints; none were hurt effectually, nor any bud of the Tree of Life, nor budding hope, destroyed in all God’s holy Mountain.

Thus having proceeded to our text, which I shall barely comment upon, except the clause I first read as a text, this I shall endeavor to explain.

_First_. _The Wolf shall dwell with the Lamb_—so it reads in the 11th Chap, of this Book; here it is the same—_shall feed together_; if they dwell together they must, consequently, feed together. I remark, that it was the eternal design of God to shew himself to his creatures as the God of all grace—so the Apostle words it, _that in the ages to come he might __shew unto us the exceeding riches of his grace and kindness towards us_, _by Christ Jesus_. This he has done in all ages, in its divine sovereignty, freeness, and power, upon those characters who may justly be compared to ravening Wolves, who have worried, and made sad havoc among Christ’s Sheep. Such bitter persecutors have been called out of darkness into life, the heart being changed, the life and conduct were changed too; for this is the design and the conquest of grace. It is to be lamented that many, while in the world, have been sad opposers of the doctrines of the Gospel—these take up a profession, and however promising in appearance, they still oppose the main Doctrines of the Cross. Then, I ask, what has grace done for them? In a profession they are, but in a state of reconciliation they are not. But my text tells us, that _the Wolf and Lamb shall feed together_—that what the Lambs feed on, such the Wolf should, when God converted them to the truth. Here the Saints are compared to Lambs, for their harmlessness and innocence; and such they are in their new-creature state. We may see this passage verified in the Apostle Paul—he was of the tribe of Benjamin, of whom Jacob said, he should _ravin as a Wolf_.—Thus did Saul of Tarsus against the Sheep of Jesus. He harrassed, he made sad slaughter among them. But, oh! the wonders of grace, that tamed, humbled, and reconciled him to the Saviour and his dear people, that he laid down at the feet of the Lamb of God. He fed with the Lambs in the same fold, and he was brought to feed them afterwards. Thus the Wolf and the Lamb fed together; and is not this true to this hour? Is not the same grace manifested to us who were, by nature, enemies to the Saviour, his ministers, and people; as such, to his Doctrines and Ordinances. We could, perhaps, recollect the time when our prejudices were strong against these things, but, glory be to free grace alone, we are changed; now we are never happy but at the feet of Jesus, and feeding on him, his Word, and in his Ordinances, the food on which we live, and which I shall speak of at the close of this Subject.

_Secondly_. This Promise may refer to the two natures in every Believer, _Sin_ and _Grace_. The sinful nature of the Believer is not changed—_that which is born of the flesh is flesh_—it will be a Wolf all its days; though it may be kept in, by almighty grace, through deep trials and sore conflicts; yet, every Believer is, in his New Man, Lamb-like, though often worried by the Wolf of his own corruptions. Yet these must dwell together till death; these walk, these rise up, and lie down together; this is our plague, out affliction, and distress; and though we are condemned as lovers of sin, we can assure our foes we should be glad to get rid of it. Sin a burthen to the New Man; so we feel it. This sinful nature feeds on earth, and every thing that is contrary to God; but the New Man only on the great things of God.

_Thirdly_. May not this refer to the State of the Church of God, which is at present in her imperfect state; not only in her feelings, but plagued with those who are only hypocrites in Zion, Tares among the Wheat, Sheep among the Goats, and Wolves in Sheep’s cloathing. This is the sad state of the Saints; at times they are ready to cry out with Job, _Let not the hypocrite reign_, _lest the souls of the righteous be ensnared_. And, with the Apostles, _Lord_, _shall we root them up_? But no; these Wise and Foolish Virgins must be together till the Midnight Cry is made, then there will be an happy but awful separation; but these dwell together now, in the same Church, at the same table; sit in the same seat; look just the same as the Saints; claim the same Promises, and boast the same light; talk of what they never felt, and in full, tho’ daring and presumptuous confidence, are, in their own esteem, going to the same glory. Hence God complains of them, _Ezek._ xxxiii, 30, _Also thou Son of Man_, _the children of thy people are still talking against thee_, _by the walls and in the doors of the houses_—(how true have I found this?)—_and they come unto thee as my people cometh_, _and they sit before thee as my people_, _and they hear thy words_, _but do them not_; _and lo_, _thou art to them as a very lovely song_, _of one that hath a pleasant voice_, _and can play __well upon an instrument_, _for they hear thy words but they do them not_. Doing them is believing—receiving the truth in the love of it; and by experience, proving the truths we preach. There are Wolves that are in Sheep’s clothing—these feed upon _sounds_, but the Lambs upon _substance_.—Under another metaphor we shall point out the _food_ of such Wolves and Goats—they are distinct from the Sheep, and will be found so in the last great day. See 25th of _Matthew’s_ Gospel.

The second part of the text may likewise be considered in a double sense, good and bad. As most metaphorical passages are controvertible, and will apply to a variety of cases, so in this, _The Lion shall eat Straw like the Bullock_—in the 11th Chap. it is said like the _Ox_; and as the Prophet is predicting the success of the Gospel in the days of the Messiah, or the latter day glory. It may refer to the conversion of some of the great ones of our globe—kings; and such there have been, and such there shall yet be, when kings shall become nursing fathers to the Church, and queens nursing mothers. Hence the Chaldean, Assyrian, and Persian conquerors are called Lions, _Dan_. vii, _And four great beasts came up from the sea_, _the first was like a Lion_. _The Lion hath roared_, _who will not fear_? _the Lion did tear in pieces_. _And he cried a Lion_, _my Lord_—_the Lion is come up from his thicket_, _and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way_.—Thus great tyrannical oppressors, kings, mighty men, are called Lions. Some of these have been tamed, humbled, and fed with the useful, laborious patient Oxen, by whom we may understand Ministers of the Gospel. _Thou shalt not muzzle the Ox_. _Doth God take care of Oxen_? _or saith he it for our sakes_? _for our sakes_, _doubtless_, saith Paul, who calls Himself one of them, in common with his fellow-labourers—_our sakes_.

Some great men have been called, witness Manasseh, the proudest and most awful character that ever lived; and no doubt many more have experienced the power of divine grace bringing them into the Church of Jesus. These have helped kindly to support the Gospel ministry—these have fed with the ministers of the word—this, perhaps, will be better seen another day, when the ten kings shall have their hearts turned to hate the diabolical system of Popery; stall hate the Whore; eat her flesh; obtain a victory over her, and burn her with fire. Then God’s Two Witnesses shall, in the best sense, stand up for the truth—even the Magistracy and the Ministry, Kings and Preachers; and what will they not effect? This may be seen it the 15th of _Revelation_, when the Angels will go forth with their vials, their breasts girded with golden girdles, and clothed in robes of righteousness, truth and faithfulness. See the 17th Chap. of the _Revelation_, 60th of _Isaiah_, and 15th of _Revelation_. Thus the Lion shall eat Straw like the Bullock.

But, _Secondly_, It may be considered in an awful sense, to which I rather incline, because it does not say they shall lie down together, nor that they shall eat the green pastures of Christ, but _straw_. It may signify a person who has heard the Gospel and rejected it, to whom it has become the savour of death unto death. These may become fierce and cruel opposers of the Gospel; the worst opposers, as they attempt to stab religion in its vitals. These are called by the Apostle, the _Adversaries_, who have scorned the Saviour, despised his blood, and opposed his truths. Witness some that have heard the Gospel, and once professed all the truth, who have since turned Deists, Arians, Socinians, Muggletonians, and Sabellians, and are now wickedly and spitefully using all their arguments and influence against the truth, and to deceive souls. These Lions are coupled with the Bullock in the text; by whom we may understand Persecutors. Hence our Lord explains, _Fat Bulls of Bashan enclose me in on every side_. David prays, _Rebuke the company of Spearmen_, _the multitude of the Bulls_, _with the Calves of the People_. And God, by Isaiah, threatens them in tremendous language—Chap. xxxiv. 7.

These characters are said to eat _straw_—by which we may understand the refuse of the Lord’s floor; not Wheat, but Chaff, Stubble, and Straw, fit fuel for fire—who must, and will be driven out of the Church, the Barn Floor—whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his Floor—he will burn up the chaff with fire! These hypocrites, Apostates, Imposters, and their errors, are the delight of such characters, and God has coupled them together, in the 1st Chapter of _Isaiah_—_And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together_; _and they that forsake the Lord shall be consumed_. Thus the Lion shall eat Straw like the Bullock.

I come now to that part of the verse I first read. I shall consider, _First_, the _Serpent_—_Secondly_, the _Food_ that is appointed him. _Dust SHALL be the Serpent’s meat_.

_First_, The _Serpent_, absolutely and figuratively.—The word Serpent, in Scripture, means, First, Naturally the creature itself. _Now the Serpent was more subtil than any beast of the Field_.—Secondly, A miraculous one, as Moses’ Rod was turned into a Serpent.—Third, A delusive one, or one in shew. _The Magicians cast their Rods on the ground_, _and they became Serpents_. Fourth, An artificial one. _Moses made a Serpent of Brass_. But sometimes it signifies the Devil—hence he is called that Old Serpent. And sometimes the enemies of Jesus and his People—_Ye Serpents_! _ye generation of Vipers_! _How can ye escape the damnation of Hell_? Satan is called a Serpent, because he hid himself in the Serpent in his first stratagem against our first Patents. Because of his serpentine disposition, in his poison and malice against Christ and his Church; and in his winding, by his flattery, craftiness, and his accursed condition.—The first account we have of him is very early. Originally created in light, he envied the honors paid the adorable Trinity; or he envied the Lord Jesus Christ the glory he was to obtain as God-Man. He disbelieved the eternal power and faithfulness of God. He drew millions of angels into rebellion with him. He abode not in the truth; for which he was cast in the prison of Hell. His sin seems to be an awful complication of pride, envy, and unbelief. Cast out of bliss; held in the chains of darkness, he is permitted to wander like a vagabond and thief, to fill up the measure of his iniquity. Permitted to enter the Garden of Eden, where the image of Christ was, even Adam, who was made in that image our dear Lord intended to assume. Satan envied him his bliss; hated the image of God, and adopted a plan to overturn it. He selected out the most subtil beast God had formed, and through it he addressed our Mother, in artful and insinuating language. He temped her with the lust of the eye; she saw the tree was good. With the pride of life—_Ye shall be as gods_, _knowing good and evil_. This was done in the form of the Serpent—so that the Devil and his agents have gone by this name ever since. We will quote the passage, and make a few remarks on it, which will lead us to understand what is meant by the Serpent and his Food. _Gen._ iii. _Now the Serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field_—and having seduced our Parents, when the Lord appeared to them, they laid the blame on him. Then in the 14th verse, the Lord God said unto the Serpent, _Because thou hast done this thou art cursed above all cattle_, _and every beast of the field_. _Upon thy belly shall thou go_, _and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life_. _And I will put enmity between thee and the Woman_, _and between thy seed and her seed_—_he shall bruise thy head_, _and thou shalt bruise his heel_.—Thus runs the curse upon the Serpent.

I humbly offer my opinion, that this curse did not fall upon that creature in general; though no doubt the Serpent that was the agent received the curse of God. But that Satan was the character is evident, as he is in full possession of the curse to this hour.

_Josephus_ was of opinion that till this curse was denounced the Serpent went erect, and had the use of speech like man; and this opinion is still received among many—the Scriptures are silent upon it.—Our English Poet, _John Milton_, speaks in very striking terms, probably, though, in general, conjecturally.

“So spake the enemy of mankind, inclos’d In Serpent, inmate bad! and toward Eve Address’d his way: not with indented wave, Prone on the ground, as _since_; but on his rear, Circular base of rising folds, that tower’d Fold above fold, a surging maze! His head Crested aloft and carbuncle his eyes; With burnish’d neck of verdant gold erect, Amidst his circling spires, that on the grass Floated abundant; pleasing was his shape And lovely—never since, of Serpent kind, Lovelier. He, uncall’d, before her stood The eye of Eve to mark his play; he, glad Of her attention gain’d with Serpent tongue Organic, or impulse of vocal air, His fraudulent temptation then began.”

Mr. _Allen_ observes, on the clause, _On thy belly shalt thou go_—that the Serpent, before it was concerned in seducing our first Parents, went erect, or upright; which shews they have still some of their original nature in them, for they will now erect themselves upon the hinder part of their bodies, and go a considerable way in that position. The truly-excellent Dr. _Gill’s_ remarks, I think, excel all I ever read.

_Yet now the Serpent was more subtil than any __beast of the field which the Lord God had made_.—Many instances are given of the subtilty of Serpents, in hiding their heads when struck at; rolling themselves up; stopping their ear at the voice of the charmer; putting off their skin; lying in sand of the same colour as themselves; biting the feet of horses; and many such things. But it does not appear now to be more subtil than many other creatures, whatever it might be when first created.—The words therefore may be rendered, _That Serpent_, _that particular Serpent_, was made more subtil than any beast of the field—not naturally, but through Satan being in it; for though a real Serpent, yet not that only, but as possessed and used by Satan, as an instrument of his, to accomplish his designs, as evident from its having the faculty of speech and the use of reason, employed in a very artful and sophistic manner. Nor is it rational to suppose that human nature, in the height of its glory and excellency, should be out-witted by a creature so inferior to it. The Scripture always alledges the fall of man to the seduction of the Devil, who, on that account, is called the Serpent, the old Serpent, the Devil and Satan. _He said unto the Woman_. She being alone, he took the advantage of it—not the Serpent, but Satan in it, just as the Angel spoke in _Balaam’s_ Ass.

It is very probable that good Angels appeared in Paradise to our first Parents, in one form or another, and conversed with them—it may be in human forms, and it may be in the form of a beautiful flying Serpent, which looked very bright and shining, and that sort called the Seraph. Hence angels bear the name of Seraphim, as some have thought; so that it might not be at all surprising to Eve to hear the Serpent speak, it being what she might have been used to hear, and might take it to be a good angel sent to her with a message from God.

Good Matthew Henry remarks upon the Passage, that the Devil chose to act his part in a Serpent, because it is a specious creature, has a spotted dappled skin, and then went erect. Perhaps it was a flying Serpent, which seemed to come as a messenger from the upper world—one of the Seraphim, for the fiery Serpents were flying—_Isaiah_ xv, 29. Many a gay temptation comes to us in fine colours, which are but skin deep, and appears to come from above, for Satan can seem an angel of light.

The learned Witsius remarks, He who seduced man to this apostasy was doubtless a wicked spirit, who, tormented with the horrors of a guilty conscience, envied man his happiness in God, and God the pleasure he had in man. Seeking wretched consolation in a partaker of his misery, he concealed himself, therefore, in the Serpent, which was at that time not less acceptable to man than any other creature. The great Du Moulin conjectures this Serpent was of a conspicuous form, with fiery eyes; decked with gold, and marked with shining spots, such as to draw the eyes of Eve after it; and that before this, he had, by his soothing sounds, insinuated himself into Eve’s favour—which is very probable.

The present learned Dr. Clarke conjectures this creature was an Ape instead of a Serpent; but the arguments he brings forward are by no means sufficient to support the fact. The form of the curse pronounced on Satan, in the Serpent, is, _Now thou art cursed above all cattle_, _and above every beast of the field_. This curse has not fallen upon that species of animals, called the Serpent, in general, though it might on that particular one which Satan made use of; for there are various kinds of Serpents, or creatures of the Serpent kind—the reeded Serpent, the fiery flying Serpent, the horned Serpent, the Basilisk, the Dragon, the Deaf Adder, the common Adder, the Viper, the Asp, the Water Snake, the Land Snake, the Rattle-Snake, the Conger Eel, the common Eel, and the Lamprey—these are of the Serpent kind. Now the Serpent the Devil abused was but one, but of what kind we know not, and the sentence of God is in the singular number—so Dr. Gill remarks, _that_ Serpent—on thy belly shalt _thou_ go, and dust shalt _thou_ eat all the days of thy life. So that as far as the curse went on the agent, when that one Serpent died the sentence was fully executed on that creature. But the curse, in all its dreadful weight, fell on the Devil, who is cursed above all sinners, who are called cattle, Beasts, and the unclean—as Lions, Dogs, Bears, Rams, Wolves, Leopards, Bulls, Heifers at grass, Foxes, and Goats. Many of these have been tamed, become useful and tractable, but Devils never were, nor never will; and Satan, the ring-leader, I apprehend is cursed above them all—_upon thy belly shalt thou go_. What the learned have said about the Serpent’s going erect is bare conjecture. But this curse is evidently upon the Devil: the word Belly in scripture, sometimes signifies the Conscience, and I believe it means this: Hence Job speaking of the seed of the Serpent, says, _they shall not feel quietness in the Belly_—it means depression and deep abasement, in awful affliction—our belly cleaveth to the ground, our soul is bowed down to the dust. This is what Satan feels, and will be cursed with for ever—no ease or rest, but hell in him wherever he goes—God’s curse and wrath upon him—the arrows of vindictive wrath sticking fast in him; nor can he feel any joy, only that kind of malicious infernal pleasure, suited to his nature, as he draws men to sin against God—especially believers.

The term Serpent not only applies to the Devil, but to his people—the non-elect, the reprobate; more particularly to those Pharisees, who make a fair shew in the flesh—a noise about holiness, and who are endeavoring to establish their reputation upon the ruin of others—who are searching for the sins of others, and they search for iniquity with a diligent search—who keep up the form of godliness, are found in every external, yet in heart hate the saints, condemn them, as enemies to good works—as Antinomians—enemies Moses—as a people not fit to live, of course not to come near them.—These characters are called Serpents, and a generation of Vipers; not only so themselves but their parents were so, and they are the offspring of such Vipers; and so we find it to this day—a deistical Preacher begets Deists, a Socinian begets such, an Arian begets an Arian, an Arminian begets an Arminian by his ministry, and an Antinomian, whose religion lays in his head, without the Work of the Spirit, such may beget an offspring like themselves, while every Pharisee in the Ministry may also beget the same; but the name John the Baptist gave them is a generation of Vipers, when he saw the Pharisees come to his Baptism. A Viper appears very beautiful outwardly, so do these persons to a blind, carnal world, who are making a stir about good works, and, like Alexander Pope, are exclaiming,

For Modes of Faith let zealous bigots fight, His can’t be wrong whose life is in the right.

But, I would ask, Can a man’s life be in the right when all his principles are bad? Vipers, inwardly full of malice, hatred, envy, bitterness, and evil speaking; it looks innocent, as if it could harm nobody, but, under the garb of religion, holiness, and morality, what will such characters not do? The Redeemer calls such by the same name John did, in Matt. xii, and then in Chap. xxiii, _Ye Serpents_, _ye generation of Vipers_, _how can ye escape the damnation of hell_? Fair in speech and shew, but cruel and dangerous; with many such as these we have had to combat, who are of their father the Devil, and the desires of their father they do.

But the decree runs, _And dust shall be the Serpent’s meat_. This is only renewing the curse upon Satan and his seed, which was first pronounced in the Garden of Eden. Good men have differed a little upon the food of the Serpent; some suppose that before the fall he lived upon the fruits of the Garden, but afterwards that he was only to eat dust. Perhaps this was the case with that one Serpent the Devil made use of, but it certainly is not true of Serpents in general. Others think it means, that in consequence of the curse, _upon thy belly thou shalt go_, that they should eat much dust with their food; this may be the case in part, but not universally. Many keep Serpents in the kingdom of Abyssinia for the purpose of divination, as Mr. Bruce tells us in his Travels, and they feed them with white bread and milk, which there are very fond of.

Mr. Toplady justly remarks on this passage, that what is said of the Serpent going on his belly and eating dust, are properties common to many kinds of vermin, such as worms, &c.—and why should that be esteemed a curse to the Serpent which is natural to many other animals beside. But is it so said because this creature is obnoxious to man? so are many others beside, and it is worthy observation, that there are some kind of Serpents which are remarkable for the affection they bear to man; and others are good for food, and have been served up as such, even at royal tables.

The words then must refer to something mystic and spiritual. The phrase, _Dust shalt thou eat_, implies a state of absolute subjection, for so it signifies in scripture—_his enemies shall lick the dust_; _they shall lick dust like a Serpent_—_they shall bow down to the earthy and lick up the dust of thy feet_. These enemies shall be totally vanquished and subdued, and lie at the feet of the conqueror.

By the dust that the Serpent is to eat is meant sinners against the most high, living and dying enemies to God, Father, Son, and Spirit—enemies to truth and the seed of God. This I think is clear from the declaration _I will put enmity between thy __seed and her seed_, the seed of the Serpent. This is the dust he is to eat; this is his curse. These persons are the Serpent’s prey, and the dust he shall devour. The phrase of Satan eating, denotes the hellish pleasure he takes in man’s ruin; for a person is supposed to eat nothing but what he loves; it is the Devil’s meat, his joy, his delight, to lead into sin, to get men to serve him, and to buffet, vex, and plague the saints.

The learned Fagius observes, Satan is a spirit, and must therefore require immaterial food; which can be nothing else but the sins of men, on which he feeds with pleasure.

St. Augustine says, By dust, Sinners are meant; so that sinners are given him for his prey. If then we would not be his food, we must not be earthly minded.

St. Ambrose says, that by dust we are to understand the flesh of men, on which God permits Satan to feed, that is, sometimes to torment and grieve the bodies of believers, for over their souls he has not the least command. The dust, therefore, Satan eats, is the seed spoken of as the seed of the Serpent; these are called the cattle, and the beasts of the field—these are Satan’s portion, bear his image, and will be found like him another day, even in the resurrection of the wicked—_When they __shall awake_, _O Lord_, _thou wilt despise their image_. All the sins, infirmities, temptations, and troubles, of God’s dear people—these are the dust he feeds on. And as it is with the father Serpent, it is with his seed; his offspring a generation of Vipers and Serpents, they have their portion of dust to eat, and they can feed on nothing else—and this every believer has seen to his grief. What in one scripture is called the seed of the Serpent, is in another called the children of the wicked one. First, Because as sinners, they are his offspring. Secondly, Because they are like him, and bear the same names, a liar, a Lion, a Serpent, a destroyer, and an enemy; and because they bear his image, do his works, and obey his commands; their food is alike—dust is their meat as well as his.

This is another point we shall discover—Man having lost the image of God, left the fountain of his bliss and satisfaction; his mind soon became vitiated—a vacancy being in it he seeks to fill the empty space with any thing, and every thing but God. This is the state of every man by nature; this the believer can remember with regret, and can now look back on his former folly in forsaking the fountain and cleaving to the stream of creature satisfaction. Changed by grace, he views his fellow immortals seeking for that which will never satisfy him. The Miser, a poor grovelling Serpent, feeding on white and yellow dust, “Throwing up his interest in both worlds—first starv’d in this, then damn’d in that to come.”—_Blair_. He heapeth up riches, and cannot tell who shall gather them.—_David_. He layeth up silver as the Dust—the pant after the dust of the earth.

Thus such Serpents eat the dust, while their covetous hearts are perpetually crying, “Give! Give!”—_Solomon_. “They grudge, and are not satisfied.”—_David_. All the vain pursuits, carnal gratifications, sensual delights, and that phantom, called Pleasure, which a worldling strives for, is but trying to fill the mind with dust. Hence the Prophet Isaiah represents them as a people dreaming—_They have been eating and drinking_, _and when they awake up_, _behold they are hungry_.—Isaiah xxix. Hence David prays, _And let me not eat of their dainties_. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life—these are not of the Father, but of the world—these are ashes; and the dust they feed on—1 John ii.

Men of a persecuting spirit, whose hearts rise against God, religion, and the dear Saviour, the Work of the Spirit, and all Saints—these are said to feed on the Saints; they are well pleased at every species of persecution; _they eat up my people as they eat bread_, _and call not upon God_. _When my foes came upon me to eat up my flesh_, _they __stumbled and fell_. Hence David prays, _Deliver me from the men who are thy sword_, _O Lord_, _whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasures_. Thus, like Satan, they wait to eat, to devour, to destroy the Lord’s people, who are called dust. “I that am but dust and ashes, have taken upon me to speak to the Lord.”—_Abraham_. “Who can number the dust of Jacob? Thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favor the dust thereof.”

Erroneous characters, who have been in a profession of the truth, and who have left it and turned again like a washed swine to the mire; who have taken seven other spirits, far worse than before they heard the Gospel. These persons are industriously circulating errors; trying to make such kind of proselytes, who are two-fold more the children of hell than they were before. Such characters are Serpents and Vipers, make a fair shew, to deceive and to damn immortal souls: they talk about the universal goodness of God—too good to consign any man to perdition: they argue for an universal salvation; and that if any man should be lost, he will be restored again: they argue against the sovereignty of God, in the Doctrine of Election and divine Predestination—against one being taken and another left—against the Obedience of Christ, as our justifying righteousness—against the Divinity of the Son, or the Spirit: they level their artillery against the Trinity in Unity—against the high priviledges of God’s Elect—against the Fundamentals of the Gospel; and this to deceive the simple and unwary. Hence such are described as an whore, in the Book of the Proverbs: _She eateth_ (that is enjoyeth these deceptions and awful delusions) _and saith_, _I have done no wickedness_.—Proverbs xxxi. _Ephraim feedeth on ashes_; _a deceived heart hath turned him aside_; _he cannot deliver his soul_, _nor say is there not a lie in my right hand_. This is the Serpent’s meat, and if grace does not prevent it, they must have the Serpent’s portion—a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the _Adversaries_.

Pharisees.—These are of different kinds, and under various orders—some in a profession of gospel truth, sit under its sound, obey its external precepts as far as it relates to bodily exercise; others are inimical to the very sound of it altogether, yet pride themselves upon following the religion they were brought up in; that they are as good as they wish to be, and not half so bad as their neighbours. Thus in heart they are all alike; those in a profession and those out of it, are all upon a level. The Gospel Pharisees thank God they are not so bad as those vile Antinomians, who talk about free grace, and perform no works. Others thank God they are not quite so bad, nor indeed nothing like, other people; they have good hearts, they mean well and wish well to all. Hence our dear Lord spake a parable to those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. The Pharisee stood, and prayed, _God I thank thee I am not as other men_—so they vainly think, and so they declare: their works are of themselves; they wear Spider’s webs, they make a covering, but not of God’s Spirit; they are stretching themselves upon a bed which is too short, and so all will find who reject the plan of salvation, by Jesus alone.—These make a noise about holiness, and good works—these sound a trumpet and proclaim their own goodness; and they have their reward—this is but sounding brass and the tinkling of a cymbal—it is feeding on wind; all the works they do, are to be seen of men: but the Saviour says to his disciples, _Be ye not like to them_. These will give nothing away, without their names are published, printed, or put up in the front of an alms house, or on the walls of a church or hospital—on these things they feed—a good name among men; a refutation in the world: this is the foundation of their hope, and this is said to be in dust—_His foundation is in the dust_; _but the hail will sweep away their refuge of lies_, _and the waters will overflow their hiding places_, what they build on, that they enjoy; and thus dust is their meat—and if they do not absolutely declare that all their hopes are laid on what they do, they conclude their good works will either help forward their salvation, or are grand essences of it—whereas nothing that the brightest saint can do, externally, is any evidence of his new birth, none at all; for any man, destitute of divine teaching can do the same. He may hear, read, commune, speak well, relieve the poor, and be found in every external ordinance; so says Isaiah xlviii, and Ezekiel xxiii. And should this little Pamphlet fall into the hands of any man or woman, who has been building on such evidences, I pray God that the scales may drop from their eyes, that they may see their danger, and be brought, as poor sinners, to the Lord Christ for all they want.

The performances of persons who are destitute of the grace of God, are called the Works of the Law; whereas it is not so properly, for they are ignorant of the Law, nor does the Law call for any such Works; therefore they are but the Works of the flesh, and those who feed on them are eating dust, whether they are in a profession or not. Hence God threaten his enemies that he will send them the _Poison of Serpents of the dust_. Deut xxxii. And when he takes a sinner in hand, he is said to _scrape her dust from her_.—Ezek. xxvi; then he kindly invites, _Come now_, _let us reason together_—and, graciously promises, _though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as wool_, _and though they be red like crimson they shall be whiter than snow_; _and I will surely purge away thy dross_, _and take away thy tin_. Isaiah i. This is the Work of God and this must be done if ever we see the face of God with joy; we must be stripped of all supposed goodness, and emptied of self before we can be filled with the Saviour.

When the excellent Toplady had finished his Sermon on Justification, pious Lady Huntingdon said to him, “Sir, I think you gave the Pharisees a good dressing to night.” “Oh, Madam,” said he, “I did not want to dress them, but I aimed to undress them:”—and sure I am that our filthy garments of self-righteousness must be taken away, before we can enjoy the change of raiment. _Zech._ iii. Till this is the case with us we may cry out, with the tongue (and if not, every Pharisee exclaims, practically) _Stand by thyself_. _I am holier than thou_! But, from all such blindness, hardness of heart, and contempt of God’s Word and Commandment, Good Lord deliver us.

The food of the hypocrite, which the Swine did eat, these are called husks. Hence our dear Lord, by a Parable, represented his own people in a backsliding state, trying to fill their souls with husks, a form of godliness without the power, the sound without the substance, the shell without the kernel. So it is written in Luke xv. _And there arose a mighty famine in the land_, _and he began to be in want_, _and he joined himself to a citizen of that country_, _and he sent him out to feed Swine_, _and he fain would have filled his belly with the husks that the Swine did eat_. Here is an awakened soul, with spiritual life, guilt, and shame in his conscience, flying to a false refuge to make up what had been amiss; and obeying the orders of a false teacher, without looking to Jesus as his only refuge.

When a poor sinner first comes into a profession, he is full of legality, and being full of sin and darkness, he generally flies to those kind of preachers that will set him to work; and these commonly argue with such poor sinners, “Why, as you have done so much against God, it is now high time you did something for God.” This sounds well in the ears of such, and to work they go, to try to please God; and if the Preacher does not immediately send them to the Moral Law, they are generally sent to some tradition of the Elders; they must become teachers in the Sunday Schools; they must form a Society and visit the Sick; they must attend upon Prayer Meetings and other religious Societies. Here those who have no spiritual life can rest; upon these husks they can feed; but where there is real hungering and thirsting after the bread of life, the mind cannot be fed with such things; not but that they are praise-worthy in themselves, but they should not be carried on by souls in such a state, their place is to wait at the door of mercy; to be in spiritual labour to get the bread of life, and having found him, then to observe their call in Providence to visit others. But many are at this work all their days, and will be found with no other title or qualification for glory but this. When death comes, then they will, perhaps, have to reflect with pleasure on the use they have been to others. But this will be a miserable foundation; and if they do not expect salvation upon this ground, yet they must confess they have looked upon these things as fruits and evidences; but eternity will convince them they are not the fruits of the Spirit. Hypocrite and Pharisees can feed here, but a quickened soul cannot; this every truly converted character must acknowledge. Those hypocritical professors not only feed on these eternals, but on the failings, sins, and falls, either real or supposed, of God’s people, every fall they hear of is marrow and fatness to them: these they sweetly enjoy, quite forgeting that they cannot be said to fall themselves, for, as they never stood, either by faith or love, they cannot fall; they have but few temptations, and those only what a worldly man has, and not what is peculiar to God’s elect. Hence the Apostle says, Let him that _thinketh_ he standeth—he only thinks so, yet he may fall from his profession altogether; and as he exulted in the supposed falls of the saints, God may cast him down from his excellency. I have often observed this myself, and the sacred Scriptures strikingly set it forth; _the net they spread for others_, _the pit they have digged they have been taken in_; so God has always testified, sooner or later, as it is written, He that rolleth a stone it shall turn upon him, and he that diggeth a pit shall fall therein.—He that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby. Read the 10th of _Eccles._ from the 8th to the 15th verse.

The Food of the Serpent is said to be _Lies_—_Hosea_ x, 13, _Ye have eaten lies_—this is that kind of food which suits their vitiated taste. The same Prophet declares, They eat up the sin of my people; they set their hearts on their iniquity, for they shall eat and not have enough.—_Hosea_ iv, 8, 9, 10.—The private injury done to others is called _Bread eaten in secret places_—and such eaters are like Pharaoh’s lean kine, none the better for all they have devoured. They are said to eat up the flesh of God’s people, _Psalm_ xxvii, 2; and their lying words, back-biting, whisperings, envies, hatred, gossiping, and evil speaking, their running from house to house with tales against others, their secret and outward triumph in all they can get against others, whether true or false—the whole of such conduct demonstrates a serpentine disposition, feeding on dust; this has been seen of late in my severe trials from such Serpents and generation of Vipers. All the foolish, absurd improbabilities, lies, and the most cruel and daring misrepresentations of my natural temper and kindness to others, good or bad; these been turned by such persons to every thing infamous—while some, being high priests, on whom the religious would have fixed their eyes instead of Jesus, or his word, because of their name, their popularity, and property; the last being the occasion of the rest. Many, to ingratiate themselves in the favor of such, for sinister purposes, and nothing else, have imposed upon them such things as they well knew their hearts naturally love; then the Press has been employed—while boys, who have been set up for teachers, have been employed to do the Devil’s drudgery, violate the Sabbath, and act contrary to every law, human and divine. The Press sends forth a farrago of rubbish, and in the compass of a few pages not less than _eighty lies_, which I shall one day expose. These are the sweet morsels on which thousands of mere nominal Professors have fed, and God declares in my text _they shall_.—Under the mask of sanctity, the garb of holiness, and a contention for the Law, all their spleen has been vented against me and my supposed crimes. But, alas, I fear it has been rather against the great things God has done for me. Witness the bitterness against my preaching, and those who have been blessed under it. The lying accusation of being an Antinomian in Principle, Preaching, and Practice, when every person that is acquainted with the Gospel must acknowledge that I preach _all the Words of this Life_, doctrinally, experimentally, and practically. To be sure, they wonder where I got the teaching that I have received; and my adversaries are as much puzzled about this, as those of old, who asked, _How knoweth this man his letters_, _having never learned_?

I must say here, that I feel thankful for what my enemies have said and done against me, as I have learned much from these things; the Spirit of God teaches by the Cross, and in the School of Affliction much is to be derived—_whoso is wise will observe these things_, and he shall understand the _loving kindness_ of the Lord.

My enemies have been perpetually representing me as an enemy to the Law, whereas, their conduct has proved that they were acting contrary to every Law of God and man. _Thou shalt not go up and down_ (not even Blackfriars Road) _as a tale-bearer among thy people_.—_Levit._ xix,—this was the express command of God.—_Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thy self_, _whether he has fallen among thieves or not_. _Speak evil of no man_, says the New Testament—_Owe no man any thing but love_. _Moreover_, _if thy brother trespass_, _go and tell him his fault_, _between him and thee alone_, (suppose it be true) _if he shall hear thee_, _thou hast gained thy brother_—so speaks the Word of God, which it our Rule of Walk and Conduct. Now, if we consider the conduct of my holy enemies who are all zealous for practical holiness, and see how their demeanor corresponds with this rule—may we not exclaim, Which is the Antinomian, me or they?

How many turn sick at the success of others.—What a wretched principle is ENVY—Solomon asks _Who can stand before it_? But as my foes have had such a Feast on Ashes and Dust, I only wish them a spiritual appetite, and better food, even the Bread of eternal Life, which is meat indeed. This is the joy of heaven—this is Angels food, and this is the food on which the Believer lives. ’Tis most blessed to trace this Subject. Our Covenant God provided it, the Holy Spirit quickens us to a spiritual hungering after it—convinces us of the vanity of all things else beside—brings us to love his word—to hear those Preachers that bring forth this food; satisfies us with blessed views of him, sweet enjoyments of his glorious Person, covenant love, eternal mercy, his imputed righteousness, his sovereign purposes, his atoning sacrifice, his peace-speaking blood, and the invitations, declarations, and exceeding precious promises. This is the food on which our souls live, if born of God, and every man is known by his taste; the Serpent on those things which are compared to dust; the Believer on that which is called the Bread of God; hence the Promise, _Ye shall eat in plenty_, _and be satisfied_. _Eat_, _O friends_, _drink abundantly_, _O beloved_. _The meek shall eat and be satisfied_. _And I will satisfy her poor with bread_. _For he hath filled the hungry __with good things_, _but the rich he hath sent empty away_—so all Serpents will find it.

The text concludes, _They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain_, _saith the Lord_.—This was renewed in the New Testament, _Nothing shall by any means hurt you_. And, in fact, nothing can eventually hurt the Church; sin cannot, as it is atoned for—the guilt of it is gone—the love of it is removed as the love of Jesus comes into the mind; and the power and dominion of it is removed by almighty Grace, _the stronger than the strong man armed_—the Law cannot, because it is well satisfied with the Obedience of the adorable Surety—Satan cannot; frighten he may, but cannot touch them to their injury, for his very temptations make us hate him the more—Our own inbred corruptions cannot hurt us; they are more trying to us, the more we loath them and abhor ourselves, as vile in God’s sight—the World cannot, as it is overcome for us, and the Faith God has given will overcome it in us. Pharisees, Hypocrites, and Impostors, with their damnable errors cannot, though they may cause us much trouble. Yet this will furnish us with much matter for Prayer and fear: these things will drive us nearer to God—nor can poverty, pain, reproach, or sorrow do it, for these shew us this is not our rest, it is polluted; and all these work together for good, as sure as we are the called, according to his Plan. These can neither hurt nor destroy one bud of hope, or faith, or desire, or affection, either to God or his truth. Nor can they destroy the soul, God loves it too well, and Jesus has paid too great a price to permit it to be lost. Besides, it is the temple of the holy and eternal Spirit; who then can destroy it?

The Church is called _God’s holy Mountain_—typified by _Mount Sion_, firmly settled in the eternal love, and everlasting purposes of Grace. Conspicuous and useful in the world, and which, as a great Mountain, shall fill the whole earth in the latter day. They are called a holy people; the Lord Jesus Christ is their holiness before God, _Ye are compleat in him_, _who of God is made unto us Sanctification_. Secondly, All their holiness is received from him, as the High Priest of their profession; anointed, and taught by him, as a Prophet; they obey his commands, as a King; this constitutes them holy, as their faith embraced the atonement and righteousness of Christ; the holy Spirit’s gracious inhabitation leads them to love and delight in God, his ways, his truth, his people, and his ordinances; having grace given to walk in wisdom to them that are without: this is real holiness, nothing short of this is scriptural holiness, and this is the Work of God; this proves our union to the Saviour, and this is our meetness for glory, and _such honor have all the Saints_.

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In the Book of the APOCRYPHA—

_In a Letter to a Friend_.

BEL is confounded.—Jerem. l, 2.

And the Dragon fought and his Angels, and prevailed not.—_Rev._ xii, 7.


{0} The title page of the original in the British Library has a very faint 1812 printed just below the 1813 date on the title page.