Taken and adapted from, “An Innocent Game For Babes In Grace; Or Diversion For Infants At The Hole Of The Asp.”
Written by William Huntington, (2 February 1745 – 1 July 1813). Huntington was an English preacher and a coalheaver.
“And the child shall play on the hole of the asp,”
The asp, or aspic, is a most dangerous reptile, very numerous in the great deserts of Arabia, and in Ethiopia, and well-known in the Holy Land.
They are a kind of serpent, or adder, very small, curiously marked on the back, are very wise and subtle, apt to bite; and so venomous, that it is almost impossible to cure their bite. The venom which it conveys with its teeth spreads its contagion so fast, that unless a remedy be speedily procured, it is almost impossible to stop the infection. The venom of this creature is dreadful in its operations; it has a benumbing, stupefying, and intoxicating nature; it exhausts the animal spirits, withers the frame, and speedily draws the sufferer into a state of insensibility; insomuch that it lulls him into the final sleep of death, by a kind of lethargy. It causes a swelling as it runs, and has as bad an effect on the intellect as it has on the blood. There is no venomous creature so fatal in its bite, unless it be the scorpion.
So much for the history; I come now to the mystery of the asp.
This asp, in the mystery, is the devil, who is often called a serpent, Isa. 27:1; and an adder, Psalm, 91:13; because of his wisdom, Matt. 10:6; his subtlety, Gen. 3:2; his crooked turns, Job. 26:13; his dreadful bite, Eccl 10:11; and the hellish contagion of sin that spreads its dreadful infection throughout both body and soul. It benumbs the conscience, hardens the heart, stupefies the mind, and lulls the sinner fast asleep in his sin; and, if grace prevent not, sends him out of the world in an awful lethargy, till in hell, when “he lifts up his eyes, being in torment”
When the old serpent the devil seduced Eve, he chose the most subtle creature in the brute creation to disguise himself in; and he pursues the same scheme now; for he pitches upon the subtlest and wisest men to support his interest in the world. Men in ecclesiastical or civil power, of great learning, great parts, quick turns, and nervous reasoning, are generally the devil’s tools to spread his nets, and ensnare the souls of men. Hence it is that God has poured so much contempt on the wisdom of this world, as to make their understanding foolishness. And the Savior thanked his Father for hiding the gospel from the wise and prudent, and for revealing it unto babes.
In times of darkness Satan works men up to practice all manner or debauchery, oppression, and cruelty, and to deal destruction round them in a thousand forms; but, when the light of the gospel appears, then he stirs men up to persecute, and to spread his errors: by the former he labors to stop the progress of the gospel, and by the latter to mingle lies with it; and generally conveys his venom by those who are falsely called gospel ministers. Such are the Arminians, who reveal the serpent’s wisdom by producing much scripture, as the devil did when he deceived Eve, and yet perverting the plainest truths; they reveal the crooked workings of the serpent by their serpentine wriggling, first out of truth into error, then out of error into truth. Sometimes, by their words, you would think they were in Christ, and soon after you will perceive them to savor of nothing but flesh and blood; hold up and confess one doctrine at one time, then turn about again, and tear it all down. This is the crooked serpent “They have made them crooked paths, whosoever goes therein shall not know peace,” Isa. lix. 8. At times they hold for the blood of Christ as shed for all the human race, and then by and by tell you that those washed in it may be damned. This is the spirit of error that intoxicates. “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth its colour in the cup, when it moves itself aright; at the last it bites as a serpent, and it stings like an adder,” Prov. 23:31, 32. They reveal the deafness of the serpent by being hardened against all reproof, rushing on in the face of every faithful witness, and spitting their venom at the brightest testimonies. “They are like the deaf adder that stops her ear; which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely,” Psalm 58:4.
They reveal the subtlety of the serpent, by concealing their inward principles until they have insinuated themselves into your affections; and they will bring them forth a little at a time, as you can swallow them down; and, lest you should suspect the devil to be in them, they contend vehemently for good works and holiness of life. Under this mask they convey the bane of Satan to your heart. This is the subtlety of the devil, beguiling souls by false teachers, as Paul says, “But I fear lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ,” 2 Cor. 11:3, 4. So much for the asp. I come now to discuss that of his hole, on which the child is to play. In the verse out of which the text is taken you read of a cockatrice den, and that the weaned child shall put its hand on that. The cockatrice and the asp are both serpents: and there is but very little difference between them. The cockatrice den is a false preacher’s heart, and the hole of the asp is a false preacher’s mouth.
The Savior called the Jewish tribe of false teachers, serpents and vipers. “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” Matt. 23:33. He called them serpents because the old serpent, the devil, was in them. Satan keeps his court in the heart, which is his palace, Luke, 11:21. “The devil works in the hearts of the disobedient,” Eph. 2:2. And the unrenewed heart is the serpent’s den. There it is that lie works up all his destructive compounds, and sends them forth in the open blaze of gospel light; that, while some precious souls simply receive the new wine of the kingdom of God, and rejoice in it, these instruments of Satan secretly hold all their venom; as Moses speaks of some of the Israelites, who brought away the Egyptian gods with them, and secretly carried on an infernal familiarity with devils, practicing magic art. “For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter: their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.”
It is called the vine of Sodom, as springing up from Satan, the root of wickedness; bitter clusters, because they embitter the heart, and fill it with enmity against God and his sovereign will; wine, because it intoxicates the soul, stupefies the conscience, blinds the understanding, confuses the judgment, and employs the tongue in nothing but inconsistencies, contradictions, and mere nonsense.
As wine sets people to staggering, boasting, prating, wrangling, and whoring, so errors set people a staggering at the truths of God, boasting of human merit, prating against those doctrines that are orthodox, wrangling with simple souls, and to committing spiritual fornication against the Lord. Errors lead the heart of the deceived to an infernal conjunction with the devil himself. Hence it is called wine of fornication.
Popery I call the mother of whoredoms, and the Arminian body her younger sister; and such I believe in my conscience they will appear in the great day; for I can see no more difference between Popish principles and the principles of Arminianism, than I can between my two eyes. The church of Rome is said to make people drunk with the wine of her fornication; that is, the spirit of error; as it is written, “I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication,” Rev. 17:1, 2.
Thus the spirit of error is said to make men drunk, as Milton represents the intoxication of Adam and Eve. After they had taken their fill of forbidden fruit, they thought “they felt new divinity springing up within them,” until their false drop conveyed the bane of guilt into their conscience, and then they saw their nakedness, and began, as he represents, “their vain contest, that found no end.” So Zophar represents the false joys and airy flights of the deceived hypocrite. “The triumph of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment. Though his excellency (mark that!) mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds, yet he shall perish forever. Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth, though he hide it under his tongue, yet his meat in his bowels is turned, it is the gall of asps within him,” Job, 20:5, 6, 12, 14. And, as he loves such nourishment, God says he shall have no breast to suck but that; and, as he fed on the viper’s bane, he shall be destroyed by the viper’s tongue. “He shall suck the poison of asps; the viper’s tongue shall slay him,” Job, 20:16.
Hence it appears that the false preacher’s mouth is the hole of the asp; and the tongue of such a deceiver conveys the very venom of the devil, with his doctrine, which lies concealed under his tongue; as it is written, “They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders’ poison is under their lips,” Psalm 140:3. And to this agrees the apostle Paul–” With their tongues they have used deceit: the poison of asps is under their lips,” Rom. 3:13. It is called wine of fornication, because it seduces men from the covenant of grace, which is a covenant of wedlock, and alienates the affections from God, instead of attracting them to him, and in the end leads souls into an affinity with the devil himself; as it is written, “Surely as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel,” Jer. 3:20. And pray how was this done?–by perverting their way, and forgetting their God. Jer. 3:21; until God was “broken with their whorish heart which departed from him, and with their eyes that went a whoring after their idols,” Ezek. 6:9. False prophets lead to false doctrines, false doctrines lead to false gods; and their false gods lead them to false devils, and devils led them to hell And so it is now; for, if you obscure, or cast a false light upon any essential truth, you obscure an attribute of God that shines in that truth; for all his perfections shine in his word; and hence it is that he has “magnified his word above all his name,” Psalm 138:2. And, by obscuring God’s truths, or setting them forth in a false light, they have obscured the tremendous and illustrious attributes of the MOST HIGH AND ETERNAL GOD.
I can prove, from the Arminian writings, that they have beclouded three parts out of four of the revealed perfections of the ALMIGHTY. None have gone farther in this work than they, except the Atheists, who, by denying the being of a God, have, in fact, denied themselves all sense, reason, and motion, and labored to prove themselves in a state of annihilation; for God’s existence and man’s existence stand or fall together, according to scripture,” For in him we live, move, and have our being,” Acts, 17:28.
If the truths of God are obscured, the perfections of God are obscured, and God is represented in a false light; and consequently I am led to entertain false ideas of God, and to set up a false god in my own imagination, which will float and vary just as I do. “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself; but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver you,” Psalm 1:21, 22.