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Mornings In The College Chapel by Francis Greenwood Peabody

LV CAPACITY EXTIRPATED BY DISUSE

Matthew xxv.29.

The parable of the talents begins with its splendid encouragement to those who have done their best, but it ends with a solemn warning and with the stern announcement of a universal law. It is this, -- that from him who does not use his powers there is taken away even the power that he has. The gift is lost by the lack of exercise, or as Horace Bushnell stated the principle, the |capacity is extirpated by disuse.|

This principle has manifold illustrations. The hand or muscle disused withers in power. The fishes of the Mammoth Cave, having no use for their eyes, lose them. Mr. Darwin in an impressive passage of his biography testifies that he began life with a taste for poetry and music, but that by disuse this aesthetic taste grew atrophied so that at last he did not care to read a poem or to hear a musical note. So it is, says Jesus, with spiritual insight and power. Sometimes we see a man of intellectual {137} gifts lose his grasp on spiritual realities, and we ask: |How is it that so learned a man can find little in these things? Does not he testify that these things are illusions?| Not at all. It is simply that he has not kept his life trained on that side. His capacity has been extirpated by disuse. He may know much of science or language, but he has lost his ideals. We hear a young man sometimes say that he has grown soft by lack of exercise. Well, if you live a few years you will see people who have grown soft in soul, and you will see some great blow of fate smite them and crush them because their spiritual muscle is flabby and weak. Ignatius Loyola laid down for his followers certain methods of prayer which he called |Spiritual Exercises.| So in one sense they were. They kept souls in training. The exercise of the religious nature is the gymnastics of the soul, and the disuse of the religious nature extirpates its capacity. That is the solemn ending of the parable of the talents. From him who does not use his power there is taken away even the power that he hath.

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