But then you are to add to this—which might otherwise degenerate into cunning, the innocence of the dove. The Greek for harmless is “without horn.” The dove is without horn, hoof, fang, or other means of defence. You are to have positively no weapon. Like the dove, you are to be defenceless. It seems a singular thing to set doves flying at eagles and lambs at war with wolves, but this is what the Lord has done. This defencelessness, however, which looks like our weakness, is our real strength. Our being harmless appears to predict sure destruction, but it is to be the means of certain victory. You are to be gentle and easily entreated. You are not to fly into a passion because you are contradicted, nor to be angry because you are reviled. You are to endure contradiction and slander with tenderness and gentleness, as a dove bears all things.
You are not to be driven into any sin by opposition. The dove is pure—it loves to be by the rivers of waters, in the quiet and clean places. So do you never be driven to sinful word or deed, but do good to all men and glorify God in all things by being both gentle and pure as a dove. And as the dove is very simple and is altogether artless and unworldly, so let your strength and your wisdom lie in your artless truthfulness and childlike dependence upon God.
See how Christ explains His own utterance a little further down. “Harmless as doves,” then He adds, “But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what you shall speak.” Be like a dove, confident because fearless, gentle, artless, simple, and restful. Do no ill and fear none. You Christian people, if you are going to defend the gospel, need not study oratory or become expert in pleading such as are used at law. Tell the truth and baffle the devil. Truth is the most powerful weapon and the most subtle policy. I believe that even in affairs of state, truth is wisdom. No diplomatic agent would so confound intriguers as a man who should tell the truth. They would conclude that what he said was a lie because they are accustomed to regard everything as having another meaning. An ambassador was formerly said to be a gentleman who is sent abroad to lie for the good of his country, but I hope it is not so now. If straightforward truth should ever become the policy of any country, it would be invincible in council. If in politics a man were to throw away all arts and tricks and adhere only to principle, he must gain respect. The greatest art in all the world is to fling all art away and the grandest policy is to have no policy, but honest dealing.
The bravest thing that can ever be done, and the most noble, is to be artless and harmless as a dove. There, then, is the policy of your warfare—be prudent, but be innocent and simple-minded. Oh, the power of truthfulness! Do not believe that men are strong in proportion as they are artful. By no manner of means. Do not believe that they are strong in proportion as they can bend a fist. No, the power of a Christian must lie in his holy heart and in his earnest tongue and in his look of love. By this he shall vanquish, but by nothing else.
The conclusion of my sermon is this. Does it come home to you, brothers and sisters? Do you hear the Lord sending you out to work? Then I entreat you, go forth. Suppose I make that one sentence my last word—“go forth.”