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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Face Illumined - Chapter 25. Half-Truths
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A Face Illumined - Chapter 25. Half-Truths Post by :Andrew_Murray Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Payson Roe Date :May 2012 Read :1806

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A Face Illumined - Chapter 25. Half-Truths

Chapter XXV. Half-truths

A church bell was ringing in a neighboring village the following morning when Ida awoke. The sunlight streamed in at the open window through the half-closed blinds, flecking the floor with bars of light. Birds were singing in the trees without, and a southern breeze rustled through the foliage as a sweet low accompaniment. Surely it was a bright pleasant world on which her heavy eyes were opening.

Poor child! she was fast learning now that the darkest clouds that shadow our paths are not the vapors that rise from the earth, but the thoughts and memories of an unhappy and a sinful heart.

The sunlight mocked her; and her spirit was so out of tune that the sweet sounds of nature made jarring discord.

But the church bell caught her attention. How natural and almost universal is the instinct which leads us when in trouble to seek the support of some Higher power. No matter how wayward the human child may have been, how hardened by years of wrong, or arrogantly entrenched in some phase of rational philosophy, when the darkness of danger or sorrow blots out the light of earthly hopes, or hides the path which was trodden so confidently, then, with the impulse of frightened children whom night has suddenly overtaken, there is a longing for the Father's hand and the Father's reassuring voice. If there is no God to love and help us, human nature is a lie.

Thus far Ida Mayhew had no more thought of turning Heavenward for help than to the philosophy of Plato. Indeed, religion as a system of truth, and Greek philosophy were almost equally unknown to her. But that church-bell reminded her of the source of hope and help to which burdened hearts have been turning in all the ages, and with the vague thought that she might find some light and cheer that was not in the sunshine, she hastily dressed and went down in time to catch one of the last carriages. When she reached the church, she found her mother had preceded her, and that her cousin Ik Stanton was also there; but she correctly surmised that the only devotion to which he was inclined had been inspired by Miss Burton, who sat not far away. She was soon satisfied that Van Berg was not present.

As a general thing, when at church, Ida had given more consideration to the people and the toilets about her than to either the service or the sermon; but to-day she wistfully turned her thoughts to both, in the hope that they might do her good, although she had as vague an idea as to the mode or process as if both were an Indian incantation.

But she was thoroughly disappointed. Her thoughts wandered continually from the services. With almost the vividness of bodily presence, three faces were looking upon her--her father's with an infinite reproach; Sibley's, with smiling lips and wolfish eyes; and Van Berg's, first coolly questioning and exploring in its expression, and then coldly averted and scornful in consequence of what he had discovered. Not houses, but minds are haunted.

The clergyman, however, was an able, forcible speaker, and held her attention from the first. His sermon was topical rather than textual in its character; that is, he enlarged on what he termed "the irreconcilable enmity between God and the world," taking as his texts the following selections:

"The carnal mind is enmity against God."

And again, "Whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God."

The sermon was chiefly an argument; and the point of it was that there could be no compromise between these contending powers--God on one side, the world on the other--and he insisted that his hearers must be, and were with one party or the other. The trouble was, that in concentrating his thoughts on the single point he meant to make, he took too much for granted--namely, that all his hearers understood sufficiently the character of God, and the sense in which the Bible uses the term "world," not to misapprehend the nature of his "enmity." To seasoned church-goers the sermon was both true and very satisfactory.

But when the minister reached the conclusion of his argument with the words, "So then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God," poor Ida drew a long dreary sigh, and wished she had remained at home. She was certainly "in the flesh," if any one were; and in addition to the fact that she neither pleased herself nor any one else that she respected and loved, she was now given the assurance, apparently fortified by Holy Writ, that she could not "please God." The simple and divine diplomacy by which this "enmity" is removed was unknown to her.

She turned to note how Miss Burton received a message that was so unwelcome to herself, and saw that she was not listening. There was a dreamy far-away look in her eyes that clearly was not inspired by the thought of "enmity."

"She is probably thinking of the artist and the ideal future that he can give her. How foolish it is in poor Ik there to try to rival HIM! It was an unlucky day for us both, cousin of mine, when we came to this place!"

More disheartened and despondent than ever, she rode homeward with her mother, answering questions only in monosyllables. All that religion had said to her that morning was: "Give up the world--all with which you have hitherto been familiar, and have enjoyed." God was an infinite, all-powerful, remote abstraction, and yet for His sake she must resign everything which would enable her to forget, or at least disguise the pain and jealousy which were at times almost unendurable; and she knew of no substitute with which to replace "the world" she was asked to forego.

This religion of mere negation, expulsion, and restraint is too often presented to the mind. Dykes and levees are very useful, and in some places essential; but if low malarial shores could be lifted up into breezy hills and table-lands, this would be better. This is not only possible, but it is the true method in respect to the human soul; and one should seek to grow better not by sedulous effort to keep out an evil world, but rather to fill up his heart with a good pure world such as God made and blessed.

The sermon Ida heard that morning, therefore, only added to the burden that was already too heavy to be carried much longer.

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Chapter XXIV. A Hateful, Wretched LifeThe advent of half a score of young men from the city naturally made dancing the order of the occasion on Saturday evening. Mr. Burleigh, however, gave Sibley a hint that the features he had introduced the previous week must be omitted tonight, since nothing that would in the slightest degree lower the character of his house would be tolerated. The excitement therefore that Sibley had formerly received from Cognac, he now sought to obtain by pursuing with greater ardor his flirtation with Ida. Indeed, to such a nature as his, her beauty
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