By The Fireside: Serpents & Doves

Serpents & Doves

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

Matthew 10:16

President Theodore Roosevelt broke the mold. Despite his political career, he had perception. He was a great advocate of personal, business, and national character. The insight we consider today was gained from a practical application of a Scriptural principle.

Wise or Harmless

“All kinds of qualities go to make up character, for, emphatically, the term should include the positive no less than the negative virtues. If we say of a boy or a man, “He is of good character,” we mean that he does not do a great many things that are wrong, and we also mean that he does do a great many things which imply much effort of will and readiness to face what is disagreeable. He must not steal, he must not be intemperate, he must not be vicious in any way; he must not be mean or brutal; he must not bully the weak. In fact, he must refrain from whatever is evil. But besides refraining from evil, he must do good. He must be brave and energetic; he must be resolute and persevering. The Bible always inculcates the need of the positive no less than the negative virtues, although certain people who profess to teach Christianity are apt to dwell wholly on the negative.

We are bidden not merely to be harmless as doves, but also as wise as serpents. It is very much easier to carry out the former part of the order than the latter; while, on the other hand, it is of much more importance for the good of mankind that our goodness should be accompanied by wisdom than that we should merely be harmless. If with the serpent wisdom we unite the serpent guile, terrible will be the damage we do; and if, with the best of intentions, we can only manage to deserve the epithet of “harmless,” it is hardly worth while to have lived in the world at all.”

A pointed sermon for today’s believer. To be harmless is not the goal, if you are naturally quiet and susceptible. That man must strive for sharp wisdom. Contrariwise, the razor-like wit needn’t show off his intellect; he must discipline himself to silence and mild manners. What appears to be character in certain individuals may actually be a lack of it.

“Alike for the nation and the individual, the one indispensable requisite is character– character that does and dares as well as endures, character that is active in the performance of virtue no less than firm in the refusal to do aught that is vicious or degraded.”

Quotes from Character & Success, a speech by President Theodore Roosevelt

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