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Mornings In The College Chapel by Francis Greenwood Peabody

XLII THE OPEN DOOR

Revelation iii.8.

A few years ago, at the first service of the college year, one of our preachers took for his text this message to the church at Philadelphia: |Behold, I have set before thee an open door;| and it has always seemed to me to represent with precision the spirit of our worship here. We have abandoned the principle of compulsion. We do not force young men of twenty to come here and say their prayers. We simply set before them an open door. The privilege of worship is permitted to them from day to day, and religion stands among us, not as a part of college discipline, but as the supreme privilege of a manly human soul. Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. Indeed, this same text represents the spirit of our whole university life. What we call the elective system is a method of invitation and persuasion. It multiplies opportunities. It does not compel the allegiance of the indifferent. He that is lazy, let him be lazy still. {106} The university sets before the mind of youth its open door.

And this, indeed, is what one asks of life. What should a free state in this modern world guarantee to all its citizens? Not that equality of condition for which many in our days plead, the dead level of insured and effortless comfort, but equality of opportunity, a free and fair chance for every man to be and to do his best. That land is best governed where the door of opportunity stands wide open to the humblest of its citizens, so that no man can shut it.

And what is the relation of religion to the life of man, if it be not of this same enlarging and emancipating kind? Here we are, all shut in by our routine of business and study and preoccupation, and religion simply opens the door outward from this narrowness of life into a larger and a purer world. It is as if you were bending some evening over your books in the exhausted air of your little room, and as if you should rise from your task, and pass out into the night, and the open door should deliver you from your weariness and your self-absorption, as you stood in the serene companionship of the infinite heavens and the myriad of stars.

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