Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Beware of the Atmosphere of the Classics

John Stuart Blackie (1809-1895), Altavona: Fact and Fiction from My Life in the Highlands (Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1882), pp. 321-322:
As to what you say about the gloomy aspect and sour Pharisaism of the trans-Grampian religion, it is certainly true, but true at the same time to a considerable extent of Scotland generally. The religion of the so-called Evangelical clergy in the Lowlands is strongly tinged, if not with gloom, certainly with a tone of habitual antagonism to all innocent enjoyment and playful recreation. With these men playing at cards is a deadly sin, and dancing a sort of quick march to hell. For a minister of the gospel to talk on any other subject than God, and hell, and eternity, is to slide into worldly conversation. Living persons should, if possible, always be talking about death. If you read the biographies of some of their most popular spokesmen, you will find that their religious life commences with a profound conviction that the world lies under a curse, that all men are naturally hell-deserving sinners, and that original sin, or moral contamination inherited from our primal progenitor, so far from being a palliation, as it logically must be, is rather to be viewed as an exaggeration of the guilt of any actual sins that a man may commit. In a world so abandoned of God, the only thing a wise man can do is to keep at a distance from it, to look upon all natural pleasures as sinful, and to devote the mind altogether to emotional preparation for a future and higher life, of which the present is only the thorny entrance. Such a religion, like Oriental Buddhism, is in fact a renunciation of humanity and a declaration of war against all temporal and visible enjoyments. It is a temper the very reverse of that which was praised and practised by Socrates and the other wise Greeks. To them religion was rather the art of enjoying the present life according to reason. Hence the notable antipathy which our so-called Evangelical religionists feel to all classical culture. M'Cheyne of Dundee wrote to one of his early friends to "beware of the atmosphere of the classics; it is pernicious, and must be known only as chemists know poisons."1

1 Memoirs of R. Murray M'Cheyne (Edinburgh, 1875), pp. 22, 29, 39, and 54.

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?