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Mornings In The College Chapel by Francis Greenwood Peabody

V THE CENTURION

Matthew viii.5-11.

One of the most interesting things to observe in the New Testament is the series of persons who just come into sight for a moment through their relation to the life of Jesus Christ, and are, as it were, illuminated by that relationship, and then, as they pass out of the light again, disappear into obscurity. They are like some western-fronting window on which the slanting sun shines for a moment, so that we see the reflection miles away. Then, with the same suddenness, the angle of reflection changes, and the window grows dark and insignificant once more. This centurion was such a person. Jesus perhaps never met him before, and we never hear of him again, and yet, in the single phrase, |I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel,| Jesus stamps him with a special character and welcomes him with a peculiar confidence. How is it that there is given to him this abrupt {13} commendation? Why does Jesus say that he shows more faith than Israel itself? It was, of course, because of the man's attitude of mind. He comes to Jesus just as a soldier comes to his superior officer. He has been disciplined to obedience, and that habit of obedience to his own superiors is what gives him in his turn authority. He obeys, and he expects to be obeyed. He is under authority, and so he has authority over his own troops, and says to one soldier Go, and to another Come, and they obey. Now Jesus sees in an instant that this is just what he wants of his disciples. What discipline is to a soldier, faith is to a Christian. A religious man is a man who is under authority. He goes to his commander and gets orders for the day. He does not pretend to know everything about his commander's plans. It is not for him to arrange the great campaign. It is for him only to obey in his own place, and to take his own part in the great design. Perhaps in the little skirmish in which he is involved there may be defeat, but perhaps that defeat is to count in the victory for the larger plan. Thus the religious man does not serve on his own account. He is in the hands of a general, who overlooks {14} the whole field. And that sense of being under authority is what gives the religious man authority in his turn. He is not the slave of his circumstances; he is the master of them. He takes command of his own detachment of life, because he has received command from the Master of all life. He says to his passions, Go; and to his virtues, Come; and to his duty, Do this; and the whole little company of his own ambitions and desires fall into line behind him, because he is himself a man under authority. That is a soldier's discipline, and that is a Christian's faith.

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