Wednesdays with Watson is a weekly reading taken from my favorite Puritan writer, Thomas Watson. This week’s selection is from Harmless as Doves.
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, (Matt. 3:16). We should be as doves in three respects:
- In respect of meekness.
The dove is the emblem of meekness. It is 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 for our enemies: so Stephen in Acts 7:60: “Lord lay not this sin to their charge.” This dove-like meekness is the best jewel and ornament we can wear: “The ornament of a meek spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Pet. 3:4). Passion doth disguise, meekness adorns.
- We should be as doves for innocency.
The innocency of the dove is seen in two things:
(1) Not to deceive. The dove is, as without gall, so without guile; it doth not deceive nor lie at the catch; thus we should be as the dove, without fraud and craft. There is a commendably holy simplicity, “I would have you simple concerning evil” (Rom. 16:19); to be a bungler at sin, not to have the art to beguile, this is a good simplicity; as Nathaniel in whose spirit there was no guile (John 1:47). Where is this dove-like innocence 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, so that one knows not how to deal with them, “With a double heart do they speak” (Psalm 12:2).
(2) Not to hurt. The dove has no horns or talons to hurt, only wings to defend itself by flight; other creatures are commonly well-armed; the lion has its paw, the boar its tusk, the stag its horns, but the dove is the most harmless creature, it has nothing wherewith to offend: thus we should not do wrong to others, but rather suffer wrong. Such a dove was Samuel, “Whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded?” (1 Samuel 12:3); he did not get men’s estates into his hands, or raise himself upon the ruins of others. How rare is it to find such doves! Surely they are flown away! How many birds of prey are there! “They all lie in wait for blood, they hunt every man his brother with a net (Micah 7:2); these are not doves, but vultures; they travail with mischief, and are in pain till they bring forth.
- We should be doves for purity.
The dove is the emblem of purity; it loves the purest air, it feeds on pure grain; the raven feeds on the carcass, but the dove feeds pure. Let us be as doves for sanctity, “Cleansing ourselves from all pollution both of flesh and spirit” (2 Corinthians 7:1). Christ’s love is pure, “My dove, undefiled” (Canticles 5:2). Let us keep pure among dregs, “Keep thyself pure” (1 Timothy 5:22). Better have a rent in the flesh, than hell in the conscience; the dove is a chaste, pure creature; let us be doves for purity.