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the people who are likely to be infected by eccentric movements.
We anticipate the defence not unlikely to be set up for these. It may be argued, and not unreasonably, that aberrant souls who disconcert routine are sometimes exceedingly valuable to society, and not less so to religious society. People accounted bizarre constitute the seed-plot whereon new ideas and enthusiasms are tested; if a novelty contains truth or relevancy it gets a chance to assert itself, if it is a crotchet merely it dies away. The sports of the social world are deeply interesting, there is no predicting to what they may grow; the accepted beliefs and indispensable programmes of to-day were only a little while ago scouted as wayward and fantastic. The rigidly conservative, who ruthlessly ban every variant thought and thing, usurp the office of the Hebrew midwives, and kill the millennial age as it comes to birth. Nevertheless, we must guard against crazes, and the volatility of mind that is captivated by the last grotesque toy of opinion and method. Darwin was no enemy of fresh thought, but he knew the difference between the erratic and the original, and could not approve of the vagaries of his beloved doctor who "believed in everything." Variation is a prominent feature of nature; she is, however extremely jealous lest it should be carried to excess. The naturalist finds the most ingenious arrangements to exist in the structure of many plants, "that undue variation from type may be checked." Nature knows the preciousness of new, strange things, but will not allow her grounds to swarm with hybrids, monsters, and an infinity of freaks.
Singularities of view and action, on the possession or execution of which even good people are tempted to plume themselves, are more often a defect than a merit. Vagaries are not necessarily virtues, although often mistaken for such by those who display them. The commonplace aspects of the man's character and life, as a rule, are infinitely more significant than his whims. We are told that the chief fascination of orchid-culture lies in the fact that an exceptional flower may be found in a common variety-the albinos of a coloured variety, spotted flowers of white varieties, or the flowers of freak form-and yet all the time the exceptional flower, from the point of loveliness, is distinctly inferior to that of the common variety; it is a decadent taste that prefers the sport, the ordinary types being usually far more beautiful. A collection of birds was recently shown in the Crystal Palace, when, once more, the "sports" formed the centres of attraction. A yellow-hammer with red eyes of an albino, a snow-white blackbird, a dove-coloured greenfinch, and a white sky-lark, were the cynosure of all eyes; although every competent critic would acknowledge that the real perfection of the songsters was found in the fine examples of the ordinary type. Something like disease lurks within these speckled flowers and birds; and the eccentric individual who complacently accentuates his crotchets mistakes weakness for strength, his warts for his glory. The real worth of men is not in private interpretations, in quaint phrases, in the following of unaccustomed ways, or in unique philanthropies-these may or may not be signs of superiority; but when our aberrations prompt the
neighbours to sum us up as cranks, the interest attaching to us is rather that of the harlequin orchid or the white blackbird. Real merit ordinarily demonstrates itself by giving fruitful applications to trite truths, and by carrying commonplace virtues to a rare perfection. Inordinate idiosyncrasies destroy the faith of people in our judgment and character; originality is so rare that we are suspected and not taken seriously when we affect too much of it. To yield to the habit of fancifulness tends to distract attention from the fundamental truths and duties by which we live. Crotchetiness is also a waste of power; energy of mind and heart, so precious for the upbuilding of character, and efficiency of life are frittered away on dubious ends. Faddism feeds vanity, the unique one generally reckoning himself the nonsuch professor. And, finally, the tendency of exotic opinions and odd ways is antisocial; the more we insist on quaint notions, the more isolated we become, and the less capable of taking part in the great movements which design the salvation of the world.
DEFENCE AND DEFIANCE
Put on the whole armour of God.-EPH. vi. II.
HE motto of our volunteers is "Defence, not defiance," but in the war with evil we must adopt the title of this chapter. "The whole armour of God," or what is called elsewhere "the armour of light," is the sanctification of our whole nature through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the only panoply invulnerable by evil. Wherever a defect in character exists-a weakness of the soul-there is a flaw in our armour which may well prove fatal. No magic prevails against evil influences and things. There is no availing natural magic; no amulets, charms, or incantations. There is no ecclesiastical magic; no baptism, sacrament, or sign of the cross will avail anything, except it is associated with personal faith and purity. The devil monopolizes the magic; and a pure soul is no more afraid of his black arts than a philosopher is troubled by the vapourings of a magician.
Defence against the sins which beset us is implied in our text. The faithful disciple of Christ is secure in fidelity to the truth, in the power of purity, in the peace which garrisons his heart, in the love of God
and goodness, in his pervasive righteousness, in his fellowship with Heaven, in his faith and hope laying hold of eternal life. The Lord Jesus, all love and beauty, was the most hopeless target against which demon ever shot an arrow; and as the mind of Christ dwells in us and the spotlessness of His life is attained by us we also become the despair of hell. The grosser temptations fail to deprave one who is clothed in the shining mail of holiness. Just recently at the Cape a diver was pursuing his vocation in the depths when his hand was suddenly seized by the tentacle of a gigantic octopus. Fortunately, with the other hand, the man was able to transmit the danger-signal to his companions above, who immediately raised him. On the unfortunate diver emerging from the waters the spectators were horrified to see that his armour was almost entirely enveloped in the slimy folds of the frightful devil-fish, which only relaxed its grasp when hewed to pieces by axes.
How that submerged explorer in the awful embrace of the sea-monster would bless the brazen panoply in which he was encased, and which ensured salvation! What that armour was to the diver in his ghastly conflict in the muddy abyss-the love of truth, the power of holiness, the refuge of prayer are to a sincere soul assaulted by dark temptations. The purest saint is exposed to odious perils. Inherited evil in mind or temperament seeks to enswathe our personality, and suck up our better life; sometimes sins of the flesh close on us loathsomely; and again, our environment arouses ugly and shuddering appetites; if we let down our moral tone, we are defenceless against cruel lusts,