By Francis Patrick Donnelly
THE MEEK HEART
Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart.
THE one who first said that "meekness is not weakness" was the author of much more than a good rhyme. Meekness is a virtue, and for that reason it is an exhibition of strength. No one would consider trained muscles, graceful, vigorous and untiring, evidence of passiveness or weakness of body. The athlete is our ideal of a strong man. Now, virtues are the trained muscles of the will by the help of which man exercises his freedom energetically, perseveringly, at the proper time and in the proper way. Meekness, then, is strength, if to throttle a lion is strength, if to hold one's place on the fighting line is strength.
All virtues keep to the golden mean; they travel in the middle of the road; they swerve not to the side of excess, nor slip to the side of defect. Meekness has a hard road to travel. It holds the curb upon anger, keeping it to the path. The touchiness of resentment, the tenacity of revenge, the cry of rage becoming a curse, the fierceness of wrath that vents itself in abuse or blows, these meekness must rule and govern in their incessant manifestations along the way of life. In this work meekness should have occasions enough to display its strength, and yet it has another task, not so laborious, not so frequent, but often necessary. There are times when just indignation is called for, when the voice must be raised in protest and when energetic resistance becomes a duty. Meekness then must put spurs to the laggard soul, that it may not weaken or fail in life's journey. So there is the hard task of meekness,—to keep the currents of our irascible nature at the proper temperature, not permitting them to be chilled into inactivity or to boil over into fiery vaporings, but retaining them in sparkling, refreshing vigor anywhere between freezing and boiling point. Or (to put it another way) meekness performs the duties of a good policeman towards our inclinations to anger. It will not allow them to loiter when they should move on or to break the law in any way, as rarely listless anger is more prone to do.
Have you ever considered why our Lord said: "Learn of Me because I am meek and humble of heart"? Some have thought that He wished to teach us those two virtues of meekness and humility in this passage. Such an interpretation neglects the rest of the passage where those words occur. Christ was opening a school in opposition to that of the Pharisees. He invited all to come to it. "Learn of Me." Never had any school a more attractive advertisement. The teacher was "meek and humble of heart"; the pupils would find rest for their souls; the lesson was sweet and easy. Christ, then, in calling Himself meek of heart was not inviting us to learn that lesson alone. He had many another lesson to teach us. Rather was He describing the teacher to us and showing His qualifications for the position.
No doubt the first lesson the pupils would learn would be that of meekness, which displayed itself in every word and motion of their friend and teacher, especially as the Pharisees who conducted the rival school had not the meekness of Christ. They were serpents and the brood of vipers, always lying in wait, always stinging to death. They were relentless tyrants in little things, with microscopic eyes and souls, seeing and counting anise and cummin, and choking at a gnat. They clung to the letter of their rules and never looked to the spirit of them. They might wear for a time the mask of meekness, but spying, revenge, treacherous questions, reviling, persecution, death, these were the usual accompaniments of the course of studies in the school of the Pharisees. The pupils of Christ might shudder at the words, yoke and burden, if they forgot how their meek teacher would fit yoke and burden sweetly to their shoulders and necks, and how by His hands He would make them light. Yokes are made for two, and the other one, they would recall, is Christ.