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Mornings In The College Chapel by Francis Greenwood Peabody


These are the last words of most of the Epistles of the New Testament. They are the last words of the New Testament itself. They are commonly heard as the last words of Christian worship; the most familiar form of Christian benediction. But what is the grace of Jesus Christ? Grace is that which acts not for duty's sake, but for sheer love and kindness. What is the grace of God? It is just this overflowing benevolence. Who is the gracious man? It is he who gives beyond his obligations, and seeks opportunities of thoughtful kindliness. What is the grace of Christ? It is just this superadded and unexpected generosity.

So the life of duty and the life of grace stand contrasted with each other. The duty-doer thinks of justice, honesty, the reputable way of life. But grace goes beyond duty. Duty asks, What ought I to do? Grace asks, What can I do? Where duty halts, grace begins. It touches duty with beauty, and makes it fair instead of stern. Grace is not looking {81} for great things to do, but for gracious ways to do little things. In many spheres of life it is much if it can be said of you that you do your duty. But think of a home of which all that you could say was that its members did their duty. That would be as much as to say that it was a just home, but a severe one; decorous, but unloving; a home where there was fair dealing, but where there was little of the grace of Jesus Christ.

Thus it is that the grace of Jesus Christ sums up the finest beauty of the Christian spirit, and offers the best benediction with which Christians should desire to part. As we separate for a time from our worship, I do not then ask that we may be led in the coming year to do our duty, I ask for more. I pray for the grace of Jesus Christ; that in our homes there may be more of considerateness, that in our college there may be a natural and spontaneous self-forgetfulness, a free and generous offering of uncalled-for kindness. Some of us are able to do much for others, to give, to teach, to govern, to employ. There is a way of doing this which doubles its effect. It is the way of grace. Some of us must be for the most part receivers of instruction or {82} kindness. There is a way of receiving kindness which is among the most beautiful traits of life. It is the way of grace. No one of us, if he be permitted to live on in this coming year, can escape this choice between obligation and opportunity, between the way of life which is discreet and prudent and the way of life which is simply beautiful. When these inevitable issues come, then the prayer, which may lead us to the higher choice, must be the prayer with which the Bible ends; the benediction of the Christian spirit; even this, -- that the grace of Jesus Christ may be with us all.

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