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Mornings In The College Chapel by Francis Greenwood Peabody

LXVIII POWER AND TEMPTATION

Matthew iv.1-11.

All these temptations of Jesus came to him through the very sense of power of which he could not but be aware. Here was this great consciousness of capacity in him to do wonders, to display himself, to get glory. How should he use his gifts? Should it be for himself, for honor, for praise, or should it be for service, for sacrifice, for God? The devil's temptation was that Jesus should take the gifts of which he was conscious and make them serve his own ends of ambition or success. The first great decision in the work of Jesus Christ was the decision of the end to which his powers should be dedicated; the use to which his powers should be put.

The same fundamental decision comes to every young man in his own degree. Here are your gifts and capacities, great or small. What are you to do with them? Are they for glory or for use? Are they for ambition {172} or for service? The sooner that decision is made the better. Some people have never quite done with that temptation of the devil. They go on trying to direct their gifts to the end of reputation, or wealth, or dominion; and they attain that end only to find that it is no end, and that their lives, which should have grown broader and richer, have grown shrunken, and meagre, and unsatisfied. Such a life is like a fish swimming into the labyrinth of a weir. It follows along the line of its vocation until the liberty to return grows less and less; and, at last, in the very element where it seems most free, it is in fact a helpless captive. The man's occupation has become his prison. He is the slave of his own powers. The devil has withered that life with his touch.

And then, on the other hand, you turn to lives which have given themselves to the life of service, and what do you see? You see their capacity enlarged through use, you see small gifts multiplied into great powers. Few things are more remarkable in one's experience of life than to see men who by nature are not extraordinarily endowed achieve the highest success by sheer dedication of their {173} moderate gifts. Their capacities expand through their self-surrender, as leaves unfold under the touch of the sun. They lose themselves and then they find themselves. The devil tempts these men, not with a sense of their greatness, but with their self-distrust; yet he tempts them in vain. Their weakness issues into strength; their temptation develops their power. The angels of God have come and ministered unto them.

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