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the Enemy of mankind, as the instrument of his temptations in Paradise, it is very remarkable that Christ should choose it as the pattern of wisdom for His followers. It is as if He appealed to the whole world of sin, and to the bad arts by which the feeble gain advantages here over the strong. It is as if He set before us the craft, the treachery, the perfidy of the captive and the slave, and bade us extract a lesson even from so great an evil. It is as if the more we are forbidden violence, the more we are exhorted to prudence; as if it were our bounden duty to rival the wicked in endowments of mind, and to excel them in their exercise. And He makes a reference of this
very kind in one of His parables, where "the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely; for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” “Be ye wise as serpents," He said ; then, knowing how dangerous such wisdom is, especially in times of temptation, if a severe conscientiousness is not awake, He added, “and harmless as doves.” “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
It needs very little knowledge of the history of the Church, to understand how remarkably this exhortation to wisdom has been fulfilled in it. If there be one reproach more than another which has been cast upon it, it is that of fraud and cunning-cast upon it, even from St. Paul's day, whose word was accused of being "yea and nay';" and himself of "walking in craftiness,
1 2 Cor. i. 17.
and handling the word of God deceitfully ';” of being a “deceiver," though he was “true;" of "
true”;" of " terrifying by letters •;" and of “ being crafty," and "catching' his converts “with guile.” Nay, cast upon it in the person of our Lord, who was called “a deceiver," and said to “deceive the people.” Priestoraft has ever been considered the badge, and its imputation is a kind of note of the Church; and in part, indeed, truly, because the presence of powerful enemies, and the sense of their own weakness, has sometimes tempted Christians to the abuse, instead of the use of Christian wisdom, to be wise without being harmless; but partlynay, for the most part-not truly, but slanderously, and merely because the world called their wisdom craft, when it was found to be a match for its own numbers and power. Christians were called crafty, because "they were, in fact, so strong, though professing to be weak.” And next, in mere consistency, they were called hypocritical, because " they were, forsooth, so crafty, professing to be innocent." And thus whereas they have ever, in accordance with our Lord's words, been wise and harmless, they have ever been called instead crafty and hypocritical. The words “craft” and “hypocrisy" are but the version of “wisdom" and "harmlessness," in the language of the world.
It is remarkable, however, that not only is harmlessness the corrective of wisdom, securing it against the corruption of craft and deceit, as stated in the text; but innocence, simplicity, implicit obedience to God,
1 2 Cor. iv. 2.
2 Cor. vi. 8.
tranquillity of mind, contentment, these and the like virtues are themselves a sort of wisdom ;-I mean, they produce the same results as wisdom, because God works for those who do not work for themselves; and thus Christians especially incur the charge of craft at the hands of the world, because they pretend to so little, yet effect so much. This circumstance admits dwelling on.
By innocence, or harmlessness, is meant simplicity in act, purity in motive, honesty in aim; acting conscientiously and religiously, according to the matter in hand, without caring for consequences or appearances; doing what appears one's duty, and being obedient for obedience' sake, and leaving the event to God. This is to be innocent as the dove; yet this conduct is the truest wisdom; and this conduct accordingly has pre-eminently the
appearance of craft.
1. First : sobriety, self-restraint, control of word and feeling, which religious men exercise, have about them an appearance of being artificial, because they are not natural ; and of being artful, because artificial. I do not deny there is something very engaging in a frank and unpremeditating manner; some persons have it more than others; in some persons it is a great grace. But it must be recollected that I am speaking of times of persecution and oppression to Christians, such as the text foretells; and then surely frankness will become nothing else than indignation at the oppressor, and vehemence of speech, if it is permitted. Accordingly, as persons have deep feelings, so they will find the necessity of self-control, lest they should say what they
ought not. All this stands to reason, without enlarging upon it. And to this must be added, that those who would be holy and blameless, the sons of God, find so much in the world to unsettle and defile them, that they are necessarily forced upon a strict self-restraint, lest they should receive injury from such intercourse with it as is unavoidable; and this self-restraint is the first thing which makes holy persons seem wanting in openness and manliness.
2. Next let it be considered that the world, the gross, carnal, unbelieving world, is blind to the peculiar feelings, objects, hopes, fears, affections of religious people. It cannot understand them. Religious men are a mystery to it; and, being a mystery, they will be called by the world, in mere self-defence, mysterious, dark, subtle, designing; and that the more, because, as living to God, they are at no pains to justify themselves to the world, or to open their hearts, or account to it for their conduct. The world will impute motives, either because it cannot find any, or because it simply will not believe those motives to be the real ones which are such, and are avowed as such. It cannot believe that men will deliberately sacrifice this life to the next; and when they profess to do so, it thinks that of necessity there must be something behind which they do not divulge. And, again, all the reasons which religious men allege, seem to the world unreal, and all the feelings fantastical and strained ; and this strengthens it in its idea that it has not fathomed them, and that there is some secret to be found out. And indeed it has not fathomed them, and there is a secret; but it is the power of Divine grace,
their state of heart, which is the secret; not their motives or their ends, which the world is told to the full. Here is a second reason why the dove seems but a serpent. Christians give up worldly advantages ; they sacrifice rank or wealth; they prefer obscurity to station; they do penance rather than live delicately; and the world says, “Here are effects without causes sufficient for them; here is craft."
3. Further, let this be considered. The precept given us is, that a
we resist not evil;" that we yield to worldly authority, and "give place unto wrath.” This the early Christians did in an especial way. But it is very difficult to make the world understand the difference between an outward obedience, and an interior assent. When the Christians obeyed the heathen magistrate in all things not sinful, it was not that they thought the heathen right; they knew them to be idolaters. There are a multitude of cases, and very various, where it is our duty to obey those who nevertheless have no power over our belief or conviction. When, however, religious men outwardly conform, on the score of duty, to “ the powers that be," the world is easily led into the mistake that they have renounced their opinions as well as submitted their actions; and it feels or affects surprise, to learn that their opinions remain ; and this it considers or calls an inconsistency, or a duplicity. It argues that they are breaking promise, cherishing what they disown, or resuming what they professed to abandon. And thus the very fact that they are so harmless, so inoffensive, that they do so much in the way of compliance, becomes a ground of complaint against them,