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Mornings In The College Chapel by Francis Greenwood Peabody

XXXVIII THE CROWN OF LIFE

Revelation ii.8-10.

The Church of Ephesus needed a rebuke; the Church at Smyrna needed an encouragement. The first was a prosperous, busy church, without spiritual vitality, and the prophecy was that its light should go out. The second was a persecuted church, with much tribulation and poverty, and the promise was that for its faithfulness it should have a crown of life. And if the traveller, as he stands among the ruins of Ephesus, cannot help thinking how its candle-stick has been removed, so he must think of the reward of fidelity, as he stands among the busy docks and bustling life of Smyrna.

A crown of life! There is no discovery of experience more important in a man's life than the discovery of its legitimate rewards. A man undertakes to do the best he can with his powers and capacities, and inquires some day for the natural reward of his fidelity. Shall he have gratitude, or recognition, or praise? Any one of these things may come {94} to him, but any one of them, or all of them, may elude him; and all sooner or later show themselves to be accidents of his experience, and not its natural and essential issue. Then he discovers that there is but one legitimate reward of life, and that is increase of life, more of power and capacity and vitality and effectiveness. What is the reward of learning one's lessons? Marks, or praise, or distinction, may come of this, or they may not. The legitimate reward is simply the power to learn other lessons. The expenditure of force has increased the supply of force; the use of capacity has developed capacity. What is the reward of taking physical exercise? It is not athletic prizes, or athletic glory; it is strength. You have sought strength, and you get strength. The crown of athletic life is increase of athletic vitality. What is the reward of keeping your temper? It is the increased power of self-control. What is the reward of doing your duty as well as you can? It is the ability to do your duty better. Out of the duty faithfully done opens the way to meet the larger duty. You have been faithful over a few things, and you become the ruler over many things.

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And what is the crown of the whole of life lived faithfully here? It is not a crown of gold or gems in another life; it is simply more life; a broader use of power, a healthier capacity, a larger usefulness. You are faithful unto death, through the misapprehensions and imperfections and absence of appreciation or gratitude in this preparatory world, and then there is offered to you inevitably and legitimately the crown of a larger, more serviceable, more effective life.

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