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closely we found that she had evidently been newly clad; her clothes were not only clean, but fresh and bright; her golden ringlets fell upon her shoulders; her face was radiant with joy, and her bright blue eyes sparkled with delight as she again and again cast forth admiring looks towards her own image as reflected in the shop windows as she gaily passed along, until at last, fairly overcome with the sight of her own beauty, she repeatedly stood still, and drawing near to the windows as she passed along in a sort of silent rapture, pressed her lips again and again to the plateglass and kissed herself. And she did this repeatedly as we watched until distance and the passers-by hid her from our sight.
Thinking over the self-adulation of the child, we thought we had only beheld in her outward conduct a very striking picture and illustration of certain states of mind very common to many. Among others, this child we thought very much resembles those who are always the most pleased with what is termed the last and most perfect phase of religious thought. With such often the teachings of the past are ignored, and the Word of Cai is only so far received as it agrees with their preconceived opinions. The Bible is, indeed, with them a kind of variegated wardrobe of mind adornment, out of which their fancy and ingenuity are constantly selecting something new with which to adorn their last-born crudities, and hold themselves up to the admiration of those whose recent beliefs, so far as they think they have any, resemble their own. Such men do with the Bible as they do with themselves—they live upon its surface, which they kiss in various ways as they do themselves, never condescending to go as guided by Divine light into the deeps of their being and a knowledge of sin, and hence, whatever they may recognise of the truth of the Scriptures, they never feel or acknowledge their need of a Saviour. The homage they yield to Him is only that of the lip, and His words only so far received and used as they afford them an opportunity of self-display and
indirect adoration of themselves. In the little girl kissing herself on the windows we see their mental and religious photograph drawn to the life--the happy face and last new dress very significant indeed in relation to the spirit and beliefs of such.
Others emulate this child's spirit and conduct in the importance they attach to certain vestments and outward forms. Such men declare that they can only properly officiate before the people as the Priests of God as they are clothed in a certain dress, and for these external symbols of their creed they have shown themselves willing to suffer the penalties of at least a modern and comparatively luxurious martyrdom. The absence, however, of all earnest contention for those living truths of the everlasting gospel for which the primitive confessors of the faith faced death in all its most revolting forms, declares too plainly that they have no existence in their experience, and that their zeal for a certain dress in many instances is but a sensuous adoration of ecclesiastical pride and idolatry of themselves.
Others there are also who, while repudiating such outward forms of worship, and are very zealous for what they term the simplicity of Protestant ritual, are equally earnest in seeking to clothe themselves in the apparel of their own good deeds, arrayed in which, they do not hesitate, like the Pharisee of old, to give themselves the kiss of self-idolatry, and to praise themselves as they enumerate their good works even before God; so satisfied, indeed, are they with their own creature performances as a ground of acceptance before the Great Judge, that they do not hesitate to declare that God is their debtor, and must receive them as clothed in the costly vestments of their own virtues and made perfect by the work of their own hands. To such men the death of Christ is a mystery they cannot understand, and the fact that He came here to seek and save the lost but the figment of a perverted conscience or morbid self-consciousness.
Others, under the influence of a still more subtle spirit of self-deception, make a Saviour of their feelings and mystic sensations; they like“ to go up from nature up to nature's God.” In sympathy with a gifted poet they sing :
This voice such profess to hear, and declare that it is audible to them through certain feelings, tranquilising, elevating, and pure; but it is not a voice which weans them from love of fame, which preserves them from the kiss of self-love and the subtle spirit of intellectual pride and selfidolatry ; on the contrary, the voice of Him who, while He is the Lord of nature is no less the King of salvation, is seldom heard through His own works, or, if heard, only to be despised and its meaning rejected as foolishness.
Do you who read these lines see yourself reflected in any one of these experiences? Does the conduct of the little child here depicted reflect your spirit and belief? If you are trusting in mere religious sentiments which exclude Christ, however beautiful to yourself and pleasing to others, you are but worshipping yourself, and kissing your own opinions in the glass of a vain and self-deceiving imagination. If you are resting upon the outward forms of worship, however correct and educated your taste, trusting to your good deeds or refined and mystic feelings evoked by the influence of nature, or warm admiration of the beautiful and the true, you are but kissing self, like the little child in the window, and you are as truly guilty of idolatry as those who buw down to worship an image the work of their own hands. The Word of God declares that we have all sinned, that we are all lost, and that all our own righteousnesses are but as filthy rags ; that by the deeds of the law no flesh living shall be justified ; that the blood of Christ only can cleanse us from sin, and that He only by His free grace can save us from its guilt and dominion ; and that only as we renounce self and all hope in ourselves, and embrace Him only by faith, can we be saved or reach a safe and scriptural evidence; that our self-trust and ignorant idolatry of ourselves has been killed, and that God has received us as His children, and accepted and saved us in the Great Son of His love ; and if, as the result of God's teaching and grace, we are thus brought to know ourselves and to trust in Christ only for our acceptance with God, the spirit of the poet will be ours :
“Lord, mine must be a spotless dress,
But 'tis not mine to weave it;
I have but to receive it.
“Oh! it doesn't matter." Tiss ELLA ! Miss Ella ! you're going to school in your
best hat, and it's raining !” cried nurse, from the top of the stairs, to a little girl, who was flying
down them, and had almost reached the bottom. “Oh! it doesn't matter; I can't stop now," called back Ella, as she hastily slammed the front door, and rushed off. It was a drizzling March morning, cold and bleak; as Ella, late as usual, hurried down the lane, she found she had dropped one of her fur-lined gloves. She could not wait to go back for it; but, with a muttered “ It does not matter; I can buy a new pair next month with my allowance,” she went on. She reached school just in time, and took her place amongst the other girls already assembled.
At one o'clock the classes were dismissed, and the girls walked home to dinner by twos and threes, friend mating with friend. Ella had her own particular favourite, and had a long chat with her, forgetting how time passed away On reaching home she ran upstairs, first peeping into the dining-room, and feeling some little astonishment at seeing no dinner-cloth laid, or luncheon ready, as usual. "Mother! mother !” she cried, rushing into her mother's bed-room, where Mrs. Merton sat working ; “Anne has not even laid the cloth, and I shall be late for school, if dinner is not soon ready.”
“Oh! it doesn't matter,” carelessly replied Mrs. Merton, without looking up from her work.
Ella stood amazed. Such a way of treating her expressed necessities was very unlike her mother; but Ella, seeing her diligently stitching on, said nothing more, but went slowly upstairs to the nursery. There, as she opened the door, she saw nurse sitting in the rocking-chair, with her hands idly folded before her. The two little ones, pretty, goldenhaired twin-girls, were busy with paint-brushes and red paint, decorating the nursery wall with wonderful and fearful designs of their own.