Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to Matthew
In that time Jesus said to his disciples: And when you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. And so on.
Homily by St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo.
Bk. ii on the Lord's Sermon on the Mount, ch. xii, tom. 4
It is evident that by these precepts we are bidden to seek for inner gladness, lest, by running after that reward which is without, we should become conformed to the fashion of this world, and should so lose the promise of that blessing which is all the truer and more stable that it is inward, that blessing wherein God hath chosen us to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. In this chapter we will principally consider the fact that vain-glory findeth a ground for its exercise in struggling poverty as much as in worldly distinction and display; and this development is the most dangerous, because it entices under pretence of being the serving of God.
He that is characterised by unbridled indulgence in luxury or in dress, or any other display, is by these very things easily shown to be a follower of worldly vanities, and deceiveth no one by putting on an hypocritical mask of godliness. But those professors of Christianity, who turn all eyes on themselves by an eccentric show of grovelling and dirtiness, not suffered by necessity, but by their own choice, of them we must judge by their other works whether their conduct really proceedeth from the desire of mortification by giving up unnecessary comfort, or is only the mean of some ambition - the Lord biddeth us beware of wolves in sheep's clothing, but by their fruits, saith He, ye shall know them.
The test is when, by divers trials, such persons lose those things which under the cover of seeming unworldliness they have either gained or sought to gain. Then must it needs appear whether they be wolves in sheep's clothing, or indeed sheep in their own. But that hypocrites do the contrary maketh it no duty of a Christian to shine before the eyes of men with a display of needless luxury the sheep need not to lay aside their own clothing because wolves sometimes falsely assume it.