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Mornings In The College Chapel by Francis Greenwood Peabody

XXXVII THE DECLINE OF ENTHUSIASM

Revelation ii.1-7.

I do not propose to consider the character or intention of this mystical Book of Revelation. However it may be regarded, it is first of all a series of messages written in the name of the risen Christ to the churches of Asia, singling out each in turn, pointing out its special defects, and exhorting it to its special mission; and there is something so modern, or rather so universal about these messages to the churches that in spite of their strange language and figures of speech they often seem like messages to the churches of America to-day. First the word comes to the chief church of the region, at Ephesus. It was a great capital city, with much prosperity and splendor, and the church there abounded in good works. The writer appreciates all this: |I know thy works, and thy toil and patience, and that thou canst not bear evil men.| It was a substantial, busy city church. What was lacking in the church {91} of Ephesus? It had fallen away, says the message, from its first enthusiasm. It had |lost its first love.| The eagerness of its first conversion had gone out of it. It had settled down into the ways of an established church, with plenty of good works and good people, but with the loss of that first spontaneous, passionate loyalty; and unless it recovered this enthusiasm |its candlestick would be removed out of its place,| and its light would go out.

How modern that sounds! How precisely it is like some large church in some large city to-day, a respectable and respected and useful church, a Sunday club, a self-satisfied circle; and how it explains that mysterious way in which, in many such a large church, a sort of dry-rot seems to set in, and even where the church seems to prosper it is declining, and some day it dies! It has lost its first love, and its candle first flickers and then goes out.

Indeed, how true the same story is of many an individual inside or outside the church, perfectly respectable and entirely respected, but outgrowing his enthusiasms. He becomes, by degrees, first self-repressed and unemotional, then a cynical dilettante. How you wish he {92} would do something impulsive, impetuous, even foolish! How you would like to detect him in an enthusiasm! His life has moved on like the river Rhine, which has its boisterous Alpine youth, and then runs more and more slowly, until in Holland we can hardly detect whether it has any current.

|It drags its slow length through the hot, dry land, And dies away in the monotonous strand.|

That is the church of Ephesus, and that is the man from Ephesus, and unless they repent and regain their power of enthusiasm their light goes out. Ephesus lies there, a cluster of huts beside a heap of ruins, and the future of the world is with the nations and churches and people who view the world with fresh, unspoiled, appreciative hope.

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