The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 84
"But Whustlin' on the Lord's Day I'll no Pairmet."
"But Whustlin' on the Lord's Day I'll no Pairmet."
A Certain old lady, of doubtful morals, but great piety, kept what she termed a "bottle" in the City of Edinburgh. Many gay and festive gallants frequented this establishment, and much whiskey was nightly consumed there. It chanced, one fine Sunday morning, that an Englishman, of jolly temperament, who had been staying there on what is termed a "howling spree," came downstairs whistling a merry tune. This was too much for the pious hostess; she tackled him forthwith, informing him he might get drunk, or otherwise misconduct himself after an orthodox fashion, but that "whustlin' on the Lord's Day she'd no pairmet." Even as it "was with that old lady in Edinburgh, so is it in Sydney with certain other old ladies, who have not the slightest objection to drinking, gambling, &c, in bar-parlours, but draw the line at "whustlin," or, in other words, opening the reading-room of the School of Arts, "on the Lord's Day."
They object that the proposed change is but the insertion of the thin edge of the wedge, and that the sanctity of the Sabbath will be dangerously imperilled if a section of the community is enabled to find page 98 food for the mind during a season which should be spent in devotional or semi-devotional exercises. It is well to bear in mind that Christian theory is something widely different from Christian practice. Theoretically, the Sabbath is a day which should be spent in worship, self-examination, religious teaching, and study. Practically, it is a public holiday, a small portion of which is, by the bulk of the churchgoers, devoted to a perfunctory attendance at some place of worship, whilst the remainder is occupied by amusement and gorging. The wealthier classes rise late, attire themselves in their most resplendent raiment, go to church—where they yawn through the performance, and take stock of their neighbours' clothing—and come home to a heavy meal; after which the elders go to sleep, whilst the younger members of the family, if female, lounge about, reading novels and discussing the aforementioned clothing; if male, go out to visit their lady friends, or to some popular haunt down the harbour. These have no interest in the proposed movement, and we may leave them out of the question.
With the lower orders, the performance is much the same as far as the morning is concerned, but in the afternoon the head of the family, not being interested in lady friends or trips down the harbour, and having a house too confined in space to render it habitable when the children are at home, adjourns to the public-house.
This is the actual state of affairs, and yet the very orthodox resent any attempt at a change. Truly, it can scarcely be marvelled at that Freethinkers attack the Churches when there is such marked divergence between their teachings and the practice of their adherents. The Jewish Sabbath was strictly a day of rest and devotion, and it may be that Jesus Christ intended that it should be so kept by his followers, but he could never have contemplated the possibility of its degenerating (?) into a mere holiday. Not any more, for example, could he have contemplated the possibility of ministers of his gospel greedily seeking riches and preferment, when he himself taught that it was harder for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, and incessantly urged his followers to take no thought for the morrow, &c.
The fact is that, even as it has been found necessary to revise the Word of God (!), so has it been also found necessary to place a different interpretation upon those sayings which, in their literal reading, so strongly condemn the pet practices of the godly. If the Sabbath were kept as the Sabbatarians would have it kept, the machinery of society would soon be sadly out of joint, and so the line has to be drawn somewhere. People must travel on a Sunday, must have good meals page 99 on that day; above all, even the most godly must have their Monday's newspaper, which is written and printed on the holy day. But the people must not be allowed to read on that day. They may drink, gamble, or do any objectionable thing with closed doors, but they may not assemble in a reading-room.
Why is this thus ? It is impossible, under the circumstances, to avoid entertaining the suspicion that this phase of Sabbatarianism arises from the clerical dread of the people becoming too enlightened. A religion which demands blind, unreasoning faith on the part of its believers, and absolutely prohibits enquiry whenever enquiry borders upon dangerous ground, cannot afford to encourage the people to think. Clerics may preach about the march of progress and the general advance of knowledge, but at heart they know that their influence will wane in proportion thereto. The doctor lives by the diseases of the people, and cannot exist where all are healthy. The priest or parson lives by the mental diseases of his flock, and his occupation would also be gone if all the world were morally healthy. In those millennial times, when every man will be a priest in his own house, where will be the place for your mitred and surpliced gentry, who now lord it through the terrors of their following? Just so soon as man ceases to fear, he will button up his breeches pockets—a fact which is well known to those who are engaged in the work of building up the new religion of love and harmony, and belief in a just God.
The case, as far as the question as to opening the reading-room of the School of Arts is concerned, is simply this : Shall the terrors of the clergy be suffered to prevail, and the people be denied another small chance for enlightenment, because it would suit their moral doctors better to have them mentally diseased by ignorance and debauchery?
M. S. M. S. A.