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Mornings In The College Chapel by Francis Greenwood Peabody


Luke xvi.1-12.

This is a difficult parable. There is a quality of daring about it which at first sight perplexes many people. It is the story of a steward who cheats his master, and of debtors who are in collusion with the fraud, and of a master praising his servant even while he punishes him, as though he said: |Well, at least you are a shrewd and clever fellow.| It uses, that is to say, the bad people to teach a lesson to the good, and one might fancy that it praises the bad people at the expense of the good. But this is not its intention. It simply goes its way into the midst of a group of people who are cheating and defrauding each other and says: |Even such people as these have something to teach to the children of light.|

I once heard of a father whose son was sentenced to the Concord Reformatory for burglary. The father stood by the bars of the cell and heard the boy's story, and then {141} with tears in his eyes he turned to the jailer and said: |It is a terrible sorrow to have one's boy thus disgraced, but| -- and his face brightened a little -- |after all he was monstrous plucky.| So Jesus, out of the heart of this petty group of persons snatches a lesson for Christians. It is this: |Why should not the children of light be as sagacious as these rascals were? Why should pious people be so stupid?| Jesus looks on to the needs that must occur in his religion for sagacity, prudence, discretion, and the perils that will come to it from sentimentalism, mysticism, silliness, and he asks: |Why is it that the children of this world are so much shrewder than the children of light?|

How closely his question comes to the needs of our own time! Why is it that in our moral agitations and reforms the bad people seem so much cleverer than the good ones; that political self-seeking gets the better of unselfish statesmanship; that the liquor dealers defeat the temperance people; that competition in business is so often cleverer than cooeperation in business? What does Christianity need to-day so much as wisdom? It has soft-heartedness, but it lacks {142} hard-headedness. It has sweetness, but it lacks light. It has sentiment, but it needs sense. How often a man of affairs is tempted to feel a certain contempt for the Church of Christ, when he turns from the intensely real issues of his week-day world to the abstractness and unreality of religious questions! How fictitious, how unbusiness-like, how preposterous in the sight of God is this internecine sectarianism and impotent sentimentalism where there might be the triumphant march of one army under one flag! Let us learn the lesson which even the grasping, unscrupulous world has to teach, -- the lesson of an absorbed and disciplined mind giving its entire sagacity to the chief business of life.

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