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Mornings In The College Chapel by Francis Greenwood Peabody

LVI THE PARABLE OF THE VACUUM

Matthew xii.38-45.

It is easy to see where the emphasis of this parable lies. It is on the impossible emptiness of this man's house. A man casts out the devil of his life and turns the key on his empty soul and feels safe. But he cannot thus find safety. That is not the way to deal with evil spirits. Back they come, crowding into his life through the windows if not through the doors, and the last state of that man is worse than the first. If the parable had been told in modern times it might have been called the parable of the vacuum. A man's life is a space which refuses to be empty. If it is not tenanted by good the evil knocks and enters it. There is no such thing as an unoccupied life. Nature abhors a vacuum.

Here is one of the most common mistakes of human experience. A man often thinks that the less occupied his life is the safer it is. He casts out his passions, he denies his {139} desires, he abandons his ambitions, and so seeks safety. But his life is attacked by new perils. The lusts and conceits of life cannot be barred out of life; they must be crowded out. The old passion must be supplanted by a new and better one. The very same qualities which go to make a great sinner are needed to make a true saint. A man's soul is not safe when the vigor and force are taken out of it. It is safe only when the same passion which once threatened ruin is converted to generous service; and the same physical life that seemed an enemy of the soul has become the instrument of the soul. The saved life is not the empty life, but the full life. Jesus comes not to destroy men's natures, but to fill their capacities full of better aims. The only way to overcome evil is to have the life preoccupied by good.

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