CHAPTER I. 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me.'
'Mother,' said little Effie Maurice, on a Sabbath evening in winter, 'Mr L—— said to-day that we are all in danger of breaking the first commandment,—do you think we are?'
'Did not Mr L. give you his reasons for thinking so?'
'Didn't you think he gave good reasons?'
'I suppose he did, but I could not understand all he said, for he preached to men and women. Perhaps he thought children were in no danger of breaking it.'
'Well, bring your Bible—'
'O mother, I can say all the commandments, every word. The first is, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." I thought this was for the Burmans and Chinese, and all those who worship idols where the missionaries go.'
'The poor heathen are not the only idolaters in the world, my child; we have many of them in our own Christian land.'
'What! here, mother? Do people worship idols in this country?'
'Yes, my dear, I fear we do.'
'We do, mother? You don't mean to say that you, and papa, and Deacon Evarts, and all such good people, worship idols?'
'Do you suppose, Effie, that all the idols or false gods in the world are made of wood and stone?'
'Oh no, mother, I read in my Sunday-school book of people's worshipping animals, and plants, and the sun, and moon, and a great many of the stars.'
'And gold and silver, and men, women and children, did you not?'
'Well, if a man loves gold or silver better than he loves God, does it make any difference whether he has it made into an image to pray to, or whether he lays it away in the shape of silver dollars and gold eagles?'
Effie sat for a few moments in thought, and then suddenly looking up, replied,—'Men don't worship dollars and eagles.'
'Are you sure?' inquired Mrs Maurice.
'I never heard of any one who did.'
'You mean you never heard of one who prayed to them; but there are a great many people who prefer money to anything else, and who honour a fine house, fine furniture, and fine dress, more than the meek and quiet spirit which God approves.'
'And then money is the god of such people, I suppose, and they are the ones that break the first commandment?'
'Not the only ones, my dear; there are a great many earthly gods, and they are continually leading us away from the God of heaven. Whatever we love better than Him, becomes our God, for to that we yield our heart-worship.'
'I never thought of that before, mother. Yesterday, Jane Wiston told me that her mother didn't visit Mrs Aimes because she was poor; and when I told her that you said Mrs Aimes was very pious, she said it did not make any difference, ladies never visited there. Is Mrs Wiston's god money?'
'If Mrs Wiston, or any other person, honours wealth more than humble, unaffected piety, she disobeys the first commandment. But in judging of others, my dear, always remember that you cannot see the heart, and so, however bad the appearance may be, you have a right to put the best possible construction on every action.'
'How can I believe that Mrs Wiston's heart is any better than her actions, mother?'
'In the first place, Jane might have been mistaken, and money may have nothing to do with her mother's visits; and if she is really correct, Mrs Wiston may never have considered this properly, and so at least she deserves charity. I desire you to think a great deal on this subject, and when you understand it better, we will talk more about it.'
'I think I understand it now, mother. Every thing we love better than the God of heaven becomes our god, and if we don't bow down to pray to it, we give it our heart-worship, as you said, and that is quite as wicked....