Andrew Kennedy Hutchison] [Boyd.

The every-day philosopher in town and country online

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pid, and narrow-minded ; and intensely opinionated and
self-satisfied. We know, from a very high authority, that
a Christian ought to be an epistle in commendation of
the blessed faith he holds. But it is beyond question,
that many people who profess to be Christians, are like
grim Gorgon's heads warning people off from having
anything to do with Christianity. Why should a
middle-aged clergyman walk about the streets with a
sullen and malignant scowl always on his face, which
at the best would be a very ugly one ? Why should
another walk with his nose in the air, and his eyes
rolled up till they seem likely to roll out? And why
should a third be always dabbled over with a clammy
perspiration, and prolong all his vowels to twice the
usual length ? It is indeed a most woful thing, that peo-
ple who evince a spirit in every respect the direct con-
trary of that of our Blessed Redeemer, should fancy
that they are Christians of singular-attainments ; and it
is more woful still, that many young people shpuld be
geared away into irreligion or unbelief by the wretch-
ed delusion that these creatures, wickedly caricaturint,
Christianity, are fairly representing it. I have be-
held more deliberate malice, more lying and cheating,"
more backbiting and slandering, denser stupidity, and
greater self-sufficiency, among bad-hearted and wrong-
headed religionists, than among any other order of hu-
man beings. I have known more malignity and slan-
der conveyed in the form of a prayer, than should have
consigned any ordinary libeller to the pillory. T have


known a person who made evening prayer a means of
infuriating and stabbing the servants, under the pretext
of confessing their sins. '• Thou knowest, Lord, how
my servants have been occupied this day ; " with these
words did the bhispheraous mockery of prayer begin
one .Sunday evening in a house I could easily indicate.
And then the man, under the pretext of addressing
the Almighty, raked up all the misdoings of the ser-
vants (they being present of course), in a fashion
which, if he had ventured on it at any other time,
would probably have led some of them to assault him.
" I went to Edinburgh," said a Highland elder, " and
was there a Sabbath. It was an awfu' sight ? There,
on the Sabbath-day, you would see people walking
along the street, smiling as if they were perfect-
ly HAPPY ! " There was the gravamen of the poor
Highlander's charge. To think of people being or
looking happy on the Lord's day ! And indeed to
think of a Christian man ever venturing to be happy
at all ! " Yes, this parish was highly favored in the
days of Mr. Smith and Mr. Brown," said a spiteful
and venomous old woman, — with a glance of deadly
malice at a young lad who was present. That young
lad was the son of the clergyman of the parish, — one
of the most diligent and exemplary clergymen in
Britain. Mr. Smith and Mr. Brown were the clergy-
men who preceded him. And the spiteful old woman
adopted this means of sticking a pin into the young
lad, conveying the idea that there was a sad falling off


now. I saw and heard her, my reader. Now when
an ordinary spiteful person says a malicious thing,
being quite aware that she is saying a malicious thing,
and that her motive is pure raahce, you are disgusted.
But when a spiteful person says a malicious thing, all
the while fancying herself a very pious person, and
fancying that in gratifying her spite, she is acting from
Christian principle, I say the sight is to me one of the
most disgusting, perplexing, and miserable, that ever
human eye beheld. I have no fear of the attacks of
enemies on the blessed Faith in which I live, and hope
to die. But it is dismal, to see how our holy religion
is misrepresented before the world, by the vile impos-
tors who pretend to be its friends.

Among the disagreeable people who make a pro-
fession of religion, probably many are purely hypo-
crites. But we willingly believe that there are peo-
ple, in whom Christianity appears in a wretchedly
stunted and distorted form, who yet are right at the
root. It does not follow that a man is a Christian,
because he turns up his eyes and drawls out his words ;
and when asked to say grace, offers a prayer of twenty
minutes' duration. But again, it does not follow that
he is not a Christian, though he may do all these
things. The bitter sectary, who distinctly says that
a humble, pious man, just dead, has '' gone to hell,"
because he died in the bosom of the Church, — how-
ever abhorrent that sectary may be in some respects, —
may be, in the main, within the Good Shepherd's fold,


wherein he fancies there are very few but himself.
The dissenting teacher who declared from his pulpit
that the parish clergyman (newly come, and an entire
stranger to him) was -' a servant of Satan," may possi-
bly have been a good man, after all. Grievous defects
and errors may exist in a Christian character, which
is a Christian character still. And the Christian, hor-
ribly disagreeable and repulsive now, will some day,
we trust, have all that purged away. But I do not
hesitate to say, that any Christian, by so far as he is
disagreeable and repulsive, deviates from the right
thing. Oh, my reader, when my heart is sometimes
sore through what I see of disagreeable traits in Chris-
tian character, what a blessed relief there is in turning
to the simple pages, and seeing for the thousandth
time The True Christian Character, — so different!
Yes, thank God, we know where to look, to find what
every pious man should be humbly aiming to be ; and
when we see That Face, and hear That Voice, there
is something that soothes and cheers among the
wretched imperfections (in one's self as in others), of
the present : — something that warms the heart, and
that brings a man to his knees !

The present writer has a relative, who is Professor
of Theology in a certain famous University. With
that theologian I recendy had a conversation on the
matter of wliich we have just been thinking. The
Professor lamented bitterly the unchristian features
of character which may be found in many people


making a great parade of their Christianity. He
mentioned various facts, wliich had recently come to
his own knowledge ; which would sustain stronger
expressions of opinion than any wliich I have given.
But he went on to say, that it would be a sad thing
if no fools could get to heaven ; nor any unamiable,
narrow-minded, sour, and stupid people. Now, said
he, with great force of reason, religion does not alter
idiosyncrasy. When a fool becomes a Christian, he
will be a foolish Christian. A narrow-minded man
will be a narrow-minded Christian ; a stupid man, a
stupid Christian. And though a malignant man will
have his malignity much diminished, it by no means
follows that it will be completely rooted out. "When
I would do good, evil is present with me." " I find
a law in my members, warring against the law of m}'"
mind ; and enslaving me to the law of sin." But yoa
are not to blame Christianity for the stupidity and
unamiability of Christians. If they be disagreeable,
it is not the measure of true religion they have got,
that makes them so. In so far as they are disagree-
able, they depart from the standard. You know, you
may make water sweet or sour ; you may make it red,
blue, black ; and it will be water still, though its purity
and pleasantness are much interfered with. In like
manner, Christianity may coexist with a good deal of
acid, — with a great many features of character very
inconsistent with itself. The cup of fair -water may
have a bottle of ink emptied into it, or a little verjuice,


or even a little strychnine. And yet, though sadly
deteriorated, though hopelessly disguised, the fair water
is there ; and not entirely neutralized.

And it is worth remarking, that you will find many
persons v.ho are very charitable to blackguards, but
who have no charity for tlie weaknesses of really gooa
people. They will hunt out the act of thoughtless
liberality, done by the scapegrace who broke his
mother's heart, and squandered his poor sisters' little
portions ; they will make much of that liberal act, —
such an act as tossing to some poor Magdalen a purse,
filled with money which was probably not his own ;
and they will insist that there is hope for the black-
guard yet. But these persons will tightly shut their
eyes against a great many substantially good deeds,
done by a man who thinks Prelacy the abomination
of desolation, or wbo thinks that stained glass and an
organ are sinful. I grant you that there is a certain
fairness in trying the blackguard and the religionist by
different standards. Where the pretension is higher,
the test may justly be more severe. But I say it is
unfair to puzzle out with diligence the one or two
good things in the character of a reckless scamp, and
to refuse moderate attention to the many good points
about a weak, narrow-minded, and uncharitable good
person. I ask for charity in the estimating of all
human characters, — ■ even in estimating the character
of the man who would show no charity to another. I
confess freely that in the last-named case, the exercise
of charity is extremely difficult.



HERE is a tremendous difference between
being Inside and being Outside. The
distance in space may be very small ; but
the distance in feeling is vast. Some-
times the outside is the better place, sometimes the
inside ; but I have always thought that this is a case
in which there is an interruption of nature's general
law of gradation. Other differences are shaded off
into each other. Youth passes imperceptibly into
age ; the evening light melts gradually into darkness ;
and you may find some mineral production to mark
every step in the progress from lava to granite, which
(as you probably do not know) are in their elements
the same thing. But it is a positive and striking fact,
that you are outside or inside. There is no gradation
nor shading off between the two. 1 am sitting here
on a green knoll ; the ground slopes away steeply on
three sides, down to a little river. The grass is very
rich and fresh ; and it is lighted up with innumerable
buttercups and daisies. You can see that the old


monks, who used to worship in that lovely Gothic
chapel, brought these acres under cultivation in days
when what is now the fertile country round, was a
desolate waste. And the warm air of one of the last
days of May is just stirring the thick trees around.
But all this is Jbecause I am outside. There is an in-
side hard by where things are very different. Down
below this green knoll, but on a rock high above the
little river, you may see the ruins of an old feudal
castle. Last night I passed over the narrow bridge
that leads to the rock on Avhich the ruins stand ; and a
young fellow, moderately versed in its history, showed
me all that remains of the castle. You go away
down, stair after stair, and reach successive ranges
of chambers, all of stone, formerly guard-rooms and
kitchens. These chambers are sufficiently cheerful ;
for though on one side far underground, on the other
side they are high above the glen and the river. The
setting sun was streaminoj into their windows ; and
the fresh green of beeches and pines looked over from
the other side of the narrow gorge. But now the
young fellow mentioned that the dungeons were still
far beneath ; and in a pitch-dark passage, he made
me feel a small doorway, black as night, going down
to the horrible dark recesses below, to which not a
ray of light was admitted, and to which not a breath
of the fragrant spring air without could ever come.
You could not but think what it must have been, long
ago, to be dragged through those dark passages, and


violently thrust through that narrow door, and down
to the black abyss. You felt how thoroughly hope-
less escape would be, — how entirely you were at the
mercy of the people who put you there. And coming
up from those dungeons, climbing the successive stairs,
you reached the daylight again ; and descending the
steep walks of the garden, you reached a place just
outside the dungeons ; which on this side are far
above ground. There was the pleasant summer sun-
set ; there were the milk-white hawthorns and the
fragrant lilacs ; there was an apple-tree, whose pink
and white blossoms were gently swayed by the warm
wind against the outside of the dungeon-wall. And,
almost hidden by green leaves, you could hear the
stream below, whose waters (it is to be confessed)
had suffered somewhat from the presence, a few miles
above, of various paper-mills. And here, I thought,
were the outside and the inside ; only six feet of wall
between ; but in all their aspect, and above all in the
feeling of the crushed captive within, a thousand miles
apart. Of course, there was no captive there now ;
but all this scene was the same in the days when
those dungeons were fully inhabited. And doubtless,
many of those who were then thrust into those dismal
places liked them just as little as you and I should ;
and were missed and needed by some outside just as
much as you or I could be.

In this case, you observe, it is better to be outside
than to be inside. But there are many cases in which
it is otherwise.


You may be outside physically ; as you would be
if you were to fall, unnoticed, and in the night, over-
board from a ship, — and it to pass on, and leave you
to perish in the black waters. Many human beings
have done that ; an old school-fellow of mine did. It
must be a dreadful thing. It would be better, in such
a case, not to be able to swim ; for then the suffering
would be the sooner over ; and the mind would be in
such a bewildered, hurried state, that there would be
less room for the agony of thought. But in warmer
seas, where the chill of the water would not speedily
benumb into loss of power and consciousness, the
single hour through M'hich, as Cowper tells us, an
unaided swimmer might sustain himself in life, would
seem hke a lifetime. I know a man who supported
himself for a whole night, by the help of two oars,
after his vessel had gone down in the Indian Ocean.
His wife and child went with it ; and after desperate
efforts to save them, he found himself in the water,
clinging to his two oars. Three times, through that
awful night, he cast the oars away from him, and
dived deep under the surface, hoping that he might
never come up ; but the instinctive clinging to life
was too strong ; and each time he faintly struggled
back to his oars again.

Then you may be outside morally. You may
somehow have turned out of the track in which those
who started with you are going on in life.^ Perhaps
through folly, perhaps through sin, you have got


beyond the pale. There is a narrow passage in a
certain city, a steep and narrow passage of evil odors,
through which many clergymen are wont to go to a
certain building, in which a great ecclesiastical coun-
cil meets. In a dark recess, opening into that narrow
passage, and leading to various wretched dwellings, I
have beheld a deposed and degraded minister stand-
ing in the darkest shadow he could find, and watching
those who were once his brethren going up by the
way he once used to go, — but shrinking back from
their notice. Alas for the poor outsider, — so near
physically to the place where he used to be, but
morally so far away ! Surely his case is worse than
that of the castaway, swept from the deck into the
boiling ocean. After that sad instance, we shall feel
the less sympathy for such moral outsiders as those
who suffer through the existence of lines of social
cleavage : the people who chafe at being excluded
from the society of the great and exclusive First
Circle of a little country town ; or who complain
keenly that some wealthy or perhaps noble neighbor
keeps them on the outside of his dwelling. Probably
you have known people feel this moral exclusion very
bitterly. You may have heard a lady in some small
community complain with extreme severity that she
was thus made an outsider; and that, in the festive
tea-parties which went on in the halls of light around
her she was permitted to have no part. At the same
time she probably showed, with great force of state-*

OUTSroE. 165

merit and argument, that she was in all respects a
great deal better than the people inside that charmed
circle to wliose outside she was condemned. You
could but sympathize with the individual in her sor
row, and advise her not to mind. Every one has
known the wrath and jealousies which have arisen
from thus putting people morally outside, — from not
sending them cards on the occasion of a marriage, —
from not inviting them to some entertainment. You
may remember a classical instance of the wrathful
spirit awakened in a human being stung by the sense
of being outside. Mr. Samuel Warren describes a
man as standing in Hyde Park on an afternoon in
the fashionable season, seeing all that gay life going
on, and feeling that he had nothing to do with it,
and bestowing on the whole system of things ' his
extremest malison. Perhaps a worthier nature might
have looked on in kindly interest at a class of con-
cerns and a mode of existence in which he had no
share ; and hoped that all paths through this world,
however far apart in time, might yet end and meet in
the same happy place together. We may wish well,
my reader, — and I trust we shall wish well, — even to
those with whom we have little in common, — even to
those beyond the circle of whose sympathies we stand,
and beyond whose comprehension our great interests

Moral outsideness may coexist with physical in-
sideness. This truth is well known to unpopular


officers in regiments, who thonghi physically inside
are morally outside ; also to schoolboys who for some
ojffence have been temporarily sent to Coventry by
their young companions. And probably such find it a
heavy trial to be placed outside the pale of society, —
to sit on a form at school with thirty other boys, none
of whom will speak to them, — to be cut off from
joining in the games of the play-ground. There used
to be a vulgar expression current among Scotch
schoolboys, — probably it is current still, — which was
founded on this principle : that a human being though
physically an insider may be morally an outsider.
You spoke of being in with such a youthful com-
panion, and out with such another. You are aware
how consignment to moral outsideness often serves
as a fearful punishment of offences to which laws
cannot reach. To be entirely repudiated and cast off
by the society amid which you live, whether lofty or
lowly, — to be made a social outlaw and outsider, — is
something not easily borne even by the most callous ;
— something which right-thinking men could support
only by the firm conviction that solemn principle
prompted the conduct which brought down this repro-
bation. It is not nearly so lonely a thing to dwell
in the wilderness, never seeing a human face, as it
would be to live in the town in which you were born
and brought up, and to see, as you walked its streets,
scores of faces you know well, but each averted as
you pass. You may have seen poor women bear


this, with what crucifixion of the whole nature they

only know ; you may have beheld them face the uncon-
sciousness of their presence on the part of old friends
with a disdainful smile, or meet it with the look that
betokened a breaking heart. I have witnessed this,
my reader, more than once; and I doubt not you
have done so too. As for men, they can stand all
this better. They can always find a certain class who
are content to associate with them : a class of people
like themselves. And with a great injustice, not in-
deed without some reasons in its favor, you know how
even the most reputable society passes lightly in a
man what it visits with its severest reprobation in a
woman. Yes ; you may have witnessed a brazen
outsider, who ought never to have been suffered in-
side again, gradually elbowing himself, by force of
foce, into weight in the senate of a certain moral
country. You may have known an unrepenting
blackguard, once cast out by the society of the town
and the county, and who never afforded the faintest
reason why he should be let in, step by step getting
in again ; till at length the aged reprobate was in high
favor in families abounding in girls, and saw clergy-
men of great pretensions seated at his hospitable
board. Yet, in the main, a man becomes an outsider
by deserving it. I mean an outsider with peo[)le with
whom he would wish to be an insider. With others,
it may be different. I have heard of a young mid-
shipman who was made an outsider because he read


his Bible morning and evening ; and because he would
not get drunk when the rest did. A man would be
made an outsider in certain parts of this empire,
unless he helped to screen the sneaking, cowardly
murderer who shoots his landlord from shelter of a
tree, because asked to pay his rent. And there are
parts of America in which you would become an
outsider unless you spoke in praise of the biggest and
blackest outrage on humanity that the sun looks down
on — I mean negro slavery. Of course, among thieves
you must say nothing against stealing, or" they might
turn you out. But in the main, in this country,
people are put outside because it serves them rightly.
And the punishment is a fearfully severe one, reach-
ing to sins and to people not otherwise easily punished.
You have known persons obliged, by this moral
outlawry, to go away from the district or the country
where all their interests lay ; even great wealth and
rank have not sufficed to prevent a man's feeling
bitterly that he was made an outsider. You may
have seen the fair mansion and the noble trees which
their owner could never enjoy, because he durst not
show his face where he was known. There was once
a man of no small position, who was master of a pack
of fox-hounds, let us say in Ethiopia. On a certain
Sunday, that man chose to amuse himself by taking
out his hounds, and chasing a fox which he had
caught, — having cut off the poor fox's feet previously
to turning it out to be chased. Of course the brute


(I mean the master of hounds) was brought before
the magistrates of that part of Ethiopia, and heavily
fined. The hiw could do no more ; and the punish-
ment was most insufficient. Tiie brute probably cared
very little for that. But he probably cared a good
deal when in a day or two he received a communi-
cation from all the princes and nobles of that district,
in which they told him that they withdrew from his
hunt and cut his acquaintance. Prompt and resolute
outsiding inflicted justice in the most satisfactory way.
I have more to say of moral outsiders ; but at this
point I cannot help looking round, and thinking what
a blessing it sometimes is to be physically outside.
Not far away, there lies the great city. Inside it the
writer lives ; and he judges it the best of cities ; but
now he is beyond it ; he is an outsider for three days
of perfect rest in the quiet country. It is often worth
while to go in, that you may fully appreciate the
blessing of coming out. Did you ever, reader, live
in July, on that most beautiful Frith of Clyde ? After
a week in that pure air, and amid that scenery that
combines so wonderfully richness and magnificence,
you cease fully to understand what a privilege you are
enjoying. But go up for a day to the hot, choky
Glasgow of July ! Remain for five hours in that
sweltering atmosphere, hurrying from place to place
on business, and stunned by the ceaseless whirl of that
hearty and energetic town ; and then go back to the
seaside! Oh, how delightful to get away into the


clear air and the quiet again ! And in this gi-een
place, 1 think of the city already spoken of; and of
much work and worry there ; and feel that here for a
little one is outside it all. I think of a certain Gothic
building, in which is now sitting an ecclesiastic council
which I much revere. I think of the hot atmosphere,
of the buzz, of the excitement, of the speeches so
very interesting and so very long. I observe from
the newspaper that yesterday two gentlemen spoke

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Online LibraryAndrew Kennedy Hutchison] [BoydThe every-day philosopher in town and country → online text (page 10 of 19)