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Mornings In The College Chapel by Francis Greenwood Peabody


2 Corinthians xi.3.

In listening, as we have done, from day to day to Bishop Vincent, there has repeatedly come to my mind this phrase: The simplicity that is in Christ; or, as the Revised Version more accurately translates it, the simplicity that is toward Christ, -- the power which is often so much greater than eloquence, of an obviously genuine, sincere, simple Christian life.

But when one inquires into the nature of this Christian simplicity, which is one of the fairest blooms of character, it turns out to be, so to speak, not so simple a trait as it at first appeared. Of course, there is a kind of simplicity which is a survival of childhood, a guileless, childish ignorance; but when a man is simple in a childish way, he is only what we call a simpleton. Christian simplicity is not a survival but an achievement, wrought out of the struggles and problems of maturer life. It is not an infantile but a masculine trait.


What then is simplicity? The Latin word means singleness, unmixedness, straightforwardness. It is sometimes used of wood which is straight-grained. What simplifies life is to have a single, specific direction in which to grow, a straight-grained, definite intention, the possibility of a straightforward life. The scattered, divergent, wavering life, -- what is this but what we call the dissipating career? It abandons self-concentration and steadiness; it dissipates its energy. It does not mean to begin wrong, but because it has no fixity of direction it becomes, as we say, dissipated. And what is it, once more, which gives direction, unity, simplicity, to life? That is made plain in this same passage. It is the simplicity, says the New Version, which is toward Christ. What gives straightforwardness is not the condition in which we are, but the ideal toward which we are heading. What simplifies life is to say something like this: |I do not pretend to know all about religion, or duty, or Christ, but I do propose to live along the line of life which I will call toward Christ. I propose to think less of what I may live by, and more of what I may live toward.| When a man makes this decision he has not indeed {221} solved all the problems of life, but he has amazingly simplified them. Many things which had been perplexing, disturbing, confusing, now fall into line behind that one comprehensive loyalty. He has, as it were, come out of the woods, and found a high road. It is not all level, or easy; there is many a sharp ascent in it, and many a shadowy valley. But at least the way is clear, and he knows whither it leads, and he has found his bearings, and he trudges along with a quiet mind, even though with a weary step, for he has emerged from the bewildering underbrush of life into the simplicity which is toward Christ.

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