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Mornings In The College Chapel by Francis Greenwood Peabody


1 Timothy iv.8.

There is this great man writing to his young friend, whom he calls |his own son in the faith,| and describing religion as a branch of athletics. Bodily exercise, he says, profiteth somewhat. It is as if an old man were writing to a young man today, and should begin by saying: |Do not neglect your bodily health; take exercise daily; go to the gymnasium.| But spiritual exercise, this writer goes on, has this superior quality, that it is good for both worlds, both for that which now is, and that which is to come. Therefore, |exercise unto godliness.| |Take up those forms of spiritual athletics which develop and discipline the soul. Keep your soul in training. Be sure that you are in good spiritual condition, ready for the strain and effort which life is sure to demand.| We are often told in our day that the athletic ideal is developed to excess, but the teaching of this passage is just the opposite of {16} the modern warning. Paul tells this young man that he has not begun to realize the full scope of the athletic ideal. Is not this the real difficulty now? We have, it is true, come to appreciate exercise so far as concerns the body, and any healthy-minded young man to-day is almost ashamed of himself if he has not a well developed body, the ready servant of an active will. We have even begun to appreciate the analogy of body and mind, and to perceive that the exercise and discipline of the mind, like that of the body, reproduces its power. Much of the study which one does in his education is done with precisely the same motive with which one pulls his weights and swings his clubs; not primarily for the love of the things studied, but for the discipline and intellectual athletics they promote. And yet it remains true that a great many people fancy that the soul can be left without exercise; that indeed it is a sort of invalid, which needs to be sheltered from exposure and kept indoors in a sort of limp, shut-in condition. There are young men in the college world who seem to feel that the life of faith is too delicate to be exposed to the sharp climate of the world of scholarship and {17} have not begun to think of it as strengthened by exposure and fortified by resistance.

Now the apostolic doctrine is this: |You do not grow strong in body or in mind without discipline and exercise. The same athletic demand is made on your soul.| All through the writings of this vigorous, masculine, robust adviser of young men, you find him taking the athletic position. Now he is a boxer: |So fight I not as one that beateth the air.| Now he is a runner, looking not to the things that are behind, but to the things before, and running, not in one sharp dash, but, with patience, the race set before him. It is just as athletic a performance, he thinks, to wrestle with the princes of the darkness of this world, as to wrestle with a champion. It needs just as rigorous a training to pull against circumstances as to pull against time. It appears to him at least not unreasonable that the supreme interest of an immortal soul should have from a man as much attention and development as a man gives to his legs, or his muscle, or his wind.

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