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That Mental Chisel

During a trolley ride through a thrifty New England locality, where church spires were almost as plentiful as trees, I studied the faces of the people who came into the car during my two hours' journey.

The day was beautiful, and all along the route our numbers were recruited by bevies of women, young, middle aged and old, who were bent on shopping expeditions or setting forth to make social calls.

They went and came at each village through which our coach of democracy passed, and they represented all classes.

The young girls were lovely, as young girls are the world over: their complexion possessed that soft tender luster, peculiar to seashore localities, for the salty breath of Father Neptune is the greatest of cosmetics. Many of the young faces were formed in classic mould, their features clearly cut and refined, and severe, like the thoughts and principles of their ancestors.

Often I observed a mother and some female relative, presumably an aunt, in company with a young relative; and always the sharpening and withering process of the years of set and unelastic thought was discernible upon their faces, which had once been young, and classic and attractive.

In the entire two hours I saw but three lovely faces which were matured by time.

I saw scores of well-dressed and evidently well-cared-for women of middle age, whose countenances were furrowed, drawn, pinched, sallow, and worn, beyond excuse; for time, sorrow, and sickness are not plausible excuses for such ravages upon a face God drew in lines of beauty.

Time should mature a woman's beauty as it does that of a tree. Sorrow should glorify it as does the frost the tree, and sickness should not be allowed to lay a lingering touch upon it, until death calls the spirit away.

Without question the great majority of the women I saw were earnest orthodox Christians.

I heard snatches of conversation regarding Church and Charities and I have no doubt that each woman among them believed herself to be a disciple of Christ.

Yet where was the result of the loving, tender, sweet spirit of Christ's teaching?

It surely was not visible upon those pinched and worried faces? and those faces were certain and truthful chronicles of the work done by the minds within.

One face said to me in every line, "I talk about God's goodness and loving-kindness, but I worry over the dust in the spare room, I fret about our expenses, I am troubled about my lungs, and I fear my husband has an unregenerate heart. I never know an hour's peace, for even in my sleep, I worry, worry, worry, but of course I know I will be saved by the blood of Christ!"

Another said, "I am in God's fold, well and safe, but I hate and despise my nearest neighbor, for she wears clothes that I am sure she cannot pay for, and her children are always dressed better than mine. I quarrel with my domestics, and am always in trouble of some kind, just because human beings are so full of sin and no one but myself is ever right. I shall be so glad to leave this world of woe and go to heaven, but I hope I will not meet many of my present acquaintances there!"

Another said, "If I only had good health—but I was born to sickness and suffering, and it is God's will that I should suffer!"

Oh the pity of it, and to imagine this is religion!

Thank God the wave of "New Thought" is sweeping over the land, and washing away those old blasphemous errors of mistaken creeds.

The "New Thought" is to give us a new race of beautiful middle-aged and old people.

Today in any part of the land among rich, poor, ignorant or intellectual, orthodox or materialists the beautiful mature face is rarer than a white blackbird in the woods.

It is impossible to be plain, ugly, or uninteresting in late life, if the mind keeps itself occupied with right thinking.

The withered and drawn face of fifty indicates withered emotions and drawn and perverted ambitions.

The dried and sallow face tells its story of dried up sympathies and hopes.

The furrowed face tells of acid cares eating into the heart.

All this is irreligious! yet all this prevails extensively in our most conservative and churchy communities.

He who in truth trusts God cannot worry.

He who loves God and mankind, cannot become dried and withered at fifty, for love will re-create his blood, and renew the fires of his eye.

He who understands his own divine nature will grow more beautiful with the passing of time, for the God within will become each year more visible.

The really reverent soul accepts its sorrows as blessings in disguise, and he who so accepts them is beautified and glorified by them, within and without.

Are you growing more attractive as you advance in life? Is your eye softer and deeper, is your mouth kinder, your expression more sympathetic, or are you screwing up your face in tense knots of worry? Are your eyes growing hopeless and dull, is your mouth drooping at the corners, and becoming a set thin line in the center, and is your skin dry, and sallow, and parched?

Study yourself and answer these questions to your own soul, for in the answer depends the decision whether you really love and trust God, and believe in your own immortal spirit, or whether you are a mere impostor in the court of faith.

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Ella Wheeler Wilcox

  • Author and poet
  • Born November 5th, 1850 in Johnstown, Wisconsin and died October 30th, 1919
  • Famous line in poetry: "Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone."

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