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THE MORNING SERVICE.
HAT a day it was! One of those fresh, exuberant days of dawning summer,-never quite so perfect as on Sunday,-when thought involuntarily goes back to the story of creation, and God's pleasure in His finished work. When all things visible seem so fresh, so pure, and so glad, that we are fain to believe
our Earth has entered upon a new and better cycle of her existence;-one wherein all the old wrongs are to be righted, all the old wounds and defilements healed and cleansed;-and so we take courage and thank God. And no matter if Monday, coming with its hard hands full of work and its stern brow full of care, dispels the illusion! -we shall not be the worse for our cherished faith in the world's improvability, nor our momentary persuasion that the "good time coming" was come. Both the one and the other will make us patient to wait, and earnest to labor, for its advancement.
I spent the hour before service with a volume of George Herbert's quaint poesy in my hand,-wherein such Divine fire often breaks up through such a homely crust of expres sion; and was helped, possibly, to a deeper comprehension than usual by nature's leafy commentary, lying open outside my window. By and by, I descried small groups of country-folk, on foot and in wagons, slowly wending their way churchward, across the far-off bend of road beforementioned; Uncle True and his chair, too, setting forth on
their snail-paced pilgrimage, came into view just beyond the garden-fence;-so, putting the finishing touches to a designedly plain and simple toilet, I went down to the "out room," where Mrs. Prescott and Alice, with their bonnets on, were assisting Mrs. Divine to don hers.
The faces of the elder ladies clouded so noticeably, at sight of me, that I was moved to ask, in some perplexity, "What is the matter?"
"Nothing," said Mrs. Prescott, shortly, closing her lips firmly over the cause of her disapproval; which, nevertheless, seemed to escape from them, unwittingly, the next moment. "I thought you would have dressed up more."
And Mrs. Divine added, "You wore a finer gown than that to Society, yesterday."
"I am sorry," said I, "if you think my attire is not worthy of the occasion; but I supposed that the congregation would be dressed very plainly, for the most part, and I did not want to look like a popinjay among respectable fowls."
"Umph! there's no danger of your outshining Mrs. Danforth, I guess," said Mrs. Prescott, relaxing her severe features a little. "But, I can tell you, we country folks like to have city people wear their fine feathers when they come among us; if they don't, we suspect they think we ain't worth wasting them on."
"But, Mrs. Prescott, I don't think God's house is the place to wear 'fine feathers.'
Here Mrs. Divine took up the subject in her usual crisp, decided tones. "I suppose, Miss Frost, if you were going to see Queen Victoria, now, or the Emperor of Russia, you'd wear your best clothes, wouldn't you?"
"Yes, ma'am, but,—”
"Never mind the 'but' just now; I want to ask you, first, if you think you ought to show more respect to one of them earthly rulers, than you do the 'King of Kings,'— whose house we take the Church to be?"
"Certainly not; but then Christ set us such an example of plainness and simplicity in all His earthly life, that it seems fitting for His followers to imitate it; particularly when they meet together, to offer up prayers and praises in His name."
"Now, I think," persisted Mrs. Divine, "that Christ lived and labored in the humblest walk of life, to show men that fine things are nothing in themselves, since He could do without them; so that nobody need to feel proud because he has got them, nor mean because he hasn't. I am certain that the Lord likes me just as well in my oldfashioned gown here, that I've worn this ten years, as He does Alice in her pretty blue muslin, if my heart is as much set to obey Him; but I shouldn't feel so sure of it, if I had a brand-new silk hanging up in my closet, that I thought was too good for Him, but not a bit too nice for Mis' Thingembob's parties. I guess Solomon wore his royal robes, and handsome ones, too, when he went up to praise the Lord in the temple he had built."
"But, Mrs. Divine, I wish you could see some of the dresses I wear to parties, at home! I am sure you would agree with me that they are not suitable to wear at church."
"It's very likely I should. But did you ever ask yourself whether it was just right to have dresses too fine, or too showy, to wear in God's house? The bettermost for Him, I say; but that don't prove that costly finery and finicky gew-gaws are the things for a Christian to wear anywhere."
"But there are always people who will wear such things," returned I; "must they, therefore, wear them at church?"
"Well, no, I suppose not," answered Mrs. Divine, after a little hesitation; "perhaps it's one step toward better things for them to make up their minds they can't flout them in the Lord's face. But that don't make it right for
His followers to have clothes too fine to wear in His courts;
"Still," I urged, "custom will always make a certain style of dress obligatory for parties."
"Don't you be too sure of that. The Christian world is stronger than the fashionable world; if it did but know it, and wasn't afraid to stand to its principles. If Christian people always went to parties in simple, modest apparel (I don't care how pretty and becoming it is, if it keeps inside the bounds of simplicity and modesty), you'd soon see a change in custom. The fashionable world wouldn't like to see itself marked out so plainly as an enemy to God and decency. It is because Christian women are so much conformed to the world,' that women of the world are rushing headlong into such reckless extravagance and such shameless display. As long as they know that wherever they lead, good women will follow, there's nothing to put any check on them.”
Mr. Divine now joined us, with a quizzical smile on his shrewd, sensible face. "I've heard you preaching for a good quarter-hour, mother," said he; "don't you think it's about time to go over and let Mr. Taylor take his turn at it?"
Half-way to the church, we found Uncle True resting in the shade of a great, gnarled apple-tree that stretched its sturdy boughs, covered with a late bloom, over the stone wall, and half-way across the road;-his face beaming with mild contentment and good-humor as he returned the greetings of passers by; all of whom addressed him with a certain deferential cordiality, partly due to his infirmity, and partly to the simple, genuine character of the man. stopped to speak with him,—I am acquiring a relish for the old man's cheerful, mellow philosophies, with here and there a vein of something like poetry in them. I am getting to call him "Uncle True," too;-the influence of constant example is so strong, and the hearty, homely life of Shiloh so insidiously destructive of formalities.
"How lovely it is!" I exclaimed, glancing around at the fresh, shining landscape. "But I miss one thing,-the bells. I caught myself singing a snatch of Robinson Crusoe's song this morning,
-The sound of the church-going bell
These valleys and rocks never heard ;
yet how silvery sweet and clear the tones would flow out over these meadows and linger among these hills! St. Jude's ought to have a bell."
"I don't know about that," said Uncle True, reflectively; "I b'lieve I like the Sunday stillness and the birds' singin' the best. And I ain't so lazy, nor so forgetful, that I want a bell to tell me when it's time to go to church, no more'n I do to let me know when to go to work Monday mornin'. But hark! do you hear that!"
A faint, sweet bell-echo pervaded the air; not louder nor more distinct in one quarter than another; seeming to have fallen from the sky, rather than to have arisen from the earth, so difficult was it to associate its soft, ethereal melody with any lower origin.
"That's the up-town bell," continued Uncle True; seems to me it sounds a good deal pootier than if 'twas nearer. You can allers hear it like that when the air is clear, and the wind right—if you listen for it. There's a good many fine things you've allers got to listen for, if you hear 'em at all;-there's a bee hummin' in that clover-head yonder; you can't hear it when you're talkin'; but if you jest keep still a minute" (Uncle True made a little pause) "you can hear it as plain as a church-bell, and I think it's jest as pooty a noise,-leastways, it tells me more."
"Indeed!" said I, leaning my elbow on the stone-wall, covered with greenish-gray lichens, "I should like to know what it tells you."
Wall, in the fust place, it shows me that honey's to be got out o' all the flowers, even the leetlest and home