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Mornings In The College Chapel by Francis Greenwood Peabody


Revelation iii.1.

Was there ever a message of sterner irony than this to the Church of Sardis: |Thou hast a name that thou livest, and thou art dead|! We may suppose that it was a church of apparent prosperity, with all the machinery of church life, its ritual, and officers, and committees, all in working order; and yet, when one got at the heart of it, there was no vitality. It was a dead church. It could show -- as the passage says -- no works fulfilled before God. It was like a tree which seems all vigorous, but which, when one thrusts into the heart of it, proves to be pervaded by dry-rot. There are plenty of such churches still, -- churches which have a name that they are living, but are dead. They are counted in the denominational year-book; they go through the motions of life; but where is their quickening, communicating, vitalizing power? What are they but mechanical, formal, institutional things, and how sudden sometimes, like {103} the falling of a dead tree, is the collapse of a dead church!

There is the same story to tell of some people. They have a name that they are living, but they are practically dead. For what is it, according to the New Testament, which makes one live, and when is it that one comes to die? |To be carnally minded,| answers St. Paul, |is death, and to be spiritually minded is life.| |He that heareth my sayings,| answers Jesus, |hath passed from death into life.| What a wonderful word is that! It is not a promise that the true Christian shall some day, when his body dies, pass into an eternal life. It is an announcement that when one enters into the spirit of Christ he passes, now, in this present world, from all that can be fairly called death, into all that can be rationally called life. Under this New Testament definition, then, a man may suppose himself to be alive and healthy, when he is really sick, dying, dead. A man may perhaps, as he says, see life, while he may be really seeing nothing but death. Or a man may be, as we say, dying, and be, in the New Testament sense, full of an abundant and transfiguring life.


And so it becomes an entirely practical question, which one may ask himself any morning, |Am I alive to-day, or am I dead? Is it only that I have the name of living, a sort of directory-existence, a page in the college records, a place in the list of my class, while in fact there is dry-rot in my soul? Or is there any movement of the life of God in me, of quickening and refreshing life, of generous activity and transmissive vitality? Then death is swallowed up in victory, and I am partaking even in this present world of the life that does not die.|

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