Personal Beauty

Let us now ask whether the possession of personal or physical beauty-a handsome face and form-necessarily implies the presence also of beauty in its highest sense.

It is only now and then that we meet a human face or form that awakens our sense of beauty. Few people can be called handsome. You almost think that nature-was a little short of materials when it fashioned some-people’s faces and forms. Many mourn with the character in Shakspeare’s “Richard III.”

” I that am curtailed of this fair proportion, Cheated of feature by dissembling nature, Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time Into this breathing world, scarce half made up.”

A certain maiden lady earnestly declared her belief in the doctrine of foreordination or election-she said she knew that the Lord chose her before she was born. Whereupon a gentleman acquaintance remarked that it was well that He did, for he would never have chosen her afterwards. That which no one would call beautiful might be homelier,-a small nose is preferable to-no nose, or to a nose an inch too long. Some people despise littles, but a little is a good deal when you add an inch to a man’s nose. A large nose is said to be a sign of character, but when that nose has a turkey-red finish, it is a sign that character has gone on a protracted vacation.

People are not to be blamed if nature has given them a plain or homely face, but they are largely responsible for the fixed expression of that face. A gentle Quakeress said to a niece who was bewailing her own lack of beauty: ” The good Lord gave thee plain features but He left it to thee to make thine own expression.” Personal beauty is a variable quantity. Some adult people are very homely that were remarkably beautiful when they were children. Then, again, homely children ,often grow more and more comely and handsome. The cause is not entirely physical. The same face can assume a beautiful expression or a homely one, and if the habit of looking sweet or sour is persisted in, our features will correspondingly become as it were stereo-typed. People will unconsciously transfer their inward disposition, their thoughts and feelings, whether good or bad to the muscles and features of the face. One can hardly fail to detect a cross, peevish, fretful disposition written in a clear outline of facial expression. It is with the human face as with a hymn, which may be beautiful, not perhaps for its poetry, but because it is the expression of a soul.

How often do we hear it said of people, “What a sweet face she has!” or ” I don’t like his face,”- all this being indicative of a corresponding spirit within. God has never made one homely face-homely in His sight. If some people are ill-looking or abnormally misshapen, it is the fault of man-his sin, personal or ancestral, his dissipated habits, his violation of nature’s laws. It is not difficult to tell an intemperate man -a libertine by his face. Pure people abhor his ugliness. Even the children involuntarily shun the monstrosity. A dissipated face is a record of broken commandments. Nothing so soon withers and spoils beauty as pleasures immoderately indulged. We are, in body, mind, and heart, largely what we make ourselves. Every one is his own painter and sculptor. The material on which we work is our own face and flesh, our own blood and bones. The moment a man cherishes a noble thought or feeling, these begin at once to refine his features; and likewise if he indulges any sensuality or meanness, these will soon show in his face and imbrute his features. What a truth is in this Scripture,-” When God rebuketh man for sin, He maketh his beauty to consume away as a moth; surely every man is vanity.” Emerson says, “Beauty is the mark God sets upon virtue.”

Physical beauty is not to be marred or despised. It is the plain duty of every one to make and keep the body, which is the “temple of the Holy Ghost,” beautiful and strong-to cultivate physical as well as moral beauty. Many people grow old faster and lose the bloom and beauty of youth-the vivid color, sparkling eyes and dimples-sooner than need be, partly because they neglect or abuse their bodies, and partly because they do not keep the youthful spirit,the natural feeling of the immortal soul. If one is fine and fair at twenty, why not at forty? Physical beauty may be almost incredibly increased by proper attention to hygiene, education, and out-of-door exercise. Let our youth, who are now often so over-taxed in the school-room, have more active and varied and carefully-selected pastimes and recreations. There are certain brutalizing, gambling games in vogue among our young men that are far from beautifying to their bodies or morals. The beauty standard among women may vary from the tall and queenly to the plump and buxom type, or the slender and sylph-like; yet all admire a clear, pure, and spotless complexion, whether seen in the brunette,.. blonde, or hazel-eyed, and this point of loveliness can only be secured by a pure blood, active liver, sound digestion, good appetite, and athletics or exercise in God’s free air. Health and cheerfulness make physical beauty.

But there is a higher order of beauty which is closely connected with brains and heart. A beautiful face or form that shows little or no trace of mind or moral,. feeling hardly satisfies in this advanced age of refined’ sensibilities. The grandparents can now hardly be-recognized from their grandchildren who have been sent away to be gently and politely taught and trained in the higher type of beauty. There is such a thing as spiritualized intelligence whose subtle influence has a power to transform plainness into beauty. A degree of physical beauty can hardly fail to appear in any face, if mind and heart shine through it, just as the impression at first wholly invisible on the photographer’s glass plate gradually “develops” into a lovely image by the process of immersion in the proper fluid. “Even into the face and bearing of the plain woman, whose mind has grown, whose thoughts have been pure, whose heart has been expanded by good ideas or constant affection, comes a beauty whining and satisfactory in the highest degree.” The eyes have been called the windows of the soul, and it would seem that . a person cannot very long harbor evil and selfishness in his heart and hide them wholly from others. The average man or woman is a pretty good detective and understands the general law that what people really are will show in their faces. The most °beautiful” face which is only a mask for ugliness within is not half so attractive to discerning people as the homeliest features lighted up with pure, lofty, and loving thoughts. The body is the frame, the soul is the picture in it. The frame will suit the picture, if the thoughts are noble and the deeds heroic. Ruskin goes so far as to declare that “the body is the soul made visible.” This can be true only in a modified sense, for there are many big souls in little bodies, and there are bodies of large and fair proportions-quite beautiful to look upon, but containing souls so mean, dwarfed, or dwindled to insignificance that a nine billion power miscroscope could not detect their despicable existence. There are cxceptions to every rule, and therc are not a few fair-faced hypocrites and unctious imposters in the world. Many a beautiful face will be found to be only an exquisite mask for ignorance and ungainliness of soul. One view will often enable us to judge of a painting or piece of sculpture, but it is not so easy to fathom the inward depth and heart of living persons, because the modesty of some people veils their merit, while the hypocrisy of others masks their malignity. Every form of beauty has its counterfeit, and the spurious is often a close imitation of the genuine, so close as to deceive many. We have the satisfaction that there is no such thing as deceiving the All-seeing eye, for while ” man looketh on the out-ward appearance, God looketh on the heart.” As a pure, healthy blood means a fair complexion, so real beauty is blood deep, aye, it is heart deep.

We must not suppose that a pleasant face and a pleasing disposition always go together. People are believed to be most free from guile in childhood, and it has been said that all boys and girls with pleasant faces have also good and pleasant natures. Have they? -let us see: A lady was walking with a friend who was a governess one day and they met two children, one of whom was the picture of beauty with her large blue eyes, rosy cheeks, and long golden curls; while the other girl had small eyes, muddy complexion, and short hair. The contrast was so great that the lady said to the governess, What a beautiful child ! ” ” Which one?” replied the governess, and seeing the lady’s look of surprise, she added: ” I sup-pose, of course, you mean Estelle; but, do you know, I cannot see anything lovely in the child? I have seen the two in their home; Nellie is a cousin dependent upon Estelle’s father for her support, and she is kind, gentle, unselfish, helpful, studious, indeed so lovely in every way in character that I forget her face isn’t pretty. Estelle is just her opposite; cross, exacting, selfish, disagreeable to every one at home, and will not study. She has smiles for company always and makes a much better impression on strangers than Nellie does; but I know her so well that I cannot think her pretty.” Estelle Will not be beautiful long, if she continues to indulge that cross and selfish disposition.

Good-looking people are not always good. A great many people only look like what they should be. A fair skin may cover a worthless heart. Beauty of face is only skin deep-hardly that, as you will discover when the paint or powder or mask is off. A devil may act the angel; aye, it is possible to have the tongue of an angel and the heart of a devil. How often is sin concealed under the garb of religion and pious words! There is more pious fraud than all other. Beware of the man who is loud in his professions of superior piety. He can be fair of speech and foul of heart, and such you will find him out. Look out for the gilded, talented hypocrite, flashing before the eyes of the religious public with a bonfire blaze of vain profession. A man may. have brilliant gifts, yet be dark, and false, and base within. Some souls are not merely dead, but they are beyond that, they are rotten, and to be shunned as the gates of hell. Ah yes, there are creatures in human shape, winsome and pleasing, who seem meek and mild and so very pious, but to those who trust them they will by and by show themselves to be really wolves in sheep’s clothing, serpents and a generation of vipers. ” God defend me from him I trust. From him I distrust, I will defend myself,” are the sad words written by a poor doomed victim on the dungeon wall at the Bridge of Sighs, in Venice.

A pool may be clean at the top and slime at the bottom. All you need to do with some people is to displease them, stir them up a little, in order to discover the foul sediment that lurks beneath the limpid surface of their hearts. How many beautiful faces and forms, beautiful ‘manners and professions, are associated with ugly dispositions, long tongues, and vile hearts!, A neat and elegant person and manners may exist without a particle of true gentility and kindness of heart. The gilt on an article does not determine its value. A gilded spulchre may only contain rottenness within. A fool may have features of beauty. Satan himself can put on a fair form and appearance – can seem an angel of light. The most beautiful flowers are not always the sweetest. The gayest flowers are often odorless, or disgustingly offensive; and so there are some lovely-appearing people, but disappointing when you closely test them. Distance lends enchantment. The further off you look at certain persons, the best you see of them. An apple may be very handsome, but sour. Some pretty people are like pickles, it is quite enough to have a little of them at a time.

On the other hand, the more you know of some per-sons, the more you admire them. They are like a good book which may have a very plain cover; but who would not rather have a full purse than a fine one! We prefer a beauty that blushes, to a brazen face. The most worthy are the most modest, just as the best game is shyest. Persons of real quality rarely reveal their excellence to the casual observer. As the choicest woods require much rubbing to bring out the real beauty of texture, so the finest traits of character are made apparent only by close contact and intimate acquaintance.

To find the heart and soul of a man – his real excellence or meanness, we must look through the outside. Every man ought to be at the center of his being precisely what he professes to be. We honor the black man who has a white soul in him, and we detest the black heart in a white man! Skinning alive will not make a white man out of an African, though some would doubtless submit to it for the sake of the change; but it is better to have a black skin than a black heart. The latter you will find in many a white man. Some false merchants ticket their goods in the window differently from what they are sold inside. Better be sincere and honest like the modern Mr. Isaacs, the clothier, who put up a sign in his store window, ” Don’t go somewhere else to be robbed – step inside.”

Shall we be like the cinnamon tree, having all our worth in the bark? If we cannot all be as wise as Solomon, we can all stop pretending that we are. We live in the age of show and sham. A Chicago expressman advertised at moving-time, “Furniture loaded so as to show to the best advantage.” There is everywhere a temptation to build up an imposing paste-board front, to appear well in the eyes of men, with no regard to how God sees. The christian church is in danger of catching the false and hypocritical spirit of the times. Let us cast out the demon of pretense. A hypocrite will pray enough, but you will find him too pious to work much. Butterflies_ show themselves off and even gather from the flowers, but make no honey. Some people wear their religion as an army-officer wears his epaulettes in times of peace – mostly as a thing of ornament and pass-port to respectability. We are ashamed and distressed at the conduct of many who make a showy outward profession of religion – on ‘Sunday. They are alive to religious talk, but dead to religious work. Fair words must not pass for good deeds. There is too much verbal goodness. We are to be good-good for something. You cannot tell a good horse by his harness. Labels are often fables. Too many professing christians are like the stuffed animals in a museum,- they look quite natural, their externals are very proper, but they never move, there is an essential something wanting,- it is the secret life-force. They are not as beautiful as when alive and moving. If the hypocrite is of any use at all, it is in his showing the excellency of virtue by the necessity he thinks him-self under of seeming to be good. What is hypocrisy but the homage that vice pays to virtue? A little close inspection will unmask the pretender and hypocrite. A skillful portrait painter in London exhibited a picture representing a, monk clothed in his canonical attire. “View the painting at a distance, and you would think the monk to be in a praying attitude. His hands are clasped together and held horizontally to his breast; his eyes meekly closed, and the good man appears to be quite absorbed in humble adoration and devout recollection. But take a nearer survey, and the deception vanishes. The prayer-book which seemed to be before him is discovered to be a punch-bowl, into which the wretch is squeezing a lemon.” The great apostle to the Gentiles has written, ” He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”

Artificial piety sometimes so closely resembles the genuine that a little rubbing and trial is required to detect it. The gilding and white-wash of superficial accomplishments will easily rub off, but the more you rub solid gold, the brighter it glows. “The fire shall try every man’s work, what sort it is, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” God sometimes throws his own children into the fiery furnace to burn off their ungainly bonds and bring out their soul beauty. The most beautiful person is that one around whose soul God has kindled the fires of his furnace and kept them glowing till it reflected his own image. A heart richly endowed with the christian graces is far better than gifts of person or of mind merely. Neither personal attractions nor mental endowments will atone for moral imperfections and obliquities. There is a higher ideal of beauty yet to be attained.