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John MacKintosh
Chapter XV - Homely Philosopher

"This dish of meat is too good for any but anglers, or very honest men."—Isaac Walton.

"The charm of Mr. Mackintosh is 'Mr. Mackintosh.' He is himself,—that is the secret of his grip, his success, and his power. He has no platform nor public style, but likes a chat with people, and by hints, by bits, by illustrations, the whole thing lives and laughs at you wherever you are."

This appreciation by an ex-president of the United Methodist Church, who is himself something of a platform wizard, admirably sets forth the impression made everywhere by Mr. Mackintosh as a speaker. He was not a platform orator nor did he profess to be, he would often describe himself as a conversationalist and as such he was brilliant, with a racy style full of human kindness. He was endowed with a keen sense of humour—proof of a well balanced mind.

He made a liberal use of good stories and striking incidents to drive home the truths he wished to teach. These were invariably of a homely character, and his most effective illustrations were born of the day's experiences.

Though his manner of speech was so unconventional, it is doubtful if he ever fulfilled any public engagement of which he received notice, without making some kind of preparation. There are busy public men who speak out of a full mind and a ripe experience by the happy art of 'thinking on their feet,' and Mr. Mackintosh was quite equal to this when the demand was made upon him.

He left behind him a mass of notes on all kinds of subjects, the raw material of addresses delivered on different occasions to all sorts and conditions of men. Practically every phase of public life, and of church and Sunday school work is covered, besides such subjects as temperance, sport, business, &c.
Few people were able to resist the kind of introduction in which he frequently indulged. When paying a return visit he would sometimes admit his inability to remember what he had said on the last occasion, and he would then put his audience in a good humour at once, by adding, "People will be saying when I am announced to speak, 'Mr. Mackintosh is here! God help usI'

If he felt uncertain how long he ought to speak, he would refer to an incident which occurred at "Queen's Road." It was at a Women's Missionary Auxiliary Meeting, and he was the last speaker. To his question, "How long shall I speak?" the ladies, whose preparations for tea were not complete, replied, "Till the kettle boils." He therefore kept the meeting entertained until a lady, with flushed, smiling face, peeping from behind a door, announced that "tea was ready." Often afterwards, when presiding at public meetings, he would set himself to speak "Till the kettle boils," adding that the other speakers must "keep it boiling."

At a Young People's Service in the same church, over which Mr. Mackintosh presided, he said that his mother, who was a very effective Sunday school teacher, advised the girls in her class to use every opportunity they had to brighten their homes, even if it were only to purchase a penny-worth of flowers and put them on the table. The following week one of the girls told her that she had bought the flowers and put them on the table before her father came in to dinner.

"And what did father say?" asked Mrs. Mackintosh.

"He said," replied the girl, "Tak' 'em away and put some tommy (food) on."

Mr. Mackintosh with his usual kindly judgment, added—

"I am sure, notwithstanding this apparent rebuff, that the father really appreciated the action."

He then declared that his duty as chairman was simply to put the flowers on the table, and the speakers who followed would provide the 'tommy.'

To illustrate the difficulty of his position on another occasion, he told the audience of a little girl who had been reproved by her auntie, and was in her father's black books, and who, said to her mother—

"Mother, when I grow up, shall I have to marry a man like father?"

"Yes, dear."

"And if I don't marry a man like father, shall I be an old maid like auntie?"

"Yes, dear."

"I am in a fix."

He made much effective use of an incident that occurred at "Queen's Road" during the early period of the war. On entering the school one Sunday morning, he was accosted by a boy-scout in full uniform, who inflated his chest, saluted, and standing erect asked proudly, "What has England to fear with such as us about?"

His gentle humour played about life's most trying experiences and softened their effect. At the wedding of his second son, Douglas, he referred to the time when the bridegroom lay a prisoner of war in Germany.

"People came to 'Greystones,'" said he, "to tell me how easy it was to dispense with a leg. Even his fiancée told little fibs, almost going the length of saying that she preferred an artificial foot to a real one. When I am gouty, I almost wish I had one myself."

The following specimen of neat satire is from an election address during the progress of the Halifax Municipal Elections:

How to keep down the rates

"Continue to pay the same weekly wage as before to tramway men and to roadmen.

Tell the teachers we appreciate their services very highly, but we cannot afford to increase their salary to meet the high cost of living.

"Say to the policemen, 'Continue to protect our lives and property, but you must try and make the old wage do.

The real question is: 'Is the money wisely and carefully spent?'

They have low rates in some parts of the U.S A., and what they get for them are swamps, fires and mosquitoes.

"Good business men are prudent men, not prone to adopt schemes of reckless expenditure for doubtful advantages.

"A question every councillor should put to himself is, 'What would I do if the business were mine?' His reply might then be very definite. 'But since it is not mine, I'll be careful and go slow.'

It was frequently stated that probably he opened more bazaars than any other of his fellow townsmen. There is much significance in his pertinent remark, made in one of his bazaar addresses:

"Some say I make a hobby of bazaar opening. Some make a hobby of refusing."

He had an ingenious way of replying to objections against bazaars, especially to the complaint that they injure trade:

"Do shopkeepers object?" he asked, "I notice that one hundred and five of them advertise in your handbook. Half the goods on your stalls have come from the shops. The other half also as to the materials from which they are made, and in addition such things as thread, needles, pins and thimbles, have come from them. The goods on the refreshment stall, too, are from the shops, or the ingredients are. The ladies' dresses—some of which I can see are new—have been furnished by the dress-makers. The tickets, bills, posters, and advertising have found work for someone. No! I do not think the tradesman objects to bazaars."

Addressing young people at a temperance meeting, he said:

"When I was in the Juvenile Choir, there was no electric light in Halifax, there were no motor cars, no electric trams, no wireless telegraphy. When you grow up there will, perhaps, be no warsI"

Apothegms for Sunday school teachers. Teachers, say to yourselves a dozen times,

"When I was a boy, I
Couldn't sit still,
Hated dry sermons,
Did not hate my teacher,
Was neither good nor bad,
But just middling."

"Get your lesson up before you read the 'Sunday School Chronicle!"

"Don't take offence!I Don't give it! Don't expect praise! Don't be disappointed if you don't get it!"

"Talk interestingly or don't talk at all."

"If you feel cross with a boy, pat him on the back."

"Cultivate a pleasant manner; you have no right to be grumpy."

"Don't boss around! There are plenty of people as good as you in the world!"

"Don't feel sorry for yourself."

"Make the best of everything! Think the best of everybodyI"

He urged the scholars to,

"Be cheerful! Smile when you can and others will smile upon you."

To show the narrow margin between gloom and gladness he would draw two circles on the black-board. The circles represented two faces. Two dots in each did duty for eyes, a third dot served as a nose, a curve with the ends up would stand for a smile, another curve with the ends down would represent a frown, thus :-

When the opportunity presented itself he gave good advice to scholars' parents :-

"Parents, keep an eye on your boys and girls,—it will pay you! Fathers, keep to the school after you are married! Mothers, see to it!

"The Sunday school," said he, "is still the safest place I know of outside home. You never met a man who traced his downfall to the Sunday school."

"Boys and girls," he emphatically declared, "must be protected against the evils of drink. White ants in Africa, armed with gimlets, pincers and saws, used to eat our wooden cases. Now we send our goods in cases that are tin-lined."

He was greatly impressed by the silent revolution effected simply by the growing up of Band of Hope boys and girls.

"When I was a boy," he stated on one occasion, "the evils of intemperance were so apparent, that I thought that one had but to mention reform, even to the point of prohibition, to see its instant adoption. I learnt later that reforms come slowly. Temperance reforms take as long to effect as it takes to turn Band of Hope children into men and women. But as surely as these boys and girls grow up, so surely are temperance reforms going to be accomplished.

"What has brought about the changes we know of in the drinking customs of our country? The Band of Hope boy of twenty years ago is now a man. He is not taking intoxicants at all. He has become a citizen and is setting a new fashion.

"Years ago the non-drinking man was a curiosity. The teetotal commercial was a good butt for a joke. Hotel and restaurant proprietors resented his principles. His custom was not wanted.

"How different it is to-day ! Look around at lunch-time where commercials congregate. Three out of four will have temperance drinks before them.

When visiting, it is no longer necessary to apologise for not taking wine nor spirits. The host rather apologises for not recognising the fact.

"Temperance principles have considerable commercial value in these days. A man is not now regarded with suspicion because of them. Other things being equal they count in his favour.

"England will gradually sober up if the Band of Hope societies are maintained."

"I love old folks and little children," he would say; "others can look after themselves. I confess that I would rather help to save a boy than rescue the drunkard, though both are good work. I am all for keeping the boy and girl straight. Give us the children up to thirteen years of age and 1 believe ninety per cent, of them will be safe against a drink spoiled life."

To the objection that Band of Hope children are too young to understand the subjects brought before them, he replied :-" I wish I hated wrong to-day as 1 did when I was a young lad.

The charge of ' childishness ' brought against Band of Hope meetings, called forth this response :-

It's only a Band of Hope entertainment, 'grown-ups' say,—a recitation, a song, a dialogue, an address I How childish? That is the 'grownups ' point of view. The child says, 'Do it again.' It is the child we must serve. Go back to your simple work. There is a place for the grand concert and the gifted artiste, but your Band of 1-lope meeting is very, very important to this England of ours. Only let it have the Band of Hope flavour, so that no one can ever attend it and be in doubt as to what it is."

The church to his mind fills a very practical place.

Recently the minister of my Church said, 'Suppose every church-building in the land were suddenly removed, would they be missed? What would you put in their place? There would be some splendid sites. You could build on them many things; picture palaces, dancing halls, billiard saloons, art-galleries, technical schools. Would these be a satisfactory exchange?

"He thought not; and so do I. People ask, What has the Church done for the nation?' I .am always surprised to hear such a question, for any observant person can see for himself. In all sorts of spheres I find men in responsible positions who have got their training in the Church and Sunday schools. I find them in Brotherhoods, Temperance Societies, in civic office as Mayor or Councillors, on the Magistrates' Bench, and in Labour Organisations. I could take all the time of this meeting and then not exhaust the ramifications of church and school training. The Church has been a great clearing house and has furnished innumerable servants to the British Empire, who are at work now, in church and out, doing the Master's work as they see it."

"The Church owes you nothing?" was his declaration to even the most devoted workers, You are the gainer by what you have done."

He attributed to the training he received whilst serving in office in the church and Sunday school, his ability in after years to write good business letters, or to draft telling advertisements; and that knowledge of human nature, which qualified him to be a leader of men; and that patience and tact which he showed in dealing with reluctant, or angry people.

"Don't let business or recreation intrude on the Sabbath Day. Let that day find you in the old corner of your pew. Stand by your minister Keep alive your enthusiasm for God's house, and the old blessings will be yours at the end. Don't let us enjoy the good things that have come to us through association with the church and school, and then in the prime of life, selfishly refuse to provide them for others. If we do this we shall miss the crowning blessing. We are reminded that congregations are not what they were. Why is this? Is it not because our own people do not attend regularly? And what paltry excuses they make? ' The work of the week has been so exhausting that we want to rest on this day.' I know of no rest so helpful as attendance at God's house. The quiet of the church; the pleasant word with friends; home to dinner; at night again to church, now with fewer children in attendance; indeed a quiet resting place."

Amongst Mr. Mackintosh's papers there is an outline of an address on "The goodness and severity of God" which well illustrates his direct and homely method of address.

"The goodness of God enjoyed by some persons implies the severity of God if His goodness is abused.

"If we offend against God's laws we must pay the penalty. But God's goodness is shown through it all. He forgives if we seek His forgiveness with a sincere heart, and He continues His friendship all the time we are paying the penalty.

"While I was struggling with this subject a gentleman came into the office and told me that an officer, who had been a prisoner of war and had occupied the next bed to my son was coming to see me.

"The goodness and severity of God at once!

"If men will fight they must suffer I When they are suffering God says, 'I will surround them with kind people, doctors and nurses. They shall have letters full of tenderness from friends. I will improve their characters. I will give them such a love of home, of parents and friends, as they have never known before.'

"Even when men fight in a good cause they cannot escape suffering. It is the penalty to the world for not having arranged a better way of settling quarrels amongst nations.

I don't believe the doctrine held by some, that God takes away a child because one loves it too much. If we neglect our children, or others for whom we are responsible, and they get pneumonia, let us not blame God, even if we were at a prayer-meeting when the mischief was done. God's laws cannot be altered to suit the convenience of any.

"When, I did wrong as a boy I did not fear the punishment much, for I had a very gentle mother ; but until I knew I was forgiven I was miserable. If the punishment was 'Evening in the house,' instead of games with my boy friends (a big enough punishment in those days), I was not content until mother smiled at me. That smile was enough!I She was friends again.

What did anything else matter?

If we can see God smiling on us, what 'a compensation it is for suffering and anxiety; I remember looking at mother from time to time to see if there was the least appearance of a smile. I tried to coax it. I showed her pictures and things likely to provoke it, and when at last it came, it was like the burst of sunshine after a sharp shower that reveals the bow in the sky. The joy that sprang from the fact that mother forgave me almost overpowered me. What promise I made never to offend her again. What a beast I felt I had been to hurt her. Am I romancing? Not a bit of it I After half a life-time, I can remember every sensation I passed through.

People are apt to think that the severity of God is not admirable, but it is. This world would be a more topsy-turvy place than it is but. for that.

"Both the goodness and the severity of God should be kept in mind, and in our teaching we should show the children how both influence our lives. It is pleasanter to talk of God's smile than of his frown, but we can ignore neither in putting our message before others.

I would give three-fourths of the teaching- time to the goodness of God and one fourth only to the severity of God. You would never save me by telling me of the awful things that would happen to me if I did not do this, that, or the other. But when you say that 'God gave His Son to die for me,' I am interested at once. I respond. It would be base ingratitude not to do so."

In conclusion here are two characteristic utterances suggestive of the approaching end ;--

"What is the use of being a hundred, if your influence for good is gone?

This world seems a very real place at present. It is not so real as the one we are going to! There are more people dead than alive! BUT ARE THEY DEAD?"


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