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Chapter XVIII.

Of those who pretend to patience but excite their brethren to anger by their silence.

But what sort of a thing is this, that sometimes we fancy that we are patient because when provoked we scorn to answer, but by sullen silence or scornful motions and gestures so mock at our angry brothers that by our silent looks we provoke them to anger more than angry reproaches would have excited them, meanwhile thinking that we are in no way guilty before God, because we have let nothing fall from our lips which could brand us or condemn us in the judgment of men. As if in the sight of God mere words, and not mainly the will was called in fault, and as if only the actual deed of sin, and not also the wish and purpose, was reckoned as wrong; or as if it would be asked in the judgment only what each one had done and not what he also purposed to do. For it is not only the character of the anger roused, but also the purpose of the man who provokes it which is bad, and therefore the true scrutiny of our judge will ask, not how the quarrel was stirred up but by whose fault it arose: for the purpose of the sin, and not the way in which the fault is committed must be taken into account. For what does it matter whether a man kills a brother with a sword by himself, or drives him to death by some fraud, when it is clear that he is killed by his wiles and crime? As if it were enough not to have pushed a blind man down with one’s own hand, though he is equally guilty who scorned to save him, when it was in his power, when fallen and on the point of tumbling into the ditch: or as if he alone were guilty who had caught a man with the hand, and not also the one who had prepared and set the trap for him, or who would not set him free when he might have done so. So then it is of no good to hold one’s tongue, if we impose silence upon ourselves for this reason that by our silence we may do what would have been done by an outcry on our part, simulating certain gestures by which he whom we ought to have cured, may be made still more angry, while we are commended for all this, to his loss and damage: as if a man were not for this very reason the more guilty, because he tried to get glory for himself out of his brother’s fall. For such a silence will be equally bad for both because while it increases the vexation in the heart of another, so it prevents it from being removed from one’s own: and against such persons the prophet’s curse is with good reason directed: “Woe to him that giveth drink to his friend, and presenteth his gall, and maketh him drunk, that he may behold his nakedness. He is filled with shame instead of glory.”19911991    Hab. ii. 15, 16. And this too which is said of such people by another: “For every brother will utterly supplant, and every friend will walk deceitfully. And a man shall mock his brother, and they will not speak the truth, for they have bent their tongue like a bow for lies and not for truth.”19921992    Jer. ix. 4, 5. But often a feigned patience excites to anger more keenly than words, and a spiteful silence exceeds the most awful insults in words, and the wounds of enemies are more easily borne than the deceitful blandishment of mockers, of which it is well said by the prophet: “Their words are smoother than oil, and yet they are darts:” and elsewhere “the words of the crafty are soft: but they smite within the belly:” to which this also may be finely applied: “With the mouth he speaks peace to his friend, but secretly he layeth snares for him;” with which however the deceiver is rather deceived, for “if a man prepares a net before his friend, it surrounds his own feet;” and: “if a man digs a pit for his neighbour, he shall fall into it himself.”19931993    Ps. liv. (lv.) 22; Prov. xxvi. 22; Jer. ix. 8; Prov. xxix. 5; xxvi. 27. Lastly when a great multitude had come with swords and staves to take the Lord, none of the murderers of the author of our life stood forth as more cruel than he who advanced before them all with a counterfeit respect and salutation and offered a kiss of feigned love; to whom the Lord said: “Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?”19941994    S. Luke xxii. 48. i.e., the bitterness 457of thy persecution and hatred has taken as a cloke this which expresses the sweetness of true love. More openly too and more energetically does He emphasize the force of this grief by the prophet, saying: “For if mine enemy had cursed me, I would have borne it: and if he who hated me had spoken great things against me, I would have hid myself from him. But it was thou, a man of one mind, my guide, and my familiar friend: who didst take sweet meats together with me: in the house of God we walked with consent.”19951995    Ps. liv. (lv.) 13–15.


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