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Mornings In The College Chapel by Francis Greenwood Peabody

I THE CLOUD OF WITNESSES

Hebrews xii.1.

(FIRST DAY OF COLLEGE TERM)

No one can look for the first time into the faces of a congregation like this without thinking, first of all, of the great multitude of other lives whose love and sacrifice are represented here. Almost every single life which enters our chapel is the focus of interest for a whole domestic circle, whose prayers and anxieties, whose hopes and ambitions, are turning toward this place from every region of this land. Out from behind our congregation stands in the background a cloud of witnesses in whose presence we meet. There are the fathers, earning and saving, that the sons may have a {2} better chance than they; there are the mothers with their prayers and sacrifices; there are the rich parents, trembling lest wealth may be a snare to their sons; and the humble homes with their daily deeds of self-denial for the sake of the boys who come to us here. When we meet in this chapel we are never alone. We are the centre of a great company of observant hearts. And then, behind us all, there is the still larger fellowship of the past, the historic traditions of the university, the men who have adorned it, the inheritances into which we freely enter, the witnesses of a long and honorable associated life.

Now this great company of witnesses does two things for us. On the one hand, it brings responsibility. The apostle says in this passage, |that apart from us they should not be made perfect.| Every work of the past is incomplete unless the present sustains it. We are responsible for this rich tradition. We inherit the gift to use or to mar. But, on the other hand, the cloud of witnesses is what contributes courage. It sustains you to know that you represent so much confidence and trust. It is strengthening to enter into this rich inheritance. You do not have to begin things {3} here. You only have to keep them moving. It is a great blessing to be taken up thus out of solitude into the companionship of generous souls. Let us begin the year soberly but bravely. Surrounded by this cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which most easily besets us, and let us run with patience the race that is immediately set before us in the swiftly passing days of this college year.

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