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"I never was one to talk!" This expression, employed as it is with reference to conversation upon religious subjects, is very common among characters of various descriptions; and the spirit which prompts it, though discovering itself in more elegant forms of speech, may be observed not only among persons of Mrs. Parkins' station in life, but among the high-born and refined. It is somewhat analogous to another very common phrase, "I make no profession;" it is sometimes intended to convey a satire, and with all its apparent humility it frequently betrays a considerable amount of self-satisfaction.
I never was one to talk!" Let us now inquire who are the persons that most frequently make use of this expression, and what are the feelings of which it is the exponent?
In the first place, the phrase is frequently employed by those who, though not openly irreligious, and not willing to be classed among the multitude who "have no fear of God before their eyes," are altogether destitute of spirituality of heart, and strangers to the power of vital godliness. They may be decent, respectable, sober persons, who attend a place of worship regularly, subscribe to missionary societies, or send their children to the Sunday-school, as the case may be, and, in short, give themselves the credit of being "as religious as most people."
But they have no delight in "the things of the Spirit;" such things are "foolishness unto them; and while too honest to be able to profess a deep concern regarding those subjects for which they care not, they are jealous of their reputation among their Christian neighbours, and fearful of discovering the real ignorance and indifference of which they are sometimes unwillingly made conscious.
Consequently, when such danger is apprehended they hasten to take refuge in the emphatic phrase which is intended effectually to stop any further conversation upon those subjects about which " every one knows their own mind best." "The less said upon these things the better," they hasten to remark. "I never was one to talk!" and
then they adroitly pass to other topics, or relapse into silence.
"One of such characters was Mrs. Parkins; and persons of her description are to be found in every rank of life.
But it is not the careless and indifferent alone who are apt to shelter themselves under this or some kindred expression. The sincere, but cowardly Christian is sometimes glad to avail himself of it.
Joe Watson and several of his fellow-labourers were taking their noontide meal together. Among them also sat William Henderson, a humble, though fearless champion of the cross.
The conversation of their companions presently assumed a tone which was anything but pleasing to the two men we have named, and Joe began to look very shy and uncomfortable, although he made no remark.
After one or two calm, but decided expressions of disapproval, which were responded to with loud laughter, Henderson, finding remonstrance useless, endeavoured gradually, and with much Christian tact and wisdom, to make out of the very topics of discourse that dishonoured his Master and vexed his own spirit stepping-stones to higher ones.
But, alas! the malicious subtilty of one among the group who had prostituted God's good gift of a keen intellect to purposes of evil presently perceived his intention; and with sharp and ready wit Philip Barton sought to confound the good man he affected to despise, and to undo his work.
"I see your drift, my boy!" he suddenly exclaimed, "I see your drift; but I'm your match! He thinks to lead us blindfold on to the old track," he pursued, turning confidentially to his companions, "but I'm up to his pious dodges !"
The shouts of laughter were redoubled, and a weaker Christian than William Henderson might have been driven to hold his peace, trying to persuade his conscience that to
pursue his purpose further would be to cast "that which is holy" unto the "dogs."
But not thus reasoned this good man, for his companions were all sober, and not a single expression that could be called blasphemous had escaped from any one of them. But, with the exception of Joe Watson, they were simply men who knew not God, nor cared to know Him. And what did Joe do all this while? He looked from one to another of his companions, and seemed as though he did not know exactly whether on William's side, or that of his opponents, he was himself enlisted; whether, indeed, he individually had anything to do with the matter at all. And "since he had taken no part in what was going on," he was "innocent of having provoked, in any way, Philip Barton's opposition," and "it was certainly the part of Christian discretion to remain silent."
Thus Joe argued within himself; but he was not permitted to escape the ordeal which in one form or another awaits every professor of religion, for he was presently brought to the test by Barton, who saw through his weak companion's character, and who, having been signally defeated in argument by Henderson, was determined to achieve at least one mischievous triumph ere quitting the field. "Well, for my part," remarked he, "I always suspect your talking Christians; I've seen too much of 'em, I can tell you! Them as talks the most feels the least, I take it. Don't you agree with me, now, my friend ?" and Philip fixed a keen glance of inquiry upon Joe; "I don't like those talking Christians; eh, Joe?"
No; no more don't I," said Joe, feeling himself compelled to reply, though his eye involuntarily sought the ground; "I don't like talking too much of these things, neither; at least it-it isn't in my way."
"Oh! ah! we're quite aware of that," cried Barton. "Who took sweet counsel together in Hawthorn Lane t'other night, eh, Joe ?" and he glanced round the circle, while in the renewed merriment and ridicule that burst forth
Joe's wounded conscience told him he had received the deserved chastisement of his cowardice.
For Joe had been sometimes overheard talking upon religious subjects, though it was with those alone who were like-minded with himself; and when his daily toil was over, by his fireside in the winter evenings, and beneath the trellised porch of his simple cottage in the summer sunset, Joe loved to talk with his gentle wife of Jesus and His love.
But before the "world" that "know not God," Joe was afraid to own his Master; that world saw but the dark side of his lantern; he would have that world believe that the light was there, though he cared not to show it. Joe was "ashamed of Jesus !"
Oh, Joe! take heed lest you be numbered among those of whom "the Son of Man" shall be ashamed, "when He shall come in the glory of His Father, with His holy angels !" (TO BE CONTINUED.)
NO. VII." I MEANT NO HARM."
ERHAPS no one, however hardened, sins for the very sake of doing wrong; he always proposes to himself some advantage that he fancies he will gain by doing it, and either deludes himself into the belief that he is justified by circumstances in committing the crime or fault, or else persuades himself that there is "no such very great sin in it, after all." But how many of us there are who would recoil from the commission of what is termed an absolute crime, but who are so little in the habit of keeping watch over ourselves, that we constantly fail in duty, and do " those things which we ought not to have done," excusing ourselves afterwards by saying, "I meant no harm!" Most likely not, but with every commission of sin, or palpable omission of duty, harm is done; harm to our own souls by familiarising it with a sin we ought to have
resisted; harm to the souls of others from the effect of an evil example.
It would be well to accustom ourselves to reflect on the probable consequence of every action, and the more so in proportion as our character stands well in the eyes of our fellow-creatures; for, if we who bear a Christian's name act in a manner unbecoming our profession, it does three things -it causes triumph to the enemy; it lessens (if it does not destroy) our influence for good; and it tempts some to fall into the same error; for they argue, "So-and-so, a much better man than myself, has done it, so I am sure I may."
And not only does this apply to actions, but to words. We speak "idle words;" we meant no harm, but those who heard them see that, on that occasion, we forgot that for those idle words we must give account in the day of judgment, and our example may lead them also to be careless what they say. We give utterance to an uncharitable remark; we spoke without thought, and "meant no harm" by it, but the want of Christian love we have manifested has given a painful impression to those who themselves obey the injunction "Judge not," and the remark itself may be repeated, and do incalculable mischief. Or perhaps, in an unguarded moment of mirthfulness, we playfully quote some passage of Scripture; we did not intend to be irreverent, we "meant no harm," but it left its impression on the minds of those who heard us, and who, thinking it sounded smart and clever, may be led to adopt a habit of thus trifling with the Word of God.
In all these things we meant no harm; we did not intend to injure the souls of others by our careless example, but the mischief may nevertheless be done without recall. Moreover, it will probably reach farther than merely to those who heard us speak, or witnessed the act of which we, perhaps, repented immediately; for the report of that word or action is gone forth, and has extended even to those who were not present; and in this way our influence for good or evil may be almost unbounded, widening and increasing like the